On May 26, 2007, two brief, Ghana News Agency-generated articles appeared on the website of Ghanaweb.com, respectively, titled “UEW, Libyan University Signed [sic] MOU” and “Libyans to Help Establish Arabic Dept. at UEW.” Of course, the initials UEW stand for Ghana's University of Education which is located in the Central Regional nodal town of Winneba, and on the very campus that originally housed the infamous Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute, a faux-Communist academy which was sponsored by the erstwhile Convention People's Party (CPP).
What was interesting about the two write-ups, for such was their nature, particularly that which was titled “Libyans to Help Establish Arabic Dept. at UEW,” was the fact that both articles appeared to grossly, albeit quite deliberately, understate the intention of the Libyan Government, led for some thirty-eight years now by strongman Muammar El-Qaddafy. For example, just why the Libyans had decided to “help” Ghanaians establish an Arabic studies department was almost glibly chalked up to the purported fact of Ghana having lately registered a remarkable leap in the population of students attending “Arabic schools.”
And, on the latter score, it is significant to observe that there is a glaring difference between “Arabic schools” and “Islamic schools,” more significantly, the fact that being “Arabic,” institution-wise, is not necessarily mutually interchangeable with being “Islamic.” Thus the Ghana News Agency (GNA) reporter could, perhaps, be excused for mistaking “Islamic” (or “Muslim”) institutions for “Arabic” ones. Our logical thrust here is that just as most “Christian” schools in Ghana and, in fact, the world over are not known to instruct their pupils and students in Hebrew, or even Aramaic, the historical medium of Christianity, but rather in the local languages of converts, many Islamic schools in the West African sub-region are widely known to appropriate indigenous languages in curricular instruction, even in cases where Arabic, as a pedagogical subject, is also taught, largely in the form of scriptural or Q'uranic indoctrination. In sum, the wholesale exportation of “Libyan Arabic,” for the language, as spoken in Libya, is known to be remarkably different from that which is spoken in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, may be aptly envisaged to be tantamount to Arabo-Libyan imperialism, a development that would be unreservedly objectionable, unless, of course, Libya's Al-Tahadi University, per the purported Memorandum-of-Understanding (MOU) ratified with Winneba's University of Education, will simultaneously and concurrently establish on the former's campus and in its curriculum a Department of Ghanaian Language Studies.
Unfortunately, knowing what we have known of the relationship between Muammar El-Qaddafy's Libya “Jamahiriya” and Ghana over the past three decades hardly gives any room for such bilateral optimism. In sum, so lopsided has Ghana-Libya relationship been forged during Mr. Qaddafy's tenure that it is almost a given that in any such cultural exchange as that which is reportedly envisaged by the UEW-Al Tahadi MOU, the likely outcome is almost certain to be on Libya's terms.
Needless to say, we have ample evidence for making the foregoing assessment. During the early 1980s, for example, Mr. Qaddafy contracted with the Ghana Government to have Ghanaian teachers instruct Libyans in the medium of the English language; many of us, back then, greeted this policy with enthusiasm and even began to valorize Mr. Qaddafy's pan-Africanist credentials. Curiously, however, in the wake of the United States' blitz-krieg over Tripoli in 1986, the Libyan strongman unilaterally and summarily abrogated this pact by promptly and massively deporting these specially-invited Ghanaian instructors. The Libyan chieftain's apparent knee-jerk reaction was to arbitrarily equate the medium of the English language with extant and “offending” President Ronald Reagan and the United States. The long-term implications of scape-goating the Ghanaian English instructors, as well as disrespecting the government and people of Ghana in the process, did not appear to have struck or mattered to Colonel Qaddafy in any meaningful manner. And, to be certain, the Libyan strongman had nothing to worry about, because even as the current Al-Tahadi-UEW MOU appears to indicate, Ghanaians, by and large, do not seem to appreciate the solemn and imperative need to demand that Mr. Qaddafy respect us in much the same manner that he had respected the military and economic might of Washington in deciding to quite handsomely bail Tripoli out of the latter's Lockerbie, Pan-Am Flight 103 impasse with the United States.
In the case of the deported Ghanaian teachers, we were shortly to learn that so abrupt and brazen had Mr. Qaddafy acted that the bulk of these Ghanaian teachers had been denied of significant occupational benefits and entitlements. Consequently, in any relationship established between Ghana and Libya, it is almost predictable just who the contractual “horse” and “rider” are wont to be. Behind the scenes, of course, we can readily fathom the erstwhile Provisional National Democratic Congress (P/NDC) readily selling the destiny of Ghanaians short and cheap to Tripoli, something few Ghanaians expect under the far more dignified New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration.
Indeed, the first time that this writer became familiar with Colonel Qaddafy's inordinate penchant for political experimentation with the destiny of Ghanaians was during the early 1980s, when the Rawlings-led so-called Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) fanatically adopted Mr. Qaddafy's so-called Green Book, a flimsy pamphlet in three parts, as the PNDC's main ideological frame of reference for Monsieur Rawlings' so-called December 31st (1981) Revolution. We would also shortly learn that Colonel Qaddafy had, in fact, doled out the humongous sum of $ 10 million to the Ghanaian Government, which had, in turn, recruited some cynical Ghanaian intellectuals, including at least three professors personally known to this writer who taught at the City University of New York, to actively promote the dubious and erratic values espoused by the Green Book.
The Government in Tripoli was also known to regularly and routinely ship small munitions to Mr. Rawlings and his PNDC junta under the specious guise of medical supplies. Indeed, as we vividly recall, the bold attempt by one Ghanaian radio newscaster to expose the PNDC junta was reported to have nearly cost the life of the subject. In fine, the deleterious impact of Colonel Qaddafy on the collective destiny of Ghanaians over the past three decades can hardly be described as either propitious or auspicious. And it is in view of the foregoing that we solemnly urge the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Administration to promptly reexamine the MOU allegedly initialed between Winneba's University of Education (UEW) and Tripoli's Al-Tahadi University and thus take the necessary steps to ensure that Colonel Qaddafy, a known sponsor of terror against some of his fellow Arab leaders, as well as sponsor of Liberia's Charles Taylor and Sierra Leone's Foday Sankoh, among a host of others, in the past, does not tactically use the University of Winneba to establish an Arabo-Islamic beachhead for the future destabilization of Ghanaian society and culture.
*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 “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (iUniverse.com, 2005). E-mail: [email protected]
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