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In a personal reflection of the late Dr.Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, a foremost champion of Pan-Africanism in recent years, he is remembered as one who spoke truth to the powerful and the powerless with indefatigable commitment to the poor of Africa

At about 11.00am on the fateful day of 25 May 2009, I was travelling with 3 other Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Uganda colleagues from Moroto to Kotido in troubled Karamoja region North East Uganda when my phone rang and it was my wife calling from Nigeria. Her usual hearty laughter was not there as she screamed into the phone that something terrible had happened. As someone who is away from home I was alarmed as I asked her what has happened. She said it was Oga Taju and I further probed what had happened to Oga Taju she told me that she just heard the news that he had died in a car crash in Nairobi. I was dumb founded and very much confused. Oga Taju dying in a car crash. It was unbelievable as well as unimaginable. I put calls through to friends in Nairobi and the answers were in the affirmative. The ‘iroko’ (Yoruba for tree) had fallen. The indefatigable and foremost pan Africanist who spoke truth to power is no more. Now who is going to stand up and look at our power hungry dictator and speak truth to them?
My thought went to early April when he asked me to pass through Nairobi and spend some days with him before proceeding to Nigeria for Easter holidays. Because of his usual tight schedule he had to travel out suddenly so we could not agree on dates before I bought my ticket. We however spoke on phone when I was in transit for a few hours in Nairobi. I so much regret that I missed that opportunity to have said goodbye to my brother and mentor. I also recall that during the same period he went and brought his two lovely daughters from London to spend the Easter holidays with him in Nairobi. Maybe that was his way of saying good bye to them.

A lot has been written about Taju and his contribution to the emancipation of Africa. It will not serve much purpose to repeat things that have been well documented by more erudite writers. However going down memory lane I will like to recall how I met Oga Taju. In 1995 he was living in Uganda and working as the Secretary General of the Global Pan African movement. I was in Nigeria working as a Legal Counsel with Constitutional Rights Project in Lagos. Our parts crossed at the North South Centre of the Council of Europe Consultative Conference in Strasbourg France in 1995. He chaired a particular sensitize session in which I moved a motion regarding the gross human rights violations of the Abacha junta which he handled in a very impressive manner. Personally I thought he was from Uganda since the name tag in from of him read Uganda until he walked up to me during the tea break and said “Old boy how now” I am also a Nigerian? Since that date until the cold and wicked hands of death snatched him away from us he was my close friend and mentor.

As we remember him today. Let us also remember his widow and two lovely daughters who are gradually growing into teenagers without the love and presence of their father. Let us also remember the struggle of this great giant of Africa that was cut short by the cold hands of death. The continuation of that struggle will make Oga Taju smile in his grave in the knowledge that his struggles were not in vain.

Oga Taju my prayer for you is that the great architect of the universe will watch over your loved one. He will smoothen all rough edges for them. He will also continue to grant you eternal rest in transition.


*Sonny Onyegbula is based in Malakal, South Sudan

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