Wednesday, December 31, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls: Looking Back, Looking Forward

As the year ends, I look back and wonder where all the time went.  I wasn't able to accomplish much work-life balance this year because I became involved in the #BringBackOurGirls movement and led the establishment of #BringBackOurGirlsNYC.  I wrote most of this blog on a sleepless night in August this year, in a long email to a friend.  It remains relevant, particularly because it reflects the issue that has embroiled my life all year long.

Nigeria is squandering her people with wanton abandonment.  Why do we not feel ashamed to say that we have the largest economy in Africa when we don't even have a decent healthcare system?  Why do our political class and elites flaunt their ability to go for medical treatment abroad and they don't realize that the lack of decent care at home reflects poorly on them, plus they are playing "Russian roulette" with their lives since they could die from very preventable and treatable conditions?  Why do we have decayed infrastructure and majority of the things that should be simple, like access to potable water, reliable electricity, good roads, excellent schools at all levels, and SAFETY AND SECURITY seem to be forever elusive, and we just mobilize imaginative coping mechanisms, and we think that some oyinbo will bring it to us because they have the magic formula? 

About our girls, I remain hopeful. Many people here in NYC also say they're not hearing anything. The problem here is that without major media coverage, it appears as though nothing's going on.  Here's some of what we in NY have been doing.

#BringBackOurGirls at AGOA conference in Washington, DC August

#BringBackOurGirlsNYC press release to protest dinner in honor of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan by Corporate Council for Africa on Wednesday, 8/6/2014

And here is my analysis of the situation, because while the problem is caused by religious factors, it's way more than that:

#BringBackOurGirls: Boko Haram and the Hydra-headed monster in Nigerian Politics

I pray constantly, as do all of us that God would intercede and rescue our girls from the depraved bunch of sinister and evil men who abducted them.  I also pray that God would save and deliver Nigeria and Nigerians from all the political, economic, social and historical forces that constrain us.  But I also must say that I'm disappointed that majority of us Nigerians choose to sit on the sidelines and do nothing. This is what makes evil thrive. Many of my religious friends tell me they're praying.  I read the Bible and the prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus as well as the Apostles and Disciples of the New Testament did not only pray.  They spoke out about injustice. They challenged inequity. They were on the side of the oppressed and marginalized.  What kind of Christians are these who just pray and through their silence, let oppression, inequity, injustice and atrocity fester?

Here's what we plan to do

1.  September 12 Roundtable to do some "friend raising" and inform women's organizations, international organizations, interfaith religious organizations and university students in NYC of what we've been doing.  We will build coalitions with them that should amplify our voice.

2.  Advocacy with International organizations like UNICEF, UN Women, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNOCHA, UNDP to help keep the issue alive, plus help with immediate humanitarian response.

3.  Advocacy with US government at all levels, local, state, and federal, to live up to the promise of helping to rescue our girls.  Toward this end, we are going to a September 26 Congressional Black Caucus conference in Washington, D.C., to continue advocacy begun during the AGOA conference on August 5.  We are also reaching out to members of the NYC Council and State Legislature to keep this issue alive and put pressure on the US government to fast-track our girls' rescue.

4.  December 4 Conference "#BringBackOurGirls: Boko Haram and Human Security in West Africa".  We hope to come out with a policy paper on the matter after this conference.  We will share the paper with governments of all West African countries and the US.

Let's keep doing what we've been doing. God will honor our efforts with success. Our girls will be rescued.  We also need to attend to the psychosocial support for those who have escaped and their families because it's important to make sure that they are not allowed to continue to suffer the horror of the experiences that were imposed on them.  We also need to continue calling for genuine democracy in Nigeria.  Transparency, the rule of law, accountability, respect for human rights, economic and social justice and equity should be routine in Nigeria.  We need a country that treasures and protects all its people and one that gives people the resources to enable them reach their full potential not the bunch of confusion that we currently have.  

The situation in Nigeria's north-east is even more serious today than it was when I wrote this email. Many communities have been attacked and their people have been killed and property destroyed. Those lucky to escape have become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees.  The conditions of the IDPs is heartrending, given the deep privations they are enduring and unnecessary deaths, due to the inability of our National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the State Emergency Management Services (SEMAs) to give them the services they need in an efficient manner.  I remain hopeful that our girls, boys, and women who were brutally abducted would be found and reunited with their families.  I hope that the Nigerian government recognizes that this is its job to do and we the citizens expect it to rise to the occasion.

I hope many more people join the effort to #BringBackOurGirls.  I also hope that we all think of how we might help to bring some relief to the IDPs and refugees created by Boko Haram's activities in Nigeria.  Hoping for a better year ahead.  For Nigeria, it is an election year.  February 14 is the date for the general elections.  May the best candidates for the country win.  Such candidates must realize that politics as usual is not an option.  For me, it is important to remember that February 14, the general election date, will be 10 months after the Chibok abductions.  It would be great if we do not have cause to remember that grim anniversary because our girls, boys, and women have been rescued. 

