Opinions Sat, 6 Sep 2014

Intellectual Bankruptcy In Ghana:

The Need For A Radical Intellectual Vanguard.

Part 1

Since writing the article “The Book and Research Allowances Brouhaha in Ghana,” the polytechnic lecturers had been on an historic over three months strike and, UTAG, representing the university lecturers, which joined them, have just called off their five week old strike. Some patently fallacious and fatuous arguments have been appearing in the media in support of those grotesque allowances, which should NOT have been instituted in the first place by the NDC in 1995, and then expanded by the NPP. We have been informed that the NPP regime under ex-President Kufuor added the polytechnic lecturers in June 2006 by a collective agreement, thereby complementing the ideational hollowness of the brains in the main opposition party too. No wonder they have been essentially silent on the ongoing debilitating strikes by POTAG and UTAG since they have no alternative to deleterious wasteful system.

The government’s mishandling of the abrogation of the gross system has allowed a judge to rule POTAG’s strike as “legal,” and that is just the strike. Legal strike, however, does not make their demands sound and appropriate, by the way, unlike the hype being bandied around. So, the verdict does not imply that they were entitled to their demands, which are not good demands, being just a purely technical point that government has not followed appropriate laid down procedures (just as evidence extracted by duress or some illegal means is thrown out of court) in stopping the cancerous anomaly that has been gnawing at any prospects of building up a sound and viable public information and archival systems anchored on public and institutional libraries and archives to sustain research, teaching and development. Above all, it is a verdict that the National Labour Commission itself had failed in its remiss when it took the case to court without exhausting due process. And so, in spite of the ruling and the recent capitulation of the government to the blackmail of POTAG and UTAG, which has compelled some re-writing of this piece written much earlier, the demand for, and the existence of those allowances remain intellectually, academically and developmentally unsound. Unfortunately, this point is not being argued out by even the inept, bungling government officials since they are clearly clueless as to the appropriate replacement for the inimical system in place. One cannot deny the fact that the government’s intended National Research Fund is inadequate to redress the problem, defined simply as the paucity of reading materials and support for research in the tertiary institutions, which has changed drastically in nature since the 1990s with the rise of ICT systems.

So far as I see it all, what is happening is symptomatic of the general intellectual bankruptcy of our academics, politicians, the bureaucrats/technocrats and the so-called elite in the civil society, whose failures are mirrored in the continual backwardness of Ghanaians in general. As Ken Kuranchie, appalled at the medieval conditions he saw in prison, blurted it out when he was released from prison, “Ghanaians are not civilized,” a belated realization for him, being one of the prime savages in the system who was not aware of civilized ways. Let us be constantly reminded of this, as time has dawn again to begin another process of “opening the eyes” of Ghanaians, picking up from where the forebears of some of us stopped in the 1950s and ‘60s, with the dawn of independence and the overthrow of the CPP regime respectively. I shall explain.

You see, I need to devote a whole piece to the quip in the family when things started going bad in the 1960s, so expect: Torgbui Said Leave One White Man For Me. That was when Gbedema took Nkrumah to Anloga to see Torgbui Sri II to solicit support for Positive Action for Independence Now, Torgbui, of course, was no illiterate reactionary but an educated, enlightened, well-travelled polyglot (he spoke a number of major European and W. African languages) and a revolutionary for his times. Colonial records showed that, had it not been for the staunch support of the white DCEs, in the face of stiff resistance by the conservatives and traditionalists, he would not have succeeded in turning the British Togoland of the Eastern Province into the fastest growing educational area of the Gold Coast by the 1930s, besides the many other reforms he instituted, beginning from abolishing human ritual sacrifices and liberating those who were still being kept as slaves when he came to the throne in 1906. Why not? It was the Williams, scions of freed slaves, who head-hunted him to their base in Sierra Leone where he operated from for several years before settling in the then German Cameroons as an independent merchant in his own right. Their generation was a period when “progress” meant enlightenment too, not just vulgar consumerism and ostentation of the elite. That is how the model Gold Coast colony was built, with a standard of living equal to that of some southern and eastern European countries by the 1950s.

It is my medium term intention to write a series of articles on this lack of civilization that continues to elude the superficial elite and bedevils the mass of Ghanaians, thereby making them stagnate since independence as “developing people”, the new politically correct euphemism for “backward people”. Worse, a process of dedifferentiation (ref. Tilly and others) has set in, with recent stories such as the families that have gone back, that is, regressed, into the forest in the Ho area of the Volta Region; the resurgence of child slavery and panyarring; President Mahama’s wife supervising the building of an alleged better and presumably improved witches’ camp instead of supervising the disbanding of the existing ones, with his husband ordering the arrest and imprisonment of anyone who hunted down, tortured or killed an old woman as a witch; even PhD holders defending the existence of “trokosi” and pronouncing their beliefs in witchcraft, juju and the wholesale religious syncretism that has engulfed the nation, from the hamlets to the Castle/Flagstaff House and our university lecture rooms which are supposed to tower over all in insight and knowledge! Yes, with some lecturers doubling up as lay preachers and leading the gullible masses down the aisle of obscurantism, ignorance and superstition are the order of the day! To understand the ongoing series of a million and one challenges we face in Ghana, and in the African world - not excluding the Black Diaspora - we must now begin to find answers to a series of old and new questions and puzzles; the million and one things which are wrong, we daily rant and rave about and want to change! My intention is simply to act as the catalyst, the devil’s advocate - to use an old cliché - to continue the debate; not answer all those questions and solve all the puzzles. That’s impossible for one person to do and I hold no such pretensions. After all, the debate is centuries old and my candid views should be seen as just a contribution to it. In fact, just as a re-echoing what some had already said more elegantly but have been ignored.

