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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nkrumah Had Flaws and Strengths

Today, September 21, 2010, marks another day in the commemoration of Founder’s Day. Founder’s Day highlights the achievements of Ghana’s illustrious son and Africa’s man of the millennium, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The day is observed by all African Union (AU) member countries. There are many controversies surrounding the term “Founder’s Day” as some Ghanaians think it should be renamed “Founders’ Day” to acknowledge the roles played by other figures, such as J.B Danquah, in the emancipation struggle of Ghana. This article skips that particular controversy to address some misunderstandings of Nkrumah by critics. These misunderstandings are often rooted in petty politicking, and try to downplay his achievements and vision for Ghana, Africa, and black people everywhere. It is imperative to make clear that Ghana/Africa celebrates not Nkrumah per se, but his selfless and timeless vision he left not only for Ghanaians or Africans but also for the entire black African people. Another point worth clarifying is that Nkrumah was not an infallible demigod, and therefore not beyond objective criticisms.
Just like every major leader, Nkrumah had his flaws, but it will amount to gross imprudence on our part, and disservice to posterity to continue to feed on his flaws, leave his strengths to rot on the table, and inter his vision with his corpse. There comes a time when people must challenge themselves by rising beyond their selfish inclinations and begin to gravitate toward a bigger stream of consciousness­—one that is clean of petty party politics, pull-him-down mentality, and personal whims. That time could be now!
Nkrumah lived in the United States for 10 years (1935-1945), and witnessed remarkable racial atrocities – hangings, rape, abuse, torture—all meted out to African-Americans based on their skin colour. At the same time, his homeland, Africa, was in total colonial shackles where oppression and undue exploitation was the status quo. These experiences sowed the revolutionary seed of black political and economic liberation in Nkrumah. He returned to Ghana, not only to pursue a narrow and shortsighted liberation struggle for its people, but to use his country as a means to usher the rest of Africa to freedom under a united Africa.
History is replete with selfless leaders who held on to larger visions and were prepared to fight their way through thick and thin to reach them. Such a moment dawned on Abraham Lincoln when he had to fight a civil war against his fellow Americans in order to save the union. Similarly, Martin Luther King had to work against some of his fellow black citizens in order to liberate them. Not surprisingly, Nkrumah had to fight fellow Ghanaians (local political opponents) in order to push for the emancipation of Ghana, and by extension, Africa.
Let us pause for a moment to reflect: Was Lincoln a dictator/terrorist for using the Union Forces of the American North to fight the American South in the name of a Union with whom Southerners did not identify? Was Churchill a terrorist/dictator for mobilizing Britain against Germany during WWII? In the same vein of thought, let us ask ourselves, was Nkrumah a dictator for fighting neo-colonial sympathizers—local disgruntled politicians who were suppressing the Pan-African revolutionary wave of freedom that was sweeping the breadth and length of the continent?
Was he overreacting when, after seven assassination attempts, once again by local politicians under the direction of outside forces, he introduced the Detention Act of 1958? Was he being unpatriotic or overambitious when he used part of Ghana’s resources to help in the liberation struggle of his fellow African countries? Let us ponder over these questions. It is most unfortunate that many contemporary Ghanaians view Nkrumah’s foreign policy on Africa through a selfish and myopic lens that cannot see beyond the so-called national borders of Ghana.
Nkrumah's vision went far beyond the senseless boundaries that departing colonialists created at the Berlin Conference of 1884/5. While these boundaries certainly made it easier for imperial exploitation, he did not believe in the divide-and-rule tactic of politicking. He foresaw what eluded many of his contemporaries: that the independence of Ghana had no meaning unless it was linked with the total liberation of Africa. That Ghana, with a population of just over 6 million, was not viable economically and politically in the long term, and that its destiny was intrinsically tied to all of Africa’s.
