Students in Nigeria skirted their lunch to make donations, and just in 6 months, in June 1977, the commitment toward the Southern African Relief Fund (SARF) came up to $10.5 million.
The donations to the SARF were widely known in Nigeria as the “Mandela tax”.
As a result of the fund’s work, a first group of 86 South African students arrived in Nigeria in 1976, following the disruption of the education system in South Africa.
It happened after the massacre of 700 students by the white police while the former were protesting against the decision by the apartheid regime to change their education language to Afrikaans.
Hundreds of South African students have benefited from the fund’s activity having come to study in Nigeria for free.
Beyond welcoming students and exiles, Nigeria had also welcomed many renowned South Africans like Thabo Mbeki (former South African president from 1999 to 2008).
He had spent 7 years in Nigeria, from 1977 to 1984, before he left to the ANC headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia.
Along with fellow African countries Nigeria lobbied for the creation of the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid and chaired it for 30 years, longer than any other country.
Between 1973 and 1978, Nigeria contributed huge financial sum to the United Nations Educational and Training Programme for Southern Africa, a voluntary trust fund promoting education of the black South African elite.
As for trade, Nigeria had refused to sell oil to South Africa for decades in protest against the white minority rule. Nigeria had lost approximately $41 billion during that period.
Above all, Nigeria was the only nation worldwide to set up the National Committee Against Apartheid (NACAP) as early as in 1960.
The committee’s mission was to disseminate the evils of the apartheid regime to all Nigerians from primary schools to universities, in public media and in markets, through posters and billboards messages.
The NACAP was also responsible for the coordination of Nigeria’s government and civil society joint anti-apartheid actions and advising of policy makers on anti-apartheid decisions.
For over three decades the NACAP had successfully built alliances with labor movement, student groups, progressive elements and other international grassroots organizations within Nigeria for effective anti-apartheid activities.
In fact, until 1960s, the ANC fight against the apartheid regime in South Africa was yielding very small results. The whole world was quite indifferent to the suffering of the black South Africans.
Moreover, western countries strongly supported the apartheid regime providing it with technologies, intelligence and favorable trade agreements.
Things started changing dramatically only after African countries became independent in the 1960s. Nigeria unequivocally took over leadership of the anti-apartheid movement worldwide.
Despite the volatile nature of Nigeria’s politics and the passage of numerous military and civil leaders, Nigeria never abandoned its unwavering commitment to the freedom of our brothers and sisters in South Africa.
From 1960 to 1995, Nigeria has alone spent over $61 billion to support the end of apartheid, more than any other country in the world, according to the South African Institute of International Affairs.
The country has never let go of any opportunity to denounce apartheid, from the boycott of Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games to the nationalization of British Petroleum assets in 1979.
Unfortunately, our brothers and sisters in South Africa have not been grateful to Nigeria.
When Mandela passed away in 2013, Nigeria’s president was not even given the opportunity to speak.
At the same time, the representatives of the United States. (U S) and the United Kingdom (U K) two countries supporting the apartheid regime, were in the spotlight.