Respect is earned, not given, Franklin Cudjoe

Fri, 25 Mar 2016 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

There is no question that African leaders, probably with the exception of Kwame Nkrumah and Nelson Mandela and a few others, if we may add, could be said to be the least respected among their colleagues in the world. There are a number of good reasons for this: Inferiority complex, dependency complex, the legacy of slavery and colonialism, Eurocentrism, bad governance, kleptomania, racism, and a host of others. These reasons and others not specifically mentioned here have all conspired to negatively impact the place of African leaders in the sphere of international, human, and race relations.

We, however, need to commit these tentative reasons to the factual test of forensic empiricism to see if our views have any intellectual validity insofar as our afore-cited theoretical assertions. Thus, it did not come to us as a surprise when the founding president of IMANI, Franklin Cudjoe, recently denounced the disrespectful conduct of a minority Scottish MPs reportedly toward President Mahama and his entourage. Cudjoe was reported to have said on radio: “I do not understand what it is with our missions in the UK. If they had done extensive calculations, they would have been able to determine whether that visit to the Scottish Parliament was needed at all.”

This is a view K.B. Asante, a former diplomat and minister in the Nkrumah government, seems to share in principle. Having said that, he [Cudjoe] continued his radio interview thusly: “Even before the President addressed the select committee, it was announced somewhere on the airwaves locally, that the President was going to do something…Now we have seen them sitting as if they were forced into a seat they didn’t like, and clamped together like slaves…I want to believe that someone did not do his diplomatic due diligence quite well…You could see the demeanor [on President Mahama’s face], it was an obvious disagreement to the way they were being treated.”

Clearly, Cudjoe’s radio interview is characteristic of a heavy truckload of carefully arranged orthographic matrix of trailing words, phrases, and sentences. There is however a bit of an uncreative attempt on his part to casualize a supposedly serious diplomatic gaffe by giving it a curious if unstrategic facelift in the sphere of public diplomacy. But Cudjoe also seems to have completely missed the larger picture. First of all, no one forced President Mahama and his entourage to honor the invitation to speak in the Scottish Parliament and to be awarded a honorary doctorate. This is not the era of slavery or colonialism. Consequently, president Mahama (and his entourage) chose to respectfully honor the invitation on his own volition, that is.

Therefore he should either accept any alleged mistreatment of him in good faith or, at the very least, officially register any grievances he may have had with the Scottish authorities for diplomatic clarity and if possible, seek official apology from the Scottish authorities. Alas, we doubt it if President Mahama will assume this course of action given the honor of the high-profile invitation from the Scottish government, given what this means for him personally and for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) as a whole, and finally, given his being awarded a honorary Doctorate of Laws (LLD) and the general import of this award for the leader of the main opposition party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

In the final analysis, then, Cudjoe’s controversial position that Victor Smith, Ghana’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (UK), should be “held responsible for the alleged ‘heckling and ill-treatment’ President Mahama suffered during his visit to the Scottish Parliament” is neither here nor there. Cudjoe, it appears, was not even sure of what may have exactly happened to President Mahama and so he used the word “alleged” to err on the side of caution and further, in doing so, avoid any unnecessary belated verbal attacks against his person and public character were he later found out to have been uneconomical with the facts and the truth. This approach is tactically and strategically convenient and proper for him. But not for us. Sadly.

For one thing, it is the democratic right of the minority Scottish MPs to protest against the Mahama administration for what they essentially viewed as the administration’s failure to protect Ghanaian lesbians and gays, even though we also believe the minority Scottish MPs should have at least based their selective protest on a well-informed and well-founded intellectual due diligence of their grievances on the ground. This they patently did not do. And for another thing, it beggars belief why Cudjoe referred to President Mahama’s alleged ill-treatment at the hands of the minority Scottish MPs as “unpresidential” and as well, even presenting Victor Smith’s presumed diplomatic gaffe, if we should strictly go by the wording of his questionable views, as a deceptive and manipulated question of déjà vu.

This is hypocrisy of the highest order. And, it is hypocrisy of the highest order because, Cudjoe, a recidivist critic of the Mahama administration, failed to see a need to analogize the alleged untoward behavior of the minority Scottish MPs to those of Ghana’s non-functioning and non-functional parliament. In other words, the minority Scottish MPs merely aped or reproduced what Ghana’s minority MPs have been doing to President Mahama whenever he came before parliament. In one of these memorable instances Sydney Casely-Hayford, one of the notable conveners for the partisan advocacy group, Occupy Ghana, described the behavior of Ghanaian MPs during the president’s 2016 State of the Nation Address (SONA) as “so childish and infantile.”

In contrast, Inusah Fuseini, Minister for Roads and Highways and the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tamale Central, offered the following riposte to Casely-Hayford: “What happened in Parliament was not infantile at all. In some Parliaments they beat each other. They get up and blow each other and return to the seat. In some Parliaments, they throw eggs at their Presidents or Prime Ministers. We have not gotten there and I don’t think we will get there…Parliament has been working to reduce the tempo and the occurrence and bring some sanity into how MPs heckle the President.”

What is Fuseini exactly saying or implying? That no Ghanaian Member of Parliament has thus far thrown his shoes at President Mahama as Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi broadcast journalist, did to George W. Bush, in 2008, while screaming at him [the latter]: “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog…This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!” does not necessarily mean we have not reached that stage of parliamentary disorderliness and childishness yet. “Respect is earned,” it is said, and not given.” That is to say, we need to respect ourselves first as a people and as a race and then demand it from or of others. This is just an aspect of the larger pointillist picture Cudjoe demonstrably missed in his rushed intellectual valuation of the alleged diplomatic gaffe that engulfed President Mahama and his entourage in Scotland.

Evidently, then, the minority Scottish MPs did not reach the critical mass where they threw eggs at President Mahama, and therefore we will not characterize their behavior as “childish and infantile.” This is another aspect of the larger picture Cudjoe seems to have missed for we, sometimes, have to look within ourselves rather than from without for the provenance of some of our major internal problems. We cannot disrespect Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Amilcar Cabral…and still expect others to respect us. “Charity,” they say, “begins at home.” This is a simple question of Newton’s third law in human relations.

It is however interesting to see Cudjoe who, for a very long time, has uncritically embraced and championed neoliberal ideas as a panacea for Ghana’s and Africa’s myriad developmental problems finally come back to his senses, those senses of his having been long lost in the miasmic forest and gutter of unworkable Western neoliberal ideas. All the preceding paragraphs notwithstanding, one finds the pictorial packaging of President Mahama and his entourage including his wife Lordina Mahama, Foreign Minister Hanna Tetteh, and Victor Smith disturbingly appalling. James Agalga, Deputy Interior Minister, has said the Scottish treatment of President Mahama and his entourage was “not unusual.”

They looked just like a tight, unbroken continuum of packaged sardines suffering from official parliamentary rejection on account of their presumed niggarized leprosy in a white man’s land, the brothers and sisters of Ghana’s former colonial master, Britain, on whose empire the sun never set. The pictorial situation is somewhat similar to their reliving the surreal characterological plot of Ralph Ellison’s well-known novel, “Invisible Man.” The despondent profiles of their faces were all too clear to the casual observer who saw the obituary pictures of our president and his entourage. “The images we saw were not ones that were presidential and they were not treated as such,” said Cudjoe, who also added that President Mahama and his entourage were “clamped together like slaves.”

This brings to mind pictures of enslaved Africans forcibly crowded into the stinking decks of slave ships, like disagreeable and contentious sardines, on the sleeve notes of Bob Marley’s album, “Survival,” an album n which appears the following tracks: “Africa Unite,” “Zimbabwe,” “So Much Trouble In The World,” “Ambush In The Night,” “Wake Up And Live”…Ideally, President Mahama and his entourage should have listened to “Wake Up And Live” before traveling to Europe and sleeping in the Scottish Parliament! It is therefore our wish that Cudjoe will take another hard look at some of his uncritical neoliberal ideas and stop behaving as those persons he claimed to have been “clamped together as slaves.” The Scottish, it turned out, were simply but consciously reminding our leaders what their brothers and sisters, their colonial master Britain, did to Africans during the so-called Transatlantic Slave Trade, which one prominent scholar and prolific historiographer, Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, has appropriately called the European Slave Trade.

Fela Kuti, the late Afrobeat saxophonist master himself, aptly described the likes of Cudjoe on the track “Colonial Mentality” when he sang: “He be say you be colonized man; you don be slave man now, but you never release yourself; I say you fit never release yourself colo-mentality…He be so them dey do, them dey overdo all the things them dey do…” To which Bob Marley, borrowing from Marcus Garvey, replied on the track “Redemption Song”: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds…won’t you help to sing, these songs of freedom…’cause all I ever had, redemption songs, these songs of freedom…songs of freedom.”


“We are going to emancipate ourselves from metal slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind…”


”When you can control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.”


Ms. Eva Lokko, a member of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), has made the following important observations: 1) that the Scottish government and Parliament had no right to “push our President around,” 2) that the Scottish people should rather “focus on becoming ‘a sovereign nation,’ having been ‘brutalized for so long,’” 3) that they “must mind their own business,” and 4) that “we [Ghana] is a sovereign country! Perhaps the greatest irony is that Ms. Lokko may not have taken a closer look at Ghana.

Is Ghana really a sovereign nation? Has Ghana not been brutalized for so long too, like Scotland? Is Ghana minding its own business when its presidents unabashedly go around the world with begging bowls? Are we focusing on becoming a sovereign nation yet? Do we have any right to push the government of Scotland around when we go to the brothers and sisters of the Scots with begging bowls? And who is Ms. Lokko fooling with her high-flown politicalese?

We shall return…

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis