Wednesday was a day of remembrance for people who share the idea of Pan-Africanism as activists, friends and colleagues gathered for the eighth memorial of one of their own, Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, who died in a car crash in Nairobi, Kenya in 2009.
The event, held in Abuja, was organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, with the theme, “Democracy in Africa; Trends and Challenges”.
Students of the Anglican Girls Grammar School, Abuja, held a mock summit of the African Union, taking roles as the continent’s heads of states.
Former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, a professor, who headed the panel of discussion on the theme of the event, described the late Mr. Abdul-Raheem as a Pan-African luminary.
He said the topic for the memorial was chosen because it was one of the issues the late Mr. Abdul-Raheem acted on.
“His sense of optimism and ability to speak the truth to the people will continue to guide us,” Mr. Odinkalu said.
During the round table discussion, a panelist, Remi Ajibewa, the director of Political Affairs of ECOWAS, listed “gerontocracy” and “satanic elections” as major challenges facing democracy in Africa.
“The presidents of Mali is 72; Nigeria 74; South Africa 75; Malawi 76; Liberia 78; Cameroon 84; Zimbabwe 93. It looks like African leaders equate leadership with chieftaincy title that can be transferred from father to son. We have bastardized democracy in Africa. Succession needs to be looked into. Credible election is important in democracy,” Ms. Ajibewa said.
Dayo Kusa, another panelist was however of the view that gerontocracy is not the major challenge affecting democracy in the continent. Rather, he said, more informed individuals are needed to steer the wheels of leadership.
“Unless we strengthen agencies and identify individuals with leadership qualities, elections will not lead us anywhere”, Mr. Kusa said.
Okello Oculi, a long time friend of the late activist, agreed with Mr. Kusa.
“Let us not follow the voice of America or other parts of the world when criticizing our leaders. Age is not the main problem with our leaders but the quality leadership.”
In her closing remark, Ms. Ajibewa called for an all-gender inclusive electoral process in Africa.
“There should be mentoring of youths on leadership, there should be an avenue for training young Africans about leadership. It should start from homes,” she advocated.
Guests, friends and colleagues poured encomiums on the late activist as his family gave the vote of thanks.
Mr. Abdul-Raheem (6 January 1961 – 25 May 2009) was the general secretary of the Pan-African Movement, director of Justice Africa, the Deputy Director of United Nations Millennium Campaign for Africa, as well as a writer for newspapers and journals across Africa.
He was born in Funtua, Nigeria and died in a road accident on 25 May 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya, while on his way to meet the president of Rwanda.
He received an undergraduate degree in political science from a Bayero university and was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford and had PhD from Buffalo University.
Taju, as he was fondly called, dedicated his life to the Pan-African vision and the peaceful unification of Africa. He left behind a wife, Mounira Chaieb, and two daughters, Ayesha and Aida.
A thinker and writer, but above all a mighty talker, he inspired and influenced a whole generation of Africans and Africanists with his mixture of passion and humor. It is considered ironic that he died on 25 May – Africa Day.
He died at 48.