We are working with a team of scholars within and outside Nigeria to produce modules for our project of the rebirth of core values for purposeful leadership, the curbing of rural-urban drift and saving of our rural areas: RAISING A MILLION MANDELAS. We consider this project not only ground breaking but catalytic with multi-dimensional positive effects for the future of the African continent and beyond.
As the team leader of this project, some few years back when I came across Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, something happened that left me completely transformed. In the book I came face to face with a fellow African who practically imbibed the true African philosophy of living for the sake of the community and thus being his brothers’ keepers, even to the high cost of losing what was more than the period of a youth. Mandela with his life proved what was possible, even in an age when terrible things had eroded the core of our African value system. Mandela sacrificed Twenty seven years for the freedom of his people. I asked myself, if a fellow African was capable of such an almost divine submission, why was Africa still in the woods? The reason I found was simple: one Mandela alone was not enough to bring light in all the dark corners of our continent. Mandela was only one person and he has done his role; he brought light to the part of his hemisphere, which was once beclouded with palpable darkness.
When alas Mandela passed on, something deep stirred within me as the entire universe bowed in mourning. There were critical reflections of the timeless legacies the icon left behind. Africa suddenly seemed awoken from a stupor of slumber, evaluating things and asking questions. I saw that in spite of the corruption of our value system, we were celebrating the virtues of Mandela with sober reflection. I saw that things would never be the same again if we harnessed the grief of the hour properly. I began to have discussions with some thinkers and to ask questions:
- What made Mandela Mandela?
- What would it take to have Mandelas spread across the African continent?3
- Why couldn’t we begin to replicate Mandela all across Africa, heal Africa and incariably the world at the long run?
I saw that what made Mandela Mandela, the icon, was his sensitivity to the world around him. He did not live in a shell isolated just for himself or his family alone. No. Mandela had his eyes open, saw what things were keeping his people in bondage and acted with great sacrifices. Again, I asked: what were the major issues in my part of the world that a Mandela should be concerned with? What were the key challenges stopping a breakthrough? And how could we stir young people – the great engine room of every healthy nation – to become the solution to the issues?
The major challenge casting shadows in my part of the world Nigeria, the most populated black nation on earth, has been the lack of education of our poor who easily become tools for mischief in the hands of manipulators. Disadvantaged by their poor backgrounds, the children of the poor easily get mixed up with drugs and various vices, thus become security threats. I saw that the exploitation of the poor through various ways and the inability of the poor to think for themselves and creatively help themselves have been due to lack of education. The other silent cancer eating us is the menace of rural-urban drift which is expanding city slums and creating huge security threat/risk. The government seems either completely blind to the tragedy or rural-urban drift or lack the will power to address it. Once educated youths vacate to the cities instead of staying back to help liberate their grassroots. They leave for the cities because of lack of social infrastructures at the grassroots. Thus our rural communities are increasing becoming desolate, while city slums are expanding. The farms are left for the old who are not strong enough to till the earth and provide us with food security, which results to increasing food shortages. We need a programme that can holistically address the issues raised. The foundations of these problems have been the great corruption of our value system and the insincerity of our Government.
When the beloved Madiba passed on, while the world was on its knees in grief, I stirred our organization to turn our sorrow into something profitable. The first thing I did was to publish this on my social media wall:
There is a kind of life a man lives that he will achieve more in his death than in his life: One of us has achieved that feat. And so we are about to witness some wonders. Though in his life time Madiba had set a precedent unrivalled, I have a burning deep witness stamping itself in my soul that his passage will achieve greater things for Africa than his life. How??? The testament of his life has began a fiery judgement already. We are awoke from a death-like-slumber, weighing matters and asking deep questions…QUESTIONS about what really matters…African leaders will be forced to examine their lives, and to have some needed sense of vision and shame! The testament of Madiba’s life has become a Standard and is a burning-coal-judgement…Never again shall Africa celebrate mediocrity and self-serving leaders, thieves, ole, barawo, sata, wat! I hear a cry all over the continent: we want a rebirth of Madibas! We want nothing less! Never again will we be satisfied with counterfeits. The table has turned… Can anyone hear the sounds of the rushing of a mighty wind of change?
The response received on the social media was very inspiring. The post went virile. Issues raised birthed a new assignment: How can we reincarnate Mandela into a million Mandelas who will serve the needed prison term to solve particular problems on all corners of our continent?
Right we embarked on a revolutionary campaign called ‘RAISING A MILLION MANDELAS’. I went to work studying extensively, and I produced an introductory essay with notes on seventeen sub-themes on the sterling qualities that made Mandela an-all-time global hero. I brought together a team of scholars who each took a sub-theme to write on to produce modules that we would use for the training that would literally raise a million Mandelas to serve and save Africa. The highlight of the project is this: as Mandela remained in prison for 27 years to free his people, we are challenging and inspiring the youths to “die to self and serve their prison term” by remaining at the grassroots to liberate their people, instead of running away to the cities after obtaining diplomas or degrees.