The essence of the elections for me:  Nigeria needs thoughtful, dedicated, selfless and ethical leaders.  These leaders must realize that they must be primarily committed to guaranteeing the human security of all our people.  Our economy and infrastructure, our social services and political institutions all need the kind of overhaul that would transform them so that they function optimally and efficiently for the well being of our people and nation.  We cannot afford to continue to squander the opportunities to make our nation truly great.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls: Boko Haram and Human Security in West Africa Conference, December 4, 2015

#BringBackOurGirls NYC
#BringBackOurGirls: Boko Haram and Human Security in West Africa Conference. 
Thursday, December 4, 2014 
9:30am – 6:00pm
The Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY

the conference is a call for continued action toward the end of gender based violence and the rescue and safe return of our girls who were abducted from their school in chibok, borno state, nigeria on april 14, 2014, and all other nigerian citizens abducted by boko haram

December 4, 2014

New York, New York – On April 14, 2014, armed militants from the insurgent group, Boko Haram, stormed female school dormitories in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria.  The militants forcefully abducted 200+ young female students in the middle of the night, stole supplies and burned the school to the ground.  Other women and girls, boys and men have been abducted before and after the April 14th abduction, and Boko Haram is still on the rampage. Many communities have been attacked and thousands have been killed. There are also millions of Internally Displaced Persons and refugees as a result of these predatory attacks.  One of the most unfortunate results of the abductions is the paralyzing effect it has had on Nigerian citizens in Northeastern parts of the country, who are afraid to engage in their day to day activities, including schooling.  234 days after the Chibok abductions, additional concerns have been raised about the fate of many of the abducted female students forcefully separated from their families and communities.  Although the Nigerian government informed its citizens and the world, around May 26th, that it knows the location of the girls, and although there were at least two announcements of the imminent release of the girls, only those who managed to escape by themselves are free. Most of our girls remain in captivity and no additional information has been forthcoming. 

To continue to raise awareness on this heartrending and tragic matter, in collaboration with the #BringBackOurGirls Global Coalition, #BringBackOurGirls NYC, community leaders and concerned citizens from NYC gathered for the #BringBackOurGirls: Boko Haram and Human Security in West Africa Conference on Thursday, December 4, 2014, from 9:30am – 6:00pm at The Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 Fifth Avenue, to discuss the implications of the Boko Haram abductions for Nigerian citizens and state.  We ask the Nigerian government and its armed forces and the International Community to take additional action to #BringBackOurGirls.  We also call on the Nigerian government to keep Nigerian children and citizens safe in their respective schools across the country.  Beginning from November 25, led by UNWomen, various actions have been undertaken worldwide, in acknowledgement of the need to end all forms of gender based violence. As we call for worldwide solidarity with our missing girls and their families, #BringBackOurGirls NYC is asked all attendees to wear ORANGE, as a symbol of the hope for a brighter future in which we will all be secure from violence. We also hope for a future where the bloodshed and abduction of children throughout the northern region of Nigeria would stop.  We will continue to rally to bring attention to this matter until our girls are brought back and reunited with their families.

The program: 

Bring Back Our Girls: Boko Haram and Human Security in West Africa
December 4th

Special thanks to our sponsors:

9:30 - 10:15 AM
Robert Reid-Pharr, Distinguished Professor of English and American Studies and Director, Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean
Introduction of President Chase Robinson:
Robert Reid-Pharr, Director, IRADAC

Opening Remarks:
President Chase Robinson, The Graduate Center

Evocations & Griot Performance:
Salieu Suso (Griot)

10:15 - 11:30 AM

Introduction of Keynote SpeakerMojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome, Professor of Political Science, African & Women's Studies Brooklyn College, CUNY

Keynote AddressDr. Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili, #BringBackOurGirls, Nigeria 

Evolving A World Where Our Girls Can Be Safe To Thrive and Lead.”

11:30 – 1:15 PM

PANEL 1: Boko-Haram & Pervasive Violence in West Africa: Interfaith Responses and Action


Rev. Herbert Daughtry, House of the Lord Pentecostal Church
Boko-Haram & Pervasive Violence in West Africa in the Context of Global Crises: The Imperative for a Prophetic/Radical Interfaith Alliance
Abstract: Our hearts bleed for the abducted children in Nigeria, indeed, children across the world. This is one of the many crises that pervades Africa. There are crises of war, disease, violence, hunger, refugees and displaced persons, etc. Yet our African continent, particularly Nigeria, has been blessed with bountiful resources and brilliant minds which built advanced civilizations, and which could lead the world with peace and prosperity. Looming over us is Climate Change, which threatens to destroy all of us. If there were ever a time for the intervention, the participation, or the voices of the moral, religious protagonists, the time is now. Our generation, and generations yet unborn, cry out for the activism of a prophetic/radical unity of religious leaders that prioritizes commitment to the Almighty Creator, takes up the cause of the "wretched of the earth," and put forth the vision of a world of oneness of the human family.

