Exactly a week ago was May 25, African Union Day. A day which crept in like a snail that had been waited for in a very long time. The most important thing was that it came and it was the birthday of the African Union; a personal baby of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah–Ghana’s Independence liberator and the first President of the Republic of Ghana who left the scene unannounced. Nkrumah’s reign has been relatively short yet with much impact over generations.
The African Union Day has been celebrated across the continent and in Ghana too. Even though it was collectively welcomed then and it’s still welcome today, there is something awkward which happened with the Public Holidays Amendment Act of 2018. Nkrumah’s achievements at the continental level has been, to say the least, trashed out while it’s domestic nuance has been maintained albeit twisted.
The framers of the Public Holidays Amendment Act understood the amount of get up preparation and enlightenment which the modern African mind requires to resuscitate it’s sense of rapport with the beautiful history and the the sublime culture of Africa; the arid technicalities of the African continent is its current sophisticated ARTIFICIAL SENSITIVITY. How does this tainted sensitivity manifest in earmarking Holidays in Ghana?
Two steps back, I was seated at the front parlor of the UPSA entrance, watching, as athletic young ladies and gentlemen trooped in and out of the campus, in a renowned day like the 25th May, an African Union day, which used to be celebrated as a holiday across the African continent, but has been scrapped out of the Calendar in 2018 Public Holidays Amendment Act and life has since seemed normal.
Everything from the busy markets of Madina, the noisy Mallam Atta Market and the famous Makola Market looked more busier than an ordinary day in Ghana. This is how the Ghanaian honored the African Union day in the calendar. In truism, this was supposed to be a day championed by Ghana within the confines of Africa. But what happened?
September 21, earmarked a public holiday under the Public Holidays Amendment Act passed in 2018. This was to streamline important days worth celebrating in Ghana. The very busy streets that greeted us on 25 of May, life bustling markets in Accra, the empty African Union (AU) square, and the yearning response to Nkrumah’s name from the call of the rest of Africa was inadvertently missing. Contrary, to the seeming silence that normally greeted the streets on holidays.
The biggest question demanding an immediate response is, can a society celebrate a man’s birthday without honoring his achievement? Isn’t it the achievement that propel the celebration of the birth of the man? It’s trite knowledge that every man who has ever walked the surface of this earth has a birthday but how come that those are not honored nationally or across the continent? Societies worth their salt celebrate extraordinary achievements. Not an honor everyone is entitled to. It is therefore a firm belief that May 25, scrapping was and has and will always be an error if September 21 will always be celebrated for the following reasons:
Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah was the brain behind the formation of the first Continental grouping towards political and economic emancipation in Africa after leading the West African Students Union (WASU). This can be called the brain child of the first President of the First Republic of Ghana. Unity is strength; strength is numbers; and hence unity is numbers. This gave birth to the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
The then Organization of African Unity (OAU) was initiated by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah alongside King Halle Selassie of Ethiopia. Kenneth Kaunda and Julius Nyerere were among some of the early pioneers who bought into the idea presented by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. He started this on the eve of Ghana’s independence when he stated that “Ghana’s independence is meaningless unless it’s linked to the total liberation of Africa.” This was the statement that gave birth to the African Union. Among the many goals it was to achieve includes;
Kwame Nkrumah’s works sited in the “Educational Outlook: Education in War times” of the University of Pennsylvania in 1943 saw Nkrumah highlighting existing education in the African continent and his vision for transforming education for the continent. Nkrumah believed that the trend of education given then, was to institutionalized colonialism in African minds. It wasn’t the kind of education that was given to the citizens of the colonialists.
This education policy was centered on nationalism and patriotism instead of Africanism. It was simple a strategy to maintain the intra-inter divisions, regional partitions created in Africa in the comfort of their home (Berlin Conference) without recourse to African culture and traditions of groups they put into different geographic location herein called States or nations which inure to their benefit.
This was also the beginning of the price tagging in education; which also translated into ‘commodifying’ every aspect of our social life. Colonial Education therefore determine your sensibility, sensitivity and worth in the African societies. The scope of African education, educators and sensitivity shifted focus to colonial education, sensibility and drafted modules which aren’t best fit for the African societies.
Nkrumah believed that it was only through a unified Education that could destabilize this institutionalized colonial bench marks in Africa. Nkrumah juxtaposed this on his January 1962 opening address of the Law Conference and Law School in Accra. It led to his continues support, finance and training of various African scholars using the Organization of African Unity as a vehicle. Nkrumah wanted to build an African that will think alike, grow alike and develop in same manner; this is Pan Africanism.
Under this notion of educated African who believes in the African culture, unity and life ways, several Pan Africanist were born out of this project. Noted among these Pan Africanists were Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria who later led the Independence struggle of Nigeria. The Tanzanian independence proclaimer, Julius Nyerere, also benefited from this educational policy. Guinea’s Sekou Toure, Patrice Lumumba of Zaire among others. Currently, Africa is still striving to have a comprehensive education system that will suit the continent’s tradition and culture to enhance a collective development.
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah has always shown his desire to unite the whole of Africa under one umbrella to protect and defend its resources. Nkrumah has long learned the strength of numbers and unity at the same time the importance of culling all the diversified resources under a collective system that will be harnessed collectively for development. He understood that it is only when sensitivity is natural that it is immediate, effortless, picturesque, non-nostalgic and intuitive.
