“I AM APT TO SUSPECT THE NEGROES AND IN GENERAL ALL THE OTHER SPECIES OF MEN TO BE NATURALLY INFERIOR TO THE WHITES. THERE NEVER WAS A CIVILIZED NATION OF ANY OTHER COMPLEXION THAN WHITE, OR EVEN ANY INDIVIDIUAL EMINENT EITHER IN ACTION OR SPECULATION, NO INGENIOUS MANUFACTURERS AMONG OTHERS, NO ART, NO SCIENCES (David Hume).”
“I ADVANCED IT, THEREFORE, AS A SUSPICION ONLY, THAT THE BLACKS, WHETHER ORIGINALLY A DISTINCT RACE OR MADE DISTINCT BY TIME AND CIRCUMSTANCE, ARE INFERIOR TO THE WHITES IN THE ENDOWMENTS OF BOTH BODY AND MIND (Thomas Jefferson).”
“THIS IS THE LAND WHERE MEN ARE CHILDREN, A LAND LYING BEYOND THE DAYLIGHT OF SELF CONSCIOUS HISTORY, AND ENVELOPED IN THE BLACK COLOR OF NIGHT. AT THIS POINY, LET US FORGET AFRICA NOT TO MENTION IT AGAIN. AFRICA IS NO HISTORICAL PART OF THE WORLD…(Friedrich Hegel).”
We may have to make the ironic claim that, as far as the idea of the modern nation-state an its operational dynamics go, Soyinka seemed to have found himself trapped in a sinking oasis of moral dislocation when Biafra tore itself from the strangulating grip of Nigerian federalism, with the strategic complicity of Western countries such as France. The case of Biafra secession recalls the aggregate threats, possibly a throwback to the so-called Southern Strategy and the primary causation of the Civil War, which a group of American states issued to the federal government in support of their expressed wish to secede from the Union should Pres. Obama win his re-election bid.
President Obama won and the threat did not come to pass. It did not occur to the petitioners that their legal reasons for the secession threat were stillborn. On the other hand, the secession threat may have been an orchestrated legal feint to shift the sway of the American people’s electorship away from the progressive presidency of Mr. Barack Obama. But even so, the secession threat has a deep-rooted precedential resolution in the brutal outcome of the Civil War, which the American South eventually lost to the American federation, an opinion shared by US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (see Kirsten W. Savali’s “Divided States of America: 26 States Petition To Secede After Re-Election of President Obama,” Nov. 12, 2012, NewsOne).
Of course, there was a racial component to the petition as there was an ethnic component to the Biafra question. That represents a simplistic rendition in the sense that it indicts the etiology of those two epochal instances of abortive geopolitical fracture. Nkrumah's unitary state would not have countenanced that betrayal of political severance demonstrated by Biafra, to the unitarized constitutional authority of the Nigerian federation. Nkrumah’s conceptualized extrapolation of the unitary state to the level of continental authority was picked up by Ali Mazrui, one of Nkrumah's whilom critics, who saw the question of African unity as a solution to Africa's contemporary myriad crises. Mazrui saw enormous political practicality in that solution in a critical methodological audit of Nkrumah's "Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonization," the same idea that would later catapult his academic career to global acclaim, thus making him one of the formidable academics in the field of postcolonial scholarship and North-South relations.
Mazrui acceded to that acclaimed throne of political criticism on the basis of his vigorous defense of the idea of “consciencism” until his last breath. His political exegesis of “consciencism” centered upon strategic mediation techniques executed through the accumulated thicket of African internal contradictions, subsuming the framework of the collectivized individuation of African nation-states under the authority of political continentalism. No right-thinking person will dare critically examine the philosophic scope of Nkrumahism, a scientific system for positive social change, and conclude it is devoid of transformative power. We make this assertion from the point of view of the valuation claims of instrumentalism and scientific axiology.
However, beyond those claims advanced along the lines of Mazruian continentalism where the artificial dismemberment of Africa continues to wreak havoc on her strategies of development priorities, Soyinka has yet to provide a package of convincing counter-evidence which, alternatively, may provide a serious critique of the sort of arguments and claims Chinua Achebe advanced in his memoir, "There Was A Country."
Worse still, Soyinka believes Achebe should not have written the book, at least not in the way he wrote or was written.
The question is: Did Achebe have the right to share with the world his insider inventory of facts related to Biafra secession over Soyinka's objections?
Soyinka himself has provided a smattering of his own insider take on and reflection of the Nigerian Civil War in some of his memoirs, say “You Must Set Forth at Dawn,” as well as in public interviews and presentations, which clearly means he has no monopoly over the factual exegesis of Nigerian history.
Did Soyinka actually believe he had all the facts in his inventory of historical consciousness to sway Achebe, even in death? The fact is that “There Was A Country” is still alive and subject to the flame of critique, a responsibility Soyinka owes the present generation and posterity. Achebe may rise again through the living library of Biafran history to offer a counterfactual thinking to Soyinka’s intellectual hegemony. Can Achebe continue to impact the world from the other side of sentient existence? In other words, could the voice of the dead be more powerful than that of the living? This is a matter for public debate, since it is the public that has the authority to exert its powers of arbitration over the intellectual productions of the living and the dead, for neither the living Soyinka nor the ancestral Achebe consume(d) what he produce(d). The reading public provides the space for criticism.
Elsewhere, neither the late Mazrui nor Soyinka could find common ground on many issues confronting Africa, namely, the correct and proper interpretation of Africa to the world, particularly the West. Their public debates were more or less descriptive of intellectual Gigantomachy, of the clash of personal egos. Some of those debates had directly or indirectly involved Nkrumah’s intellectual legacy, as seen in Mazrui’s re-interpretation of “consciencism” through his internationally televised discourse of the same as well as through his controversial text, “The Africans: A Triple Heritage,” and what those generally meant for African development dynamics. Their intellectual Titanomachy can be better appreciated if the latter work is juxtaposed with Soyinka’s “Of Africa” for a greater degree of exegetical clarity and for a proper contextual location.
What appeared on the surface, though, was the shared propensity of both men’s idiosyncratic natures to see some internal coherence finally prevail on the question of Africa’s internecine humanity in the context of the continent’s uneven political economy. This is no less an important contention because a disturbance in the political economy of one African country directly or indirectly affects the general health of the continent, since individual political economies are linked in a tight matrix of operational interconnectedness. The emphasis here is on ripple effect or multiplier effect!
Soyinka and Mazrui wanted the listing boat of the continent’s political economy to be put on an even keel. But the stubbornness of the contents of their heads resisted all attempts at reconciliation. As a result, their idiosyncratic natures suffered from bouts of tendentious affectations in respect of their intellectual allegiances to distinctive religious philosophies. In relative terms, Soyinka has argued that Islam was a threat to the actualities of Africa’s contemporary civilization and thus saw the accommodating predilection of African Religion as probably the best riposte to the scourge of religious terrorism, especially Islamic terrorism or Political Islam, on the continent. Mazrui, on the other hand, argued that co-habitation between the religions was perhaps the answer, a position somewhat closer in its political profundity and rhetoric aesthetics to Nkrumah’s articulation of the same.
At least Mazrui’s Islamic background was evident in his passionate articulations, which was not actually the case with the example of Soyinka’s mongrelized background, though the tenets of African Religion, chiefly Yoruba Religion, characterize the religious philosophy of Soyinkan cosmogony. Clearly, the implicit and explicit intrusive bias of religion acted as a tacit enemy to the mutual topology of intellectual accommodation. These discursive divergences are by no means outside the broader scope of Nkrumah’s tripartite treatment of questions that seemed to have pricked the consciences of both men. We see an extension of that intellectual antipathy manifest itself at the level of political, ethnic, and cultural wars on the continent. And if enlightened, cosmopolitan, and widely-read scholars like Mazrui and Soyinka could not have found common ground on practical strategies conducive to Africa’s internal coherence and sustained development, what then should be expected of lay persons?
The central issues raised in the preceding paragraph fundamentally form the dissertation thrust or fulcrum of Nkrumah’s “Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonization.” What Nkrumah foresaw and tried to forestall in clear philosophic and scientific print, through the rhetorical audacity of his text “Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonization,” is the religious, economic, political, and cultural terrorism we see on the continent today. Soyinka and Mazrui threw bombs of words at each other, while the Lord’s Resistance Army, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, Al-Shabab, Boko Haram, and their ilk throw real bombs at innocent citizens. Nkrumah tried to find causative reasons to feed the harmony of Africa’s inherited contradictions in the same way a set theorist may want to discover functional correlations between a Universal Set, otherwise the African Union Government, and its Subsets, let us call them the collectivized nation-states of Africa. Mazrui was perhaps interested in the political economy of those functional correlations as his intellectual nemesis, Soyinka, perhaps was in the Universal Set.
The Universal Set represents the totality of African humanity as well as of the spiritual and material conditionalities which sustain it. One can also look at it from the standpoint of homeostasis in connection with human physiology and anatomy, or the human biological system.
