Pan-Africanism in the areas of arts, music, politics, entertainment, film-making, leadership was the theme of the just-concluded international conference in Abuja on Pan-Africanism and the Forging of a New African Identity in the 21st Century. Edozie Udeze who attended the two-day event, writes on the proceedings that raised new hopes on Pan-Africanism and its many affiliates
For two days last week, scholars, historians, political scientists, theatre artistes, music teachers and literary scholars from Nigeria and other parts of the world, gathered in Abuja, essentially to dwell on the theme: Pan-Africanism and the Forging of a New African Identity in the 21st Century. It was an international conference by the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), an organ of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in collaboration with the Department of History of the University of Abuja, to review and highlight the place and importance of Pan-Africanism in the ongoing debate to generate a new Africa. The conference was graced by those who understand the whole essence of the Pan-Africanism movement which began with the likes of Du Bois, Padmore, Malcolm X, Elijah Mohammed, Marcus Garvey and others in the late 19th century, asking Africans to unite to be able to ward off neocolonialism. But what is the situation in the 21st century?
Has Pan-Africanism perished or is the concept out of order? Why is it that Africa still remains the most backward, most downtrodden, continent in the world? Is neocolonialism still embedded in the socio-political and economic lives of Africans? There were so many questions raised at the conference which also received immediate answers. Even the creative industries, drama, dance, music, poetry, prose, et al, can be used in this digital era to hoodwink Pan-Africanism and enable it move forward.
In her opening speech, the chairman of the occasion Mrs. Salamatu Suleiman, a Former Minister of Women Affairs, stated that the topic was topical and timely given the crises of identity prevalent in Africa today. She noted however that CBAAC has continuously organized conferences and programmes that are geared towards not only bringing to limelight the diverse contributions of black and African peoples towards the extension of the frontiers of knowledge, but also that which ensures that the dignity of the black race is appreciated and restored.
“This theme is important because Africa is one section of the world where people are inclined to wait for bad news. Consequently, what is good even when it is extra-ordinary, becomes of little or no interest. The interest especially in the world press, about Africa is unfortunately marched by superficiality and stereotypes”, Suleiman, a seasoned diplomat said.
in her welcome address, Mrs. Ndidi Aimienwauu, the Director-General of CBAAC directed people’s attention to the need to reposition Africa immediately to begin now to solve its myriad of problems. “This is why this conference is urgent and imperative. It indeed aligns itself with the federal government’s mantra of next level. Indeed the commitment to lift governance to the next level in Nigeria, equally connotes, among other things, moving Africa and peoples of African descent to the next level of economic, political and social development. Today there are many people who believe and rightly too that the aims of Pan-Africanism, are far from being accomplished”, Aiemienwauu, herself a historian elaborated.
And so to move on, Africans must use all the implements of conquests at their disposal to overwhelm the world. This is why scholars of English and Literature, Theatre, Music and so on were included to espouse the role of films, theatre, music, arts and more in this endless quest to reposition Pan-Africanism. That undying zeal to make Africa the foremost continent in the world has to begin with proper attention focused on the youths and their careers.
Aiemienwauu went on. “In our own struggle for national cohesion, human dignity and social redemption, how can we usefully deploy Pan-Africanism to better the fortunes and future of Africa? For us in CBAAC, Pan-Africanism stands for racial co-existence, equality and respect for the human person. It looks beyond the narrow confines of class, race, tribe and religion and promotes equal opportunity for all irrespective of ideological differences…” But then how can Africa scuttle the perennial diseases and backwardness that have been the lot of her people?
In a place where poverty is eternally grinding, where hunger is the norm with xenophobia being the order of the day, and terrorism tearing the fabrics of the societies, how can social and economic freedom and political accuracy be achieved? Answers to these questions were provided in the keynote paper delivered by Professor Aja Akpuru-Aja, of the Abia State University, Uturu, whose theme dwelt on Pan-Africanism, the African Union and continental security: Matters Arising.
