Since Nelson Mandela is presently the media currency, allow me to milk Madiba a little and share some lessons on manhood from the man who closed his gate at 95.
Last year, I was locked in a village in Central Africa for six months. I survived on rice, served alternately with either meat or madondo. Stuff happened and that’s the lowest I have ever sunk in my life. It was insufferable, more like a prison. But I survived.
The only saving grace was Mandela’s 1995 autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, given to me by an Ivorian friend. It was the best company in my own Robben Island, if you can pardon the hyperbolic parallel.
For starters, a man must have principles. While some careers such as politics and law are highly immiscible with principles, we must have standards. We must have a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong. We must labour to be honest and perform our civic duties devotedly. Mandela was incorruptible. As we admire and grovel to his persona, we need to embrace small Mandelaisms in ourselves.
Secondly, men must be ready to sacrifice. There comes a time in life where you must sacrifice what you cherish the most.
While preceding generations have foregone so much to get us where we are, our generation seems only interested in reveling in the freedom and the better life they have afforded us.
Mandela sacrificed his family and personal freedom to make South Africa the Rainbow Nation. He didn’t do it alone. We don’t have to sacrifice all as Mandela did, but every time a bigger cause calls for a sacrifice, real men must stand up. Sometimes the price we pay might not commensurate the suffering, but if it makes someone’s life meaningful.
Thirdly, a man must have a sport or exercise regularly to keep his physical and mental faculties intact. 27 years in prison is as long as this writer has been alive. Such a long time can kill or render one insane. But Mandela developed a passion for boxing, and sparred regularly.
In prison, he engaged his mind and body in small in-door games and anytime he had a chance, ran routinely. That is how he kept his tall, lean stature.
Presently we are imprisoned by stress, jobs, families and relationships. Exercising regularly, breathing fresh air and eating healthy, can extend our lives.