Indeed, there exists another poignant narrative that offers deeper supporting insights into our theoretical inquests. This narrative embodies the ironic symbolism of sunken boats carrying African economic refugees on the Mediterranean Sea, a dress of unfortunate events whose political import may have been lost on the critics of Nkrumahism. It has widely been reported in one particular instance where Muslims from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Mali aboard one of those boats threw overboard twelve other Africans from Ghana and Nigeria on suspicion they were Christians. The twelve died (see Hada Messia et al.’s “Italian Police: Muslim Migrants Threw Christians Overboard,” CNN, April 19, 2015). One wonders why Africans hate and kill each other over foreign religions as that example demonstrates! In one sense the sunken boats ferrying African economic refugees to Europe may be symptomatic of the larger economic and political malaise of a gradually sinking continent that simply refuses to listen to the golden voice of Nkrumahism.
That is not an apocalyptic indictment of the continent per se. Rather it is an apocalyptic indictment of Africa’s postcolonial Eurocentric leadership. The other fact is that, on a more general note, international reportage that usually accompanies these preventable accidents presents the victims as Africans, not necessarily as individual African nationalities or ethnicities or cultures or races, a view largely supported by the late Julius Nyerere who said wherever he traveled around the world he was always perceived or viewed as African, not Tanzanian. This is where the principle question of collective responsibility, sociopolitical stability, patriotism, self-actualization, egalitarianism, economic development, and continental solidarity, the core principles of Nkrumahism, assumes a position of enormous practical indispensability in the theories and hypotheses of Africa’s postcolonial development strategies and tactics.
The preceding narrative seems to be lost on the Confederate critics of Nkrumah who do not seem to appreciate the depths of mutual connectivity between the continent’s presumed technocratic forwardism and improved conditionalities in the special case of the political economies of individual African nation-states. This is what European nation-states have successfully done through the formation of the European Union where intra-continental mutual assistance is the unifying theology of their economic philosophy. It was in this context that Nyerere wrote: “SINCE THEN EUROPE THROUGH THE EU HAS ADOPTED HIS [NKRUMAH’S] ENTIRE PROPOSAL APART FROM THE ONE ON UNION GOVERNMENT.”
The candor of the foregoing bold statement somehow bespeaks the impression that it is the West, not Africa, which appreciates the scientific axiology of Nkrumahism. This degree of agnosy poses a major threat to the constructive realization of Africa’s economic development priorities and internal coherence. And the point is not to leave out African leaders from the moral conflagration of critique, even as we hold the fire to the feet of any heterochthonous factor of causation bedeviling Africa’s development. Soyinka expresses it best in his usual style of rhetorical bluntness:
“AN ARGUMENT FOR REPARATION BETWEEN AGGRESSOR AND VICTIM CAN STILL SURVIVE EVIDENCE THAT THE VICTIME SIDE WAS NOT COMPLETELY INNOCENT IN ITS OWN UNDOING, BE IT THROUGH NEGLIGENCE OR DIRECT COMPLICITY. A CHARGE OF BURGLARY IS NOT VITIATED BY CLEAR EVIDENCE OF AN ‘INSIDE JOB,’ WHICH MIGHT INCLUDE HAVING LEFT A WINDOW OPEN FOR THE INTRUDERS. WHERE THE HOUSE OWNER STUBBORNLY DENIES CLEAR EVIDENCE OF INTERNAL DERELICTION, HOWEVER, HE EFFECTIVELY BECOMES AN ACCESSORY TO FUTURE ROBBERY AND LOSES THE MORAL RIGHT TO RESTITUTION, OR, INDEED, JUSTICE.”
As it were the legal basis of Soyinka’s indictment of an individual’s complicity in his or her victimhood has a tone of authoritative finality, for he, like Kofi Annan, has grudgingly refused to see a clear-cut delineation between the element of external prodding and the self-serving priorities of internal reception as the primary causation of Africa’s underdevelopment. Both however see the purported victim as the one in a hypothetical partnership, or in a commission of a crime, who has the exclusive responsibility to protect his or her turf, of which the other willing partner may direct his or her aim the object of the commissioning of a crime, just to avoid a later charge of dereliction of self-responsibility in matters of protecting one’s person, property, and family. An excellent instance of his analysis concerns the controversial complicity of some African kings and chiefs in the European Slave Trade (the Transatlantic Slave Trade) and the Trans-Saharan Arab Slave Trade, a topic Ayi Kwei Armah’s “Two Thousand Seasons” treats with a distinctive mark of rhetorical historicity. In this regard, complicity and agitation for absolution in the same context assume a shared space in the moral or legal critique of personal or collective irresponsibility. Thus Soyinka could not have been more right on the moral lucidity of his legal pontifications!