Peyi Soyinka-Airewele, Professor of Political Science, Ithaca College
Beyond Decoys, Impunity and Interfaith Platitudes: Politico-Constitutional and Other Requisites for Religious Coexistence in Nigeria
Abstract: Interfaith mobilization in Nigeria as a response to terrorism is both substantive and superficial. For some, it opens up new possibilities for productive citizenry action. However, within diverse societal and discursive arenas, many have found reason to dismiss such visions as a sham, or as transient acts inconsequential to enduring realities. To convert nascent hopes for harmonious religious coexistence into a material reality capable of preventing religious violence and the theology of colonizing terrorism adopted by groups such as Boko Haram, advocates of an interfaith approach must tackle some key dilemmas. This paper examines such challenges including the functionality of Boko Haram in luring attention from longstanding and unresolved tensions regarding religious control of public spaces, voices and identities. It argues that in the quest for understanding, mutual respect, reconciliation and peace, interfaith activists have often shied away from discomfiting evidence of specific trajectories of religious persecution underpinned by religious, political, bureaucratic and socio-cultural instruments. Such silences are traumatic for the subjectivities of violence and impunity; they create new layers of fear and mistrust and erode the integrity of interfaith movements and their quest for viable solutions.

Okey Ndibe, Professor of English, Brown University
 Human “Ants” and the Ravages of Boko Haram
Abstract: My presentation will examine two broad issues. One, it will locate the rise of the terror group, Boko Haram, in the context of structural defects in formation of the Nigerian nation. In fact, the failure of the Nigerian state to achieve popular legitimacy and to inspire a national ethos account for the various forms of violent resistance to a structure deemed to breed dehumanization and degradation. Two, my presentation will also explore the success of Boko Haram as owing to the failure of successive Nigerian governments to rise to the challenge of transforming Nigeria into a space where citizens’ basic human needs are met. I will argue that Boko Haram’s power and ascendancy are a function of Nigeria’s crisis of leadership, the absence of an animating national spirit, and the mindless reconstruction of Nigerian citizens into metaphoric ants, at once invisible and insignificant to the visionless and rapacious men and women who presume to be Nigerian leaders.   

Moderator: Olufemi Vaughan, Geoffrey Canada Professor of History and Africana Studies
Bowdoin College

1:15 – 2:30 PM

Room 9207

2:30 – 3:45 PM

PANEL 2: Human Security: Women Organizing for Humanitarian Assistance & Peace-building


Bertrade Ngo-Ngijol Banoum, Professor of Black Studies and Women’s Studies, Lehman College, CUNY
 Which Way? Grassroots Women Organizing in the New Era of Social Media
Abstract: Across Africa, women have an enduring tradition of mobilizing and organizing at the grassroots to bring about social change within their communities locally, nationally, regionally, globally, and transnationally.  The advent of new social media has now maximized the scope and speed of these mobilizations as shown by the global movement initiated by Nigerian women following the kidnapping of hundreds of girls from their school.  This reflection focuses on the female collective action known as the “Bring Back Our Girls” movement in Nigeria and beyond.   The practice is rooted in a long history of women’s indigenous institutions and mechanisms of resistance to abuse -- struggles against patriarchal dominance, colonial supremacy, global capitalism and the current sexual terrorism.  Past successful campaigns beg the question: Is this new form of grassroots women-led coalition the silver lining for better governance in Nigeria and other African states?

Oty Agbajoh Laoye, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and English, Monmouth University

 Building Fences from the Smallest Things: Securing the Future for Our Children
Abstract: The question of security and the lack thereof, especially as it pertains to children in so-called developing countries, is not new.  Growing up in many of these countries means not taking safety for granted, sometimes in unlikely locations— homes, neighborhoods, schools that map the daily lives in the journey from childhood to productive adulthood. African female writers document the unsecured spaces of children in Africa—Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero and Amma Darko’s Faceless read like subjects for the goriest episodes in Special Victims Unit (SVU). The documentation in literature is only a glimpse of the problems that children face in West Africa.  Human security should begin as soon as a child is born and in places that we usually consider secure—“cozy and contained, private and limited,” to quote Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (2).  My point here is that women’s approach to human security, especially as it pertains to children in the third world and more, should be different from the so-called norm.  What is the use of national security, if it does not extend to inside the home or ensure safe enclosures in essential spaces—like school for every child?  Safety like charity should begin in small places and with our most vulnerable but precious young population—our hope for a sustainable tomorrow.

Rashidah Ismaili AbuBakr, Professor Graduate Creative Writing Program of Wilkes University, poet, playwright, essayist and short story writer.
Nisa; the appropriate treatment of girls, and women in Islam.
Abstract: My talk will focus on a brief background of history and Islam from the Qur'an and the demystification of current trends in the Muslim World in general and Nigeria in particular. I will speak to the topic of kidnapping and forced conversions and the destruction of holy places of worship.

