INTERNATIONAL POLITICS: Busia Challenges Africans And Global Humanity – Part 3 By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
The future prime minister of Ghana, and a leading scholar of African social theory and institutional structures, provides the most cogent answer yet to those Nkrumah partisans hell-bent on continuing the colonial legacy of the summary destruction of organically evolved indigenous group identities in the name of African unity. For Busia, no other anti-African agenda, or project, could be at once more primitive, regressive and inimical to the development of the proverbial “African Personality”: “But in Africa, group and tribal ties are still strong. As has been shown, group solidarity was the essential foundation of social life. It is an interesting phenomenon that certain words in the course of time become loaded with irrational emotions and prejudices. ‘Tribalism’ is one such word. ‘Tribe’ and ‘tribalism’ have become so readily and prejudicially equated with whatever is reactionary that few pause to give any further examination to the matter. ¶ Constitutional problems that have appeared in different African countries (in Ghana, Nigeria, the Belgian Congo, Uganda, and Northern Cameroons, among others) have consistently shown that indigenous, or tribal, groups wish to maintain their political identity. Indigenous groups have often refused to exchange European domination for what they fear may be similar control by other indigenous groups. Appropriate constitutional devices to accommodate this fact have been demanded. Some countries have tried to meet it by federal or regional constitutional arrangements; others have regarded it as a reactionary tendency to be crushed by strong measures. ¶ Among the tribal groups that have demanded constitutional arrangements in recognition of their group solidarity are the Ashanti of Ghana, the Yoruba and Ibo of Nigeria, and the Baganda of Uganda. Far from being reactionary groups, they are among the most progressive in Africa, and their respective accomplishments give evidence of civic maturity as developed as can be found in any African community. This compels scrutiny of the assumptions that tribalism is reactionary and necessarily incompatible with nationhood. ¶ When the demands of kingdoms or confederations of chiefdoms are described as ‘tribalism,’ the term should be explained; otherwise, it gives rise to misconceptions and to [a] misunderstanding of the real problem. In the instances above, the demands made can be seen as expressions of a desire for political participation and control of local affairs to an extent denied by the authoritarian structures of the colonial regimes – and the even more authoritarian ones that threaten to supersede them. Where, as in many of the new African states, there are no institutional checks or established traditions against authoritarianism, the decentralization of political power on the basis of regions or communities offers one way of providing safeguards against political tyranny, and the personality cult and other totalitarian phenomena that tend to become manifest. The administrative machinery of colonial regimes, which is so easily adaptable to oppressive and even totalitarian control, may well require loosening where democracy and civil liberties are prized; and in this context, the demands for regional autonomy, for community or tribal identity, and for greater participation in and control of local affairs, all of which have been labeled as ‘tribalism’ and condemned as reactionary, may represent greater foresight and civic maturity than detractors allow. ¶ The general problem is that the administrative structure of a colonial regime, being authoritarian, does not allow sufficiently for local participation or control; it is superimposed upon rather than integrated with local communities. Democratic government requires a different structure. And this is one of the challenges the new nations must face”(The Challenge of Africa 71-73).

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On the “Challenge of Education,” Busia observes that whereas in the rest of Africa, low enrollment appeared to be the colonial administrator’s design, or deliberate policy, in the case of Apartheid South Africa, there curiously, albeit predictably, existed what might be aptly termed as “Enforced Dumbness,” a policy aimed at inculcating a status of relative inferiority into the country’s indigenous population, thereby permanently ensuring that the majority of Black Africans would not be able to evenly compete with their fellow Euro-African citizens for jobs requiring advanced academic and professional skills and qualifications: “Turning to the educational policy of the Republic of South Africa, one recalls what Cicero wrote long ago: ‘Men differ in knowledge, but are equal in ability to learn; there is no race that, guided by reason, cannot obtain virtue.’ The Republic has adopted a policy by which education is to be used, not to provide a bridge between Europeans and Africans, but to keep them apart. The Education Act of 1953 defined the policy as one that would ‘prepare the natives more effectively for their future occupations.’ These occupations are to be subordinate positions; for, despite the avowed aim of enabling each section to develop in the context of its own culture, the Union’s objective is clearly to perpetuate European domination. In the words of a report published by the Methodist Church Conference of 1954, the Education Act aimed ‘at conditioning the African people to be in a permanent position of subordination to the State,’ and in the South African context, the State means the European section of the community, for the Europeans are the rulers”(The Challenge of Africa 84-85).

Further, on the dismal colonial record on educational, and academic, development in Black Africa, Busia extensively and trenchantly reports: “The statistics of secondary-school enrollments in the different countries are not easy to compare – conditions vary too much – but the general picture for Africa is one of insufficient educational facilities at all levels, from primary school to university. In 1960, facilities for higher education were available in only nineteen African states, and the total enrollment in all of them was 120,000. Slightly more than 90 percent of this enrollment was in higher educational institutions in North Africa, in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt; only 11,500 students were enrolled in the other territories. This does not give the complete picture of Africans receiving higher education, for at least 12,000 were studying in higher institutions in Europe and America; but it does show the paucity of available facilities within Africa. ¶ In about two-thirds of the countries in Africa, the annual investment in education is less than five dollars per head. In several countries, it is less than one dollar per head. Looked at in another way, the amount allocated to education in many countries in Africa is less than 3 percent of national income. ¶ The general awareness of this situation is shown by the fact whenever any African country has become independent, one of the first steps the new rulers have taken is to increase educational facilities. This is sufficient commentary on the previous policies and achievements of the colonial powers with regard to education. Though, in many cases, formal schooling was introduced by nationals of these powers, the colonial conception of education’s role in the development of Africa was unimaginative, and consequently, as subsequent events have shown, in no instance, not even in the British and French territories, were adequate educational provisions made. Education did not have a high enough priority. ¶ Criticism has also been leveled at the content of education in Africa. Are the schools teaching the right things? Or has African education been too bookish and narrow, and insufficiently related to the cultural backgrounds and the needs and aspirations of African societies? ¶ Education has been oriented – in some cases, as a matter of deliberate policy – to the societies and cultures of the colonial powers. What should be taught? And how should it be taught? These are challenging questions as far as Africa is concerned. ¶ Many of those who go to school in Africa end their formal schooling at the primary level – that is, after six to ten years (the period varies in the different countries) of schooling. Then they are launched into life, and where illiteracy rates are so high, often into positions of responsibility. What account should be taken of this in designing school courses of study? Should the primary school be regarded only as a preparation for secondary school when it is known that only a small proportion of those who go through p1rimary schools have the opportunity to attend secondary schools? Similar questions are raised about secondary schools. ¶ It would be unrealistic in the context of Africa to treat the secondary school as if it were merely a preparation for university education. It is true that education at each level depends on that at the level above, which, in turn, is dependent on it. In Africa this raises special problems. One of them (to which attention has been drawn in investigations recently carried out on the structure of educational institutions in such African countries as Nigeria) is the obvious imbalance between the successive levels of the educational ladder – between primary and secondary schools and between secondary schools and institutions of higher education. Where should the emphasis be? How should a country expand educational facilities and, at the same time, avoid short-term oversupplies of primary- or secondary-school leavers? ¶ Many countries, especially in West Africa, are faced with unemployment among primary-school leavers because there has been too rapid an expansion of primary schools without coordination with other levels or with the manpower needs of the societies. This has led to new insights into educational planning. Educational planning is now considered within the framework of overall development with which it should be coordinated, a framework that includes, for example, the manpower needs of the country. The costing of educational development within this context requires cooperation between educators and economists. ¶ The question of what shall be taught is also bound up with the desire that education in the schools should take account of African society and culture. As a corollary to this, new textbooks are needed. In the context of the needs of the society, there is also much criticism of the neglect of agriculture, from which the majority of the peoples of Africa earn their living. There are complaints of the lack of young people sufficiently trained or willing to engage in agricultural work”(The Challenge of Africa 86-88).

Once again, on the bitter question of Black-White relations, Busia offers a far more constructively mature direction, where many an African nationalist leader and/or ideologue has preferred to nurture personal and collective injuries perpetrated against Africans by Europeans, in hopes of rather unwisely perpetuating interracial hatred: “In another UNESCO publication, Race and History, Mr. Claude Levi-Strauss advances arguments and cites many examples to show that cumulative history is not the prerogative of any one civilization or period.’ He agrees with Mr. Lieris, for he, too, makes the point that the culture of any one country at any given time is the result of countless interactions, countless interchanges of ideas, and the cumulative experience of generations. ¶ The truth is that, on the subject of race relations, particularly as between black and white, it is not what science has to say that matters. Rac[ial] attitudes are not determined by the validity, or lack of validity, of scientific data. Men did not stop to find a causal relation between cultural phenomena and biological or genetic data before they embarked on slavery or colonization or segregation. [Racial] attitudes were arrived at before proper consideration of the facts. They are prejudices. ¶ John Masefield, the Poet Laureate of England, has a delightful poem called ‘Laugh and Be Merry,” in which appear the lines: ¶ Laugh and be merry together, like brothers akin,/ Guesting awhile in the rooms of a beautiful inn. ¶ The majority of white people do not wish to accept the blacks ‘like brothers akin,’ and so the ‘inn’ is nearer to being chaotic than beautiful. ¶ Fortunately, there are a few white people who do accept the blacks as ‘brothers akin.’ There would be no hope for mankind otherwise. Some of those who do have gone out to Africa over the years – as missionaries, teachers, doctors, nurses, scholars, civil servants, and businessmen – and have given their sincere, devoted service to Africa. This[,] indeed[,] must be acknowledged. Were African nationalists to become too bitter to recognize it, they would be blocking the entrance to the only hopeful avenue open to men seeking international harmony and peace; for happy race relations can be achieved only when mutual sympathy and respect are given expression in service to others, sincerely offered, gratefully accepted, and when possible, reciprocated. Whites and blacks must work together to make harmonious human relations possible. It is more a matter of the heart than of genetics. Happy race relations can no more be built on a rankling sense of grievance than on an arrogant sense of superiority. ¶ Slavery, colonial subjection, the color bar, second-class citizenship, segregation, discrimination, apartheid – that is the black man’s lot. It is a sad lot, apportioned by the white man. What does the African think of it all? ¶ The Akan peoples of Ghana have an aphorism that gives the answer. The saying[,] evidently derived from their experience of farming, the main source of livelihood. When a farmer makes a new farm, he clears a plot in the middle of a forest. The cleared plot is surrounded by a wilderness of tall trees and thick undergrowth. Where the cultivated plot touches the uncultivated is nhanoa, the edge of cultivation, the boundary. Pregnantly, the Akan people say: Honam mu nni nhanoa. (In human flesh[,] there is no edge of cultivation – no boundary). It is the Akan way of saying that all human flesh is of one kind: all mankind is [of] one species. ¶ An Akan child is taught to greet all whom he meets; even the stranger whom he may never meet again. It is more than courtesy. The greeting is considered to be an acknowledgement, a recognition of the other person as a fellow human being. If you passed him by without greeting him, you would be treating him as a thing – you would be implying that he did not share your humanity. We have noted that a high value was placed on human relations in traditional African societies. To recognize one whom you passed as a fellow human being was an obligation. ¶ …. ¶ …. The dark skin clothes a human being in every whit as human as the pale. This is the challenge of common humanity. It is taking a long, long time for the white man, in America, in Europe, or in Africa, to accept it. Progress has been made, but it has been slow – dangerously slow for the peace and harmony of mankind”(The Challenge of Africa 102-104).

For Busia, Ghana’s Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir Aggrey (1875-1927) offered, perhaps, the most moving testimony regarding the imperative necessity for harmonious relations between the darker-hued and the paler-hued races as the most effective means of preserving and advancing contemporary global civilization: “The late Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey, a great African whose life was devoted to working and living for the brotherhood of man and for cooperation between black and white, left us the beautiful imagery of the black and white keys of the piano; you can, he taught, make some sort of music on the white keys of the piano alone, but for real harmony, you need both the white and the black keys. He believed that harmonious relations between black and white could be achieved, and he held to this belief[,] in spite of humiliating experiences in the Deep South of the United States and in the Union of South Africa. His optimism was rooted in his faith in Christ. As a sincere and devoted Christian, he was able to say: ‘To those who have might, I want to give a might mightier than man’s. I want to sing a song of hope to the despairing; to breathe the breath of love that will chase away all hating. I believe that right will ultimately conquer wrong, virtue conquer vice, harmony take the place of discord.’ His biographer called him ‘Aggrey of Africa,’ and so he has been accepted by all; for, because he was a good man, he was one of those who belong to all men and to all ages”(The Challenge of Africa 105).

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Danquah v. Nkrumah: In the Words of Mahoney.”


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