By Anote Ajeluorou
When Badagry Diaspora Festival 2015 on International Symposium on Toussaint L’ouverture (François Dominique Toussaint Breda) opened last Saturday at Administrative Staff College, Topo, Badagry, it was a euphoric reunion between some Diaspora members and Nigerians. It was also a moment to re-ignite the need to forge closer ties between them for the development of the motherland. The call became urgent in view of myriads of problems plaguing the motherland, with Africa’s young professionals forcibly migrating to the west through perilous routes for economic reasons that are reminiscent of the cruel Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade centuries ago.
The festival also coincided with the International Day for the Remembrance of Slave Trade and its Abolition declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1988. Organised by Mr. Babatunde Olaide-Mesewaku-led African Renaissance Foundation (AREFO), Badagry Diaspora Festival 2015 had guests from Haiti, Benin Republic and Nigeria as resource persons who articulated the fundamentals of synergy between Africa Diaspora and the motherland. It was chaired by Prof. Olusola Ojo of MacPherson University, Ogun State.
Dr. Amos O. Abisoye of Department of Social Sciences of Crawford University, Ogun State, best captured the economic travails of the continent in his paper, ‘African Political Leadership and Development: The Diaspora Connection’. He’d argued, “A thin line differentiates the forced migration of the slave trade era from the rampant incidence of brain drain which is now the order of the day in Africa. The west has continued to pull out the best of Africa’s population today just as it was during the slave trade era.
“Knowledge of the quantity and quality of African professionals in the Diaspora can only lead to lamentation for our motherland. The current pain and hardships faced by Africans leave no one in doubt that if a slave ship would anchor on the Atlantic shore today, many Africans would volunteer to jump in it only to be taken to the west”.
Earlier, Olaide-Mesewaku categorised the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade as genocide against African people when he said, “The annual Badagry Diaspora Festival exemplifies the creative power of history: reconstructing the tragic contextual features of the past history of a people for celebration of freedom and emancipation. The history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is a monumental genocidal crime committed against the continent of Africa from which Great Britain, Portugal, France, Spain, Holland and the United State (in the case of Badagry in particular) were the major beneficiaries of the spoils of this crime”.
A Pan-African cultural activist, Jacques Nicolas, who flew in from Haiti, traced the history of Haitian revolution of 1891, led by L’ouverture, that saw to the independence of Haiti in 1804 that sparked off the gale of agitation for colonised people in Africa.
He sued for the arts of the continent to be strong, adding, “And if the arts and the culture are both the card and the standard of a nation, we understand why the true African Renaissance will be through its culture, its arts and its traditions, as well as when all states on the continent will unite, not only among themselves but also with their diaspora to form a fishbowl world of this wonderful bundle of brotherhood and solidarity that will be the spearhead of a new Africa, the Africa of our dreams, and to which I am already so flattered and proud to belong, through me, the entire African diaspora, a new Africa that will no longer be the maligned, disinherited and overused continent, but a continent that will finally play its role in global governance”.
A Haitian lady who has since returned and settled in Benin Republic, Madame Mere Jah Evejah, extoled the virtues of women in the Haitian struggle for independence, and tasked the United Nations, since declaring 2015 -2024 International Decade of People of Diaspora to ask France to return “the ransom of freedom that was extorted and stolen from the Haitian people to be given back to them so that Haitian men and women’s creative genius can shine once more”.
For daring to gain their freedom, France and the U.S. forced Haiti, she said, “to pay the heavy price of 90 million gold francs to Charles X regime in France in exchange for recognition of its sovereignty and for lifting its blockage. Haiti also had to accept discounted rates for exporting sugar to France”.
It took Haiti 122 years, from 1825 – 1947, to pay off the huge debt, and accounted for Haiti’s inability to develop, Evejah said.
Also suing for a pan-African solidarity, with Nigeria leading the way was Mr. Oluwafemi Kochoni from Benin Republic, who said Africa needed a reeducation to unclog its mind of mental slavery and rethink the continent’s age-old and time honoured values for its regeneration. He said, “After re-education of Africans to their roots, then come Pan-Africanism, then political power to be able to take decisions. We need games of alliances in African to forge ahead and to better defend ourselves. It’s time for Nigeria to be the home of Pan-Africanism. African countries are watching Nigeria. We depend on you for the struggle of Pan-Africanism to stabilize Africa”.
Founder, PanAfrican Strategic and Policy Research Group, Gen. Ola Ishola Williams (rtd), spoke on ‘African Traditional Religious System as the Foundation for Global Africa’, where he projected Africa’s religions, as the basis for the emergence of a new Africa capable of taking care of its needs, as all the scientific and technological innovations the continent needs are enshrined in its indigenous religious practices. He sued for a jettisoning of foreign religions on the continent.
Director-General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Yusuf Usman, represented by Mrs. Edith Ekunke, spoke on ‘Slave Trade Monuments in Nigeria as Tourism Products’. Lagos State governor Akinwunmi Ambode, represented by Mr. Tunde Anan, promised to energise efforts to develop Badagry into a tourism hub.