By Ntumfoyn Boh Herbert, September 1, 2017
When Nelson Mandela was offered release from prison in 1985 – five years before his effective release on the 11th of February 1990 – Mandela rejected walking free, preferring to stay on in his prison cell for what turned out to be a total of 27 years in prison.
Why, you may be asking, did Mandela reject freedom? Well – because (and I speak for myself), not all freedom is free. Mandela refused that offer because he was being granted conditional release.
The last Apartheid President of South Africa, P. W. Botha, who made the offer, had been hoping that Mandela would jump on the opportunity. He had hoped Mandela would accept to go home, no matter what was requested from him in exchange. So, r. Botha set conditions for his release, including the following two:
First, that Mandela should retire from politics once he leaves jail and that he makes no speeches after leaving jail; and,
Second, that Mandela should give up on everything he believed in; that he should give up everything he stood up, spoke up for, and eventually went to jail for.
Brief, the Apartheid regime wanted Mandela to reject the cause of racial equality and justice for all, especially black South Africans. The Apartheid regime wanted him to reject his supporters; that he turns his back on his organization, the ANC; and that he disavows his comrades of the struggle.
Had Mandela been so cheap as to fall for such an expensive conditional release, the world would have been deprived of the blessing of being mesmerized by the world class political legend that Mandela lived to be – in jail; as president; and in retirement.
So determined was Mandela about doing things on his terms that when President Botha returned five years later to inform Mandela that he was programmed to walk out of jail a free man the very next day, Madiba apologized for sounding ungrateful. Mandela insisted to be given at least a week’s notice to get his supporters, the ANC, his family and the world prepared.
It is stories of exemplary leadership like this that has turned even Mandela haters into Mandela fans and worshippers.
Which brings me to Kondengui… and to Nkongho, Fontem and Bibixy.
Why is the colonial regime of Yaounde trying so hard to destroy these heroes by releasing them separately and by releasing them before they can ascertain that every other Southern Cameroonian – detained in Yaounde or elsewhere – can also be released? Considering the slogan “all for one, one for all”, am I being unfair to wonder if Mancho Bibixy and those still held in jails and dungeons have been betrayed?
Mandela could obviously dictate the terms of his eventual release better than most prisoners. Our leaders, though, can emulate Mandela notably by ensuring the colonial regime does not lead them into the temptation dangled in Madiba’s face.
Hopefully, our released leaders are not being asked to go quietly into the night; to retire from politics; and to be heard from no more. Hopefully, they are not required, under the unspoken terms of conditional release, to denounce our people’s yearning for achieving international sovereignty. Hopefully, the evil colonial regime does not expect our released leaders to call for the resumption of schools and, by so doing, derail the restoration of our independence. Hopefully, our released leaders are not required to decry calls for peaceful separation from LRC, in favor of advocating decentralization or federalism.
Our leaders – even at gun point; even at the risk of being returned to jail – know how to grow into the “little Mandelas” the Heavens have predestined them to be.