By Tam Fiofori
THE Asaba ‘Mandela Garden of 95 Trees’ project is part of a multi-country multi-event celebration to be staged in Johannesburg, London and New York as well; to acknowledge the United Nations’ decision to designate the birthday; July 18, of this great icon of leadership and racial tolerance, as an annual World Mandela Day! This development was an added incentive for Dr Jibunoh who admits that since his youth he had been inspired by Nelson Mandela.
The first phase of the project will involve the landscaping of the site using trees to contour recognisable geographical areas. “We are going to start with 95 trees to celebrate Mandela’s birthday,” says Jibunoh. “There will be trees that will be relevant to the environment because we don’t want to import trees.
It will be trees that we know will nurture well considering the kind of soil condition we have. There are some trees already in the land we are using. We have identified them and we are going to introduce similar trees to make up the initial 95 trees to be used to celebrate Mandela’s birthday.”
Explaining the further use of trees to create recognisable structures, he says that, “we are going to use trees to create the map of Africa so that when one is flying you can look down and see a map of Africa which is going to be called the Mandela Garden of 95 Trees. And within that map we are going to have South Africa decorated with trees; we are going to have Nigeria because of the role Nigeria played in liberating South Africa and, then, we are going to have Robben Island.
Of course there will be bars, children’s playgrounds and a keeper’s lodge. We are going to introduce fishes into the river that runs across the site and other game that will not interfere with the airport operations since this project is within the Asaba International Airport complex.”
The Garden project is a mix of history, the environment and tourism come together on one location. Eventually, there is going to be a giant statue of Nelson Mandela located within the site. In the second phase of a four-phase development plan, FADE in conjunction with the South African embassy in Nigeria and the South African government intends to build a library where historical information and historical artefacts to do with Mandela will be on display!
Dr Jibunoh has suggested to Governor Uduaghan the idea of visiting Heads of State and dignitaries being taken to the Mandela Garden to perform the historical ceremony of planting a tree. “That aspect too will add to the connotation usually given to most tourism initiatives around the world. In doing so, one would be establishing a carbon footprint in terms of adding to the environmental initiatives that we as FADE believe in,” he says.
There is justifiable hope that tourism will thrive at the Mandel Garden. “For people landing and taking off from Asaba International Airport it will be a place of entertainment for them. It will be a place for them to go when they are waiting for their flights or when flights are delayed; where they can go and relax. And if they have children; a place where their children can play,” he points out.
And as part of a world-wide celebration, Jibunoh is confident that the Asaba Mandela Garden will be used in remembering and recalling that role Nigeria played towards the liberation of the African continent. FADE has requested the partnership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs because South Africans, the Mandela family and other countries who would be invited by the Delta State government and the Federal Ministry of Tourism are expected for the commissioning.
A giant billboard strategically-located in Asaba has officially announced the Nelson Mandela Garden of 95 Trees. The first phase will be ready; with restrooms, snack bars and a few playgrounds for children, for commissioning between the 15th and the end of August 2013; depending on when all protocol arrangements have been aligned.