On the 11th of November 2009, the United Nations declared 18th July of every year “Nelson  Mandela International Day” to be celebrated all over the world. This resolution was adopted  by the 192-member General Assembly to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s long standing commitments  to promoting racial equality, human rights, global conflict resolution, universal  brotherhood, reconciliation, international conflict resolution, gender equality and standing  out to challenge a vicious and brutal state apparatus with an unflinching stoicism that has  upwardly scaled human endurance to an unfathomable level.

Mandela who is globally regarded as the father of modern South Africa is also revered all  over the world and has become the most respected man in the world by this unique honour  bestowed on him by the world’s most powerful and respected  body – the United Nations.

There is no record of anyone alive who has been so honoured by the United Nations. The  United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Mandela’s 91st birthday had this to say:  “Nelson Mandela is a living embodiment of the highest values of the United Nations”.

Mandela weathered the storm to freedom through excruciating pain and suffering, spending  over 30% of his present lifespan in jail especially the unforgettable 18 years at Robben  Island which were designed to break his will. But Nelson Mandela did not give up, rather he  got more divine inspiration and strength from God and with a Christ-like humility bore the  “cross” of apartheid with renewed energy and vigour.

Mandela was released from the Victor Verster Prison on 11th February 1990 and on 27th April  1994 voted for the first time in his life at the age of 76. And in the election that  followed Nelson Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela was unanimously elected president and on May  10 1994 was inaugurated president of a democratic South Africa.

Mandela also known as the MADIBA declined a 2nd term in office when his tenure expired in  1999 despite the clamour for his 2nd term by a great majority of South Africans.

After his 5 years tenure, Mandela emerged even poorer as he ceded most of his salary to the  very poor people of South Africa. Mandela’s love for poor people all over the world is  legendary and this has accorded him global accolades.

Even though he has 3 Foundations to his credit, he is neither a millionaire nor is he  executively affluent.

In 2004 Mandela retired from public life to spend more time with his family and friends and  to engage in quiet reflections. That Mandela is a great leader, motivator and  Commander-In-Chief is not in doubt.

When the African National Congress (ANC) formed its Armed Nucleus,  Mandela became its  natural Commander-In-Chief. Listen to Mandela as he reveals one of his strategies of war: “I  chose to tell no one what I was about to do. There are times when a leader must move out  ahead of the flock, go off in a new direction, confident that he is leading his people in  the right direction.” Mandela is a great war tactician and strategist in the hue of Sun Tzu,  the world’s most erudite Chinese military theorist and strategist. In deed, Mandela is a  Sage Commander.

I have ruminated all through life, but I have not identified how, when and where Nigeria got  it all wrong. Why has corruption become a synonym for our dear great country, Nigeria?  Nelson Mandela served his people for 67 years (5 of them as President), but he is not known  to be a millionaire. Mandela does not own a private university as some of our former  Presidents, Vice Presidents and even governors in Nigeria. He does not own a secondary  school; not even a primary school.

Mandela has three foundations which he set up after stepping down in 1999. These are:

• The Nelson Mandela Foundation
• The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and
• The Mandela-Rhodes Foundation

In Nigeria incumbent presidents and governors and their wives set up foundations for  siphoning both private and public funds into their private foreign bank vaults. In Nigeria  business moguls compete strenuously to beat each other with single donations nearing the N1  billion mark. Of course these businessmen get government concessions and waivers to cushion  these weird donations in return.

Why is it so difficult to produce a Mandela for Nigeria? Consider the fact that Mandela is  the product of a wicked and vicious environment and yet he came out of it with so much love,  charisma, a great sense of humour, and a lack of bitterness over his oppressors. Yet he did  not become wicked or contaminated by the system that produced him. Rather he was refined and  purified by the impurities of the apartheid system thus partly explaining his extraordinary  global appeal.

It takes just a few hours for a Nigerian president to become a $billionaire. Perhaps the  Nigerian fiscal system makes it very easy for the president to steal and enrich his private  foreign bank account with what belongs to the whole country. A good example here is the gulf  war oil windfall of $12.4 billion which a Nigerian ruler deposited in a dedicated account  and was the only authorised signatory to draw from that account. And the $12.4bn was used up  before you could say “Mariam Robinson”. And that discredited former military president still  wants to lead this nation in 2011 as a civilian president despite his murky and  irretrievably corrupt antecedents.

Today  Mandela is the most important human being on earth. This is a great pride to all  black people even in the Diaspora and especially to Africans and South Africans in  particular. It is heartening to note the height that an African has soared to in spite of  the fact that Nigeria has not even taken off yet.

