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Tear down the Gandhi statue [3]

Legon Ghandi Statue File photo

Sun, 25 Sep 2016 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

By Kwarteng, Francis

“India gave South Africa Gandhi the barrister and Africa gave India back Mahatma Gandhi the Great Soul” (Nelson Mandela).

“We believe as much in purity of race as we think they do…We believe also that the white race of South Africa should be the predominating race” (Mahatma Gandhi).

“It was not a shock because I know the levels of mis-education, dis-education and anti-education. If we knew better, we would do better...It’s not a thing of Ghana versus India. Imagine if we sent a statue of Colonel Reginald Dyer and said it was a gift to India. How would they feel? ‘Dyer was the British officer responsible for the Amritsar massacre in 1919.’” (Journalist Ruth Maclean quoting Dr. Obadele Kambon).

Some general questions

Of course, Gandhi’s case is a sad if unfortunate one. Yet the facts of history and the evidence of history are moral instructors of the highest kind. Here history majestically occupies the moral high ground.

Again, history is never carved in stone or concrete and should therefore be amenable to revision based on scientific objectivity.

When all is said and done, however, it really does not seem to matter much whether or not Gandhi was a saint.

What probably matters is that from the viewpoints of deontology and utilitarianism and moral hierarchy, the facts of history and the evidence of history weigh heavily against him and his legacy.

Yet we must also equally ask the following hard questions:

Where was Prof. Ampofo when the statue was being erected?

Why does Prof. Ampofo appear to raise an alarm now?

How much did the statue cost?

Did the Indian government (and its people) or the Ghanaian government (and its people) sponsor the statue? Or was it a collaboration between the two governments and their peoples?

Was the statue built somewhere, India, say, and if so, was it sneaked into the country as the opposition NPP masterfully sneaked those Serbian and South African mercenaries into the country?

Granted, it is not our place to address these questions as we do not have much to say about them by way of provable or ascertainable information.

Unfortunately, these questions and their rather tentative or speculative responses do not exhaustively consume our preoccupations. One of these preoccupations is whether the people of India sponsored the construction of the statue at the center of national debate? If so, could the money not have been put to better purposes in India?

India has millions of its citizens who live in abject poverty and the money involved in the statue’s construction could have been used to help out one or two poor families.

How about using the money to fight women’s causes in a country where women and girls are raped and burnt alive from time to time, mass illiteracy, and so on—gender and sexual violence?

Could the money not have been used to support the work of Sunitha Krishnan or to erect a statue in her honor?

Indian’s domestic problems are not unique to it. Ghana resembles India in many ways in that it, too, still has many schools under trees, as well as the nagging problem of trokosi (“ritual servitude”), mass illiteracy and poverty, lack of pharmaceuticals and furniture (maternal beds, for instance) in hospitals and of teaching materials for schools, proliferation of Indian (and Chinese) counterfeit drugs on the Ghanaian market, and so forth.

Thus, we have a huge problem on our hands if the Ghanaian government fully or partially underwrote the Gandhi statue.

The mercurial Prof. Mike Oquaye and the dodgy question of diplomacy

Prof. Oquaye cites diplomacy as his major reason why the statue should not be taken down. As a matter of fact he did not provide any intelligent justification for his policy position. For him, racism does not matter. No wonder he is a respected member of an ethnocentric political party, an organization one of whose deranged members and financiers called for Akans (“Asantes”) to kill Gas and Ewes.

Instead, he merely explained away the brewing controversy as any unsophisticated thinker would, or should.

Even also more troubling, perhaps, was his futile attempts to excuse historical Gandhi from moral culpability and criticism insofar as the ascertainable facts and evidence of history go.

What is more, his explanation that some Indians wanted diplomacy broken in Ghana is neither here nor there.

Why did those Indians want diplomacy broken in Ghana? Prof. Oquaye did not say.

What he did not tell his listeners was that a large majority of Indians are opposed to a statue being erected in honor of Nathuram Vinayak Godse, the man who assassinated Gandhi, and that this social-political advocation to honor Godse is being spearheaded by a vocal fringe minority.

