Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Celebrating decade for the people of African descent

By Anote Ajeluorou

ALTHOUGH there are no known programmes of action by governments of African countries towards promoting the ‘International Decade for People of African Descent’ declared by the United Nations (UN) in 2013, which started on January 1, 2015 and will run till 2024, only Badagry Diapora Festival 2015, which ended last month, took steps in redirecting attention to people of African descent outside the continent. The festival had an International Symposium on Toussaint L’ouverture, the Haitian revolution of 1791; he led the revolt that ousted Haiti’s colonial power France to gain independence in 1804. The festival’s theme, ‘Toussaint L’ouverture: The Catalyst for the Global Struggle of the Black Race’, was instructive in many respects.
  The UN General Assembly’s International Decade for People of African Descent has as theme ‘People of African descent: recognition, justice and development’. The main objective of the international decade is to promote respect, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for people of African descent, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The decade will provide an opportunity to recognize the significant contribution made by people of African descent to societies and to propose concrete measures to promote their full inclusion and to combat all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
  Brazil, with the largest population of black people outside the continent, has the decade focusing on the following objectives: “to strengthen national, regional and international action and cooperation in relation to the full enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights by people of African descent, and their full and equal participation in all aspects of society; to promote a greater knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies, and to adopt and strengthen national, regional and international legal frameworks in accordance with the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the International Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination, and to ensure their full and effective implementation”.
  The decade will enable the United Nations, Member States, civil society and all other relevant actors to join with people of African descent and take effective measures for the implementation of the programme of activities in the spirit of recognition, justice and development.
  At the heart of Badagry Diaspora Festival 2015 was the essential condition of black people in the Diaspora and their possible integration with the motherland. It 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 the Mr. Babatunde Olaide-Mesewaku-led African Renaissance Foundation (AREFO), the festival had guests from Haiti, Benin Republic and Nigeria as resource persons who articulated the fundamentals of synergy between Africa Diaspora and the motherland. Sadly, it had no support from either Lagos State or federal governments.
  But on the whole, there was disappointment at how African countries have fared in ameliorating the essential conditions of the Blackman and the need to improve on it to raise the profile of Africans everywhere from a deprived, oppressed, corrupt and downtrodden race continually at the receiving end of other peoples’ evil machinations. But more importantly, the symposium turned attention to conditions prevalent in modern Africa that continue to force its young and skilled professionals to migrate to the west in what some have aptly termed the second wave of voluntary slave labour through perilous routes not unlike what happened during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the Trans-Saharan Slave Trade centuries ago. Only this time, it’s voluntary enslavement largely for economic reasons.
  Badagry festival organiser, Olaide-Mesewaku brought the historical import of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to the fore when he called it a monumental genocide, with its moral burden lying heavily on Europeans. He argued, “As the Holocaust is to the Jews so is the slave trade to Africans, though the two experiences are not comparable in terms of effects, scope and magnitude, duration and loss as the African experience remains the worst in human history.  But while we have events and ceremonies, monuments and institutions commemorating the Holocaust in Israel and all over Europe and America, African leaders are either afraid or shy to talk about or be associated with the history of the slave trade. This, to me, is a calculated attempt towards excision of the memory of the history of slave trade.
  “In response to this historical void, I therefore propose the establishment of an ‘Institute for Diaspora Studies’ in Nigeria. The institute will seek to address, amongst other things, the issues of the slave trade and its aftermath, modern slavery, neo-colonialism, child labour, human trafficking and the question of oppression in all ramification. The institute will help in no small measure to reposition Nigeria’s socio-political and economic relations and stimulate re-connection with African descents in the diaspora. Badagry is well positioned for the establishment of this institute”.
IMAGES of thousands of black Africans crossing the Mediterranean Sea through the Straights of Gilbrata and perishing in the process have become a source of concern in a migratory wave that bleeds the continent dry of the skilled professionals that should develop her.
  Indeed, Mere Jah Evejah, who has since emigrated from Guadeloupe in the Caribbean to settle in neighbouring Benin Republic, noted that Europeans enslaved Africans for their knowledge and skills (scientific and otherwise) in their plantations, noting that if Europeans were honest they would say the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was “transfer of knowledge from Africa to Europe and the Americas; they needed our knowledge and took Africans by force”.
  However, the tables would seem to have turned, with able-bodied African professionals voluntarily fleeing the continent to Europe and North America for better living conditions. It was Dr. Amos O. Abisoye of Department of Social Sciences, Crawford University, Ogun State, who put the dire situation in context in his presentation, ‘African Political Leadership and Development: The Diaspora Connection’ at the Badagry festival, where he castigated African leaders for the forced migration of Africans in modern times.
  He 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. Today, there is seismic immigration of human assets including many of the most vibrant scholars from African universities and colleges to North America and European institutions. Many of the experienced, vibrant scholars leaving the shores of Africa are simply irreplaceable and indispensable…
  “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 anchored on the Atlantic shore today, many Africans would volunteer to jump in it and be taken to the west”.
  While Abisoye’s argument was not flattering, he did not spare Africans for abandoning the Office of the Citizen, the reason why they are afraid to rise up against their internal oppressors the way L’ouverture and his fellow wayfarers, all former slaves, did in Haiti to liberate themselves and procure precious freedom. Abisoye further asserted, “The fundamental difference is that the slaves of the southern plantation system stopped at nothing in their quest for freedom, whereas present-day Africans have become too weak and unable to challenge those who exploit and dominate them.
  “The courage and determination of African slaves like Tousaint L’ouverture who led his people to challenge those who enslaved them remain the greatest challenge of black slavery in our generation”.
  Undoubtedly, the place of the black man in a modern world has increasingly come into question and so crucial that the U.N. is taking steps to redress it while African leaders are clueless on what to do. Little or nothing is being done to narrow the gulf between Africa Diaspora and the motherland. Economic and political conditions on the continent do not attract Diaspora returnees. Perhaps, the continent’s leaders would need to take a cue from the U.N.’s decade-long searchlight being beamed on issues limiting the black race from achieving optimal capacity.
  Abisoye enjoined Africa Diaspora to form a coalition against corruption in African, which he attributes to the rampant poverty and under-development in the motherland.

