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Are the Noble Dwarfs Invited Too?-Part 2

Thu, 17 Apr 2014 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

“I am black; I am in total fusion with the world, in sympathetic affinity with the earth, losing my id in the heart of the cosmos—and the white man, however intelligent he may be, is incapable of understanding Louis Armstrong or songs from the Congo. I am black, not because of a curse, but because my skin has been able to capture all the cosmic effluvia. I am truly a drop of sun under the earth (Frantz Fanon, “Black Skin, White Masks”).

Indeed, Frantz Fanon, one of Nkrumah’s influential friends, gave the world an entire system of revolutionary ideas that birthed movements across the world, including such places as Africa, Asia, and the United States of America. Fanon’s transformative impact on America’s Civil Rights Movement is irrefutable. Also, the scholarly work of the Brazilian thinker in the area of critical pedagogy, a concept accepted the world over in educational circles, owes a lot to the scholarship of Fanon. And with the quote above, we finally have a moral precedent to guide us in affirmatively asserting a positivist view, that Africa’s destiny or self-determination is hers to shape and that collective African self-knowledge, an Afrocentric position, is her exclusive right to pursue and protect as well! This is not a racist statement. Critically, it is an intellectual, moral, and cultural statement of fact, else who should undertake the philosophical enterprise of understanding the African better if not himself?

That is to say, a patient’s vital signs only provide a physician with a general outlook of his or her physical condition, but it is the former who is the best interpreter of his or her homeostatic disequilibrium, if at all. Bob Marley captured this existential phenomenon when he sang “Every man thinketh his burden is the heaviest…Who feels it knows it” (“Running Away”). Therefore, we need to critically reassess Ghana’s post-Nkrumah balance sheet on Africa’s post-colonial political existence to see whether, generally, Africa’s development credits outweigh her underdevelopment debits. We may blame the CIA and uncompromising Western interests for Africa’s developmental retrogression, however long we conveniently choose to, but it is the directionless, timorous leadership of Africa that consistently collaborates with foreigners to thwart her development and growth. We have not worked hard enough to develop independent, proactive, innovative, and thoughtful leaders. That, however, brings us to one of the complicated moral issues we raised in Part 1, that the intersection of politics, superstition and dereliction of official responsibilities is not the preserve of black thinking.

What is the point then? Both Rev. Pat Robertson and Rev. Jerry Falwell, two of America’s most powerful Christian evangelical fundamentalists, blamed September 11, the terrorist attacks on America, not on American foreign policy but on widespread immorality and anti-Christian sentiments in America, with Falwell specifically laying the blame on American homosexuality. Yet, the Frankenstein Al-Qaeda is one of America’s priceless, possibly, greatest, politically-subversive creations, a direct strategic calculus based purely on America’s foreign policy, otherwise designed to thwart Soviet political incrustation of Afghanistan. Besides, Rev. Falwell was a well-known segregationist, a Christian who stood firmly against the legal provisions of Brown v. Board of Education, handed down in 1954, which called for the desegregation of American public schools. On the other hand, the Brown v. Board of Education had been preceded by Plessy v. Ferguson, a legal instrument enacted in 1896, establishing the constitutionality of racial segregation in American public facilities.

In the main, Rev. Falwell, like Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and author of the Book of Mormon, and Brigham Young, one of Smith’s controversial successors, believed that their Bible-based God had sanctioned the slavishness of black people via the Curse of Cain, the latter associated mostly with Young. However, on another level, Rev. Pat Robertson, a Christian who publicly called for the assassination of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for his sharp criticism of America’s foreign policy, lobbied on behalf of Charles Taylor, a former CIA mole in the Liberian government, and Mobuto Sese Seko in US Congress. Later, Hugo Chavez, America’s erstwhile eagle-eyed moral chaperone, would supply free heating oil to 100,000 needy household in the US, a generous program encompassing 25 US states and the District of Columbia. This went on for eight straight years until Chavez’s death in 2013 (See Brett Wilkins’ “Venezuela Donates Free Heating Oil to 100k Needy US Households”; see also “Chavez Offers Cheap Gas to Poor In US,” published on the website of “Free Republic,” Aug. 26, 2005).

