In giving honour to whom honour is due, the African University of Science and Technology, AUST; Abuja in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Institution, NMI; the South African High Commission in Nigeria and the Communities Without Boundaries International, CWBI, on Wednesday, July 18, joined other progressives around the world to honour one of Africa’s greatest legend, Dr Nelson Rolihlahia Mandela as he turned 94.
The epoch-making event, which commenced at the AUST campus, with a student documentary viewing and awareness drive on the life and struggle of Dr. Mandela also took guests and stakeholders to Chika community, a suburb in Abuja and climaxed with a cocktail at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
Addressing the audience at the AUST campus during the documentary viewing session, the South African minister for transportation, Comrade Ben Martins, described Dr. Mandela as a very inspiring, astute and a great fighter of justice not only in South Africa but throughout the length and breadth of the entire world.
He narrated his ordeal with Mandela and other freedom fighters at Robbin Island, during their incarceration and fight for independence maintaining that if they had allowed the existing conditions then to weigh them down, the struggle for the independence of the sovereign state of South Africa would have been put in jeopardy.
The minister charged AUST students to utilise the rare opportunity provided by the African University of Science and Technology, Abuja in the advancement of science and technology not only in Africa but in the world at large.
According to the minister, “ the disciplines you are pursuing in AUST today are not easily available anywhere in Africa hence my appeal to you to imbibe and translate to others in your country of origin what you have learnt here, so that they, as well can be partakers of this great academic opportunity created by NMI.”
He poured encomiums on the president, staff and students of AUST for keeping alive, the goals and aspirations of the founding fathers of this citadel of academic excellence maintaining that to whom much is given, much is also expected.
In continuation of the ceremonies mapped out for the Mandela day celebrations, the South African minister of transportation accompanied by the AUST president, Professor Wole Winston Soboyejo and Dr. Johnny Mack of the CWBI and other dignitaries drawn from all walks of life visited Chika Community Primary School, a suburb in Abuja where a generator donated by AUST and exercise books were distributed to the pupils under the watchful eyes of their parents.
The Chika community in reciprocating the donations and goodwill given to their children engaged the women in community cleaning exercise for 67 minutes signifying 67 years of incarceration of Dr. Nelson Mandela.
They also in appreciation honoured the visiting South African minister of transportation, Comrade Ben Martins with a well deserving chieftaincy title.
The event peaked with a cocktail party at the Transcorp Hilton Hotels, Abuja and in his goodwill message at the party, the AUST president, Professor Wole Soboyejo, thanked all the guests who attended the occasion, positing that their attendance was a manifestation of the respect they have for Dr. Mandela, promising that AUST will continue to celebrate Mandela Day in the years to come.
Soboyejo also promised to keep the academic standard of the university high as well as intensify efforts to ensure that more students from other countries in Africa benefit from the opportunities provided by AUST.
He expressed his appreciation to Comrade Martins for finding out time to attend despite his busy schedule. He also thanked the South African High Commission in Nigeria, the leadership and membership of Communities Without Boundaries International, Nelson Mandela Institutions and everybody that contributed in no small measure to the successful hosting of the 2012 Nelson Mandela day Celebration.
The following dignitaries attended the cocktail party: the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, chairman, Dr. Bamanga Tukur; Professor Jerry Gana; former presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu; chief executive officer, NMI, Professor Funmi Arewa; the AUST vice president (administration/finance), Bonaventure Mbida-Essama; the wife to the AUST president, Mrs. Soboyejo; campus director AUST, Mr Jide Babatunde among others.
The occasion was rounded off with the cutting of cake to mark the 94th birthday celebration of Dr. Nelson Mandela.