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Africa’s new sets of complex challenges dissected at Achebe 2012 Colloquium

In effect, governments like Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, to name a few, are faced with the daunting task of securing a democratic state, foreign to their current political DNA developed from decades of dictatorship. The Central and Eastern regions are undergoing an incredible time of turmoil and instability; to add, South Sudan, as recent as July 9th 2011, celebrated its new national identity and independence from Sudan. West Africa is yet to find an answer to the evolving proliferation and sophistication of terrorism. Africa’s Southern Region still wrestles with matters of race, politics, economic problems, AIDS, housing scarcity and peace building.

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Africa’s new sets of complex challenges dissected at Achebe 2012 Colloquium

By George Ukomadu

Special to USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston •  www.USAfricaonline.com                                                 • @Twitter.com/Chido247Facebook.com/USAfricaChido n Facebook.com/USAfrica247

USAfrica: December 7-8, 2012 marked the 4th annual Achebe Colloquium on Africa, held at the prestigious Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island – in partnership with The Achebe Foundation. Top American and African government officials and attaches – including United Nations and the European Union,

renowned scholars and celebrated business leaders occupied the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts to exchange ideas about some of Africa’s most pressing challenges in the ever and now rapidly shifting political and economic global landscape.

The 40 million dollar center, still in infancy, enjoyed its official opening in February 2011. The three story; 38, 825 square foot interdisciplinary center is situated at the heart of the University’s College Hill, and is home to Brown University’s faculty and students, expanding the purpose, research and boundaries of arts expression and discipline.

The Colloquium had a theme of ‘Governance, Security and Peace in Africa’, and seeking answers for the continent’s past, current and increasingly volatile milieu.

Substantially, the Achebe Colloquium ranks among Africa’s touchstone gathering of this calendar year.

 

The weekend’s activities commenced with a brief address by Brown University president, Christina Paxson followed by a spirited plenary address by billionaire-philanthropist from the Sudan, Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.  All were sure to give due honor to Chinua Achebe, the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies.

Fresh from his recently (2012) published work, ‘There Was a Country: A personal history of Biafra’, Professor Chinua Achebe, now 82 years old, witnessed the wealth of knowledge from the weekend’s events.  The memoir begins with this Igbo proverb, “A man who does know where the rain began to beat him cannot say where he dried his body.”  This adage encapsulates Professor Achebe’s historical reflections that gave life to the then hibernating volcano of intertribal unrest; in externality, opening many tonic wounds, unwittingly cloaked as scars.

The agitation awakened younger generations of ‘Nigerians’ worldwide, some unaware of their slumber.  It re-inaugurated a dialogue that shone a light on the very core of Nigeria’s underpinning.  Is it possible that this country cannot move forward or see true progress with such a heavy weight on its back?

 

Even more haunting, is the larger picture – Africa.  Why has Africa not seen reasonable positive change for at least, the past half century?  Is there a rebirth on the horizon? If so, how will it come to fruition?  It was precisely this line of inquiry that served as the overarching theme: guiding the two-day discourse in Rhode Island, USA.

There is no denying that Africa is facing new sets of complex challenges in the 21st century.  Some link the present landscape to that dreadful, but hope-filled day (November 17, 2010) Mohammed Bouazizi gave his life (self-immolation) in protest of the Tunisian government.  This act sparked a revolution in Tunisia and since then, has taken the world by storm, evening garnering Time magazine’s 2011 Person of the Year: The Protester.  Subsequent events have led to regime change in many African and middle-eastern countries, alike.  In effect, governments like Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, to name a few, are faced with the daunting task of securing a democratic state, foreign to their current political DNA developed from decades of dictatorship.  The Central and Eastern regions are undergoing an incredible time of turmoil and instability; to add, South Sudan, as recent as July 9th 2011, celebrated its new national identity and independence from Sudan.  West Africa is yet to find an answer to the evolving proliferation and sophistication of terrorism.  Africa’s Southern Region still wrestles with matters of race, politics, economic problems, AIDS, housing scarcity and peace building.

