President Goodluck Jonathan has said past Nigerian leaders cannot be compared to the late former South African leader, Nelson Mandela, saying it was on record that they ruled repressively during their regimes.
He also described Nigerian politicians who threaten, boast and play little gods by virtue of their position as tiny men, a character trait he said is contrary to the exemplary leadership Mr. Mandela exhibited and lived for.
Speaking at a memorial service in honour of late Mandela at the Aso Rock Chapel in Abuja on Sunday, Mr. Jonathan said contrary to Mr. Mandela who was filled with humility, forgiving spirit and the ability to unite and reunite people, past Nigerian rulers played repressive roles during their reigns.
According to him “great names as we hear today in Nigeria are not enough” as the same names played repressive roles and ruled repressively during their days as rulers in this country”.
Although he did not mention names, Mr. Jonathan berated top Nigerian politicians who speak “as if Nigeria is their bedroom” from where they make proclamation and intimidate others.
He added that some of them even demonstrated hatred in their speeches.
He noted that even when he listens to some “politicians older than me, I come to the conclusion that it is truly difficult for a carmel to pass through the eyes of a needle than for a politician to achieve greatness”.
He eulogised the late Mr. Mandela’s selfless virtues adding that today all those who fought him and called him terrorists were now singing his praises.
“For anybody that will make changes, don’t expect praises, they will call you names but the end matters much,” he said.
Also paying tribute to Mr. Mandela at the service, Senate President, David Mark enjoined Africans to fight for economic independence and democracy as the struggle is still ongoing.
Mr. Mark, who said Mr. Mandela lived and died for Africa, noted that if the campaign for a United Africa had been championed by Mr. Mandela instead of the late Libyan Leader, Muammar Gaddafi, it would have succeeded.
He also noted that Mr. Mandela did not only live and die for South Africa, but he also led in the struggle for Africa to become democratically independent.
The South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Louis Mnguni, in his tribute said Mr. Mandela was indeed selfless as even though he colud have made money for himself as a lawyer, he chose to remain and die as a combatant.
Mr. Mnguni also appreciated Nigeria for all the support it has always rendered for his country stating that “despite it’s own numerous challenges, Nigeria has not taken its eyes off South Africa.
In his tribute, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Matthew Kukah, who was amongst the six people who paid tribute at the ceremony besides the President, emphasized the need to remember those who fought with Mr. Mandela.
He noted that the unsung heroes of the apartheid struggle should be celebrated with much emphasis on reducing persisting institutional injustices.