Andrew Young lauds democratisation in Nigeria, others
FORMER American Ambassador to the United Nations and an erstwhile Mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young, has
declared that a recent successful and credible general election in Nigeria and three successful ones in South
Africa and continued democratisation in some other countries have signified that indeed it was now a serious
continent where investors and indeed Africans in the Diaspora can do serious business.
He made this declaration during a colloquium at the Pennsylvania Convention Hall in Philadelphia where the
National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) concluded its yearly convention at the weekend.
At the colloquium with the theme: “Emancipation: Reconnecting African-Americans To the Homeland”
Ambassador Young, a regular visitor to Nigeria, noted that the ancient accusation that the continent was not
serious about elections and good governance was fading as the most populous black nation in the world, Nigeria
and indeed the largest economy, South Africa, have turned the corner.
His words: “…Everything you read about Africa in the United States (U.S.) is distorted. But now, Africa had
had relatively free and fair elections. It means that Africa has decided that democracy is the only way to
develop…There have been good elections in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, etc. But specifically, Nigeria
and South Africa, two of the most significant countries in the continent, have had successful elections and
democratisation is remarkable there. Nigeria and South Africa have actually signified that Africa is a continent
that deserves to be treated with respect… Yet, everything you still read about Africa in the United States is
distorted. That is why The Africa Channel, a new television station broadcast in the U.S. through national
distribution deals with the four largest cable MSOs, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Charter and other
cable systems is important…I have been to most parts of Africa. I have gone with friends… even to Arusha
in Tanzania. I have not been to South Sudan. I have been to the North. Tanzania is one of the best buy, a
wonderful tourist destination….”
Young was among six other eminent panellists that discussed the topic. Others included Dr. Julius Garvey, a
physician, son of the late civil rights activist, Marcus Garvey, Les Payne, former Editor, Newsday, National and a
founder and former president of NABJ, Stanley L. Straughter, Chairman, Board of Constituency for Africa, City of
Philadelphia, Mayor’s Commission on Africa and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs, Steve Cohen, Congressman TN,
Author of the U.S. House legislation apologising for slavery, Avline Ava Founder, ARK Jammers and Bob Reid,
Executive Vice President and General Manager, The Africa Channel who moderated the symposium was bureau
news manager for Fox News, CBS and NBC News…
Dr. Garvey, medical director of Garvey Vascular Specialists in New York, spoke in the manner of a chip off the
old block when he declared that although a lot of changes have taken place in Africa, the cause his father and
indeed Africa-based nationalist fighters such as the late Kwame Nkrumah fought and died for has not attracted
revolution they dreamed of more than 50 years after.
His words: “A lot of changes have now taken place, but revolution has not really happened…What people like
Kwame Nkrumah advocated as far as 1957 has not happened really…In fact, the ideology and the economic
system that marginalised us then that the freedom fighters were talking about is still alive…Africa cannot make
it without the media in the mix. We need to be reminded of what the CIA allegedly did to Kwame Nkrumah and
Patrice Lumumba…Continued effort by the strong to dominate the world is still alive and well….We must be
vigilant…Africa is again slipping away from us…”
Young took over again from Garvey: “That is why If we African Americans deny Africa, we deny ourselves…But
this is the thing: we have not organized ourselves to realise who and what we are…we have not realised that
the continent, Africa is the richest that can subsume India, China and even the United States. Something is
fundamentally wrong. If we put together some change, we can make the difference…
“Global economy and globalisation may have affected Africa. But we still have the best. Even Zimbabwe,
yes Zimbabwe is the best place to invest in the world today. We are ignorant of the global financial system.
The system is very weak. That is also why we should go back to school. Encourage young ones too to read
Economics and Finance. We learn too much political game very well. But we do not know how to run business…
Meanwhile, in pursuit of President Goodluck Jonathan’s focus on growing the economy by boosting investment
and job creation, incoming Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-
Iweala, has been meeting with top financiers and key global investors.
The meetings which held in New York and Washington DC were centred on exploring opportunities in different
sectors of the Nigerian economy especially with regard to financing important projects in the country.
Among the financial and investment heavyweights she has met so far are iconic financier George Soros as well
as the heads of two of the biggest investment banks in the U.S. – Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit and CEO of JP
Morgan Chase Jamie Dimon.
Les Payne, a founder of NABJ and former editor of New York’s Newsday said the new digital journalism age has
dramatically changed the way the world is covered…Technology has changed everything to the extent that even
there is virtually no Foreign desk in Newsday where the paper had won many Pulitzer prizes. Mr Payne noted
that it is unfortunate to learn that African leaders prefer foreign news media to local ones for their ego trips.
He urged African and African American journalists in the room to note that “in covering politics: ”You cannot have
democracy without a free press. Journalism, sound journalism is key to democracy…”
Avline Ava, a Camerounian who is retiring very soon from the World Bank Institute in D.C after about 20 years
said, “Africa is about to turn the curve. Opportunities are opening up. This is the time for African Americans
to re-engage with the continent. We cannot afford to leave the continent to Asians: Chinese, Indians and all
that…Thank goodness, 54 African Americans that have confirmed their DNA origin to be from Cameroun have
recently returned to their roots in the Central African country, Cameroun…”
Dr. Garvey took over the podium: “Euro-centric focus has dominated our conversations for 500 years…We have
flipped the continent to understand our Africanness. We have the greatest history. We have the oldest history.
That is who we are…Africa has always had democracy. Democracy did not start in the United States. It started in
Africa. That is Africa’s contribution to the 21st century: Africa’s humanism.
Stanley Straughter’s intervention: It is instructive that Nigeria’s crude oil, Cote I’voire and Ghana’s cocoa are all
over the U.S.…giving the power to make wealth…A lot of us like reading Master’s degree in European Union but
no one wants to read M.Sc on African Union. China has up to $100 billion investment in Africa growing. China is
in cell-phone business…So, we have got to be involved as someone said here, lest we should be the last…”
Young again: “that is why we have got to buy the ticket and go..Go to Africa and see for yourself. Go to Africa
on vacation, while you are around there, including those of you in journalism, write stories. There are so many
good things going on in Africa…We have to go back to Africa physically, mentally and spiritually. We can send
money…for so many things including clean water for Africa…Tell the story as it is…”
As part of the human resources that abound in Africa, Young, a renowned political risk analyst revealed to the
bewildered audience, “there are 2000 Nigerian qualified medical doctors in Atlanta alone….”
These revelations came up in Philadelphia where it was also revealed in the NABJ 2011 convention programme
booklet (page 63) that Nigeria has not been serious about the African-Americans’ return-to-homeland project that
is catching on in the United States now.
In the synopsis written for the colloquium by the black journalists’ association, this is written:“….Not since Marcus
Garvey’s ‘Back-to-Africa’ movement in the early 1900s have there been so many efforts to re-connect African
Americans with Mother Africa and redefine the legacy of being Black in America. Consider the significance of the
United Nations’ announcement proclaiming 2011 as the International Year of the People of African Descent”, a
declaration endorsed by the U.S. State Department.
“Or the paradox that in the same year that Barrack Obama became the first person of African descent to become
President of the United States, the U.S. House of Representatives formally apologised to African Americans for
slavery and Jim Crow.
“Then, there is the science of DNA testing, a virtually infallible tool in tracing the roots of Africa’s descendants.
Since its formation in 2003, African Ancestry, the Washington DC-based company with the largest data-base of
African DNA samples, has helped over 100,000 African Americans discover their African roots.
“Meanwhile, on the African continent, a number of countries, including Cameroun, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya and
Senegal are welcoming African Americans home with offers of land, business opportunities, dual citizenship and
a chance to rediscover their heritage….”
Nigeria, whose government just did a conference on Nigerians in the Diaspora barely three weeks ago, did not
feature among serious countries that have embraced the wonderful opportunity