Pambazuka Press is thrilled to announce the release of . With the first anniversary of his passing approaching on African Liberation Day on 25 May, 'Speaking Truth to Power' captures Tajudeen's inimitable voice, sharp intellect and irrepressible humour. The following article comprises the preface to the book, written by former secretary-general of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Salim Ahmed Salim in honour of Tajudeen's enormous contribution to Pan-Africanism.
It is both an honour and a privilege to have been asked to write a preface to this much-needed collection of Pan-African postcards by Nigerian activist, scholar, columnist, campaigner and Pan- Africanist par excellence: the late Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem.
Tajudeen was born on 6 January 1961 in Funtua, Katsina state, Nigeria. He died tragically on African Liberation Day, 25 May 2009, in a motor accident in Nairobi, Kenya while on his way to the airport.
He graduated with a first class honours degree in political science from Bayero University Kano. After youth service, Tajudeen received a prestigious Rhodes fellowship and proceeded to Oxford University from where he graduated with a DPhil.
From Oxford, Tajudeen had unlimited career options, but he never wavered in his determination and focus. He chose to return to make his contribution to the rebuilding of the African continent. In 1992 Tajudeen was appointed general secretary for the secretariat organising the 7th Pan-African Congress in Kampala, Uganda. The congress he organised in 1994, with delegates from 47 countries, turned out to be one of the largest and most vibrant gatherings of Pan-Africanists in many years. Though its theme was ‘Africa: Facing the Future in Unity, Social Progress and Democracy’; the congress was overshadowed by the unfolding genocide in Rwanda.
Tajudeen accompanied a delegation from the Pan-African Movement to Rwanda for a first-hand assessment of what was going on in the country, but the delegation fell into an ambush near Kigali from which Tajudeen was lucky to escape unhurt.
Subsequent to the 1994 Pan-African Congress, Tajudeen remained engaged and dedicated to Pan-African causes. He used his position as general secretary of the Global Pan-African Movement to inspire an entire generation of Africans and Africanists. He was emphatic that the Pan-African effort must be coordinated from the African soil. His work with the Pan-African Movement involved travelling across the African continent and to the Americas and the Caribbean. Wherever Tajudeen found himself, he always identified with the concerns of the local community.
In his last job, Tajudeen served as deputy director for Africa of the United Nations’ Millennium Campaign. From this position, he kept a faithful vigil over the efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) across the continent – he spoke to African presidents, leaders, students, young people, women’s groups and ‘ordinary’ Africans. He was passionate about this campaign.
Tajudeen tackled issues head-on, had no sacred cows, and could be a fierce critic, even of his closest friends and comrades. At the time of his death he was working on a historical account and political analysis of some African liberation movements and where they had gone astray.
Tajudeen did not hesitate to speak the truth to those in power. He boldly and quite undiplomatically took to task African leaders who did not have the courage of their convictions, including taking-up issues with them in public.
What will never cease to amaze Taju’s friends, comrades and acquaintances was how he found time to write. He was a prolific author, writing a regular column, the ‘Thursday Postcard’, syndicated to many newspapers including Nigeria’s the Daily Trust and Pambazuka News. Taju remained faithful to his calling as a political scientist and thinker.
Even in death, Tajudeen still speaks and is recognised for his tremendous contributions to the development of the continent. The next generation will not grow up to see Tajudeen, therefore, we must work together to create a better society such that we can say to the next generation: this is the world Tajudeen helped to build. Perhaps if we take a moment to reflect on the most popular and most emphasised piece of advice Tajudeen ever offered, we would find in it lessons that still speak to us as individuals, to our countries and to our world today; it is his email signature – ‘Don’t agonise; organise!’
The publication of this book is an important step towards ensuring the maintenance of Tajudeen’s legacy. It should be essential reading for all Pan-African activists and for those who aspire to a world based on the principles of justice and freedom to which Tajudeen was so committed.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* 'Speaking Truth to Power: Selected Pan-African Postcards' is now available from Pambazuka Press for £14.95.
* Dr Salim Ahmed Salim was prime minister of Tanzania (1984–85), secretary-general of the Organisation for African Unity (1989–2001) and African Union Special Envoy on the Darfur Conflict (2005–08). He is currently chairman of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation and a member of the African Union’s Panel of the Wise.
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