The irony is that this vocal fringe minority essentially sees Godse as a national hero who deserves national idolization much like Gandhi. This example compares somewhat favorably with the position of a lunatic fringe minority in Ghana whose members want to see terrorist, political criminals and fifth columnists, such as J.B. Danquah, K.A. Busia, Akwasi Amankawa Afrifa, Yaw Manu, Kwasi Kotoka, Robert Otchere, and other national destroyers, honored as national heroes, that is, placed on the same adulatory plinth as the great Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah!

Or that even South Africans are reevaluating their historical relationship with Gandhi and all colonialists. The “Rhodes Must Fall” protest movement across South Africa, which eventually led to a Cecil Rhodes statue being removed from the University of Cape Town, is a special case in point.

Last year, for instance, there was a similar public agitation for the removal of a Cecil Rhodes statue at Oxford University, UK. In the United States, too, students have called for the removal of President Thomas Jefferson’s statue from the University of Missouri for being a slave owner.

Yet, as far as we can tell neither Ghana’s National Reconciliation Commission (GNRC) nor South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) did not address this question, a Commission Wole Soyinka criticized in his book “The Burden of Memory, the Muse of Forgiveness.”

Of course, technically Ghana’s National Reconciliation could not exercise jurisdiction over this particular matter. Prof. Oquaye should revisit the open pages of Africa’s political history for his own edification. Yet he, Gandhi, was not one to feel inferior in terms of color or race. Here is Orwell (“Reflections on Gandhi”):

“And though he came of a poor middle-class family, started life rather unfavorably, and was probably of unimpressive physical appearance, he was not afflicted by envy or by the feeling of inferiority.”

If he did not feel inferior as Orwell put it, why then must he make others inferior? This is a serious question an intellectual like Prof. Oquaye should have tried to address.

We strongly believe Prof. Oquaye too will oppose such an act of sacrilege were he an Indian, given how much he idolizes Gandhi and how much he opposes the Gandhi statue being torn down.

This is the same man who has consistently endorsed the terrorist, subversionary activities and political criminality of individuals from J.B. Danquah, to Obetsebi-Lamptey, to K.A. Busia…

These professional terrorists and political criminals killed and maimed children and innocent men and women with technical and intelligence assistance from their Western patrons and supporters, yet these same supporters and patrons would reject them at the very moments when these terrorists, fifth columnists, and national hypocrites needed them the most.

Perhaps this act of rejection constitutes one of the greatest ironies of political realism.

Then again Prof. Oquaye’s father who was a financier of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), the United Party (UP), and the National Liberation Movement (NLM) may have supported the terrorist and subversionary activities of these political criminals and terrorists.

Even while he touted diplomacy in objecting to the statue being pulled down, Prof. Oquaye at the same time refused to inform the public that diplomacy between Ghana and India did not start with the Kufuor administration he served as Ghana’s High Commissioner to India (2001-2004).

That actually began with Nkrumah and his relationship with Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, the same with whom Nkrumah and others formed the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

The fact is that mutual respect (and benefit) underpins the concept of diplomacy.

But it is quite obvious that, oftentimes, a relationship of unequal dichotomy defines the diplomatic arrangements African countries come into with non-African countries, specifically Asia and the West.

In other words, we have hardly made comparative advantage a defining character of these arrangements. And yet, diplomacy does not imply political silence and absence of an active rhetoric of moral assertiveness in defense of the dignity of one’s people, of one’s national interests.

Diplomacy also calls for tactical and strategic prudence in handling historical wrongs, their negation or extirpation through social and moral justice, and restitution.

It also calls for solidarizing with our sisters and brothers in South Africa, with the rest of humanity that has equally suffered from one form of racism and ethnocentrism or another.

In effect, diplomacy in this sense should be about humanism and making sure historical wrongs are treated with kid gloves in such a way that they do not make a comeback. This could be the philosophical basis of Prof. Ampofo’s moral crusade to reverse a historical wrong.

Above all, Jews will never accept this diplomatic nonsense from Prof. Oquaye, a man who may be suffering from a spate of declining mentation and emotional lability.