He learned from the example of disunity in South America. Although this continent boasts numerous natural resources, it still remains dependent and vulnerable to exploitation by outside forces. Currently, most of Africa’s natural resources—gold, diamond, oil, bauxite, zinc, etc—are under the control of foreign corporations, and close to 75% of its total dividends are repatriated to enrich outsiders at the expense of the starving masses. This is but one of the repercussions of ignoring Nkrumh’s vision.
Every great visionary has their foes in the same way that every great vision has its own set of enemies. Nevertheless, it is sometimes prudent for us, as a people, to rise beyond partisan party politics so that we may recognize and acknowledge our own leaders. Nkrumah remains a symbol of freedom and emancipation of Africa and the black race. His vision for the long-term good of Africa still stands as the most comprehensive attempt any singular individual has ever made to Africa!
It will amount to sheer hypocrisy on our parts as Ghanaians to recognize leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr., but throw away our own Nkrumah and his vision. If we do not celebrate our own heroes, no one else will celebrate them for us. The good news is that no machinations, internal or external, has so far succeeded in writing Nkrumah and his legacy off the minds and souls of Ghanaians, Africans, and Diasporans. His own words are boldly encrypted on his epitaph, "As far as I am concerned, I am in the knowledge that death can never extinguish the torch which I have lit in Ghana and Africa. Long after I am dead and gone, the light will continue to burn and be borne aloft, giving light and guidance to all people.”
Yes, Nkrumah never dies, indeed. May his vision and his selfless dedication to Africa inspire all of us, especially the youth, to action. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

First African Under-20 World Cup Victory Through Pan-African Lens

History was finally conceived in the barren chapters of the Africa FIFA Under-20 World Cup Championship in Egypt when the Black Satellites of Africa lifted the World Cup Trophy for the first time in the full glare of the 68,000 spectators gathered at Cairo International Stadium, after defeating Brazil.
Whilst the Egyptian and the Ghanaian flags were blowing the wind of victory down West and Central Africa almost to a point of tatters, the vuvuzela’s of South Africa, just like the proverbial African cock at dawn, was waking up the remaining Southern and Eastern African countries to the historic glory. From the length and breadth of the continent, the spirit of solidarity rarely experienced by the separate countries of Africa reverberated in the streets and at public spaces amid singing, drumming, dancing shouting and of course “vuvuzeling”.
The significance of this historic football feat to the African people cannot be overemphasized. Different people, however, accorded different significance to the event. Here are some views from Ghana. According to the President of Ghana, Professor John Evans Attah Mills, the historic victory is a timely wake up call to all Ghanaians irrespective of their party colours to unite as one people for the urgent task of national development.
Another Ghanaian who called at a local radio station in Accra asserted that the victory shows the supremacy of Ghana as a major football nation in Africa and at the world stage. The next caller made a rather interesting statement. He remarked, “Ghana is seen as the Brazil of Africa, but today, Brazil will be seen as the Ghana of South America”. To these people and million others, the victory is simply, a national affair and…maybe rightly so.
Ordinarily, the event did not seem any different from the obvious, until one reached out for the Pan-African lens. Through Pan-African lens, things looked more profound. The victory and the history of the Satellites went far beyond the threshold of national consciousness. It is a herald to the manner and form that the unity of the separate, pseudo-independent African states, some as big as Nigeria, others as small as Gabon, some as stable as Botswana whiles others as turbulent as Guinea, will finally unveil. Let us explore three findings under Pan African lens.
Firstly, the victory was won not by the senior national team, the Black Stars but rather the junior under 20 side, the Black Satellites. The significance of this is that, the current senior leaders of Africa may not necessarily be those to materialize the prospect of African unity government judging from their desultory attitude to issues of African unity. The hope seems to reside in the youthful generation. It is a common knowledge that, effecting fundamental changes become more difficult and unattractive as people advance in age. Not surprisingly therefore, a change as
drastic and urgent as the political unification of African people, remains a wild goose chase from the colonial aftermath till today.