For a start, on the 21st of December 2013 we were in the most disadvantaged community in Pankshin Local Government Area called Meir. Meir village can best be described as a hallow walled by hills and valleys. The village itself sits in a valley. A valley sends signals. No vehicle, motorbike or even a bicycle has ever gone there. This village is the most closed community in Pankshin Local Government Area, although ordinarily it should be just a short distance away from where things happen. Though it has awe inspiring natural scenery, which could easily have become some tourist havens bringing the entire universe on its knees there, because of its inaccessibility once its wards get educated they simply vacate for good.
Reasons being obvious:
You have to climb mountains and hills of fearful feats on foot, sometimes with all fours on the ground, with anything you brought from town, which often could be bundles of roofing sheets, bags of fertilizer, parts of heavy grinding machines, the fuel the machine uses, & very unbelievable, even human corpse strapped to the back of a living!
There were the valleys; if you slip off in some places you may be gone forever. We saw clearly, if you had other choices you would have to literally become a Mandela to live there. This is the story of Meir village of Feir District. And Meir was our first mission of “Raising a Million Mandelas” to free Africa. Challenged by the sage’s life, we are saying enough has to be truly enough in Africa; enough of all that enslaves us. Meir and many of our villages in Africa today lie in the ruins, and not because we are poor, but because once educated we vacate for the cities, or even fly abroad. At Meir we saw basically the old, women and children; children who played in the dust happily, owned no toys and have never seen a bicycle. They knew no other life.
The few men we saw were those without education or skills. They had no choice but to stay.
Our war now is to stop the tragic Urban drift (one of the biggest ills in Africa) by calling on our youths to stay back and repair the ruins of our fallen ancient habitats. We can bring the city to our localities, even the world, when we stay back, add value and develop them. We are aware of the high cost: it will take nothing less than the laying down of our lives through putting away some seemingly self-gratifying and glamorous-ambitions, to stay back to put to use knowledge acquired in universities and other colleges in our remote villages. We are aware it may take more than a life time to see the real results of our labour, but the sacrifice is worth every pound of flesh, as we see it as a revolution that will change the fortunes of Africa.
Nearly three decades had to go down as the sun hid away from Mandela while he laid down his life for his people. Today they walk in freedom…. We see clearly that like Mandela, we have a prison sentence to serve which alone will free us and our land. And so after a herculean journey on the 21st of December 2013 we watched joy broke out in Meir as we laid out our strategies for Our Needed Long Walk To Freedom. In past years we took only relief materials to such villages during our rural outreaches, but that day apart from giving out some relief materials we began a new movement for Transformational Development, the Becoming of MANDELAS.
Tired of waiting for leaders that have failed us and acting as though we do not exist we are moving to stop the Meir tragedies all around us. How can one explain the Meir situation, no road for even a bicycle! Three teachers in a whole primary school, so they merged class 1 and 2 in one class, 3 and 4 together, and 5 and 6 together.
The soul of the tragedy is that we have Federal College of Education Pankshin right at our doorstep where teachers are hatched every season. And Meir is in a country where ordinary Councillors build palatial homes in cities and drive luxury cars. No, we won’t wait for such leaders. As young people we will move in and begin to lay our lives ‘in prison’ for our folks like Mandela did.
Youths are already volunteering to make a difference. In Meir currently there is a young woman who after being trained as a Community Health Assistant returned to the jungle serving the health needs of her people. This young woman has denied herself the many prospects of running off to the city to get a better job and even marry well. Although this community has a good number of educated people, they all live in the cities. Once educated, they dust their feet and vacate the village. This is what we foresee and fear, if Meir Village does not receive help, in the next 100 years or more the village may lie vacant. This applies to many other African villages. We are now collaborating with other intervention organizations to help candle some light in Meir. But most importantly we are raising young people who will accept to serve and live in Meir and other such villages. Only through that will our Villages be ransomed.
We contacted Village Care Initiative Nigeria and they are extending their pragmatic transformational development programmes to Meir. In partnership with them we did a two day outreach in Meir from 6th to the 7th of March 2014.
The intervention outreach is designed to spark transformational development in communities as the people are guided to discover their great potentials, harness them and liberate their communities by themselves.
We have begun building a trade-school at City of Refuge where our youths can acquire skills for sustainability. We are to create a sustainable future for self reliance and development.
To succeed with our grassroots transformational development we are collaborating with the Legistilative Arm of our Local Councils. We had a very catalytic interactive session with Councillors of Pankshin Local Government Council in August 2014. The Honourable Members of the Local Council who are the closest to the rural people at the grassroots are crucial in our programmes. With government at the grassroots being open to creative ideas and forming synergy with groups doing transformational developmental projetcts Africa will find herself in a new oder. We envision what began in the Legislative Arm of Pankshin Local Government spreading with catalytic effects.
The Executive Director Nenpan Monday Zakka doing a presentation before the Legislative Members of Pankshin Local Government Council.
The Honourable Supervisory Councillor for Education Yilbet Maltok responding at the interactive session at the Council.
The Honourable Councillor representing Jiblik and Chairman Committee on Education addressing participants at the interactive session organized by City of Refuge at the Legislative Chamber.