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Nov 16, 2008



"Even though we face the

difficulties of today and

tomorrow, I still have a

dream. I have a dream that

my four little children will

one day live in a nation where

they will not be judged by the

color of their skin but by the

content of their character."

Martin Luther King, jr.


In 1964, Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in

prison. Seven years later, I was born. As soon as

I was old enough to understand, my mum and dad,

both historians, had taken me through pages in


Outside the bloody, sad tale of the fight of my Igbo

people for survival and fulfilment within Nigeria,

that of the Jews, African Americans, native American

Indians, Koori (Australian Aborigines), Tibetans,

Palestinians; including Mexican Indians, and others

across the world of then and today, the story of

the blatant oppression of native, aboriginal South

African black people by a white minority struck me in a

moving manner.

By reading and observation, I followed the struggle

against apartheid. In humane spirit, I was drawn to

the humble, but unequivocal yearning of this South

African leader who had been condemned to spend

the rest of his powerfully advocative life in prison.

Mandela became an enigma to me. Far from me and even

farther from the world around him, Mandela, symbolic

of the courageous spirit of the South African people,

became a spirit of the deep ancestral Africa which I

resolved to uphold, embrace and celebrate after the

dawn of freedom I longed for.

Above all, I came to realize that I had fallen in

love with a people and their struggle for a peaceful

recognition of the worth and dignity inherent in their

human essence. This love stems from my family's

unwavering involvement in the South African struggle -

a high level involvement that date back to the time

my uncle, Jaja Anucha Wachuku: , was Nigeria's

Foreign Affairs and Commonwealth Relations Minister.

Notably, a 1964 telegram from the United States Embassy

in South Africa to the Department of State read thus:

"Cape Town, April 22, 1964, 11 a.m

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL

29 S AFR. Confidential; priority.

Repeated to London, USUN, Pretoria, and Lagos.


/3/In the "Rivonia" trial, nine African Nationalist

leaders, including Nelson Mandela, were charged with

planning and carrying out sabotage. The Rivonia trial

was so called because of the arrest of a number of the

defendants on a farm in Rivonia, Transvaal.

I read the following statement to FonSec Jooste"

of South Africa "yesterday afternoon:

`Nigerian Foreign Minister Wachuku has expressed to

our Ambassador' - USA - `in Lagos his view that if

death penalty should be imposed and carried out on

Mandela and other defendants in Rivonia sabotage

trial it would Place moderate African leaders like

himself and Government of Nigeria, who are attempting

to follow a reasonable course on the South African

problem, in an impossible situation.'

Jooste took careful notes. His reaction to Wachuku's

statement was calm.


Later, in the early 80s, as Senate Foreign Affairs

Committee Chairman, my uncle, Jaja Wachuku, against the

Nigerian government policy of isolating the South African

government because of apartheid, in a very dangerous

mission, secretly went to South Africa to put pressure

on President P.W. Botha, for the unconditional release

of Nelson Mandela and others; including the dismantling

of the obnoxious apartheid system in every humane sense

and truthful reality. Jaja Wachuku's meeting with President

Botha was a rewarding but acrimonious one. My uncle took

this clear risk for the love of his fellow brothers and

sisters in South Africa. Unflinchingly, he truely loved

all humanity; and cared so much for people's well-being,

fulfilment and peaceful joy.

For example, after the sorrowful Nigerian - Biafran war,

there were so many orphans amongst our Igbo people

in Nigeria. Jaja took some of these orphans into the

Wachuku family and wholly trained and cared for them till

adulthood. Today, these orphans of yesterday are happy and

responsilbly fulfilled members of our big, interesting

Wachuku family and the Nigerian society at large. Today,

they are my cousins, brothers and sisters in that uniquely

African manner of caring, and overwhelmingly inspiring

family tradition. Throughout his distinguished 78 years,

(1918-1996), on this earth, Jaja Wachuku deeply believed

that a wrong-doer cannot be corrected by isolation; but by

compassionate and lovingly understanding dialogue coupled

with constant interaction in order to bring that person

to the same level of love and compassionate awareness

of the fact that we all are worthy and dignified human

beings created in the image of God Almighty.

That was why, for Jaja Wachuku, his unpopular interaction

and dialogue with the apartheid regime had to be kept

going; not just to free the blatantly oppressed and

brutalized blacks and other groups, but also to free

our beloved brothers and sisters - whites - from their

heavily overbearing circle of hatred and destructive

feelings entwined with fatal actions of hopeful

superiority upheld by glaringly unjust laws and

government policies which had no human face.

Crucially, please, kindly hear Frederik W. de Klerk in his

autobiography titled: The Last Trek - A New Beginning:

"It is not only black, coloured

and Indian South Africans who have

been liberated. After generations,

whites have been freed from the

defensive Laager (the circled ox-

wagons which served as a kind of

fortress within which they could

protect their women and children

and cattle) in which they had for

centuries been confined."

