“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth—If I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.” Psalm 137:5 & 6 (NKJV):
The African, particularly the Nigerian, is everywhere. The joke is told of a spacecraft that heads for Mars with astronauts from several countries, including Nigeria, on board. Upon arrival, the Nigerian spaceman starts to get excited about being the first African to land on the Red Planet. Suddenly, a man emerges from behind the rocks and approaches the acclimatizing spacemen who are shocked to find a human in the terrain. While they are still wondering if it is an alien approaching, the man calls out to them in a language and an accent both familiar to the Nigerian on board: “Kedu nuu? Ndeewo nuu na Mars!” Meaning “How are you? Welcome to Mars!”
This joke might be a fantastic exaggeration of the ubiquity of the African, but it is, indeed, a reflection of reality. I am reminded of my experience in Israel in January 1996 when I was invited to preach at an event marking 3,000 years of the capture of Jerusalem by King David, organised by foremost Pentecostal evangelist, Morris Cerullo. At the end of my session, a man walked up to me and said: “E k’abo, Pastor! S’e fe j’amala?,” meaning, “Welcome, Pastor! Would you like to eat amala?” I was surprised, first to meet a Yoruba Nigerian migrant in faraway Israel, and then to be offered amala, a local Nigerian meal, in Jerusalem.
Since the end of the transatlantic and trans-Saharan slave trades, several worthy endeavours, including education, career, trade, business, and religious missions, have propelled Africans from across the continent to other continents of the world. Groups like the Mourides of Senegal and the Gambia, the Igbos of Nigeria, and the Yorubas of Nigeria and Benin Republic, often form vast trade and socio-cultural networks across the world. Africans in the diaspora are not just ambassadors of the continent’s rich cultural heritage, they contribute significantly to their host countries even in the most esoteric of fields, from nanotechnology to space science.
Many of Africa’s best and brightest are in the diaspora. Nigeria, for instance, has highly skilled nationals all over the world, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. A January 2018 Bloomberg report titled “Africa Is Sending Us Its Best and Brightest” states: “…consider Nigerian-Americans…their education levels are among the very highest in the U.S., above those of Asians, with 17 percent of Nigerian migrants having a master’s degree.” 
These highly skilled Africans in the UK, USA and across the developed world are key to Africa’s development. They are known to contribute to their home countries by way of remittances, initiatives, education facilitation for African students, and so on. I have met several of such Africans across the world and I have seen their deep concern for the state of Africa.
The State of Africa: A Scar on the Conscience or a Star in the Cosmos?
It was former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who said in 2001: The state of Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world. But if the world as a community focused on it, we could heal it. And if we don’t, it will become deeper and angrier.
This narrative of Africa as a gasping patient in the intensive care unit of the universe has been a sad but true aspect of the continent’s history. First, centuries of slavery cast a long shadow on the African identity and left the continent grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder; and then colonialism wheeled her into the emergency ward, while neo-colonial vestiges kept her in a vegetative state. The state of Africa was then defined by symbols of deprivation, devastation, destruction, and death: Kevin Carter’s infamous image of an emaciated child crawling to a nearby United Nations feeding post in Ayod, South Sudan, while a vulture waits on the ground a short distance away for the child’s last breath; the mass graves bearing the 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus killed in one of the most gruesome genocides in history; the comatose state structures of Somalia and the boats of pirates in the Gulf of Aden; the diamond mines of Sierra Leone, Angola, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other gem-endowed countries of the continent, propped up by the blood and corpses of millions of Africans – these are some of the layers of this scar on the conscience of the world.
In the continent’s recent history, the scar has reopened its inflamed orifice in the chaotic landscapes of post-Gaddafi Libya, in the rise of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, in the atrocities of Boko Haram in Nigeria, in cattle rustling in northern Nigeria, and in the horrific killings by herdsmen in central and southern Nigeria.