There is no doubt that Soyinka’s analysis fits into the narrative on the plight of the African economic refugees. On the other hand, the ironic reversal of fortunes between Africa and Europe seems to take the shine out of the contemporary history of the two continent’s relational dynamics. Thousands of years ago according to Dr. Theophile Obenga, a renowned Egyptologist, historian, philosopher, social theorist, cultural critic and professor, Ancient Greeks traveled to Ancient Egypt to seek knowledge under the tutelage of African priest-professors, implying that Greece was behind the times in terms of the high caliber and volume of intellectual production and cultural sophistication. Indeed, a number of high-profile Greek writers from Aristotle to Herodotus had confirmed these facts. As well, those yet-to-be-Greek-students of the Egyptians sometimes traveled under dangerous conditions on the Mediterranean Sea just to get into Egypt, a highly respected fountain of knowledge in the ancient world. A number of those Greeks paid money to gain access into Egypt even though Egyptian authorizes were at some points critical of immigration.
Nkrumah’s speech “The African Genius” addresses the import of that narrative to his African-centered methodological reconstruction of African history to suit the exigencies of contemporary history. In many important ways it was Nkrumah’s philosophy to use the best of Africa’s progressive past to shape the narrative compass and critique of contemporary policies, just as America’s Founding Fathers may have used the past of Europe’s history to frame a constitutional rhetoric for the American republic. Thus romanticizing the past for its own sake remained outside the bounds of critical history, as Nkrumah saw it. How does this whole narrative infrastructure fit the subject matter of this essay? To what extent does the sunken-boat narrative and rhetoric of critique shape the moral arguments for or against Nkrumahism? To wit, what could a purposeful common ground in the erstwhile protracted intellectual antipathy between Soyinka and Mazrui have meant for an establishment of a comity of intellectual accommodation?
Alas, that purposeful common ground was turned into an unpurposed battlefield for mutual intellectual animosity instead. This trait remains a poignant symptomatology of intra-African relations whose paradoxical animacies await a sustained methodological critique. Here, what matters the most to us is perhaps the question of social psychology and its immediate corollary, the factor of influence. That brings us to an important question: How could Nkrumah have imposed his ideas on his colleagues without the vote or quorum? Elsewhere, we had referred to this inquest in terms of the larger constructs regarding the social psychology of influence, coercion, free will, and acceptation of ideas! For instance, how could Nkrumah have imposed the one-party political system on Houphouet-Boigny, when Ivory Coast already had it in place by 1960, bearing in mind that the one-party ideology received official imprimatur in Ghana only in 1964?
The best approach to that question is probably through the empirical comparative methodology! Reprising one of the high points of the political, philosophical, and ideological contrasts between the two leaders, Golan notes in the spirit of sentential succinctness: "THE TWO MEN [NKRUMAH AND HOUPHOUET-BOIGNY] DIFFERED ON EVERYTHING, AND ALL THEY WOULD DO WAS AGREE TO DISAGREE" (our emphasis). Thus we have no reason to shift the center of gravity from one to the other. The evaluation context is set-up within the moral centroid of Golan’s sentential directness, with hardly a pretense to Orwellian verbiage or doublespeak.
Put simply, the preceding statement is important to the discourse and equally true to the facts of postcolonial history, ideas, and theories, sets the tone for the comparative evaluation of the major philosophic and intellectual differences between Nkrumah and Houphouet-Boigny, thus offering a useful summary template to aid analysts as they approach the complex legacies of the two men from the point of view of our proposed empirical comparative methodology. It is also clear from the facts of history that Nkrumah did not force any African leader at gun point to accept his views.
Not even Nkrumah's nearly-blind eighty-year-old mother would succumb to undue pressure to disown him, when the coup plotters forced her at gun point to say he was not her son, given that she had the choice to go along with her deposed son's enemies, if in fact she had so wished to tag herself along the expressed directive of the coup plotters. Of course, there is an unsettling poignancy to a phenomenon where a woman chooses death over life in defense of her child.
The moral essense of that shameful narrative goes beyond the celebrated mythology of Solomonic arbitration. That is why the rational choice theory, for instance, is such a complicated subject. As a matter of fact, the Organization of African Union (OAU) was a democratic body, the ratification and adoption of whose internal deliberations were subjected to the arbitrating voice of the vote or of a quorum. Meaning that there was no way he could have wielded his progressive ideas on that democratic body, not even through the coercion of arms. This is not to say Nkrumah could not have used the so-called “Neustadt’s power to persuasion” approach to his comparative advantage.
