There is more to Prof. Willie Abraham than his 1959 Oxford Prize Fellowship

Sat, 21 Jul 2018 Source: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

If the Daily Graphic reporter who covered the visit of Mr. Henry Abraham to the private residence of former President John Agyekum-Kufuor, recently, had done a little rudimentary research on the genius thinker and father of the visitor, he would have learned to his pleasant surprise that there is a far more significant milestone or landmark event associated with Prof. Willie Abraham, perhaps the foremost modern Ghanaian philosopher in the middle of the twentieth century, than his admittedly quite significant 1959 Prize Fellowship Award by Oxford University’s All Souls College.

He would have, for instance, learned that Prof. Abraham was the first continental African to be so inducted. But perhaps even more importantly, Prof. Abraham is globally recognized as the author of the philosophical classic titled “The Mind of Africa” (University of Chicago, 1962), in which the scholar-thinker laudably attempts to locate traditional Akan and, by extension, African thought within the mainstream of global philosophy.

On its publication some 56 years ago, “The Mind of Africa” was a seminal tome. And as of this writing, the book is still regarded as one of the most authoritative of its kind. Needless to say, it is all right to report about the fact that today the portrait of the great Ghanaian thinker and Cape Coast native hangs alongside the portraits of other equally distinguished All Souls College graduates or alumni in that globally renowned and prestigious academy’s dining room. We also need to document the fact that Prof. Abraham was also the tragic victim of partisan Ghanaian politics. He would, reportedly, be savagely mauled by some of the soldiers who overthrew President Kwame Nkrumah and forced to confess that it was he, Prof. Abraham, and not the ousted and reviled Ghanaian dictator who had penned and published Nkrumah’s most famous Marxist political treatise titled “Consciencism.”

There is clearly something to be said about the vocabulary and diction or style of “Consciencism.” The latter strikingly reflects the writing style of the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, although at the time of his grueling interrogation, Prof. Abraham reportedly stated that while, indeed, the writing style employed in “Consciencism” was definitely his, nonetheless, the thoughts or contents captured in-between the covers of the book were wholly those of the man whose sometime mentor, the Trinidadian-born British social thinker, Mr. CLR James, once described as a forward-thinking rising African political star who clearly lacked formidable critical-thinking skills. Mr. James was, however, quick and charitable enough to also add that “With time,” Nkrumah was apt to “learn” and come into his own.

We also learned that a traumatized Prof. Abraham would abandon the sacred institution of marriage and enroll into one of the orders of the Roman-Catholic priesthood. We need to teach some of these instances of indelible military and political brutalities to our children and grandchildren, if they are to build for themselves a far better and civilized Ghanaian citizenship and an enviable collective national identity.

Whatever the former President, who turns 80 years in December, regretted or did not regret while he held the democratic reins of governance was decidedly irrelevant to the context of the visit by Mr. Henry Abraham. A curious and creative journalist would have delved into the far more significant subject of the erudite and cognitively systematic philosophy of Prof. Abraham. That was unmistakably the point of the visit.

Of course, the fact that Mr. Kufuor is an alumnus of Oxford University, although not globally known as a first-rate scholar in the mold of the genius author of “The Mind of Africa” and other equally scholastically seminal writings, is quite important to note, nevertheless. Personally, though, what I found rather inexcusably tacky was the decision by President Nkrumah to make Prof. Abraham his research assistant, at the same time that the Oxbridge scholar had been named a full-time Vice-Chancellor of Ghana’s flagship academy.

For some time, there raged a controversy over whether, indeed, it was Prof. Abraham who could be aptly described as the first Ghanaian and African Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana. Or that title rather belonged to Ghana’s foremost classicist of the twentieth century of global repute and stature, to wit, Prof. Alexander Adum Kwapong (1927-2014).

Well, not very long ago, the verdict fell comfortably into the laps of the slightly older Prof. Kwapong, when the Academic Council of the University of Ghana definitively concluded that it was the Akuapem-Akropong native to whom such title and accolade belonged.

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Columnist: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.