Event Date: Friday, 29 May 2009 Event Time: 09:00:am - 05:00m
Event Location: London Metropolitan University Stapleton House Holloway Road London N7 8HN
PROFILE OF SPEAKERS
Professor Oluwole "Wole" Soyinka
Professor Oluwole "Wole" Soyinka is a Nigerianwriter, poet and playwright. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986, the first African to be so honoured. In 1994, he was designated United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Goodwill Ambassador for the promotion of African culture, human rights, freedom of expression, media and communication.
Mallam Nuhu Ribadu
Mallam Nuhu Ribaduformer Executive Chairman of Nigeria'sEconomic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the government commission tasked with countering corruption and fraud. Under Ribadu's administration, the EFCC has charged prominent bankers, former ministers, Senate presidents, high-ranking political party members and large-scale 419 gang operators.
Sister Affiong L. Affiong
Sister Affiong L. Affiong is Secretary General of Moyo wa Taifa, a Pan Afrikan Women's Solidarity Network based in the UK and Ghana . Her political life began as a student activist in the Nigerian student union movement in 1983 at the University of Ibadan and at the University of Lagos in 1987. In 1990, she relocated to the UK where she is active within the Black community where she has worked as a political organiser, campaigner and community advocate on race, immigration, employment and other anti discrimination issues in the community.
Barrister Femi Falana
Barrister Femi Falana. President of the West African bar Association. style="padding: 0px; margin: 0px">>Femi Falana is acknowledged as a credible and consistent voice in the ongoing campaign for a just rule of law in Nigeria. He is highly regarded as a strong and effective pillar against rights abuses and tyrannical rule as well as an advocate of good governance in Nigeria and across Africa.
Sowore Omoyele. style="padding: 0px; margin: 0px">>Omoyele Sowore is a Nigerian who has spent the last years working to promote human rights and democracy in Nigeria, and to stop the militarization and violence that multinational oil companies have brought to his country. He is the publisher of the anti fraud on line magazine Sahara Reporters New York.
Okey Ndibe is a novelist, poet, political activist from Yola, Nigeria. He is the author of Arrows of Rain, a critically reviewed novel published in 2000. Ndibe relocated to the USA in 1988, where he founded African Commentary, an award-winning and widely acclaimed a magazine. He is a published poet, and a former associate professor of English at Bard College at Simon's Rock.
Professor Sola Adeyeye
Professor Sola Adeyeye former Nigerian law maker, scientist, pro democracy activist, social justice campaigner and renowned for Human Rights Campaigns.
Re: London: The State of the Nigerian Nation Symposium
What are these people going to talk about? Are they going to about true federalism or how the failed state called Nigeria should be broken down into manageable chunks? Is Ribadu going to tell us the governor who offered him $15 million bribe?
Re: London: The State of the Nigerian Nation Symposium
Those who wish to talk let them do so in peace. When it is time to establish a military presence in the southern part of Nigeria, then I would be glad to participate. We are way past the 'talking' phases. It is time to act.
I wish them a peaceful and fruitful gathering. Eager to see updates on you tube.
* Blames Politician-Owned media For Distorting Facts On Ribadu's Tenure
From Martins Oloja (London)
PRESIDENT of the West African Bar Association (WABA), Mr. Femi Falana, literally saved Mallam Nuhu Ribadu from a barrage of questions from concerned Nigerians in London at the weekend.
Ribadu, former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was assailed with questions on his integrity while superintending the commission under the Olusegun Obasanjo government.
Angry Nigerians and other nationals who attended the heated colloquium on the state of the Nigerian nation at the Metropolitan University, London, wanted to know on which platform Ribadu mounted the rostrum to declare Nigeria as a failed state, which they accused him of contributing to its failure.
Ribadu should have been pelted with rotten eggs like was done to OBJ in London.
"But he (Ribadu) has demonstrated by his act in office that corruption can be fought... Really, don't judge him by what you read in the newspapers."
Okay. Do we use Wikipedia then?
