By Prudence Arobani
Nigerian’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Prof. Tijjani Bande, has challenged people of African descent to reconnect with their African root.
Bande, who is Chair, African Group at the UN, made the call while delivering a statement at the UN headquarters in New York as part of activities in Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
The Nigerian envoy said the African leaders also urged the people of African descent to make 2019 a year of reconnection and re-engagement with their African identities and collective interests.
He urged the people of African descent to “forge practical and ambitious initiatives that would build unity and offer prosperity to the people of Africa, both on the continent and in the diaspora”.
Accordingly to him, several activities have been planned by the diaspora and the African Union for the year.
“Celebrating the ‘Year of Our Return’ with initiatives such as the ‘Door of Return’, the AU places special emphasis on the diaspora and its contribution to development in Africa.
He paid tribute to the role of the civil rights movement in shaping the continent in the struggle for liberation and independence during the early 1960s, when the founding fathers set forth to create the defunct Organisation of African Unity.
“The objective of the Door of Return initiative, spearheaded by Ghana, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, is to advance African economic development in areas of tourism, infrastructure and renewable energy.
“Accordingly, monuments are being built as symbols of Africa’s openness to the Diaspora.
“The first of many such ‘Door of Return’ monuments was erected by Nigeria on 24th August, 2017 as part of the Diaspora Festival in Badagry, Nigeria,” Bande said.
According to him, the year 2019 should be a galvanising moment for the philosophical, historical, spiritual, cultural backdrop, that will propel a surge of energy, and lead people of African descent to reconnect with mother Africa, and vice versa.
“There is no doubt that a decade of return must begin, as we replace the ‘Door of No Return’ with ‘The Door of Our (Voluntary) Return’,” he said.
The Nigerian envoy urged all to work together to make 2019 a milestone moment in the history of Africans, and by extension, in world history.
“In honouring all those who, through their struggles and triumphs, victories and pain, brought changes and revolutionised the society, we stand strong against all forms of slavery, racism and discrimination today,” he said.
Bande described the transatlantic slave trade as one of the greatest tragedies in the history of humanity in terms of scale and duration.
“In recognition of the 400th Anniversary of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the African Union Heads of State and Government at the last Assembly held in February this year, recalled the depredations and evils of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, its industrialisation of racism, dispossession, discrimination and dehumanisation.
“They also recalled the strong spirit of resistance to the slave trade and reaffirmed their commitment to the unity of African people, building an integrated Africa, as well as forging strong cultural, political, social and economic linkages that will further the Pan-African dream among all peoples of African descent.”
Bande said the theme for 2019 – ‘Remember Slavery: The Power of Arts for Justice’ – drew attention to the many examples of artistic expressions.
These artistic expressions, he said, included memorials, music, dance, and architecture, that have helped us to remember the history and consequences of the transatlantic slave trade.
“How can one forget the melodies of Jazz and Blues that took the world by storm; the heart moving voices of Gospel music, which was a freedom cry to the creator; the voices of slaves singing in unison while picking cotton, to keep hope alive; and the Afro-Caribbean beats which have now formed part of our common human heritage?
“Since the time of the transatlantic slave trade, the arts have been used to confront slavery, empower enslaved communities and honour those who made freedom possible or deepened that freedom.
“The contribution of people of African descent in the arts has been exemplary, thereby, promoting reflection and Invoking conversations that encouraged tolerance,” he said.