Moderator: Mora Mclean, New York Representative FXB, President Emeritus AAI

3:45 – 4:00 PM


4:00 – 5:15 PM

Closing Celebration: Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome, Professor of Political Science, African & Women's Studies Brooklyn College, CUNY

Mother's cry
Description: A dance-Drama piece starring the the consciousness of everyone to action beyond mere speech. 
Group Members:
Shayee Awoyomi,
Kunle Adegeye,
Sunday Bada,
Baba Kebe,
Perfecta Mfonma Ekpo,
Donel Lotus Davis, 
Segun AJ,
Boluwatife Taiwo,
Dami Ibikunle

Ayanbinrin (Mother Drum of Africa)

5:15 – 8:30 PM

Sociology Lounge, Room 6112

Speaker and performer biographies

Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili founder of the #BringBackOurGirls movement, is a Senior Economic Advisor at Open Society Foundations (OSF), a group founded by investor and philanthropist George Soros. She also jointly serves as Senior Economic Advisor for Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative (AEDPI), a program of the Open Society Foundations. In these roles, she advises nine reform-committed African heads of state including Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia. Before joining OSF, she was Vice President of the World
Bank (Africa Region) in Washington, D.C., responsible for operations in 48 countries and a lending portfolio of nearly $40 billion. From 2002 to 2007, Ezekwesili worked for the federal government of Nigeria as Minister of Education, Minister of Solid Minerals, head of the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit as well as Chairperson of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) where she led the first ever national implementation of the global standards and principles of transparency in the oil, gas and mining sectors. She was a key member of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Economic Team.

Rashidah Ismaili AbuBakr is a scholar, counselor, writer, and, arts advocate. She teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program of Wilkes University, and is currently the President of Organization of Women Writers of Africa (OWWA). She was the Associate Director of the Higher Education Opportunity Programs at Pratt University. Dr. Ismaili AbuBakr has maintained Salon d’Afrique and Galleria Africa showcasing works of contemporary artists from Africa and the Diaspora. She worked with the New World Theatre at the University of Massachusetts. She is a member of PEN; African Literature Association (ALA); As a member of the Black Theatre Network her works have been translated into: Arabic, Catalan, Dutch, French, Mandarin, Papiamento, Spanish, and Turkish.

Oty Agbajoh-Laoye is an associate professor of Interdisciplinary Studies with expertise in Literature in English, Africana Studies and Comparative literature, Ethnic and Interdisciplinary Studies at Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey with a doctorate from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She teaches an array of courses in African and the African Diaspora, Postcolonial, Non-European literature in English; World literature, American Ethnic lives and Interdisciplinary studies. Her research interest is in comparative Black Women literature, the slave narrative tradition, 20th century African Diaspora fiction and comparative and transnational experience in global-local perspectives.

Reverend Herbert Daughtry hails from a family of five generations of Black church leaders. As national presiding minister of the House of the Lord Churches, chairman emeritus of the National Black United Front, and president of the African People’s Christian Organization, he has risen to a position of national and international acclaim and responsibility. Rev. Daughtry’s more than 46 years of involvement in community and church service has earned him the title, “The People’s Pastor.” Reverend Herbert Daniel Daughtry, Sr. is currently the National Presiding Minister of The House of the Lord Churches. He is a founder and President of the African People’s Christian Organization and a founding member of the Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. Reverend Daughtry the host and principal speaker on a weekly radio program on New York City’s WWRL-AM. He has received honorary doctorate degrees from Seton Hall University (1980) and the State University of New York, College of Old Westbury (1992). In addition, Reverend Daughtry is a writer and author, writing weekly columns for the New York Daily Challenge, contributing to The New York Times, the Amsterdam News, and the Bergen Record. His publications include, No Monopoly on Suffering: Blacks and Jews in Crown Heights and Elsewhere, My Beloved Community; Effectual Prayer; and, Dear 2pac: Letters to a Son. Reverend Daughtry's latest book is, In My Lifetime: Towards the Presidency of Barack Obama.

Mora McLean is the New York-based representative of FXB USA, the U.S. affiliate of FXB International (FXBI), a 25-year old Swiss non-profit organization dedicated to improving conditions of life for people--especially vulnerable children--living in extreme poverty in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. In this capacity she advises FXBI’s founder and the FXB USA Board of Directors on strategy and provides management oversight on a range of program and administrative matters, including FXBI’s work in Colombia, South America. She is President Emerita of The Africa-America Institute (AAI), and between 1989 and 1995 served as the Ford Foundation’s West Africa Representative based in Lagos, Nigeria. Mora is a graduate of Columbia Law School and longstanding member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Okey Ndibe is the author of the widely acclaimed novels Foreign Gods, Inc. and Arrows of Rain, and co-editor (with Zimbabwean writer, Chenjerai Hove) of Writers Writing on Conflicts and Wars in Africa. He earned MFA and PhD degrees from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and has taught at Connecticut College, Bard College, Trinity College, Brown University, and the University of Lagos (as a Fulbright scholar). He served as the founding editor of African Commentary, a US-based international magazine published by the late novelist Chinua Achebe. Ndibe also worked on the editorial board of Hartford Courant, the oldest continuously published newspaper in the US, where his essays won national and state awards. He writes for numerous international and Nigerian publications, including the New York Times, BBC online, Financial Times, and the (Nigerian) Daily Sun. He is currently working on a book titled Going Dutch and other American Mis/Adventures.