SECRETARY of a pan African political party in Benin Republic Mr. Oluwafemi Kochoni said only a pan African strategy of action founded on the discipline exhibited by L’ouverture and his henchmen in Haiti could revise Africa’s current woeful fortunes. He noted that this was so because Africa was too weak to withstand the onslaught of globalizasion, and therefore canvased for an enlightening education that liberated the mind and freed the individual mentally.
  Haitian Jacques Nicolas sued for a pan-African cultural activism, and sought closer cooperation between the Diaspora and the motherland using the instrumentality of the art. He stated, “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. And 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”.
  The question African leaders should ask themselves: how can the U.N.-declared decade be leveraged to better the lot of Africans and begin the process of forging enduring partnerships with those in the Diaspora for stronger economic and political ties to improve the continent dark image? A developed Africa motherland would be attractive to those in the Diaspora. More importantly, a developed Africa will stem the tide of wanton migrations to Europe and North America. It also means available educated manpower that will solve Africa’s manifold problems.
  Therefore, African leaders must be roused from their slumber to take action for the decade to count for the generality of Africans the world over.

Nollywood, Hollywood stars, others pay tribute to Adadevoh, Nigerian spirit

By Anote Ajeluorou and Ikechukwu Onyewuchi

Film practitioners from Nollywood and Hollywood yesterday in Lagos paid glowing tribute to Dr. Stella Adadevoh, the staff of First Consultant Hospital and what they described as the Nigerian spirit in the fight and containment of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) last year by immortalising their heroic efforts in an emotional film titled 93 Days.
  The leading Hollywood actors in the world press conference to announce the completion of the film project were legendary Mr. Danny Glover and Mr. Tim Reid while Nigeria’s Nollywood had Ms Bimbo Akintola, Mr. Gideon Okeke and Mr. Keppy Ekpeyong-Bassey. Also present were the producers, Mrs. Bolanle Austin-Peters, Mr. Dotun Olakunri, with producer and director Mr. Steve Gukas.
  For Glover, it was an emotional reunion with the motherland, and canvassed the need to form stronger ties between African descendants in the diaspora and the homeland. He also spoke about Nigeria’s immense potentials to achieve great things.
  According to him, “Since coming here, I have felt so particularly proud. The film is a reminiscence of the achievement and testimony of positivity of Nigerians. It’s a very special moment. We come from a generation of African descendants who want to reconnect with Africa in a big way. It’s part of the much larger legacy of Dr. E.B. Dubois and many others who wanted a reunion with Africa. It was their responsibility to tell the true story of us Africans. We will continue with that and to be able to tell that story. It’s part of the extraordinary potential that the continent has; it comes out in the spirit that we can do this”.
  Also another African-American, Reid sued for the need to continue to connect with Africa so as “to create a new machine of storytelling. I’m proud to be here. The whole world is watching what is happening in Nigeria, its film industry. In a few years the world will be shocked by the machines of storytelling that is here”.
  For Austin-Peters the project is an emotional one, as it made her cry just reading the film script. The Managing Director of culture centre Terra Kulture, Austin-Peters said making films is not her outfit’s business but that she fell in love with the project after reading the script and set out sourcing funds for its realization.
  As she put it, “It’s important we tell our stories. There’s too much projection of negative stories about Nigeria. Now Nigerians will shine internationally. We preempted others like Americans from doing and then bringing it back to us to buy. It’s a great production we have”.
  The director Gukas said 93 Days “celebrates and underscores what we are in Nigeria” and called it a fantastic performance of the heroics of the men and women that gave their lives so that Nigeria might live.
  He added, “The content of the film doesn’t just entertain, but that it can provoke you. What we did is to take charge about the telling of our stories ourselves. We have made a very good film and an important project”.
  Gukas described the experience of shooting the film in real life spots that were the epicentres of the Ebola saga as surreal, saying, “It was a surreal experience to shoot real life story in real life locations; first at First Consultant Hospital and then at the isolation spot in Yaba where those infected were kept. Entering the spot in Yaba was surreal”.
  Nollywood actress Akintola said no character she had acted before ever had so much impact and emotional pull on her as Adadevoh. “Trying to be Adadevoh was really hard. In less than three weeks, she changed lives; she changed me. Adadevoh was really amazing. Hers is the most impactful role I have ever played”.
  It was the same for Okeke, who played Dr. Morris of the hospital. He said, “Morris took me by hand and walked me through it chronologically; he let me see through it all”.
  Others who worked on the project included Paul Rowlson from England, America’s Pemon Rami and Joseph Omoibom.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Wagging Mind Battles Over Good And Evil In Romancing the Night

