Rekindling Pan Africanism: Benedicta Uweru-Apuamah
CIB has the honor of sharing a beautiful piece written by an outstanding Pharmacist, Benedicta Uweru-Apuamah. She was a two-time ONE Champion for the ONE Campaign in Nigeria and the Executive Director of Girls Health and Education Foundation (GHEF).
Her passion for achieving the Africa of her dreams inspired her to share her experience and the need to advocate for Pan Africanism. Kindly enjoy this.
-Africa is the world’s second largest and second most-populous continent, behind Asia in both categories. The continent consists of 54 fully recognized sovereign states, nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition. Being the youngest continent in the world, it is expected that the best ought to come from her- innovations, trail blazing economy etc.
With unequalled natural and human resources, Africa stands the chance of being a global model but the loss of our spirit of Pan Africanism is gradually destroying the roots that hold us as one.
Pan-Africanists believe that solidarity will enable the continent to fulfill its potential to independently provide for all its people. Crucially, an all-African alliance would empower African people globally. The realization of the Pan-African objective would lead to “power consolidation in Africa”, which “would compel a reallocation of global resources, as well as unleashing a fiercer psychological energy and political assertion…that would unsettle social and political (power) structures…in the Americas”.
Pan Africanism would find her way in our minds and lives again if we are well informed about “the labor of our heroes’ past”, the Julius Nyereres, Kwame Nkrumah etc. Before now, I didn’t know so much about Pan Africanism until my trip as an African to four countries (3 continents) in less than 3 years.
My first international trip was to Brussels, Belgium, where I had to transit through Istanbul. I met a pool of very unfriendly and rude airport officials and in some cases racist passengers. I felt it was alright, giving the excuse of racism until I visited Kigali, Rwanda for the Africa Youth Connekt, Kigali 2018, where I had to pay visa fee of $30 for moving from Nigeria (West Africa) to Rwanda (East Africa). I thought it was not so bad until the Ghanaian delegate who was right behind me walked past immigration without paying a dime and I couldn’t understand what my offense was.
Another incident that hurt me was when I had to represent Nigeria at the World Youth Service & Enterprise International Leadership Program (WYSE ILP) Brazil 2019 Program where I transited through Ethiopia which happens to be the Headquarters of the African Union.
Prior to my Brazil trip, it was unknown to me that the country is a drug-surge country. This meant that being black and especially Nigerian going through Ethiopia to Brazil already made you a drug-trafficking suspect. Being the only Nigerian at a training that gathered 26 participants from 16 countries, my excitement was watered down at the Bole International Airport in Ethiopia. A Ghanian friend and fellow participant at the WYSE ILP Brazil 2019 was not left out of this embarrassment.
We were to transit through Ethiopia again back to Lagos and Accra respectively. After the routine security checks, we were ushered into a room unsuspecting any form of maltreatment. We met a couple of other passengers in the room and to our amazement, we were hand searched again, unpacking our hand luggage. We thought it was all until we were asked to use the wash room with a same sex officer to watch over us and were ordered to urinate.
Innocently, I obeyed the order because I was pressed even though I thought it was weird and then the officer spoke in a language I didn’t understand and the other male officer looked in my direction asking, “Madam, nothing?” Then it dawned on me they wanted to pass out solid waste. At such realization, I lost my cool and insisted to be screened properly through a machine. To my utter amazement, they said the hospital where such can be done would take a 4 hour drive from the airport.
It was clear they weren’t joking when my Ghanaian sister and I got detained. We stuck to our guns and I gave a concrete reason why I couldn’t force myself any longer even though I tried because my bowels were empty as I didn’t have any food on the 12 hour flight. At that point, they decided to prepare food for us.. By now other passengers we arrived together with had been discharged while we were being detained and they kept telling stories of a Nigerian who was as stubborn as I was yet they found drugs with her and was arrested a few hours before we arrived the airport. I couldn’t believe it was a crime to be a West African in East Africa, we were detained for over an hour before we were released and given apologies that held no water.
Recently, I was in Tanzania to attend the International Model UN Conference 2019 and I realized Tanzania wasn’t let of this loss of the Pan Africanism ideology. Official languages of Tanzanians are English and Swahili although, Swahili is more widely spoken.
The challenge with this trip started from securing the visa. Obviously, there’s been a change in how to acquire a visa (from manual to e-visa) without properly updating their visa portal. I had to travel all the way from Obiaruku (Delta State) to Abuja to discover e-visa was the new procedure. Shockingly, you’re not entitled to be given a seat at the Consulate/Tanzanian Embassy but thankfully, the security man was kind enough to offer us seats because the Consular was absent.
I witnessed the way Tanzanians generally treated foreigners including Tanzanians who live or school outside Tanzania. It is worthy of note that the pack I met at the TIMUN conference 2019 did their best to make me feel comfortable except with the Swahili language torment lol.
My point is, Africa needs to rise! Africa needs to grow & we cannot do this divided. Our unity is in our diversity. The Africa of our dreams is achievable. We have no other continent, this is ours. If we complain about what the Western world does to us, do we end up being our own enemies? Let us join hands to rekindle the passion our African Founding Fathers established. The African Union should be at the forefront of activating the spirit of Pan Africanism.
We won’t stop until the needful is done.