The reopened wound has further degenerated into gangrene as reflected in the disheartening socio-economic indicators including: the children under age 5 who die every minute in Africa, the 10.5 million children out of school in Africa’s largest country, Nigeria, the 201,000 African mothers who die every year during childbirth, the over 500 million Africans who live in poverty, the rising debt burden awaiting future generations of Africans, the 600 million Africans who have no access to electricity, and the resultant dark night skies that remind the world that Africa was once known as the Dark Continent, and so on.
However, like the moonlight and stars dotting the dark night skies, the gloomy state of Africa has, through the years, and more so in her recent history, been pierced by bright rays of hope. The scar-on-the-conscience narrative is being overwritten by a star-in-the-cosmos alternative.
Beginning from the early 2000s, a decade after the end of the Cold War, sub-Saharan African countries began a journey from dictatorship to democracy. Boosted by rising consumer spending, an expansion in the reach of the Internet, and an improvement in the accessibility of mobile phones, the African economy grew by 50 percent in contrast with a world average of 23 percent. The broadening economic opportunity, in addition to improved social amenities, and enhanced city infrastructure, made the continent the next frontier. This phenomenon was known as “Africa Rising.” It came with an aura of optimism that ushered into the continent a new breed of local and international investors across sectors, from finance to technology, and from manufacturing to the creative industries — bright sparks dotting the landscape like stars in the sky.
“Everything rises and falls on leadership,” says John Maxwell, the leadership expert. Between the scars and the stars, Africa’s trajectory has been shaped against the backdrop of political leadership, both failed and successful. Notwithstanding external influences and factors, the state of Africa has largely been the product of African leadership. It is interesting to note that the African diaspora takes a keen interest in the evolution of leadership on the continent. Let me, therefore, take you on a journey on the interplay of leadership and the state of Africa.
Political Dynamics in Africa: Phases and Faces of African Leadership
The African trajectory has been shaped against the backdrop of nine milestones of political leadership. These are: The Age of Monarchs; The Age of Minions; The Age of Messiahs; The Age of Maniacs; The Age of the Military; The Age of Militias; The Age of Models; The Age of the Modern; The Age of Misfits/Mistakes
The Age of Monarchs
This was the era of the great kings of Africa, the likes of the Pharaohs of Egypt. In sub-Saharan Africa, they include Mansa Musa of the Mali Empire, Sonni Ali of the Songhai Empire, Shaka, the Zulu king, Mai Idris Alooma of the Kanem-Borno Empire, Alaafin Oranyan of Oyo, Oba Ewuare of Benin, Queen Amina of Zaria, Sheikh Uthman dan Fodio of the Sokoto Caliphate, among others.
At this point, African states were organised as empires, kingdoms, city-states and villages with state structures and boundaries subject to territorial expansionary wars. Monarchs ruled by the so-called divine right of kings; they enjoyed cult-like following among their subjects and maintained control through a combination of force and superstition. Despite the limitations of this era, state structures mostly enjoyed legitimacy and close interactions with their people. However, despite the checks and balances inherent in these traditional institutions, in the age of monarchs, Africans were generally deprived of the fundamental freedoms that are a necessary precursor to socioeconomic development.
The Age of Minions
The Age of Monarchs gave way to the Age of Minions when Western powers took hold of Africa and reduced her sovereigns to servile dependents and her political institutions to vassal instruments. This era stripped traditional African political institutions of real power, detached the leader’s sense of responsibility from the people, and engendered a culture of disconnect between leadership and the people. Characterised by the colonial system of indirect rule, the Age of Minions began to infiltrate the psychology of African leadership with a pervading inferiority complex and laid the building blocks of a leadership culture that seeks to compensate for its limitations by further subjugating the people.
The Age of Messiahs
By Messiahs, I mean freedom fighters, liberators who led the various movements that secured independence for African nations. At the turn of the twentieth century, and especially after the Second World War, Africans, particularly those who had lived abroad and had seen the workings of independent democratic societies, began to demand participation in governance. When that was secured, the demand was escalated to full independence. These freedom fighters deployed diverse strategies including negotiations, publications, protests, strikes and, in some cases, armed struggle. I am talking about the likes of Sir Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, all of Nigeria; Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Dr. Hastings Banda of Malawi, Samora Machel of Mozambique, and many others.