Some of the panelists in deliberation were John Campbell, Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria (2004-2007),  Walter Carrington (former U.S Ambassador to Nigeria), Prof. V.Y Mudimbe, Horace Campbell, professor of African American Studies and Political Science, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, Ambassador Dhanojak Obongo, Deputy Head of Mission for the Republic of South Sudan to the United States, Uzodinma Nwala, Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the Nasarawa State University, Nasarawa in Nigeria, Bisa Williams  (U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Niger), Johnny Moloto (Deputy Chief of Mission for the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa in the United States), Shehu Sani, Nigerian activist, playwright, author, and the president of Civil Rights Congress and Emira Woods who serves as Co-Director, Foreign Policy In Focus, Institute for Policy Studies, Washington, DC.

Keynote addresses were presented by Mohamed Ibrahim, founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, former managing director of the World Bank and one of the leading technocrats from South Africa, General Carter F. Ham, Commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), Emma Rothschild (Jeremy and Jane Knowles Professor of History, Chair of Research Council and Common Security Forum and Director of the Center for History and Economics at Harvard University) and Babatunde Raji Fashola, Governor of Lagos State, Nigeria.

 

The Achebe colloquium was moderated for the 2 days by Dr. Chido Nwangwu, CEO of Houston-based USAfrica and the first African owned professional newspaper published on the internet, USAfricaonline.com.

From its inception, The Achebe Colloquium has been on the bleeding edge of the ‘African Conversation’.  In 2009, the colloquium focused on the challenging issues affecting Nigeria’s then local and proceeding national government elections, as well as the country’s strategic position in light of Africa’s development.  In 2010, Rwanda, Congo and Nigeria were the primary focus.  The deliberations focused on the increasingly complex challenges impacting the respective regions.  The 2011 colloquium tackled several challenges looming over the Northern and Eastern regions, in the wake of the Arab Spring – also highlighted were the issues of China and U.S. presence in Africa.

There were three takeaways that summed up the weekend’s discourse.  The first was a sentiment expressed by Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim.  In his commentary about Africa’s current state of affairs, he remarked that all of today’s civilized and developed countries were once colonized; so if Africa is to reach its highest potential, it must throw away all of its excuses and begin building like others have done beforehand.

The second was from  Governor Fashola, who dismissed the notion of the new and popular placard, ‘Africa Rising’.  He expanded his argument by making reference to Julius Caesar’s Roman Empire, Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt and 14th century Timbuktu, Mali – noting that Africa was once great and is currently experiencing a renaissance.

The last, but not least, is the poignant charge by Professor Horace Campbell: one can only engage in a serious conversation about Africa if the assertion of its people’s humanity is the number one priority.

•Ukomadu contributed this report, exclusively, as a special correspondent for USAfricaonline.com and CLASSmagazine, Houston.

———-

First on USAfrica: Fashola on Achebe’s Biafra explosive book, live at Achebe colloquium. http://usafricaonline.com/2012/12/08/fashola-on-achebes-biafra-explosive-book-live-at-achebe-colloquium-by-chido-nwangwu/

By Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica multimedia networks (Houston), first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com                                                      @Twitter.com/Chido247Facebook.com/USAfricaChido n Facebook.com/USAfrica247

USAfrica: On a chilly Friday of December 7, 2012, Babatunde Raji Fashola, the popular Governor of Lagos State of Nigeria, flew into Rhode Island as a special guest and plenary session speaker at the Achebe colloquium on Africa. At almost 4:46pm,

he commenced his prepared speech with off-the-cuff remarks on a wide range of issues.

After a string of brilliant philosophical arguments regarding Africa’s renaissance to chronicling several remarkable achievements of his governorship, he cautiously stepped into thorny grounds….. Around the end of his impressive 38 minutes message, he carefully navigated the heated debates, the minefields of strong support and personal attacks which have followed Prof. Chinua Achebe’s latest 2012 work of history, poetry, education and creative exposition titled ‘There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra.’

Gov. Fashola, standing at the podium almost 15 feet away from Achebe, told the galaxy of African, American, European and Asian scholars, researchers, students, activists and business executives that the heat generated by the book almost made him look for a reason to avoid the event rescheduled for him from the 2011 colloquium, almost 300 days ago.
He said, according to the USAfricaonline.com notes at the colloquium: that after reading just about half of the book “I wanted to write Prof. Achebe to give him reasons why I cannot attend today’s occasion….” He said he was under pressure from his immediate Yoruba constituency.

He immediately ordered the new book to be mailed to an address in England, he would be traveling to– at the time. The man said he needed to read the book to know and understand why there was so much passion against and for the book; especially against the book by people of his ethnic group, majority of his supporters. “I’m Yoruba. Prof. Chinua Achebe is an Igbo. I’m a student of Things Fall Apart; things were No longer at Ease, but the center still held…”, he added, to applause from the audience, a play on words about some of Achebe’s novels.

