For as long as I have been here in Norwich, the Black History Month has been marked in October with a wide range of activities that involve a wide range of individuals in the society. At the launch last week, the common consensus among speakers, ranging from county council representatives and the police to NGO activists and artists, was the reality of shared history and cultural diversity, and the need to promote intercultural dialogue and cohesion in the society. The organisers however wanted the theme of this year’s celebration to be “Black Champions”, and many speakers presented their own champions ranging from well-known idols like Mohammed Ali and Wangari Maathai to obscure ones, at least to me, like Zeka Laplaine.
However, another event that was part of this programme got me thinking about a different group of champions. I got into a lively discussion with a group of Nigerians that was very unlike the kind you would normally have. Instead of the participants talking about their achievements here or talking about what was wrong with the country, it was about people individual’s effort to make a difference in their home land. Olu, one of the participants, talked about how they had commissioned a new school sponsored by a group of fellow solicitors based in the UK. Another one, Jonathan, elaborated on his recent visit to Nigeria on behalf of his charity, GOLEM (God of Love Emancipation Ministries), to set up a resourced training centre for the less privileged after spending months fundraising for the project. Yet another one, Abubakar, was into excavation projects that would promote the cultural heritage of his locality.
It was the passion and practical actions that amazed me. These are young men whose only intention is to make a difference. Instead of just talking the talk, they are now walking the walk and they all have results to show for it. These people are indeed champions in every right and we need to shout about their work no matter how small.
While all this is good, there were a few thoughts that I could not get out of my head. One is the idea that a rich country, such as Nigeria, should have to depend on externally funded charities to address the issue of unequal access to education and learning. The second issue is sustainability-something very close to my heart. Precisely, it is how do you create momentum and multiplier effects for these kinds of charitable projects? How do you address the source of the problem-neglect, mismanagement, and the absence of forward thinking? And this is where government policies matter.
The question I am trying to raise here is whether there is a way to channel the passion and pragmatism of these amazing individuals in the Diaspora towards influencing governments and administrators starting from the very grassroots level. These officials will continue to make important decisions concerning the young people that these charities are trying to help. Therefore, guiding them through the right path might be a quicker way to achieve progress. This should in no way be interpreted as a change of direction for activists in the Diaspora such as Jonathan and his projects, but a way of strengthening their efforts.
Cheers to the champions!