Nkrumah succeeded in a number of significant ways with some of Africa’s progressive thinkers, such as Patrice Lumumba, whose quality leadership tenure was cut short by a combined intelligence force made up of the US, Belgium, and Britain (see Ludo De Witte’s book “The Assassination of Lumumba”; see also Adam Hochschild’s “King Leopold Ghost” for a background to the Congo Crisis among others). Belgian officials later dug up his body and acidified it beyond recognition and reburied in an unmarked grave. Lumumba’s brutal massacre had taken place a year or so after he had secretly signed on to Nkrumah’s African High Command, African Union Government, a common African foreign policy, etc. This secret meeting between the two great men may somehow have escaped the rarefied air of mutual trust and found a home in the ears of Lumumba’s internal and external enemies.
Amilcar Cabral, Nkrumah’s other respected mentee in the liberation struggle movement, would be trapped and assassinated as well.
Steve Biko who was greatly influenced by Nkrumah’s profound theoretical insights into the concept of African Personality suffered a similar fate. Slavery, Apartheid, colonialism, Jim Crowism, etc., were fashioned as institutional ripostes to the innate dynamics of evolutionary character of the African Personality. This is the context which the statements Thomas Jefferson, Friedrich Hegel, and David Hume provide for us at the beginning of this essay is to be understood. Hume was an influence on America’s Founding Fathers, so too was John Locke whose “Two Treatises of Government (1689)” and contributions to the drafting of “The Fundamental Constitutions (1669), among other things, offered a justification for chattel slavery in the political economy of colonial America. Those influences may have offered America’s Founding Fathers an opportunity to read racism into the US Constitution.
Hegel’s statement “AFRICA IS NO HISTORICAL OF THE PART WORLD” not fundamentally different from former French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s insult to the African continent: “THE TRAGEDY OF AFRICA IS THAT THE AFRICAN HAS NOT FULLY ENTERED INTO HISTORY…THEY HAVE NEVER REALLY LAUNCHED THEMSELVES INTO THE FUTURE…THE AFRICAN PEASANT ONLY KNEW THE ETERNAL RENEWAL OF TIME, MARKED BY THE ENDLESS REPETITION OF THE SAME GESTURES AND THE SAME WORDS…THERE IS NEITHER ROOM FOR HUMAN ENDEAVORS NOR THE IDEA OF PROGRESS! (see Diadie Ba’s “Africans Still Seething Over Sarkozy Speech,” Reuters, Sept. 5, 2007).
Supposedly those words came from a leader whose country some African countries continue to feed, and some of whose leaders, Sarkozy included, as well as their political campaigns and presidencies have reportedly benefited from the financial largesse (millions of dollars of public funds) of African leaders like Omar Bongo. No European leader of Nkrumah’s generation could have mustered the courage to hurl those harsh words at him, because the Western world at the time correctly understood he was directing the political salvoes of his technocratic savviness and development strategies towards neutralizing the kind of thinking that would inform the philosophical subtext of Sarkozy’s painful remarks. Could it be that the crop of post-Nkrumah leadership and their aberrant behaviors today are deserving of those words, supposedly?
Yet Nkrumah refused to allow those racist canards coming from Thomas Jefferson, Friedrich Hegel, David Hume, and their ilk to influence the direction of his progressive thinking and vision for the new Africa he envisioned, hence the formulation of Nkrumahism. Here is one prominent case where the social psychology of influence failed the litmus test for intellectual pliability. How could it have been necessarily otherwise with those Nkrumah dealt with across the world? But whether an African leader accepted any of Nkrumah’s or not is irrelevant to the discourse of social psychology and influence. In the first place such a process would have been subjected to the rational choices of that particular leader. The idea is that each human being is subject to the internal dictates of self-agency. In the main, Nkrumah managed to convince his peers of the instrumentalist essentialness and scientific axiology of his profound ideas through the sheer power of his arguments, intelligence, affability, intellectual audacity, likability, and rhetorical clarity.
We go back to one of our earlier queries: How could the constitutional affirmation of Ghana’s 1964 one-party state have influenced Ivory Coast’s 1960 one-party state? Did Ghana and the Ivory Coast perchance co-exist in the postcolonial science fiction of ontological paradox? If not, how then do we sufficiently explain or cut the Gordian knot of the paradox? Or the fact that Liberia had a one-party system in place by 1878, the Central African Republic by 1962, Togo by 1962, Burkina Faso by 1960, Tanganyika by 1961, Chad by 1962, Guinea by 1958, Mali by 1960, Mauritania by 1961, Niger by 1960!
What was the political situation like in Ethiopia's long history?
Or in the case of Liberia that ran a one-party system for nearly 102 years, from 1878 to 1980?
How about one-party dominant systems like South Africa's African National Congress (ANC), Singapore's People's Action Party (PAP), the Liberal Party of Canada, and Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)?
Better still, why has the Queen of England, Elizabeth the Second, ruled unopposed as the de facto Head of State of a number of countries?