In the end, before Chavez’s untimely passing, his largesse had extended to the homes of at least 1.7 million poor Americans. Still, in another related context, the international capitalist media are quick to demonize progressive leaders, such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, for their socialist leanings, this, because these strong, forward-looking leaders have consistently resisted capitalist exploitation of their countries and of their people. Yet, Fidel Castro, like Hugo Chavez, has done a lot for the world in terms of human progress. His role in dismantling Apartheid is a little-known fact. In fact, Castro’s men, along with Namibian and Angolan soldiers, courageously engaged the army of South Africa, eventually trouncing it at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, Angola. This constituted the major decisive blow to Apartheid South Africa’s perceived invincibility (See Castro’s and Mandela’s book “Cuba and Angola: Fighting for Africa’s Freedom and Our Own”). Aside from this success story, Cuba’s Castro has sent his medical doctors around the globe to heal the sick, whether found in zones ravaged by the physical intoxication of hurricane, tsunami, or earthquake!

The question is, how has Cuba been able to build one of the best and progressive medical systems in the world even under the crushing weight of international embargo? Michael Moore’s “Sicko” tells the poignant story of “911 fire fighters and rescue workers with life threatening lung problems Cuba” but whose American insurance policies would not cover. Moore subsequently took them to Havana where Cuban doctors treated them (See Kate L. Shenk’s “Cuba Can Teach About Healthcare”). Accordingly, Cuba should be a case study for African political leaders, policy makers, health professionals, educational reformers, and researchers. In this context, Ghana and other African countries should not only send their students there to study medicine, as it were, but also they should send their educational reformers, health professionals, policy makers, researchers, and political leaders, along with students, to learn from the Cubans firsthand how they have achieved medical successes in the face of embargoed encumbrances.

For instance, the Havana-based Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) offers scholarships to 22,000 students from Latin America, Africa, the United States, the Caribbean, and Asia. Thirty countries are involved in this program (See “Cuba Can Teach Us About Healthcare,” published on the website of “Scholarships for Minorities,” Nov. 22, 2013). Cuba has also made great strides in the area of education. Moreover, it also has a high Human Development Index and, in 2006, the World Wide Fund for Nature ranked Cuba as the only country in the world to fit the definitional criteria for “sustainable development.” Furthermore, Cuba has the tenth-highest literacy rate in the world and life expectancy of 78 years, with its life expectancy placing her the 37th in the world, even beating the US, coming only after Chile and Canada in the Americas. Finally, her GDP is $121 billion (2012), the 66th in the world, and her per capita income is $10,000 (2010), 92nd in the world. How has this tiny country achieved these unseeming feats since its 1962 embargo?

Even the Medical Committee of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), an American-based non-profit organization, “brings young people from underserved US communities to study medicine at Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine (See Michele Frank’s “U.S. Physicians at the ELAM”). What has Ghana been doing after Nkrumah left the scene? How many cutting edge medical schools do we have? How many cutting edge hospitals do we have? What are we doing to expand our medical schools to train more qualified students locally rather than sending them far away to Cuba? What are we doing to increase the capacity of our medical schools so that we, like the Cubans, can export our medical students to the rest of the world? Are we only good at exporting raw materials and producing one bad leadership after another? And if Ghana cannot single-handedly expand or build additional cutting edge medical schools, is it beyond the reach of African countries, collectively, with their vast wealth, to pool resources together to build enough medical schools to accommodate the surplus we ship off to Cuba?

Thus, the problem of leadership crisis cuts across every sphere of Ghanaian life. It is not only at the level of national politics. It is a major problem in Ghanaian churches and mosques, homes, educational and cultural institutions, think tanks, security services, etc. But, generally, what has been the nature of the relationship between African leaders and their Western counterparts? For his part, Antoiane R. Lokongo has eloquently written of one such relationship between Mobuto Sese Seko and Ronald Reagan. Among a list of researchers and writers, Lokongo quotes Muritha Mutiga to shore up his views: “Mutiga (2004) states that Joseph Désiré Mobuto settled down into being ‘The United States of America’s Man’ in Zaire’—as President Ronald Reagan used to call him. Reagan also referred to Mobuto as a ‘friend of democracy and freedom’ and ‘a voice of good sense and good will.’ President George Bush senior for his part called Mobuto ‘one of our most valued friends on the entire continent of continent.’ This is according to a 1989 report in the US Department of State Bulletin (See the Nov. 16, 2011 edition of Pambazuka News piece “DRC: Democracy at a Crossroads”; see also Mutiga’s “The Ugly Side of Ronald Reagan”).”

George Bush, Sr. even referred to Reaganomics as “voodoo economics.” Rev. Pat Robertson blamed Haiti’s devastating earthquake on a pact Haitian Founding Fathers allegedly made with the devil. In 2006, Rev. Falwell also predicted a catastrophic tsunami on American soil, and then, in 2006, a terrorist attack on America, both of which never materialized (See Dan Fletcher’s “The Haiti Earthquake”). Hence, in principle, we do acknowledge poor, timid, and clueless leadership as one of Ghana’s and Africa’s most serious problems. The above examples go to illustrate our point. Allowing foreign interests a notch of precedence over those of Africa’s has been the bane of Ghana’s and Africa’s development. For instance, the billions Mobuto stole went mostly to the West, not to the hardworking people of Zaire. Sadly, those powerful Ghanaian and African leaders with boundless foresight, with good moral character, and with good plans for Africa’s growth and development are always assassinated, overthrown, or forced into exile by the West and, paradoxically, with the compromising support of greedy locals, self-styled authoritarian democrats, if you will, as happened in the cases of Patrice Lumumba, Malcolm X, Kwame Nkrumah, and Amilcar Cabral, for a pittance of Western civilizational pie.

It a sad case that we practically depend on others for everything even though we gave birth to human civilization and humanity. We have all these wealth and still cannot even underwrite the outlay of the African Union. We have all these able-bodied men and women and still cannot constitute them into Nkrumah’s African High Command to defend the interests of Africa, even while the Lord Resistance Army, Al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Ansaru, and other terrorist organizations threaten to tear Africa apart. We have all these intelligent and learned men and women and still cannot produce one good leadership after another. We have the sun trapped in our lap and still cannot produce a quantum of solar energy. Nkrumah built us chains of functional factories, industries, and companies and we sell them off to Ghana’s ex-colonizers for a pittance. Nkrumah got us “independence” and we sell it to Ghana’s ex-colonizers for an intellectual pittance of neocolonialism. We have had African fractals for centuries, but it would take their arrival in Europe, and then, later, the West to culminate in the invention of the computer.

We have had baby slings for centuries but it would take an American’s visit to Ivory Coast to lead to the serendipitous invention of the backpack carrier. Further, we have had “paper,” as papyrus in ancient Egypt (the Sudd of Southern Sudan, Egypt’s Nile Delta), yet are behind the rest of the world in paper production. Actually, what is there to explain the intellectual gridlock, supposedly blocking successful transmutation of creatively trapped theories, ideas, or concepts into materiality, a liberating praxis of humanism? Is it because today’s African leadership is not as action-oriented as Kwame Nkrumah and Marcus Garvey were? True, we have repeatedly demonstrated elsewhere that Nkrumah was indeed a genuine pragmatist, not a psychedelic doctrinaire, as his break-dancing detractors would have the world believe, yet we cannot say the same of his chain of Eurocentric successors. Again, Adam Smith screamed “free market” and “rational self-interest” and there goes Africa, uncritically copying his them without considering their impact on African’s sense of community (Ubuntu), extended family system, or social collectivism.

Exactly how pragmatic was Nkrumah? And exactly how actionable were his revolutionary ideas? Let us use the prime example of Nkrumah’s unparalleled contributions to higher education to make our point. We shall, however, use the University of Ghana, then as the University College of the Gold Coast, as the exemplar, which leads to history: “In 1911, Casely-Hayford took up Dr. Africanus Horton’s proposals for a West African University, and rather campaigned for a university for the Gold Coast. Nine years later, the National Congress of British West Africa, led by Casely-Hayford, petitioned the British Government ‘to found a British West African University on such lines as would preserve in the students a sense of African nationality,” writes Kwame Botwe-Asamoah, adding: “This request yielded no positive response until 1945, when the Colonial Government finally embraced the idea of a university for the Gold Coast. This change of attitude was based on two separate reports submitted to the Colonial Government by Asquith and Elliot Commissions. Contained in the reports, the mission of the university was to train a new platonic African elite (See “Kwame Nkrumah’s Politico-Cultural Thought and Politics,” p. 150; see also Geoffrey Bing’s “Reap the Whirlwind,” p. 348-349).

Importantly, the National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA) was founded by JE Casely-Hayford, Kobina Sekyi, A. Sawyer, Thomas Hutton-Mills, Sr., A.B. Quartey-Papafio, Edward F. Small, Henry van Hien, and F.V. Nanka-Bruce. Admittedly, J.E. Casely-Hayford did the groundwork for the establishment of a university in the then-Gold Coast. Of course, Dr. JB Danquah did his part, though tangentially, and, as a result, as history consciously and eloquently informs the world, the seminal idea of establishing such a university in the then-Gold Coast was certainly not Danquah’s. Particularly, this view is not debatable because of an obscure historical link between the two, Casely-Hayford and Danquah, with a palpable degree of overbearing tutelage which the former dutifully exerted on the latter, a political neophyte at that! Nana Ofori Atta Ayim writes of this obscure relationship: “Dr. Danquah was a protégé of the celebrated and iconic God-father of West African nationalism and the pioneer Pan-Africanist, Joseph Ephraim Casely-Hayford. In his own words, it was at the feet of the eminent nationalist, ‘Ekra Agyemang,’ otherwise known as Joseph Ephraim Casely-Hayford, that I was brought up, like St Paul under Gamaliel, and it was from Ekra Agyeman that I learned selfless politics as the sacrificing of one’s self totality for one’s own country. I sat under his feet from 1915 to his own death in 1930.”

Sacrificing one’s self totality for one’s own country indeed! Selfless politics indeed! Selfless politics entailing clandestine collaborations with the CIA to overthrow the democratically elected government of Kwame Nkrumah! Nana Ofori Atta Ayim’s frank admission generates a few important questions nonetheless! How much did Danquah learn from Casely-Hayford after having understudied him for 15 solid years, including the establishment of the University College of the Gold Coast? Who should get the credit for this university? Again, Kwame Botwe-Asamoah has this to say: “The call by the Okyehene to rename the premier university of Ghana after Dr. J.B. Danquah is the most absurd of the public statements. In 1951, it was Danquah who vehemently and steadfastly opposed the 1951 Local Council Ordinance Bill and the establishment of Cocoa Marketing Board introduced by Nkrumah’s internal self-government.” He adds: “Thus, if Danquah had won the debate, the Kwame Nkrumah government would not have generated the requisite revenue for the first Five-Year Development Plan, containing the construction of the Volta River Project, Tema Harbor and City, Adomi Bridge, Okomfo Anokye Hospital, democratization of education, the Medical School and the planning and construction of the University of Ghana at Legon (See “Naming the University of Ghana after Danquah” under “The Fallacies of JB Danquah’s Heroic Legacy: Introduction”).

Kwame Botwe-Asamoah’s intellectual archeology completely knocks out Danquah! To whom should the well-deserved credit technically go? Once again, Kwame Botwe-Asamoah responds: 1) Nii Ayi Kushi (the founder of the Ga State, 1500), 2). Nii Kwabena Bonne (by tradition the Oyokohene of Takyiman), 3). Sgt. Adjetey (a martyr and leader of ex-Servicemen), 4). Nana Dr. Kobina Nketsia (the Omanehene of Asikado), 5). Nana Akumfi Ameyaw of Takyiman (leader of the Bono-Kyempem). Where is JB Danquah on the list? Yet, the University of Ghana owes its non-racist academic content, academic popularity, and physical existence (modern structure) to Nkrumah’s imaginative generosity, Afrocentric consciousness, political diligence, and sheer intellectual power (See Chapter 7 of Kwame Botwe-Asamoah’s book). In fact, it was Nkrumah who worked hard to secure the university’s independence from the University of London. To this, Kwame Botwe-Asamoah, as before, writes: “To unbind the university from foreign control, Nkrumah appointed an International Commission in 1960, chaired by Kojo Botsio, the Minister of Agriculture, with Daniel Chapman as the Vice-Chairman.”

