By Ime Silas

The University of Uyo (Uniuyo), Akwa Ibom State, South-South Nigeria in collaboration with relevant government functionaries is set to host the first International Conference on Dialogue and Pan-Africanism.

Director, Centre for Deep Dialogue and Critical Thinking, University of Uyo, Dr. Effiong Joseph Udo who is also Fellow, KAICIID International Dialogue, revealed this while speaking to newsmen yesterday on the sidelines of the event’s Local Organising Committee (LOC) meeting held at the Old Senate Chamber of the institution.

He further disclosed that the conference will coincide with the celebration of the 2024 International Africa Day (May 25), the first time ever to be celebrated in Nigeria after it was proclaimed in 2002 by the African Union (AU) and recognized by the United Nations.

According to him, May 25, 1963 was the birth date of the African Union which was then called Organization of African Unity (OAU). For Dr. Udo, the AU is the institutional symbol of Pan-Africanism.

He said “We are planning to host the first International Conference on Dialogue and Pan-Africanism. It’s coming up on the 23rd to the 26th of May this year (2024) and it’s going to take place here in the University of Uyo”,

Fielding questions on the significance of the occasion, the University don continued, “Pan-Africanism represents the collective struggle to reclaim and preserve the dignity and freedom of Africans worldwide; it’s a movement that holds the future of wellbeing for all Africans, those alive today and generations yet unborn. It’s a movement for a global Africa. In other words, it is for people of African descent and within African soil, but also Africans in the diaspora.

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“Pan-Africanism has been a movement that started in the 19th Century. It’s actually a movement that helped in destroying the injustices and pangs of slavery and colonialism; but sadly, today there are new forms of colonialism which ought not to be.

“Pan-Africanism as an ideology emphasizes unity as well as self-determination of Africans towards the development and advancement of Africa and Africans. Pan-Africanism also emphasizes the reclamation of the human and environmental dignities of the African Continent and its people”.

Shedding more lights on the focus of the Pan-Africanism Movement and the new Institute to be launched, Dr. Udo who is also theDialogue Consultant of the Dialogue Institute, Temple University, USA added “Without studying and sustaining the best principles of the Pan-African Movement, the new forms of colonialism and enslavement of Africans will hold sway and unchecked. That is what our Institute is out to achieve, to study and propagate Pan-Africanism as an interdisciplinary field.

We want to raise successive generations of leaders who are proud of their cultural heritage, proud of their continent, and take responsibility to develop their communities, instead of running away to foreign lands, to places they may not be respected or treated as human beings.

For me, this is a movement that pursues the decolonization of the mind because Africans are human beings that deserve to be respected and accorded equal opportunity anywhere in the world to aspire to any heights. Pan-Africanism is a movement that canvasses the fact that there is nobody that is more human than an African”.

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“Many people believe that Africa is backward and underdeveloped when compared to other continents of the world. To some extent, that’s true. But it must be brought to the fore that the backwardness and underdevelopment of Africa were and are caused by centuries of enslavement and exploitation by the Western slave-masters and the unrepentant colonialists.

So, we believe that the time is now for Africa to be totally liberated, but that liberation must start from the mind. To decolonize the mind shouldn’t be a one-time and haphazard thing but a sustained and organized endeavour. That is what our Institute is out to achieve, and the University of Uyo is leading this movement in Nigeria and beyond.”

Speaking on the scope and dignitaries expected at the conference, Dr. Udo said “It is going to be a two-pronged international event: the academic side and cultural side. The academic side will see to the presentation of research papers on topical issues that affect Africa as a continent and Africans as a people. The second side and perhaps most significantly will be the cultural aspect which has to do with the celebration of the First International Africa Day in Nigeria”.

Dr Udoh stated further that “A number of respectable past and present African leaders, pan-Africanists, academics, civil society leaders, captains of industries and professionals from all walks of life across Africa and in the diaspora, are expected to grace the events. So far, over 100 members coming from twenty (20) African countries have registered with The Pan-African Dialogue Institute as members and a good number of them will attend the coming events.

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The former Nigerian President, His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR is expected to attend the International Africa Day as Chairman. We also have a very renowned, globally recognized Pan-Africanist and Professor of Law, Prof. P. L. O. Lumumba as our Keynote Presenter who has already confirmed that he will attend the event.

Very significantly also, we extended an invitation to the Vice President of the Republic of Columbia, Her Excellency, Francia Màrquez, an African-Colombian. She is an activist and politician who loves Africa, and had visited three African countries immediately after her emergence as the Vice President of her country to reconnect with her ancestral land.

Recognizing her exalted political office she occupies in her country; we are working closely with our Federal Government of Nigeria with a view to perfecting the formalities of her attendance. We have also extended our invitations to diplomats and ambassadors of African countries in Nigeria to grace the events as special guests”.

Our paper gathered that all things being equal, University of Uyo is on the way to host Africa and world.

Meanwhile, the convener of the LOC, Rev. Dr. Emem Umoren has invited scholars, the University community, political and socio-cultural leaders as well as business communities in the state to join hands to assist the University to succeed in hosting the epoch-making event and the efforts to lead the Pan-African scholarship in Nigeria and Africa.