It was home coming for Africans in the continent and the entire black race last week as the Centre for Black African Arts and Civilisation in conjunction with Pan African Strategic and Research Group, (PANAFSTRAG) hosted another successful three day international colloquium, which re- examined black’s pan African agenda reports, McPhilips Nwachukwu
ONE thing was lacking at last week’s three day international colloquium convoked by the Centre for Black Africa Arts and Civilisation, CBAAC in conjunction with Pan African, Strategic and Policy Research Group, PANAFSTRAG at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
That missing thing was a “scholarly atmosphere”, such that was provided by the St Augustine campus of the University of West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago in 2006 and the State University of Rio de Janeiro in 2008; when the conference held in the two countries of Carribean and South America.
What I consider the need for a scholarly atmosphere for the colloquium is driven by the intellectual commitment of the organisers of the event, who seek to employ scholarly contributions from African academics in the continent and their counterparts in the Diaspora in the definition and continued re-definition of the black race’s pan African vision.
Despite this critical over sight, which made the venue of the conference impose a kind of political coloration to the on the well articulated international gathering, African sons and daughters at home and in the diaspora did not disappoint expectant Nigerians, who came out to witness the six year old colloquium, which able director of the Centre for Black African Arts and Civilisation and his collaborating partner, General Ishola Williams(rtd) led Pan African, Strategic and Research Group, PANAFSTRAG initiated at the inception of Babawale’s leadership regime at CBAAC.
The beautiful three day meeting held in the beautiful city of Abuja drew participants from the diplomatic community, government as well as from different parts of the world.
Some notable personalities that graced and participated in the occasion include : the Brazilian Ambassador to Nigeria ,Ms. Anna Perez , Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Mallam Sadiq Abubakar Mohamade and pan African apostles like; Nigeria’s Chinweizu, Los Angeles based independent researcher, Runoko Rashidi, Horace Campbell, James Ellis,Lisa Earl Castillo from Bahia, Brazil and Prof. Adekunle Amuwo from South Africa.
Political independence anniversary
Also in attendance were such notable scholars like, Canada based scholar, Onokome Okome, Cameroonian chairman of CEDEOTOLA, Prof. Charles Binam Bikoi, West Indies based scholar, Ayotunde Azenge, American based historian , Gloria Emeagwali and anotherAmerican based theater artist/scholar, Niyi Coker among several other experts.
Coming as a fore runner to Nigeria’s 50th year political independence anniversary, this year’s edition of the conference examined what the organisers conceptuslised as; Global Africans, Pan Africanism, Decolonisation and Integration in Africa: Past, Present and Future.
Significantly, the eve of the nation’s fifty years in the journey of nationhood provides a very reflective moment to examine the key terms in the conference theme; which in the light of new geo- global politics raise lots of concern not only to Africa, but to Nigeria because of her own self imposed foreign policy stand, which places Africa in the centre point of her foreign policy positions.
The three day meeting in its usual tradition also provided another rare opportunity for participants to re- examine the ideological program of pan Africanism in the age of globalisation. Efforts were made by speakers to explain how pan African vision has been driven in the present times through popular cultures as expressed in Nollywood cinema, fashion and music.
These three areas were the areas addressed by Canadian based cinema scholar, Onokome Okome,who spoke on the topic, Is Nollywood Pan African, James Tar Tasaaior, whose paper looked at; The Pan African vision in the Musical Sensibility of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Suny Okosun , Cameroonian based scholar, Donatus Fai Tangem, who also looked at, Pop Culture and Pan Africanism: A Dramatisation of Post-coloniality in the music of Longue Longue( Alias Longue Longue Simon) and Joy A.Prime , who examined the topic, Pan- Africanism and Popular Culture: A New Concept for Fashion Designers.
Reacting to the theme of the conference, the Brazilian Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms Perez noted that” Nigeria remains the basis for which most black Brazilians judge the development level in Africa.”
Based on this, She further revealed, the Brazilian government has as part of honour to Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary has decided to translate the works of two major Nigerian writers, Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Adichie into Portuguese language.
The works so published are : classic novels: Things Fall Apart and Half of the Yellow Sun, two works that have won international acclaims and have succeeded in telling the African story from different generation of writers.
She however commended Nigerian writers for being consistent and for being some of the best in the world and added that “since Nigeria gave Nobel Laureate to the world in the person of Prof. Wole Soyinka, the world, particularly the Brazilian community, has come to recognize Nigerian writers far and above the rest. This according to her “ is so because Brazil has the largest number of blacks in Diaspora, making it an African country across the Atlantic.”
In his own response, Gen. Ishola Williams Rtd.said that for Africa to develop and make meaningful impact in world affairs, the total concept of Pan-Africanism has to be redefined. He cited culture and language as basic components for meaningful development in Africa. To him, the examples of Japan, China and other Asian Tigers suffice as examples to be emulated by African peoples and governments.
According to the Rtd General, who is a Pan-Africanist of no mean stature, “Pan-Africanism started in the 1900s’ with the ideas espoused by the likes of W.E.B. Dubuios, whom he quoted as saying ‘ that for Africans to make progress, they must think home. It is not ideologies that matter, but ideas that must translate into strong economic base for the generality of Africans.’
For Africa to move ahead, “We will need to rebuild ourselves with political, historical, cultural, linguistic and other local values imbedded in African tradition. This is the only way we can reinvent ourselves and make meaningful contributions to the affairs of the world.’ He emphasised.
Challenges of the new millennium
In his keynote address, South African-based Ghanaian scholar, Prof. Kwesi Prah, called on all African leaders and societies to rise up to the challenges of the new millennium. He made references to the efforts of the African founding fathers in the persons of Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal, Kwame Nkurumah of Ghana, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo of Nigeria and others, who stood against the tyranny of the West, using African ideas and ideals to get the continent where she is today.
“Of what needs are these efforts if the current African leaders cannot continue in the same spirit and make Africa measure up with the rest of the world,” he asked.
For Prah, the problem of Black people is not the problem of globalization but rather lies in what Africans can gain from it using their Diaspora strength to attain the best height in the world.
“Other societies have done it, borrowing extensively from here and there and why not Africa?” he asked.
In his address, Prof. Tunde Babawale of CBAAC made a strong point for the unity of Africans using the spirit of Pan-Africanism for the unity of all. According to him, “My expectation at the end of this colloquium is that we use it as a sustainable platform to recreate Africans and help the Diaspora to further the course of Pan-Africanism..’
The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Alhaji Abubakar S. Mohammed, however commended CBAAC for its tireless effort in bringing to the fore, the cultural issues that unite Africans everywhere in the world. Nigeria, he said, must continue in that spirit, especially this year that many African countries are celebrating their golden jubilee.