y Anote Ajeluorou

Thoughts are the pathways that determine a man or woman’s direction, what he does and does not do. Good and evil spring from a man’s thoughts and it seems easier to think good thoughts than execute them. But bad thoughts or thoughts that have little value for man’s edification, thoughts that actually harm man, come easily, readily to mind; they are relatively easier to execute, but usually with fatal consequences. Indeed, how do good or bad thoughts come to minds?
  How the mind functions as a battleground for good and bad thoughts that ultimately determine a man’s action and manifestation formed the core of an evangelising play Romancing the Night staged last Sunday at BlueNest Hotel, Osolo Way, Ajao Estate, Lagos. It was another theatre production of The Rose of Sharon, an arm of The Patter’s Heritage written and directed by Mr. Ben Chiadika.
  Tony (Ekiyor Oinmiebi) is a Christian, but who is fast falling into the trap of a hectic work-a-day demands of living in the city. Like most city dwellers, he returns home late, brings home office assignments and so has very little time to meditate on the word of God and so renew his spirit man. There are other distractions that make it almost impossible for him to read his bible and pray. His neighbor and Pastor Matthew (Femi Bolorunde) whose permissive lifestyle is source of concern for his wife is another of Tony’s many headaches. He’s a great fan of football and doesn’t miss a match. In fact, he’s as worldly as they come. But his wife (Edna Konwea) is far more sensitive and just knows that her husband has lost the fire of his first calling as a Christian. She sounds the alarm bell, but her husband just wouldn’t care. He’s contented with just being a pastor of his church and believes that is all there is. He doesn’t feel the need to work harder at his salvation beyond the ordinary.
  But the real battleground is in Tony’s mind. Two agents, of good and bad, are policing his mind and the direction of his actions. These agents of supernatural realm whisper and cajole him on what he should do at every turn. While the agent of evil sways him to the left with his unrelenting insistence, the agent of good gently tries to sway him to the right. But it is clear the agent of evil is far more spirited and cunning in his activity. Of course, this is understandable. The path to evil seems more appealing while the path to good seems a little too demanding, strict and almost devoid of any worldly enjoyment. For instance, the scene where Pastor Matthew’s dashingly seductive niece arrives to stock Tony’s fridge with drinks for a party is instructive. It also provides great comic moment that aroused bouts of laughter from the audience.
  The agent of evil literally pushes the wooing niece into the arms of Tony who, yet to be unmarried, finds the moment almost Godsend, but the agent of good gently reminds him who he is and why being involved with her in a carnal way will not serve him well. Whereupon Tony bursts into a praise and worship song that greatly repels the niece, who is in the church choir. What is worse, Pastor Matthew arrives soon after to announce to Tony that he actually sent his niece so Tony could have a good look at her; he designs it for Tony to fall into temptation.
  The performance comes to a climax with a false alarm. Rapture is reported to have taken place and Tony, Pastor Matthew and his wife are not in the party to heaven; they have missed rapture, that transformation into heavenly glory that every Christian is expectantly waiting for. They are all devastated and a moment of soul-searching ensues. They examine their lives and see that they had come short of God’s glory and their Christian expectations. The prospect of enduring the years of the antichrist is too calamitous for them to contemplate. But it soon comes to light that it is false alarm and rapture has not occurred and that they have another chance at salvation. They begin to rededicate themselves to the service of God…
  In Romancing the Night Chiadika delivers a stunning ecclesiastical message that obviously set the audience and many Christians to think about their Christian journey. The care of the world is a snare too real and too great for many a Christian who wishes to worship God in truth and spirit can afford to ignore. It is vintage theatre evangelism and Chiadika deserves commendation for reawakening city Christians, and indeed, all Christians, to the ever present danger they face in their Christian race. Yet again, Frank Konwea delivers strongly as agent of evil; he literally brought the play alive with his charming performance that provides unforgettable comic scenes that brand the play indelibly in the minds of the audience.
  however, rather than stage one play just once a month, The Patter’s Heritage could take a cue from Theatre@Terra where one play is staged twice a day on two consecutive Sundays for maximum effect and to a larger audience, as those who saw it previously would announce it to yet others to go see it. Free to the public, as a Christian evangelising mouthpiece, The Patter’s Heritage has taken a bold step to bring live theatre to the most unlikely place and venue. Although not performed in none purpose-built theatre environment, the cast made the most of it since its first production Ona staged last month. Chiadika restated The Patter’s Heritage’s commitment to continue to bring stage drama to those around Isolo and Oshodi and beyond for the value of live theatre to permeate to a wider, even reluctant audience.
  Performing Romancing the Night didn’t come until Spirit and Truth, the music arm of The Patter’s Heritage had taken the stage. But perhaps its most captivating performance was the Igbo song of redemption during the Nigerian Civil War or Biafra War titled ‘Nna bia nuru olu anyi… olisa bi n’elu bia nuru olu anyi o,’ (Lord, come and hear our cries) which Lady Onyeka Onwenu gave national prominence in her album. It was accompanied with beautiful choreography that also drew applause.
  The Patter’s Heritage’s next production comes up on October 18 at the same venue. Stella’s Place will be the play in focus while the music and choreography is titled Liberty in tune with Nigeria’s independence anniversary.

