The death in a car accident in Kenya of Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem has robbed the cause of Pan-Africanism of its most energetic and charismatic modern advocate. Born in Funtua, Nigeria, in 1961, he studied political science at Kano’s Bayero University before winning a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford and completing a doctorate on party politics in Nigeria. In no sense did he neglect the often desperate political needs of his Nigerian homeland, and he helped found the Centre for Democracy and Development under the Abacha dictatorship, remaining its Chair until his death.
But his indefatigable efforts as both journalist and campaigner always embraced Africa as a whole. After a spell in the 1980s at the Institute for African Alternatives, he worked for the Africa Research and Information Bureau, and it was in this period he first wrote for the NI, about Africans’ experience of racism in Russia (www.newint.org/issue211/black.htm).
As secretary general of the seventh Pan-African Congress in 1994, he established a new base for his campaigning in Kampala, Uganda, and he remained thereafter a focal point for Pan-African activism
I met him while researching a special issue of the NI in 2000: Africa United: the Pan-African alternative (www.newint.org/issue326/title326.htm). He was helpful, provocative and insightful, and contributed an article on the negative impact of Western aid workers in Africa that dominated our letters pages for months after (www.newint.org/issue326/impact.htm). But he didn’t tell me until afterwards how sceptical he had been that the New Internationalist would come out with a magazine that did the Pan-African cause justice: his ultimate approval of what I wrote meant a great deal.
In the new century he continued to work along a multiplicity of channels, including helping to establish the campaigning organization Justice Africa, and since 2006 working for the UN in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals in Africa. Throughout this period he maintained an outspoken weekly column for numerous African newspapers and for Pambazuka News, which since his death has collected a vast number of heartfelt tributes to his life and work (http://tinyurl.com/ph3p7n).
Taju died while on the way to Rwanda on Pan-African business – on 25 May, which is Africa Day. He would have appreciated that small irony and would undoubtedly have urged those mourning him: ‘Don’t agonize, organize!’