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13.08.2006 Feature Article

When Dancers Play Historians and Thinkers - Part 2

When Dancers Play Historians and Thinkers - Part 2
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Several years ago, the renowned Ghanaian professor of Philosophy, and the dauphin of an equally distinguished Ghanaian lawyer, Dr. Anthony Kwame Appiah, critically questioned the virtual absence of the seminal works of Dr. J. B. Danquah in the discursive writings (or corpus) of the leaders of the so-called Afrocentric School, also rather pretentiously labeled “Africologists/Africalogists.” Particularly singled out for unreserved excoriation was that brand of Afrocentric “scholarship” doggedly pursued by the New Pharaohs of Temple University's Department of African-American Studies, which also informally doubled as a Department of African Studies. And here, we make a special note of the latter observation because officially Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, does not recognize the existence of a Department of African Studies, either as a curricular adjunct to African-American Studies or an independent curricular institute within the University's College of Arts and Sciences.

Thus the persistence of the Pharaohs of Temple's African-American Studies Department to cavalierly cannibalizing the area discipline of Continental African Studies is just that – a brazen act of academic cannibalism on the part of personnel who have more than amply demonstrated their not being equal to the task of pedagogically meshing the subject-area of African-American Studies with the far more expansive and epistemologically extensive discipline of Continental African Studies.
In sum, as perspicuously intimated by Professor Appiah, it egregiously appears that the “Africalogical” studies pedagogues of the United States, particularly, have bitten far more than they might be aptly deemed capable of masticating. And this grievous default is heavily reflected in the depth and quality of their scholastic production.

On the preceding score, the relevant and logical question becomes: But why locate Dr. J. B. Danquah at the very core of continental African curricular discourse? And the answer is inescapably simple: The foremost Western-trained and authentic continental African philosopher to have emerged during the quite eventful twentieth century was none other than the celebrated Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics. For not only was Dr. Danquah the first African to earn a doctorate in Law in the twentieth century, from the University College of London, where he had also been named a Visiting Lecturer of African Philosophy but, equally significantly, the first Ghanaian to publish a daily newspaper, The Times of West Africa (1931-1935), was also the first African to be awarded the coveted John Stuart Mills Scholar in the Philosophy of the Mind and Logic prize. And in the same year that the putative Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics was named to the latter capacity, Dr. Danquah had ranked foremost among his graduating class of 1927.

It is thus, more than ironic that the “mainstream” curricular fare of many a “Pan-Africanist,” Africana Studies Department curiously chooses to comfortably ignore the phenomenal contributions of Dr. Danquah, an indisputably distinguished polymath, in the critical disciplinary areas of Philosophy, Literature, Law, Politics, Anthropology and History. It is, needless to say, simply criminal.
Consequently, it becomes a patent mockery of traditional scholarship for many an Africana Studies Department in the United States, especially, to pretend to comfortably rank among the enviable company of the putatively traditional academic disciplines.
In the same vein, one cannot honestly pretend not to fully appreciate the salient cause of such unsavory, to speak much less of a patently embarrassing, state of affairs. In sum, little, if any learning at all, has taken place during the last four decades that “Afrocentric Studies,” going by various shades of labels, have been reckoned as an integral part of the proverbial Academy, at least, here in the United States. What has routinely paraded under the guise of scholarship has largely been an ideologically jaundiced, selective and dogmatic set of liturgical mantras facilely categorized as “Pan-Africanism,” whose very protean and tentative thrust appears to shamelessly border on homilectical expediency. And it is the intellectually blistering and outright corrosive effects of the latter that is ineluctably represented in the work of “Dr.” Kwame Botwe-Asamoah, a vintage Temple University “Africalogist” and the subject of the next several installments in this series.
Of course, there are also such Temple “scholastic backbenchers” as Neo-Pharaoh Abu Jihad (not his real name, of course), Arch-Neo-Pharaoh Mollify-Your-Catering-Centers and Sub-Pharaoh Nit-Wit Khamen, all of whose seminal contributions to the foundation and development of “Africalogical Epistemology” will be critically examined in due course.

