Badagry Festival and calls for diaspora Africans to return to motherland
The cause and effect of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, where millions of Africans were forcibly transported to the Americas and Europe between the 16th and 19th centuries, formed the core of the colloquium held as part of activities to mark this year’s Diaspora Festival, Badagry 2017.
Held at the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, Topo, Badagry, this year’s event had ‘African Diaspora Beyond the Black Atlantic: Dynamics and Significance in Latin American World and Elsewhere,’ as theme and was dedicated to Descoredes Maximiliano Dos Santo, Mestre Didi, who died in 2013.
While opening the forum, the convener, Professor Anthony Ijadola Asiwaju, extolled the qualities of Dos Santo, and narrated how the Brazilian was able to trace his origin to Ketu in Benin Republic, using his cognomen, chants and poetry. Asiwaju added that the black Brazilian was a school proprietor, who fashioned his school’s curriculum to include those concepts and attributes that would enable young, black children to know their history, identify with their people and to relate with other blacks, especially those on mainland Africa.
According to Asiwaju, Dos santo was a devoted Catholic, who believed in tradition and education, and encouraged a lot of blacks to acquire skill that would enable them weather the storm and overcome their dark past.
Also speaking on ‘Brazilian Factor and Heritage in the History of the People of Lagos State,’ Professor Siyan Oyeweso of Osun State University, Osogbo, argued that Latin America and Nigeria share a continuity in history, adding that this could be traced back to the period Brazilian economy rested on sugar, cassava, mining and others. He informed that the wars that took Africans away, mostly from Egba, to Latin America and the Americas, had become the abode of peace, while the ‘Point of no Return’ has turned to the ‘Point of Peace,’ as Africans in the Diaspora were beginning to come home.
While also highlighting the importance of these Brazilians to Lagos State, Oyeweso, who, a few weeks ago, became a Fellow of Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL), said the Brazilian returnees in Lagos have the best architecture designs, either as Moslems or Christians. He stressed that the people’s ingenuity and enterprise could be felt in all fields of human endeavour, be it music, fashion, agriculture, banking, industry among others. He added that the returnee Brazilians were already integrated into Nigeria.
The varsity don called on organisers of Diaspora Festival Badagry to build platforms that would immortalise some of the legacies of the people, which he said were gradually fading away, stressing that the traditional rebirth being talked about should begin from Badagry because research has it that the town has more shrines than mosques and churches put together.
Dr. Gideon Agbley of University for Development Studies, Wa, Ghana, who spoke on ‘Afro-Brazilians of Accra and the Rise of Latin America Investment in Ghana,’ called on African countries to invest more on infrastructure, education and in culture, stressing that Africans in the Diaspora look forward to coming home to invest and even live here, but added that without the right platforms they might find it difficult, if not impossible to return home.
Agbeley stated that Ghanaian government recently got over US$500 million from Brazilian government for road construction and other developmental projects. He said the investment in this area was still one-sided because Ghanaian businessmen have not fully taken the advantage to invest in Latin America, adding that the way forward is for African businessmen to buy into the Human Genotic Technology, as this would help map out areas of interest for them to invest in.
On the topic ‘A Decade for the Restoration of the Rights of People of African Descent: The Role of Nigeria,’ Jah Evejah Mere, a returnee from the Caribbean noted that the Africans taken away from Africa were not slaves, but were enslaved and that African countries should do something proactive to bring them to the continent to rejoin their brethren. Mere said the Ghanaian and Ethiopian governments were playing leading roles in this direction, as both countries recently gave Brazilians and other people from Latin America citizenship rights to live in their countries.
According to her, Ghana gave 35 people, while Ethiopian gave 1000 citizenship right, adding that moves like this have begun to yield dividends, as some of those given citizenship right have returned to Africa and were part of the festival.