Research converge on the notion that, the youth are more open to new ideas, more daring and often blind to old standing vendetta that breeds mistrust and obstruct cooperation among nations. The example of the youthful Nkrumah, who engineered a fundamental change of African independence, and black liberation, comes to mind readily. The late youngest US president John F. Kennedy and the recent Noble Peace Prize laureate, Barrack Obama, who is currently working to fundamentally reform the long standing health care system of US is noteworthy.
The time is long overdue for the old leaders of Africa to constitute themselves into a team of advisors, take to the comfortable passenger seats and allow the younger generation the opportunity to drive the affairs of the continent to true political and economic unity. The economic viability of the separate states of Africa, some hardly numbering two million, created by former colonial powers for their own interest is still eluding. A federation has the promise of greater economic strength by allowing small and weak nations to pool their resources, both economic and human. It is only in this way that smaller nations can ever achieve the kind of economies of scale needed to effectively develop themselves through massive industrialization.
The second observation is that, the Black Satellites won the FIFA World Cup by a rich combination of expertise from both local and foreign-based players. The link is unmistakably obvious: the political unification of Africa would be realized more smoothly by close collaboration between Africans and foreigners. Foreigners in this context refer to all individuals and groups outside Africa who share in the vision of African unity. They include but not limited to Diaspora Africans, the Americans, Europeans and Asians.
This position may justifiably provoke the sensibilities of some hard-lined Pan-Africans, who drawing from the history of injustice in Africa by foreigners, may propose an only African approach. However, just like the Black Satellites, we cannot do it all by local talent. The yoke of slavery, remember, was broken not by the victims alone. The genuine zeal and good intentions of Abraham Lincoln, William Henry Seward among others can be hardly ignored. Traveling the world with over 150 international students drawn from all corners of the globe makes me appreciate the fact that there are sincere Americans and Europeans out there with the right technology, expertise, logistics and capital to collaborate with Africa in her quest to achieving true emancipation.
The last observation under my Pan-African lens is the fact that more than 65% of the world champions, the Black Satellites, came from the lower socio-economic bracket of Ghana. Some are from the streets, others from slums whiles others come from the rural communities with no basic amenities. The point is that, these people defied all obvious challenges and reasonable uncertainties in poverty, hunger and diseases to emerge as world champions!
Similarly, Africa is overwhelmed by concrete challenges including corruption, political instability, unequal level of developments, ethnic conflicts and mistrust among its leaders. The lesson is that, as Africans, if we look at our continent and all we see are the challenges, and not the equally abundant riches and opportunities open to us as a people in this point in our history, we are bound to scare ourselves off our renaissance vision. Remember the European Union (EU) was created in equally daunting political and economic atmosphere in 1993. The political courage and selfless enthusiasm, backed by the right ideological map is what has been the missing link all this while in the continent’s march to a unity government.
To those postulating gradualist approach to African unity with very brilliant explanations to why Africa cannot unite now let it be remembered that Africa’s readiness has never happened in the past, not in the present and shall never be in the future. In the 60s, the excuse was, “Africa is not ready”, in the 90s the excuse was “Africa is not ready”, in the present the excuse is, “Africa is not ready”. In 50 years from now, the excuse shall be, “Africa is not ready”. Instead of researching for plausible reasons to explain why Africa is not ready for a political union, we can apply those same mental exertions to searching for answers to the question, “why Africa is ready now”. It takes courage and strong will, riddled by plausible bullets of doubts from pessimists to achieve anything significant.

Fellow Ghanaians, Africans, Diaspora Africans and friends of African unity, as we celebrate the historical feat of the Black Satellites and many more to come, let us not forget we can always stretch our necks to appreciate things past our artificial national boundaries to the larger African renaissance consciousness. Simply put, see through the Pan-African lens and you surely will see beyond the colonial footprints that divide us as a continent against our unity and ourselves.