By Japhet Alakam
The stage was well decorated with a banner with the picture of Mandela and next to it was another banner with Nigeria flag and that of their South African counterpart with the portrait of Mandela with the inscription; Lagos: Tribute to Mandela at Freedom Park. On the other side were Nigerians from all walks of life who gathered at the former prison yard turned Freedom park to pay glowing tributes to the fiirst democratically elected black South African President whose legend as freedom fighter, democrat, philanthropist, humanitarian, nation builder, unifier, liberator, change agent and Nobel Peace Prize winner continues to reverberate around the world even in death, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
Tagged ‘Lagos: Tribute to Mandela’ , the event which was well attended by writers, politicians, poets, activists and community and religious leaders which was hosted by Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka afforded them the opportunity to relive their memories about one of the greatest man that ever lived on the planet earth.
The Nobel Laureate welcomed all to the event and unto the person who was not present, Mandela, he read a poem ‘No he said’ celebrating Mandela’s refusal to be released from jail conditionally.
After that, the Lagos City Chorale led by Sir Emeka Nwokedi clad in their national colours opened with the South African National Anthem and did about four other songs from South Africa before rapping it up with Lithisikiya (Give me key to life). Professor Kole Omotoso, read a poem taken from Ifa divination that relates to Mandela while President of the Campaign for Democracy, Joe Okei-Odumakin, in her tribute entitled Tribute to icon of all times said, “In Mandela, Africa and the world have lost the rarest example of courage, a foremost apostle of freedom. He was a valued elder to all humanity and remains a reference point in terms of doggedness and consistency.
Nigerian leaders need to enroll in Mandela’s school of leadership.”
Poet and academic, Ogaga Ifowodo, who as secretary general of UNIBEN SUG presided over a sectariat named after Mandela read excerpts from ‘Mandela’s Mantle’ comprising 27 sonnets with each representing a year Madiba spent in jail. But he only read the last sonnet.
Dagga Tolar, former Lagos State chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) chair, added activism to his reading as he read a poem titled ‘This country, undying, undead’.
Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, brought his unfinished battle with the Federal Government as he used the occasion to launch another attack on them and the Nigerian people for their perceived docility. He read an excerpt from what Mandela said about Nigeria and the dearth of quality leadership in the country.
Lagos Poet, Odia Ofeimun, who read a poem in the way it hit Mandela and you, taking from a poem by dance drama from Shaka Zulu, ‘The Feast of Return’ disagreed with Amaechi. “Governor Rotimi Amaechi has confidently confessed that he’s not going to be one of us on the street.
The reason is that what we need to do what we have not yet done,” Ofeimun said. He added that he is one of the leaders who believe in outsourcing jobs Nigerians can do to foreigners hence perpetuating poverty. Ofeimun, however enjoined all to learn from the greatest lessons of Mandela which is reconciliation devoid of bitterness.
Prof. Babawale of Centre for Black African Arts and Civilization(CBAAC) who reflected on Mandela’s visit to Nigeria few days after his release from prison said “ The departure of Madiba broke our hearts but we are happy by the footprints he left on the sands of time,” he said adding that Mandela’s life had vision and mission and thus ended on a sweet note.
Others who read include, Executive Editor of The News Magazine, Kunle Ajibade, , Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola ,Femi Falana and the Consul-General of the South African High Commission in Nigeria, Mokgethi Monaisa, who expressed happiness at the honour accorded Mandela and disclosed that his country would miss Madiba greatly.
The night also featured performances by the Crown Troupe of Africa and its children’s arm, Footprints of David. Singer Aduke Aladekomo did two songs; Paul Wagbayi’s Black Image Theatre did a dance while Tunji Sotimirin was his usual self as he mimicked the Madiba giving a speech.
Femi Kuti wrapped up the evening with a performance the audience thoroughly enjoyed. His band opened with ‘Army Arrangement’ before he joined them to do ‘Water no get enemy’, ‘Wonder, wonder’ and ‘Wey our money’.