Dr. Kayode Fayemi, now of the Centre for Democracy & Development, Lagos, Nigeria, intervenes in the debate. For many years an "exile" in London where he took his Ph.D. and set up one of the most sustained NGOs on democracy and human rights, his contribution to anti-military campaigns
represents one of the most positive moments in Nigeria's modern history.
I really wanted to refrain very much from joining this discussion. But please,
Brother Tijani don't take the fact that people at home have not written to support
'homecoming' as a justification for staying away or a confirmation that they
don't want you to come home. It may just be the case that for them sterile
debates about homecoming do not in and of themselves translate to the kind
of development that we all seem to be interested in.
It may also be, as the contributor from Olabisi Onabanjo University correctly articulated, that
they strongly believe that this is a personal choice that people have to make, but
our contribution to retrieving our countries from the precipice ought to be
collective as this goes a long way in enhancing individual perception of self-dignity
whereever one is based. And this can be done from anywhere around the globe without patronising comments about people at home.
America indeed may be'home' for some as Brother Tijani triumphantly claims,
but you should also be aware that there are many people at 'home' who find such claims not
only a-historical but also a-typical of any African knowing what you endure, the benefits of
living in America nothwithstanding.
Passionate as you all are about this, I find myself straddling both worlds and I hope this
provides me with the ability to see the issues from both sides of the coin.
Having just returned "home" from an eight month "sojourn" in 'wonderland America', and
from a most recent visit to ASA in New Orleans, not to mention the fact of being 'away' from
'home' for 12 years until 2000, I can only give kudos to our brethren out there for their
capacity to endure living abroad. I can also say that this is not a unique view among my
friends across Africa. And I and many of my friends are not in government, so we have not
'cornered' some loot in Africa's 'legendary' patrimonial world often used as an excuse for
not returning home.
As I am sure you know, many Africans are innovating and thriving in their various endeavours
on the continent and I really don't know the people that Brother Tijani associate with - who
curse him about any suggestions of coming home. That is not to say that there aren't people
whose lifelong ambition remains escaping from home, but one has to balance this with other
perspectives on this rather complicated canvas.
Yet this might come across as strange, but my reading is that there is a subliminal arrogance that attends discussion of homecoming from both sides - leaving us with an either-or manichean
divide that eschews shades of grey. Those outside often see it in their place to 'lecture'
those at home about the gains of living outside Africa, and those at home go on the defensive
about how the 'ex-iles' don't understand because they are 'not on the ground'. The truth is that
it is tough to 'return' after living outside any particular space for some time. But it is also
possible to manage that dislocation if one is not full of exaggerated expectations of 'home'.
The challenge for all of us is to know that there is no single vision of homecoming, and to utilise
our space(s) whereever we are for the good of our people and the benefit of humanity. I believe many of our folks abroad are already engaged in such laudable tasks - making a difference for our people, and they can continue to do so without turning their compatriots to objects
Many thanks to Oga Falola for this useful Forum.