President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Wednesday eulogised South African anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela, saying, his inspiring and principled sacrifice, dedication and devotion to fundamental freedom are unequalled in the annals of Africa’s modern history.
“I would, daresay, suggest that, for the rest of the continent, the biggest and most important legacy he (Nelson Mandela) has left for us is one of inspired leadership,” the President said when he delivered a lecture to commemorate the Centenary celebrations of the late South African leader, in Accra.
“Be the Legacy”, was the theme chosen for the lecture, organised by the South African Embassy in Ghana.
It was attended by former president Jerry John Rawlings and his wife Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Taylor, senior government officials and ministers, South Africa’s Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Lindiwe Sisulu, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reforms, Mcebisi Skwatsha, and the diplomatic community.
The event also marked the declaration of the July 18 by the United Nations as the Nelson Mandela International Day.
Recounting the life and times of Mandela, who led the liberation struggle against Apartheid in South Africa, President Akufo-Addo said his life until his demise in 2013, was lived for the collective struggle of humans everywhere.
He added that Madeba, as Mr Mandela was fondly called, made no compromises in his dealings, dedicated his life to the fight for equal opportunities for the black African, making him the most sought-after personality on the globe, and “everybody wanted to see and hear him, including those who had been his fiercest critics and been most unsympathetic to his cause”.
The President said he secured place in the pantheon of African leaders, and left an indelible imprint on his generation and humanity as a whole.
“Madiba might have left us almost five years ago, but I do not exaggerate when I say that it is thanks to him that South Africa is today a strong democracy, with active and working institutions.”
His conduct of foreign policy, when he led post-Apartheid South Africa, reinforced the importance he attached, as an African leader, to independence of action to accomplish stated goals.
“I have no doubt that he would have happily endorsed our Ghana Beyond Aid project, whose goal is to free the Ghanaian state and economy from dependence and reliance on foreign aid and assistance, in order to build the free, prosperous, self-reliant nation that was the dream of our founding founders.”
“A propos, I wonder how he would have reacted to the intervention of foreign diplomats in the national discourse of African states, when, with the best of intentions, they advocate constitutional and governance prescriptions for our guidance. I suspect that, like me, he would have thought it was not their place to do so.
He could have readily fallen for the cacophony of praise singing that erupted around the world on his release, and the good Lord knows he would have deserved it.”
The President asked that like Mandela, who practiced what he preached, all leaders should and must take a lesson from the selfless examples set by him, in integrity, compassion, observance of rights and freedom, even treatment of foes and shunning of authoritarian practices.
“As President, many people were dismayed to discover that these were not just beautifully packaged words that he spoke at a critical time of his life, but that he actually believed in the ideal, and was prepared to extend humane treatment to his previous tormentors as well. Needless to say, this came as a surprise to both friend and foe.
In 1994, after he won the historic elections, Nelson Mandela could have rapidly lapsed into the authoritarian practices that plague newly independent African countries. He had all the ready-made excuses, there was turmoil in the country, with the daily massacres, and that would have been the cue for clamping down on rights and putting people in jail.”
“I suspect the world would have been sympathetic, but he stayed firm to his belief in democratic ideals of individual freedom. Not for him the language of freedom, but the reality of autocracy.”
“There was pressure to give a taste of their own medicine to the oppressors of old. But his answer was steadfast the practitioners of apartheid would not suffer the fate of their opponents.”
“This was not universally accepted by all, but Nelson Mandela stuck to his beliefs, and had the moral authority to convince his people to uphold the standard. It helped cement the peaceful transition of post-apartheid South Africa.
Lauding the achievement of the South African leader, during his tenure as head of state, President Akufo-Addo said Madeba’s period in office was marked with dynamism, hard work, concrete achievements, and provided a solid foundation for democratic and multi-racial society.
He shunned individualism, greed, and destructive practices and was not tempted to cling on to office and hang on to power, as pertained on the continent, admonishing the African leaders to resist pressures to hold onto office.
The President was optimistic that Mandela’s legacy and his humanity would remain real to the youth of today and future generations.