REMARKS BY BABATUNDE RAJI FASHOLA, SAN, GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE AT MEMORIAL SERVICE OF THE LATE NELSON MANDELA
I feel truly privileged and humbled to speak at a Memorial in honour of a man for whom words truly become insufficient to define his impact on our planet and on all of us.
And Nelson Mandela has really impacted this planet.
I doubt whether there is anything that could be said about him that has not already been said; whether by way of tributes in newspapers, social media platform and indeed the oratories delivered since his passage.
As I myself said in a Tweet that I posted last week, we must all consider ourselves privileged to have shared this planet with him.
In the past few days, so much of his life has become a more open book that reveals the many facets in which his presence remains unforgettable; from Boxing to Law Practice and to Football in prisonhis theatre of expression was seemingly limitless.
Even in the fashion industry, he impacted with his famous shirt and a brand that bore his famous prison number. He has left so much for us to ponder about.
The story of his sacrifice is easy to recall and to dwell upon. The seemingly superhuman commitments that he made have been expressed in a lot of prose and literature.
Some have even said that there can be nobody like him and I believe that that really is the heart of the matter.
Whether there will be another Mandela or somebody who will surpass him is a matter of debate. The discourse we should be having in order to elongate the value of his sacrifice is, what are the inspirations that we can draw from him?
A lot has been said about his humility.
I do not presume that Nelson Mandela did not have pride.
I do not presume that he did not have an ego.
Indeed he was a very tall man of very generous proportions; perhaps, his ego must have been as big as his towering frame.
But the lesson of the story of his humility to me is that he was the master of his own ego. And I think it was because he was in control of his ego that he was able to forgive all those who hurt him.
He was disagreeable with them for 27 years, but he was able to understand that it was not the length of disagreement that matters, it was the promise that reconciliation offered that was more important.
So I say to our people today; if Mandela could reconcile with those with whom he was disagreeable for 27 years, those of us who have been disagreeable in the last six months about the nature and the direction of Nigeria’s educational policy must find it in us now to reconcile, to forgive and to reach out for the promise that reconciliation offers.
To rebuild our education, to invest our people with talent and knowledge which was something Nelson Mandela championed. Indeed I recall him saying that “Education was the weapon with which we can change the world.”
In fighting for the freedom of black South Africans, he was indeed fighting for the freedom of all black people.
It seems to me, therefore, that another lesson that we can take from his extraordinary life is the respect for humanity. And going forward from there, in the spirit of this season, as an honour to Mandela, I urge a cessation of all acts that subjugate people either into slavery, child labour, abuse of women and so on and so forth.
Although there is a lot to say, I will conclude by taking only one more lesson which is the development of the African continent.
For me, the subsidiary role that seems to have been allocated to African countries, especially Nigeria, in the final rites of passage of this great African, does not adequately reciprocate the commitment of African countries through the OAU then, now the AU, who championed the crusade to end the apartheid policy in South Africa.
If any lessons of the value of the sacrifice of Madiba are to endurethey must be such lessons that promote the relevance and the contributory capacity of Africans and African Nations on the global stage.
I think he himself summed it all up in his address to FIFA when he was urging South Africa’s bid for the World Cup.
He said, “The people of Africa learnt the lesson of patience and endurance in their long struggle for freedom. May the reward brought by the FIFA World Cup prove that the long wait for its arrival on African soil has been worth it.”
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the Governmentand people of Lagos, I extend heartfelt condolences to the Mandela family, to the Government and people of South Africa, to all who have died in the name of freedom and justice and to the entire human race for the loss of one who inspired us all so much.
Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN
Governor of Lagos State