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Thursday, 01 March 2012


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J. S. Dinga

First of all, is there any reason to favor those still alive over their deceased congeners? And does it have to be a thinker? How about persons who enabled Africans to think?

Having asked the above questions I took a look at the monumental task and wondered if justice can be done to the sons and daughters of the African continent by this subjective measure? Where does one begin? I slept on this problem, toying with the shape of the Continent until it occurred to me that a simple cross linking the north of the continent to the south and the west to the east would place the most prominent names at the four cardinal points (N, S, E, W). At least that is what I get when I consider those who have been honored with Nobel Laureats.

Up north and specifically in Egypt, there has been former Egyptian president Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat, former IAEA boss Mohamed El Baradei, the chemist from the Califorina Institute of Technology,Ahmed H. Zewail and finally Naguib Mahfouz the literary man who used his wonderful pen to show that an Arabian narrative was equally applicable to all of mankind.

Then I followed the cross down to its southernmost end and found Nelson Mandela, the famous Robben Island prisoner who went on to become South Africa's first black president after putting a peaceful end to Apartheid and his fellow countryman Frederik Willem de Klerk who shared the 1993 prize with him. And then there is Desmund Mpilo Tutu the Bishop of Johannesburg and former Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches. Albert John Lutuli, president of the ANC of Suth Africa who won the prize in 1960. Other than these political heavyweights of South Africa there has been Nadine Godimer, the woman with epic writings who won the Prize in 1991 and John M. Coetzee, her literary congener who did the same in 2003 in his portrayal of the surprising involvement of the outsider.

On the east west axis of the cross one finds Kenya's late Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel laureat known for her marvelous work in democracy and sustainable development in Kenya as well as the famous Green Tree Movement which has had repercussions right up to the Congo, the world's other "lung" according to President Denis Sassou Nguesso. West of the east-west axis there is the tall Wole Soyinka of Nigeria, 1986 Nobel laureat who fashioned the drama of existence in a wider cultural perspective, including poetry and there is Ghana's Kofi Anan, former UN Secretary-General who earned the prestigious award in 2001 for his better organization for a more peaceful world, the man who helped work out a peace agreement between warring Kikuyus and Luos in Kenya's presidential election that finally got Mwai Kibkai sharing power with Raila Odinga.

Unfortunately the criteria for picking and choosing these sons and daughters of the Black Continent did not get much input from the Continent itslef; otherwise how could Sudan's Mo Ibrahim be left out or Nigeria's Chinua Achebe or Cameroon's Bernard Nsokika Fonlon and emeritus Cardinal Tumi? The most infulential thinker among these? Wow! Mo Ibrahim the cell phone mogul has challenged Africa's leadership to do everything possible and leave power before power leaves them, pacing at their disposal a mouth-watering prize to go with good governance. But will the sit-tight octogenerains pay heed? And I am sure there are others too.

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