‘There is immense potential in a well-celebrated Africa Day’
By Vicky Bricks
Fresh facts are emerging as to why the annual Africa Day celebrations, being the anniversary of the founding of the first supra-national pan-Africanist body on the continent is not very popular yet in Nigeria.
Celebrated annually within several countries and the pan-African diaspora to mark the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, OAU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on May 25, 1963, the event was marked in Nigeria last year via a Colloquium hosted by The Difference Newspaper at the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs, NIIA, Victoria Island, Lagos.
This year, The Difference is equally marking the day with a panel discussion on the newly introduced All-Africa Passport scheme as well as an award ceremony to honour leading business players in the West African sub-region.
Given its potential as a core mobilization tool to harness the collective energies of the 1.3billion people of Africa, analysts say that, when it gets into full bloom, the Africa Day celebrations will be a great fillip to drive growth, development and cohesion among the nations and peoples of Africa. But then there are still teething problems that need to be overcome, including the currently inadequate level of awareness about the celebrations within several leading African states, Nigerian included.
While South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and the pan-African Diaspora in the United Kingdom and the United States of America among others formally celebrate the day and in one or two instances declare the day as a national holiday, in Nigeria, it is largely private organisations like The Difference and ‘Africa’s global bank,’ the United Bank for Africa that undertake activities in this regard.
According to respondents who spoke with The Difference in Lagos this week, many people have not keyed into the celebration of the day because they have not been educated about it and its significance.
One such respondent, Mr Umeh Peters in the course of a conversation with The Difference explained that he was just hearing about Africa day for the very first time from the reporter but that from what he has heard, he thinks it’s worth celebrating.
” I am hearing the word ‘Africa Day’ for the first time but listening to all you’ve told me, I think it’s a good thing to celebrate our freedom and then go ahead towards building a better Africa. However, it’s so unfortunate that so many people here in Nigeria have not gotten this awareness yet but I feel it’s not too late to begin to educate Nigerians about this day and this can only be done by you and I. it’s really very interesting to know about things like this and I think Nigerians should celebrate their day”.
On her part, Mrs Bunmi Oyegbemi, a mother of one when asked about what she knows of ‘Africa Day,’ responded: “I feel Africa Day should essentially be a cultural day where the different cultures that the continent is composed of are celebrated but I don’t know if there’s a special day set aside to celebrate that at the moment.”
After explaining what Africa Day as presently constituted is to her, she concluded that Nigerians would not be in a hurry to celebrate this day because they are not aware of it and that indeed they shouldn’t celebrate it until they know the benefits they can derive from it.
” I feel Nigerians won’t celebrate Africa Day because they are not aware and even if they are, Nigerians are too busy chasing money and fame talk less of celebrating their day. On a personal note also, I feel it’s not worth celebrating because I can’t see any need of celebrating something that hasn’t impacted upon our lives, I want to know it’s importance before I celebrate. ‘A beg tell me who Africa day help? ” she queried.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, Africa Union Chairperson