Ribadu, who was moved to tears during his presentation, lamented that Nigeria had not made any steady progress because of poor leadership.
Welcome to the world of the common Nigerian. All we can do is shed tears. Surprisingly, he still has tears left to shed. Mine have long dried up.
Nonetheless, part of the practical steps suggested by Dr. Okey Ndibe, who spoke on 'The role of those in the Diaspora,' include:
"We ought to come out and demonstrate against an imposed leader. An imposed leader should be rejected. 99
"We should not always forgive and forget; we should develop a long memory of any wrong-doing. Obasanjo elected Yar'Adua and Nigerians have forgiven and forgotten.
"We have to insist on the right thing. No criminal should be allowed to go. We are in Nigeria, where when a politician steals public fund, he declares God is faithful; God has blessed me. Three Bishops held a mass for Professor Maurice Iwu (the INEC chairman) in Nigeria."
Just wondering what Ribadu had to say in response to this. I see the symposium assumed the typical "Nigerian Character" flavor going by the representations of Falana(Ribadu's mouthpiece), Ribadu and Ndipe? I am sure Soyinka just went over there to entertain himself as usual.
Back to square one. When is the next symposium please?
“State of the Nigerian Nation” Symposium: A Personal Narrative
Wednesday, 03 June 2009 06:02 By Yemisi Ogunleye
May 29th 2009 was the so-called Democracy Day for Nigeria. I spent the day not only attending the “State of the Nation Summit” held at the London Metropolitan University, but filming for the pioneering online investigative journalism website Sahara Reporters.
I arrived with my Indian colleague, Sukanaya, a day before the summit hoping to land an interview with Wole Soyinka, the 1986 Nobel Prize winner in literature and one of the world’s most well known human rights activists. Within an hour of our arrival, the founder of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, informed us that Professor Soyinka had agreed to grant us an interview. We had to meet at a secluded location, aware of the dangers that lurked for both the renowned professor and Sahara Reporters.
The interview lasted for a little over 30 minutes during which Soyinka eloquently described the irony of Obasanjo’s declaration of May 29th as Democracy Day. For Soyinka, Obasanjo’s self-serving choice of May 29 as the emblematic date for Nigeria’s democratic dreams amounts to an affront on the sensibilities of the Nigerian people:
“...since this particular post-military dictatorship phase came about as a result of again, quote on quote, "elections", and civilians that are supposed to be running the government, but I think you and I know there's no democracy in Nigeria.There was a feable pretence at it for the first year, second year maybe, but then it began to unravel...”
It’s been a long time coming… As we were rounding up the interview, in walked Nuhu Ribadu, the exiled former chairman of Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Right behind him was Okey Ndibe, the Nigerian novelist, political commentator and professor of fiction and African literature at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.
For a moment I was in awe of the presence of four of Nigeria’s greatest crusaders for democratic renewal and transparency in governance. And then the significance of that moment hit me. This encounter was not only important because these forward looking activists were in the same room, and held the same convictions in their hearts; it was important – and might I add – sad, that the four men standing in front of me were from three different generations, four different geo-political regions of Nigeria, and started their activism at different times. Yet, here they were engaged in the fight for liberty and democracy in their country 50 years after Nigeria’s independence from the UK.
I have always been somewhere in the middle when it came to ‘fighting the cause’ - as they call it. Sometimes I leaned towards the activists’ side and sometimes I felt the need to ‘stick-up’ for the government; but this very moment, on 28th May, 2009, I knew which side I needed to be on.
There are many people who would regard activists as trouble makers always ready to stir up a fight, and to be honest a part of me was expecting to witness something along those lines at the summit. But as the attendees trooped in, and the venue got filled to the brim, the only thing I saw stirring up was the unmistakable and collective desire for a better Nigeria.
Democracy: ‘A political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them’.
The summit exceeded my expectations – and those of the organizers. It was by far the largest, most orderly and enrapt gathering of the Nigerian Diaspora in the UK that I had ever witnessed.