Was party politics allowed in any part of Africa during the era of colonialism?
Which African leaders were called to the negotiation table during the Berlin Conference (the Scramble for Africa) to decide the fate of the continent?
How long did America practice a one-pasty system of slavocracy before she gave in to the birth of her unitarized duopoly, a pretentious synonym for corporatocracy?
What sort of party politics was practiced in Apartheid South Africa before the ANC took over the country in 1994?
Why has the one-party system in China achieved so much in a generation what it took Western democracies centuries to achieve?
Why do the Beijing Consensus, the Nordic Model, and the Washington not work for everybody?
Why does Paul Kagame look to Singapore for a development model for Rwanda, rather than to Britain, otherwise his country's largest donor?
What does Kagame see in Singapore or Malaysia that he does not see in Britain or France? Why do certain Western media outlets call him "The Darling Tyrant"?
Is it because he is friends with some of the world's most powerful figures and defenders of human rights, a list that includes, but not limited to, Bill Gates, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Ban Ki-Moon, and because he has the support of the governments of the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, and Britain?
What do these governments say about Rwanda's "genocide ideology" in relation to the US Patriot Act and to other such draconian terrorism enactments in Western democracies?
In any event, Ali Mazrui tried to pin down the causative origination and geopolitical proliferation of the one-party ideology across Africa on Nkrumah. But Dr. Ama Biney shoots down that theory with an alternative theory and counterfactual arguments (see "The Social and Political Thought of Kwame Nkrumah").
As we theorized in the case of Nkrumah and Emperor Haile Selassie, we may as well hypothesize that the former’s alleged association with the originative causation of the one-party ideology could as well have been informed by the Liberian or American example, although he may not have explicitly belabored that point in his writings.
We should bear in mind that Liberian one-party state had been in existence 86 years before Ghana became one in 1964!
And Liberia was one of the countries Nkrumah visited on his way from England to the Gold Coast in 1947!
Nkrumah interacted with the leadership of that country and picked up some historical facts in the process. He then developed a serious political and intellectual relationship with the leadership of that country from that day forward. One wonders if this was why the coup plotters’ rumor mill began circulating the canard that Nkrumah was a Liberian, or rather that his father was!
Even if we accept the hypothesis that Ghana under Nkrumah provided the template for the one-party political ideology, by virtue of her position as the first independent African state in the region south of the Sahara, the fact still remains that not enough convincing evidence has been adduced to account for the various competing originative causation contexts for the ideology.
Or that the question has been raised, much less answered, if Nkrumah's contemporaries were not nursing similar ideas. Thus, in the absence of any such originating model for dialectic enquiry, the discourse simply boils down to the question of causality dilemma, "the Chicken or The Egg" paradox!
Even today there exists a number of prominent African writers, social and political theorists, axiologists, and philosophers, like Wole Soyinka, who have questioned the cultural and historical foundations of the one-party ideology. It turns out the facts of history and contemporary actualities empirically critique the total embodiment of the internal contradictions of the European nation-state, and further, the grafting of the European nation-state onto the pre-colonial African state. That unsolicited interposition put a spoke in the African nation-state’s natural evolution and growth, denying it the exclusive benefits of the interior criticality of self-correction and self-motion.
One-party states like China and Singapore, on the other hand, have ensured the intrinsic contradictions of Westernism do not encroach upon, let alone reinforce, the internal paradoxes of their societies.
Yet, Soyinka’s moral arguments for party politics as practiced in Africa are not as necessarily convincing and formidable as Dambisa Moyo’s arguments for China’s one-party system, as the former has allowed his friendship with Paul Kagame and the Rwandan Genocide to restrain him from criticizing Kagame’s one-party political state. Evidently, some of the major factors that gave birth to the Rwandan Genocide were not dissimilar to those that simmered just below the surfaces of the evolving postcolonial African nation-state. Soyinka in his critique of the cultural and historical roots of the postcolonial African state may have overlooked the important fact that, the Western nation-state model itself is rooted in European cultural history, and that Africa could not and cannot continue to copy others blindly at the expense of her development! This is not to say his critique of the postcolonial African nation-state is unwarranted.
On the contrary, his critique of the excesses of the postcolonial African nation-state is, indeed, warranted insofar as he submits his methodology of critique to the comparative critiques of history, ethics, and politics. More troubling, though, is his distaste for cultural relativism, especially when it is used to justify sexism, religious intolerance, and political intimidation. Soyinka’s distaste for cultural relativism means that his deployment of the methodology of comparative critique against the cultural and historical roots of the one-party ideology and party politics is suspect. More important, he has not adduced any formidable counterfactual evidence against the cultural and historical roots of the one-party ideology.
