Features: Free Movement for Boko Haram? Get Serious, President Mahama! – Urges Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jnr., Ph.D.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jnr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jnr., Ph.D.

At a recent two-day summit of the Economic Community of West African States’ Parliament in Accra, Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama, the current chairman of ECOWAS, was reported to have called for the immediate removal of the sub-region’s geopolitical boundaries in order to facilitate the free movement of people, commodities and  services (See “ECOWAS Must Pull Down Regional [National?] Borders – Mahama” Radioxyzonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 4/24/14).

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As an ideal, of course, it goes without saying that Mr. Mahama’s call is quite laudable and even opportune, in spite of the fact that it is also decidedly dated. For this is not the first call of its kind. In practice, however, the Ghanaian leader ought to be admonished to hesitate slowly, as it were. For starters, the security apparatus of the West African sub-region is too fragile for any leader to think of speeding up the eventual removal of the current colonial boundaries.

And then, also, you have the apocalyptic nightmare that is Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the veritable terrorist organization that uses Islam as a front, or facade, to morally justify its random and wanton acts of barbarism. In other words, the security system of the sub-region needs to be appreciably upgraded and well coordinated for such volatile situation to be drastically meliorated and stabilized. Simply removing our national boundaries would be a recipe for disaster, as the cliche goes, as this would likely lead to the easy and rapid spread of such fundamentalist terrorist organizations as Boko Haram. And this, of course, is hardly a smart move.

In Mali, also, there is a similar Islamist fundamentalist Tuareg-dominated terrorist organization which was only recently crushed with the direct military intervention of France, Mali’s erstwhile colonial ruler, with the support of a woefully under-equipped cast of the rag-tag armies of the relatively more stable countries in the region. And so, perhaps, what the ECOWAS Parliament and leaders like President Mahama ought to be deliberating upon are ways and means of establishing a single military command and a unified army and police force for the region.

The preceding security system is, obviously, unlikely to be achieved anytime soon. The problems of language and cultural differences would have to be discussed and feasible compromises reached. For instance, a Lingua Franca or at least two or three (and here, I have in mind English, French and Hausa) have to be agreed upon as the dominant communication media across the sub-region, if the breaking down of national boundaries is to facilitate a meaningful process of bonding and organic cultural interaction among the over 300 million people in the sub-region.

Merely breaking down national boundaries/barriers, without establishing sub-regionwide acceptable standards or criteria for an expansively reconfigured and movement-friendly West Africa, is only likely to create a chaotic influx of economic refugees from the relatively less economically resourceful states to the more resourceful states, thus creating acute quality-of-life problems. And if the preceding happens, of course, the level of violence and crime would be incalculable.

Then also, governments would find themselves saddled with a sharp rise in the rate of unemployment, a phenomenon that is already widespread even in the most economically well-endowed states of the sub-region. Population pressure on social, sanitation, healthcare and educational facilities is also apt to become unbearable. And so, yes, it is theoretically healthy for leaders like Mr. Mahama, recently elected chairman of ECOWAS, to keep dreaming about the imperative need for the organic unification of the West African sub-region, in our ultimate drive towards a unified continental Africa ala Dr. Edward Wilmot Blyden.

But such a laudable objective ought to be well-thought-out, systematically planned and meticulously orchestrated, if the intricate process of getting to our ultimate destination is to redound to the benefit of all stakeholders.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D. Department of English Nassau Community College of SUNY Garden City, New York

E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net

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