Former DG Centre for Black and African Art and Civilization (CBAAC), Professors Tunde Babawale spoke on ‘Slavery and Slave Trade, A Tragic Continuum: Lessons and Challenges’ called for the inhuman trade to be seen as European Slave Trade and not Trans-Atlantic because the Europeans benefited most from it than any other continent. He observed that most historians, especially those from Europe, have painted the period with a lot of lies, which some people, including Africans today believe as the truth.
Babawale noted that Africa has been left to suffer alone, saying that the current challenges the continent is facing originated from both Europe and America. He said until Africa began to solve its own problems the challenges would not abate. He called on Africans to look inward and desist from depending on foreign interventions that would further heighten their problems.
Also, while speaking on ‘The Link That Binds Us: Africa and its Diaspora, One African People at Home and Abroad: PANAFEST,’ Professor Kohain Nathanyah Halevi Rabbi, said Europeans dehumanised Africans by taking away their traditional names and replacing them with new names. According to Rabbi, who traveled to Africa with Ghanaian passport from Brazil, Europeans meant no good for the African continent, adding that Africa’s current problems of division and others were created by them. He called on Africans to reconcile to this fact so as to move the continent forward.
According to him: “It is not by our character, mischievousness or other attributes that we are second class citizens, but because we are Africans.”Urging Africans across the globe to come back home, Dr. Toni Luck, an inspirational and transformational speaker, revealed that the first five books of the Holy Bible are about the story of Africa. According to her, in these books, Atlantic and Europe were not mentioned, but the Nile and Egypt and Africans, who were carried away into slavery because they failed to do what is in the books for them to do.
Luck noted that the books are older than any religion, be it Islam, Christianity, Judaism and others, adding that Europeans have structured their system for their own benefit and as such Africans should begin to do same. She noted that all European universities are not made to train Africans to be African, but to be Europeans, stressing that until Africans retrace their steps to those five books in the Bible, there would be no peace in the continent.
“God has trusted the black man, African, with all the resources of this world, but we lost it because we have failed to do the things we are expected to do. Africa will only march forward if she recognises this and observed them,” she said.
Prof Mejai Bola Mike Avoseh spoke on ‘Ogu (Egun) Moral Philosophy for Diaspora Citizenship,’ and argued that the Ogu (Egun) people are conservatives, colourful and religious, and express through their fashion, festivals, masquerades and relationship with other tribes. Using the attributes of the Egun to solve the problems slave trade brought to the continent, the don called on African countries to develop their own frameworks based on their peculiarities and people. He noted that applying foreign frameworks on Africa’s nation-state issues would further create more problems because each nation is varied and diverse.
Earlier in his keynote, Professor Olabiyi Yai, called on Africans to pay attention to systems, which include educational and industrial. He stated that Information Telecommunications Technology (ICT) is the new weapon to transfer culture, stressing that the early Africa does this the better for the continent.
Yai noted that America controls all the technology and by so doing, there is the possibility of faking it to African countries incapable of or inefficient in its use. He called on African countries and Africans in the Diaspora to project the modern African thought across the global.
Speaking on the level of Oyo State Government’s preparedness to welcome Africans in the Diaspora to the state, Toye Arulogun, the state Commissioner for Information, Vulture and Tourism, said his state government was working on a spiritual rebirth of connecting Africans in the Diaspora, especially those of Yoruba blood to the people of Oyo, the ancestral home of the Yoruba. He disclosed that apart from providing land space for them to live, the state government looks forward to creating flight links for Bahia-Ibadan-Osogbo-Oyo or Africa-Trinidad and Tobago. He added that having such links would facilitate direct flight from Latin America and the Caribbean to any part of Africa, including Nigeria.
While making a case for Africans, including those in the Diaspora, to go back to their roots, the Baale of Gberefu Island, Badagry, Chief Najimdeen Sanni, said Africans could not be said to be fully integrated to their roots until they go back to their traditional practices and religion. According to him, African societies are suffering untold hardship because they have abandoned their religious ethos, which harp on truthfulness, loyalty, love, good neighbourliness, chastity and other virtues.
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