I am going to delve right into answering last week’s question, as though you read that article, and know this question I am talking about. Here you go. Let me repeat it—life is too hard to remember word for word something we read a week ago. Building on the Apple/Microsoft/Xerox PARC analogy presented, it went like this:
“As we sit, witnessing all these horrors—some within our country, others, our continent—resulting primarily from our inability (reasons for which are varied) to convert our natural and human resources towards our own sustained growth, we cannot help but find ourselves wondering, ‘Is Africa the rich neighbour?’”
I am very interested to hear your answer to that question.
On the other hand, I hear the national anthem playing on TV, so I am going to talk about that instead.
I do not remember what age I was precisely when I found out that those words in the seventh line of the first stanza of Ghana’s national anthem (apparently, there are other stanzas) were actually…words. Real words not just a string of sounds coming together to form music, but words with meanings behind them. ‘…And help us to resist oppressors’ rule.’—that is one tongue twister right there. It’s no wonder that that is where most Ghanaians face the most defeat in their attempt at chiming their nation’s anthem. It took me some time, years back, to wrap my tongue around those words—‘resist oppressors’ rule’. The writer did well. Such a profound sentence; too bad we miss the powerful meaning it conveys.
Arguably, of all the lines in the four-stanza anthem, this line rings the most true—to our national and continental journey. Most of the other lines are pretty generic, “God bless our homeland…” America could have used that. And in fact, they actually do—quite directly, in what they consider their unofficial national anthem, “God bless America.” Britain could have used those words, if it wasn’t busy making its national anthem an ode to its monarchy.
But here we have it, Ghana’s anthem, arguably one of the most meaningful national anthems in the world (very reflective of the lives of its people). One that starts by requesting grace from God in the nation building journey it undertakes; then proceeds to wish for itself a citizenry filled with undying patriotism; and then very aptly and profoundly, call its citizenry’s attention to their gruesome past, a past filled with centuries-long oppression, and admonishes that together they avow never to go back to such a past again—“And help us to resist oppressors’ rule”.
“Ghana, your beloved country, is free forever.” Nkrumah meant those words—forever was meant to be just that… infinite. “Ressisoppresseso”—the writer almost flew this one right over our heads. That should be our nation, continent, and race’s secret code or something. Whenever we sense, with our own actions or that of the West’s, slavery, colonialism, oppression creeping back in, we should not perhaps blatantly cry “Neocolonialism!” No, that is a White word that draws unneeded White attention. But perhaps whisper a cautionary tale into our own ears, ‘ressisoppresseso’ and proceed to do something about the evil revenant.
I choose this antidote to center this article around. Without mentioning names, here we go. Take that there is a woman who was the AU Ambassador to the USA. And this woman, knowing how crucial it is for us, her fellow African brothers and sisters, to be reminded of our past, so as to quickly detect hints of it when it finds its way back into our present; so as to consequently, root out this past from our present, so as not to disrupt our future—decides to constantly, with every opportunity she gets, serve this reminder. And should this woman on a particular day, make an educative video on neocolonialism, highlighting a troubling French/African dynamic. And should this very proactive woman—so proactive that she made popular, a seemingly non-mainstream role—find herself, without any explanation, fired. And should she find that it is quite the open secret that her firing was per the request of the French President, who did not particularly like that she was going around, telling the truth. Should it be found that this President placed an order to the AU Commissioner asking that said woman be fired from her role, and had this order fulfilled. Would ‘ressisoppresseso’ be said to have taken place here?
Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, just this week rehashed her family’s position that Dr. King was not killed by a certain James Earl Ray in 1965, as believed, but by the US government, in what they believe to be a ‘multi-governmental’ conspiracy. Dr. King was a Black man fighting for the right of his people to be treated with human dignity; for the centuries of monstrous, inhumane conditions meted out to Black people to be put an end to—he sought this out stubbornly with his ‘brutal’, adamant peaceful approach. But that did not stop him from joining his contemporary Malcom X, of a much more (and apt) aggressive approach, just three years later.
Just this year, the daughters of Malcom X raised demands that investigations be re-opened into their father’s death. They have new evidence, they insist. A retired policeman on his deathbed, allegedly confessed to the NYPD and the FBI having a hand in Malcom’s assassination in 1968. And that the members of the Nation of Islam indicted for the murder, said to have had religious motives for so doing, were in fact just pawns in this conspiracy to annihilate yet another Black person fighting for true, unadulterated freedom for his people.
Back in 1966, when the coup toppling Nkrumah’s reign saw success, and the National Liberation Council was patting itself at the back, back in the USA, in the CIA offices, it is alleged that a whole different set of champaigns were popping—the CIA had ‘paperlessly’ gotten rid of yet another African leader.
The examples are endless. Why am I even bringing these up? Are we supposed to be grateful for the life of this woman?—who shall remain nameless; and whose name you already know—that she did not, like X and King, lose her head in this ‘abominable’ act of enlightening the Black folk; that she was, like Nkrumah, ‘only overthrown’?
I think these examples were just to highlight that ‘ressisoppresseso’ has since time immemorial, seen ‘the oppressors’ fighting against its happening.
The Right to Complain
I miss Trump and his obsession with certain things. For a man whose knowledge-base is quite plainly limited, it is only natural that the very few things he actually undertakes to know—be they true or false—he will keenly obsess on, and mention them every chance he gets. Or maybe, it was true passion for those particular subject matters that made him drive at them so hard and persistently—in which case it would be dignified, his obsessions. Who knows? One of such obsessions that I found particularly interesting, aside his ‘Barack Obama was born in Kenya’ rhetoric, was his ‘they are cheating us’ outcry.
‘They’, being us, the rest of the world—well, China especially, and ‘us’, being the United States of America. “We can no longer tolerate these chronic trade abuses and will not tolerate them.” “The current trade imbalance is not acceptable. The United States will no longer turn a blind eye to violations, cheating, or economic aggression.” USA will no more “enter into large agreements that tie our hands to support the multilateral trading regime.” He accused Asia—and specifically, China, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 2017, in a speech that was neither ‘pacific’ nor ‘cooperative’. He accused China of ripping the US off of jobs, factories, and industries.
In fact, this obsession of ‘they are cheating us’ is what drew him into politics in the first place. He claimed the corrupt American negotiators were signing on to treaties without reading the trade deals contained in them.
These complaints coming from the world’s largest economy—in this highly globalised era; a nation that amassed enormous wealth from international trade even before ‘international trade’ was a thing—make one want to wrap Akufo-Addo in sackcloth, with ash on his head, a red ribbon tied around his head (he may just have to remove his glasses for this one) and send him to these international summits and have him sing a dirge—no, war song, about how Ghana (in fact let’s make him an advocate for the entire Africa) has never—since the inception of international trade, even with its many rules intended to favour developing countries—been beneficiaries of ‘fair trade’ properly so called. Do you think the President would be up for this? I mean, he would have to wear that sackcloth. Trump set the bar of complaining so high that our problems being actually worse, must be met with the highest possible of complaints.
Is ‘ressisoppresseso’ possible?
It can feel quite like the losing game when we take ourselves back through history—our history of being at the receiving end of endless strings of tyranny and oppression. It feels like a losing game still when we look at our present—a present of a world highly globalised, highly capitalistic (although, it feigns some sort of international socialist climate of ‘we’ve got one another’s backs.’)
In this world of ours, should ‘ressisoppresseso’ be achieved, or if it be rendered unnecessary [And I am dabbling into utopia right now] because it is miraculously found out that there really is no such threat. The threat of the West employing every means—greedy or gruesome—to maintain a world order where the Black race, the African is at the bottom, and they at the top. Should this narrative be found to be false, and that they really mean us well. Should it be found that the West only has the purest of intentions towards the African; should all these be proved to be true, this globalised race, this globalised economic order will still remain indomitable in its skewness against us. Without otherworldly leadership and commitment, the African continent might remain as it is, disadvantaged on the global plane. How much more a world, where the continent has endless strings pulling at it, intended to keep it down? They, above, doing the pulling; we below, dancing to the beat of their drums. Should oppressors’ rule still prevail, should it remain ‘un-resisted’, unchecked, what will become of the continent?
Old age makes one introspective. And 64 years, that is old enough—old enough for Ghana, to start, word for word, adhering to its own promises made to its own self. “Resist oppressors’ rule” is the most profound of promises a country has yet made to itself. It is the truest an African country can ever make to itself.
National introspection—for countries worldwide—finds such questions coming up: “Are we doing well?” “Are we moving forward?” “Are we better today than we were yesterday?” For developing countries such as ours, it comes quite specifically in this form: “Are we actually developing?” But for an African country such as ours, the question, perhaps takes this form first: “Are we actually independent?” For teenage countries such as ours, who have suffered under abusive parents in the past; and time being a blessing, having found ourselves now free of this bondage—the question we find ourselves asking our ‘developing selves’ is are we really free? Are we really independent? Because on that 6 March that was what we set out to do.
What Would a Free Nation Do?
This, I believe, is the ‘what would Jesus do’ version of patriotism: “What would an independent nation do?” That is the question perhaps every national move of ours must find itself first asking. Independence in this highly globalised age can admittedly be quite the tricky concept. Without deviating too much—for instance, the rule of supremacy of international law states that rules of international law prevail over national laws of member states. Countries when signing on to such treaties agree to having their sovereignties bent, in favour of regional, sub-regional, global, etc. good (depending on the nature of the treaty.) But, arguably, such agreements do not, prima facie, attack national sovereignty, and for the African continent, its independence, but rather it is the terms agreed into in these treaties that can be the problem. They can, sometimes, be woefully reminiscent of colonialism, and even slavery.
When our decisions, when the agreements we enter into are purely backed by our unadulterated national and continental interests rather than oppressive compromises—compromises even beneath the status of the word, so perhaps ‘compromises’ is not the way to go; sacrifices is too dignified, I should not use that. Victimisation—cuts right through the essence of the scenario at play here.
Ressisoppresseso’ has real meaning; the threat it cautions against are real.
Let’s blame this article on the radio and TV stations. They played the national anthem so much this past month. That got me here.
[Published in the Business & Financial Times, B&FT - 7th April 2021]