Last year, as my birthday drew nearer, I entered a habitually reflective mood. I was full of gratitude to God for liveliness despite several threats to my existence over the years. Few months earlier, on 15th of April 2011, I had escaped death in an auto crash that broke the spine of a fellow passenger and consumed 8 other human lives. I was indeed grateful to still be around to contribute positively to humanity. The venue of the gory incident was actually a well-known death trap for travellers and did not receive the attention of government as it ought to. This is probably because most persons in authority had not lost their friends and relatives to that accidental terrain or those who had died in time past were not important to them. After all, the lack of value for human lives is still a common disease in African society.
Really, Africa as a continent will improve if Africans observe a paradigm shift –a slight change in our value orientation. Though we have an abundance of corporate resources, our values are distorted and hopes are very low. A people with high hopes will not consume everything today as if there will be no tomorrow and their leaders will not access influential positions to suck the people dry. Sometimes, I wonder how many potential African leaders have been destroyed by ghastly accidents that could have been prevented. In my country Nigeria, terrorist attacks now rival with severe road accidents and occasional plane crashes to prematurely claim the lives of prospective generational leaders. I cringe at the mere thought! If only we could see people as our greatest resource (a key concept in human resource management), we would love, feed and protect them.
One day, as I thought about aging, I asked myself, “Am I really increasing in value? Will I truly be missed by my generation when I eventually take my exit?” While thinking, I read some books and newspapers too. Then I came across a news piece that said that plans to immortalise a living man were ongoing. According to the newspaper, his face would be printed on paper currencies in his nation. This was going to happen for him because he almost paid the ultimate sacrifice in a persistent struggle –the saga of awakening the conscience of the propagators of apartheid and fighting racism in his country, South Africa. That got me thinking again. The man is still alive and many generations of South Africans and other nationalities will get to stare at and hold his image. This is something many living folks would hardly have as a dream. But what made him worth this much? The answers I got will be shared shortly. I hope it gets some of us thinking and replants in the hearts of those looking up to us in our diverse spheres of contact.
Nelson Mandela is highly revered as a living legend by people of different colours. He is a global icon and member of the esteemed Council of Elders (a body which, Richard Branson says, consists of persons who have contributed most meaningfully to peace and posterity in various fields and nations and now sit over global issues to intervene according to the powers of their influence). Becoming a member of such body requires a very rare virtue. You could call it selflessness, crusading or bearing a heart for people but every heart has its language of expression. I believe Mandela made a decision to have no ambition other than to see his people treated with respect and fairness; to have them smiling in the midst of true freedom. He must have dreamt –both day and night– about the equality of his brothers and sisters in South Africa. He must have been like the historical Jewish figure, Moses, momentarily crossing the Rubicon in a solitary place and deciding that nothing would stop him. To understand the gravity of this, consider the possible reaction of an average couple if their child chooses to give up a seemingly bright future in pursuit of one that is replete with fight and incarceration on behalf of others. Perhaps, no caring parent would approve it.
When men have proven throughout history to be the most ungrateful of all intelligent creatures, how would a bright young man tell his friends that his greatest dream is not the accumulation of riches or possession of affluence but the realisation of his people’s freedom, respect and acceptance? Mandela must have mourned himself and given birth to a new life internally. He must have internalised a life that is fearless to torture, suffering and condescension. I have learnt from the life of Nelson Mandela and made up my mind to live to impact, bless and make people happy and fulfilled, whether they are aware of my contribution or not.
Africa is inherently great but there is a need to value human lives. Mandela reached the height of his dreams without needing great funds. He did it by suffering for himself and others. If suffering is a raw material for making posterity, then only few of us in Africa can lay hold on the inability to access it. Suffering is everywhere in Africa. Many are poor and suffering without assistance. If we bear in the suffering of others to bring enduring liberty and enjoyment, then we have nothing to lose. Once a man has sworn to die, if necessary, for his dream, all of creation will come to assist him. I have written these, not because I have achieved some sort of heroic exploits but, because my heart witnesses that they are right and true. If we do not have funds, let us give ourselves. We would do well to learn from the Mandela model; a man who used himself, not money, to set his people and descendants free. Just writing this piece puts my heart in the mood. Sharing it with others will help in the gradual regeneration of human value in Africa...Thank you friends.
Bamidele Fasanmi is the CEO of Fasdel Strategic Solutions. He affects individuals and organisations through hands-off mentoring, change initiation, paradigm shift, reward systems as well as corporate and personal transformation. He may be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org or BB PIN: 31696F98