Interview | “Within our isolated singleness, we are nothing, we are weak” — Hardi Yakubu social justice and grassroots organising
Africans Rising Movement Coordinator, Hardi Yakubu talks to This is Africa about his personal philosophy, how it lends to his passion driven career and the collectivism dream.
Africa has a burgeoning youth population that is experiencing unprecedented times, something that is both a travesty and opportunity. Many young people have taken to the latter and are on the frontlines of social change and social movements that can meet inflexible and poor governance and exploitative systems head on. Some organisations such as Africans Rising are providing facilitative networks that go beyond territorial issues to support citizen-led change and accountable leadership.
Hardi Yakubu, the Africans Rising Movement Coordinator tells us more about how investing and nurturing movements has impacted actions and discourse around debilitating and archaic structures.
TIA: Tell us about yourself and why you chose the work you do.
Hardi Yakubu: I had abundant faith in the power of organised people. I’ve engaged in numerous organising activities not only to pursue economic, social, and environmental justice but also to build more Pan-African solidarity. In a nutshell, my organising has been based on the power of the people, articulating a common vision, and rallying beyond the arbitrary borders imposed on us by European colonialists.
TIA: What were your organising efforts like before you joined Africans Rising?
Yakubu: We have organised against police brutality, corporate greed, government overreach, executive maladministration, waste, and corruption.
For instance, in 2020 we had a direct action against building a 200 million parliamentary chamber in Ghana. When people have power they feel like they can do anything and do not listen. We moved to the Parliament House and took the struggle to the members of parliament. That direct action saved the day and saved the country 200 million dollars of borrowed money that would have been wasted.
In 2021, we brought tens of thousands of people to the streets to fight against mal governance and economic hardship in the country.
TIA: When you came to Africans Rising, what are some things you brought in with you and tried to implement into the work?
Yakubu: Well, I’m not going to take individual credit for shared work. That is not something that a movement person does. I’ve contributed to streamlining how we engage and ensuring we are explicit in our advancement of Pan-Africanism. That we as a collective engage more on the issues of the day- regardless of whatever we’re doing, the bigger picture (of unity and solidarity) is always at the back of our minds.
TIA: What can you tell me about your current work? The different initiatives that you’re running, what you’re trying to achieve, and the direction you’re on?
Yakubu: As movement coordinator, my job is to synchronise the activities of Africans Rising and make sure our movement can stand its ground, is sustainable, and can execute the mandate that has been handed over to us in the Kilimanjaro Declaration 2.0.
I ensure that the governance of the movement is on point, can coordinate collective members, and is accountable to its members as a people’s movement. I also give critical guidance in the execution or implementation of various campaigns and movement-building efforts. We are a movement of Africans rising, but we also have to build movements for various aspects and geographies.
One of the key campaigns and initiatives we’re currently doing is the Borderless Africa Campaign, which is about reaching a point where Africans can move across the continent without the hindrance of Visas or border restrictions. That is the vision we are pursuing, and we believe that with the kind of mobilisation we envisage doing, we can achieve that.
TIA: What are some of the strides that you’ve taken towards that?
Yakubu: One of the things I’m very excited about is the activation of younger people across the continent. Right now, we have about 200 volunteers in over 30 countries across Africa collecting signatures for the Borderless Africa petition from people in markets and shops- literally, people who are not necessarily online.
For me, this is very inspiring, young people sending pictures of themselves on the road, in the shops, or the market. Whether they are bending down for people to put a paper on their backs or putting the paper on a car for people to sign the petition. It gives me a lot of hope that young people are in tune with the Pan-African ideal and are ready to do what is necessary to bring it about.
Beyond that, young people are holding activities in their countries around Borderless Africa. It could be protests, demonstrations, sit-ins, community activities, concerts, etc. These things happening on the ground give a lot of hope about the possibilities that lie ahead.
TIA: Can we also discuss the lessons you’ve learned from the emergencies that we’ve experienced in the past few years? When you think about COVID-19 and the Russian-Ukraine war, what are some of the emerging issues you’ve dealt with as a movement coordinator?
Yakubu: When the Russia-Ukraine war broke out, and students who were trying to flee were being discriminated against, we organised a show of solidarity with some of our members on the ground by helping with evacuations, temporary shelter, and psychological support. We can show people-to-people solidarity when things happen instead of waiting on the African Union or government support. We are mobilising ourselves as people, ordinary people that want to support fellow Africans.
This is the spirit that I feel is inherent in African people but has for so long been distorted. I’m learning very quickly throughout this process that even though we cannot do everything, at least we can rekindle that spirit of Ubuntu that brings us together and shows the impact of solidarity.
I’ll give you an example. Why is it that currently, several countries in the Horn of Africa is are facing serious drought without assistance? It’s gone on, in Kenya for instance, for many months in certain parts of the country. There has to be an African response to that. We cannot sit down and wait for humanitarian agencies from Europe. Africans in Ghana, Africans in Senegal, Africans in Nigeria, Africans in DRC, Africans have to mobilise themselves to support with things like that.
The same food insecurity issue is in Somalia. There’s been conflict region in the Sahel and issues of people not being able to even farm, let alone harvest anything for their daily bread. There’s conflict now in Sudan, and conflict has just tapered off in Ethiopia. All of these are challenges that we at Africans Rising want to see mitigated locally. And anybody responsible for any of these atrocities must be held to account and the victims who need care are attended to. This is a huge undertaking that only one organisation or one person cannot do. That is why we emphasise coming together as a movement and as a people.
TIA: With that ambition in mind what are some of the things you would want to see in the future as you build these movements? What do you hope they can one day be?
Yakubu: I want to hear from Ghanaians about something happening in Kenya because they see it as their own issue. If something happens to an African anywhere in the continent or the diaspora, it must affect any other African anywhere. That is the future that we are working towards, that within our isolated singleness, we are nothing, we are weak, to be honest.
That is how come all those years, the history of oppression and exploitation has endured. The only way we can deal with that is if we see one another as one. When I wake up one day and see that an issue happening in Kenya is trending in Ghana or an issue happening in DRC is trending in Nigeria, or all across the African continent, and we are coming together to resolve these issues, I would be completely fulfilled. But that is only the beginning of our coming together. We need to move towards an African ideal of unity and solidarity. Once we begin stacking these blocks, one after the other, we will get there one day.
TIA: What do you think are some of the blocks that can be used to reach that future?
Yakubu: The mindset. We don’t necessarily need everything at the same time, we only need to build a critical mass of like-minded people, and we’ll be on our way to making an African future of goodness and prosperity for all.
TIA: Aside from changing mindsets what are some of the other structures that you think are helpful towards your work?
Yakubu: We operate on two levels. First, Pan-African mobilisation to bring us together. Secondly, which is also very important, is building grassroots power to challenge the powers that be. In every jurisdiction, you have governments, corporates, and people in power who want to do things that are not in the interest of the people.
The idea is that when you bring people together they can make the necessary changes when looking for accountability, doing anti-corruption work, asking for climate justice, economic justice, gender inclusion in policy, and so on. Part of the future is to ensure that we are communicating our own issues and building inclusive societies and communities for the future we want.
Sign the Petition: People’s petition for #BorderlessAfrica: Call on African governments to ensure free movement of African people across Africa
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