And what was the general purpose of the International Commission set up by Nkrumah? Kwame Botwe-Asamoah writes: “The purpose of the Commission was to advise the government on the future development of the University College of the Gold Coast. One of the Commission’s terms of reference was about the conversion of the Kumasi College of Technology into a University of Science and Technology.” Who constituted the International Commission? “Three scholars from England, two from United States of America, and one from the USSR and one African from Sierra Leon,” writes Kwame Botwe-Asamoah, quoting from Eric Ashby (See Ashby’s “African Universities and Western Tradition,” p. 89, 169-170; see also Botwe-Asamoah, p. 151). He also notes: “In May 1961, the Commission submitted its report, which was enacted into law by Parliament on July 1, 1961 (See Botwe-Asamoah, p. 151; see also Robert W. July’s “An African Voice,” p. 170).”

Kwame Botwe-Asamoah, however, concludes: “In addition to these guidelines, the law created a new structure of government consisting of a Chancellor, the head of state, Vice-Chancellor, to be appointed by the president of the republic, and the University Council, as the governing body. The law also established a National Council for Higher Education and Research under the Ministry of Education ‘which would plan, coordinate and finance education and research throughout the country (See Botwe-Asamoah, p. 151). Clearly, these hard facts pertaining to the university’s academic and infrastructural evolution inarguably revolved around Nkrumah. In the end, Nkrumah became the university’s first Chancellor and Nana Dr. Kwabena Nketsia its first interim Vice-Chancellor, though, initially, Nkrumah had wanted to give the Vice-Chancellorship to Nkrumah’s friend Dr. Conor Cruise O’Brien, an Irish academic, historian, writer, and politician. Nevertheless, Thomas L. Hodgkin, an English historian and promoter of African history in the United Kingdom, instead preferred an African to serve the university in that capacity.

Meanwhile, Nkrumah, a liberal thinker, would finally go along with Hodgkin’s decision! Interestingly, Hodgkin became the head of the newly created Institute of African Studies and also contributed to reforms of Ghana’s tertiary education in a capacity as secretary of the International Commission. Yet, after all is said and done, the University College of the Gold Coast had its roots in Achimota College, founded by Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey, Sir Frederick G. Guggisberg, and Rev. Alexander G. Fraser, with support from a coterie of distinguished Gold Coasters: Nene Emmanuel Mate Kole (Konor of Manya Krobo), Nana Amonoo V (Omanhene of Anomabo), and Nana Ofori Atta (Omanhene of Akyem Abuakwa). Once again, JE Casely-Hayford (Sekondi), Thomas Hutton-Mills (Accra), Sr., FV Nanka-Bruce (Accra), Dr. Benjamin W.Q.Q. Papafio (Accra), and EJP Brown (Cape Coast) also came on board. Where was Dr. JB Danquah in all these? At least, was Nkrumah not a product of Achimota College?

Having said all that, what is the motivation for this write-up? That, like Nkrumah, we should learn to turn dreams into realities, as he successfully turned the dream of Dr. Africanus Horton and JE Casely-Hayford into a prestigious higher institution of learning, and, rather, stop working with the CIA and imaginable dwarfs to destabilize Ghana and Africa. “Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy! Don’t bury your dreams; put your vision to reality, yeah!...Wake up and live. Rise ye mighty people. There’s work to be done. So let’s do it little by little. Rise from your sleepless slumber (Bob Marley, “Wake Up and Live”). Is it not ironic for a sitting Ghanaian president to go before Nkrumah’s Institute of African Studies to lecture students on the need to tell Africa’s story to the world, a likely story about neocolonialism and Eurocentrism, we guess, although Nkrumah set up the Institute to drive the vehicle of self-determination, among other things? What are we doing to rid ourselves of Fanon’s “cosmic effluvia”? What are we doing in order to understand ourselves better so as to make Africa a better place for her posterity? And whose responsibility is it to make Africa a better place, the African or the foreigner?

Let us not dare invite these unthinking noble dwarfs to the national conference. Instead, let Louis Armstrong, Marcus Garvey, Kwegyir Aggrey, Kwame Nkrumah, and the songs from the Congo speak on behalf of Ghana and Africa!

We shall return…

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis