Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Remembering Biafra" Conference, Apr 20-21 2017

Last week the newly-established Institute of African Studies and the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, Washington, DC hosted the Remembering Biafra conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Biafra. Fortunately, video recording of all the panels are available on Youtube. Check them out, if you wish. The highlight of the event was the keynote lecture by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who spoke about her family, and the ways memories and imaginaries of Biafra shaped her life and work as a writer. Her lecture was about Biafra and Nigeria, but it was a most moving tribute to her father, mother who listed to her talk from the front seat and who she asked to stand to be recognized by the audience. She spoke about the scars they bear, the losses--profound and profane, and that determination, shared by most survivors of that war, to rebuild their lives and worlds, in spite the heartbreak called Nigeria. Chimamanda showed once again why she is one of today's most important voices; a calm voice that commands wildfires. And, oh, the lecture was an occasion to celebrate Chimamanda's election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Come to think of it, last year, none other than El Anatsui became an Academician. Which makes you wonder: what is the Nsukka connection? Congratulations, my dear sister! 
And thank you, Chimamanda, for calling out the Nigerian authorities for the extrajudicial murders of scores of people--unarmed supporters of Indigenous People of Biafra movement--in Onitsha on May 30, 2016. Let me say it: the thirst for Igbo blood is what will doom that country we call home, Nigeria. And as deliberations from the GWU conference make clear, the pogroms against the Igbo in the summer of 1966, when ordinary citizens mass-murdered their Igbo compatriots, with no one held accountable till today, will continue to haunt Nigeria. NEVER FORGET THE POGROMS!

National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC
All photos copyright: Chika Okeke-Agulu

Professors Anthonia Kalu, Gloria Chuku and Femi Vaughan at NMAAHC

Reception hosted by George Washington University, NMAAHC, ahead of the Keynote Lecture

Ambassador Reuben Brigety II, Dean Elliott School of International Affairs, GWU

Right Center, Cecelia Lynch, Ambassador Liberata Mulamula

Left: Professor Gloria Chuku; Center: Professor Chima Korieh

Professor Melani McAlister, conference host

Who Will Save Southern Kaduna people?

The Nigerian government and its agencies have formed a terrible habit of punishing anyone from Southern Kaduna and the Nigerian Middle Belt region who dares speak out about the unimaginable levels of terroristic violence levied on their communities by mostly Fulani cattle herders, and other shadowy armed groups with what might be territorial agenda. This has been going on for quite some time now; but it cannot go on, and the world must pay attention to this. The report on Sahara Reporters (see link below) is only the latest in this regime of oppression and suppression of free speech, and of the people's right to complain not to mention express outrage about the ordeal to which they have been subjected, often with little or no protection from state and national governments. This cannot go on. (I won't be surprised if someone in Nigeria reads this and decides that I have joined their perceived enemies of state. But please President Buhari, do something about this gradual and sustained regime of violence to which these people have been subjected by  marauding, fully-armed bands of so-called cattle herders).

There is no doubt that part of the problem is the expanding Sahara, that has desiccated areas of the Sahel that had previously sustained enough green vegetation on which nomadic herders in the region depend. But what is to be done? Can the government whose primary duty is to guarantee safety of all its citizens look the other way as the herders take their cattle southward, invading societies who depend on farming? It simply cannot. Nor could they, as now, be more invested in squelching any voice raised to call attention to the plight of communities ravaged by armed cattle herders.

It is time to take seriously the question of compelling the cattle herders to change their lifeways in accordance to the changing climate and population growth. Where in the past, land available for grazing seemed limitless, the nomadic lifestyle thus unproblematic, the changed and changing times calls for drastically curtailing the culture of herding cattle through the length and breadth of the land, Federal and State governments must, as a matter of extreme urgency, establish a concrete plan for settling cattle herding groups so they don't continue to invade communities to the south ostensibly in search of green pastures for their animals. Nigeria already has more than enough problems that militate against its survival as a nation; what is happening in Southern Kaduna and the Middle Belt region, and increasing even further south in Enugu and Anambra States, should worry anyone, especially those in government who are sworn to protecting all Nigerian citizens. And this cannot be resolved by harassment and detention of anyone who calls attention to the plight of victims of these armed cattle herders. As my people, the Igbo, say: "I gaghi eti nwata si ya ebekwana akwa" (You cannot beat a child and tell her not to cry).

Sunday, April 9, 2017

‘An Insistence on Not Being Discouraged’ with Chika Okeke-Agulu

Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Chika Okeke-Agulu

If you wish to learn a little bit about my story, about my life, art, politics, check out this new interview podcast with my fabulous colleague, Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., who is William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies, and Chair, Department of African American Studies, Princeton University. And oh, it is nearly an hour long. So, the question is this: Who has time to listen to this kind of stuff; this long story?!

If you do, then click here to listen: