Prof Ernest Aryeetey, Vice Chancellor, University of Ghana
Prof Ernest Aryeetey, Vice Chancellor, University of Ghana

THE NEED FOR A RADICAL INTELLECTUAL VANGUARD

PART 2

Yes, many of these Ghanaian lecturers, politicians and bureaucrats had attended those Ivy League institutions in America [and Europe], but MOST, just like those educated in our universities, have been proving over the decades that they are also ?totally good for nothing?! The very few who tried to make a difference are quickly whipped into line or cowered into silence by the ?old guards? and subordinates alike, as there is no critical mass of like thinking people to support them to challenge the gate-keepers of the dysfunctional systems in place. They are derisively called ?beentos?, ?sabi, sabis?, ?too knowns?, and told ?after all, we too have studied abroad,? etc. The consequences are that everybody becomes indifferent to the million and one things that are wrong, and required vital changes are not pressed for. The issues that need changing, which everybody is aware of, of course, become the fodder for the politicians to use to bamboozle the expectant public, with extravagant promises but no realistic blueprints as to how they?d secure those changes. Something must be critically amiss, and we deserve to ask a number of questions and find answers to them why it is so.

 

Prof Ernest Aryeetey, Vice Chancellor, University of Ghana
Prof Ernest Aryeetey, Vice Chancellor, University of Ghana

Can we take some few children of small time peasants, tribesmen from some remote areas in Africa or the Amazon forest hardly touched by modern civilization, educate them in Western style institutions to PhD level (home or abroad), infused them with a new religion called Christianity which leaves their cosmogony and cosmology firmly rooted in the primitive substantive rationalization processes of the cosmos and then return them to their societies and expect them to change those societies into modern ones, societies in which the mass of the people remain illiterates, terribly superstitious and earn a living through subsistence farming, artisanal fishing, petty trading, etc? The answer, with hindsight as our guide, seems to be an emphatic, obvious BIG NO!? It is lost on planners of such misguided educational efforts – continuing a colonial educational system – that learning to bring about change or transformation is not something which is taught in university lecture rooms but in real life: in industries, board rooms, the shop floors, the assembly lines, the construction sites?. As an analogy, nobody learns to make a car by taking a degree in auto engineering in the university!? So what kind of educational system must we envisage to replace the present one, since the failure of what is in place is the crux of our continuing backwardness?

 

When I took on senior brother Efo Solo in 1993, urged on by his household members, why some university graduates, some of whom returned from Nigeria like himself, took to driving in the early and mid-1980s but did not make any positive impact on the squalid conditions at the lorry parks, loitering touts, reckless driving habits (astonishingly, a World Bank loan was even secured to deal with this), the evil, foul smelling purgatories that pass for places of convenience for the lorry parks ?lucky? to have one, etc., his hapless response was that they tried but were constantly told by the lesser educated GPRTU staff and drivers: ??Efo, we were here before you came,? so when you also got what drove you there you leave?. So he also left to continue his accounting profession. Today, I can say happily that Efo, in retirement and getting on in years, has become a revolutionary in thought and action who is not ready to walk away from capricious nonsense and backward mentality, as exhibited by his tireless campaigning against the mind-blowingly inimical oil agreements both the NPP and NDC have foisted on Ghanaians so far, with an obnoxious bill at birth about to be passed by the rubber-stamping Parliament to legalise them. He independently reached the insight that the current elite is not much better, and even worse in some cases, in their mentality and actions than those who supplied the captives for the slave boats, a refrain of mine in the 1990s on Okyeame! He and GIGS have just launched an Open Challenge on the proceeds from the Jubilee Fields to the cream of the pretenders to sound intellectuality, good governance, civil society champions, and all we have got in response so far is deadly silence! Of course, they have all accepted the paradigm of the mentally enslaved. They cannot think, and dare act, beyond what the White Master thinks is right, as they stand in awe and abject fear of the whip and dogs of the White Slave Master. Our grandsires did not liberate the slaves for their scions to join forces with some scions of slave suppliers to enslave us today. That brings us to the social origins and nature of the Ghanaian [mis]educated elite and leadership, a product of colonial rule and neo-colonialism. This needs to be dissected to uncover why they behave the way they do.

 

Much research has not been carried out in the English-speaking countries in Africa on the social origins of their so-called modern elite compared to what the French Marxists had done for the Francophone countries, as pointed out by Claude Meillasoux, for instance, in his ?A Class Analysis of the Bureaucratic Process in Mali?. In the latter, it has been established that their elite comprise mainly of liberated slaves and people from ethnic groups subjected to slave raids whom the French enlisted into their Foreign Legion to colonise the territories they carved out in Africa and elsewhere (Indochina) and set up their Administration. Of course, the republican French did everything possible to undermine and destroy the nascent African aristocracies in their colonies. In Ghana, the little investigation done shows that people of slave origins and scions of free men, many from royal houses, comprised the modern elite in the colonial administration, army and police, with the last two institutions predominated by the least socially privileged; a fact which formed the basis for the decades of contempt in which the Army and Police were held by those who were of higher social status. I am aware that Dr Irene Odotei had collected data which can shed a lot of light on this area though.? Once their ethnicities are peeled off, it is likely to be able to indulge in a class analysis, instead of the ribald Chazan-like tribalistic analysis that we are bedeviled with, of the complex articulation of interests that coalesce across ethnic boundaries in the contest for political power and control of the Ghanaian bureaucracy.

 

Of course, many of us too have chosen to leave to foreign countries because we could not cope with the situation back home. Many have failed to return home after completing their education, visits to friends and relations, with even some government officials jumping ship after official trips! During the era of the NPP regime, they even operated an official visa racket scheme from the Castle. When I mentioned Blay?s role in it recently to a client from Nzema, the response I got was that, ?Ah! As for that, he helped people paa! At least over 200-400 people benefitted! He tried for them paa!? Phew! What can one say in reply to that? They were the forerunners to the so-called Black Stars supporters who sought asylum in Brazil on spurious grounds. And who has not heard of someone who relocated back home but returned much disappointed years later? Nonetheless, there are others who are certainly ?making it?, the catchphrase often used to describe them. ?How They Are Making It Big? deserves a whole chapter to cover, with space for their palatial edifices, fleet of cars and retinue of house-helps, some who obviously ought to be in school, the discerning observer would notice. Was it not Sir Arthur Lewis who said we should note that we are on the verge of the Take Off when the ladies of the houses started complaining about how difficult it is to get a decent house maid worth the grubs and the castaways that befall them? After all, the topic is about them all: the elite, the shakers and movers. Wait a moment!

 

As I like to say in response to those who tell me to return and take on the challenges if it were that easy, I had, in my moments of indecision, contemplated that more than once, and the first taste of it revolted me; but for brevity sake, I am keeping those narratives out, revealing and intriguing though they are, contributing very much to the mental anguish and resultant critical thinking that underpin the views expressed here. I need a real ideational revolution to return, so I tell them the Ayatollah masterminded a revolution while in exile in France, and Lenin from Switzerland, and they did not even have the Internet then at their disposal. So, those of us in the Diaspora can also launch ours from abroad. So where are the hand maidens of the impending mental revolution? They have no excuse to sit on the fences.

 

The time has arrived to deal with the processes of churning out intellectual bankrupts if Ghana is to move from the quagmire it is in and make it a country we can all stay in and not be seeking [economic] refugee statuses and bogus asylums in other countries. The time has arrived for a critical thinking vanguard elite of intellectuals to coalesce in order to lead the generation of radical thinkers, churning out transformational ideas and actions to transform the mindset of fellow elite and the mass of Ghanaians. The time has truly arrived for a new crop of Ghanaian intelligentsia, which can truly be called so, as there is none presently in academia or in the civil society comparable to those that led the nationalist movement from the 1920s until we got independence. We only have petty bourgeois pretenders.

