NOUN Int’l conference: Unite with diaspora citizens, speakers urge African leaders  




Main gate of National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN)
Main gate of National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN)

By Emmanuel Afonne

Dr David Wilson, President, Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland, U.S. has called on African countries especially Nigeria, to unite with its citizens in the diaspora to achieve the needed development required to compete with the western world.

Wilson said this at the just concluded 2nd International Conference of Social Sciences with the theme “Africa and its Diaspora: Opportunities, Challenges and the Future”, hosted by the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Abuja.

According to Wilson, a keynote speaker at the conference, African countries must collaborate with their citizens in the diaspora to be able to reclaim their oneness which was lost during the colonial era.

Wilson in his lecture titled “People of Africa and the African Diaspora, Unite! We Have Everything to Gain and Nothing Lose”, said most prominent and iconic leaders in Africa including Julius Nyerere, Robert Mugabe, Fredrick Chiluba and others, have done so much to keep Africa united through purposeful leadership.

“What I learned from these is that good leader must be silent before he can listen; he must listen before he can learn and he must learn before he can prepare, and he must prepare before he can serve.

“He must serve before he can lead. I learned also that every good and effective leader – whether in education, government, business or any other field or profession, must be prepared to be a long distance runner. He must be prepared to see his dreams and goals deferred and not give up on them.

“He must be prepared to confront hurdle after hurdle and obstacle after obstacle and not give in to despair and if he is a person of colour in this world, he must be prepared confront and engage his adversaries fiercely – numerous and unenlightened as they are, without surrendering his human dignity or capacity to love.

“A good leader must be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when he needs help, and brave enough to ask for it,” Wilson said.

The university don explained that Africa and African Diaspora were in a positive way the last frontier in the modern world and as such must be eager to promote its prosperity, growth and culture.

He, however, cautioned that African countries must be very shrewd and vigilant in replicating Western-style development in the continent to avoid them compromising or abandoning all the positive attributes they constructed as culture over the centuries.

“When you realise that there are over 1.2 billion people in Africa and nearly 170 million people of African descent in the African Diaspora around the globe – that is, nearly 1.4 billion Africans and people of Africa descent living today, second in population only to the continent of Asia, you see clearly that we constitute one of the most significant and potentially powerful and influential populations in the world today.

“I suggest to you that we unite, lock arms, and move forward in unison in every way possible to promote the development of Africa and African Diaspora on our own terms and not allow others to image or imagine us and our future.

“For far too long, we have allowed our detractors around the world to define us and to build boundaries which they have constructed to confine us.

“It is time for us to break free from these barriers and, in unison with one another, map out a future that serves us best,” Wilson added.

Prof. Sheriffdeen Tella, from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State who delivered a lecture titled “Africa and its diaspora: The loses, the gains and the conundrum” blamed the Atlantic Slave Trade for the high number of African migrants witnessed across the world.

He said that about 12 million people were moved from West Africa to America as slaves, noting that the African Union (AU) considered the African diaspora as the sixth region of Africa based on the number of Africans in diaspora.

Tella added: “According to World Bank report in 2012, it was estimated that over 39 million Africans were found in North America; 11.65 million in Latin America; 13.56 million in the Caribbean and 3.51 million in Europe.

“In fact, the African diaspora has been estimated as forming 13.6 per cent of the United States population as at 2018.

“These data are naturally viewed within the context of how much money is generated over time and for which economic development of the member countries can be anchored.”

Tella pointed out that remittance worth $22 billion was reported to flow into the Sub-Saharan Africa annually before the 2008-2009 world financial crisis.

He noted that the remittances for 2010 were estimated at $21 billion and $22 billion in 2011, while the estimates for 2012 to 2014 were $24 billion, $25 billion and $27 billion respectively.

Chairman of the Conference Organising Committee, Prof. Hakeem Tijani had earlier said that the international conference of social sciences had come to stay going by the link between Nigeria in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) and the Nigerians in diaspora.

Tijani who commended the diaspora communities for their emotional attachment to their ancestral described them as politically active, socially upbeat and eagerly interested in developing their homeland.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that over 100 abstracts and 70 papers dissecting the multidisciplinary nature of Africa and its diaspora were generated and discussed at the two-day event.

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