BY JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU & JOSEPH ERUNKE, with agency reports
GLOBAL leaders, who were at the memorial ceremony for former South African President, Nelson Mandela, yesterday in Soweto, were unanimous in their tributes to the late anti-Apartheid hero, who they described as a gift to humanity.
The United States President, Mr. Barack Obama, described Mandela as a giant of history.
Speakers at the FBN Stadium venue of the service were given three minutes each.
This came as the Senate, yesterday, paid glowing tributes to Mandela, saying the deceased was in a class of saints sent by God to make a difference in the world.
Liberator of the 20th century— Obama
Obama said: “To Graça Machel and the Mandela family; to President Zuma and members of the government; to heads of states and government, past and present; distinguished guests, it is a singular honour to be with you today, to celebrate a life like no other.
“To the people of South Africa, people of every race and walk of life, the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us. His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph.
“It is hard to eulogise any man— to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person.
“Their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul. How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.
Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by the elders of his Thembu tribe, Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century.
“Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement— a movement that at its start had little prospect for success. Like Dr. King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed and the moral necessity of racial justice.
“He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War.
“Emerging from prison, without the force of arms, he would, like Abraham Lincoln, hold his country together when it threatened to break apart. And like America’s Founding Fathers, he would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations.
“The questions we face today are how to promote equality and justice; how to uphold freedom and human rights; how to end conflict and sectarian war.
“These things do not have easy answers. But there were no easy answers in front of that child born in World War I. Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done.
“South Africa shows that is true. South Africa shows we can change, that we can choose a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes.
“We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace, justice and opportunity.
“We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. “
The United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon said: “We join together in sorrow for a mighty loss and the celebration of a mighty life.
“Nelson Mandela was more than one of the greatest leaders of our time. He was one of our greatest teachers.
“He taught by example, he sacrificed so much and was willing to give up everything for freedom, equality and justice. His compassion stands out most.”
Former archbishop of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Desmond Tutu said: “We have come here and we are mourning a little bit. Mostly we’re saying ‘God, we think you are not a bad God.
“You gave us an incredible gift. We have three presidents of the United States and 75 heads of state. A friend in India wrote to us to say, ‘India is observing five days of mourning’.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron said: ”We were told it was appropriate to wear a black tie. But when you come and you hear this great noise and this great atmosphere of celebration, it is clear that people here in South Africa want to say goodbye to this great man.
“To commemorate what he did; also to celebrate his life and celebrate his legacy.”
An inspiration — Rousseff
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said: “He also was a source of inspiration for similar struggles in Brazil and across South America.
“His fight reached way beyond his nation’s borders and inspired young men and women to fight for independence and social justice.”
China’s Vice President, Li Yuanchao, said through a translator: “Mr. Mandela was the pride of the African people.
“He has dedicated his entire life to the development and progress of the African content.”
His long walk finally over—ANC President
“His long walk is over, he can finally rest,” African National Congress, ANC, Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa, said in an opening address.
On several occasions, Ramaphosa felt forced to admonish boisterous sections of the crowd for chanting during the speeches.
Similarly, South African President said: ”In his honour, we commit ourselves to continue to build a nation based on democratic values, human dignity and democracy.”
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday, paid glowing tributes to late Mandela, saying the deceased was in a class of saints sent by God to make a difference in the world.
The upper legislative chamber which observed a one minute silence in honour of Mandela, resolved to send a delegation to the government and people of South Africa to for a condolence visit.
This came following a motion sponsored by the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, PDP, Cross River Central, and 107 others on the death of the late Mandela.
Leading the debate on the motion, Senator Ndoma-Egba noted that it was necessary for the Senate to honour the late Apartheid hero, noting that during his a lifetime, the late former President Mandela dedicated his life to the emancipation of the oppressed.
He also noted that during his tenure as President of South Africa, Mandela invited several other political parties to join the cabinet just as he set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses.
He said: “His administration introduced measures to encourage land reform, combat poverty and expand healthcare services.
“His government focused on dismantling the legacy of Apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism, poverty, inequality and fostering racial reconciliation.
“His sterling qualities endeared him to his people. He is held in deep respect within South Africa and as well as gained international acclaim for his activism which earned him over 250 honours, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.
“His message of reconciliation, not vengeance is a great source of inspiration to the world.”
He described Mandela as the hero of the century who deserved to all the recognition and eulogies being bestowed on him.
Ningi, Nwaogu, others
Speaking on the motion, Senate Deputy Leader, Abdul Ningi, PDP, Bauchi South, said Mandela made a landmark difference in promotion of interracial relations among humanity.
He said: “His preoccupation was the entire humanity. Mandela is in a class of saints, who were sent by God to make a difference in the world.”
Also contributing, Senator Nkechi Nwaogu, PDP, Abia Central, noted that the late Mandela became a name that brought hope and aspiration to the entire black race and tasked African leaders to emulate the attributes of Mandela in the governance of their various countries.
Senator Enyinanya Abaribe, PDP, Abia South, noted that the virtues of Mandela would only be replicated when leaders at all levels offered selfless service for the benefit of the people.
He said: “With Mandela’s example, each and every one of us must think of Nigeria as one entity then it would be possible to emulate him.”
‘No Nigerian of Mandela’s calibre’
Senator Adegbenga Kaka, APC, Ogun East, regretted that Nigeria lacked leaders of Mandela’s calibre, adding that people were not ready to make sacrifice.
He said: ”We have men who could be like Mandela in this country but they lack the courage to push through their ideals.”
On his part, Senator Wilson Ake, PDP, Rivers West, said: “He chose the spirit of humility, contentment, forgiveness and sacrifice. Our leaders should emulate him.”
Senator Abubakar Bagudu, PDP, Kebbi Central, said: “African leaders, aspiring leaders and all of us here should demonstrate the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation in all of our dealings.“
On his part, Senator Ayogu Eze, PDP, Enugu North, noted that Mandela showed that the “world will always be better off when we sit together and discuss how we can live together peacefully.”
Senate President, David Mark, who presided over the tribute session, tasked leaders to see governance as an opportunity to impact positively on the people.