As I take you on this soulfully moving journey

through The Great Place, let me say a little bit

more about my uncle's eventful life of servant

leadership - in terms of the meaningful responsibilities

of service he had. Jaja Anucha Wachuku was first African

laureate in oratory of the Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

Later on, as first Speaker of the Nigerian parliament or

House of Representatives, he received Nigeria's instrument

of independence also known as freedom charter - on 1 October,

1960 - from Princess Alexandra of Kent who represented

the Queen of England at ceremonies marking Nigeria's

independence. On a 1960 United States of America tour as

House Speaker, Jaja Wachuku was honoured and presented

with the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Blue Seal and key

to the city of Atlanta, Georgia. Afterwards, he served as

Nigeria's first Ambassador to the United Nations. And on

7 October, 1960, he hoisted the flag of Nigeria as the 99th

member of the United Nations. At the world organization, he

was elected first African Chairman of a United Nations

Conciliation Commission. That was the Conciliation Commission

to the Congo. Subsequently, Jaja Wachuku served as first Nigerian

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Commonwealth Relations, later

called Minister of External Affairs. During Nigeria's Second

Republic, 1979 to 1983, he was elected Senator representing

Aba zone of Africa's most populous federation and country.

Also, I must let you know that everyone of us who

belongs to the Wachuku family is humbly proud to be

part of the bunch. Ours is an inspiringly outstanding

family which date back, in known history, four hundred

and eighty years. This means that presently, the Wachuku

family of the area that is today known as Nigeria, is

in its twelfth generation because biblically, a generation

is forty years. Indeed, over the years, my love for the beautiful

South African people and all of humanity has continued to

grow in unfathomable dimensions:

Then, when on 11 February, 1990, six years before

my distinguished uncle, Jaja Anucha Wachuku, went

the way of all mankind, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

walked out of Victor Vester prison, a free and

healthy man, unconditionally, I held my breath

with tears and hopeful unbelief. In the deepest

corners of my soul and being, I knew that Albert

John Lutuli's visionary South Africa was here:

Accepting the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway

on 11 December, 1961, Lutuli said:

"Our vision has always

been that of a non-racial,

democratic South Africa

which upholds the rights

of all who live in our

country to remain there

as full citizens with

equal rights and

responsibilities with

others. For the consumation

of this ideal, we have

laboured unflinchingly.

we shall continue to

labour unflinchingly."

Today, as I write The Great Place - in celebration

of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and all the beautiful and

humanely brave people of South Africa - these "rainbow

people of God", I feel so fulfilled knowing that an

enigmatic reality outside of me has finally found creative

expression and explanation within the inspirational depths

of my being.

Accordingly, afterwards, concerning the South African

experience, I was calmly moved by the following words

from John Pilger in his paradoxical British Broadcasting

Corporation (BBC) aired documentary film entitled

Apartheid did not die:

"Coming back to South Africa,

I have been suprised to discover

a generosity of spirit that

survived the atrocities of

apartheid. It is a humanism

expressed in the distinctly

African notion that people are

people through other people.

This sense of community and

sharing is not without the

usual frailties. But the

evidence of its resilence

is everywhere in this country.

And this film has been a tribute

to that vibrant quality.

But tributes are not enough!

It was the ordinary people

of South Africa who set the

pace of change. It was their

humanity and their courage

that triumphed here;

proving that fundamental

change is possible. It

will be a tragedy for all

of us if their continuing

struggle goes unrewarded;

for its inspiration and

lessons are universal."

Therefore, I am exceedingly glad that humanity have,

through FIFA, chosen these beautiful and inspiring South

African people to host the 2010 World Cup. Step out with

me then - as I take you on an unforgettable journey of life

into that soul enriching heart of The Great Place to be.

From the enchanting, peaceful gardens and green country-

sides of poetic Geneva through the humbling confluence of

Nigeria's inspiring rivers Niger and Benue to the welcoming

and bravely kind Kraals of South Africa through to the ends

of our breathtakingly beautiful blue earth unbound, let

us acknowledge and uphold our love and cherishment for

one another. We must move with God's loving spirit in us.

Humanity must be willing enough to learn from the healing

South African experience or else, we are lost forever!

Indeed, may God Almighty gracefully grant us the mustard

seed faith to find our spirit of the healing deep in South

Africa's inspiring and powerful yearning for peace, harmony

and fulfilment founded on love, oneness and respect for the

divine worth and dignity of all humankind. These are the

subtle, soul stirring words I leave with you this day and


Ugonna Wachuku



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Ugonna Wachuku
, 2, 1 child
Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
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