Leadership Crisis In Ghana Part l

Tue, 24 Sep 2013 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

Leadership Crisis In Ghana: Is It A Question Of Presidency Or Of Leadership?—Part l

“Be not afraid of greatness—some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them,” says Shakespeare (Twelve Night, Act ll, Scene V). I have seen this quote appropriated and used variously as epigrams, footnotes, legends, and what have you. Essentially, we believe this statement has validity, we mean, some validity, sociologically and historically speaking, given the tortuous spectra of human civilizations. But “validity” and “truthfulness” are not necessarily mutually inclusive! Quite interestingly, this handsome and pithy Shakespearean observation has found variegated expressions in the histories, contemporary and days of yore, of every culture known to man. Yet Shakespeare’s is merely a measured restatement of what every culture had already known! Therefore, we shall not elevate the islet of Shakespeare’s mind above the ocean of collective wisdom. And whether an individual called William Shakespeare ever truly existed in historical time is another investigative hypothesis we shall surely attempt exploring some day when we have solved Africa’s problems. “Man Know Thyself” is of ancient Egyptian origination, yet its creative attribution is given to the ancient Greeks. The creative attribution of “Knowledge is Power” also goes to Francis Bacon, though ancient Africans have been saying the same thing for many years before Bacon’s birth. “Must we wait to be told this by the West when ancient Africans have been saying the same thing long before Bacon’s birth?” asked the world-famous Egyptologist, linguist, and scientist Cheikh Anta Diop.

Allow us to take a fleeting detour from the foregoing preoccupations. In fact, if our reading of Shakespeare is correct, even remotely correct, should we say, then, Shakespeare’s kind of “greatness” is not what, ideally, we could associate with progressive leadership. Definitionally, his kind of “greatness” approximately synchronizes with Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince.” Almost immediately, the ideational specters of P.W. Botha, Idi Amin, Hendrik Verwoerd, Omar Bashir, J.H. Hoover, Mobuto Sese Seko, Francisco Marcias Nguema, Cecil Rhodes, and, probably, Adolf Hitler, recall Shakespeare’s definition of “greatness.” We should rather our people rejected thoughts bordering on the political and biological resurrection of such “diabolical” leaders!

In the meantime, we have seen some of our great African scholars use the Shakespearean quote to address the crisis of leadership in post-colonial Africa. “What is so great about the ‘great’ in Alexander the Great?” Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate, once rhetorically asked. Like we have always said, we need to include the cultural, political, and historical contexts of such quotes when addressing issues of intellectual and cultural paramountcy to African needs! However we may want to look at it, Soyinka’s seemingly rhymed preoccupation settles the matter regarding the primacy we turn to always give non-African thought.

In Shakespeare’s world, the Black Moor, Othello, would always remain a second-class citizen, an inferior biological being, like any other black person. Even the “black” or “African” essentialist attributions of Othello were completely deleted by white American publishers when the Othello tragedy was first published here in America. A black character courting a European damsel undermined the elitist standards which fed the milieu of racial separatism—cultural sensitivities. Enough of the digression! Which of our leaders was born great? Which of our leaders achieved greatness? And which of our leaders had greatness thrust upon him? I shall not volunteer or hazard a response, because of my sensitivity to readers’ backgrounds.

Obviously, a likely answer would contain many tacit contexts. Namely, a likely answer must certainly have layered connotations of ethnicity, level of personal education, cultural geography, ideological perspective, Western idolization or acceptance of the African leader in question, place of education, historical revisionism in the local curricula, global/national influence and legacy of the leader, and so forth. Ngugi wa Thiong’o for one believes Jomo Kenyatta doesn’t deserve the titular address “Founding Father of Kenya” since he ensconced himself in the social comfort of Europe studying when Mau Mau putschism overthrew white colonialism. “I tip my hat to Dedan Kimathi!” wa Thiong’o would most likely say to the memory of Dedan Kimathi.

