“For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?” Mark 8:36
I like to use this verse when I think of success. There’s something I can’t quiet in my soul when I think of success in a system where majority of my people can’t and would not be allowed to make it. I’m doing a PhD. If I finish, I’ll be one of the 48 out of a million Ghanaians with a graduate degree. That is not success.
And I can assure you that I’m the only one from my village in the Mion Constituency to get this far. This has nothing to do with just my abilities. From my primary school, I know of only one fellow who has come this far as well. I’ll be lucky to count up to 20 of my High School mates who’ve gone to Grad School. I only know a couple actually. But I was even among the top ten students in my school.
I’m not using grad school as the end all and be all for success. What I’m trying to say is that me going this far and others not so much isn’t what I consider success. When I succeed and 95% of my friends and colleagues are left behind, what is there to celebrate and be proud of? As a proud person, I find it very hard seeing the lot of my people. And when someone in my position looks down on our people, especially our own doing so from abroad, it boils my innards. I am not one to put all blame on others for our problems because they don’t owe us anything.
But I despise it when people think that everything happening on the continent is because our people just aren’t good enough or unwilling to work hard and improve ourselves whereas others do. I’m just going to use 4 African countries to illustrate my point.
When we got independence, Nkrumah’s Ghana and Malaysia were on par in terms of GDP. Nkrumah embarked on some of the most ambitious economic and industrial programs of the time. Similar tactics were employed in Malaysia. He constructed the single most important infrastructure project in the West African region—the Akosombo Dam. We have better power than all our neighbors. He started a nuclear power program. He was trying to make sure that Ghana became completely energy sufficient because, without energy, any economic and industrial activity can’t work. Because of Western Geopolitical stupidity, the Americans used their CIA to topple him thereby thwarting his economic and industrial programs. Till date, we have not been able to replicate a similar project like the Akosombo Dam. Our nuclear power program stagnated since then. Now, I don’t expect the Americans to look out for Ghanaian interests. But I hope every black man living in America know exactly what American meddling cost Ghana. We have our problems with corruption just like the extremely corrupt American political system but a vast array of our developmental problems can be traced to outside interference. Without historical perspective, it is easy to say we’re just refusing to take responsibility for ourselves but how do we do that when a more powerful nation keep interfering in our national processes? Unlike Ghana, Malaysia completely locked out Western influence and despite being called a dictatorship; they pulled themselves out with visionary leaders such as Nkrumah had for Ghana. So when you compare Ghana to Malaysia trying to showcase Ghanaians as less hard working or focused than Malaysians, please try to include the historical perspective as well for a fuller picture.
Now, look at The Democratic Republic of Congo. The Belgians conspired to kill Patrice Lumumba simply because he supposedly didn’t suck up to their stupid king. They cut him into pieces and dissolved him in acid so that no one will ever find his remains. Lumumba was a visionary who would have built the Congo and made sure Congolese resources are utilized to develop Congo. The Belgians armed separatists in Katanga and people in other parts of Congo and got them to declare independence from Congo so that Belgian firms would keep control of the mining profits in Katanga. Belgian interference is directly responsible for the mess in Congo today.
In the cold war era, the US Congress decided that they must have full control of the minerals, particularly cobalt, in Congo because they needed it for their batteries and other components for their fighter jets, color TVs, and other tech products. Congolese Cobalt (60-80% of global production) most likely is used in your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy or laptop. So because US tech companies needed the Congolese cobalt, the US fomented and poured weapons into rebel groups’ hands to ensure that those rebel groups used child labor to mine and give these precious minerals to American (add Chinese today) companies. Countries don’t develop because every single person in the country is visionary and hardworking. Countries often develop because there’s a visionary leadership at certain critical moments in the life of these countries. When we had ours as in DRC or Ghana, Belgium and the US conspired to kill them. Much of today’s American middle class and infrastructure can be traced to the New Deal brought into being by FDR. Imagine a foreign power had bumped FDR off, large swathes of rural America will not have electricity or the massive dams in Tennessee will be nonexistent. That is the kind of generational loss the killing of Lumumba and Nkrumah had on Congo and Ghana.
If you read a bit more about Africa’s Che, Thomas Sankara, you’ll realize why France had him killed and that was in the 80s. Of course, some of you might say that’s 30 years ago, what about the humiliation France dealt Gbagbo in Ivory Coast recently? What about French and American bombarding and destruction of Libya? Before the destruction of Libya and killing of Gadhafi, Libya had the highest HDI (human development index), highest health outcomes, highest education, highest per capita and other such indicators of progress today in Africa. Now, it will be rich for a Westerner to sit and look at Libya and say Libyans are playing the blame game instead of developing themselves or taking their future into their own hands. It will even be more tragic to hear such a statement from a Libyan living in France or the US.
