Africa as a continent has witnessed varying degrees of exploitation – exploitation of her peoples, environment, and the systemic strangulation of her ethos. This birthed the partitioning of the continent – forming super colonial structures, that though have changed nomenclature, but has survived to this present day. The mode of relation surely has changed, but subtly has taken a different dimension – to keep Africa on perpetual hibernation mode while the plunder continues unabated and, in many cases, using some multilateral “pacts” as the trigger.
For the past 10 years, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) – an ecological think tank organisation has stood against forces erected by colonial practices through which environmental and people’s exploitation take place. Formed in 2011 but started formal operations in 2013, the organisation has since then, consistently advocated for environmental / climate justice and food sovereignty in Nigeria and Africa at large – examining the roots of exploitation of resources, peoples, and nations.
The 10th Anniversary and Conference of HOMEF was held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, on Monday 19th of June 2023. The gathering which was attended both in-person and virtually was more than marking the 10thyear of the organisation’s activities but was a trigger for an annual conference on environment which will discuss Nigeria’s and Africa’s peculiar environmental issues vis-à-vis government policies and make recommendations for action. The conference had in attendance frontline rights activists, scholars, experts, writers, traditional rulers, youths as well as political and faith leaders to unpack the multi-sectoral roots of the polycrisis.
The conference featured four keynotes and two panel discussions. The keynotes were presented by His Highness, Ibrahim Usman Jibril, the Emir of Nasarawa, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Prof Niyi Osundare, Poet/Dramatist and Dr Isaac Asuma Osuoka;
King Bubaraye Dakolo, Agada IV, Ibenanowei of Ekpatiama Kingdom and Chairman, Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council read from his book, The Riddle of the Oil Thief, while CHIEDU Ezeanah read the anniversary poem.
One of the major highlights of the event was the unveiling of HOMEF’s book: Politics of Turbulent Waters – Reflections on Ecological, Environmental and Climate Crises in Africa. The unveiling was carried out by Chido Onumah.
The first keynote was presented by His Highness, Ibrahim Usman Jibril, the Emir of Nasarawa, and former Minister of State for Environment on Environmental Governance: Between Policy and Practice. He called on governments at all levels to give greater priorities to environmental challenges facing Nigeria. While commending HOMEF’s knack for advocating for the enthronement of environmental and climate justice as well as food sovereignty, he noted that HOMEF has fought battles on issues of the environment, such as around Genetically Modified Organisms and urged the organisation not to relent.
Prof Niyi Osundare spoke on the topic Eco-Musings: Writing Our Planet Back To Equitable Health. He took a tour of the national and global ecological landscape through the lens of literature, especially poetry. He cited examples from the poetry of Ogaga Ifowodo, Tanure Ojaide and Nnimmo Bassey to buttress the urgent need for environmental justice.
Dr Asume Osuoka delivered the third keynote address on Environmental Justice for a Resilient Africa. He went deep into political ecology and stressed the need to tackle the crimes in our environment from the roots. This was as he
Bishop Matthew Kukah gave a memorable last keynote for the day. He dwelt incisively on the stewardship duty of humans in relation to the Earth. He drew the conclusion that as with every context of stewardship every person should be ready to account for how he or she handled the environment.
Nnimmo Bassey, Director of HOMEF, while appreciating the participants noted that the struggle for environmental justice in Africa was a complex one and that these efforts are the continuation of the fight for the liberation of the continent and for socio-ecological transformation. He asserted that everyone must come together to determine our common fate – where we live in dignity, wellbeing, and respect for the environment. He added that “our roots are sunk in our environment and that is where our nourishment comes from. We do not see the Earth and her bountiful gifts as items that must be exploited, transformed, consumed, or wasted. The understanding of the Earth as a living entity and a dead thing warns that rapacious exploitation that disrupts her regenerative powers are acts of cruelty or Ecocide.”
Another highpoint of the Conference was the Goodwill Messages session in which volunteers, allies, and partners of HOMEF expressed their experiences with the organisation and also extended their goodwill.
Two interactive panel sessions on: Re-imagining Development in Africa, and Communities and Partners (sharing their experiences with HOMEF) were moderated by Ifeoma Malo and Betty Abah respectively. This was followed by a poetic performance by Chiedu Ezeanah, titled: Earth’s Healer – A Dreamside Exchange with Nnimmo Bassey to celebrate HOMEF’s 10th Anniversary.