We have come to this conclusion after closely examining his body of work, interviews, and presentations. One fact is certain: Party politics is not native to Africa, yet democracy is indigenous to Africa as in other parts of the world before the advent of Westernism and the European nation-state. Not even America’s Founding Fathers had a foreknowledge of party politics, let alone incorporate it into the US Constitution. The other irony is that Soyinka has yet to adduce evidence to demonstrate the originative causation of party politics in pre-colonial Africa. We view this task essentially as a rhetorical question! In any case the Nigerian federation was not a one-party state when the Nigerian Civil War broke out in the wake of Biafra secession! The British supported the federal government and the French Biafra in the Civil War.
Importantly, Soyinka has also made it known to the world how the British set a bad precedent for Nigerian party politics by rigging the first general elections in Nigeria on behalf of certain members of Northern Nigeria, mainly the Fulani and the Hausa, in hopes of getting them to succeed the British once they handed over political power to a local elite made up of their preferred regional ethnicities. The British had believed they could still manipulate the resources and politics of Nigeria in their favor via those groups. But the plan may have backfired. Yet African culture did not give birth to the likes of Boko Haram, the Lord’s Resistance, or Al-Shabab! These rag-tag terrorist organizations are fundamentally the products of foreign cultures and ideas. Soyinka acknowledges this. What he does not tell us is the formation of Boko Haram taking place under President Olusegun Obasanjo, a civilian presidency made possible in the dispensation of Nigerian party politics, or that the kleptomaniacal disappearance of a considerable portion of Nigerian oil wealth has transpired under all sorts of governments.
What we glean from Soyinka, the Nigerian example and so many other examples from around the world makes it clear that “good” politics is not necessarily about party politics democracy or the one-party ideology, given that politics generally is an inherently “evil” human invention. What is also clear is that both Nigerian military dictatorship and party politics democracy have failed to root out the culture of kleptomania. In fact both systems, it seems, have rather reinforced the political meme of kleptomania in the Nigerian political economy. Neither is the party politics democracy of Western countries immune from the political scarlet sins of other political expressions, say the one-party ideology. Western party politics democracies are synonymous with corruption, organized crime, and other international crimes: Tax evasion, environmental destruction, illicit wildlife commerce, extraordinary renditions, institutional racism, transnational thievery of cultural artifacts, Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp controversy outright thievery and depletion of natural resources, human rights violations, support for autocrats and dictators and military coups, Western support for terrorists (Osama bin Laden) and terrorist organizations (Al-Qaeda) and terrorist governments (the Taliban), etc.
It is sometimes convenient to exaggerate human rights abuses under the one-party regime of Communist China while conveniently overlooking the excesses of party politics democracies such as the United States, an epitome and citadel of Western democracy. Racial profiling, police brutality against African-Americans, political lobby crimes, state-sponsored suppression of black voting rights, racial discrimination, corporate crimes, miscarriage of justice or manifest injustice (unfairness of the criminal justice system) are just a few of the democratic deficits of the American political system (see Bruce Wright’s “Black Robe, White Justice,” Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” and Douglass Blackmon’s “Slavery by Another Name”). Julian Assange and Edward Snowden have given a lot to think about.
Again the point is not to imply political corruption is not known in one-party states like China, far from it. China has a zero-tolerance policy on political corruption. In the West, a place like America, the super-rich and politically powerful circumvent the criminal justice system by “buying off” judges whose unfavorable verdicts could land them in prison. Most times a super-rich or a politically powerful criminal gets a slap on the wrist for a crime that will otherwise commit an ordinary citizen to a long prison term. What is more, one-party polities like Rwanda are more fiscally responsible and disciplined than a party politics polity like Ghana.
Also Rwandan cities are cleaner than Ghana’s, just as Rwanda has far better anti-corruption indices than Ghana. Finally, Rwanda has a better record on the number of political opportunities made available to women than the records indicate in Ghana. And then there is party politics blocs like the EU begging the one-party Communist Chinese state for money to shore up the falling exchange-rate value of the Euro against the US-Dollar (see Christoff Lehman’s piece “E.U. Begs China for Dumb Money,” nsnbc international, Oct. 30, 2011). Then there is also Europe joining a China-led bank over American objection (see Gabriel Dominguez’s article “Why Europe Defies the US to Join a China-led Bank,” Deutsche Welle, March 18, 2015).
