Mandela: Lessons for ordinary people
General Assembly. Anti-apartheid movements in the United States and Europe, and particularly in the Netherlands, were instrumental in that project. After Mandela’s release, a book was published by the Dutch anti-apartheid movements, which began with an introduction by Mandela recognizing the important roles of the United Nations and anti-apartheid movements in promoting sanctions as peaceful means to end apartheid. I was requested to write a chapter on the role of the United Nations in the oil embargo. After his election to the presidency, the United Nations sent a delegation to South Africa, and I was member of that delegation. I was impressed by the humility and kindness of Mandela. He held a news conference and I was there. Before it began, and despite his tremendous responsibilities and engagements, he talked to the journalists and asked each about their work and their families. Notwithstanding his many years in prison and the brutality of the apartheid regime against black South Africans, Mandela was instrumental in preventing any revengeful or retaliatory actions against the white minority in South Africa. On the contrary, he was against violence, whether it was perpetrated by whites or blacks, even for the apartheid security forces that had been involved in torture and death in South Africa. His government established a truth and reconciliation commission that helped to renounce past practices and to integrate society.
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We will always be many different peoples speaking many different languages and trying to live together in peace and harmony. The earlier we accept this fact, the better for us all. When, in June 1995, President Mandela donned the uniform of the Springboks, South Africas rugby team the uniform of a team that had come to symbolise the cruelty of white domination it was to send a strong message to his country and to the world, that things had changed; that the old standards had crumbled, and there was now a new, loftier set of standards to aspire to. Every now and then, one realises that Nigerians have it in them to live above crude ethnic sentiments. I have heard stories of how multitudes of Igbo displaced by the civil war travelled back to Northern Nigeria immediately after the civil war ended. For them, they were simply returning home. While it was an inescapable fact that they bore Igbo names and had to flee to Biafra while the war lasted, they also were aware of the existence of a bigger truth: That Kano and Zaria and all those other enemy places were where their hearts and passions lay; where they really belonged to. Does anyone remember the story of Adamu Bologi, the Muslim in Minna, who risked his life to save Christian lives during a religious uprising in 2011? These kinds of stories dont get told very often. But they need to be told, again and again. Nigeria is full of untold stories that have in them the potential to inspire us to defy the small-mindedness of conventions and stereotypes. Finally, its worth pondering: If Mandela could rise above all of the tragedies (and there was a lot of personal tragedy) and injustice he faced, perhaps it is possible for us to as well. If he could come to the end of the long walk to freedom without bitterness and hatred, without allowing himself to be destroyed by all he went through, perhaps, we who also live amidst much injustice and suffering can, too.
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