By Jerome J. Verdier, Sr.

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted July 3, 2011


As Liberia gears up to observe Armed Forces Day on February 11, 2011, the Republic of South Africa will uniquely celebrate twenty one years since Former President Nelson Mandela took the first step out of prison towards freedom for all the people of South Africa, as the world’s most famous political prisoner. In the same breath, the United States of America is gearing up to celebrate the month February as Black History Month.

All is meant to honor gallantry, courage and personal sacrifice, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and the perils of life so that a cherished nation, people or ideal will live on.

Liberia, as Africa’s oldest independent republic may be poised, but yet, to assume its rightful place in the world or in continental Africa. While Nelson Mandela was spending 27 years of his youthful life in South Africa most notorious prison with hard labor, for a cause or struggle – the liberation of his people from the claws of apartheid - he was prepared to give up his life for, President William V.S. Tubman governed Liberia for 27 years with iron fist, institutionalized patronage, demagoguery and dictatorship; presiding over the wealth of the nation in the cause of himself, family and kinship.

Even more striking was 1990. Just when Mandela was walking out of prison to lead negotiations for the end of white minority rule that would replace apartheid South Africa with the “rainbow nation”- a democratic and unified South Africa - Liberia was being plunged into a self-destructive and devastating civil war that would last for nearly two decades, ravaging the entire nation, leaving its people hopelessly poor and dejected.

Nelson Mandela was magnanimous in victory, humble in stature but strong in his convictions that black domination was as oppressive as white domination. South Africa was for all South Africans and the democratic option (one man-one vote) was best for his country. He accomplished a feat no one thought was humanly possible.

In South Africa's first fully democratic elections in 1994, he was elected president. He left the presidency in 1999, barely completing his one term amid widespread calls for him to remain in power as “there was none other in South Africa that could serve as an alternative”, many of his admirers would say. He however stepped down and continued to work for his country in many other ways and is today the world’s most famous statesman.

Even though “he is the best in South Africa”, probably the in world, his humility and sense of purpose, vision, selflessness and national consciousness excluded demagoguery, that which did not permit him, in the least, to believe he was the only or worst the best leader for South Africa. He recognized the transition was ended and a new day was dawning in South Africa which defined his role and a new generation of South African leaders with the energy, vision and tenacity to build on the foundations he and others built to move South Africa forward. He knew when to be stern and when to soften; when to be militant and when to be conciliatory; when to rise up and when to quit.

Mandela’s and the ANC’s struggle were not without blemish. He was kind and forgiving; loving his people, he heeded their cries and not only felt it, but he also recognized the need for national reconciliation. Most importantly, he accepted responsibility for the excesses of “the struggle” he supported and was willing to die for; and he used that as a foundation for moving forward.

When asked what Mandela has given the world, His wife Gracia Machel replied: "In a turbulent world, in the last decades of the 20th century and now the 21st century, the sense of dignity, perseverance in what is good, and never move away from what is good, justice."

Liberia’s own, and Africa’s first female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf referred to Mandela as “Africa’s greatest hero”

To Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu said "How God must love South Africa to have given us such a priceless gift! You bowled us all over by your graciousness, magnanimity and generosity of spirit."

Indeed, how God must love South Africa! Does God love Liberia or the rest of Africa? Is Liberia cursed or is she just missing out on her blessings? Where is our Mandela? May GOD bless MANDELA and give him many more years with us. MADIBA LIVES ON…

© 2011 by The Perspective

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