No Proper Economic Thinkers In Nigeria’s Govts, Says Ofeimun

By Anote Ajeluorou

NOTABLE poet, polemicist and economic thinker Mr. Odia Ofeimun has asserted that lack of proper economic thinkers in Nigeria’s governments have been responsible for the country’s woes. He accused those managing the country’s economy of myopia, as they fail to take the future into account and adequately plan for it.
  Ofeimun was speaking two days ago in Lagos at the presentation of a provocative book Economists As Assassins: The Nigerian Connection written by Dr. Jimanze Ego-Alowes, a political thinker who has written two other books – Minorities As Competitive Overlords and Corruption in Africa: Resolution through New Diagnosis.
  Economists, Ofeimun argued, had done so much harm to the Nigerian economy it would not be out of place to cock guns when any of them is in sight. He advised that everyone should learn the rudiments of economics so as to avoid being hoodwinked by professional economists. He also stated that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari was already falling into the same error of cluelessness it accused President Goodluck Jonathan in its romance with western governments that are battling to stabilize their economies and which will not hesitate to use Nigeria as buffer.
  According to him, “ Ideas, when they are mixed, destroy lives more than guns. Everyone ought to be an economist. My father’s vast wealth was knocked off when the banks crashed in the 1950s; I had to read economics so I don’t get hoodwinked.
  “In fact, there are no proper economic thinkers in Nigeria’s governments. So, we’re in danger of doing something out of sync with rationality. All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are not discussing the Nigerian reality. When people turn expletives and curses into economics, then there is trouble. When one party says another is clueless, it means no Nigerian has a clue. The problem that Jonathan had is exactly what Buhari is having whether to sign or not to sign economics partnership with Europe. Asking for help from them is asking for trouble because they are in trouble, too. A country needs to have strong spines to stand firm”.
  Ofeimun also accused Nigerian economists of failing to take the future into account while organising the present. As he put it, “Who has done a proper description of the future we must move into? We haven’t been able to describe the present well either and the past remains vague. Those managing the economy have forgotten what it means to plan for the future. Nigeria is the most eminently savable country in the world”.
  On Ego-Alowes and his revolutionary ideas, Ofeimun said, “I don’t have to agree with him, but I always want him around. He always takes the broad strokes in his writings and makes you fill the gaps”.
  Also speaking was newspaper columnist Mr. Henry Boyo, who described Ego-Alowes, as a courageous and creative writer who has a treasure trove of novel and original ideas and who often leaves his readers stunned with his original opinions. According to him, “Jimanze must love this country to have written so passionately and engagingly. You are a great writer, one of the best of your generation. I have never seen anyone who sees Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu as a thug, but Jimanze did”.
  Others present were former Commissioner for Information in Anambra State, Mr. Tony Onyima, Mr. Nik Ogbulie who chaired the event and columnist Otunba Tola Adeniyi among other media buffs.