Nigeria with one of the greatest natural endowments in the world today imports everything up  to tooth pick from countries like China with its defective mass production technology. There  is an armada of Chinese generators imported into Nigeria with a maximum lifespan of 6  months. Chinese are now building roads and bridges in Nigeria and the first Chinese bridge  (along Igando-LASU Expressway) collapsed less than six months after use.

Nelson Mandela had over a billion opportunities to enrich himself but he did not choose any  of those paths. His three Foundations do not have obsequious and subservient heavy donors,  seeking government waivers and oil blocks as in Nigeria where some businessmen  single-handedly donate N500 million in one fell swoop in anticipation of government reward  from an incumbent president.

Nigerian leaders have the opportunity of setting good standards and records for posterity  yet unborn but unfortunately none has chosen this path of honour. Nigerian leaders are only  interested in what they can scoop from the Nigerian goldmine.

Our divine blessings from God have been turned into an unbearable albatross by our corrupt  and shameless leaders. Good leadership is even so close to Nigeria in nearby Ghana but our  leaders have eyes but they cannot see. They have ears but they refused to hear the good news  coming from Ghana. Their minds have become reprobate and their thoughts and actions vain and  inane.

Our crude oil is now the private property of a very powerful cabal holding the nation to  ransom. This cabal decides who gets the lucrative oil block contracts. These beneficiaries  are mainly outside the oil producing zones. They also decide who “STEALS” the nation’s crude  oil to their respective refineries within Africa. It is these same people who get the  allocation to “import” our petroleum and sell to us at International Price regimes with  government intervening with subsidies to cushion the excesses of the petroleum cabal.

In all these exportation and importation of our petroleum products, there is no reference to  the indigenes of the Niger Delta whose environment is polluted and bastardized. There is no  mention of the Niger Deltan who is exposed to all the degradations of cancer and famine as  his fishing terrain is polluted and relocation becomes inevitable. It is the wealthy retired  Generals in Abuja and on the Mountain top castles who get the Oil blocks. It is also the  multi-billionaires from Kano who get the oil blocks at the expense of the frustrated and  abandoned Niger Deltans.

The cabal that controls power (electricity) is as vicious as the petroleum cabal. This cabal  ensures that the Electricity Power House in Nigeria (Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN)  does not function at all or at least function poorly at its lowest capacity. However, to be  fair to the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, there is a surge in electricity  supply recently.

It is a wicked twist of irony that Nigeria which is the greatest crude oil producer in  sub-Saharan Africa now imports refined petroleum products from these African countries which  do not even produce crude oil.

It is now customary for our state governors to flee the country and the long arms of the law  only to return in the newly discovered plea-bargaining technique whereby a “thief” returns  just about 5% of the loot to government coffers and relocates to foreign countries to enjoy  the 95%. This is gross injustice to the hapless Nigerian people. Corruption in Nigeria  stinks to high heavens and only a divine intervention can save this country. The saying that  “Heavens help those who help themselves” is very appropriate here.

Nigeria should therefore commence a detailed study of the “Madiba magic” and fine-tune it to  our Nigerian situation as we can no longer bring the old man to give us a face-to-face  lecture on nation building. Some critics may say South Africa is different from Nigeria.  This is true. This call is for national reflection on the pristine qualities and  characteristics of the “Madiba” which include transparency, financial discipline, a  philosophical depth, a pure heart free of hate, bitterness and revenge. And above all Nelson  Mandela has a copious overdose of love of his neighbour than love of himself. Listen to  Mandela conducting his own defence during the 1964 Rivonia Court Room trial: “I HAVE  CHERISED THE IDEAL OF A DEMOCRATIC AND FREE SOCIETY IN WHICH ALL PERSONS LIVE TOGETHER IN  HARMONY AND WITH EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES. IT IS AN IDEAL WHICH I HOPE TO LIVE FOR AND TO  ACHIEVE. BUT IF NEEDS BE, IT IS AN IDEAL FOR WHICH I AM PREPARED TO DIE”.

The “Madiba” actually died a thousand times to remove the shackles of slavery and opprobrium  from his people. And today South Africa is highly respected in the comity of nations.

This is a great challenge to President Goodluck Jonathan as history beckons on him to seize  the times and opportunities to choose greatness rather than wealth, to choose honour and  fame rather than curses and ignominy and to choose a good name rather than riches.

And I know President Goodluck Jonathan can succeed if he shuns selfish and demonic advice  from self arrogated omniscient ex-this and ex-that.

God bless Nigeria.

•Ben Nanaghan writes from Lagos. May be reached at: bennanaghan@yahoo.com