I couldn’t help but relate this assemblage of Nigerians and their supporters to that of the Pan-African conference that took place in London in 1900, marking the first phase of the Pan-Africanist movement. The aim of that conference was to bring together people of African descent and promote a unity of thought and ideals. There were no geographic restrictions, only the proclamation that Africa had begun the steps to make her voice heard. As a result of the conference, the word ‘Pan-Africa’ was inserted in the human lexicon for the first time.
Likewise, the ‘State of the Nation summit’ sought no boundaries on participation. It was a day when Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and all the ethnic groups that make up Nigeria came together in one voice and asked for one thing and one thing only: ‘a better Nigeria for Nigerians and their future generations’. Participants came from all over the UK, from Europe, from Nigeria and even from the US.
The summit was not like many other activist gatherings, often filled with the rhetoric of blame and anti-government slogans. On the contrary, each speaker as well as members of the audience focused on ways of getting Nigeria to take a step in the right direction.
Proud to be Nigerian...
The day of the symposium, as I listened to such speakers as Soyinka, Affiong Affiong, Femi Falana, Josephine Amuwo, Nuhu Ribadu, Kayode Ogundamisi, Ndibe, Omoyele, Sola Adeyeye and Kennedy Emetulu, I saw parallels again with the Pan-African movement.
Soyinka berated the Nigerian government for attempting to undermine the symposium. He noted that he talks to nationals and groups from a variety of countries, but the Nigerian government begrudges him the ability to speak to a predominantly Nigerian audience. After enumerating many instances of national disappointment, the laureate called on progressive Nigerians to start identifying sound candidates for electoral offices, and to resolve to make their votes count.
In a passionate message, Affiong Affiong, a former University of Lagos student activist who is an internationally renowned organizer, traced the role that women must play in achieving democratic vitalization and development.
Femi Falana treated the audience to a detailed account of the country’s desultory performance in electoral politics as well as the delivery of development. In his view, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party has already concluded plans to rig the 2011 elections – despite its rhetoric of electoral reform. Falana contended that Nigerians ought to awaken to the fact that they must battle to rescue themselves from the clutches of a ruling party that steals mandates and plunders public resources with violence.
Amuwo spoke of deep pride in her Nigerian heritage as well as her strong faith in the nation’s redemptive promise. She said the energy at the symposium buttressed Nigerians’ desire to take their country to its rightful place.
Ribadu gave a heartfelt, and warmly received, presentation. He defended his record as the helmsman at the EFCC and regretted that the nation’s most corrupt elements had entrenched themselves under the Umaru Yar’adua dispensation. He reminded the audience that it is up to Nigerians to realize that they are one, and that they must stand up and say a loud no to those wrecking their lives and nation.
Ndibe challenged Nigerians living abroad to help develop a long memory regarding the treachery of their politicians. He stated that, as a matter of moral principle, he has refused to identify Yar’adua as Nigeria’s president. For him, Nigerians in the Diaspora have a role to play in combating politicians’ manipulation of language and God to mask their depraved conduct.
Sowore’s address was in the form of a challenge to Nigerian journalists to identify with the popular will of Nigerians or risk being condemned to irrelevance. He described the evolution of his career as a citizen reporter who established Saharareporters.com as a forum to enable Nigerians to report themselves.
Emetulu and Adeyeye functioned as moderators of the morning and afternoon sessions respectively. Emetulu, a frequent commentator on Nigerian affairs, articulated the role of enlightened citizens in the reclamation of their country. Adeyeye, a former member of the House of Representatives, spoke about his experiences in politics, including his threat to use violence as a means of protecting votes cast for him in his Osun home state.
In all, the symposium was a rich harvest of perspectives, groups and visions. It showcased the Diaspora community of Nigeria saying, “It is time.” It is time to initiate a collective consciousness of democracy so that for the first time in the history of Nigeria, the word ‘Democracy’ can be inserted in the dictionary of the country’s leaders.
I had never felt more proud as a Nigerian, and more hopeful for the country’s future, as I did on May 29. I was in the midst of patriots whose singular wish is to generate ideas that would enable their nation to fulfill its promise and realize its potential.