The 2018 Africa Day has come and gone but still lingering for reflection is how civil society activists marked it. Put together by the CDD, CISLAC, CITAD, Centre LSD, WRAPA and the Abuja Collective, the particpants held out for four hours in a reflective session on the day (25/05/18) but a day personified by three fallen Pan-Africanists named below. Speaker after speaker at the combined memorialisation of the three on the occasion said the story of Africa’s struggles so far has been a story of ‘He’ without the ‘She’ component. The history of Africa’s development is all about Nkrumah, Nyerere, Mandela with the women component in that struggle merely added as footnotes if at all or just to fulfil all righteousness, said Comrade Hauwa Mustapha of the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC), one of the discussants of Professor Horace Campbell’s rich and detailed presentation titled “Pan-African Liberation: The Emancipation of Women and the Humanisation of the Male”. It was a tribute to Tajudeen Abdulraheem, Abubakar Momoh and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Africa”.
How do we integrate the women voices into the narrative from the rich history of the participation of women across Africa, asked Comrade Hauwa who argued the incompleteness of African liberation if it is without women liberation, saying such is the take-away from Prof Campbell’s presentation. Dr Chermaine Pereira, another discussant of Campbell’s presentation agreed with that, identifying transformation as the essence of Pan-Africanism, transformation in which there is change in the lives of the people, emphasising control of land.
Professor Campbell had provided a list of women voices, from Winnie Mandela to Nawal El Saadawi, the Egyptian writer he described as one of the greatest African revolutionaries; Asma Mahfouz whom she credited with symbolising Tahrir Square in the 2011 revolt in Egypt and Suhad al-Khateeb, the emergent Communist Member of Parliament in Iraq, among others.
Referencing several African leaders, Prof Campbell argued with verve the case for the liberation of women and the humanisation of the male, describing humanisation of the male as the rejection of any form of domination, including of course the domination of women.
From Samora Machel’s point about women liberation not being an act of charity but a fundamental necessity to Thomas Sankara’s argument that the revolution cannot triumph without the liberation of women, Prof Campbell held up Winnie Mandela as the one who refused to be broken in spite of solitary confinement or internal exile. Instead, she foiled all psychological warfare directed against her, including carpet reporting of her activities by planted journalists who twisted such activities.
The scholar activist pushed for deepening of Africa Day to include the theme of liberation, wondering why there is abandonment of the idea of reparations across Africa in favour of donors and international partners. He is all for fuller exploration of the potentials of the social media for Africa’s liberation
Hajiya Saudatu Mahdi of the Women Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative, (WRAPA) who chaired the occasion posed three questions for further reflections in her closing remarks. Who does it for us?; For how long will the rhetoric go on and wouldn’t an inter-generational dialogue have to take place? If the hint from her is anything to go buy, Africa Day next year would be a panel of very young brains, not otherwise.
But, before the summing up, several speakers had made their comments on the three Pan-Africanists being celebrated rather than mourned, according to Dr Garba Abari, DG of the National Orientation Agency, (NOA). For him, the occasion is a celebration of the lives of those who made impacts on others, who always wanted to make society better and are a lesson for younger ones.
For Professor Okello Oculi, veteran academic and Pan-Africanist, Dr Tajudeen Abdulraheem’s story might as well start from his persistence and eventual admission into Bayero University, Kano to read Political Science, ending up with a First Class. And then going to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar for a doctorate in Political Science but transcending what Oculi called sterile scholarship into essentializing the development of the African continent and hence, critical interrogation of such key concepts as Left politics, State, Class, Market. Oculi’s list to Dr Taju’s credit stretches from the secondary school he built in memory of his mother to the founding of many organisations that operationalised his ideals.
Dr Sa’ad Idris, Acting Director of The Electoral Institute, (TEI), where Professor Momoh was the DG before his death held the departed up as the ebullient and urbane Professor of Political Theory who came to the Institute, saw and conquered. He called him an ubiquitous and restless pursuer of knowledge, human happiness, growth and development.
Mrs Josephine Anennih, former Minister for Women Affairs said she never met Taju physically but met him through his works. But she confessed being an admirer of Taju’s approach of inviting himself. She doesn’t mind if everyone in the struggle for Africa operates on that model: Don’t waited to be invited, typified by Oculi’s information about how Taju got admission into BUK
Prof Abubakar Momoh, said Mrs Anennih, is gone but unforgettable. “Momoh was a persistent voice for gender”, she said, adding how Winnie Mandela was everything she wanted to be: strong, courageous, indomitable, unbreakable, resilient. The speaker sent everyone reeling in laughter when she spoke about her love for the so much written about Winnie Mandela, “good ones, bad ones but I love all of them, especially the bad ones”. Her last line: the three personages being celebrated were not being so treated because of their houses or millions in different parts of the world.
Many other voices were heard, most times loud and clear. There was no objection to the consensus that Pan-Africanism or Africa’s development are all nothing without women liberation, that the narrative of the struggle for African liberation before and after colonialism must have the ‘she’ dimension and that a reformulation of African liberation in transformative discourse and practice is required.
In other words, Africa Day in Abuja Nigeria produced a consensus on the Women Question which has significance in that it adds to the never ending interrogation of those who do not believe that there is that question. Nowadays, there are few such voices and they are not as bold and suicidal as Francis Fukuyama whose 1998 essay “Women and the Evolution of World Politics” basically dismissed the claim of women exclusion, saying the differences between men and women are “biologically based psychological differences”, not socially constructed. Fukuyama started his essay on a vicious, provocative note under the sub-heading “Chimpanzee Politics”. Seizing the evidence of a primatologist and biological anthropologists, he dismissed as a grand narrative, a fairy tale the notion that the aggressive, violent or war-like attributes associated with men and Chimpanzees were acquired with patriarchy and Western Civilisation. For him, those are natural instincts which existed even in hunter gatherer-societies where his evidence told him of more frequent wars and high rates of murder. He, therefore, took Friedrich Engels head on for claiming that women were overthrown from social power only with the birth of private property in human history. He said that was a theory for someone and for some purpose because biologists who do not think much of race as a category, for instance, think highly of sexual differences to “extend beyond the body into the realm of the mind”
He formulated his standpoint thus, “despite the rise of women men will continue to play a major, if not dominant, part in the governance of post-industrial countries, not to mention less-developed ones. The realms of war and international politics will remain controlled by men for longer than many feminists would like. Most important, the task of resocialising men to be more like women – that is less violent – will run into limits. What is bred in the bone cannot be altered easily by changes in culture and ideology”.
He was roasted. Established voices in gendered narrativity went after him, including Professor Anne Tickner, their undeclared spokesperson in the Western world. It is not known to this reporter if Fukuyama ever replied. It could not be that he ignored them. No writer can ignore an Ann Tickner when it comes to the claims of women exclusion. The feminists could see the implication of his argument. If the differences between men and women are natural, then there would be no need to fight for women liberation. It then means there is nothing wrong in women dying in thousand due to maternal mortality, female infanticide, sex slavery, exclusion of women from military service which is where the ultimate citizenship is demonstrated – to die for one’s country.
It is in that sense that Africa Day in Abuja in 2018 sounded the trumpet, sending a message to voices represented by the Fukuyamas. It is the sort of trumpet that is heard when three stubborn souls such as those of Dr. Tajudeen Abdulraheem, Professor Abubakar Momoh and Winnie Mandela are put together to be celebrated. They may be dead but they are still in combat.