Professor Wole Soyinka at the NIIA during Mandela Week

Demola Ojo

Mandela Day is usually celebrated on July 18 every year in commemoration Nelson Mandela’s exemplary life. Due to the iconic status of the first democratically-elected President of South Africa, Mandela Day usually becomes ‘Mandela Week’ as a medley of activities are held to honour the former freedom fighter, who stated and showed his readiness to stake his life for his beliefs.

This year is however special as it is the hundredth year anniversary of the man fondly referred to as ‘Madiba’. The celebrations have been held worldwide. In South Africa especially, former US president, Barack Obama, gave a speech that was well-received and applauded globally.

Nigeria was not left out of the special celebrations, especially because both countries share a special bond that was recognised and advanced by Mandela himself. It was certainly heart-warming therefore, when two of Nigeria’s most internationally-recognised personalities, Nobel laureate Prof Wole Soyinka and former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku were on hand at different events to eulogise Mandela, a Nobel peace laureate.

Very important was the fact that both Soyinka and Anyaoku had a personal relationship with Mandela to varying degrees which they shared with the enraptured audiences in Lagos over the course of a week.

The Nelson Mandela Centenary celebrations in Nigeria which extended beyond Lagos, was led by the South African Consulate Lagos in collaboration with South African Tourism West Africa, United Nations Information Center (UNIC) and National Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) both in Nigeria.

The week began with a press briefing on the theme of this year’s Mandela Centenary celebration “BeTheLegacy” and upcoming events planned to keep the legacy alive. South African Tourism had major media houses, trade partners, stakeholders and associates in attendance throughout the various activities.

The Consul General SA Consulate in Lagos, Ambassador Darkey Africa said:“This year is to celebrate and highlight the key role Mandela played in securing freedom of the South Africans, on how Mandela pushed for peace, embraced people of various races and sought reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years.”

A lecture in honour of Mandela Centenary was held at the NIIA with Soyinka as the keynote speaker. Prof Soyinka recited a beautiful poem he penned in honour of Mandela titled:“And He Said No”.

The lecture was followed by a photo exhibition of the life and times of Mandela at the NIIA Library with a cultural highlight of a fully dressed Xhosa man and woman representing Mandela’s traditional attire.

SA Tourism later participated in a 67-minute cleaning exercise of the Freedom Park Lagos, done with other partners, stakeholders and students from various schools in attendance. A lecture on the centenary was also held alongside cultural activities that included “The Mandela in You” drama on the life of Mandela acted by local students.

Meanwhile in Asaba, Delta State, there was a tree planting event at the Mandela Garden where five additional trees were planted, to add to the 95 trees previously planted on Mandela’s 95th birthday in 2013.

The week came to an end with an elegant South African dinner in honour of Madiba’s 100 Years with the guest of honour, Chief Anyaoku, who had very close interactions with Mandela on numerous occasions which he shared with other guests.

South African Tourism West Africa Hub used the opportunity to share some of the amazing content of the Mandela Centenary assets such as the Mandela Centenary AV, indoor and outdoor banners and more during the various events.
It is no surprise that there are many other events lined up for the rest of the year, especially in South Africa. Notable among these is the Global Citizen concert to be held in Johannesburg on December 2.
Many world-renowned artistes will be performing, with ample representation from Nigeria. They include; Beyonce, Jay Z, Femi Kuti, D Banj, Wizkid, Usher, Tiwa Savage, Cassper Nyovest among others.