Fashola, a senior advocate of Nigeria, whom I, as moderator of the 2012 Achebe colloquium on Africa, described a few minutes before his speech as “the governor who has shown himself as a worthy example of good governance in Nigeria” appealed to the dueling groups over Achebe’s new book on Biafra to calm things and “move forward.”

Consequently, during the Q&A session, he was asked by Prof. Obi Nwakanma (a contributing editor of USAfricaonline.com and staff of University of Central Florida): “When will the wounds of the war heal?”
In a frank, brief answer, Fashola said the wounds may heal but the scars will be there; adding that, in his view, the new generation of Nigerians want to move beyond the issue.

In a remarkable context for him and the audience, Fashola pointed out, according to the USAfricaonline.com notes at the colloquium: “I was only 4 years old” when the 1967-1970 Nigeria-Biafra war started.

But there were more follow-up questions, including the ones which raised the issue of the brutal devastations and genocidal killings held against Nigerian soldiers and wartime leaders (especially the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as reiterated by Achebe in his new book, extensively quoting Awolowo’s own words).

Gov. Fashola blamed the national information management system and its failure to document and release official information about events like the war for the heated disagreements.
(USAfrica and

USAfricaonline.com will post more from Fashola’s comments to the USAfrica question on whether he will contest the 2015 presidential elections, and other issues which were featured in Chido’s live-blogging of his speech/remarks on USAfrica’s Facebook page Facebook.com/USAfricaChido and Twitter.com/Chido247).                                                                                                                                                       •Special report by Dr. Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica multimedia networks, first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com; and recipient of several journalism and public policy awards, was recently profiled by the CNN International for his pioneering works on multimedia/news/public policy projects for Africans and Americans. http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2010/07/29/mpa.african.media.bk.a.cnn.

WHY I CELEBRATE THE LIFE AND WORKS OF NELSON MANDELA. By Chido Nwangwu  http://usafricaonline.com/2010/07/15/mandela-why-i-celebrate-his-life-works-by-chido-nwangwu/

Nigeria’s Federal Republic of Insecurity. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica, USAfricaonline.com and the Nigeria360 e-group. http://usafricaonline.com/2011/12/17/nigeria-federal-republic-of-insecurity-by-chido-nwangwu/ : IF any of the Nigerian President’s 100 advisers has the polite courage for the extraordinary task of reminding His Excellency of his foremost, sworn, constitutional obligation to the national interest about security and safety of Nigerians and all who sojourn in Nigeria, please whisper clearly to Mr. President that I said, respectfully: Nigerians, at home and abroad, are still concerned and afraid for living in what I call Nigeria’s Federal Republic of Insecurity. FULL text of commentary at USAfricaonline.com http://usafricaonline.com/2011/12/17/nigeria-federal-republic-of-insecurity-by-chido-nwangwu/

 

Obama’s Africa agenda, our business and democracy. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfricaonline.com and CLASS magazine and The Black Business Journal

USAfrica: As Egypt’s corrupter-in-chief Mubarak slides into history’s dustbin.  By Chido Nwangwuhttp://usafricaonline.com/2011/01/30/chido-nwangwu-as-egypt-corrupter-in-chief-mubarak-slides-into-historys-dustbin-egyptians-not-waiting-for-obama-and-united-nations/

Tunisia, Egypt . . . Is Nigeria next? By Prof. Rosaire Ifedi           http://usafricaonline.com/2011/02/13/tunisia-egypt-is-nigeria-next-by-prof-rosaire-ifedi/

USAfrica: Awolowo’s Starvation Policy against Biafrans and the Igbo requires apology not attacks on Achebe. By Francis Adewale.

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AFRICA

World SOCCER SHOWDOWN: South Africa backs Morocco; U.S under pressure

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Special to USAfrica [Houston]  • USAfricaonline.com  •  @Chido247  @USAfricalive

“It is an old myth that Africa doesn’t have the capacity, and naysayers should stop using the political argument. Africa hosted the best Fifa World Cup ever and with good support, Morocco can emulate South Africa,” said the SAFA president Jordaan.

