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The Year of the Return

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By Dele Animasaun

Cuba

I am not African because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me’-Kwame Nkrumah.

The continent of Africa has been through numerous seismic changes over billions of years and if scientific discovery and evidence is to be believed, it is the first place the ancestors of man first called home. It is also from whence they first set off to populate the earth. First civilisation and cornerstone of knowledge and wisdom.

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Africa suffered also in the hand of its fellow man;Slavery and exploitation of its resources and deliberate destruction of its potential to fully develop. The legacy of crime against humanity and mental trauma of the taken still pervades its people in the continent and in diaspora up till today.

The trauma is passed from one generation to the next. So when voices are heard calling for acknowledgment of its grisly past and injustice, it is not mere wishes, it has to happen in order that the past is not repeated in the future. Right now, it is too little and nowhere enough.

The call for reparations and recognition of the damage caused to billions of people has met with muted response. So Africans are taking the initiative to change the narrative.

Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey have always endorsed self sufficiency and self help and the shoots are beginning to take root.
2019 will henceforth be known as the year of the African. The year of the return.

Return 1
As in many seats of learning, many of the top universities benefitted from the proceeds of slavery and human exploitation. This moment has gained momentum led by students to tear down statues and plaques of those who benefited from slavery. The students at Oxford University followed suit and demanded for the removal of the statue of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes from Oriel College.

Cambridge University’s Jesus College in the UK have announced that it will return a bronze cockerel which was looted by the British in Benin City, in the 19th century over 120 years . The cockerel, which is referred to as the Benin bronze or ‘okukor’ was removed from display back in 2016 after students and academics who are part of the Legacy of Slavery Working Party (LSWP) took a vote and insisted it be repatriated to Nigeria.

Jesus College staff said research had shown there was no doubt the cockerel had been looted from the Court of Benin, the seat of the once-mighty West African kingdom. “This royal ancestral heirloom belongs with the current Oba at the Court of Benin,” the college said on its website, referring to the traditional and still influential ruler of what is now part of modern-day Nigeria.

The statue of the cockerel was given to Jesus College in 1905 by the father of a student and was on display in the dining hall until 2016, when it was put into storage following student protests over its provenance. It is a shame to have stolen goods on displays as if it were spoils of war.

Worse still, the British Museum,boasts around 100 objects from Benin on display, some of these are seen as one enters the massive entrance of the museum The astounding depiction of the Oba of Benin and his courtiers first meeting with the Portuguese explorers.

Yes, we have history and civilisation before slavery but it is hidden from view.

Now the museum has announced last year that it would loan some of these to a new Benin Royal Museum in Benin City that is due to open in 2023. It beggars belief how do you lend something to the owner of what was stolen?

British museums have long resisted campaigns for the return of Nigeria’s Benin Bronzes, Greece’s Elgin Marbles, Ethiopia’s Magdala treasures and other loot, often citing legislation that bans them from disposing of their collections.

Of course, they can now argue that, Benin has no place to display such artefacts’. It was not theirs to pillage in the first place. It is the plan that with Britain, Nigerian representatives will collaborate with museums in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, the British Museum to create the new Nigerian museum.

So watch this space, the British Museum has agreed a three-year loan that could potentially be extended. ”
Hundreds of Benin Bronzes were looted during the British occupation and the return of the cockerel is merely a gesture but positive none the less,a positive move in the right direction.

Dan Hicks, a professor of archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, said Britain had reached a tipping point in the national dialogue about the restitution of looted objects.

“In the past, our attention on this matter was focused on national collections like the British Museum, but in reality such loot is held in dozens of institutions across the regions: city museums, art galleries and the collections of universities.”

The Year of Return
Zippin’ up my boots
Goin’ back to my roots
To the place of my birth
I’m homeward bound
Talkin’ ’bout the roots in the man
I feel my spirit gettin’ old
It’s time to recharge my soul
I’m zippin’ up my boots
Goin’ back to my roots- Odyssey
It has been long time coming, Peter Tosh sang that; No matter where you are from, if you are black, you an African.
For those who are woke they know and they always yearn to reconnect with their root. In 1977, Nigeria hosted FESTAC and it was a resurgence of African pride.

The feeling is revitalised with the declaration that 2019 was the year of Return.

When Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo declared and formally launched the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019 Whin 2018 in Washington , one could not have imagined how much the surge for Africans in the Diaspora to want to go ‘Home’.

They did and were given a rousing welcome home in Ghana.

Osibisa’s’ played Welcome home to 126 African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans, dressed in colourful traditional costumes as they pledged and became Ghana’s newest citizens.

The ceremony is the biggest highlight as Ghana marks 2019 as the Year of Return. One after the other, the new citizens took turns to shake hands with their president and went on to collect their citizenship certificates.

“On behalf of the government and people of Ghana, I congratulate you once again on resuming your identity as Ghanaians,” President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a speech on Wednesday, Nov. 27.

This is the beginning of more Returnees as other African countries will open their arms to welcome their long lost brothers and sisters home.
The government is also not losing sight of the investment potential and human capital of the highly educated “returnees” who decide to permanently move to Ghana.

My archive
-The young and the ruthless
JULY 15, 2012
How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life, you will have been all of these. – George Washington Carver.
A friend had a close shave recently with some burglars who laid in wait for her while she drove out of her compound around 5am in order to beat the traffic in Lagos.

As soon as she drove out of her gate, they shoved a gun in her direction and proceeded to frog-march her back to her home. Another relieved her of her car keys. She was forced back into the house at gunpoint. What had seemed like ages, she took them through every room and watched them ransack her house, from top to bottom.

They helped themselves to her electronic goods, jewellery and then, for good measure, she was roughed up and whacked with the butt of the gun for daring to look them in the face.
To be continued

This was so surreal that she got on to the social network and told us about her harrowing experience. Of course, we were relived and the usual sentiments ensued: thanking God for her good fortune ( I mean, life is priceless) that material things can be replaced and so forth.

When someone goes through such experience, it leaves an indelible mark on one’s emotional health and some people bounce back eventually. In others, it affects them so deeply. They may be traumatised for a long time to come that it may impact on their physical and emotional wellbeing.

Sadly, what happened in my friend’s case is not an isolated one. Up and down the country , there are so many young people who have chosen this alternative life style to the detriment of ordinary hard working citizens. What went wrong? Why are able bodied young people choosing this abhorrent way of life? Surely robbing or killing should not be one of them.

Statistics have shown that there are a large number of young people who are not in gainful employment or studying

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