As a Pan-Africanist, I do believe we can only depend on ourselves because no one is going to help us. Any rhetoric of support is a smokescreen to obfuscate the real goal of whichever foreign power is saying so. So I think we have to strengthen our people and nations against foreign influence and develop a plan to resist these military incursions by foreign powers in the internal affairs of African nations as well as work to curb corruption encouraged and aided by Western financial institutions (British offshore banks, London, New Jersey etc). They are not going to help us because the corruption by our leaders benefits their financial institutions.
If you’re a Ghanaian in England or America and you’re occupying a middle class or barely middle-class job and think that is great, I pity you greatly. Why need you leave your country, your childhood friends, your family, the sites and sounds and smells of your life to live that dreary life? Is it the burgers or McDonalds or the obscene shrines to materialism (malls) you’re happy about that you’d become so comfortable as to believe that is better than your home? You need not answer because I suspect you’re too much in the sunken place to realize it now.
Again, what shall it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? What have you lost, in your infatuation with the crumbs dropped to you, being in the nations who have actively engineered your people’s misery? I have absolutely no qualms with people trying to make a living in the midst of trying challenges. Damn it, I’m one of such. I’m in the US trying to get an education. I’m grateful for the opportunity to get an education here that my university has afforded me but I’m not sunken enough to not realize that it is a drop in the ocean compared to what America has cost Ghana by killing Nkrumah among other detrimental policies they had against my people. It’s okay to be critical of corruption in Ghana but you must know that there’s a nexus between America, Switzerland and Britain and corruption in Africa. They specifically encourage it, and if you stop stealing from your people and stashing it in their banks to help prop up their economies like Gadhafi tried doing; they’ll kill you and destroy your country and people further. It is not an excuse; it is an explanation of the interplay of geopolitics and the bullying and deliberate underdevelopment of some nations engineered by powerful countries.
So when we say we’re Pan-Africanists, we’re not arguing that black people are or should become superior to others. Neither are we arguing that leaders in Africa should be corrupt without reprimand. What we’re arguing is that, given that powerful countries will never have our best interests at heart as it is their right, we should as a people have each other’s back so that we can resist their undue negative pressures and practices. Nkrumah tried and succeeded to an extent early on when he supported Guinea when they defied France. But of course, that’s undoubtedly part of why they overthrew him. Gadhafi was basically bankrolling the African Union (AU) thereby weaning the organization from outside interference and influence and this undoubtedly is part of the reasons why they killed him.
And please, don’t come at me with the excuse that Africa is diverse so we can’t have Pan-African solidarity. Europe is made up of 50 states. But they had solidarity when they met in Berlin to divide Africa among themselves. So we can do it as well. Today, the EU has a massive bargaining power when negotiating trade deals with other parts of the world. After World War II, individual European leaders realized that the center of global power had shifted across the Atlantic and to Russia and China. So what did they do? They put aside historical and recent and ongoing differences and came together to form the EU so that they are now have one of the strongest negotiating entities in the world rivaling the individual powers of the US and China. So diversity isn’t an excuse.
So we are not extremists for wanting solidarity among Africans so that we will have enough muscle to resist these debilitating foreign influences. We’re not against cooperation. What we’re against is a subservient relationship where our people must bow to these outside powers in order to be considered as cooperating. When the Belgians told Lumumba to see them as a father or senior brother whom they’d help teach to walk, he rightly told them he knew what they were asking of him and insinuating. He didn’t insult them. He told them that we wanted to relate on equal footing. But that was insulting enough for them to kill him. Charles de Gaulle did same to Lumumba telling him he was a kid and not respectful. Pan-Africanism objects to these infantilizing relationships. We ask that we relate equally and respectfully not as a “big-brother-small-brother” kind of relationship. If they are unwilling to extend this courtesy to us as it is expected of sovereign nations, we are arguing that as a people, we come together to strengthen our hand so we can’t get bullied easily. As the African proverb tells us, a single broomstick is easy to break but a bunch is more difficult to break. That is all we’re asking for. Nothing more, nothing less. If you don’t get this, then you don’t want to get it. But we reserve the right to want fair and balanced relationships and opportunities for growth. Peace!