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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Nigeria@50: Emeagwali tasks African countries to revisit Berlin Confab of 1884

Nigerian-born acclaimed father of the Internet, Dr. Phillip Emeagwali has advised Nigeria to revisit the reasons behind the Berlin conference of 1884 so as to get insight into charting a new course for the country for the next 50 years, reports Remmy Nweke.

He called for the creation of technological knowledge capable of reinventing the future and recreating Africa.

Emeagwali who gave this advice while speaking on Nigeria’s 50th anniversary lecture at the Embassy of Nigeria, Paris, last weekend, said that the revisit is crucial to know where the country is coming from.

He said that as a country, Nigeria has existed for 96 years and not just 50 years, noting that it
has only been independent for 50 years, for just over half that time.

“We must critically examine the 46 years of colonial rule over Nigeria and the scramble for Africa that began with the Berlin Conference of 1884, if we are to get insights into how to chart our nation's course for the next 50 years,” he declared.

He gave an analogy with Sankofa, a mythical bird of the Akan people of West Africa, which flies forward while looking backward, with an egg in its mouth to symbolize the future.

“In order to understand its history, to reclaim its past, and to enable its people to move forward into the 21st century, Africa (Nigeria) must look back, back to the Berlin Conference of 1884 and back to the Atlantic slave trade that spanned four continents and four centuries,” he said.

This, Emeagwali emphasised, would allow citizens on the continent to understand how to come to be 54 nations instead of one.

He also said that like the Sankofa bird, Africa must look to its past to predict its future.

“It must know how it evolved in order to understand how it can be recreated. Its people should know where their journey began in order to understand which direction to take to find their future,” he said.

The Berlin Conference, he said, came about when Africa was divided into 50 colonies, and 1884 was when the modern map of Africa was created.

“The Berlin Conference was the beginning of modern Africa. In 1884, Africa was the agenda, but no African was at the table,” he said.

This year, in 2010, Emeagwali said, 17 African nations are celebrating their 50th anniversary of sovereignty and post-colonial rule.

“Nigeria's journey, like that of the other independent African nations, began at the Berlin Conference 126 years ago with no African in attendance,” he said, stressing that if colonial Africa could be created in Berlin, then a future Africa could equally be created in Beijing.

“Nations creating technological knowledge are reinventing the future and recreating Africa,” he said.

Emeagwali expressed the belief that by the end of this century, one in two Africans will live outside Africa.

“I was asked: "Why did you live in exile from Africa for 37 years?" Put differently, "Why don't you deliver Nigeria's 50th anniversary lecture in Abuja, instead of in Paris?" I have never visited Abuja. But I am not at home in Washington, D.C., either,” he asserted.

As said by him, he had an asymmetrical relationship with Africa and America, as well as with science and technology.

“I worked entirely outside the gates of science and as an outcast, with outsider status. I was honored, but will forever remain an outsider in America. I was honored for retelling the 330-year-old story of the Second Law of Motion: from the storyboard, to the blackboard, to the motherboard, by reprogramming 65,000 sub-computers to compute as a super-computer, and to communicate as an internet,” he said, stressing that he became own ancestor in physics, contemporary in mathematics, and descendant in internet science.

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