The Honorable Antonio Blue joined other Member Mayors of the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM) to participate in the 2011 World Summit of Mayors international conference February 23-March 4. Held under the theme, “Global Engagement of Local Leadership for Universal Progress,” the conference advanced the partnership between African American Mayors and their Nigerian counterparts. The key outcome of the six-day conference was the execution of an official Memorandum of Understanding between the National Conference of Black Mayors and the Association of Local Governments Of Nigeria (ALGON).
Mayor Blue’s perspective on the trip was, “I think that the conference was a great success! It is wonderful when mayors from all across the Diaspora can come together for one common good, which is the betterment and quality of life for mankind. It was good to meet mayors from all over the world and to learn and gather information from them and understand how local governments operate in different countries. I look forward the conference on next year.
I think that God allows you to have only a few life-changing experiences. Going to Nigeria was one of them. It makes you appreciate the quality of life that we have in America and all of the wonderful and great things that we have done and that we are going to do to make this world a better place to live.”
Held in Osogbo, Nigeria and hosted by Osun State Governor, His Excellency Rauf Aregbesola, the conference was co-convened by the National Conference of Mayors and the World Conference of Mayors. The special delegation of U.S. Mayors joined fellow mayors from Europe, Africa, Central and South America, and Haiti February 25 to officially open the conference at the Center for Black Culture and International Understanding, that featured a performance by the children of the American Academy Choir and the presentation of a gift by NCBM President, Mayor Robert L. Bowser of East Orange, New Jersey to Governor Aregbesola on behalf of the delegation, an exquisite gold, bronze and white rendition of an African mask hand-crafted by African American artist Lydell Martin.
In his opening remarks to participants, Governor Aregbesola stressed the importance of human resources and leadership on the local level to address the problems of urbanization.
“The most important resource is human since it is the human mind that creates, solves problems and drives development. The problem, however, is that poor organization and bad leadership when combined with burgeoning population is more powerful in its explosion than the neutron bomb. This is the challenge of population and urbanization in the developing world,” he said. “We are determined to hand over the local government back to the people as their property. The local government is going to play an important role in our development program. We are going to position our councils for providing effective municipal governance.”
Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, who represented President Goodluck Jonathan noted the “rich cultural heritage and unparalleled hospitality” of Osogbo as reason the city was selected to serve as the site for the historic gathering. He also offered the President’s solution to the impact of slave trade, colonization and globalization on Africa’s cultures.
“To obviate the domineering influence of other cultures, Africans and people of African descent must build a bridge of understanding and a shield of cultural resilience so that a time tested African values of tolerance, chastity, mutual respect, respect for elders, sanctity of life would begin to exact its own residual influence on global trend.”
These remarks set the state for a daily series of provocative plenary sessions, such as “Local Imperatives of Good Governance for Local Leadership” and “Economic Development: Africa and Its Diaspora Partnership.” Sessions were designed around seven key areas: Trust, Training, Trade, Treasury, Twin Cities, Technology, and Tourism. Participants addressed economic and social issues within these sectors, with an aim to enhance the individual capacities of their local government to develop strategies to address universal challenges of municipalities such as good governance, development, sustainability, and equitable and affordable distribution of goods and services to citizens.
A conference highlight was a special meeting with His Imperial Majesty, Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, the Oonirasa of Ile-Ife, the spiritual leader of the Yoruba tradition, on the last day of Black History Month.
“For our mayors to be granted an audience with the Ooni of Ife was a highlight to our convention. This was a historic moment that will always have a special place in the history of our organization. What a great way to close a month of celebrating Black history and culture,” said NCBM Executive Director, Vanessa R. Williams.
The conference also featured a site visit of the agricultural village of neighboring Ondo State, wherein the local government has targeted eliminating youth unemployment through the development of the agricultural sector. The state’s plans to develop a Diaspora City where African descendants can purchase land for development epitomized the conference aim of the collective unity of Africans at home and those throughout the Diaspora. This sentiment was further echoed throughout the closing ceremony.
“As we travelled throughout this great country, we did not see lack. What we saw was the enormous opportunity to work together to make the world better, to work together to solve the problems that exist,” stated Mayor Bowser. “The National Conference of Black Mayors and World Conference of Mayors have come to place our hand in your hand, joins arms, souls, spirits and hearts, to retake our proper place in history. The time is now to use every tool, every available piece of technology, every brain to show the world African people can control their own destiny; that we are leaders on both local and global levels. There is enough collective power in this room within our organizations to make this happen. Now is the time!”
Speaking on behalf of Osun State Governor, His Excellency, Rauf Aregbesola, Deputy Governor Otunba (Mrs.) Grace Titilayo Laoye-Tomori stressed that local leadership must try to satisfy the yearnings and desires of the people.
“Now is the time for us to get it right, otherwise future generations will not forgive us,” Deputy Governor Tomori said. “Now is the time for us to make a difference and be a part of making a new social order in the continent of Africa. We are in an era of globalization, for it to be meaningful we must break barriers for international understanding and peaceful existence with the many people of the world,” she concluded.
The closing ceremony culminated in a moving cultural presentation of poetry, drama and music giving an account of slavery, the formation of the Diaspora, and the struggle for freedom and unity. The conference program concluded in the evening with a gracious State Reception.