Below are two quotes from different sources which draw attention to these "astigmatised intellectuals” (apology to Prof. George Ayittey) and the so-called elite, the educated Ghanaians/Africans in general, in order to focus on their ideational bankruptcy, the crux of the developmental challenge we face.

Prof. George Ayittey wrote in his infamous “The Moon Shines Brightly” piece that rightly lampooned former President John Kufuor for his duplicitous ways in securing the Presidential candidacy of the NPP in 1996, a piece which reportedly led to his disfavour in the NPP and blacklisting by the Kufuor camp:

“From: George Ayittey x@american.edu

To: okyeame@AfricaOnline.com, africa_think_tank@databack.com,


At 19:07 25.06.97 -0700


Sierra Leoneans have a proverb which goes like this: "The moon shines brightly but it is still dark in some places." A village elder might use this proverb in a situation like this. After scrounging under their mattresses, pots and pans for enough of their life savings to send a child to school, he returns to the village a disaster. He can't do anything right, making a mess of everything he touches. Whereupon an elder may look steely at him, shake his head and say, "The moon shines brightly but it is still dark in some places."

Quote ended.

Indeed, for these lecturers and our leaders, in spite of the fact that they "went to school plenty, plenty," as a more imaginative kinsman put it, there is darkness and cobwebs covering their faces and brains! They do not seem to do anything right. Is it only because they lack Critical Thinking? Are selfish, corrupt and not patriotic? Or, they do not have the knowhow? Why all that? Perhaps, the problem is in the type of [mis]education they are receiving even abroad. After all, Sir Arthur Lewis’ advice to Nkrumah in 1953 was to find suitably qualified Africans to send abroad to work to gain industrial and managerial skills, not to go to universities to study. I remain adamant that not a single cedi of the GETFUND should be spent on scholarships in overseas universities for, abomination of all abominations, even first degrees!

I wrote then, among other things, in response to Prof. Ayittey:

“Anyway, his post sent me back to something I had then been raising for quite some time on Okyeame. It touches the type of education which the young man in the Prof's story received which makes him "mess" things up. In the Prof's own words in his presentation at NAROG 1 in Washington, become "astigmatised intellectual".

This problem was well captured in the response given by some “Red Indians” to the invitation sent to them by the white colonisers of America who requested for some young Indians to be "educated" in their new colleges. The Indians, of course, recognised the problem but their way of dealing with it saw them ending up in the squalid reservations they live in today [I hope the casino windfalls have really improved them, as the hype claims], forerunners to the Bantustans those geniis of Apartheid were creating in South Africa.

The story is told of how by 1744 the colonisers of America had established the three colleges (Harvard, William and Mary, and Yale). Of course, they were all built according to the then British model; to teach young men in Greek, Latin, grammar, rhetoric, mathematics, and philosophy. The colonies of Maryland and Virginia entered into agreement with the Indians of the Six Nations and, in June 1744, invited them to send some of their young men to be educated at William and Mary. The Indians politely turned down the offer. I quote in full their response I have, courtesy of the infamous Flatin Committee's Report, "Grenselos Læring" (Borderless Learning) (NOU 1989: 24), which I have the enforced honour of being associated with as the then Chairperson of the Foreign Students Union of Trondheim (FSUT), Norway.

-------------Quote begins------------

"We know that you highly esteem the kind of learning taught in those colleges, and that the Maintenance of our Young Men, while with you, would be very expensive to you. We are convinced, therefore, that you mean to do us good by your Proposal; and we thank you heartily. But you, who are wise, must know different nations have different conceptions of things; and you will therefore not take it amiss, if our ideas of this kind of Education happen not to be same with yours. We have some Experience of it. Several of our Young People were formerly brought up at the colleges of the Northern Provinces; they were instructed in all your Sciences; but when they came back to us, they were bad Runners, ignorant of every means of living in the woods, unable to bear either Cold or Hunger, knew neither how to build a Cabin, take a Deer, or kill an Enemy, spoke our Language imperfectly, were therefore neither fit for Hunters, Warriors nor Councellors; they were totally good for nothing. We are, however, not the less oblig'd by your kind offer, tho' we decline accepting it; and to show our Grateful Sense of it; if the gentlemen of Virginia will send us a Dozen of their sons, we will take care of their Education, instruct them in all we know, and make Men of them."

------------Quote ends--------------

Indeed, hidden in the above quote is the [key] for explaining what causes "educated" Africans to "mess up", become designated as bankrupt or "astigmatised intellectuals”. I do not intend to delve into the processes here and now, as it is a major issue why the kind of education we have in Africa, [or we receive overseas], is failing to deliver development to the continent. I only consider it fit to bring it to the attention of the learned Prof. and sundry, since it appears to me that that realisation seems to lack in his (Prof's) and a great many others' world view of why we Africans are what we are - the chickens are simply coming home to roost!

It is simply a question of whether the "young men" and now young women are receiving the right type of education in the first place – an education largely devoid of any practical training and experience in the skills required to cope with and transform their respective environment and societies.

With some ignorantly calling for the return of former missionary established schools to the churches in order to purportedly instill discipline in pupils and students - which missionary education is at the core of the problem - I’d recommend that such ignoramuses go and read at least the book, “The Missionaries” by Monkhouse as the first step in enlightening themselves. And, then we can take a look at the much talked about failure of educated Africans to behave and perform just like their European (and now Asian) counterparts.


That is where the discussion stopped in 1997. The issues raised then are still with us and getting worse, not much better. The time has come to dwell on the processes that make Ghanaians intellectual bankrupts, despite their “plenty, plenty education.” In the next section, we focus on the present situation.

Andy C. Y. Kwawukume


London. Sept. 2014
Columnist: Kwawukume, Andy C. Y.