Bertrade Ngo-Ngijol Banoum teaches African Cultural Studies & Women's Studies, and chairs the Women's Studies Program at Lehman College, City University of New York. Her scholarly interests are in gender issues in local and global dimensions. Her current research explores gender construction in language and society, from African oral traditions to integration of indigenous knowledge bases in global academic agendas. Dr. Ngo-Ngijol Banoum’s publications include “The Yum: A Model of Sustainable Development”, in African Gender Studies: A Reader, “Women’s Human Rights” in the new Gale Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender, and The Role of Women in World Peace & the Role of Men and Boys in gender Equity, a Women’s Studies Review Special Issue.

Peyi Soyinka-Airewele is a professor of African and International Politics at Ithaca College, with interests in the fields of socio-political memory, the politics of disaster, critical development theory, human rights and the politics of African Cinema. Her publications include Socio-Political Scaffolding and the Construction of Change, co-edited with Kelechi Kalu (Africa World Press, 2008), Reframing Contemporary Africa, co-edited with Kiki Edozie (CQ Press 2009), and Invoking the Past, Conjuring the Nation. Her work on democratic development, collective memory, and cathartic violence has been published in several scholarly journals including the Journal of African and Asian Studies, the Journal of Third World Studies, and West Africa Review.

Olufemi Vaughan is the Geoffrey Canada Professor of Africana Studies & History at Bowdoin College. He was Professor of Africana Studies & History, and Associate Provost at SUNY, Stony Brook. Vaughan is the author and editor of nine books, including Nigerian Chiefs: Traditional Power in Modern Politics, 1890s-1990s (2000), Religion and the Making of Nigeria (forthcoming), and over forty articles. He has been awarded a Woodrow Wilson fellowship, a SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, and a Distinguished Scholar's Award from the Association of Third World Studies.

Oluwaseyi Awoyomi of Shayee Arts Culture and Tours Inc. is a New York City based visual and performing artist. Entertaining audiences since childhood, Ms. Awoyomi has performed globally throughout her career. Her work showcases the art of Nigerian traditional dance.

Ayanbinrin also known as Mother Drum of Africa is a quintessential vocalist, dancer and more especially a talking drummer of high repute who over the years have conquered many frontiers in the music industry in Nigeria and other parts of the world. Ayanbinrin is a recording artiste, singing in her native dialect and English language. She is the project director of Mother Drum Arts Foundation, a non-governmental organization with the objective of using the arts to promote, preserve and rejuvenate the cultural values of the African people, and in turn use this as a platform for global peace and unification.

Salieu Suso was born into a family of farmers and traditional Gambian musicians/historians that extends back nearly 1000 years He was trained to play the twenty-one stringed Kora (West African Harp) beginning at age 8 by his father, renowned Kora player Alhaji Musa Makang Suso. He is a descendent of JaliMady Wulayn Suso, the inventor of the Kora. He speaks Mandigo, Fula, Wolof, Sarahulay and some German. Salieu Suso is the leader of the Jaliya Kafo! Extended Family Music Ensemble. Griot, an Album of solo Kora and Vocal Performances. Message from Home, ensemble performance with renowned jazz saxophonist, Pharoah Sanders, Taking the Blues Back Home and Cheerful and Optimistic, albums of poetry, jazz and traditional African music.

“Organic Grooves” on African Travels, Sutukiung, a compilation of African dance club music. Http://

Sunday, August 17, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls at AGOA conference in Washington, DC August

It's important to keep our girls on the agenda.  Lacking huge resources and robust participation by people who are still sitting on the fence on this issue, I believe it's important to stand up and be counted.  The US-Africa Summit brought most of Africa's heads of state to the US to discuss US-Africa trade.

The Young African Leaders Initiative was also combined with the events for the trade talks.  I have no doubt that the trade will benefit the US and will have underwhelming impact on Africa.  It is also most unfortunate that the neoliberal model of trade is being pursued.  This means that in the US, the trade will benefit the large corporations like Bloomberg, Monsanto, Dow, General Electric and the like, to the detriment of small and medium scale enterprises.

It is also curious that African American businesses are not privileged in these deliberations.  Neither are businesses owned by new African immigrants to the US, who could be a bridge between American businesses and African customers.  It is mighty curious that African heads of state are figuratively selling their heritage for the proverbial and Biblical "mess of pottage".  What is in this trade arrangement for Africa?  How is it better than what obtains before?  What does it mean to be a sovereign state?  Why should you all be called here to the US like a headmaster calling school children?  Why do the first ladies participate in a public forum where they are lectured at by people whom even I could "school"?  Is there any recognition that there are African immigrants right here in the US who are experts on all the issues being discussed?  To what extent were they meaningfully and comprehensively consulted by either the Obama administration, the First Lady of the US, or the African governments of the countries from which they originate?

