Priest-scholar Agbali sees a glass half-full in the unfolding homegoing/homecoming debate:
I have been following, as well as contributing, and sometimes setting the tone for the on-going dialogue, especially the one relative to homecoming- or alternatively homegoing. It is intriguing the amount of time, energy, scholarly, and popular inputs contributed to this imagination and discourse. It has also adequately given me many cause to laugh and cheer. I think that from what I sense, Africa is better for this dialogue that span across spatial, gendered, generational and occupational cohorts. I am wondering if such opportunities exist how great will Africa be. Herein, in spite of different ideological, ethical, academic, personal, professional, and sectoral perspectives there is a listening occurring, which involves in-digestion of differential views and acute reflections. I also had a very hearty laugh when I realized that rushing to make my contribution I made the mistake- which some have pointed out to me especially in making Ama Ata Aidoo rather than Kwei Armah the author of Fragments and The Beautyful Ones are not Yet Born. I also realized much later some other minute and not too essential mistakes I've made and no one pointed out. So, I laugh all the more. However, I feel good that it is alright to make such mistakes and it can be pointed out in good faith. This, of course, sadly is not possible in many settings in Africa because of the inquisitory nature of our African polities. Also, as I celebrate everyone on this forum, I want to recall how one such mistakes can be fatal and disheartening. Toyin Falola, in his beautifully crafted autobiographical memoir, A Mouth Sweeter than Salt (a must for everyone to read actually) notes the incidence in his department at Ife after receiving his PhD, and joining the staff. This had to do with clearing his office of the left-over cartoons that he threw out, and the reaction of his then Head of Department claiming Toyin deliberately threw away all he (the HOD) ever worked for including his certificate. Toyin tells the remaining story in the book about his own reaction and struggles in the light of this event. In any case, as I celebrate everyone, I first want toast an e-Champagne to Professor Toyin Falola for this forum, and the vast and immense dialogue that has occurred. In the light of the above, I want to celebrate everyone who has contributed and following this interesting, and sometimes lengthy dialogues. Each one, each view has been so spectacularly framed that I am proud of my fellow Africans. It was in this light that I noted that the issue of international migration is of immense benefits in many sense to the African polity and people. International migration is essential at times for us to set the dimensions and tones of discussions that would help to revibrate Africa and Africans in their drive toward achieving better existential conditions. As I reflect on all that has taken place, and continue to take place in this forum, as I celebrate everyone, I also want to go back to the way and manner in which our own individual personalities can help to ensure the viability and vitality of Africa. I go back to my initial encounter with Professor Toyin Falola. When I first moved to Austin to work at a local Medical Center, I knew very few people. But somehow, somewhere I had seen the email address of Professor Toyin Falola, whose books I had begun to read vociferously and encountering him through his texts and work. I had admired many of the books and their contents. But, like most Africans, I never encountered Toyin Falola on the continent. I knew him in America, given the fact that America do many things for different people. But one that I guess that many of us can essentially identify with is that something in our American and foreign sojourns help to recalls home as memory and recreate its imaginatively (cf. the imagined Community of Benedict Anderson, 1983) in a sense unlike previously. I think that living in Africa, Africa and African achievements can be taken for granted. Deprived of Africa it allows for a refocusing, and a reconstructing, that lead to a reintegration of African thematics and schemas into consciousness and discourse. Racism and the arid stress of immigration recall nostalgia and mnemonics that possess eternal qualities. Hence, for most the reality of diaspora is not just a physical one, but also a nostalgic one occurring and on-going at the mental and psychic level. Hence, it was this diasporic condition that connected me somewhat spiritually to Toyin Falola through his works and texts. Through such works, I conceptualize that many of us are actually returning to Africa, even when our spatial domicile is here in foreign lands. It is little wonder that Olaudah Equino would remember so vividly his African homeland, and through his biographical work actually returned to Africa. It is such spiritual return that was concretely expressed when the African Students Association in holding a memorial for Aggrey ensured that the soil of where he was buried was returned to Ghana, so that his spirit would not loom large in space and his memories not be forgotten. To return to my narrative, it was at this point that I wrote an email to Professor Falola. I was amazed at his prompt response, and also an invitation to present at his conference on Nigeria in the Twentieth Century in March 2002. We kept communicating about the conference especially on the email, and never met him in person until later I guess in later 2001. Providentially, we met at World Beat Cafe, an African establishment, a restaurant owned by an Austin based African (Nigerian), Lawrence. Professor Falola was busy as usual, though it was a Saturday. I guess, from