Chimamanda comes to Mandela Garden
The doyenne of world literature Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie made an august appearance at the Chief Newton Jibunoh-sponsored Mandela Garden of Trees in Asaba, Delta State on Friday, August 2.
Resplendent in a classy crimson dress, Chimamanda was all smiles as the acclaimed Desert Warrior Newton Jibunoh accorded her a befitting reception. The gathered assembly became instantly wowed by the grand grace of the literary icon.
Let me reveal here that when Chimamanda was starting out as a writer she had written in innocence to Jibunoh and was well encouraged.
Now to the heart of the matter: The late former South African President Nelson Mandela lives in Asaba where Jibunoh has bequeathed a global garden to his memory. The United Nations had in November 2009 fixed July 18 as Nelson Mandela International Day, or Mandela Day for short.
The first UN Mandela Day held on July 18, 2010, and the great leader’s 95th birthday was marked specially in Asaba with a World Press Conference proclaiming the establishment of a garden of 95 trees to be known as “The Mandela Garden of 95 Trees.”
The celebrated environmentalist and conqueror of the Sahara Desert, Dr. Newton Jibunoh, as the Chief Executive of Fight Against Desert Encroachment (FADE) partnered with the Delta State Government to make broadcast that well over 134,000 square metres of prime land within the Asaba International Airport complex has been designed to serve as “The Nelson Mandela Garden of 95 Trees.”
It was at the blooming Mandela Garden that Chimamanda came to plant a tree.
The conceptual design of the Mandela Garden is in the shape of the map of Africa, featuring a life-size bronze statue of Nelson Mandela, 95 trees symbolically planted as the Robben memorial, freedom mini-gardens, well-landscaped terraced fences made of hedge plants, concrete walkways, state-of-the-art restrooms, adequate parking, Nelson Mandela playground and park for children.
Dr. Jibunoh in his drive toward greening the environment through FADE always had the abiding dream of planting the trees. It has been a life-long passion, culminating in the FADE Wall of Trees planted in Makoda Kano in the spirited bid to arrest desert encroachment.
“I will run the park for the rest of my life as the keeper,” Jibunoh says in his Lagos Island Didi Museum office. “My family will have to come and visit me there. They know my passion. It helps that the project is situated at the airport. They can always fly in and fly out. I believe Asaba provides a conducive atmosphere better than Lagos, London or New York!”
According to Jibunoh, “We have to use Mandela to inspire people. We used to have Kwame Nkrumah. There is no other Mandela anywhere. He gave the world all he had. He went to prison for 27 years and came out with nothing. He ruled South Africa for only one term of presidency and came out with nothing. That’s the legacy!”
For Jibunoh, the term “Charity begins at home” was done in reverse order. He was heavily involved in improving other places, notably the Sahara Desert and places like Kano and Lagos before returning to his home locale of Delta State. He mentions the Igbo term and name “Nkeiruka”, stating that what is ahead is greater than the things done earlier. An irrepressible optimist, Jibunoh believes that security challenges such as kidnapping can be solved to make Nigeria a tourist haven, starting with the Mandela Gardens in Asaba.
“There are so many things to challenge the world in Nigeria,” he affirms. He argues that he had seen it all, from the days of colonialism through the Apartheid years and the Nigerian Civil War. He believes that Nigeria deserves celebration for leading the charge for the freedom of Nelson Mandela and South Africa.
“We lost Barclays Bank and British Petroleum in the Mandela fight,” he says. “Nigeria was a Frontline State. We cannot now be a minor player. This project will re-establish Nigeria as a Frontline State. Our fight was not in vain. Through the Mandela Gardens, Mandela will live forever! It will put Nigeria in a different platform.”
Jibunoh points at the irony that people thought that Mandela was only fighting for black Africans, only for it to be discovered at the end that the whites benefited more! According to Jibunoh, “The whites who saw him as a terrorist are now the ones benefitting from Mandela the most!”
Chimamanda Adichie dwelt on the need to have a truth and reconciliation committee in Nigeria, much like Mandela did in post-apartheid South Africa. She argued that major issues following the Biafra war had not been addressed. The unfair treatment of the Igbo galls the celebrated novelist, author of Half of a Yellow Sun, based on the Nigeria-Biafra war. Citing the Asaba massacre and issues such as the as yet unresolved abandoned properties matter in Port Harcourt; Chimamanda avers that the country cannot hope to make much progress without redressing injustice and embracing the truth and history.
It was indeed a meeting of icons as Chimamanda took a shovel, dug up the ground and planted a tree to the admiration of Dr Jibunoh and the quality audience in Mandela Garden of Trees in Asaba.
No comments yet