My observations on the Obama administration and its dismissive attitude toward Africa is found in the following article by the Voice of America:  "African Experts Expected More from Obama Administration"

I went primarily to protest.  I also attended the AGOA conference organized by Congress Member Karen Bass, the Ranking Member, Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health & Human Rights.  Below are pictures from Hon. Karen Bass' site.  I was waiting to ask a question.  Just so happened it was the first question.

The context: I was at the AGOA conference referenced below.

Here's the panel line-up:

Panel One
9:00 – 10:30 am
Moderator: Dr. Monde Muyangwa
Africa Program Director, Woodrow Wilson Center

H.E. Erastus Mwencha
Deputy Chair, African Union Commission

H.E. Sindiso Ngwenya
Secretary General
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)

H.E. Amb. Kadré Désiré Ouedraogo
President of Commission
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
Next Generation African Leaders: Discussion with a YALI Fellow
10:30 – 11:00 am
Moderator: Bernadette Paolo
President, The Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa

Hon. Sheryl Vangadasamy
Elected Representative, Seychelles National Assembly
Young African Leaders Initiative Fellow
Panel Two
11:00 – 12:30 pm
Moderator: Dr. Sharon T. Freeman
President & CEO, All American Small Business Exporters Association

H.E. Dr. Anthony Mothae Maruping
Economic Affairs Commissioner, African Union

H.E. Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera
Secretary General, East African Community
Thank you for signing up to participate in this forum during the historic U.S.-Africa Summit. I look forward to seeing you next week.

Congressmember Karen Bass
Growth and Opportunity in Africa Forum
Hosted by Congressmember Karen Bass
Tuesday, August 5, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM (EDT)
Cannon Caucus Room (345 Cannon House Office Building), US House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20540  |  Directions

During the Q.& A, After the first panel, I was able to ask the panelists on "Africa's regional economic priorities", each of whom spoke about the linkage b/w peace and security plus economic development and good governance plus democracy the questions:  If peace and security are as important as you have assured us, why did it take the President of France to convene a meeting of the Presidents of West African countries to discuss joint approaches and strategies to combat the Boko Haram threat?  Why also have our Chibok girls not been rescued?  What are you doing to respond to the massive humanitarian crisis that is unfolding?  How can African governments guarantee the peace and security of all their people no matter how remote their location?

After that first panel was concluded, I began lobbying the Members of Congress at the meeting.

I began by having a brief one on one conversation about our girls with Leader Nancy Pelosi.  One of her aides already followed up.  After the Congressional recess, #BringBackOurGirlsNYC intends to work on this matter until our girls are released, reunited with their families, and given the psychosocial support they need to resume their lives with a semblance of normalcy. 

And my Sister Friend, Prof. Olivia Cousins, (who took all the pictures at the AGOA Conference, as well as at the protest on August 6, and was a tremendous support all through the process of planning, navigating the DC transit system, and generally getting things done), is here below with me and Leader Pelosi.

I also spoke with Congress Member Karen Bass, and will follow up with her on the matter of our girls.  So will #BringBackOurGirlsNYC. 

I spoke as well with Congress Member Sheila Jackson-Lee (who apparently presented President Goodluck Jonathan an award at the Nigerian Heritage on Monday night).  She promised to look into our concerns.

I told Congressman Gregory Meeks, who said Diasporan Africans are Africans without concern for geographical divisions, that he is now my adopted Brother.  I will follow up with him on the matter of our girls.  So will #BringBackOurGirlsNYC. 

I also spoke with almost all panelist at the conference.  There is much work to be done on the Africa end if any of this neoliberal trade is to be beneficial to any African. You can find some of my thoughts on trade and Africa online.  I've been most vocal about Africa, gender and international trade.  In  Addis Ababa, at a conference from 21- 22 April 2009, I presented a paper at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, AFRICAN TRADE POLICY CENTRE's Inception Workshop on Mainstreaming Gender into Trade Policy.  The draft of the paper: Active Participation, Insignificant Gains: The Elusiveness of 
Gender Equality for African Women in the Liberal Global Economy" is found here 

Back to the AGOA conference, I guess since I was on the listserv, I was invited to a Congressional hearing on Ebola on Thursday, August 7, by a staffer of Congresswoman Bass, but the event was over-subscribed. I got there on time but there were already so many people on the line for the overflow room that I realized I should have been there about 2 hours ahead of time.  