 

An intelligentsia when the powers-that be and their lackeys say a pox upon their houses, it will not be because of their flagrant consumerism, snobbery and sterile, caricaturized imitation of the civilized white man, comfortably encapsulated in their own false sense of individualized achievement on the Rostowian ladder in their imagined [sub-]cultural relativism of a competitive national [pecking] order in which all have a fair chance. Of course, it is just? a veritable fools? paradise in which everybody shapes his or her fate and the losers and the underprivileged are the sculptors of their own dire fates; nothing but a world of confidence mechanisms or distracting gimmicks to rationalize away the ponderous exploitative burden and lack of conscience of the elite. An intellectual vanguard that the powers that be tremble before and say a pox upon their houses because it is a bold, fearless one that speak truth to power, imagine a better world for all, eschew mendacious graft, rent-seeking and public office abuse, mediocrity, illiteracy, ignorance and superstition.

 

The intellectual vanguard must be distinguished by their empathy for the masses, the poor and the underprivileged and be bold in vision and transformational ideas to change their situation by direct intervention. They must be distinguished by a robust intellectual sagacity and fecundity in producing these new transformational ideas with rigor in their intellect. No, no to any form of abstract and false empiricism with no reality in our situation.

 

These vanguard intellectuals must have thick skins to withstand all manner of insults and assault; be ready to sacrifice their petty pecks and comforts for themselves and families for the betterment of the common weal, for the truth, fairness, honesty, and justice to prevail. They must be broad-minded and well read and versed individually in different fields of learning besides their areas of specializations, as an intellectual is not a specialist in the subject he/she comments on, otherwise he/she would be called appropriately as a specialist, consultant or expert in that field. When a medical doctor comments on things health-wise, he is doing so as a specialist (even that, he/she must be careful not to stray into areas not specialized in), not as an intellectual. Being a brilliant academic does not, ipso facto, makes you an intellectual, not to say a good intellectual. You are not even required to be one, as many have carved out distinguished careers writing only on their fields of study and specialization. Intellectuals use their copious, specialized outputs to frame their new brave worlds and campaign for politicians to adopt them to bring some developmental changes about. These academics together with the intellectuals form the intelligentsia of a country.? No one can deny the fact that Ghana can boast of brilliant, world class academics, in home and overseas institutions. Unfortunately, most are just narrow-minded individuals cocooned in their fields of specializations. That is why when I mentioned in the mid-90s the fact that Jesus was not the first and only person said to be born by a virgin in history, it caused a stir on Okyeame, with NOT a single one of the abundant learned fellows on that list professing knowledge of that fact. That is why they swallow the mythology of others hook, line and sinker in spite of their ?plenty, plenty education? and chains of degrees!

 

They must, accordingly, eschew the ?christo-paganist? (apology to Rev. Prof. Baeta, Emeritus) syncretism that has taken a grip on the minds of most Ghanaians, and the creeping, menacing Islamic fundamentalism from the east. Even though a staunch advocate of indigenous or local knowledge in addressing the challenges of the rural areas in particular, since not even Weber had excluded this from the realm of the civilizing process, as mistakenly often claimed, their cosmology and cosmogony must have evolved beyond that substantive rationality of their unlettered parents and/or grandparents to the practical, theoretical and formal rationalities that mainly underlie the operation of modern, civilized nations. They must lead the Enlightenment and Demagification processes that free the minds of the populace from the shackles of ignorance and superstition, the two key cogs in the vicious cycle of underdevelopment; not lack of savings/capital. Their Truth must not be reposed in the metaphysical world of Absolute Truths revealed by a deity, and the three other forms of the Truth identified by Juliene Ford for instance, that is, the empirical truth of the scientist, the logical truth that undergird the canons of logic and mathematics and ethical truth, be condemned to irrelevancy; and by some, as even hoaxes.? Fossils which are millions of years old are NOT faked objects, as you?d hear from some of those bible-wielding born-again graduates, invariably children of illiterate peasants, artisanal fishermen, Standard Seven school leavers if lucky, etc. who think that the little knowledge they have acquired about Christianity or Islam trumps the centuries of knowledge revealed by all the other fields of learning from archaeology to zoology!? Idiots and morons who dare call you a fool when one questions their primitive, superstitious beliefs. What you see on Discovery and History Channels are not sci-fi, fellow Ghanaians!