Johannesburg – South Africa Football Association (SAFA) president Danny Jordaan has promised Morocco that South Africa will give its unqualified support to secure another World Cup on the African continent in 2026.

Morocco is vying to stage the world’s biggest football prize against a joint bid by Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

The Moroccan delegation comprises ex-Senegal and Liverpool striker El Hadji Diouf and former Cameroonian goalkeeper Joseph-Antoine Bell.

Jordaan said it would be great for Africa to have a second bite of the World Cup cherry, adding Morocco’s bid was Africa’s bid.

Jordaan assured Morocco that he would personally lobby for the Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) and the rest of the continent to rally behind the Moroccans.

In his remarks, Antoine Bell said Morocco had all the ingredients to host another spectacular World Cup.

“South Africa showed the way and I am confident Morocco will follow suit. The country has international standards, from the stadiums to top infrastructure. Morocco can compete with the best in the world,” he said.

By giving Morocco its support, South Africa’s voice would make all the difference on the continent, Bell said.

“When South Africa talks on the continent, the rest of the continent listens hence it is vital for South Africa to support Morocco. South Africa has the experience and Morocco will use this experience to win the 2016 bid,” added Bell. African News Agency

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AFRICA

USAfrica: Catholic priest Etienne killed by militia in DR Congo, after a wedding mass

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Special to USAfrica [Houston]  •  @USAfricaLIVE

Goma – A Catholic priest was found shot dead hours after he said mass in Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive North Kivu province, a member of the church told AFP.

“Father Etienne Sengiyumva was killed [on] Sunday by the Mai Mai Nyatura (militia) in Kyahemba where he had just celebrated a mass including a baptism and a wedding,” father Gonzague Nzabanita, head of the Goma diocese where the incident occurred, told AFP.

The Mai Mai Nyatura are an armed group operating in North Kivu, in eastern DRC.

Nzabanita said Sengiyumva, 38, had had lunch with local faithful before “we found him shot in the head”.

North and South Kivu provinces are in the grip of a wave of violence among militia groups, which often extort money from civilians or fight each other for control of mineral resources.

Last week unknown assailants kidnapped a Catholic priest in North Kivu, demanding $500 000 for his release.

Eastern DRC has been torn apart by more than 20 years of armed conflict, fuelled by ethnic and land disputes, competition for control of the region’s mineral resources, and rivalry between regional powers.

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AFRICA

USAfrica: Nigeria’s LOOTERS LIST and Buhari’s selective corruption targets. By Majeed Dahiru

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PDP vs APC Looters List and Buhari’s selective corruption targets

By Majeed Dahiru

Special to USAfrica {Houston] • USAfricaonline.com • @USAfricaLive

 

Timipriye Silva, a former governor and PDP chieftain, who became a founding member and financier of APC, had his corruption charges quashed by a federal high court and Buhari’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) failed to appeal the N19.5 billion fraud case.

More curious are the missing names of some accused looters with marital ties to Nigeria’s First and Second families. Gimba Yau Kumo, the PDP appointed former managing director of the Federal Mortgage Bank and now son-in-law of President Buhari, who was similarly accused of fraudulent activities amounting to about N3 billion and reportedly being investigated by EFCC, is missing from [Buhari’s Information Minister] Lai Mohammed’s list.

For a party that has been accused of destroying Nigeria by squandering accrued oil revenues estimated at over $500 billion in sixteen years, it is confounding that Lai’s list is not only exclusively comprised of PDP looters but also captures the last two years of PDP’s last lap in power and included just Goodluck Jonathan’s associates, who supported him against candidate Buhari, while also relating only to funds used in the last electioneering campaign of the PDP.

Whenever the obviously abysmal performance of the Muhammadu Buhari administration appears to be gaining sustained attention, and leading to murmuring within the rank and file of his supporters, a tale of humungous looting by opposition elements is usually spun and thrown into the public space to distract people away from the core issue of the failure of governance.

Like a fit of deja vu, the recently unveiled list of looters by Lai Mohammed, a fellow who comes across as more of President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief propagandist than a minister of the federal republic of Nigeria in charge of information and culture, didn’t come as a surprise. The list is all too familiar as the unveiling was a summarised rehash of politically exposed individuals who are members of the opposition party, close associates of former President Goodluck Jonathan, particularly his appointees in government, who have been named and shamed several times in well-coordinated media trials.

