Wednesday 21 April 2021
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Tribute to Dr Nickey Iyambo by Dr Leake Hangala

…delivered at Onayena, 25 May 2019, on the occasion of his memorial service


Dr Nickey Iyambo passed away in his bed,  in his home in Windhoek, at 3 am, on Sunday the 19th of  May 2019. He was 82 years and 344 days old. He died just 21 hours before he turned 83 years old.
Two days before he passed away, I sat with Nickey in the same room, in which he died. He was laying on his bed.
Although, he  physically was not able to move very much, his mind and intellect was, as always, ever alert and agile.
As usual, he started speaking about the issues and challenges facing the nation, especially, the unprecedented drought. He was on top of all developments and happenings in the country.
Looking at my friend in such a state, I could not help but go back into the memory lane to the date when I first met Nickey.
I first met Nickey in January 1976 in Helsinki, Finland, when he received us, 21 SWAPO students from Zambia,  who came to study in Finland on a scholarship funded by the Finnish Government.
He was then 40 years old and in the middle of his medical studies at the University of Helsinki. He had already completed a Masters Degree in Political Science from the same University.
As I met him, Nickey was everything that one wants to expect from a middle aged-man: handsome, calm and collected, and had a sophistication about him that was simple, elegant and admirable.
His fluency in the Finnish language and the respect and recognition that he had attracted across the whole spectrum of the Finnish society, was very amazing. One could hardly go anywhere in Finland without being asked about Nickey Iyambo.
On many occasions, he has requested me to stand-in for him on Party assignments, as he did to my fellow colleagues such as Elia Kaakunga and Raimo Kankondi (let their souls rest in eternal piece).
It is also from there that we developed and cemented a strong friendship and trust that I will always carry with me.
On all those many years we spent together, Nickey naturally told me a lot of stories about himself, his family and his growing up.
Like all boys of his generation, Nickey was shaped by how he was brought up and by what he had gone through as a young boy.
This upbringing clearly instilled in him the qualities that come to guide his behaviour throughout his life.
This include the qualities of hard work, of humility, honesty and of being considerate.
He was always content and happy with whatever he had available to him at that moment in time.
As we all know, he was one of the founding members of SWAPO, an organisation he has been in its leadership since its formation and an organisation he passionately and diligently served till the day of his death.
From the day I met Dr Nickey Iyambo, I have come to admire his capacity to inspire so many people, especially in Finland as they rallied behind the cause of the Namibian liberation struggle. This has resulted in significant financial and material support that the people and Government of Finland provided to SWAPO. While he was a student, he has also acquired many personal friends.
Some of these fellow students and personal friends came to play a significant role in the Finnish society such as Erkki Liikanen, his room-mate, who became a long-serving Governor of the Central Bank of Finland, as well as Marti Ahtisaari and Tarja Halonen, who both served as Presidents of the Republic of Finland.
In acknowledgement of the special role that Nickey played in promoting close and friendly ties between the Finnish and the Namibian people, the Finnish Government, in March 2011,  conferred on Dr Iyambo the rank of Commander, First Class of the Order of the Lion of Finland. A Memorial Service will also be held in Helsinki on 8th June 2019, to honour the life and work of Dr Nickey Iyambo.
Director of Ceremonies, dear mourners, Nickey had many friends as one can expect from a person of 83 years old, who had so many admirable qualities.
His friends are varied and come from all social and economic backgrounds across the Namibian society. However, they all have one thing in common about him: what a decent human being!
Dear mourners,
We are all defined by our behaviours, attitudes and how we related to other people. Dr Nickey Iyambo was an embodiment of a fine human being: humble, honest, trustworthy, reliable and ethical.
Make no mistake, he was by no means a push-over.  Yet, even in disagreements, he remained gentle and respectful.
My friend Nickey had infinite love of his children and grandchildren. Thank God, he lived long enough to see some of his children complete their academic education with some grow into adults who have started their own families.
I vividly recall while in Finland pursuing his studies, how he was also taking care of his daughter Mira, who was only 5 when I went there. After finishing her studies, Mira came to Namibia to live with her father.
Now she is a global citizen working for the United Nations, based in New York,  from where she will be arriving tomorrow to bury her father. Mira makes sure that every year she brings her husband and children to Namibia.
This made her father very happy.
Nickey’s son Niko (my godson), made his father proud when in October 2017, he brought his fiancée Paula, to mary and celebrate their wedding in Namibia, in his father’s house.
Niko who resides with his family in Helsinki, will join us soon in Namibia as he comes to bid farewell to his beloved father.
You will soon hear from his son Hage Pandeni, as he will be speaking here on behalf of his siblings and grandchildren.
Hage has  finished his tertiary studies in South Africa and the USA and is now gainfully employed.  His youngest son Prince, is still growing and will surely follow in the footsteps of his brothers and sister, as they are all guided by the memory of their father.
Nickey has also been living and taking care of his stepson Tangeni, who was born by his second wife, the late Dr Paulina  Nyati-Iyambo..
Every year, I have watched all of these children and the grandchildren gather at Nickey’s house in Windhoek, and here in this house at Onayena, and made sure they spent quality time with him.
My message to Nickey’s children is this: You had a great father, honour his memory, take the torch he lit and run with it. Light also the torches of others.
To my fellow Namibians gathered here and elsewhere in our Republic,  Nickey has done his duties on this earth.
He served his family, his community, his church, his Party and his country.
The best homage we can pay to him as a nation is to inherit his self-less spirit of serving others in an honest, dignified and respectful manner.
For myself, I  have lost a loving, trusted and loyal friend.
Through him, my world became larger as a lot of bridges were built between the two of us:  his village became my village, my family became his family, his friends become my friends.
In Oshiwambo we say: “Kaume koye iha monika ta dalwa”. I am thankful for the birth of Dr Nickey Iyambo

Go well my friend.

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