LESSONS FROM THE UJAMAA EXPERIMENT
My fellow country men and women, in a previous article I had advocated for the development of a Ghanaian ideology to govern our way of life, economically, socially, and politically. That quest continues and in this article I wish to further explore the tenets of that ideology drawing on the experience of other African brothers and sisters in our situation.
Many African commentators have found the need to question the methods and ideas that we blindly adopt for implementation from the West because the evidence reads failure and there is no way getting away from that fact. Some of us will immediately look to ourselves and blame such failures on our own inabilities. Others will look solely to external factors, though in my opinion it plays the biggest part in our state of affairs. It is easier to simplify a very complex problem but there are no simple answers here. The only simple answer is the importance of looking to the past.
When I talk about the past, I do not mean the past of slavery and colonialism. I mean the past before Africans had contact with Europeans. The evidence clearly shows that we had our own developed and nurtured state institutions and since it had been developed by us we understood and cherished it. Our institutions reflected our conception of God, our conception of human beings on earth, our values and our relationships with one another in our societies. So our institutions were a way of life for us, we responded to it because it was ours, it was everyday living.
Democracy, my fellow countrymen and women is not new in Ghana. The ideas of government for the people, with the people and by the people, checks and balances in the arms of government and the rule of law were not new to our societies. Looking at any Akan, Ewe, Ga, societies or societies in the north prior to European encroachment all these ideas were ingrained within our socio-cultural fabric. We hand kings and queens who the people had chosen as their leaders, they were enthroned by the king makers who were elders in our societies, women played crucial roles in our government. When we wanted to reach a decision we relied on consensus and we were governed by rules that were created by ourselves, the rule of law prevailed. But certainly these ideas are not strange to us. The problem is that Europeans who have a different history, culture and value system want to impose their way of life on us and expect us to become Europeans overnight. We have a saying that ‘Okoto en wo anomaa’ (a crab does not give birth to a bird). No matter how we try, Ghanaians can not be individualistic, a core element of European society. We cannot be Europeans because their worldview conflict with us. We are communalistic which include our family, extended family, neighbors and the community.
It is accepted however that we cannot go back physically and I doubt that this has ever been suggested. Our society has changed. Our ethnic groupings have been merged into a bigger community not of choice but colonial evolution. The systems that were suited for individual communities are not easily transferable without alteration to this new entity. But the fact remains that our way of life largely remains the same as Ghanaians but our institutions in this new entity does not reflect our way of life.
The Ujamaa experiment was undertaken by the Late President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, a great Pan-Africanist. He along with Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta preached African socialism, an ideology they argued was rooted in African way of life, the core element of communalism. Nyerere took his implementation further and it came to be the ideology that nearly succeeded that would have created an African state worth emulating. Ujamaa came to mean ‘pulling together’. Nyerere argued as I have argued that elements of democracy were present in his own village of the Zanaki where his father was an elder. As a result all he needed to do was extract that ideology which was reflective of the way of life of the indigenous people. The five year program which he declared in Arusha was rooted in this ideology. He explained to his people that they had to developed their own institutions and prosperity. His most poignant point was that a country like Tanzania could not build her country on money because she was a poor country. Instead he charged his people to work harder relying on their communality which has served them so well in the past to create their own prosperity. In his understanding if you want to build industries you need money, which puts you into debt and your people into slavery. First let the people do the basic, feed themselves, use their intelligence to advance their societies, they must develop the habit of self reliance.
The problem which Nyerere and almost all African leaders faced was that they had to rely on western technology to implement their development program and that meant going back on self-reliance. The IMF and the World Bank will not give the money for us to embark on self reliance because it will not generate the fast money needed to pay the interest on the loans that the bankers of these institutions demand. Instead they want us to extract our minerals and sell our cash crops for the quick money, which these same bankers determine the price. When its sold half goes to paying loans we have been paying since independence and the rest goes into extracting more minerals and exporting more cash crops. Every economist knows where the real power lies but they do not want anybody to compete with them, the answer they know lies in development of our people, just as these people have developed their.
There are many lessons to be lent from Ujamaa. Nyerere found out quickly that Tanzania as existed was a new entity and so the application of the way of life of the Zanaki was not adequate for the new nation. Also self reliance as the motto must be reflected in the direction of the country, it must appreciate the uncompromising attitude of those who want to keep exploiting us so that they will remain at the top. With that knowledge we must be innovative in countering their destructive activities. The approach of Ujamaa however addresses the very important issue of developing a Ghanaian ideology that reflects our culture, values and past. We must continue to engage in the intellectual exercise to shape the path our nation should go, better late than never, everybody has a part to play.
There is a yearning among our people to succeed but as a society we all have different needs and sometimes similar. In order we need to redevelop our habit of consensus to heal the divisions that have been created in our past because we can not change Ghana as a nation. We have banded together as brothers and sisters for 46 years now we cannot waste time denying this fact. We have a common desire to prosper and live in peace, let our leaders take the mantle to heal the wounds in our society. We are one despite the fact there is so much diversity in our societies. In a later article I wish to talk about some strategies for our healing process. We should continue to be proud of our efforts to survive but there is more to do and I for one believe we will get there, may be not in my life time, but we will. The Quest continues………………..