It was in lure of this that he started aiding other African countries who were still under the shackles of colonialism to break it and proclaim self independence. He has aided among others, Guinea Conakry with an amount of money to support their country after the French Government retrieved all resources that could make Self governance possible in the country. This was one of the purpose of Organization of African Unity. To tear the sophisticated sensitivity apart and recreate what it contemplates as African. It was the analytic inquisitiveness he injects into the African and craving sensitivity of self-independence.
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah has demonstrated what a collective body can do to support each other in time of crisis. Quite recently, the mudslide that hit Sierra Leone, Ebola Crisis in parts of Africa, and the June 3 disaster that hit the shores of Ghana has seen other African countries extending a hand of help in various ways. Some offered money, others offered material relief all in the name of the African brotherhood. This is the sense of bond Nkrumah had in mind when he made that declarative statement on the eve of Ghana’s independence.
The idea of comparative advantage comes to the core of establishing the African Union. Quite recently, another intended purpose for the establishment of the African Union has been agreed and put into force by almost all African countries. The Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) ensures that there is free trade among African countries without any barrier. Even though Africa has learnt this lesson in a bitter way from the European Union, Nkrumah wanted this several decades ago.
This is another milestone chalked by African Union, the brain child of Nkrumah, worth Celebrating on this day. African countries has recently subscribed to the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement to have a unified trade agreements, tariff waivers and other trade barriers taken off for members. Interestingly, this important milestone is Headquartered in Accra, Ghana. This is just another Nkrumah’s road maps for African unity to promote development in the continent.
Even though Africa is yet to establish a common currency for exchange of goods and services within the continent. But the important milestone of the Africa Continental Free Trade Areas Agreement have the propensity to build a platform that will solidly back a common currency on the region. ECOWAS has tried establishing a common currency on several occasions, yet failed on every attempt. The inability of ECOWAS is due to weak domestic currencies in the sub region, volatile economies and inadequate political security.
Nkrumah understood this better and has since created a road map for Africa’s development because it will reduce or alleviate the common currency crisis that currently blight free-fluid trade in the continent. Various currencies in the African markets inadvertently loses their value because those currencies aren’t controlled by their domestic economies. These currencies are control by foreign economies which makes it difficult for African countries to build resilient economies, hence the failure of the common currency in the sub region.
Yet again, a common language issue has obstructed communication across the continent. Nkrumah realized that there can’t be unity without a common medium of communication. It has been established by communication specialist, Martial McLuhan that communication is the backbone of development. African countries speaks multiple languages across the continent including foreign languages bequeath to them by their colonial masters. Even the multiple foreign languages obstructed harmony and free flow of trade among differing African countries.
Various domestic languages which cut across boundaries because of the imaginary boundaries created by the Berlin Conference which saw ethnic groups divided and clans bifurcated among states also has it own consequences. Nkrumah had realized this phenomenon early in his reign and has sought to correct it by the introduction of local languages across Ghana’s Educational system. He also introduce Swahili as a lingua-franca to bridge the communication gap among Africans.
This was also understood by some other African leaders and the early Pan Africanist to establish a common lingua-franca to enhance African centered language development. The introduction of Swahili and GBC channel for local languages to transmit in all local languages in Ghana was supposed to be a typical breakthrough for common communication system in Africa. Swahili was supposed to be a common language of communication among African. It was also billed to replace all official foreign languages in Africa.
Security has also become one of the topical issues in the continent quite recently. A resilient and broad base security set up could’ve solved the contemporary cross boundary terrorist activities experience in Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, and Ethiopia. During the period Nkrumah championed the activities of African Union, cross boundary terrorism or even terrorism wasn’t one of the worries in Africa. But Nkrumah saw the need to establish a cross country security to deal with any issues of such that may arise. These are issues that could’ve been solved continentally to prevent these miscreants seeking hideouts in other countries using a continental security approach.
The itemized above are few reasons that propel honor of Nkrumah across the Continent. The African Union day, 25 May, should and must be honored by Ghana as a day to contemplate, ponder and think through some of the ideals Nkrumah had for Ghana and Africa. A country with an analytical mental habit results in a culturally problematic scene. Ghana should not create a reflective, scientific culture–superficial and inauthentic from the point of view of the human/emotional–to establish a quasi solution between an elitist culture and the African culture.
This will also create a division in which the members of the culture themselves are not aware of yet consciously imitated or a normative culture, operating most successfully among the intellectualist minority, and a most often unconscious culture common to Africans in general.
It is my firm view that the more properly speaking “European Cultures” in a sense that it embodies the European standards of beauty and the feelings, styles, modes in which the members of the culture participate pleasurable must and should be obliterated from the African sensitivities and sensibilities to crush the artificial sensitivity inculcated in today’s African youth. The AU day, should be honored for what it stands for, stand against and inculcate its ideals in the African person including those from Ghana.
Nkrumah has proven himself as a true son of Ghana and Africa. His achievement transcends the boundaries of Ghana, and Africa to the world. His exploits must be honored accordingly; what’s for Africa, must belong to Africa and Ghana, for Ghana. Whether aesthetic or digestive: lax self-expression or costive containment? Ghana should honor the AU day as such.
Al LATIF Kambo-Naa