Why is “place of education” one of our responsive criteria? Tactically, “place of education” contributed to the ideological friction between JB Danquah and Kwame Nkrumah, whether Ghana adopted the approach of gradualism or catastrophism toward political autonomy. The same ideological friction resurfaced at the continental level between Nyerere and Nkrumah on the question of African unification. In fact, anyone who saw Jim-Crowism and white treatment of blackness firsthand in America, like Nkrumah did and most of us continue to witness today, would instantly discard the nonsensicality of political gradualism. American education versus British education in the service of white hegemony! Shame on us!

This emotional crossroads is where the shameful feet of the social and political paradox of criticism sets in: How some of our leaders treat us, our economies, and our future. I have been unfairly blamed of being overly critical of African leadership? Unapologetically, my critics are wrong. Very wrong indeed. In fact, I see my approach as intra-African collective self-criticism. The “society” some of us call “the African world” is a world of seamless or interconnected communities of African humanity, what, in order words, our great thinkers, Mandela and Desmond Tutu, call “ubuntu.” Actually, ours is not an arctic world harboring the humanity of disconnected or individuated communities. Responsible and measured criticism must be encouraged. Technically, national criticism must always start with the center of the personal self, the individual, since multiplicities of individual selves as well as their concomitant communities of cultures, ideas, mythologies, relationships, and philosophies constitute a “nation-state.”

Wole Soyinka for one defines the critical paradox in the following terms: “The oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the color of the foot that wears it.” This may be distantly true—but it’s too simplistic or reductionist for our liking. Let’s leave Soyinka for later. Why does it appear that our leaders—sometimes including President Obama—are not respected in the non-African world (and sometimes even in Africa)? Is it because President Obama is erroneously identified with African leadership? Is “black” or “African” essentialism the evaluative basis of bad leadership? Again, I don’t know!

Let me chip in one or two words before we address the main questions: Richard Nixon thought Nkrumah a “fool” because, in his own close claustrophobic reckoning, Nkrumah failed to put his excellent American education to good use, probably because of his stubborn failure to put his capitalist education in the service of America’s capitalist exploitation of Africa. And what was Nkrumah’s crime in Nixon’s warped estimation? His anti-capitalist stance and rhetoric. But here is another paradox: Didn’t Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger open up America to the anti-capitalist and Communist Chinese? Was the anti-capitalist Nkrumah the moral, ideological, and military equivalent of anti-capitalist China? Was Nkrumah statist, social democrat, or socialist? Why must the British, America, and the Israelis overthrow the anti-capitalist Milton Obote and put Idi Amin in his stead? If the Americans indeed disapproved of Communism, why didn’t they overthrow Mao Zedong and put Chiang Kai-Shek in his place? In other words, why apply the politics of “double standard” to African leadership? Who said: “We Face Neither East nor West—We Face Forward?” Finally, it beats my mind why a part of Western political psychology sometimes respects Idi Amin more than Kwame Nkrumah.

Yet the great Nkrumah found great company in the midst of great activists-thinkers like Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, George Padmore, Cab Calloway, CLR James, Martin Luther King, Jr., WEB Du Bois, Robert Mugabe, Langston Hughes, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Thurgood Marshall, John F. Kennedy, etc. President Kennedy would not allow members of the security service to hold an umbrella over Nkrumah during an unexpected downpour of rain. He did it himself. That shows how much respect he had for Nkrumah. We must also add that Kennedy’s immediate successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, has been implicated in Nkrumah’s overthrow by an ex-CIA John Stockwell, author of “In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story.” This fact now transcends the perimeter of common knowledge.

Moreover, Nkrumahism rose above petty individualism to embody community. Nkrumahism rose above ethnic pettiness to embody nationalism. Nkrumahism rose above national pettiness to embody internationalism. And Nkrumahism rose above internationalism to embody globalism. This is not to say he was a saint. After all, neither were Mother Teresa, John the Baptist, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Patrice Lumumba, Simon the Cyrene, Desmond Tutu, Pope John ll, and Mary.

Besides, the social processes of canonization and apotheosis are merely institutional inventions subject to human fallibility and psycho-political vicissitudes. Personally, we believe Nkrumah has more emulative inputs on the “credit” side than the “debit” side of the social-political-historical balance sheet of his elephantine legacy—than any Ghanaian leader, past and present. Why did the masses call him Osagyefo?

I shall return with a sequel!

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis