2019 Person of the Year: A friend of our mind

 A great awareness swept through the African community in the U.S. and elsewhere in 2019 thanks to Ambassador Arikana Chihombori-Quao, a quondam medical doctor turned diplomat. In 2017 she was appointed the African Union rep. to the U.S. but was removed in October 2019 for her outspokenness. Undeterred, she continues to preach truth – The Guardian of Nigeria appropriately chose her as their 2019 Person of the Year.

Africa’s story, of colonization, subjugation,
dehumanization, want misery,
poverty, neo-colonisation, wars,
bad leadership and all sorts, lost its
exciting appeal of a bestseller a long
time ago.
That story has been told and retold
so often that it graduated from being
a story, true as it is, into an excuse
for an undesirable pitiful condition.
For some reason, Africa would
seem unwilling or unable to live the
truth that a man suffers his way to
In fact, a giant fog seems to sit on the
African mind that blocks out a real
appreciation of his condition and an
understanding of a pathway to true
progress and happiness.

Once in a while, therefore, when a
voice rings out in this wilderness of
misery to remind the African that
he could and should take his destiny
in his hands, such a voice carries
not just a breath of hope but also an
adrenalin-pumping, cathartic feeling
of release.
Not in recent times has there been
such a voice let alone one so compelling,
so heart-rending in detailed
lamentations of the African condition
and also so sonorous in songs
of wisdom for the way to liberty as
that of Arikana Chihombori-Quao,
a medical doctor who is currently
holding the world spell-bound by
speaking the truth to those powers
holding Africa to the stakes.

For much of 2019, as the ambassador
representing the 55 countries of the
African Union in the United States
of America, Arikana Chihombori-
Quao made her office a pulpit from
which she railed against the immorality
of the current world order and
the injustice therein.
She lamented the tethers of colonialism
still around the waist of
Africa, preached about the unity of
all Africans and spoke of the need
to work together to build a dream
She was unsparing in condemning
the exploitation of the continent and
the pillaging of her resources by all
sorts of marauders. Not unexpectedly,
the leprous hands of manipulation

showed up and for standing up for
her people and speaking truth to
power so vigorously, on October
7th, 2019, Chihombori-Quao was removed
from her position.
But she has remained neither bowed
nor cowed.
Indeed, her removal from office as
ambassador has only served to cement
her position as an authentic
conscience of Africa and strengthened
her as a voice for the continent
and its oppressed people. What
Arikana Chihombori-Quao has continued
to do is to fire the imagination
of all and open the eyes of
Africans to the redemptive powers
of the woman in the African community.
With her unrelenting calls
for justice, she has, indeed, become a
symbol of hope for Africa
Her words have become the lantern
illuminating the misery of a continent
so blessed with natural resources
but impoverished by mindless
invaders, aided by poor, subservient
native leadership; and the mystery
of a people supposedly free from colonialism
but shackled economically
by the same rogues who owe them a
world in reparation.
Already, her words are bearing
fruits. A bloc of West African
countries have begun the process
of breaking free from the France-controlled
currency and asserting

their independence from Paris, even
though not without protestations
and scheming by France for the status
quo to remain.

She has deployed the best weapon,
courage, against the forces of colonisation.
By standing up for Africa, she
has challenged all Africans to stand
up and slip the bonds of domination
actively encouraged over the past five
decades by Africans’ own docility.
It is said that the eagle’s flight is
made possible by shedding any
weight that holds it down. If they did
not know before now, Chihombori-
Quao has pointed out to all Africans
the burdens that weigh them down.
It is now left for all to band together
and fly.
Even as her voice rings true and loud
in condemning the legacy of slavery,
the legacy of colonisation in her beloved
land and therefore, to use her
words, an ‘insanity of the highest order’,
which the relationship between
Africa and the West, or even, lately,
the East is, she never claimed to be
saying what has not been said or
known before.
She indeed gives credit and acknowledges
the fate that befell those who
spoke or even acted long before her.
The assassination of every African
leader who had at one time or the
other protested the injustice against

the continent practically brings her
to tears. So does the phenomenon
of dead or living puppet leaders
used as instruments of their people’s

Indeed, Chihombori-Quao is following
in the indelible footsteps of
Africans, especially women, who,
like mother-hens worked to protect
their brood.
She brings to mind the gallantry
of Yaa Asantewaa who, as Queen
Mother of the Edweso tribe in
present-day Ghana, led an army
of thousands in 1900 against colonialists
and was driven into exile
in Seychelles where she lived for 20
years until her death in 1921.
Arikana Chihombori-Quao’s actions
salute the bravery of Queen
Nzinga Mbande of Ndongo and
Matamba in present-day Angola
who was a thorn in the flesh of
Portuguese colonial adventurers.
Her life pays tributes to the
late Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti of
Nigeria and reminds all of the sacrifice
of Josina Muthemba Machel,
a great leader of the Mozambican
fight for independence. She joined
FRELIMO in 1960 and led the
“Women’s Detachment” who took
up arms alongside men in the
trenches to fight for Mozambique’s
freedom. She married Samora
Machel, the iconic leader of Mozambique and she died in 1971,
aged 36.

Taytu Betul as Queen of Ethiopia,
fought alongside her husband,
Emperor Menelik II, and led her
people to victory over Italian forces
in 1896. The list is long, of African
women and men who paid supreme
sacrifices for the liberation of Africa.
Indeed, Chihombori-Quao’s lamentation
of the impudence with which
France has continued to rape Africa
merely re-echoes the first President
of Guinea, Ahmed Sekou Toure’s
emphatic “No” to France’s injustice
and domination, saying as far back
as 1958 that “it is better to be poor
and free than to live in opulence and
be a slave.”
Nonetheless, with her words and actions,
Arikana Chihombori-Quao
has written her name on the hearts
of Africans. With her fearless crusade
for justice and equity, a need
without boundaries, she has made
humanity her native community,
speaking, as it were, for all oppressed
peoples of the world.

“She is a friend of my mind,” a character
in African-American author,
Toni Morisson’s novel, BELOVED,
says of the woman after his heart.
“She gather me, man. The pieces I
am, she gather them and give them
back to me in all the right order.”
And in a tone laden with immeasurable
joy, the man sighs: “It’s good,
you know when you got a woman
who is a friend of your mind.”

Friendship of the mind.
That is the epoch which the ongoing
love affair between the continent
and this illustrious daughter
should reach.
Africa was lucky to awake in 2019
to the spectacle of a daughter who
sought, in love, to gather the pieces
of her continent and put them in all
the right order. Africa is blessed to
have a friend of its mind.
Today, her name evokes the admiration
of all and needles the hearts
of the continent’s enemies, within
and without. Indeed, not a few leaders
are catching the fire from the
flame of her courage.
While her cry from the heart may
not immediately affect too much
change in the order of things, it
may well serve as a call on her beloved
Africa to begin the search for
real architects of its salvation.
And as she cries like a mother
would do to save her child from destruction,
may Africa not prove unworthy
of Arikana’s exertions.
For damning all consequences
to preach, with clarity and courage,
that Africa must be free and
free indeed, Arikana Chihombori-
Quao has done more than most in
2019 to serve and save her beloved
continent. And she is The Guardian’s Person of
The Year 2019!

The writer is the Editor-in-Chief/
COO of The Guardian

Posted by on Jan 11 2020. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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