Importantly, the remarkable strength and political viability of the Chinese economy cushioned the global economy and helped prevent the recent global recession from further declension. The question is: Which party politics democracy in Africa has done better than one-party polities like China (socialism or state capitalism) or Singapore (free market capitalism)? The point is that politics should be centrally about extending quality services to the people and not necessarily about the contrasting choices between the one-party ideology and party politics democracy, perhaps one of the potent legacies of Nkrumahism. This is also one of the fundamental philosophical arguments advanced by Dr. Damisa Moyo, a renowned international economist and author of “Dead Aid.” Because as we can all readily see no single African party politics democracy is comparable to China in terms of economic indices and of scientific and technology production!
Thus in the end the self-conflicted Soyinka becomes an embodiment of the very innate contradictions Nkrumah’s scientific and philosophic conceptualization of “consciencism,” perhaps the central pillar of Nkrumahism, attempted resolving for the sake of the development and internal geopolitical cohesion as well as of the scientific and technological advancement of the new Africa he envisioned. Today these contradictions plague Africa’s development, undermining her internal coherence. Therefore, Africa may have to loosen up to accommodate the social psychology of influence insofar as Nkrumahism goes, for if the French can view Pan-Africanism with suspicion and characterize it as a major threat to Western strategic interests in Africa, then Pan-Africanism must be certainly good for Africa.
That was why Nkrumah made Pan-Africanism and the African Personality the central foci of his foreign policy, international relations, and development strategies, for he knew that was the only way he could have broken or dissolved the imperialist resolve and paved the way for the creation of a space to aid Africa’s internal development.
Thus Nyerere and Mazrui could not have made a better case for Nkrumah. As things stand today, the vision and legacy of Nkrumah still remains the best development option or candidate for Africa’s future. Duke University Prof. Jerry F. Hough is working on a new book, titled “George Washington and The American Political System, 1774-1799,” in which he addresses how America’s Founding Fathers led by Washington resolved religious conflicts, among other contradictions, that plagued the new American republic. Here, too, we see a striking parallel to the ideological thrust of Nkrumah’s “Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonization.” Time and again we find Nkrumah doing the right things for Ghana and Africa!
The above notwithstanding, what was the new crop of postcolonial African leaders to make of the legacies of Indirect Rule, the competing claims of the “traditional” African states within the unitary hegemony of the modern nation-state, undue Western interferences in Africa’s internal affairs, and so on, as centrifugal forces further reinforce the convoluted dynamics of postcolonial African politics? It was, therefore, left to the people of Africa to resolve the integrated contradictions from the discretionary stance of comparative methodology, where the standard of critique subsumes the best elements of Africa’s cultural history and scientific modernism, exactly in the manner Nkrumah, Diop, and Dompere articulate them in their large body of critical works. On the other hand, the dynamics of those centrifugal forces provided the social fissures within which the Machiavellian hand of Europe planted the seed of “divide and rule.” Regrettably, those internal contradictions worked, and still do, to the political advantage of external interests. This is also the case when viewed from the standpoint of the divisive opportunism of postcolonial African politicians, past and present.
It is beneficial to point out that the West, on the contrary, has put all necessary measures in place to guard against its citizens’ uncritically taking to the empirical attainment of the Chinese Model.
There is a proper context for this seeming friendly antagonism between the two economic polarities, China and America, however. Then again part of the reason for China’s apprehension over her citizens’ uncritical appropriation of external ideas and memes, Western models of behavior specifically, which the Chinese leadership believes could undermine the health of her seeming internal coherence and her people’s patriotism. The Western-backed behavior of Falun Gong in the 1900s is an example. Western support for Chiang Kai-shek is another one. The other examples may directly trace to China’s experiences with the realities of Western, even of Japanese, colonialism and imperialism.
Therefore, the centerpiece of our empirical comparative methodology is the question of narrative balance.
That narrative balance must surely originate from a critical appropriation of the facts of cultural externalities, a process whose valuation leverage should be weighted against the self-correcting propensities of cultural internalities, but the end result of it, that is cultural integration, still framed within the instrumentalist parameters and scientific axiology of cost-benefit analysis. This means that all borrowed ideas external to African contemporary realities should satisfy the valuation critique of the meaningful burden of progressive African ideas in the spirit of compromise, cooperation, and consensus. The point is to determine if the end result of the compass of cultural integration moves towards the strategic interests and internal stability of Africa’s geopolitics and political economy. A number of scholars have argued in favor of this theory!
In conclusion, we should like to add that the approach of empirical comparative methodology may not be construed as our push for a unitarized preference for one political philosophy, say the one-party ideology, over another, say party politics democracy. Our narrative preference is one that is based on comparative advantage and balance, and that which offers protection to Africa’s strategic priorities away from the disturbing examples of Africa’s continued economic exploitation from strategic external calculations, internal usurpation of the people’s rights, and bad leadership.
We shall return…