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The road to ‘West Africa 2034’

By Segun Odegbami
10 December 2022   |   3:21 am
On Thursday, December 15, 2022, the world will take a short breather away from the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. During this break, a small gathering of eggheads from very diverse backgrounds but with a common cause somehow related to the World Cup...

Odegbami

On Thursday, December 15, 2022, the world will take a short breather away from the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. During this break, a small gathering of eggheads from very diverse backgrounds but with a common cause somehow related to the World Cup will be holding a conversation in the city of Lagos with an objective that should interest every human being on earth. 

 
A concept note has been circulating within a very small circle. I welcome all to excerpts of ‘The Concept Note’. On October 20, 2022, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, former  Minister of External Affairs of Nigeria, and former Director-General of the Nigeria institute of International Affairs, NIIA, delivered a lecture at the NIIA titled “Towards A New World Order”.  It was insightful, establishing the inevitability of a global re-alignment of political, economic and social powers in a New World Order in the aftermath, particularly, of the Ukraine/Russian War that has, once again, polarised the world. Africa will be significantly impacted as the world enters into a new era with new challenges, new possibilities and new opportunities on offer.
 
In Professor Akinyemi’s words, “what we should focus on now is the need for Africa to promote a common position on issues that will form the agenda of the new world order. Firstly, Africa must make sure it speaks with one voice, and on its own steam rather than as an adjunct of any power. This is going to be difficult”.
 
Meanwhile, many years earlier, Nelson Mandela had said two important statements, both now carved in marble, “Sport has the power to change the world” and “The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The Black people of the world need Nigeria to be great as a source of pride and confidence”. In short, Mandela identified Nigeria as the authentic African ‘personality’ to lead Africa when the global ‘power-sharing’ starts, and that Sport is a powerful tool. 
 
Kenya’s Professor PLO Lumumba also adds to the conversation nicely during one of his recent lectures, that Africa must now choose between being the ‘waiter’ at the Table of Civilisations (as it has been for five centuries, picking crumbs), or being a ‘diner’, like all the others, eating from the main meal. Lumumba’s illustration is apt. The continent will never be gifted a seat at the table, or granted equal partnership status on a platter. Those have not happened in over five centuries. They are not about to happen now. The continent will have to earn them. How to do so is what ‘The Conversations’ series set out to achieve.
 
Between Professor Akinyemi’s recent postulation, Mandela’s clear vision and PLO Lumumba’s wise counsel, lies the necessity for the continent and its people to start thinking differently, doing things differently, having a clearer vision, and deploying new tools so that when the negotiations between civilisations are convened again, Africa will be well-equipped with a common voice, common objectives, and new credentials that are not hewn from previous weapons of war, protests, guns and agitations, but from new understandings, new tools of healthy competition in feasts, celebrations and friendship against the background of existential threats of self-destruction by humanity.
 
These are soft-power ‘weapons’ that Africa and Africans have had for centuries, as a popular Nigerian saying puts it, in the pockets of their sokoto (Yoruba word for trousers) but have been searching furtively for in Sokoto (an assumed figuratively distant town in Northern Nigeria). 
 
Soft power refers to sports and culture (the entire spectrum of leisure and entertainment, music, film, drama, the arts, tourism, etc, in a relationship to produce a common front, voice and a common ‘army’. The ultimate dream is for Africa to create a model where all Africans and people of African descent can collaborate, integrate and celebrate on a regular basis, and share these with other civilisations in friendship and in peace. An opportunity beckons, and the time is now. Africa must seize both. It will not be easy but it has to be done. The third in the series of ‘The Conversations’ will interrogate ‘how’ this can be done.  

THE PLAN
There are to be four conversations. Two have been held in February and July, 2022.
The third will hold on December 15, 2022, during a break at the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup. At the fourth edition, in February/March 2023, there shall be a major announcement to the world of an implementable project that will derive from ‘The Conversations’.
 
SO FAR 
First Edition – February 2022.

It was an introduction to the subject of sports and diplomacy, a demonstration of the power of sports to advance diplomatic objectives for Africa, Africans and people of African descent around the world. An assembly of selected experts drawn from different backgrounds and from different parts of the world examined the history, the roles and the potentials of this combination to promote peace, economic and social integration, cultural renaissance, friendships and equity, with a common front and purpose for the black race.
 
Second Edition – July 2022
This looked at a third possible powerful tool – Culture. Experts drew up lessons from history, particularly from the largest congregation of the black race ever in a single event and at a single venue in 1977; how the black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) provided a unique and most powerful platform to celebrate the best of African culture, traditions, music, film, drama, history, literature, art and scholarship. It also examined why the FESTAC project was not sustained. 
To come

Third Edition – December 15, 2022
This is to examine the feasibility, possibility, potency and prospects of the combination of sports, culture and diplomacy to achieve what Professor Akinyemi postulated convincingly in his lecture at the institute, titled ‘Towards a New World Order’. These could be the essential tools for Africans and peoples of African descent to deploy in that inevitable, emerging global re-alignment of forces.

This third edition, as an academic exercise, shall combine the findings of the first two editions with Professor Akinyemi’s treatise to create and advance strategic new thinking and ideas, to prepare Africa for the negotiations, conversations, power-sharing, or global re-alignments that are already underway amongst the civilisations in the world. In short, the quest is to find out how to effectively deploy new soft-power tools (sports, culture and diplomacy), for Africa and the black diaspora.
 
Through ‘The Conversations’ there are already glimpses of an emerging new, simple, practical and ambitious Special Delivery Vehicle (SDV) whose time has come for the long-awaited Black renaissance.
 
That exciting prospect is the catalyst for the coming together of former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (In a new World Order can sports, culture and diplomacy do what war, protests, and political agitations could not?); the leader of the Muslim Community in Nigeria, Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar; and the General Overseer of one of the largest Christian congregations in Africa, Pastor Enoch Adeboye (Endorsing Sports and Culture as Unification tools for the youths of Africa); Governor of the Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
 
They will be observing the presentations by former Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola (Infrastructural imperatives for integration in West Africa by 2034); Foremost Tourism Ambassador in Africa, Otunba Wanle Akinboboye (tourism potentials along the slave trade centres/routes in West Africa by 2034); Security and Immigration expert, Dr. Willie Eselebor (Securing a borderless West Africa  – one visa, one currency for all in 2034); entertainment expert and music Legend, Laolu ‘Akins’ Akintobi (the future and power of entertainment in West Africa by 2034); sports ambassador and football Icon, Olusegun Odegbami (the FESTAC of Sports and the Road to West Africa in 2034); and cerebral giant and chief host, Professor Eghosa Osaghae (a background to ‘The Conversations’ series, the World in 2034 and Africa’s place in it).
 From the titles of the presentations, for those who can discern, there is something surely ‘cooking’ in West Africa that will shake the world.