What is interesting about this age is that it forged in the African consciousness the republican spirit, especially among peoples who were diametrically opposed to colonialism. The political dynamics of this era were quite interesting in the Nigerian case. While the southern arrow heads became progressively republican, demanding self-rule, the aristocratic north was more conservative and was initially opposed to independence. This dichotomy of political inclinations, as between progressive republicanism and aristocratic conservatism, has remained in the Nigerian polity and has shaped political dynamics in Nigeria.
At the climax of this era, the liberators won independence for their nations and a number of them became political leaders of the newly independent African nations.
The Age of Maniacs
The transition from the leadership of liberation struggles to political leadership was not successful for many of Africa’s first post-independence leaders. Some had virtue but lacked the skill to govern while others failed on both counts. In many cases, African leaders simply stepped into the vacuum left by colonial masters and became self-serving larger-than-life megalomaniacs far removed from the people.
In some cases, those who possessed both skill and virtue were manoeuvred out of the political equation through sectionally controlled political machineries. Some, like Tom Mboya of Kenya and Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were murdered, while some, like Chief Obafemi Awolowo of Nigeria, were imprisoned, and he would later be known as “the best president Nigeria never had.”
The Age of the Military
The resultant socioeconomic disarray in the Age of Maniacs produced mass disappointment with politicians and the political process and provided the needed alibi for the military who had seen successful revolutions in other continents. From one African country to another, spates of military coups deposed democratically elected governments and entrenched an era of military dictatorships. At this point, Africa saw the likes of Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (now DRC), Idi Amin of Uganda, Jean-Bedel Bokassa of Central African Republic, Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, among others. These military men were not only brutal in clamping down on opposition; they also exceeded the politicians in maniacal dispositions, while some made themselves presidents for life. Mbasogo, for instance, is the longest serving head of state in the world and has converted Equatorial Guinea’s oil wealth into his personal estate while two-thirds of his country wallows in poverty.
In Nigeria, the intervention of the military in 1966 not only upturned the fledgling democracy and signalled the start of a cumulative twenty-eight years of military dictatorship, it also destroyed the foundations of true federalism in Africa’s biggest and most diverse country. Towards its climax, the age of the military gave Nigeria one of the most brutal and corrupt dictators in the history of the continent, the dark-goggle wearing Sani Abacha, whose looting spree is still a matter of international discourse twenty years after his death.
The Age of Militias
This was the age of the civil wars and insurgencies that rocked the continent from country to country. Since independence, conflicts in Africa have often had ethnic and, sometimes, religious, undertones. However, reports suggest that poverty, rather than religion and ethnic differences, is the root cause of civil conflict in Africa. Ethnicity and religion are merely fuels for these conflicts. Africa’s civil wars have, for the most part, been the result of the scramble among groups for resources and have been aggravated by bad governance. For instance, beyond the quest for Ijaw self-determination, militancy in Nigeria’s Niger Delta was an organized armed struggle for control of the region’s crude resources. Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria was initiated by dissident young men who had been disappointed by the failure of government to secure for them an expected standard of living after exposure to Western education.
The Age of Models
The Age of Models was typified by one man, an African beacon of hope who stood out in an era of leadership deficits. After 27 years in jail for his struggle against apartheid, Nelson Mandela, who was forged in the Age of the Messiahs, became a model of African leadership with his self-sacrificial message of forgiveness, reconciliation, and integration. In a continent where sit-tightism is the norm, Mandela became an outlier and a rare breed when he willingly retired from the presidency of his country after just a single term in office. It was after Mandela’s heroic feat that the clouds gave way and the Africa Rising phenomenon broke forth.
