By Emma Okocha

Africa’s survival into the next century is fraught with dangers. The mother continent seems to be the only region resisting inter-ethnic identity.

While the Americas, Western Europe and the Asian powers are coming together, the African is killing each other in brutal tribal wars over ethnic identities and interests.

In Europe the Germans, the French, the Dutch, the English, the Italians are intermarrying each other. Those nations who have been at war for centuries have realised the power of bigger identities and have come together to form the European Union. In the Caribbeans we have married the Igbo, the Wollof, the Ashantis to the Fulani, the Yoruba, and to the  the Mandingos.

The Caribbean native population and the former slaves have gone further to welcome the Chinese, the Indians, the Europeans. More than anywhere in the world, the Carbbeans were the first to institute the first Global Village. All the world’s races are here. In the Caribbeans the whole cultures of the world are brought into one place in a diversified racial mix of romantic and peaceful regional identification. The Caribbean experiment is the future of the Global new world. For its survival, mankind has to come together to share space, resources and create a green environment.   -  Professor Hillary Beckles, Historian, Provost, University of West Indies,with Vanguard, Principal’s Office, Cavehill, Campus, Barbardos.

”In our own program back home, we address the head of the University as the Vice- Chancellor. Here in the West Indies, the VC is the Principal, the Head of the Secondary or High School is the Principal, and the Headmaster of the Primary School is also addressed as the Principal. It is the service you bring to the office that matters not the what the office portends or what you gain from the perks of an office as in our system.”

-Dr Babalola Ogunkola, Senior Lecturer (Science Education & Evaluation), School of Education. The University of West Indies, Cavehill Campus, Barbados.

”We did not completely break off with our colonial masters. Barbados is unique and may be the only Caribbean nation that was not subjugated by more than one colonial powers. We retained some of the efficient colonial departments, the institutions as passed to us by the English. We are the better for it as our services are working as in the Royal Barbados Police, our Electricity is also powered by solar energy, and the international standards reached by our Health services [ Queen Elisabeth Hospital ] are all examples of not cutting off the spokes too early with our colonial past.”
– John Snagg, Business Executive, St Michael. Barbados

Hillary Beckles was introduced to me in absentia. When he wrote his earthquake, Haiti: the Quake and the Hate, the feedback was unprecendented. For the first time for a long period, Africa was reading from a perspective that has long been in abeyance. Yes we read the social catechism of Prof. Wilmot, and Rodney’s How Europe gave us the short end of the stick.

Having been inundated with the familiar western media posture on Africa, his historical analysis of the Haiti Tsunami required that the Vanguard went the extra mile to bring this ecletic West Indian voice home.  Africa’s march into the Global Village in many ways, can always be jump-started by the successes stories of the west and the emerging powerful regions of Asia and the Americas.

However, it is the Caribbean, which because of our shared history, traditions, sanguine affiliations and converging interests, can more than any other region, serve as our catalyst in moving our governments and our people towards a new consensus of discarding the primordial instincts of ethnic equations for the more embracing and profitable African promise and identity.

For in the silence of the oceans, away from the glitter and the swagger of the pen, the Caribbeans have from nowhere challenged the waves and may right now be coasting home with their various national experiments to lead in the Global Village.  Therefore, we resolved to pay Dr. Beckles a courtesy call as we traverse the islands in our escapade to find out how the Caribbeans did it,and what they can contribute for Africa to wake up from its slumbers.

Dr. Beckles disclosed that though he was part of the Ghana government’s initiated Joseph Project, he believed that the road to success is for the continent to build a new African identity. He said the Joseph Project was not ”a correct framework as the main stumbling block to any of those types of projects undercuts any leap forward. He argued that the world is moving away, organising in bigger identities and Africa is stuck, projecting and standing on its many tribal affliations.

He esplained that the Joseph Project came out of the philosophy of what happened to Joseph in Egypt after being sold to slavery. Joseph according to the Bible was not angry with his brethren but wanted to transfer his riches from Egypt to help his suffering brethren in Israel. The project was to establish a connecting flight from the Caribbeans to West Africa, encourage Tourism, Economic and Cultural Exchanges.`

Vanguard posited that in as much as the Caribbeans have wiped our tribalism, and achieved race free societies due to their peculiar history, the African societies are somewhat different.

The ethnic institutions have prospered and in many instances have been of positive value to the peoples’ civilization and survival throughout the continent’s evolution from time. Dr. Beckles who accepted to contribute to the popular Vanguard’s  Letters From Washington Column, noted that he was not advocating for an outright abdication of one’s heritage. He would rather prefer a balanced outlook, ”Look beyond the ethnic boundaries and embrace the bigger identities,” he said. He also advised the African governments to employ political leadership, the Cultural media, the theatre and Education to build a new consensus and move the people towards continental unity.

Emma Okocha, Dateline, University of West Indies, Cavehill Campus, Barbados


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