For the Chief Linguist of the Temple University School of Africalogists, “Dr.” Kwame Botwe-Asamoah, however, Dr. J. B. Danquah epitomized the sinister emanation of “The Anti-Nationalist And Secessionist.” Regarding the preceding, “The author [sic] of the Cheikh Anta Diop Award for Excellence,” conferred annually by Temple University's Department of Africalogy, cavalierly writes: “Perhaps, the best way to show Danquah's anti-nationalist and secessionist stance is to pose the following questions: First, aside from his loyalty and collusion with the unlawful British colonial government and the imperial British Crown, what drastic measures did J. B. Danquah take to end colonialism in the Gold Coast?”

Indeed, the foregoing question provides quite an instructive benchmark for a comparative assessment of the “loyalties” of Dr. Danquah and Mr. Nkrumah vis-à-vis British colonial, imperialism. And on the latter score, we promptly refer to Dr. David E. Apter, the authoritative author of Ghana In Transition (Princeton University Press, 1972). Regarding the much alluded but rarely read or examined debate on the Volta River Project, otherwise known as the construction of the Akosombo Dam, particularly vis-à-vis the potential sources of funding, this is what the distinguished Princeton University professor of Political Science and a personal friend of President Nkrumah has to say: “There is little doubt that the debate was vigorous and that each position was thoroughly ventilated. The prime minister by no means escaped abuse. The British ex-officio cabinet ministers who were members of the old assembly were looked upon as fellow members of the government and when insinuations were made against them[,]the prime minister [i.e. Mr. Kwame Nkrumah] became angry. In this debate, the British and the C. P. P. were on the same side, a common situation. At the same time, the clear-cut problem of development was never lost sight of by the prime minister, and no amount of talk about imperialism shook him from the object, not even appeals to his 'Marxism'”(Apter, 1972: 239).
In sum, the preceding report on the Akosombo Dam Debate alludes to the fact that ever the expedient opportunist, then-Prime Minister Nkrumah readily colluded with the unelected Euro-British members of the Legislative Assembly in order to ride roughshod over the nearly always sagacious counsel of the ideological opposition, almost invariably led by Dr. J. B. Danquah, Mr. William (Paa Willie) Ofori-Atta, and Dr. K. A. Busia.

Thus, contrary to the much-touted and vaunted intransigence of President Nkrumah and his Convention People's Party (CPP) vis-à-vis the summary extirpation of British imperialism, the over-celebrated African Show Boy was the unfailingly perennial collaborator and debonair Junior Partner of British imperialism. (We shall also see this same trait vis-à-vis Nkrumah and Sir Geoffrey Bing in due course).
For a more comprehensive appreciation of the Akosombo Dam Debate, the reader may refer to Chapter 11 of Professor Apter's authoritative monograph Ghana In Transition (1972, pp. 234-256). For our present purposes, however, it is significant to recall the following sentence which appears on page 239 of Ghana In Transition: “In this debate, the British and the C. P. P. were on the same side, a common situation.”

It is also significant to observe that in rabidly pretending to impugn the irreproachable patriotism of Dr. Danquah, “Dr.” Kwame Botwe-Asamoah does not provide the source of his unpardonably blasphemous indictment; obviously, perhaps, the writer has an abysmally low opinion of his readers, particularly his fellow fanatical apostles of Nkrumaism. Unfortunately for the latter, this is a wholly new era and century, one that is indelibly and insuperably characterized as the Internet Revolutionary Age of Instant Epistemological Verification. And in this new era, the Machiavellian apostles of Nkrumaist propaganda appear to be woefully and pathetically out of their league and depth. For the rest of us forward-looking Ghanaians, however, there could never have been a better expression in the English language than: Good-riddance!

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of twelve books, including “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (, 2005). Email:

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