“No Country is Enough” is the title of one of the poems read by Odia Ofeimun, the great Nigerian poet who was very close to Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, the African hero who was honoured in the 50th African day celebrations organised by the Centre for Democracy and their partners last Friday. It was an occasion to reiterate the fact that progressive Africans have always strived, worked for and campaigned for the realization of the Pan African Ideal. This year is particularly important in this regard as it is the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and a time for reflections on where we are, what could have been and what we must do to promote Pan Africanism. In so doing, we cannot but celebrate the life of Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem who died on the 25th May 2009 in an accident while on his way to the Airport in Nairobi, Kenya to catch a flight to Rwanda to meet with the county’s President on the current maternal mortality rate campaign and to Nigeria for a meeting with the MDG Committees of the National Assembly.
While placing in context the poems he presented at the event, Odia Ofeimun stressed that narrow nationalism has been the bane of African development. No country is enough to guarantee the good life for Africans he stressed. Nigeria however is big enough to lead the struggle for the realization of the Pan African ideal and it is a shame that our country has abdicated its responsibility. Odia urged the young persons present at the occasion to learn to listen to poetry as its rhythm might inspire them to great achievements. Like Taju always says, they must learn to organise to change rather than agonise over the terrible conditions they have found in the continent of their birth. In a mesmerising 30 minutes performance, Odia was able to get the hundreds of students present at the occasion to clap and chant to his fantastic capacity to inspire people with words.
The event was chaired by Dr Kayode Fayemi, Executive Governor of Ekiti State who in recognising the great work of Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem stressed the fact that if we continue to commemorate his contributions to Pan Africanism, the reason is found in his life of selfless service to all the people of the continent but also an unfailing commitment to in ideal so think is unrealizable but which we know to be our destiny. Dr Fayemi had to leave the meeting for his struggle for that day which was to be at the election of a legitimate Governor for the Governor’s Forum, but that is another story.
In his own contribution at the symposium, Professor Okey Ibeanu argued that restoring the crushed dignity of the African and not African unity per se is the essence of Pan Africanism. Many African Presidents have been dictators and have used state power to crush the dignity of their own citizens. This might be the reason that the gods decided to take the life of Tajudeen on Africa Day, maybe to show their disgust at the quality of African leaders who have consistently betrayed Pan Africanism. Honorable Nkoyo Toyo, a member of the House of Representatives who has been Nigeria’s ambassador to the African Union stressed the importance of some African Union initiatives such as the Volunteer Corps which is breeding a new generation of Africans that have knowledge of the continent and commitment to serve the people. The most inspirational speech of the day came from Amina Salihu who exhorted the large group of students attending the event not to relent in their determination to leave their country and their continent better than they found it. Change, she explained, is possible with planning, determination and networking. In concluding the symposium, Dr. Usman Bugaje stressed the importance of knowledge in social and political struggles. All that is good comes from knowledge while ignorance breeds all that is evil. If we place more resources in knowledge production therefore, we are creating the basis for positive change in our society.
The high point of the event was the presentation of the Mock 2013 Pan African Summit by the girls of Anglican Girls College Abuja. They exhibited great acting skills as well as knowledge of contemporary African politics. They enacted for example a heated debate between the Presidents of South Africa and the Central African Republic over what South African troops were doing in the country – protecting a legitimate government from internal revolt or creating avenues for stealing the country’s natural resources. The same questions were posed by the Presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. They also placed on the agenda the impact of the Arab Spring and the Libyan conflict on destabilization of the African Continent.
One brave girl presented the speech of our own President Goodluck Jonathan to the African Union Summit. The speech emphasized the determination of President Jonathan to use our resources for the transformation of the country and his lamentation that the rise of terrorism has become a stumbling block to the transformation agenda. Maybe it was a good thing that the girl presented the President Jonathan speech because the echoes I am receiving as I write these words is that President Jonathan was missing on duty when he was called upon to read his speech at the real Summit. We are very grateful to Professor Okello Oculi who directed and inspired the girls to give such a great performance.
All speakers at the event reiterated the fact that Tajudeen was an inspirational leader of the Pan African Movement who should be emulated, especially by the younger generation. He was the Secretary-General of the Pan-African Movement and the most well known Pan Africanist in our generation. Tajedeen was awarded the 2009 African of the Year Prize and in a moving citation read by the Chair of the Daily Trust African of the Year International Advisory Board, Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, former Prime Minister of Tanzania and former Secretary General of the OAU extolled the virtues of Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem whom he said still speaks even in death and is recognized for his tremendous contributions to the development of the African continent.
Dr. Salim said “we are aware that the next generation will not grow up to see Tajudeen, therefore, we must work together to create a better society such that we could say to the next generation: this is the world Tajudeen helped to build”. The citation further recalled Tajudeen’s contribution to the Pan-African Movement especially his role as the General Secretary of the 7th Pan African Congress Secretariat in Kampala Uganda. Throughout his life, Taju spoke the truth to those in power. God willing, we shall meet again next year to continue the struggle for the realisation of a united and progressive Africa where the dignity of all our citizens has been restored.