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Africa: Once upon a continent

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TODAY (Monday, May 25) is Africa Day! What then about it when a billion Africans worldwide in 2015 muddle through without African consciousness? We have all the structures; Africa Union (AU), 40 plus heads of governments and states, African parliament, regional  organisations, ad infinitum. However, we lack the real thing that would drive the African institutions: African consciousness. How many Africans remember Africa (Liberation) day? It’s time we reinvented pan-Africanism with a demand for a continent-wide obligatory observance of Africa day. We must promote the education and consciousness about African Renaissance! On the May 8, every year, Europeans in unison pause (with public holidays!) to mark the Victory over Nazi Germany’s aggression and oppression in Europe during the Second World War. Sixty (60) million people (including thousands of Africans) reportedly died during the Hitler’s war of attrition. But lest we forget; as many as some 100 million African lives were lost to 19th century European brutal colonial terrorism and earlier 300 years of the transatlantic slave trade! Younger Africans must be aware of the enormous sacrifices of the founding fathers who through resistance and nationalism fought for African liberation. Otherwise we lose them permanently to complacency and complicity that may nourish a repeat of the tragic history of enslavement and colonisation. No thanks to loss of memory, Africa is sliding back into primitive tribal wars (witness South-Sudan),  xenophobia, crude and violent tribalism (a la South Africa), ethno- religious wars (Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Central Africa Republic). These mutually destructive war-types in the past undermined African communities before the colonial predators came calling. Modern-day Visa lotteries and serial Mediterranean tragedies with boats carrying thousands of African  migrant workers sinking underscore the truism that lack of memory ruins a continent.

Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission must bring some renewed energy and pro-active activism into the Africa Union (AU) secretariat if Africa must matter in a globalised world. I searched in vain for the 2015 theme of an anniversary of the Africa Day. One recalls an OAU of Togo’s Edem Kodjo (1978 – 1983),  Nigeria’s Dr. Peter U. Onu (1983 – 1985) and Tanzania’s Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim (1989 – 2001). OAU commendably offered Africa the needed leadership in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and last vestiges of colonialism in Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola. Nigeria is better positioned by its chequered solidarity history in the struggle for African liberation to lead a renewed pan-Africanism. But that is if its outgoing leaders halt the last minute reported criminal scramble for “take away” Commonwealth.  Or better still, if the incoming ruling party officials stop agonising over sharing (as distinct from production) formula based on their zones, regions, villages and clans. On assumption of office this weekend, President-elect Muhammadu Buhari must definitely act local to refix Nigeria. He must, however, with equal energy think and act African and indeed global. General Murtala Muhammed almost single handedly roused Africa to action over Southern African liberation with the famous Africa-has-come-of-age speech. Africa today begs for quotable leaders! We need self-reliance. If poorer Africa built OAU Secretariat independently, why would Africa with triple figure GDP rely on China to remodel AU secretariat years after? Contemporary Africa parades big chieftains, with their wives, wealth and power but little vision, idealism and love of the continent. Africa Day raises the nostalgia of eminent great African statesmen like Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, Sekou Toure, Murtala Muhammed, Samora Machel, Amilcal Cabral, Thomas Sankara, Nelson Mandela  and non-state pan Africanists like Mariam Makeba, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, my late dear friend and pan-Africanist, Dr. Tajudeen Abdulraheem who died on Africa  day in a tragic accident in Nairobi six years ago.

At the founding of Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, Nkrumah rightly observed that  independence
“is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs.” IMF and World Bank taunt Africa as an emerging market with alluring growth rate of seven per cent. But market for whose goods?  In the 70s, Fela Anikulapo Kuti sang and enjoined us to “Buy Africa”.  Apart from South Africa, which accounts for 27.3 per cent of the subcontinent’s total Manufacturing Value Added, the whole continent is littered with smuggled, second hand and imported goods from Europe and China. Nigeria scandalously exports crude and imports refined petroleum products. In 1963, Nkrumah had noted that “Our continent …exceeds all the (other continents) in potential hydroelectric power, which some experts assess as 42% of the world’s total.” 50 years after, African economy groans under the weight of power poverty. We cannot drive industrialization with power outages in Accra, Lagos or Johannesburg!

Fifty-four (54) Heads of government of Africa are almost thrice Heads of government that make up the eurozone of  19 countries. European Union (EU) remains unapologetically insular, tightening immigration laws by the day. Recently its leaders said they would “destroy boats used by smugglers to bring migrants across the Mediterranean.” Indeed the EU is set to present a resolution to the UN Security Council to that effect. Some 29 billionaires in Africa are distributed almost between Nigeria and South Africa. Yet the two countries harbour as many as 100 million poor! We must urgently complement the well-having of the few with the total well-being of all Africans. The challenges of production and distribution in Africa call for bigger economy of scale, which is only possible with economic integration and United States of Africa! Again Nkrumah saw it all earlier: “Our objective is African union now. There is no time to waste. We must unite now or perish.” The Maastricht Treaty which established European Union was signed on November 1, 1993, 30 years after OAU was formed by far sighted philosopher – leaders- kings of Africa. EU today exhibits robust common big market and common citizenship. What is good for Europe has long been envisioned by African founding fathers. Let’s realise the vision. Happy Africa day.
• Aremu mni is Secretary-General of Alumuni Association of the National Institute, AANI, Kuru, Jos.


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