Celebrating Mandela, Africa’s commander-in-chief
Arts and craft, performances and wine tasting were all used to celebrate the 94th birthday of former South African president, Nelson Mandela in Lagos
International icon and former South African president, Nelson Mandela has a new title. It is Commander in Chief of the African Continent and it is courtesy Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka.
Africa’s first winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature announced the title at an event held at Silverbird Galleria, Victoria Island, Lagos on Saturday, July 21 to mark the 2012 Mandela Day. Though the actual celebration was Wednesday, July 18, Mandela’s birthday adopted as an annual international day by the United Nations General Assembly in honour of the icon, organisers shifted their own celebration to that Saturday.
The special guest of honour at the event that featured performances, crafts and art exhibition and wine tasting amongst others, Professor Soyinka was a major attraction at the celebration, with the old and young milling round him.
Though he arrived late because he had to brave a restriction on vehicular movement from Abeokuta, Ogun State, the crowd easily forgave Soyinka’s lateness and listened with rapt attention as he relived some shared moments with the Madiba.
Commander in chief
“I insisted they let me pass because I was in active service to the call of the commander in chief. Now, who did I have in mind as the commander in chief? There is only one commander in chief in the entire African continent and his name is Nelson Mandela,” Soyinka said.
The Nobel Laureate recalled time he had spent with South Africa’s first democratically elected president and his close friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He disclosed that Tutu doesn’t regard Mandela’s taste in shirts and is always making jest of him. Mandela, however, cares less as he would tell the cleric to let him be.
The author of ‘You Must Set Forth at Dawn’ also made some mischievous allusions to the appointment of Mrs Patience Jonathan as a permanent secretary by the Bayelsa State Government and her subsequent swearing in on July 18. “It is unique that we are celebrating Mandela’s birthday the very day of the swearing in of a super permanent secretary,” he said adding that, “It’s a very great day and I am very happy to be here. Please enjoy yourself.”
Other activities used to mark the day included performances by Imoleayo Balogun and his Jazz band and a birthday song rendered by members of the KKB Club.
Unlike last year’s exhibition held to mark the day, this year’s show was bigger and featured more art works. The photo show telling the Madiba’s life story was present as were some interesting art works from across Africa.
People who had never tasted South African food and wine were given the opportunity during the occasion while very important guests were later treated to an exclusive session of tasting wines from the Rainbow nation.
Earlier at a press interaction preceding the celebration, Consul General, South African High Commission, Mokgethi Monaisa and Counsellor, Political Affairs, Thandi Mgxwati highlighted the importance of the day and why Mandela deserves all the accolades.
“We should spend at least 67 minutes on the day putting smiles on the faces of the needy. We should inspire change by making everyday a Mandela Day. Reach out to people to say this is a global inspiration movement for good. Mandela’s values should be our own values, they should inspire us,” she said.
Monaisa, on his part, couldn’t praise Mandela enough, laying emphasis on his statesmanship. “Mandela spent the first part of his life fighting for the life of the downtrodden. He did not do this for South Africa alone but for the whole world. It was due to his leadership that a democratic election took place in South Africa.
He advocated that the people of Africa must live in peace and Africa must attain stability. There was a smooth transition between him and his successor, Thambo Mbeki. He served one term and he handed over to Mbeki.”
Cameroun’s consul-general, Paul Ekorong Adung had only positive things to say about the iconic leader. “I don’t know how to qualify a man like daddy Mandela. I don’t know if the incoming generation would have the opportunity of having someone like him. Thank you daddy, for everything you have done for humanity in general and Africa specifically.”
Born in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is one of the world’s most revered statesmen, who led the struggle to replace the apartheid regime of South Africa with a multi-racial democracy.
Jailed for 27 years, he emerged to become the country’s first black president and to play a leading role in the drive for peace in other spheres of conflict. He stepped down in 1999 after just one term as president and has been involved in several humanitarian activities since then.Share