The Age of the Modern
Following Mandela’s exemplary leadership, at the turn of the 21st century, across the continent, there was a surge in leadership optimism. The continent experienced a wave of modern leadership, from South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki who had been forged in exile in the diaspora, to Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo who had been reborn in prison and became known as the father of modern Nigeria. Then we saw the likes of John Kufuor of Ghana, Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, and Paul Kagame of Rwanda. The case of Kagame was quite phenomenal as that young man began to turn a bloodied nation into one of Africa’s brightest stars. It was also during this time that the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) was forged as African leaders sought to hold one another accountable through peer review. The West also opened its shores with such frameworks as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). This period also coincided with an era of African renaissance that saw Kofi Annan, a black African, become a two-term Secretary-General of the United Nations. To crown it all, before the end of that decade, Barrack Obama, an African-American, whose father was Kenyan, became president of the United States of America, the most powerful country in the world. These trends were sufficient signposts of the possibility that the 21st century could be the African century.
The Age of Misfits/Mistakes
However, the Age of the Modern soon dissipated as the excesses of the majority of African leaders prevailed over the sparks of brilliance. We watched with dismay as echoes of greed and corruption shook the foundations of a modern Africa even before it was built. While Eritrea and Ethiopia locked horns in conflict, the question of political freedoms and democratic transition came to the fore with respect to Rwanda and Uganda. Across the continent, it was as though the leopard could not change its spots after all. Particularly poignant in this era were the mistakes in leadership succession as we saw leadership of questionable character challenge Mandela’s legacy in South Africa.
At this point, I shall beam the torch on the Nigerian case of succession mistakes and leadership failure as we seek transformational solutions to Africa’s political dilemma. My focus on Nigeria is not far-fetched. One of every four Africans and one of every five persons of African origin in the world is a Nigerian. It means that as Nigeria goes, so goes the rest of Africa. As a writer with Foreign Policy put it: There are no successful black nations. And the indignity and helplessness of blacks in America won’t end until we have a first-world African nation to lift up our people.
Place this side by side the words of Nelson Mandela, the model African leader, and you will understand why Nigeria is pivotal to the world. According to Mandela: The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The black people of the world need Nigeria to be great as a source of pride and confidence.
It appears, therefore, that Africa has remained a scar on the conscience of the world because Nigeria could not sustain the bright star in the cosmos narrative due to severe leadership succession mistakes in her recent history.
Nigeria and the Age of Leadership Misfits/Mistakes
On April 3, 2016, as Nigeria was in the throes of economic recession, I delivered an address titled Championing the Cause of a New Nigeria. In that address, which I gave at The Latter Rain Assembly where I serve as overseer, I made reference to the achievements of the economic management team of the Obasanjo administration. I said:
Between May 1999 and March 2007, Nigeria’s external reserves compounded from 4.98 billion dollars to 59.37 billion dollars. Aside opportunistic factors such as the oil windfall, these results were the outcome of astute economic management by an economic team comprised of the likes of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Dr. Charles Chukwuma Soludo and Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, among others. That economic team was arguably the most competent ever assembled by any government in Nigeria’s history till date. Credit must be given to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for assembling that team. Armed with the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), the economic team began to re-engineer Nigeria’s macroeconomic landscape.
One would have thought that this brilliant team that oversaw the Nigerian dimension of “Africa Rising” would be given priority in the succession plan of then President Olusegun Obasanjo. Instead, after a botched third term agenda, the Obasanjo administration bequeathed to Nigeria a legacy of lame and limping successor governments that first sunk Nigeria into a constitutional crisis and then oversaw the plundering of the nation’s wealth in a free-for-all corruption jamboree.
In 2010, after leading a mass movement on the platform of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) to rescue Nigeria from that legacy of constitutional crisis, I invited some of the same brilliant minds to my house to deliberate on the way forward for Nigeria. This group, which comprised the likes of Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Donald Duke, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Nuhu Ribadu, Fola Adeola, Jimi Lawal, Yinka Odumakin, Jimi Agbaje, Wale Oshun, and a few others, was known to us as “Arrow Heads.” Our aim was to build a winning team from amongst this new breed of leaders. When I was asked by the group to be its chairman, I accepted only on the condition that I would not be required to join any political party and that I would not run for elective office.