One wonders how a statue of this wannabe neo-conservative with his bulky bulldog-head, hypocritical chatoyant face and concrete Jewel Ackah-neck will look like. Or what Gandhi will say about this masquerading crazy baldhead called Prof. Oquaye. Let us hear Bob Marley on this:

“We gonna chase those crazy baldheads out of town

“Here comes the con man

“Chase those crazy baldheads

These essentials are lost on our anachronistic professor of political science, a Baptist Pastor who can shamelessly lie and lie as though he owns the ever-lying tongue of the Devil himself. It is also quite possible that Prof. Oquaye’s objections to the statue being taken down stems from an insidious impetus to preserve his own legacy from his days as Ghana’s High Commissioner to India.

Prof. Oquaye should not forget that Americans have walked over others’ countries and taken down their leaders’ statues without the benefit of universal consensus. Muammar Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein are just two.

Americans also assassinated Osama bin Laden and made sure that his body was disposed of in a way that prevented a shrine being built for it. We are not implying that Gandhi is Osama bin Laden, Muammar Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein.

What we are rather implying is that it is high time we stood our ground and acted as a sovereign nation/continent with all the moral and political accoutrements of nationhood.

Again, America blacklisted Nelson Mandela and other prominent leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) as terrorists from the standpoint of its national security, investment and commercial interests in South Africa. This strategy underpins the concept of comparative advantage.

We are beginning to suspect that Prof. Oquaye may be hiding behind a more sinister reason or ulterior motive for his contrarian policy position, which is that he fears any such move to pull down the Gandhi statue will eventually wean us from an economic, scientific and technological, or industrial, dependence on the Indians.

We should be doing more for ourselves and rather stop going to others with begging bowls. This was what Nkrumah stood for and for which the likes of Prof. Oquaye’s father resisted.

No wonder we are in the tightening grips of neocolonialism, a sad situation of which Prof. Oquaye represents.

But the crimes of racism and ethnocentrism are unpardonable. This is the kind of message we should be sending to antiquated Prof. Oquaye and others like him who mistake diplomacy for something else we cannot seem to place our fingers on.

After all, diplomacy does not mean we should be uncritical about the facts of history. Alas, it is uncritical and unpatriotic leaders like Prof. Oquaye who are destroying the world.

Finally, our post-Nkrumah leaders can learn from the modesty of Gandhi, including such concepts as Gandhian economics and humanism, and stop amassing wealth stolen from the people. As George Orwell put it, and aptly so (“Reflections on Gandhi”):

“Nobody ever suggested that he was corrupt, or ambitious in any vulgar way…but regarded simply as a politician, and compared with the other leading political figures of our time, how clean a smell he has managed to leave behind!”

Who should replace Ghandi's statue?

Yet the statues of J.B. Danquah, Obetsebi-Lamptey and others continue to haunt the national conscience, the survivors (as well as their descendants and families) who were at the receiving end of the paralyzing terrorism of these political criminals.

If we should take down the Gandhi statue, who then do we have in mind as replacement (s)?:

The inventor of All-Die-Be-Die and “Yen Akanfuor”?

The deranged politician or political psychopath who directed Akans to kill Gas and Ewes and alleged that Madam Charlotte Osei traded her womanhood for the chairwomanship of the Electoral Commission?

The parliamentarian who suggested that adulterous women should be stoned?

The politician who said women above 30 were prostitutes?

The politician who said only natural resource-rich Akans are qualified to rile the country?

The financier of a major political party who was awarded a dubious judgment debt to the tune of tens of millions of dollars?

A former Head of State who took millions of dollars in bribe from kleptomaniacal Sani Abacha and cannot even account for the money?

The politician (s) who teams up with foreign interests to destroy our lands, vegetation and fauna, waters and homes through galamsey-related pollution?

