President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday said Nigerian politicians lacked the virtues of great men and that none could be compared to the late former South African President, Dr. Nelson Mandela.
The President said Nigerian politicians were “tiny men.”
He said, “Mandela is a rare character that those of us who are politicians need to learn from so that we will imbibe some of his traits and do better for our country.
“If you listen to those of us who are politicians in Nigeria, from all political parties – from Peoples Democratic Party to the now All Progressives Congress but beginning as Alliance for Democracy and Action Congress of Nigeria, and others- the way we talk; some talk as if Nigeria is their personal bedroom that they have control over.
“Read the newspapers, listen to the radio and television or go to the social media and see how politicians talk. Some of us even think we are little gods. We intimidate, we threaten, we show hate in our communication.
“These are definitely not the virtues of great men. They are shockingly the vices of tiny men.”
Jonathan spoke while paying tributes to Mandela at a special memorial service organised in honour of the late legendary freedom fighter at the Aso Villa Chapel, Abuja, to round off the three-day mourning period declared by the Federal Government.
He said that unwarranted statements were common to all generations of Nigerian politicians, saying those who were older than him were as guilty as his contemporaries and the younger generation.
“Sometimes when I listen to politicians, the ones older than me, my contemporaries and even the younger ones, I come to the painful conclusion that it is probably easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a politician to be truly great,” he said.
He described the former South African president as a rare character who all politicians must learn from and do more to better the lots of their country.
Jonathan said Mandela had done well to prove that one could be a politician and still be truly great because he placed the interest of his people above his own interest.
He said, “Definitely, Nelson Mandela was a great man by all standards but greatness itself can be interpreted in many ways. Some people make big names, particularly in the political circle, but could that be greatness?
“The former President of France noted that nothing great would ever be achieved without great men and men are great only if they are determined to be so. Will some people determine to be great while some determine not to be great?
“Of course, there is a popular saying that some people are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness bestowed on them.
“But I always look at the word greatness with some kind of skepticism because making a great name is not just enough because you could see that, especially in the political circle, we have so many great names that are dictators, ran a very repressive and oppressive government that sent a lot of people to depression.
“Some people become extremely notorious but they have made big names. So to be truly great is key. Nelson Mandela is one rare person. He became a President in 1994 at the age of about 76. By the time he ended his first tenure in 1999, in South Africa, it is a five-year double tenure of maximum 10 years, and by 1999 he was 81 years old.
“People pressured him that he should continue, he would have ended up maybe at 86. But on his own, he said there were younger people that he has done his best by bringing freedom to South Africa, let younger person take over.
“If you compare Nelson Mandela and some leaders across our continent, very few people even at age 81 will feel they are too old to continue.”