Our strategy was to engage the leading political parties ahead of the 2011 elections with a view to building this winning team around the most credible and most plausible candidate. Our engagements at the time revealed the then General Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) as the best suited among the contenders. We made our findings known to the nation on October 10, 2010.
However, it came as a shock to me when, on January 15, 2011, Muhammadu Buhari invited me to be his running mate. At first, I refused and, after a meeting between Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the content of which was communicated to me by Nasir, I suggested Okonjo-Iweala as running mate to General Muhammadu Buhari for the following reasons. First, it ticked the gender box and then it resolved the ethnic question especially as regards Eastern Nigeria, which had had a history of exclusion since the Civil War. Moreover, given her pedigree as a Managing Director at the World Bank, it was going to guarantee international support. Nevertheless, Muhammadu Buhari was unyielding in his nomination of me. After several consultations, I accepted his invitation and jumped into the fray on the condition that the restructuring of the nation would be made the paramount agenda in our manifesto. We lost that election to the force of incumbency.
During the campaigns, President Buhari had declared publicly that he would never again contest for public office. However, I was convinced that Nigeria needed him to stabilize the polity and to pave the way to the New Nigeria. Therefore, I led some of the Arrow Heads to him and persuaded him not to throw in the towel. We then facilitated his meeting with leaders of the South West and ignited a series of negotiations that led to the eventual formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) by way of a merger of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) with the erstwhile Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
After moving the motion for the merger at the national convention, I took a behind-the-scenes approach when I began to see a congregation of strange bedfellows. The ideological inadequacies were obvious to me at that point and I foresaw a slippery slope for a nation whose faultlines were becoming wider with the unfolding political process.
It was why, in January 2015, as the rest of the country eagerly prepared for elections, I warned the nation that proceeding to elections without addressing the fundamentals would plunge our country into chaos. To me, it was blindingly apparent that we were putting the cart before the horse. I called for a suspension of the elections by constitutional means, the creation of a transitional government of national unity, restructuring in the spirit of national reconciliation and integration, the conduct of an accurate census, the creation of a truly independent electoral umpire, and then the conduct of elections, in that order.
Needless to state that my call was unheeded. At that point, standing on my authority as a watchman for the nation in the prophetic dimension, I placed an embargo on elections. In no time, the elections were suspended by the electoral body. Nevertheless, when stakeholders insisted on elections and were unwilling to take the path of wise counsel towards a stable transition, I lifted the embargo and warned the nation in the following words: If anyone thinks PDP’s loss is going to be APC’s gain, he or she should think twice, for after the polls APC’s pain may be PDP’s gain.
That statement, made from a vantage position of clear vision and foresight, explains the current turbulence in the Nigerian political space. The deft political moves that began immediately after the elections and which saw the legislature slip into the hands of the “New PDP” reflected that declaration. More recently, the political cross-carpeting which has more or less placed the National Assembly in the hands of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is a clear case of APC’s pain becoming PDP’s gain.
Unknown to many observers, in 2015, following the lifting of the embargo, I worked closely behind the scenes with the two leading candidates in the presidential elections at the time, then President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP and General Muhammadu Buhari of the APC, towards ensuring that the election results were upheld and that the transition was smooth. I saw at close quarters how the fate of a nation could hang on a single decision. Therefore, believe me when I tell you that we escaped disintegration by the whiskers. Now, four years after that escape, our nation is once again headed on a collision course with probable instability unless the tense atmosphere associated with our four-year electocratic insanity is managed with utmost wisdom. Once again, I have found myself in the inner workings of the chaotic political process and I can tell you that we live in precarious times. How long can our nation stand if we continue along this path? Is it not time to address the foundations once and for all? What, then, is the way forward and what is the role of the diaspora? Answers to these questions will constitute the concluding aspects of this address.
In Search of Masterpieces of Statecraft: The Limitations of Exported Frameworks
Let me reiterate that our objective in this lecture is to facilitate Africa’s political evolution into the most stable and effective governmental frameworks with effective political leadership, notwithstanding the turbulent journey towards stability. Our aim is to facilitate efforts towards the creation of state structures that are masterpieces. Statecraft is a creative endeavour which requires an accurate understanding of the peculiar environment. In effect, every nation must be sculpted in full consideration of its distinct makeup.
In the Nigerian case, the framework of state has been shaped by Western models. At independence, the British parliamentary system of government was adopted. In 1979, we switched to the American presidential system, which was reintroduced in 1999 following a prolonged era of military rule. It is obvious that since the return to civil rule in 1999, the legislative-executive dynamics have left much to be desired. The current developments in the country at the federal level between the Muhammadu Buhari-led executive government and the Bukola Saraki-led National Assembly further attest to this challenge. Some have argued that the reason for this is that, of all the arms of government, the legislature suffered the most in the Age of the Military, thus the culture of executive-legislative interactions was never developed. However, nineteen years ought to have been sufficient to build the required institutional capacity. Could we possibly have a structural problem on our hands? Should the nation begin to rethink a new model of executive-legislative interactions? Should we begin to explore creative approaches to separation of powers for checks and balances? Should Nigeria, and, by implication, Africa, begin to tinker with political structures that are more in tune with our essence?
At Nigeria’s 2014 National Conference convened by President Goodluck Jonathan, to which I was a delegate, my committee proposed a governmental structure that took the Nigerian realities into consideration in the quest for a governmental structure for the Nigeria of our dreams. We observed that:
Against the backdrop of the comparative analysis of the evolution of British and American political culture, with much caution, it may be roughly postulated that Northern Nigeria takes to British aristocracy and conservatism while Southern Nigeria is inclined to American republicanism and radicalism. This hybrid political acculturation must be taken into consideration in forging an appropriate form of government for the nation. This suggests the need for a Modified Presidential System of Government.
The proposition for a modified system of government was adopted by the delegates to the 2014 National Conference. It was to see the president elected from the whole nation as his constituency and a vice president picked by the president from the legislature.
In addition to this, a group that I lead has gone beyond the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference to propose the role of a prime minister who will be a technocrat appointed by the president and confirmed by the parliament to facilitate socioeconomic growth and development along geopolitical lines. This brings me to the case for geopolitical restructuring.
Reengineering Nigeria Through the Pragmatic Approach
To re-engineer Nigeria is to restructure Nigeria. Towards the latter half of 2017, restructuring became the buzzword in the polity and confusion continues to abound as to the true meaning and dimensions of the concept. I stepped in on the first of October to separate the noise from the voice. In a speech titled “Pragmatic Steps Towards Restructuring Nigeria”, I delineated ten categories of advocates in the call to restructure Nigeria. I went further to show why the current structure is not working and why we must restructure through a pragmatic approach that ensures that Nigeria remains one indivisible entity while guaranteeing that every subnational entity is catered to. The pragmatic approach is a ten-year plan that proposes a geo-economic and geo-social pathway to geo-political restructuring. You can find the details on my personal website, www.tundebakare.com
However, a new way of approaching political organization is required to successfully implement the pragmatic steps towards restructuring, which I term the concept of political families.
Rebuilding Africa: The Nehemiah Model and the Role of the Diaspora
Nehemiah lived in the 5th century BC when Israel was under Persian rule and many Israelites were in exile within the Persian empire. He was a cup-bearer to the Persian king, Artaxerxes I. In the course of his duties, Nehemiah came by information on the state of his home country and was devastated enough by the news to the extent of obtaining divine enablement as well as permission from his employer to return home to build his nation.
