Let me begin with the spiritual awakening of Pan-Africanism as exemplified by Robert Nesta Marley OM, a Jamaican singer, musician, and songwriter. Over the course of his career, Marley became known as a Rastafari icon, and he infused his music with a sense of spirituality. Bob Marley profoundly posited: “Emancipate yourselves (Africans) from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds”. Nonetheless, in spite of the rich volume of scholarly examination of the work of this musical genius, no study has specifically addressed his use of music as a platform to articulate and disseminate his ideas about Africa’s political liberation and unity. This is the main focus of this contribution – Pan-Africanism at its best.
Interestingly, Marley’s pan-Africanist ideas may be traced to an amalgamation of factors: his birth and partial childhood in Nine Miles, at St. Ann’s parish in Jamaica, where the people “have preserved many customs derived from their African ancestry especially the art of storytelling as a means of sharing the past and time-tested traditions (which) provide a deeper cultural context and an aura of mysticism to his adult songwriting” his embrace of, and subsequent indoctrination into the Rastafarian religion and movement, as well as reggae music that propagated the religion; and his exposure to the writings and philosophy of another prominent Jamaican, Marcus Garvey, who led a popular back-to-Africa movement early in the 20th century.
Regrettably, many of our people have been brainwashed and mentally colonised to see their culture as ‘evil’ – the colonial mentality is still holding Africans by the jugular and the colonial imperialists cannot leave Africa alone because of its humongous natural resources which are constantly plundered, with rich rewards to their African collaborators and little or nothing paid into the purses of the various countries who’s resources are regularly plundered with recklessness – these destructive tendencies in turn gave birth to intensified forms of racism, the likes of which Pan-Africanism sought to eliminate.
Thankfully, things have changed for the better since the turn of the century. Six out of the ten fastest-growing economies are in Africa, there is a marked reduction in the number and size of conflicts in the continent, democratic governance and respect for human dignity are on the rise. Africa is therefore ripe for change. Therefore, our beloved continent must seize this moment for re-strategizing. The relevance of the Pan-Africanism ideal, and its continuous attraction to intellectuals both on the continent and in the Diaspora, will be measured by the ability to adjust to new demands and new generations. Indeed, the ability to continue to provide inspiration and conviction to Africans across ages will ultimately be the trade mark of Pan-Africanism.
Gladly, the AU’s proclaimed vision is for ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena’. Laudable in its aspirations, what guarantees do we have that it will not remain rhetoric? We must ask ourselves how we reach these goals. This is in the light of a framework being jointly developed by the AU, AfDB and the ECA as part of the golden era celebrations that need to identify the prerequisites for Africa’s sustained transformation in clear and unambiguous terms. Dubbed ‘vision 2063’, it should offer a reinterpretation of the continent’s trajectory and claim the 21st century as Africa’s Acceptance, not Confutation.
Ultimately, the Africa we want is Pan-Africanism of ‘Acceptance, not Confutation’ amid the continent’s strategic framework that aims to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development and is a concrete manifestation of the pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity pursued under Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance. An Africa of good governance, a high standard of living, quality of life and well-being for all, ending poverty, inequalities of income and opportunity; job creation, especially addressing youth unemployment; facing up to the challenges of rapid population growth and urbanization, improvement of habitats and access to basic necessities of life – water, sanitation, electricity; providing social security and protection.
It is thus, imperative that a fundamental shift in our ways that encourages Pan-Africanism as exemplified by the decolonization struggle which is ongoing in Burkina Faso – a great nation that was once ruled and liberated by a great pan-Africanist, known as the greatest leader of the Burkinabe who fought tirelessly against the French in his nation and was later exterminated by the power mongers through his best friend Braise Compaore. Unarguably, Thomas Sankara was one of the best leaders in Africa before his assassination in 1989. He reformed the Burkinabe resources economically and reformed their social development as an advanced nation.
Fortunately, the current President Ibrahim Traore of Burkina Faso had to wake up the spirit of Thomas Sankara in his nation, as he has been fighting tirelessly to eradicate the French in Burkina Faso, he had cancelled the 1966 treaty that gave the French the power of exploiting Burkinabe resources without taxation. Some of the French companies were shut down in Burkina Faso such as Air France. The spirit of Thomas Sankara is calling, President Ibrahim Traore is listening and working the French are running and the global community is not unaware of events similar to the other French former colonies including the Niger République debacle. Conclusively, Africa’s emancipation is what we want.
Richard Odusanya is a Mind Restructuring Enthusiast.