How about?:

The children who died during the bombing campaigns of the National Liberation Movement (NLM)

Ama Ata Aidoo

Mabel Dove-Danquah

Theodosia Salome Okoh

Prof. Francis Allotey

Kwame Nkrumah

Azumah Nelson

D.K. Poison (David Kotey)

Dr. Ephraim Amu

Philip Gbeho

J.H. Kwabena Nketia

James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey

Tetteh Quarshie

Dr. Victor Lawrence

Nii Kwabena Bonne (by tradition the Oyokohene of Takyiman)

Molefi Kete Asante

Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford

Sgt. Cornelius F. Adjetey

Wole Soyinka

Chinua Achebe

Nii Ayi Kushi, the founder of the Ga State by 1500

Dr. Kofi Kissi Dompere

Dr. R.P. Baffour

Anton Wilhelm Amo

Nelson Mandela

Nii Amon Kotei

Marcus Garvey

William Emmanuel Abraham Raphael Armattoe Bob Marley E.T. Mensah (“The King of Highlife”)

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Kofi Annan

……………

Or better yet, use the money to support the underprivileged in the Ghanaian society. From Lionel Richie’s “Love Oh Love” we leave our readers with the following great words of encouragement:

“Show the world and all its people

“All the wonders love can bring

“Give us strength and understanding

“Give us all one song to sing

“And let there be joy in the world

“And let there be no sorrow

“And let there be peace on earth

“For all God’s children

“Let them see the love

“Love, oh love

“Make it clear today

Conclusion

Serious thinkers, mature or experienced statesmen and stateswomen, academics and intellectuals do not dismissively casualize racism and ethnocentrism beyond the moral template of political correctness as Prof. Oquaye arguably did recently.

Serious thinkers allow their consciences to ask hard questions of history without fear or favor, which is not so in the morally objectionable case of this hypocritical Baptist Pastor, political scientist, lawyer and historian. The hard facts and evidence of history mean nothing to him.

Technically, his idea of objecting to the statue of Gandhi being pulled down, a morally unjustifiable gesture, reinforces the rightness of racism and the inferiority of African people.

Furthermore, take “Hopes and Impediments,” Achebe’s well-reasoned critique of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” our own good friend Milton Allimadi’s “How White Writers Created the Racist Image of Africa,” Molefi Kete Asante’s “Erasing Racism,” W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Souls of Black Folk,” Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom,” Ben Kiernan’s “Blood and Soil,” and Wole Soyinka’s “Of Africa” among others, for instance, and one has no choice but to conclude that, indeed, the revisionist historian Prof. Oquaye is neither a serious thinker nor a serious student of the moral and political history of events from the last five hundred years or so.

Significantly, though, the point is that these model scholars are not childishly reactionary in the creative enterprise of intellection as our mighty King of Comedy Central, His Highness Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye. This is a man who is fighting tooth and nail to have hardened terrorists, dubious political criminals and racists and questionable historical figures grace the soul of our national character.

Yet we cannot singularly fault Prof. Oquaye for his feeble moral mindset and intellectual indiscretions. The issue is a universal one across the continent. Maybe we Africans need to look at ourselves closely in the mirror again and to begin to appreciate ourselves, love ourselves, for we cannot continue to hate ourselves and expect others to love us. The laws of nature do not work that way.

We should not expect Indians and Gandhi to love us. India has its own intractable internal problems which includes its abiding inability to eliminate its caste system yet.

Aside that even in that so-called strange topological space called post-racial America, there still exists chronic problems of racism, ethnocentrism and religious bigotry, a painful reminder of that country’s ignoble past. Bob Marley described this so well on “Chant Down Babylon” and “Crazy Baldhead.”

The other fact is that the mental enslavement of the African mind has been more devastating than his physical bondage of yore. Bob Marley meant this when on “Concrete Jungle” he sang the following words:

“No chains around my feet, but I’m not free; now I know I am bound here in captivity.”

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,” he sang on “Redemption song,” borrowing both words and concept of mental emancipation from the great Marcus Garvey. “None but ourselves can free our minds.”

Both Garvey and Marley have imposed a great responsibility on us, to free the mind from the ignoble shackles of servile immobility so that it can take flight toward the greatest heights of creative possibilities. This responsibility is no truer than in the special case of Prof. Oquaye. It is a collective responsibility nonetheless. Prof. Oquaye’s moral development could be an ectopic fix!

