I didn't really know who Nelson Mandela was until he was released from prison on the 11th of February 1990. I remember the news bulletins on the day being totally taken over by the story and although I don’t quite remember who explained the back story to me, I have been intrigued by the man ever since.
To me, Mandela stood for many things. Beyond being the symbol of the anti-apartheid struggle, he was the embodiment of the principles of forgiveness and reconciliation that I learnt about in church every Sunday. To be unfairly imprisoned for 27 years and to neither hold a grudge nor seek retribution against those that put him behind bars is something that has continued to challenge me, even to this day.
Nelson Mandela was also the first African that was celebrated globally in my lifetime. As a kid growing up in Nigeria I had grown accustomed to global icons being anything but African. It would be a overegging it a bit to say his status inspired me but it gave me a good feeling I enjoyed and wanted more of.
Mandela was not perfect, far from it. He had as many faults as the next man but when faced with the choice of right or wrong, he chose to do the right thing even though it was the more difficult and unnatural thing to do. This, perhaps, is what intrigued me the most about him.
Mandela’s death is a loss to the humanity as a whole but his legacy will live on. His work and his words have impacted many across the world and his ideal of being guided by hope, and not by fear is something that cannot be spoken of highly enough. His conviction of his principles and readiness to champion peace and reconciliation is something that will be spoken of and written about as long as the spoken and written word remains.
My children and their children will learn about Mandela. They might even be inspired by him. The echoes of the principles he espoused will sound across the world. The impact of his life will live on for many years to come.