Ota Benga

Rising From the Ashes of Hopelessness – Part 1

The rooster crows and that was when I realized that i was awake all night; and at that moment , the bedside clock was reading 4:07 am.

It was a night of restlessness and only God knows for how long I lay in bed stirring at the ceiling of my room.

No doubt, I have counted all the squares and my gaze was firm on it that I was fully convinced I will be able to give a perfect description without missing even the smallest dot in the ceiling.

I was so worried, and the exhaustion I felt deep down reminded me of what Corrie Ten Boom said. She said worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but it empties today of its strength.

I have also recalled all the tales of hope that I have shared with my friends and fans in my previous posts, I thought that will be it, especially after challenging everyone to unite in hope and save Nigeria, but the story hasn’t come to an end, and here we are with yet another story.

It is a story about changing the way Africa is being portrayed by the media and the western world; which we all know how the continent is painted red and black.

As an island of poverty ravaged by hunger and malnutrition; a colony of war and bloodshed; a place where bamboo houses are built in the dessert, a zone surrounded by illiteracy and under-development and so many negativity.

Ota Benga
Or as a mere territory of uncivilized monkeys, similar to the story of Ota Benga, a Congolese man who was kept in a New York zoo.

This is the story that the African Public Relations Association (APRA) wants to change by reflecting the current transformation the continent is witnessing.

Even before I set my feet outside the shores of Nigeria to embark on the journey, I knew it was going to be worth it, I had all the energy it takes to make it an adventurous one, and I read the same eagerness in some of the delegates as we met at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.

We want to change the tides of history, we want to be the architect of our own identity and the masterminds of our own positive stories.

We want to counter the African proverb that says until the lions have their own historians, the story of the hunt will continue to be glorified by the hunter, by showing that the lion can now speak for itself!

This is what took us to the city of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

Outside of the hall of the conference, we all embarked on a tour in order to see how we can re-write some of those African stories that were painted negatively.

Everyone was excited as the history was narrated yet again, but no one anticipated that tears will flow that day, as we all quietly watched and listened.

It was a post war story and this was not the first time most of us heard about it, but what made it different was that it was told by the survivors; the victims of the deadly genocide.

We weren’t moved that much by the stories told at the Belgian memorial in Kigali; we thought it was just like yet another pre-colonial one.

At the Kigali Genocide Memorial; still excited and ready for more adventure, the post war video we watched entirely changed everything.

What seemed so exciting turned out into a moment of sorrow and grief.

The memorial is the city of the dead; the house of the bodies of the departed victims of the genocide.

Despite my zeal to take pictures and share the story with you, I just couldn’t. Like others, I was completely emotional and lost control of my tears.

I wept to my satisfaction recounting the images in my mind’s eye; looking at all the Rwandese as victims in one way or the other.

History will never forget how the Hutu’s mercilessly killed the Tutsi’s; in their millions, but though unfortunate, life must go on.

All that was put behind and the city was rebuilt and what matter most to them is Rwanda first!

Mahatma Gandhi said strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

Napoléon Bonaparte also said courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.

This is exactly one of the things that will soon change the African narrative, as Jonas Salk said, hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare
to make dreams into reality.

How did they do it? How can we all do it?

Join me in the next part of the story to find out how…