Well said.

It is not too late for our beloved professor to make a volte-face on his prior policy position. But “charity,” they say, “begins at home.”

A special note to our readers

We have since learnt that the Indian government led by President Pranab Mukherjee donated the statue to the people of Ghana.

The statue itself was unveiled in Ghana on June 14, 2016, with Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, in attendance but who did not raise any objections. As a matter of fact it was Prof. Aryeetey “who welcomed the Honourable President of India to Ghana and to the University of Ghana,” according to the website of the University of Ghana. Again, here is the website of the University of Ghana (emphasis ours):

“He [Prof. Aryeetey] acknowledged the collaborations with warm welcome given to students and faculty through exchange programmes to study and train in Agriculture, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Pharmacy and many other disciplines.”

The fact is that as a Vice-Chancellor of the said university he must have known about the statue and therefore should have raised serious objections to its donation and acceptance and subsequent erection, a strategic move that would certainly have prevented the circumstances surrounding it, namely Gandhi’s well-documented racism, to degenerate into the present storm of public agitation.

Sometimes, in fact quite oftentimes, our clueless leaders allow paternalism and foreign aid and their lack of reading and research habits to stifle their intellects and philosophical vision. Still, we do not think removing the statue should undermine the diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Rather it should strengthen the ties between the two countries, a policy idea we believe and expect to lead to a better, deeper understanding of Gandhi’s and India’s role in human history as well as in the current trend of globalization.

Here, advancing the body of human knowledge built on a strong foundation of historical truth and respect for humanism and equality of the races defines the primary motivation behind our policy position. This is why we support the petition in the first place.

Even the Dalits, the so-called “blacks” of India (“untouchables”), starting from the pre-eminent Indian economist and legal scholar B.R. Ambedkar (had two PhDs, one in economics and the other in jurisprudence), a Dalit himself and one of the luminary pillars behind the writing of India’s national constitution and of the country’s independence negotiators, have mounted and still been mounting serious challenges to the sanitized versions of historical accounts on Gandhi.

Ambedkar was a contemporary of Gandhi and the two did collaborate on the Dalit issue, albeit not always on the same side of strategy and tactic, of policy aims and objectives and moral philosophy.

Then, according to journalist Adam Taylor of the Washington Post, “As the statue was put up over the summer, many students did not know about it initially. Critics note that it is the only statue of a well-known figure on the campus, whereas there are no tributes to African figures.”

Gandhi’s open letter of 1894, “The Natal Mercury,” is the basis for the petition. Last but not least, it turned out Dr. Obadele Kambon had studied Gandhi and his works and was among those who initiated the task of distributing those Gandhi racist quotes to his colleagues at the University of Ghana.

Finally, this author has also closely studied Gandhi and his works and was and still is, in consequence, more than familiar with the general trend and outlines of Gandhi’s racist ideas and doings several years back before the current petition storm in Ghana today.

Reminder

We shall return with Part 4, the concluding segment.

References

Ruth Maclean. (September 22, 2016). “Petition Calls for Gandhi Statue to Be Removed from Ghana University.” Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/22/petition-calls-for-gandhi-statue-to-be-removed-from-ghana-university

Gandhian Institutions—Bombay Sarvodaya & Gandhi Research Foundation. “How Relevant Is Gandhi’s Nonviolence?” Retrieved from http://www.mkgandhi.org/africaneedsgandhi/relevance_of_gandhi's_nonviolence.htm

“Removal of Gandhi Statue from Ghana Varsity Premises Sought.” September 20, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/removal-of-gandhi-statue-from-ghana-varsity-premises-sought/article9128520.ece

Adam Taylor. “In Ghana, Calls to Tear Down A Statue of ‘Racist’ Gandhi.” September 20, 2016. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/09/20/in-ghana-calls-to-tear-down-a-statue-of-racist-gandhi/

University of Ghana (main website). (June 14, 2016). “SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, SHRI PRANAB MUKHERJEE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GHANA.” Retrieved (pdf) from

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis