The issue of "home" is now, as it should be, the central theme dominating the current debate. E. Ike Udogu, professor of International, Comparative and African politics at Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, examines the role of location and contribution.
It goes without saying that I have been reading some of the brilliant contributions to ways of improving the condition of over 80 percent of our brothers and sisters in Africa with infinite pleasure. When I met our dear brother and colleague, Toyin, in New Orleans recently, I told him that I would like to share my thoughts on the issue of African Development and the Immigration of its Intelligentsia that appeared in the Journal of African immigration with the group. Since the piece has been on the internet for sometime, and one of our eminent historians in his contribution to this discourse topped my opinion on the issue, I decided to redirect my focus to another matter that has been on my mind and perhaps on the mind of other members on this forum; it is an issue that relates to how we might bridge the "chasm" between African professionals in the diaspora and the continent especially as it relates to strategies that might help us collectively and collaboratively tackle the challenge of what I have dubbed "the good political life" for all Africans through genuine cooperation between these two forces-i.e., professionals at home and the diaspora.
Perhaps two anecdotal examples may suffice to illustrate my point. A few years ago, we held a smashing conference in Illinois; it was a meeting that brought together some of the great minds from Africa and North America to discuss the issues of human rights and the rule of law in Africa. At that convocation, we presented papers-ate together-drank together and even laughed together like one big African family. In the end, we were sad to see each other leave to their various academic and vocational stations. Before we left, however, our African colleagues were enthusiastic in their invitation to Africans in the diaspora to visit with them at home where we could continue with the rich conversation on the important issues that brought us together. Well, I took the invitation seriously. So, when I visited South Africa a year later, I made several calls to a fine gentleman with whom I ate, drank and partied. This good colleague (while we were in Illinois), who also holds a big post in this country did not return my calls; he did not ask his secretary to "inform" me that "he was too busy or that he was overseas and therefore could not see me."
Also, a few years ago, one of our colleagues from Cameroon (on this listserve) went home. And while in Yaoundé, he visited an old roommate in the US who had a plum post in one of the ministries. On hearing that it was this professional visiting from overseas, he quietly tip toed out of his office through the back door instructing the secretary to tell his former "buddy" in the US that he was not in town. Why? This US trained scholar whose poignant and critical writings on government policies was a "trouble maker-an albatross of sorts" and it would be dangerous to be seen with him.
I am convinced that some of you have more bizarre encounters with some "big man" and possibly "big woman" and that your stories and writings about your experience with these individuals in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and so on could fill many a shelf with weighty volumes. But what are the morals of these anecdotes? It is that if we wish to improve the condition and standard of living of those in the periphery of our societies we may have to work closely with the indigenous professional. But in order to be effective, we may need to convince many that African professionals in the diaspora are not a threat to them, society and government, and that we are not going home with a luggage filled with the "almighty dollars, pounds, and Euros" to make them look bad. Moreo
ver, we are not going home to take away their jobs or positions of privilege; indeed, many of us are simply there to contribute to the development of the continent.century. It is possible that the effort has already begun through the lively discussions in this forum.
In conclusion, it is my view that some of the "perceived antinomies" in the relations between African intelligentsia in the diaspora and those at home may need to worked out in order to pursue our collective desire to empower Africa in the 21st