May 11, 2018


By Kunle Awobodu The Builder

The death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at a ripe age of 81 proves that a human being could survive the vicissitudes of a positive social change struggle enshrouded in danger.

Longevity, thereby displacing premature death that was usually associated with the revolutionary struggle.

The significant reorientation that Winnie Mandela’s struggle engendered from the domineering African men was the increased respect for their women folk. Beauty and brains were the mark of this unusual female freedom fighter.

The exemplary courage exhibited by Winnie was a great motivator for the Nigerian youths, members of the Black Nationalist Movement (BNM).

The BNM championed in Nigeria the cause against apartheid system in South Africa and embarked on campaign for the emancipation of the oppressed people of the Frontline States (Southern African countries) in general.

As the Chief Scribe (General Secretary) of the BNM in the 80s, I recall our activities that involved anti-apartheid campaigns, distribution of flyers in ‘molues’ and ‘danfos’ (public transport vehicles) across Lagos State.

It was a voluntary (free ) service that was not actuated by anticipation of personal benefits, but the genuine interest of promoting African unity and progress. We were attending meetings at the Nigerian office of the African National Congress (ANC) located at Keffi, in the neighbourhood of Dodan Barracks, Lagos.

We learnt a lot on the sacrifices of Nelson and Winnie Mandela from our ANC friends, who were on exile in Nigeria.

While addressing us at the ANC office at Keffi during one of his underground visits to Nigeria, the ANC president, Oliver Tambo, of blessed memory, extolled the virtues of Winnie Mandela, who was considered the role model for many African girls.

Tambo also appreciated the enormous support of the Nigerian military government for the arduous freedom struggle of the South African blacks.

Meanwhile, United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) on Kingsway Road ( now Alfred Rewani Road ), Ikoyi served as our link for the sustenance of international pressures on the apartheid regime.

In the late 90s, we formed a patriotic organisation in Lagos named Citizens United to Save Africa (CUSA). One of the objectives of CUSA was to propel African nations to overtake Europe and America in technological development in a healthy competition.

Asian nations today have vindicated our vision that might have been misconstrued unrealistic by pessimists. The possibility of Asia overtaking Europe and America in technological development is no longer in doubt.

Africa has to be transformed from a consumers’ continent, the dumping ground of foreign goods to the manufacturers’ arbor of technological products.

Prosperity would eventually replace beggary and extreme poverty if we could work strenuously towards it.

Following the release of Nelson Mandela on Sunday, February 11, 1990, a rally to mark this overwhelming development was organised at the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos on Wednesday, February 14, 1990.

Later that year, Winnie was honoured at the National Stadium, Surulere; Lagos. We admired, hailed and celebrated the symbol of African women’s courage in the person of Winnie Mandela. She revealed the humility and emotions in her as Onyeka Onwenu thrilled the crowd with the special song she composed for Winnie. It was a celebration of the African women and the important role they played in the defeat of the apartheid system.

The major lesson learnt on the collapse of the white minority rule in the Frontline States is that achievement or success could come when individuals involved in a cause are optimistic, not gullible, not selfish, nor easily discouraged.

No matter how long a struggle takes, commitment, indomitable spirit and consistency will always bring a successful outcome.

Despite several tempting offers to lure Winnie to soft pedal, she endured the inconveniences of being watched 24 hours by the apartheid police and refused to vacillate or compromise the freedom struggle.

Detractors, reactionaries, counter-revolutionaries, the enemies of a positive and good cause would naturally attempt to sow the seeds of discord among the progressives. The onus rests on the progressive minded people to resist such evil machinations and remain steadfast in order not to fall victims of negative propaganda that could derail a struggle.

Loyalty is of the individual’s mindset. No human being is perfect. Once a leader’s positive attributes outweigh the negative ones, our loyalty to such a leader should remain intact. My loyalty to you, Winnie, even in death, remains constant.

Both Nelson and Winnie Mandela fought for the unity and progress of Africans and they will remain our hero and heroine (not minding their personal differences caused by the apartheid government forced 27 – year separation).

As an advocate for women’s rights, Winnie’s efforts resulted in women making over 40 per cent in the composition of the South African parliament.

The challenge that is now being put before the women in the Nigerian Built Environment Professional Bodies today is for them to emulate Winnie Mandela. They should avoid the general weakness of giving immediate pecuniary gains a priority . Our women should be articulate, courageous and focu
sed. They should unite to recalibrate the professional and social values that will promote standard in the Nigerian building industry so that black Africans are no longer considered inferior in the management of global infrastructural development.

We cannot afford to give up. Let us reject opportunism. With passion, sincerity and perseverance, the black people will get it right socially, ideologically, economically, politically and technologically in the near future. Our race will not forever be regarded a perpetual failure.

We really need to mobilise ourselves effectively for the development of Nigeria and Africa in order to bequeath a good legacy to the unborn generation.

Winnie’s dreams shall keep our hope alive with the mantra, Amandla!

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