It gratifying to read messages across Africa, about one of Ghana’s/ Africa thinkers birthday – 100th – kwame Nkrumah (21 September 1909-27 April 1972). In a period where Africa had no open thinkers to drive its development process from within its cultural values – such as Europe’s Karl Marx or Japans Kta Ikki or Latin America’s Fernando Henrique Cardoso about its development philosophy, Nkrumah emerged as one with immense passion.
Fifty –two years ago, at a time of tumbling regimes, wrong thinking, one arty fetes, military juntas, and the need for African sages , Nkrumah’s 100th birthday is reflection for the need for grand development thinking and philosophies that flow from Africa’s innate traditional values in relation to the global prosperity ideals.
This is to knock off the widely held view that African think well but while Nkrumah and his associates pan-Africanism irrelevant to the African cause, it lacked original African cultural roots, thus failing to appropriate African values critically for the pan African project. Kwame Nkrumah committed a fatal developmental error, which had had terrible consequences on Ghana/Africa’s progress.
When some years ago, people in Ghana’s northern region told policy markers to consult them and their values when making policies, they were in effect saying there were no practises in Ghana of policy makers in consulting the very people the policies are to affect, a terminal error dating back to Nkrumah’s era
- Part of Africa’s big man syndrome, where the big man assume to know everything, and cannot be challenged, and imposed their will on Africans no matter what consequences.
This, from the inception of the Ghana nation state, created a huge problem of trust, a critical element in the development process. And this also reveals that the Ghana nation-state, started on a wrong footing, creation all kinds of unnecessary problems for Ghana, till today.
The reason is not far fetched. The pan Africanism project, which predates Nkrumah, was more or less an African Diaspora visions to raise the injustices ex-African slaves were encountering in the Diaspora, and also unite them and explore the possibility of returning them back to Africa. Sierra leone , the creoles and Liberia, the America Liberians are some of the products.
Of prominence of the Diaspora pan African vision, was the issue of politics of skin colour and Africans marginalisation in the international political economy.
As a student in the united states and Britain, Nkrumah experienced such racism, and returned to then gold coast with such a baggage. The issues here is that initially pan Africanism was more project, lacking a deep sense of the continental Africa environment and other original African home-grown developmental nuances, a huge ingredient for progress. The pan- African project therefore, did not flow first from within continental Africa, and this may explain why it initially lacked the deep African cultural oriental paradigms needed for developmental goals.
It is important to remember that Africa is the only region in the world where its development paradigms are dominated by foreign development values- and that makes Nkrumah’s pan Africanism practically irrelevant to everyday life of Africans, even on philosophical terms.
So, despite much hype about African culture in pan African project, it was more or less an artistic thing than the appropriation of African values in policy making. Short of this, Nkrumah and his associates wandered around the world, like headless chickens looking for developmental paradigms from ex-soviet union oriented socialism to Europe learning capitalism or something in between as if Africa has no history, no cultural values, and no experiences in terms of progress.
Added to this is the fact that Nkrumah and his associates overwhelming carried on fully with the ex-colonialists development paradigms, without any attempts to openly hybridize the enabling aspects of African cultural values, and the ex-colonialists legacies in the continent’s progress. Today, humble Botswana is the only exception.
ERRORS NKRUMAH MADE
It is therefore not surprising that one of the most fatal errors Nkrumah made in his attempts to develop Ghana, was to harshly marginalise the traditional rulers, one of the key frontline traditional institutional for progress. Africa’s transitional rulers, as dr. George Ayettey, of the American university in Washington D.C. would tell you, are hugely untapped human resources materials in Ghana/Africa’s development processes. Some of these initial errors of not fully and openly appropriating African values in the continent’s development policies unrealistic in the African environment.
The key word here is openly as a reflector of Africans dignity, confidence and psychology in relation to the global prosperity ideals. The reason is, African experienced colonialism for years and this saw the suppression of African values in the continent’s development process. This process damaged the trust of African values, as a policy thresher, and created immense psychological crises. The colonist suppressed African values and imposed theirs.
They thought wrongly as today’s international development literature would correctly tell you that African values were primitive, and that they were more civilised than Africans, and do the Africans should be civilised than. The French, for instance, minted the assimilation project civilise the African. It failed. Then they created the association one which aimed to mix African native culture with that of the French. That was daisy, alos because it wasn’t done from African perspectives, or by Africans themselves.
In the process both enabling aspects of African values, and the inhibiting parts was surprised for far long that even the earlier elites while came to power, as their behaviour revealed thought Africa had no values worth appropriating in national development. Sengal’s former president, Leopold Seder Senghor, October 9 1906-december 20, 2001, part of the Nkrumah’s era, thought Africans were better at expressing their emotions than thinking.
No doubt, some prominent Africans such as Y.K. Amoakoh the former chair of united nations economic community for Africa, observed that Africa was the only region in the world where foreign development paradigms dominate her development process, to the detriment of its rich values.
The sense here is that, Nkrumah and his associates did not think first from within African values and any other second, such as the ex-colonialists in their zeal to develop Africa.
The Japanese, like other ex-colonies, faced similar challenges and were able to circumvent any attempt to either fully carry on with American foreign development paradigms or let the foreign paradigms be forced on their development throat as America post –war occupying governor of Japan general Douglas MacArthur, attempted to do.
Like the Southeast Asians, Nkrumah and his associates using their pan-African project, should have first envision pan-Africanism as a development policy maker, bestowed from indigenous African values and mix it or juggle it with foreign or their colonial legacies.
It is therefore not surprising that Amoakoh observes that Africa is the only region in the world where foreign development paradigms dominate her development process.
Fifty-two years on, foreign development paradigms dominate Africa’s development scene, despite lot of energy, time and money spent on pan-African project, creating huge distortions in the continents progress.
The disturbing implications are that not only was the enabling aspects of African values not appropriated openly in national development planning, but as former minister of health, Major Courage Quarshigah, would tell you they were no attempts to refine the inhibitions within African values that have been stifling progress for the continents progress.
Despite this fatal developmental error, Nkrumah’s pan-Africanism, in all measure is growing, notwithstanding the hiccups here and there.
The emerging success of the economic community of west African states, and other African regional bodies, noticeably, in helping restore order in order sierra leone restore order in sierra leone, ivory coast and Liberia, after years of civil wars, is one example.
The transition from the organisation of African unity (OAU) to present African union (AU)is another in the sense of African unity. These examples and many more, reveal that Nkrumah’ pan-Africanism was not illusory but working, taking on new meanings challenges that emanate from the values and experiences of Africans.