All members of Congress promised to sit down and have a conversation with me on our girls.  All in all, it was a fruitful foray into Washington.  Now I need those clones yesterday (:  

#BringBackOurGirlsNYC press release to protest dinner in honor of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan by Corporate Council for Africa on Wednesday, 8/6/2014

I know some people would wonder why a press release meant for August 6 is now just making its way online.  I need a clone!  Too much work, too little time, and a full life, with its ancillary responsibilities are my only excuses.  Regardless, I hope that you give this a careful read and also disseminate widely because until our girls are found, we should not relax.  


Contact: Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome

#BringBackOurGirlsNYC invites you to the protest at the U.S.-Africa Summit dinner in honor of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday, August 6 at 6:30 p.m.

Washington, DC
— On Wednesday August 6, 2014, over three months after the Chibok abductions, with heavy hearts, #BringBackOurGirlsNYC invites the public to a protest in solidarity with the families and communities of more than 200 girls abducted by the terrorist militant group Boko Haram in Nigeria.  The protest is at Grand Hyatt Washington in Washington, District of Columbia starting at 6:30pm.  The protest is to express outrage and disappointment that most of our girls remain in captivity over 3 months after their abductions, and after multiple appeals to the Federal Government of Nigeria by #BringBackOurGirlsNYC and all people of good conscience in solidarity for the girls’ safe return to their families. 
“We call on the Nigerian government to rescue these girls and reunite them with their families. We believe that this issue belongs to the Nigerian government, which should take primary responsibility and lead the effort to bring back our girls.  The problem of human security is an urgent and ongoing matter in Nigeria. It is the fundamental duty of the government of any country to provide security for its citizens. The Nigerian government should harness the skills, experience and knowledge base of all Nigerians at home and abroad to solve these problems.  #BringBackOurGirlsNYC thanks the US government, local NYC community groups, leaders and activists worldwide for their support and efforts to reunite these Nigerian girls with their families.” - Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome, Professor of Political Science, African & Women's Studies (#BringBackOurGirlsNYC)

#BringBackOurGirlsNYC believes that partnering with Nigerian women’s groups, NYC local organizations, activists and leaders; will bring the much needed attention to this urgent and heartrending matter. We remain optimistic that our girls will be rescued and reunited with their families and hope that this happens sooner rather than later under the leadership of the Federal government of Nigeria, assisted by the government of the US and the international community.

About #BringBackOurGirlsNYC

#BringBackOurGirlsNYC is a coalition of Nigerians, Nigerian Americans, Africans, Diasporan Africans and friends of Nigeria resident in New York City. We intend to redouble our efforts and continue to protest until these girls are brought back to their families. We will also work to better strengthen the dialogue concerning the #BringBackOurGirls initiative, and we encourage you to join and support us to urge the Nigerian government to rescue, re-unite the girls with their families, and provide them future support.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls: Boko Haram and the Hydra-headed monster in Nigerian Politics

I haven't written for a long time.  The reason: distress writ large about Nigeria and our girls who have now been in captivity for well over 3 months.  There's nothing less desirable for me than writing this.  The piece I'd rather write is that which leads the crowing and jubilation about Nigeria's newfound stature as the largest economy in Africa. Alternately, I’d rather write one that points out some glorious achievement or another that my country of origin or its intrepid people have accomplished.  So for many days I've put this onerous assignment on my back burner. I also felt conflicted.  At one point I just hadn't done enough in my estimation to deserve the luxury of armchair pontificating.  I also had my constant need to study more. Perhaps there was something about the Boko Haram situation that I didn't know or understand; perhaps there's some stellar analysis out there; perhaps.... Now that I'm professor #BringBackOurGirlsNYC, I have earned the right to give what I hope is enlightened, thoughtful and well-reasoned response to this horrific situation, this unfolding tragedy, this cataclysmic rending of the social and political fabric of Nigeria. 

There's a pervasive tendency toward uni-dimensional analysis by many who have commented on the Boko Haram issue.  Some see this as an issue concerning inequitable denial of girls' access to education.  Others see human trafficking looming large.  For yet others, this is a Muslim attack on Christians.  Some consider it a case of humanitarian crisis.  Many in Southern Nigeria see it as a Northern problem.  I see the problem as hydra-headed since it has elements of each dimension enumerated immediately above. And yet it's more. The problem is structural, historical, political and economic, and it has extraordinary and profound ramifications. 

Boko Haram is widely perceived as the source of the problems of insecurity that currently beset Nigeria.  But it is not.  What it has successfully done is to exploit the weaknesses in the body politic to push its agenda of forcing its own warped perspective of what the proper observance of Islam should be on all the people it encounters.  It does not brook resistance, and disagreement with it is met with overwhelming force that aims to destroy, even obliterate opposition.  It challenges traditional as well as post-colonial state, as witnessed by its destruction of state-owned infrastructure, battles where it increasingly deploys superior firepower against state security forces; foiled abduction and assassination attempts on Muslim traditional rulers, including the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, in February 2013; the assassination of the Emir of of Gwoza in May 2014, the attacks against a former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, and the moderate Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi on July 28.  UN House in Abuja was bombed as were numerous churches, markets, and countless public gathering places.  The terror and mayhem inflicted on the Nigerian people by Boko Haram are unprecedented in the annals of Nigerian history. 

Boko Haram is not the source of insecurity.  The structural problems that were set in motion by the establishment of the modern Nigerian state under the tutelage of the British colonizers are responsible for the emergence of Boko Haram. The most serious aspect of those problems include the weakness of the state and the inability or unwillingness of its custodians to prioritize the security of Nigerians.  This enabled not only Boko Haram, but other militia groups to thrive and permitted them to act with impunity.  It is the absence of the state and its lack of awareness of its most fundamental reason for being that allows an insurgent militia to strike at will, mostly unchallenged to wreak havoc and mayhem in a region of the territory under its sovereign control that the state itself says is “very remote”.  Sovereignty over an area means that it can never be too far to be availed of the same basic protections as the capital, otherwise, the state might as well pack up shop. 
Structurally, there is a North-South divide that drives ongoing struggles for access to political goods, including the proceeds from the natural resources produced by Nigeria.  Complicating that struggle is the Christian-Muslim divide, the sectarian divides among Muslims, the rampant and grinding poverty of the masses of Nigerians, which is more extreme in the North, the mass unemployment of even educated youth, inadequate and atrociously barren educational opportunities of the children of the poor, lack of social welfare for the teeming masses, and increasingly, a refusal to accept this as a perpetual fate of the poor who bow and kow tow to the wealthy, who are indifferent to their plight.  The indifference of the wealthy is a key part of the resentment and anger that gives Boko Haram a ready army of footsoldiers to carry out its horrendous agenda. 

The incapacity of the state to challenge Boko Haram and bring it to heel is another key element.  A third element is the embrace by even those who barely managed to claw their way into middle class status, of the gross inequities and stark inequality that is writ large in Nigeria.  These are people who have escaped poverty and never want to see it again.  They thus distance themselves from the plight of the poor.  Many only get passionate when they are consuming the exploitative and manipulative interpretations of their chosen religion’s tenets by their favorite "Man or Woman of God”/clergy.  The wealthy spend their sometimes ill-gotten resources with wanton disregard for the plight of the struggling masses.  The state elite is part of this nouveau riche, and it is also blatantly uncaring about the poor and oblivious to their needs.  It was caught unawares when Boko Haram came calling.  It still refuses to go beyond its very limited comfort level because it would rather see the problem as one caused by its political enemies who would rather not have a replay of a Jonathan administration.  One wonders who is advising the Federal Government of Nigeria and why it continues to embrace policies that don’t work.

The state governments in the Northeast of Nigeria where Boko Haram has been most destructive have also succumbed to imposing “easy” solutions, such as the establishment of vigilante groups to battle Boko Haram.  Regardless of the success of the vigilantes, it is difficult to see the groups as advantageous to the corporate integrity of the state.  Vigilantes are not legally constituted entities.  They may be seen by pragmatic people as a stop-gap but they challenge the very existence of the state because they are in essence an admission that the state has failed.  

Boko Haram’s violent reign of terror has not been checked in any appreciable way by the Nigerian government and this has caused a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions.  3 million people have been displaced by this violence.  Millions have also escaped from affected areas to neighboring countries.  They are in dire straits and there’s no meaningful response by NEMA and the various SEMAs.  The inability of the Nigerian state to check Boko Haram, (which by the way, is not the first insurgent movement in the area, having been preceded most recently by the Maitatsine millenarian movement in the 1980s), is at the heart of the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

As the humanitarian crisis unfolds, there is devastating disruption of everyday life and the tendency of the wealthy to distance themselves from the plight of the poor means that many in close proximity to the affected areas also do not see this crisis as their problem. It is the problem of the vulnerable poor.  The farther the distance of the wealthy to the epicenter of the Boko Haram controlled zone, the more their blasé attitude and determination to carry on business as usual.  Nigerians should be ashamed!  Even so, there is a possibility of redemption if we all gird our loins and engage the struggle of making sure that we rescue those beset by Boko Haram predators, and by so doing, begin to rescue Nigeria from its serious structural flaws that are most damaging to the body politic. 

Being the largest economy in Africa is well and good, but it means nothing if there is no peace and security, if majority of Nigerians are still scrabbling in the dirt for their day to day sustenance, if our communications infrastructure is at best inadequate, at worst, decrepit and decayed; if our educational system is full of substandard institutions that are poorly funded and neglected because the children of the wealthy and upper middle class have alternatives.  It is most unseemly that the majority of the citizens of a country as wealthy as Nigeria are in the dire straits that have become their norm.  Growing into the true manifestation of the largest economy in Africa means Nigeria begins to take care of ALL its people.  Since there’s no existing culture of doing this in a serious way, doing it well will be challenging, but it’s not impossible. 

Any prospects for #COVID19-Inspired Global Government?

Many people are hopeful that the catastrophic effects of # COVID19 would lead to the embrace of world government. Reminds me of Immanu...