President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday said it was pertinent to honour the late South African President as Nigeria shared in the South African apartheid struggle and should also share in the celebration of the life of its icon.

He noted that Nigerians from all works of life including students, workers and musicians like late Sunny Okosun, contributed to the struggle and liberation of South Africa, hence it is considered a frontline state in the fight against apartheid regime.

The President spoke while explaining the reason Nigeria declared three days of mourning as well as holding a national memorial service in hounour of Late Mandela.

Fielding questions from journalists just before departing for the FNB Stadium in Pretoria for the state funeral service, Jonathan reiterated that Mandela was a symbol of unity Who grew beyond South Africa and the African continent but the black race as well.

President Jonathan described the late South African hero as somebody who took the state and the interest of the people to heart even more than his own self and stood out clearly above a number of people in terms of the leadership of his state.

He urged leaders to learn from Mandela’s ability to unite his people irrespective of challenges he faced and his commitment to peace and love. He added that despite the fact that the struggle for political offices are very challenging, every leader must bear in mind that he/she is the president of everybody and not of a select few once in office.

President Jonathan said, “First I would use this opportunity again to express our condolences to South Africa and indeed the rest of Africa and indeed the black race because Mandela grew beyond boundaries, the political map of South Africa so this concerns everybody.

“Mandela is a symbol of unity, somebody who took the state and the interest of the people much more than his own self and he stood out clearly above a number of people in terms of leadership of our states. He was able to bring unity to South Africa, peace in spite of the challenges of apartheid regime. Nigeria during the apartheid struggle made contributions, all of us including students and workers. That is why Nigeria was considered a frontline state even though we are quiet far away in the region of West African.

“So Nigeria was totally commited to the liberation struggle in South Africa, all Nigerians including our musicians. And that is why we will love for them to play some of the records including that of late Sunny Okosun, who used his voice and artistry to really push the apartheid struggle from back home in Nigeria.

“So since we worked hard with the South Africans during the struggle, now that Mandela the face of the struggle,? is dead,? we have to encourage the South Africans and to reassure them that the relationship between Nigeria and South Africa will continue to grow stronger and stronger”.

Speaking on why Nigeria declared three days mourning and held a church service in Mandela’s honour despite the fact that he is a South African, the President said, “Nigeria declared three days of mourning and our flags were flown at half mast, and we had special services in all our mosques and churches that culminated in the State House Chapel that I worship.

“We did that because as I mentioned earlier, during the apartheid struggle Nigeria is one country that was totally committed. Though we are not here physically in the land of South Africa but all Nigerians were totally committed because we feel their pains was our own pains, their struggle was our own struggle even when apartheid collapsed we consider their victory as our own victory.

“That is why now that Mandela being the face of the struggle is dead, is only proper for Nigeria to participate and celebrate with the South Africans just like we did during the struggle”.

When asked his message to leaders on Mandela as a leader and a brand to South Africa, Jonathan said, “The lessons we leaders learnt from Mandela is the ability of a leader to unite the people irrespective of challenges. Because the struggle to take political offices is very challenging, you face a lot of obstacles but when you get there you know you are the president of everybody.

Mandela was able to bring the unity even amongst the blacks of South Africa not just among the whites and blacks. Even among the blacks there were issues but because of his style of leadership, his commitment to the people he was able to bring that unity, he was able to show love and peace. He was a very courageous man and he used all the skills he had to challenge apartheid and bring unity to South Africa. So we must all learn from that to consider our citizens more than our personal interest and make sure we bring peace and unity. Those are the elements of development of any society because without peace you cannot develop economically”.

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