Thu, 05 Jul 2007 Feature Article

Once Again, Danquah Trumps Nkrumah on African Union!

Once Again, Danquah Trumps Nkrumah on African Union!

If the just-concluded African summit taught Africans any significant lesson, it is the time-trodden fact that the wretched and the miserable eagerly crave to share and compound their wretchedness and misery with one another. Among the Akan, there is a saying that: “A thousand corpses do not smell.” Of course, even a toddler well appreciates the fact that it is not that a thousand corpses do not smell, but just that the smell of a thousand corpses reeks with such fetidness as to readily fatigue the nose and make it seem to have gotten inured to such otherwise insufferably infernal fetidness.

The foregoing appears to have precisely subtended the logic of the so-called Instantists who, apparently banking on the utter misery and socioeconomic and political frustration of continental Africans in general, called for the immediate geopolitical unification of the Continent during the Ninth Summit of the African Union in Accra. The irony of the entire debate, as Al-Jazeera correspondent Haru Mutasa wisely adumbrated, is the fact that “Most African countries can't even fund themselves. So will they ask the World Bank to give them money [to fund such a capital-intensive venture as continental African unification]? And if they do, what strings would come attached to it? ( 7/3/07).

And on the latter score, of course, it needs no reminding that Ms. Mutasa, likely, had in mind the quite worrisome, albeit none-too-rare, and outright embarrassing fact that a remarkable number of African countries have yet to fully pay up their African Union membership dues. This means that any rash attempt to unify the continent would almost definitely ensure that some countries would gleefully come on board as shameless free-loaders. And that would be rather tragic, indeed, for no idealistic attempt to unify the unequally yoked, as it were, is likely to produce any salutary results.

Thankfully, foresighted African leaders like South Africa's Thabo Mbeki and even an incorrigible “democratic dictator” like Uganda's Yoweri Museveni were constructively bold enough to point the preceding out. Interestingly, however, it was Lesotho's Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili who eloquently encapsulated what may be aptly characterized as the “Danquahist” approach to African unification. To the latter effect, the Maseru premier poignantly observed: “Even as we pursue this noble objective, we cannot ignore factors that militate against it. The question of the surrender of our national sovereignty is a rather tall order.”

In essence, those so-called Instantists who are demanding an immediate, no-holds-barred unification of the African continent, may be aptly envisaged in the same manner as the erstwhile Western colonial powers, whose sole agenda for cannibalizing the African continent appears to have been squarely predicated on economic and political benefits. And like their Western imperialist predecessors, the so-called Instantist Pan-Africanists appear to be singularly driven by a materialist approach to African history and development, a patently Eurocentric paradigm; these Instantists also appear to have little sense or understanding of the historically multi-ethnic and multi-nationality of Africans, as well as the latter's inviolable sense of their discrete cultural identities and sovereignties. Hence, there is this vacuous peddling of a flagrantly ahistorical notion of AFRICA WITHOUT BOUNDARIES.

And on this score must be incontrovertibly emphasized the fact that Africans, like all civilized humans and higher primates, have always been territorial, albeit without constructing such unpardonably synthetic and inimical barriers as that which formerly separated Berlin from Bonn and, more recently, that differentiating Israelis from Palestinians, and even the United States from Mexico. And so for a Pan-African Federation to actualize itself imperatively necessitates the clear-cut definition of such amorphous and wildly idealistic terms as “free movement of people and commodities without borders.”

And for those who readily invoke the European Union as a motivating factor for the imperative and immediate unification of the African continent had better and promptly be alerted to the salutary fact that clearly defined objective standards bordering on economic performance and such quality-of-life issues as crime statistics, judicial efficiency, human rights, effective law-enforcement and a stable democratic culture are among the prerequisites for membership in the European Union.

In the case of the so-called Instantist ideologues of African unification, it appears that the sole criterion for membership qualification of the African Union, is merely presenting oneself as an African country! And here must be instructively recalled the fact that some sixty years ago, when the issue of Ghana's reassertion of her sovereignty loomed on the horizon, in the wake of India and Pakistan's declaration of sovereignty from Britain, Dr. J. B. Danquah exultingly noted the fact that the independence of Ghana would greatly encourage the other African countries to follow suit, particularly if Ghanaian leaders demonstrated themselves to be poised towards making Ghana the beacon of economic and industrial development for the rest of the continent. For by 1946, it had become apparent that Britain's “model colony” would likely usher the rest of the continent into a heady and progressive era of sovereignty (see Okoampa-Ahoofe's Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana). In sum, the best leadership is one that is exemplary in practice, not one that is primarily rhetorical and coercive.

But, perhaps, the most dramaturgically grotesque aspect of the Ninth Summit of the African Union in the Ghanaian capital of Accra, was Col. Muammar El-Qaddafy, of the so-called Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, calling for a “referendum” to settle the question of African unification. “A United States of African Jamahiriya”? Needless to say, the sorriness of it all was to see Col. Qaddafy curiously backed by Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade, who even called for a Ghana-Guinea-Maliesque sort of nucleus federation. In the wake of Nigeria's pseudo-election and Mr. Yahya Jammeh's snake-oil antics with HIV/Aids, any talk of the organic unification of even West Africa would almost certainly come over as a really bad joke, “Instantistically” speaking, that is. A generation or two from now, perhaps.

*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” (, 2005). E-mail: [email protected].

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