I go for my tennis ‘lesson’ again, early. I am the one delivering the lessons this time. Aliyu is now ‘humble’. A fantastic coach, but I crush him again in another match, 6-4. It lasts about an hour. He admits he has not played a better player in 5 years, at least.
The first of two events takes place this morning at the Radisson Blu hotel, the best hotel in Freetown, I am told, located on Aberdeen Island, an exclusive pàrt of Freetown where most of the hospitality businesses are located.
I always thought that ‘African Time’ is a Nigerian disease. I am very wrong. The tradition of having no respect for appointed times now seems to be well established in several African countries, sadly.
Sierra Leonians have taken it to new levels that make the Nigerian version to look like a dress rehearsal. In Sierra Leone, it is the in-thing, the fashion, to have invited guests stroll into an event several hours late without batting an eyelid. It is even expected. It has become the new norm. It is okay to keep an event waiting and to start it whenever they start it. Time no longer matters.
That knowledge does not douse my own worry when we arrive the venue (30 minutes late ourselves, I admit) and find the hall very full – of empty seats!
Kennedy assures me it is fine. His prophecy comes to pass. Our event starts two hours late. We are lucky! He is right. 2 hours later, like rain, the people pour into the hall.
Most events in Freetown take place at night, including marriage receptions, by the way.
Shows start close to midnight and end in the wee hours. The people are in love with night and late hours.
Our conference is well organised.
A pastor, the COO of one of the largest telecoms companies in Sierra Leone, kicks it off with an opening prayer delivered with all the slickness and style of an American evangelist. Very impressive. The audience knows him very well. He is very psychedelic (for the old folks that know what that word means in those days). Obviously, he is America-trained, from his accent, language and swagger.
The Majority Leader of the House of Parliament, the Chairman of the event, arrives just in time. African-time has a time, I realise. He delivers a short speech, apologises that he has to leave for another event in the state house, and disappears. I have his business card to confirm it is not a dream, that I actually met and sat next to one of the most important men in the Sierra Leone national assembly.
The Pastor comes back to make a presentation. He is very eloquent. He massages his own ego with references to his high profile and achievements in the telecoms industry. He sounds every inch the well-honed evangelical. Finally, he challenges the young prospective entrepreneurs to emulate him.
He does not tell them how, but rounds up quickly, goes back to his seat and, within minutes, disappears from the conservatively decorated but beautiful hall.
I cannot seem to make much of his sermon. I wish I can chat with him later, but he is like a candle in the wind, one minute he is there, the next minute he is not.
I can’t even recall his face now. He does not leave me a card. So, for all I care, he may have been a dream!
Then, it is my time to speak.
I have no prepared written speech.
So, I humbly get up, walk up to the podium, open my mouth, and allow the Universe to take control of the words spewing out from the deep.
It is about black consciousness, the inequalities in the world, the challenges and opportunities for young people in a global system deliberately designed and skewed so that Africans do not succeed.
I speak on the new age, on the power of new technology, information, and ‘thinking outside the box’ to drive a new African renaissance of indigenous black solutions created to suit the unique African environment, traditions, institutions and situations.
I speak on the great classrooms of the London School of Economics and the Havard School of Business that will provide us the essential critical information and analytical mind, but NOT the solutions to the problems that the West and the rest of the world want to perpetuate in Africa.
Our natural mineral resources plus our mental ‘poverty’ enrich THEM but enslave US.
I say ,’them’ because no non-black loves us enough to wish our success. So, in absolute reality, RACISM, as bandied around the world presently, is discrimination against Blacks, period.
Even the ‘coloured’ people (lesser victims too) discriminate and participate in the global discrimination, exploitation and suppression of Blacks and Africans.
The ‘Third World War’ which is just around he corner, will not be fought with guns. It will be the war of civilisations, and Africa and its descendants around the world must be prepared to fight that war with the weapons of culture and new technology that are abundantly available to all, that provide some kind of level playing field, and that the West and the rest of the world, can do nothing about.
The original vision of founding political leaders in West Africa at Independence, from Sierra Leone’s Siaka Stevens, to Senegal’s Leopold Senghor, to Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, and Nigeria’s Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and other African leaders, include a superhighway and a rail line running from Dakar to Lagos, so that, over a weekend, a person can travel by road or rail from Dakar, go to Abidjan or Accra and back for some fun; a single Visa will cover travel around West African countries; a single currency; collaboration between security, customs and immigration agencies; a common West African market with a population the size of the USA and bigger than Russia; a social and cultural integration program for the region that will birth an African Union of nations that will be able to compete on unequal terms with the rest of the world and still win!
I tell them the tools to do these things and the opportunity to turn the tide and create a new world for Africans and the Black race, are now available in a young generation of Africans, impoverished in a lot of ways but waiting to be guided to a better future. I see several of them in the conference hall and all over the rest of Africa, and amongst Africans and their descendants in the diaspora – sleeping cells, waiting to be unleashed at the right time as the greatest force in human history. The right time is now!
I bring down the temperature of the gathering by telling them about a little village called Wasimi Orile, and the little academy project sited there, its mission, strategy and achievements to date. I see fascination across the hall.
It is clear I am planting a seed in some hearts and minds reflected by the several follow-up questions and remarks, by the steely look of determination on the young faces present, eager, I believe, to join the army of creative and innovative African entrepreneurs and artists (musicians, film producers, dancers, scholars, sports people, environmentalists, cultural ambassadors, etc) to drive the fight against RACISM that is at the root of Africa’s backwardness in the world.
Then, I am done.
It is time for a break and for lunch.
One hour later, we return for the panel discussion.
The Czar of the Sierra Leonian version of the Nigerian EFCC (the financial and crimes commission), a very young intelligent, fine- looking, well-spoken lawyer, delivers an unscripted speech. He talks about the success of his work in the country, and praises the government in power for successfully fighting corruption, so far. He finishes to a round of applause, apologises and takes his leave to attend to another urgent government meeting.
A lady, Dr. Jones, a very successful medical doctor and business woman in Sierra leone, speaks next. It is brilliant, but, I sense, maybe too academic. But who am I to tell?
The Nigerian High Commissioner, rounds off the conference with a mature and fatherly advise for an awakening of the African spirit.
Yaw directs the conference effortless and seamlessly with wisecracks and spicy interjections. Some good musical performances light up the day, and it ends on a crescendo of infectious enthusiasm and fire in the belly.
Africa needs all its sharp and bright young intellectuals that are eager and determined to stand against the raping, looting and stripping of its resources, of its ability to become productive, of its self sufficiency and opportunity to be equal partners in a new world order.
It is clear to me that for Africans there must be a different way and a different approach, and that it will not be easy. What they have not been able to achieve in over 600 years Africans cannot achieve in a day. It will be a marathon, not a sprint event.
It is my turn once again.
This time I speak about the power of sport as a tool for development across the spectrum of life. I tell them about my vision of using the World Cup and the Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture to drive Black integration and development.
It is refreshing. I can see that on their faces because it is a new message – to look at national and regional development through the lenses of sports.
Once again, I am done.
It has been a blistering day.
For the rest of the day I am busy attending to interviews and invitations to various events in Freetown.
Suddenly, there is a baton exchange between day and night, and we return to our hotel rooms exhausted from a very fulfilled day.