By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
The whole wide world is stark awake, day and night, waiting for the Mandela hour. But there’s no escaping the fact that even in life or death Mandela trumps all. It is indeed with bated breath that the global village looks ahead to the great one’s 95th birthday on July 18. Of course that date has been universally fixed as Nelson Mandela International Day, or Mandela Day for short.
The epochal day was officially declared by the United Nations in November 2009, and the first UN Mandela Day held on July 18, 2010. The Mandela Day celebrating the icon’s 95th birthday on July 18 will be marked specially in Asaba, Delta State with the World Press Conference proclaiming the establishment of a garden of 95 trees to be known as “The Mandela Garden of 95 Trees.”
The celebrated environmen- talist and conqueror of the Sahara Desert, Dr. Newton Jibunoh, as the Chief Executive of Fight Against Desert Encroachment (FADE) will partner with Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and the Delta State Government to make broadcast the well over 134,000 square metres of prime land within the Asaba International Airport complex, designed to build “The Nelson Mandela Garden of 95 Trees.”
The conceptual design of the Mandela Garden is in the shape of the map of Africa, featuring a life-sized bronze statue of Nelson Mandela, 95 trees symbolically planted as the Robben memorial, freedom mini-gardens, well-landscaped terraced fences made of hedge plants, concrete walkways, state-of-the-art restrooms, adequate parking, Nelson Mandela playground and park for children. The Mandela Garden is due for commissioning in August with members of the Nelson Mandela family, led by Ndaba Mandela, flagging-off the planting of the 95 trees.
Dr. Jibunoh in his drive toward greening the environment through FADE always had the abiding dream of planting the trees. It has been a life-long passion, culminating in the FADE Wall of Trees planted in Makoda Kano in the spirited bid to arrest desert encroachment.
He then followed up on January 1, this year when he was accompanied by Governor Fashola of Lagos and other dignitaries to plant 75 trees in Lagos to celebrate his own 75th birthday. The 95 trees Jibunoh is partnering with the Delta State Government to plant in Asaba to mark Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday is the climax of his lifework. He plans to retire to the Mandela Gardens to manage it by himself.
“I will run the park for the rest of my life as the keeper,” Jibunoh says in his Lagos Island Didi Museum office, adding, “My family will have to come and visit me there. They know my passion. It helps that the project is situated at the airport. They can always fly in and fly out. I believe Asaba provides a conducive atmosphere batter than Lagos, London or New York!” He then adds this info: “I’ll build myself a small hut where I will live to keep it.”
Governor Uduaghan will lay the foundation stone of the keeper’s lodge while the enquiry office will also be in the initial works.