At the start of every year, the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) team kicks off work with exclusive sessions dedicated to team bonding, strategy refinement, deep reflections, and crafting a blueprint for interventions ahead of the road. This year continued the tradition. Between January 14 – 20, 2024, CAPPA held a week-long staff retreat at the scenic Inagbe Grand Resort and Leisure in Lagos State.
With over 20 team members working across its Abuja and Lagos offices, and new colleagues aboard, the meeting offered everyone a chance to bond anew. For some team members, it was the first time meeting face-to-face, while others were happy to re-unite after the Christmas break and intense campaigns of last year.
Day one of the retreat commenced with a first session titled ‘‘Advocacy, Resistance & the March Towards a Just World,’’ led by Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation. The presentation discussed the foundations of advocacy and the material conditions that influence a person’s path toward becoming an advocate of justice. Advocacy for social justice often arises from dissatisfaction with impunity, exploitation of nature, and unjust class relations in society. To be an effective advocate, one must genuinely care for the environment and people.
While discussing the challenges of being an advocate of social justice, including the risks of political victimization and self-doubt, Nnimmo encouraged team members to navigate these challenges with honesty and a commitment to building a network of shared interests that can provide solidarity and support during difficult times.
In a second presentation, Akinbode Oluwafemi, the Executive Director of CAPPA, delved into the theme of ‘‘Building Communities’ Solidarity for Inclusive and Participatory Development.’’ This session provided insights into the driving force behind CAPPA’s advocacy and support for grassroots communities. At the heart of CAPPA’s motivation lies its three-fold mantra: ‘Community, Solidarity, Impact‘ Guided by this mantra, CAPPA’s interventions aim to nurture passionate advocates, build community power, and cultivate an informed public capable of scrutinizing governance and corporate processes to shape them in ways that enhance the well-being and social welfare of the people.
Furthermore, this session emphasized that CAPPA’s mission is rooted in the inherent rights of all human beings, recognizing that every individual is born free and equal in dignity and rights. Consequently, CAPPA remains steadfast in its commitment to advocating for a just society where economic, cultural, and social rights are recognized for everyone.
The fourth day of the retreat began with a presentation tagged ‘‘Highlights of Recent Movements and Lessons Learnt’’ delivered via Zoom by Comrade Hassan Soweto of the Education Rights Campaign. During his talk, he highlighted key features shared by a movement such as the presence of individuals with shared ideas or beliefs, organizing together, and mobilizing for collective action. He also underscored the strengths of movements, such as determination, unity, innovation, and the broad inclusion of various layers of society, such as women and young persons. But movements also suffer weaknesses like the absence of effective leadership and a lack of political education.
The presentation underscored the importance of grounding movements in ideology and democratic values, emphasizing that isolated efforts are less effective. In conclusion, Soweto encouraged all to draw lessons from past movements in the country, citing examples like #EndSARS, past campaigns led by the Nigeria Labour Congress, and student union movements. He stressed the significance of honesty, proactive planning, political education, and a committed approach to movement-building. He concluded with a quote from Frantz Fanon: “Every generation must discover its mission or betray it.”
During another presentation, Gideon Adeyeni, CAPPA’s community mobilizer talked about ‘‘Broadening CAPPA’s Power Base’’ by establishing connections with a variety of old and new allies to solidify the organization’s influence and impact across its campaign areas. Allies identified included student and youth movements, trade unions, community-based organisations, and the media among other structures. His presentation also noted the importance of conscientization – understanding the roots and implications of causes and actions – in allyship building. This, he said, would lead to a more proactive activism instead of a less effective reactive activism.
Patti Lynn of Corporate Accountability (CA) followed with the next presentation on ‘‘North and South Campaigning Shoulder to Shoulder: The Case of CAPPA/CA Partnership.’’ Her presentation shed light on the prevailing patterns of exploitation perpetuated by transnational and Western corporations operating in resource-rich areas of the Global South. She elucidated how these corporations often engage in practices that detrimentally affect local communities and the environment, highlighting the urgency of addressing these issues.
Central to Patti’s presentation was the idea of collaboration between justice-campaigning organizations from both the Global North and Global South. She illustrated this model using the successful partnership between CAPPA and CA as an example of how organizations from different regions could come together effectively. This collaboration, she emphasized, offered a powerful approach to combating the negative trends perpetuated by corporate exploitation.
However, Patti’s message also flagged the need to foster trust among the various stakeholders involved in these partnerships. Trust, she argued, forms the bedrock upon which successful cooperation, mutual understanding, and collective action are built. It extends not only between organizations but also among individuals, communities, and movements. She stressed avoiding isolation, respecting each other, leveraging unique strengths, addressing financial disparities, and defining clear goals and strategies as effective approaches for cross-organizing.
The final day of the retreat mostly addressed administrative aspects within the organization, orienting staff with CAPPA’s work culture, values, and principles. It also emphasized the level of commitment expected from team members and management to further enhance the organization’s quality of work and overall impact. Team members ended the day with a visit to a serene beach on the island with clear blue waters. Here, they enjoyed a bonfire night and danced together in solidarity.
Throughout the retreat, the staff engaged in various team-building activities during and outside the workshops, including icebreakers, table tennis contests, strategy discussions, swimming, and shared meals. Overall, the retreat offered an excellent opportunity for team members to refine campaign strategies and renew their dedication to advocating for a better and more just Africa.