Aja, a professor of Political Science whose vast area of scholarship is on policy, defence and strategic studies traced the history of Pan-Africanism but paid more attention on the subservient attitude of African leaders who have refused over the years to stand firm on their own for the good of their peoples. In a situation where African leaders and technocrats fiddle with the fortunes of the people just to be in the good books of the west and Asia, is terribly embarrassing, indeed a slap on the indices of Pan-Africanism.
Aja, known for his several indepth works and researches on African affairs started by quoting an old mantra of Africanism. ‘History is not everything, but it is a starting point, history is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of the day’. And so what is the role of African Union, comprising of all the heads of governments of Africa to keep Pan-African alive?’. Pan-Africanism itself is the continuous renaissance of African ideas, cultures, knowledge, identities, habits and so on. In the process too Africans should be made to love what is theirs, work diligently to grow her local economies, drive their own political situations and be proud of who they are. It is a propaganda that must be sustained with valuable actions.
Aja said: “Now, seventeen years of AU on continental security have revealed certain commendable efforts. Yet the African past and present have not repositioned the continent to look at the future with optimism. African indeed still remains a continent of rich land, but lost opportunities; the poorest in global political economy. African continental security is endangered by high cases of governance failure and violent extremism across sub-regions; lack of political will by states to operationalise the rebirth of Pan-Africanism. Ironically, even on internal threats to the continent, African leaders act more as pawns to international do gooders’, extra-continental powers whose political, economic, interests dictate more the brand of military interventions in African conflict situations”.
This is where culture comes in. This is the area where music, films, literature, home videos, can play prominent roles. Like Aja clearly stated: “to save the future generation of Africans of persistent scourge of divisiveness and violent extremism, the AU member states need to embrace strongly the philosophy of Pan-Africanism. It is an invigorating process rather than finished products. Noteworthy is that rebirth of Pan-Africanism in the 21st century is not far from the current Chinese Dream which is about unity of purpose, self-rejuvenation at home and abroad”.
On the entertainment and creative fronts scholars agreed that artists have to step up their game to square it up with the rest of the world. Most of the guests who spoke equally noted that the youths can redirect their energies towards ideas revolving around Pan-Afrcanism. But the youths themselves have to be told on time the values of Pan-Africanism and what it stands for. Now, when the leaders have not done it properly, it is the youths who should forge ahead with these ideals in the 21st century in order to restore the dignity, value and esteem of the continent.
Abike Dabiri, presidential adviser on Diaspora and Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, Director-General of National Council for Arts and Culture, each spoke glowingly on the need to ensure we have a crime-free era in the plans we have for the youths. “Nigerian youths are not all criminals”, Runsewe maintained while Dabiri observed that “419 does not have a Nigerian face”. Yet, it is time for Nigeria and South Africa, the two biggest economies in Africa come together to give Africa the rebirth it needs in the 21st century. Xenophobia is a crime; where Africa is against Africa and where brothers slaughter brothers.
Migration also dominated part of the debates. So also the issue of Diasporan Africans who now constitute the 6th region of Africa. A paper on the issue of migration stated it clearly that the movement of people from one to location to another is not new and will never end, it is proper to redefine the odd ways Africans engage in it. In the end over forty papers were delivered on varied areas of life endeavours that pertain to Pan-Africanism.
Some of the scholars present were Professors Okpeh Okpeh, Emmanuel Dandaura, Canice Esideme, CBN Ogbogbo, Adegba Okpaga and others. Chairman of CBAAC Board Tony Esu who praised the agency agreed that more of this type of conference needs to be organized to keep Africa on the front-burner. The event took place at the International Conference Centre and the Royalty Hotel, Abuja, with the full backing of Mrs. Grace Isu-Gekpe, the permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture. Also Ambassador Ozo Nwobu, gave his tacit support and encouragement throughout the conference.
Just like Dr. Ofonime Inyang of the Department of Theatre Arts and Film Studies of the University of Uyo in his paper titled the role of Creative Industries in Pan-Africanism… said “This sector can be useful tools of reconciliation, peace building and development communication given the opportunity, the right environment and the necessary support”.
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