By Japhet Alakam
It was another historic reunion between Nigerians and some Diaspora African members at the International symposium of the 15th edition of the Badagry Diaspora festival as people from all walks of life came to be part of the day and to celebrate the Haitian revolutionary Toussaint l’ouverture.
The event which commemorates the International Day for Remembrance of Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and its Abolition declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1988 put together as part of the activities of the Badagry Diaspora Festival 2015 by Africa Renaissance Foundation (AREFO).
With the theme ‘Toussaint L’ouverture: The Catalyst for the Global Struggle for Liberation of the Black Race’ the symposium, apart from reminding many of the memories of the obnoxious slave trade which happened many years ago, once more brought to the fore the need for Africans to go back to their roots which according to the speakers were distorted with the coming of the Europeans in order to halt the current exodus of African proffessionals.
The event which was held at the Soneye auditorium, ASCON, Topo, Badagry was attended by many seasoned scholars from Haiti, Benin Republic and Nigeria who presented educative and expository papers that harped on the need for Africans to come together to salvage their motherland.
Speakers at the event which was chaired and moderated by Prof. Olusola Ojo, Dean of Humanities, Macpherson University, Ogun State include Jacques Nicolas, from Haiti, Mere Jah, Mallam Yussuf Abdullah Usman, Dr. Yakub Moses, Dr. Abisoye Olatunde and Femi Koshoni from Republic of Benin. .
Looking at the exploits of Toussaint L’ouverture whose military genius and political acumen transformed an entire society of slaves into the independent black state of Haiti, the speakers, argued that there is the urgent need for Africans to forge closer ties between them for the development of their motherland in order to address the present political, economic and leadership crisis ravaging the African countries, which has forced many Africans, especially professionals to migrate to European land in search of greener pastures where they are being enslaved again.
In his paper, ‘African Political Leadership and Development: The Diaspora Connection’,Dr. Amos O. Abisoye of the Department of Social Sciences of Crawford University, Ogun State, painted a graphic picture of economic travails of the continent. He said: “A thin line differentiates the forced migration of the slave trade era from the rampant incidence of brain drain which is now the order of the day in Africa. The west has continued to pull out the best of Africa’s population today just as it was during the slave trade era.”
He condemned the lootings by African leaders that bring pain and hardship to its people. He then called on Africans in diaspora to come home and invest. In his address, Olaide-Mesewaku ,President of AREFO, stated that,”The annual Badagry Diaspora Festival exemplifies the creative power of history: reconstructing the tragic contextual features of the past history of a people for celebration of freedom and emancipation.
The history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is a monumental genocidal crime committed against the continent of Africa from which Great Britain, Portugal, France, Spain, Holland and the United States (in the case of Badagry in particular) were the major beneficiaries of the spoils of this crime”. Descibing the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade as genocide against African people.
Jacques Nicolas, a Pan-African cultural activist from Haiti, who demonstrated his true African nature when he poured libation to the voodoo gods for their protection charged Africans to be passionate about arts and culture in the continent.
“And if the arts and the culture are both the card and the standard of a nation, we understand why the true African Renaissance will be through its culture, its arts and its traditions, as well as when all states on the continent will unite, not only among themselves but also with their diaspora to form a fishbowl world of this wonderful bundle of brotherhood and solidarity that will be the spearhead of a new Africa, the Africa of our dreams, and to which I am already so flattered and proud to belong, through me, the entire African diaspora, a new Africa that will no longer be the maligned, disinherited and overused continent, but a continent that will finally play its role in global governance.” he added.
On her part, Madame Mere Jah Evejah, a Haitian lady who has since returned and settled in Benin Republic, brought the feminine angle of the struggle when she extoled the contributions of four women that played prominent roles in the Haitian struggle for independence, and tasked the present African first ladies to emulate them.
Speaking on the topic, a Neo- Louverturian Approach to the fulfilment of the 11th commandment, Oluwafemi Kochoni, Vice President of World Council of Panafricanism from Benin Republic pointed out that the panecea to African woes is a pan-African solidarity, stressing that presently Nigeria should wake up, stop being the verbal leader and assume real leadership and show others the way as “we depend on you for the struggle of Pan-Africanism to stabilize Africa”.
He stated that what Africa needs at this point is educational revolution that will take its mind of mental slavery and bring back the continent’s age-old and time honoured values for its regeneration. Founder, PanAfrican Strategic and Policy Research Group, Gen. Ola Ishola Williams (retd), who stated that African Traditional Religious System is the only identity they can maintain, urged Africans to do away with foreign religions on the continent.
According to him, “Africa’s religions are the basis for the emergence of a new Africa capable of taking care of its needs, as all the scientific and technological innovations the continent needs are enshrined in its indigenous religious practices.” Earlier on Lagos State governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who was represented by Mr. Tunde Anan, commended the organisers and promised to energise efforts to develop Badagry into a tourism hub.
The event also featured a performance by Nichalson Hiatian, a musician and performer from Haiti who treated the audience to some reggae tunes as well as African talking drum by Egan people from Badagry.