President Bola Tinubu has thrown his weight behind the ‘Heritage Voyage of Return’ initiative aimed at reuniting Afro-descendants with their African roots, saying the programme will not only re-awaken the historical awareness of society by bringing back memories of what happened many years ago, but will also create economic benefits.
The President spoke when he received a delegation from Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, along with the initiators of the project, in audience on Friday in Abuja.
“Reconnecting Afro-Brazilians with their African roots will be an iconic project that will rekindle our past and light up the spirit of our ancestors. It will re-awaken memories of what happened many years ago. And it is a good thing that this is coming now at a time when we are working on expanding the frontiers of freedom and democracy in Africa,” President Tinubu said.
While thanking Professor Soyinka for supporting the initiative and for his commitment and patriotism over the years, the President emphasized that the project would also come with economic benefits that must be leveraged, noting that, “this is an important project that must be pursued.”
Speaking earlier, Professor Wale Adeniran, who led the delegation, said the history of the project dated back to when the Lagos Black Heritage Festival began.
“Because this an identical project, the initiators of the Heritage Voyage of Return discussed the plan with Professor Soyinka, who also endorsed it.”
Professor Adeniran described the Heritage Voyage of Return as a historic maritime journey that will begin in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, making stops at various African nations and terminating in Lagos. He said the team had come to seek President Tinubu’s endorsement and for him to formally invite the Afro-descendants from Brazil home.
Other members of the delegation are Carolina Maira Morais, a Brazilian, and Ajoyemi Olabisi Osunleye, a Nigerian.
Morais noted that there are around 126 million Afro-descendants in Brazil, stating that the project would be integrating the two nations together, “Nigeria, the largest black population and the leading economy in Africa, and Brazil, a giant of South America. There are many African traditional families in Brazil. But no African country has gone to Brazil to identify and connect with them,” she said.
Morais stated that Brazilian President Lula da Silva is planning to visit Nigeria and has a special heart for Africa while also describing Professor Soyinka as a hero and icon in Brazil.