First on Lai’s list is Uche Secondus, the chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Lai had this to say of Secondus: “On the 19th of February 2015, he took N200 million only from the office of the NSA”. An unidentified former financial secretary of the PDP was similarly accused of “taking” N600 million from the same office of the National Security Adviser. Lai Mohammed also re-revealed that frontline member of PDP and media mogul, who deployed his media power to promote Goodluck Jonathan by de-marketing the Buhari candidacy in the run up to 2015 presidential election, Raymond Dokpesi, is on trial for “taking” N2.1 billion from the office of the then NSA. Lai also reminded Nigerians that his shouting match and former spokesman of the PDP, Olisa Metuh is on trial for “collecting” N1.4 billion from the same office of the NSA.

Lai Mohammed’s expanded follow up list included the usual suspects – former ministers, PDP state governors, service chiefs, presidential aides, associates and family members of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who were collectively accused of looting Nigeria of close to $2.1 billion through the office of the former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.).

The choice of words like “took” and “collected” deployed by Lai to describe the manner in which those named received these monies was deliberate for the maximum effect of propaganda, portraying the accused persons as looters who broke into NSA vault and catered away boxes of cash at something akin to a gun point.

While the clamp down on PDP looters who supported Goodluck Jonathan and are still members of the former ruling party has been heavy handed, others who decamped from PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the eve of the 2015 elections and supported candidate Buhari’s campaign with their share of loot have been forgiven. For example, former NSA, Sambo Dasuki is being treated as an apostate for his role in the disbursement of funds that were used to oil Goodluck Jonathan’s electioneering effort. He has been kept in detention illegally and in defiance of several judicial rulings. Judging by the Buhari administration’s anti-corruption standard of an accusation being tantamount to guilt, in clear contempt of court proceedings by the resort to the naming and shaming suspects even before investigations and criminal prosecution are concluded and convictions obtained, it becomes curious that Lai’s list didn’t reveal any new name. Rather some names were either missing or omitted from what is a familiar list. This appears so because the bulk of PDP bigwigs who “destroyed” Nigeria in sixteen years of national rule are firmly in control of the APC, from its elected national executives to the National Assembly and appointed members of the federal executive council. The majority of APC-elected governors were also former members of the PDP. Even recently decamped PDP members to APC, such as Musiliu Obanikoro and Sulivan Chime, who have been prominently named and shamed in the recent past, were conspicuously missing from the released list of looters.

More curious are the missing names of some accused looters with marital ties to the first and second families. Gimba Yau Kumo, a former PDP appointed managing director of the Federal Mortgage Bank and now son-in-law of President Buhari, who was similarly accused of fraudulent activities amounting to about N3 billion and reportedly being investigated by EFCC, is missing from Lai’s list. Also missing on that list is Bola Shagaya.

Arguably one of Africa’s richest women, with a reputation for close business and political ties to all first families in the past two decades, Bola Shagaya was exceptionally close to the Goodluck Jonathan family. Often described as a bosom friend of former first lady Patience Jonathan, she has been accused, in numerous instances, allegedly, of acting as Patience Jonathan’s front for the laundering of illicit money estimated at over N13 billion, while engaging in other fraudulent activities involved in state capture. All that may be in the past now as she has found her way back to reckoning with the marriage of her son, Seun Bakare to Damilola, the daughter of Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo. Little wonder then, Bola Shagaya’s name is not on Lai’s looters list.

In a clear display of the arrogance of ignorance, the Buhari administration has narrowed its war on corruption to the hounding of members of the Jonathan administration, other individuals and organisations that were known to have worked against the emergence of the President [Buhari] in the 2015 presidential elections. This is clearly evident in the selective nature of the current anti-corruption effort.

The tone of generalisation of the PDP as the problem of Nigeria, as an indicator of corruption, should make all members of PDP (both former and present) and their collaborators in other parties guilty, hence qualifying them for naming and shaming, while being liable for criminal prosecution.

Therefore, Buhari’s list of looters is devoid of integrity, because his selective war on corruption is indicative of corruption in itself. All that is required of a former PDP looter is to get baptised into APC and profess Buhari as the saviour of Nigeria. This is precisely responsible for the failure and ineffectiveness of the war on corruption. Nothing has changed as the current APC looters continue to loot Nigeria, while the redeemed former PDP looters continue to enjoy their loot in hibernation under the abundant grace of the infallible Buhari.

• Dahiru is based in Abuja 

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