or three days last week, the serene J. P. Clark Centre, University of Lagos, resonated with theatrical performances as it echoed with the triumphs of Africans over forces of domination, discrimination and exploitation at this year’s edition of Black History Month organized by the Centre for Black and African Art and Civilisation (CBAAC) in collaboration with the Institute of African and Diaspora Studies, University of Lagos.
The event which was on the theme “What Black History Means To Me” broth together scholars, artists, culture aficionados, students among others.
In her opening remark, the acting director general of the Centre for Black and African Art and Civilisation (CBAAC), Mrs. Osaro Osayande, noted that CBAAC was established in 1979 shortly after the hosting of the epoch-making 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, popularly called FESTAC 77, and since its establishment, the Centre has been in the forefront of preserving, promoting and propagating African cultural values and showcasing Africa’s contributions to world civilisation.
“The Centre carries out these functions through conferences, public lectures, seminars, workshops, roundtables, exhibitions both locally and internationally. It is in keeping with this mandate that the Centre has made the Black History Month celebrations one of its cardinal programmes, and has chosen to collaborate with the Institute of African and Diaspora Studies, University of Lagos to co-host this year’s edition,” Mrs. Osayande said.
She further noted that although the idea of Black History started in the Americas, it is now globally celebrated in the month of February to honour the triumphs and struggles, including the artistic, cultural and political achievements of the Black race all over the world.
“Hence, the celebration we are witnessing today is geared towards reechoing the triumphs of Africans over forces of domination, discrimination and exploitation. It is also aimed at showcasing to the world the tremendous contributions of Black people to world civilization.
“Among other things, we are gathered here to listen to lecture presentation by seasoned and erudite scholars on the theme of ‘Electioneering and Electoral Practices in Africa and the Diaspora’. “This is quite apt in view of its relevance to the continent and beyond. In addition to this, we will watch some cultural performances and later view an exhibition with the theme: Black History: The Struggle and Triumphs, mounted by the Centre for Black and African Art and Civilisation (CBAAC). This is deliberately packaged for the appreciation of Black History and to also ignite our pride as Africans. Kindly make out time to visit the CBAAC exhibition stand.”
She lauded the Director and entire Institute of African and Diaspora Studies (IADS) team for the smooth process of collaboration that ensued between CBAAC and IADS. “I must say that this gesture is a clear demonstration of the disposition of the University and indeed the Institute on collaborative research and ventures. CBAAC looks forward to more mutually beneficial collaborations with your Institute on areas of shared interest.”
In his lecture titled ‘Constraints and Prospects of Managing Elections in Africa: The Nigerian Experience, and which was on the theme of ‘Electioneering and Electoral Practices in Africa and the Diaspora’, renowned scholar and former Director General of CBAAC, Prof. Tunde Babawale, Dept. of Political Science, University of Lagos, stressed the need for independence of the Election Management Bodies (EMBs), noting that elections are not just an end in itself but a means to an end, hence, the need for the Election Management Bodies (EMBs) to be abreast of their assigned responsibility of organising elections that are credible, free, fair, acceptable and reflective of the people’s preferences and in conformity with the international best practices as domesticated in the legal framework of the home country.
According to him, despite all efforts at achieving free and fair elections, there are still many constraints in the path of holding democratic elections in Africa. These, Babawale said, include Independence of the EMB, as the lack of autonomy of EMBs is one of the major constraints on the path of the credibility of the electoral process on the continent; voter apathy which has resulted in what some scholars have described as “rational ignorance” where people just choose not to know what goes on around them; electoral violence; funding of elections; and security
“Security before, during and after elections is a sine qua non for a successful conduct of elections especially in the fragile environments that exist in most African countries. Lack of adequate security often resulted in the snatching of ballot boxes, hijacking of election results, destruction of valuable lives and properties. These factors constitute major constraints and hindrances to the management of elections in Africa.
“The change in the value system of most African countries resulting in situations where emphasis is placed on money and materialism over and above integrity has adversely affected the electoral process. Life has become commodified and citizens no longer have regard for the values of honesty, integrity, hardwork, etc. rather many choose to embrace instant gratification – a practice that has become the norm during elections. Voters and the electorate are bribed routinely to influence the electoral process,” Babawale said.
He added that “elections strengthen democracy because of the right to choose which it confers on the citizenry and the legitimacy they confer on the leadership. It therefore becomes important that elections so conducted have credibility and the integrity of the electoral process guaranteed. This is why elections management has become an object of critical analysis by students of politics.
“Elections represent the defining characteristic of democratic governance. It is thus difficult to separate the crisis of electoral governance from the governance crisis afflicting the nation itself. It is incumbent on citizens not to leave the solution for electoral problems to government alone. They need to form themselves into pressure groups, through the civil society, to reform the electoral process. They must protect the rights guaranteed them by the nation’s constitution and other international conventions.”
Speakers at the event include the Director of the Institute of African and Diaspora Studies (IADS), University of Lagos, Prof. Muyiwa Falaiye, Dr. Peter Osimirin, Dept. of Philosophy, University of Lagos.
It was not all about speech making, as invited schools in Lagos thrilled the audience with cultural and dance-drama performances, African art and craft exhibition, screening of FESTAC 77 films, African village featuring African dishes, Palm Wine Akara etc. The invited primary and secondary schools presented various perspectives to the theme ‘What Black History Means to Me’ though their dance-drama presentations. Winners were presented various prizes.