Certain points in the Nehemiah intervention strategy should be worthy of note to those of you in the African diaspora who are moved to transform Africa’s political dynamics and reengineer African nations: Like the African and Nigerian situation, the problem was multi-layered, involving a distressed people, devastated infrastructure, lost national pride and the prevalence of oppression.Nehemiah mobilised international support for his cause by securing a written recommendation from his host state to that effect; this was also the case with Ezra, an Israeli in the Diaspora and a contemporary of Nehemiah, who secured a state decree enabling his return to facilitate the constitutional reformation of his home state. Before launching his intervention, Nehemiah conducted an in-situ assessment of the state of the nation.Nehemiah began his intervention with structural and infrastructural reconstruction but went beyond that to revive the value system of his nation and to entrench justice, selfless leadership, and integrity.The reconstruction was executed family by family.
I believe that the African diaspora, in particular, the Nigerian diaspora, can draw inspiration from the Nehemiah model in the quest to rebuild the continent.
First, the African diaspora must be grieved by the state of the continent, coming to terms with the fact that, in the international order, the perceived value of a person is not based on his or her personal success but on the perception of the value of his or her nation and continent. As a resident of the UK in 1996, I had the means to live abroad and never return home, but I could not stay beyond eighteen months in this country; the burden for my nation and the promptings of my destiny, which are so intricately woven with the destiny of the nation Nigeria, would not let me.
Closely linked with the need to be burdened by the state of the continent is the necessity of keeping in touch. In crafting solutions to Africa’s problems, the diaspora cannot rely solely on secondary data or news reports by local or international media regarding the state of their nations or the continent. I am reminded of the words of President Theodore Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of the deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who strives valiantly…and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…
Get in the arena! Get in touch! Visit Africa! Visit Nigeria! Get involved!!! Have your vacations there. Convert your vacations to state-of-the-nation tours. Not only will you enjoy Africa’s lovely tourist attractions and reconnect with her wonderful people, you will also feel the pulse of your nation and become one with her successes and failures. By so doing, you position yourself mentally and strategically as a solution provider to her myriad problems, from the infrastructural retardation to the institutional challenges and political instability, and most of all, to the human resource deficits.
A very important point is the fact that the African in the diaspora needs the right affiliations for political participation in Africa. Do such platforms exist? Take Nigeria, for instance. The endless cross-carpeting that sees politicians swing from one political party to another like pendulums is a pointer to how ideologically hollow our political landscape is. This will throw up a challenge for the Nigerian in the diaspora who has seen the workings of more mature political parties in the United Kingdom, the United States, and other developed countries. Can the Nigerian in the diaspora fit into Nigeria’s “amala politics” where issues are reduced to stomach infrastructure and vote buying by the major political parties?
The situation calls for Nigerians at home to team up with Nigerians in the diaspora in order to midwife the emergence of political platforms that exude integrity, distinct ideologies, an uncompromising commitment to the wellbeing of Nigerians, and an unfailing belief in the Nigerian Dream. This takes me to the concept of “The Political Family.”
I have spoken extensively on political families in the past and I am constrained by time to provide details on this occasion. Permit me to simply state that the political family is a group of stakeholders transcending ethnic, religious and political party differences and even geographical boundaries. It is a group of stakeholders bound by a DNA – the shared commitment to a Distinct Nationhood Agenda. I am pioneering one of such families and, at an appropriate time, the nation will see it unfold. Our political family is propelled by one agenda – Restructuring for a United Nigeria (RUN). It is unequivocally committed to midwifing the implementation of the pragmatic approach to restructuring Nigeria and it brings together Nigerians in the diaspora and Nigerians at home for the birthing of a New Nigeria. It will advance for the Nigerian in the diaspora the right to vote during elections, for instance.
Finally, the African diaspora must team up with African governments in engaging the international community and the host states of the diaspora towards creating an enabling environment for diaspora involvement in African development. This brings me to the concept of Diaspora for Development Agreements (DDA).
Facilitating African Development through Diaspora for Development Agreements
For Africa to benefit from the enormous capacity of its diaspora, there must be a “return” home – it is a return that may or may not amount to physical relocation of the persons. This return of the African diaspora must be facilitated by international law in form of bilateral and multilateral agreements between Africa and the host countries of the African diaspora. It will facilitate the transfer of skills, technology, knowledge, financial and other resources. Nigeria must be ready to pioneer this scheme considering the preponderance of skilled Nigerians in these counties.
The concept of Diaspora for Development Agreements (DDA) in bilateral and multilateral relations may be novel but the international community has seen versions of this form of international cooperation. An example is the formal collaboration agreement produced in the first African Global Diaspora Summit in May 2012 under the aegis of the World Bank African Diaspora Program. The World Bank’s programme focuses on diaspora policy formulation and implementation, financing and leveraging of remittances for development, and human capital utilisation. I am sure the international development experts here can shed more light on this programme, but I am calling for a more robust African Diaspora for Development mechanism.
A more potent framework will provide a multilateral background for bilateral agreements between African nations like Nigeria on the one hand, and individual nations like the US and the UK, on the other hand. As part of a Nigerian delegation that met with former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, in 2016, I argued then that what Nigeria needs from the United States is not foreign aid but a return of looted funds and the facilitation of a mechanism for diaspora involvement in Nigerian development. Such a mechanism will specify modalities to facilitate the transfer of diaspora resources, human and otherwise, to Africa in recognition of the contributions of these African expatriates to the development of their host countries. This argument is applicable across board for Africa.
Within the DDA, the responsibility of the developed partners hosting Africans in the diaspora will entail such provisions as the issuance of “Development Leave” during which these highly-skilled Africans in the diaspora can travel to Africa to contribute their expertise towards Africa’s development and return at the expiration of the leave. It will also provide for Development Leave Allowances and Bonuses which will cater to the upkeep of these experts on development assignments in Africa. Within these arrangements, a Development Facilitation Fund (DFF) will be floated by both countries as a counterpart funding scheme to fund the development projects that will be embarked upon by these African diaspora experts in their home countries.
Diaspora for Development Agreements will also entail the creation of a “quid pro quo” or “What’s-in-it-for-me?” scheme for Africa’s development partners. One of such benefits for participation would be provisions in the agreements that enable foreign firms, or organizations with which these Africans in the diaspora are affiliated in their host countries, to benefit from incentives by African governments if they choose to invest in the world’s next frontier. Some of the development projects may be contracted to them in partnership with local firms. I believe this strategy is a more honourable alternative to development aid handed to African governments by development partners.
For Nigeria, the Diaspora for Development Agreement scheme will provide a great boost to the ten-year pragmatic approach to restructuring. It will facilitate the skill, technology and capital requirements of the geo-economic and geo-social pathway to geo-political restructuring. It will do this by providing a new era of African leadership that I refer to as the Age of Master Craftsmen.
Conclusion: The Age of Master Craftsmen
As I have established, between the scars and the stars, the state of Africa has been a function of Africa’s political leadership. Africa has been shaped by monarchs, minions, messiahs, maniacs, military men, militias, models, modern men and women, and misfits or mistakes. The emergence of modern leaders ushered in the era of Africa Rising, but leadership mistakes have trailed the leaders of modern Africa. Therefore, now is the time for a new breed of leaders to take centre stage in Africa. They are the Master Craftsmen: men and women, at home and in the diaspora, equipped with the ambidextrous qualities of integrity and skill; men and women who can turn the narrative from “Africa Rising” to “Africa Has Risen”; strong men and strong women who will build strong African nations on the bedrock of strong values and strong institutions; men and women who will ignite innovative solutions to Africa’s problems across sectors, from education to health to infrastructure and the economy. When this happens, the continent’s reality will no longer be shaped by such pain points as the 10.5 million “out of school” children but by such high points as the “standout in school” children like the teenage girls from Nigeria who beat their counterparts from other countries, including the United States and China, to win the Technovation World Pitch competition in Silicon Valley. That is the future of Africa and our generation owes those children and every African child the legacy of a continent in which their giftings can be discovered, their skills developed, and their dreams realized. Let’s get to work to build a great continent of which posterity will be proud.
God bless Africa.
By Dr. Tunde Bakare
Serving Overseer, The Latter Rain Assembly (The LRA); and Convener, Save Nigeria Group (SNG).