 

It is interesting that the Anglican Church has now deemed it fit to apologise for the racist treatment meted out to its first African Bishop, the Yoruba re-captive, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, on the anniversary and commemoration of his 150th ordination. His education and racist treatment immediately upon return to Sierra Leone are captured in the book, The Missionaries, mentioned in Part 1: how their shoes and European dresses were taken away from them so that they would not assume that they were equal to the whites upon their return to Sierra Leone, etc. etc., long before the final onslaught in Nigeria. For people like him, my opinion is that their physical enslavement was replaced with a worse form of enslavement – mental enslavement – and then let loose on already gullible and superstitious Africans. His mission in his native Yorubaland might have been sabotaged and truncated due to racism but the harm was already done. We must begin to roll back the mental enslavement they had left behind. It was at a? Conference on Knowledge and Development in Tromso, within the Artic Circle, that Professor Johann Galtung spelt it out succinctly: the white man is clever; as soon as he has taught you to believe that the whale swallowed Jonah, you believe every other yarn he spun for you!

 

If we Africans are truly the originators of civilization and many of the myths of the three Abrahamaic religions, as some glibly proclaim these days, then we must show that we are the heirs to the ideas that some are now using to enslave our minds and can do with them what we will, even if that includes rejecting them. As that shrill white woman participant in the HarperCollins arranged debate in the mid-1990s on the ?Black Athena: The Afro-Asiastic Origins of Greek Civilization,? used to remind Black participants, the heirs to Newton?s ideas were not those whose genes were closest to him but those who had carried forward his ideas. Greek scholars and Archimedes studied in Egypt! And so what, if the science, knowledge and mathematics behind Their Stolen Legacy are lost on you?

 

The conscientised vanguard elite must be ready to point at his crumbling father?s house with the left hand and do something about it, and not be the one who regale in reactionary maxims such as, the hen is not ashamed of its coop. We humans, whatever the moral of the maxim, are not fowls and have bigger brains than them and should aspire to better conditions of existence. The vanguard intellectual thus must not be ashamed to admit its own inadequacies and that of the society and environment in which it exists.

 

We need to take a look at what ?civilization? is, (both ancient and modern), the processes of modern civilization, their operationalization in Africa from the C19th in particular under colonial tutelage through Direct or Indirect Rule through the chiefs; the early independence efforts by the nationalists and their abortive derailment by military regimes. What kind of civilization must we strive for in Ghana/Africa? It certainly cannot be that built up in America nor in the UK. That built up by the corporatist states of Scandinavia comes close to mind but we cannot replicate any either, with their perpetual free loaders. We must endeavour to take the best from other countries, including from the African continent, and fuse it with the best of our own local or indigenous knowledge, derived from centuries of trial and error by our ancestors, to build an egalitarian society in which it will be indeed free and compulsory to go to school, and the state actively creates jobs through direct intervention in the economy, as was done in all countries that call themselves developed today. Unfortunately, the bankrupt intellectuals are often the first to reject this approach to development, opting for a blind copying of the mythologies of the White Man. That is the long term challenge we must face: re-shaping the mentality of the educated African and the uneducated alike.

 

For the meantime, let us take up in Part 3 and show how intellectually and academically bankrupt and inimical the existence of book and research allowances have been to developing any civilized educational, research and development efforts in Ghana; and what should replace them.

 

Andy C.Y. Kwawukume

[email protected]

London, Sept. 2014

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.