Intrusive details from Facebook throws it at everyone that he is 70 years old today. That is Dr. Yusuf Bangura, the Sierra Leone born political economist who is as well known in Nigeria as in Sierra Leone, having taught at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in the heydays of the university.
Intervention could not reach him immediately but, for sure, he is not holding any birthday party on a day that would, ordinarily, been one for clicking of glasses among a layer of scholars and activists across Africa, celebrating one of theirs.
His turning 70 is not an occasion for personal and collective reflection for two main reasons. One is that Switzerland where he is has also been on a lock down and two, his friend and fellow political economist voice from Africa, Thandika Mkandawire, died a week ago. These have ruled out any birthday party.
While in Zaria, Dr. Bangura was at the centre of the many paradigm wars on that campus in those days. His formal and informal students would certainly remember him most for his debate with the late Dr Yusuf Bala Usman on what brought about the Nigerian economic crisis in the form it came in the early 1980s. But his academic work that might outshine all else is likely to be “Nationalism, Accumulation and Labour Subordination in Nigeria: 1970 – 1978”. The lifespan of the 1985 essay has not expired especially if Bangura can take another look at it. Should he do so, it will not be outrageous to recommend both the old and the new version as compulsory reading for anyone who aspires to rule Nigeria henceforth.
From ABU, Zaria, he went to work at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, (UNRISD) before retiring to a quiet but engaged life.
Dr. Bangura might have slowed down compared to yester years but he is still firing. Towards the end of 2019, he published “Convergence is Not Equality” in the journal, Development and Change where he contested the assumption that traditional gaps such as ‘rich North – Poor South’ and similar geographies of poverty within countries were closing. Shortly after, he also released his Epic Battles in Radical Development Theory, Field Research and Praxis: A Celebration of Björn Beckman (1938-2019), (https://intervention.ng/18256/). The essay summarised an entire era in terms of the politics of knowledge and the associated implications for social transformation in Africa.
So, anyone going with the assumption of engaging a push over on the ground of age had better be prepared. Not yet. With people as old as 70 years and above running the show across the world such as Trump in the US and Buhari in Nigeria, why would anyone think we have seen the last of the Banguras in Africa, more so that his likes would not be bungling and would not be relating to the IMF and the World Bank from the position of inferiority. As the late Prof Sam Aluko was used to saying, most eggheads in the IMF/World Bank would hardly pass his courses if they came with the sort of policy frameworks and models they package for Africa.