my distant observation, he was proof-reading a forthcoming book. The owner of the restaurant introduced us. That was how I met the illustrious Professor Falola. He was humble and unassuming. I left that day thinking, if someone with such scholarly achievement reflects what I saw as his humility Africa would be better. Getting to know Professor Falola, and many others I have come to know through his mediated events- his annual conferences on African themes and publications. I have had to work with him, and having him kick me to keep deadlines on some publications, I can say it is a joy to know that his drive and motivation is an essential ingredient toward the values lacking in Africa. This knowledge has helped me to gain a basic understanding and conclusion that all is not lost in Africa. Falola is for me, one of so many such Africans located in diverse spots across the universe whose hopes and ideals represent the best in the African imagination, and reflects the values of traditional Africa. The values represented for instance in traditional institutions of social stability and enforcement of justice, like the Asante Golden Stool and the Ogboni in many Yoruba society. Africa has hope, and that hope is reflected in the many African sons and daughters concerned about her fate and doing their own daily chores and contributions. That hope has to remain alive, in spite of the many difficulties besetting contemporary Africa it has to burn without flickering. Not only are we contributing to continental Africa, we are also contributing to global Africa. As we celebrate ourselves, we also need to celebrate the essence of Africanity overall. Our articulations of the positive side of African values and cultures, as well as the negatives contained in these are also likely to influence and impact development to the global African-centered realities. Femi Ojo-Ade expresses this cogently, "Contrary to the widespread stereotype of the African as vagrant, drug courier, credit-card defrauder, and con artist, most Africans in the diaspora are hardworking professionals and artisans engaged in constructive rather than destructive enterprises. It would be worthwhile, for instance, to provide data on these responsible citizens. Apart from debunking certain myths, the exercise would, it is hope, make for well-deserved respect and open the door toward solidarity among all Africa's children." And who are this all Africa's children, according to Peter Tosh, the late Jamaican reggae musician, every black person is an African, regardless of where they live, and to add, regardless of whether they are conscious of their Africanity or not. It is by inciting pride in our commitment to the best values that those on the edge of admitting their Africanness, would be motivated to do so. The Toyin Falolas, Philip Emegwalis, and so many others are already models toward that kind of aspiration. While focusing on Professor Falola, and celebrating all of us, I want to note that this is not an attempt to be a spokesperson or xylophone for him. There is no Project 2007 involved here, or a "hidden agenda", or "settlement." Professor Falola has been celebrated in two books, so it is not my task to begin to Abacha-wash Professor Falola. However, as an icon Professor Falola reflects the aspirations of most of us, especially those domiciled outside of Africa. As I do so, I also was amazed how no one talking on the issue of homecoming, and our achievements noted the issue of the former Mayor of East Cleveland, Emmanuel Onwunor, the acclaimed first African-born mayor in the United States, noting his rise and fall from grace. Outside of the academia we have Africans excelling within the American social and political spheres, even on CNN African names appear, as in sports where the apart from Hakeem Olajuwon and the Congolese Matumbo, the Emeka Okafors, Udezes, and others are making their mark. We have also seen the attempts of various African-born to ascend the political ladder. Sometimes ago, one Amadi, ran for election to represent an Houston district in the Texas State Congress. There is also supposed to be another African (Nigerian) who is mayor in the State of California. Africans we are told as soon as they become affluent are now joining the Republican party, changing the political contour of black politics. A Nigerian activist, who emigrated to the US, Kayode Oladele even received a GOP award sometimes ago. Kayode Oladele is a lawyer, a major player among those suing the former Nigerian Head of States, Abubakar Abdulsalam. I celebrate these persons, efforts, and achievements.
Though not to lax the celebratory tone, as I do so I am not elated about the fate of folks like the Onwunor whose achievements are beclouded by scandals and judicial sentences. I feel sad about the disruptive squabbles within African organizations. Sometimes ago, Nigerians in Houston, could not hold an election for the Nigerian Foundations due to ethnic and other factors. Recently, the Nigerian ambassador to Canada had to settle the umbrella Nigerian organization that until then was entrenched in discord. Further, we need to study these phenomena occurring in contemporary African diasporic communities, and analyze these. This might help us to understand whether the same occurring features inherent in these communities reflect environmental and cultural embedding, or they are simply genetic deformity that has to do with the African sense of establishing positive forms of social organizations. I guess that was the beginning point of this dialogue, given Leonard Shilgba's initial viewpoints. Since we have long moved away in distance and discourse, having spiralled different courses, I now offer a toast, and sprinkle my e-Champagne on everyone!!!