Encounter with a Tuareg Revolutionary and the Afemai University story

by Emmanuel Omoh Esiemokhai

On 14th November, 2012, as I waited to board the British Airways flight to London, I sighted a turbaned gentleman, a Tuareg from Mali. He said that he was from the newly proclaimed Republic of…. which Republic has neither been recognized de facto nor de jure, so, I hesitated to accord him the normal acknowledgment associated with diplomatic immunity.

As a person, he was tall, with piercing dark eyes, a graying moustache and a receding hair-line, which suggested that this Tuareg has had a tough existence behind the revolutionary barricades,

He approached me with a familiarity that was disarming.
“Emmanuel, how do you do?” “I do not seem to remember that we have met before”, I replied.

He said, “When you write for the whole world to read, you should not be too surprised recognized by like-minded individuals.” Are you suggesting that I am a revolutionary?” I asked him.” Yes, he said, except that you have not tasted the shaking of an AK 47 or Kalashnikov rifles”

He sat closer and said that he had attended the just concluded ECOWAS Heads of States meeting in Mali. He said that African leaders should insist on good governance and should not seek to prop up incompetent and corrupt leaders, who visit suffering upon their people and when they are overthrown those other leaders, who did not caution their colleagues rise in their defence. “That is hypocrisy; it is a licence for bad government.” he said.

“ I, Abubakar, will never support bad dictatorship.’ He said. “Would you support good dictatorship,” I teased. He said that all dictatorship were bad.
He wondered where ECOWAS leaders would find the funds to fight a desert war, which end is not in sight.

Abubakar told me that he attended the Sorbonne ,University in Paris. He had nursed the idea of reviving the University of Timbuktu. He said that if African leaders were deep in thinking, they should have re-built the University of Timbuktu and Fez in Morocco, instead of spending a lot of money sending their children to study in Europe and America, where they are brain-washed into mimicking Euro-American culture and speaking French, English, Spanish and Portuguese. Hear, Hear!!!

With a heavy heart, I told Abubakar how I had aspired to build the AFEMAI UNIVERSITY in Fugar, Edo State, Nigeria.

I had registered the university with the Corporate Affairs Commission in Abuja, Nigeria. I then formally applied for permission to proceed. The Nigerian University Commission, which is the body that is charged with university registration matters, invited my proposed University Council and I to a meeting in their office in Abuja.

The interaction went well. Having studied in six universities (1962- 1971), in Sierra Leone, Kharkov, Kiev. Cologne, The Hague and in Heidelberg, and having taught courses at the University of Ife, University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, USA and at the University of Science and Technology, Qingdao, I was sure that I knew a little bit about the cult and craft of universities.

I was sure in my judgment and my ambition is “made of a sterner stuff”.
Up till today, the Nigerian University Commission has not had the courtesy of communicating to me, the outcome of our application to set up the Afemai University.

My investigations revealed that at the time I applied was the era of “YOU CHOP, I CHOP” and that some Nigerian University Commision officials had bank vaults in their offices and would find it impossible to maintain an empty personal treasury. They had devised frustrating strategies to ensure that only those persons and institutions that put the funds in their personal bank vaults got registered.

My investigations showed that some people, who have little or no knowledge about running universities, got licences, which is why anything goes in those mush room universities, which had been established in the last twelve years by Professor X OKOGIE’S, Nigerian Universities Commission.

Five times I visited the Nigerian Universities Commission to see OKOGIE. He refused to see me. I wrote letters to request for audience. He never replied. Perhaps, his intelligence officers had told him “the man de speak grammar” only.

Abubakar asked me how such a thing could happen in a civilized state.
.I do not have any evidence about latent civilization, but I know that if I had paid the THIRTY-THREE million Naira as was demanded by the liaision/all soliciting officer, ALL WOULD HAVE BEEN WELL.

Has the black man any hope?

We have a HELPER!!! who can teach us all things.
Abubakar listened to my story about why the Afemai University has yet to take off, with wondering eyes and hanging lips.

In Fugar, there were renegade groups, who kicked against the idea. One Thomas Omeme tried unsuccessfully to cause confusion. A lawyer of mean repute demanded ten million Naira for land that the town chiefs had allocated for the purpose.

There are other mean-spirited individuals, still under ancestral bondage of negative demonism, who revel in drinking and bitter talk as a past-time, which is why the clan has yet to progress. The Afemai University idea has been sown in the minds of the Fugar youth, a brilliant lot, with little possibilities. They will overcome some day.

I am ready for a long-drawn out battle on this complaint, in the Courts of public opinion and in the Law Courts, where my former law students at OAU, IFE, who are now SANS and Professors of Law, will show up in bright array, in their silks.

After this heart-rending story about Afemai University, Abubakar told me that he had lived in Libya and worked at the Sirte Institute, which was set up by Muamar Kaddafi. It was there that the Pan-African economic development plan was drawn up, from which many African governments and peoples benefited enormously. He told me that the killing of Kaddafi and the subsequent coup in Mali and events in Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau were as a result of events in Libya. He narrated how students from African states schooled in Libya, worked in Libya and sent money to their countries because the Libyan currency was strong, with a good exchange rate.

He blamed Kaddafi for his arrogance and that he was impervious to advice. At a stage, he thought that he was immortal.

Abubakar extolled his virtues as a kind person, who meant well for Africa and developed a desert nation to a developed state.
Abubakar predicted that the Benghazi Libyans would chart their own cause. They had wanted to remove Kaddafi, but not to kill him.

The new Libyan leaders do not have popular support as the people do not know them. He said that there were too many guns in the wrong hands and that there were sporadic, unreported attacks in the hinterland, where government forces cannot reach.

I asked him how the new Libya will be peaceful and democratic. He said that democracy must grow out of the people’s culture, history and traditional beliefs. He said that when one examines world history, no foreign imposition of alien rule or democratic imposition has ever succeeded.

It was time to board the plane and this statuesque Tuareg waved me goodbye as he waited to travel to his many destinations in pursuit of social justice.
As I ruminated over this encounter with Abubakar, the Tuareg revolutionary, I remembered the Marxist historian, Dr. Segun Osoba, who views molded the world-view of the left at the University of Ife.

I also remember Professors; Toye Olorode, Dipo Fasina, Awopetu, Ropo Sekoni. There were others too, who had pretensions to the Ideology
Some leftists stayed at Ife, while others were hi-jacked to America and the collective died.

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