Almost all Nigerian newspapers devoted their front pages to the ailing former South African president, Nelson Mandela, who celebrated his 95th birthday on Thursday.
Mandela’s birthday, 18 July, was declared Nelson Mandela International Day by the UN General Assembly in 2009 as a recognition of his contribution to the culture of peace and freedom.
However, the South African political hero has remained critically ill in hospital as South Africans and the rest of the world celebrated his birthday.
The NIGERIAN TRIBUNE, with the headline ‘ World celebrates Mandela’s 95th birthday today’, reported that it was largely anticipated that the anti-apartheid hero could have been discharged to mark his birthday at home, but he remains in hospital with a recurring lung infection.
According to the paper, it was also speculated that the global celebration would feature charity events, but due to hospitalisation and bitter infighting among his relatives, many said the festive spirit may be tampered with.
The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and other groups had called on people to volunteer 67 minutes to charity, a minute for every year of his activism, in honour of the 67 years that Mandela served his community.
‘At 95, the ailing global icon fights on’ was the headline of the GUARDIAN which reported that admirers of global icon and South Africa’s first Black President, Nelson Mandela, will be honouring his
legacy through millions of acts of charity in celebration of his 95th birthday.
But the man, known dearly as Madiba, is spending the day on his hospital bed, where he is reportedly clinging on to life support
According to the paper, ‘Surprisingly, Mandela’s daughter, Zindzi, yesterday (Wednesday) said the global icon had made “dramatic progress” and may be going home “anytime soon.”
“I visited him Wednesday and he was watching television with headphones,” said Zindzi in an interview.
“He gave us a huge smile and raised his hand … He responds with his eyes and his hands,” the GUARDIAN quoted Zindzi as saying.
The latest description by Zindzi – who is one of Mandela’s daughters by his second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela – is a significant improvement from court documents filed by the family earlier this month, which said he was on life support and nearing his death.
Mandela has been in a Pretoria hospital since 8 June and officials said his condition was critical but stable.
According to the VANGUARD, the UN declaration of 18 July – birthday of the global icon Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – as Mandela Day will be marked with sobriety as the 95-year-old former South African president spends his sixth straight week in hospital.
It said that activities lined up to celebrate the man whose resolve was central to ending apartheid, included school children all over South Africa singing “happy birthday” to him this morning, a United Nations special session, and a legacy bridge to be opened in Mveso, Transkei, near his home town of Qunu.
Tracing his works, the GUARDIAN said that Mandela, born on 18 July, 1918, became actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement in his 20s, joining the African National Congress in 1942.
He attended the University College of Fort Hare and later enrolled at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg to study law.
In 1963, he was brought to trial with 10 other ANC leaders and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years and while in prison, he earned a Bachelor of Law degree through a University of London correspondence programme.
On 11 February, 1990, Frederick De Klerk released Mandela and unbanned the ANC.
In 1993, Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and on April 27, 1994, South Africa held its first democratic elections which Mandela won.
He was inaugurated as the country’s first black president on 10 May, 1994, at the age of 77, with de Klerk as his first deputy.
By the 1999 general election, Mandela retired from active politics.
His published works include the biography, No Easy Walk to Freedom.
Mandela made his last public appearance to date in 2010, at the final match of the World Cup in South Africa.
In December 2012, Mandela was hospitalised for a lung infection. He was re-admitted in March 2013 for a lung infection. On 8 June, 2013, Mandela was rushed to a hospital in Pretoria, where he remains to date.