What would Rhodes say about state of Pan-Africanism today?

By Mkhosana Mathobela Bingweni

IN TODAY’S Facebook and Twitter generation, Pan-Africanism and its sister ideology, nationalism, are considered stuff from the boring and dry old past.

The youthful generation, misleadingly called the born-free generation, trends in social rights, individual freedoms, fashion and social opportunities.

The truism that individual rights and personal freedoms are not deliverable when continental sovereignty and national economic and political independence are not secure is scarcely understood. In Africa’s colleges and universities, in the humanities and social sciences, theories of leadership and governance that are taught as management and political science are embedded with the propaganda that African and black people cannot lead, are incorrigibly corrupt and need salvation and hand-holding from Europe or America.

To date, there is no college or university in the whole of Africa that teaches Afrocentric concepts and theories of leadership and governance with any integrity. Pan-Africanism and nationalism appear in the syllabi and the curricular as infamous and failed ideologies that are examples of how not to think about politics and leadership; that these have been liberation ideologies and philosophies is a truth so criminally minimised and suppressed.

Simply put, Pan-Africanism defines African continental, political and economic unity and solidarity. It is the spirit of Pan-Africanism that led Kwame Nkrumah to declare on the day Ghana got its independence, March 6, 1957, that Ghana cannot be called free when the rest of Africa is still under colonialism. Nkrumah also noted that the change of name of the country from the Gold Coast to Ghana meant nothing if the political and economic lives of the people do not change for the better.

Nationalism simply defined means patriotism, unity and solidarity of citizens within one nation state. Right under the nose of the liberation movements in Africa, theories of globalisation and globalism, with their imperialist internationalism are taught in the colleges and the universities as the future of life and governance in Africa, while Pan-Africanism and nationalism are consigned to the museum and dustbins of history as rusted and collapsed ideologies.

Pan-Africanism: What happened?

Kwame Nkrumah expressed a perplexity that while all African leaders were interested in African unity and committed to a United States of Africa under one government, individual African leaders were afraid of losing the power they enjoyed in their countries. National interest came before continental interest. For that reason, the dream of total continental unity became a horrific nightmare and collapsed. It was too late, when Julius Nyerere realised that nationalism without Pan-Africanism was poisonous. The poison is demonstrated now and again in South Africa where a few but influential South Africans occasionally express their hatred of other Africans in some of the most gruesome violence that the continent has seen.

Nationalism without Pan-Africanism becomes nativism and national chauvinism. As I write, in Africa, Pan-Africanism is in serious crisis, ignored by the liberation movements and nationalist movements, and under attack in colleges and universities, reviled in the social and popular media, and hated as old fashioned by the mass of youths. Yet Pan-Africanism was the driving spirit, the oxygen that gave life to the political movements and political leaders that freed Africa from direct colonial domination.

Nationalism: What Happened?

Without solid African unity, national patriotism and commitment to one’s country without obligation to the continent becomes narrow politics and economics of suffocation and isolation. One African country without solid economic and political solidarity from other African countries becomes a very sad experiment. In the absence of robust Pan-Africanism, African countries remain in word and in deed totally closed to each other politically and economically. Dead imperialists and colonialists like Cecil John Rhodes should be smiling in their graves that the colonial maps and boundaries that they forced upon Africans have become more loved and respected by Africans, the victims, more than the colonists themselves ever did.

Africans remain foreigners and aliens in Africa because of nationalism that has no respect for Pan-Africanism. The two ideologies and philosophies that are supposed to complement each other are made to conflict with each other. Within African countries, nationalist movements together with nationalism itself are reviled and denigrated. The NGO culture and opposition political culture are marketed as the new politics of life and the future.

Philosophies without Philosophers

Led by Kwame Nkrumah, the rallying cry of African liberation was “seek ye first the political kingdom and all things shall be added unto you”. Just one decade after that cry, in 1967, Kenyan liberation politician Jaramogi Oginga Odinga delivered a famous speech in London, ‘Not Yet Uhuru’, bemoaning that Africa was still not free; nothing had been added unto the people.

Nkrumah himself published a classic book in 1965 graphically revealing how the economic kingdom had not been added unto the political kingdom that the people of Africa had sought and found. In all African countries, the cry is for indigenisation of the economies, free education, economic development, economic freedom and higher wages and salaries. In summation, the new struggle is the struggle for economic liberation, the proverbial economic kingdom.

In the face of this challenge, the liberation movement presently seems not to be rebooting Pan-Africanism and nationalism to deal with the cry for economic liberation in Africa. The colleges and universities are producing graduates that are opponents and not proponents of Pan-Africanism and nationalism. Education systems and the media in Africa work overtime to make liberation movements and their ideologies increasingly unpopular and unwanted. Daily, Pan-Africanism and nationalism are becoming dying philosophies without new philosophers to refresh them and make them relevant and attractive to the Facebook and Twitter generation that make the mass of new voters and opinion leaders.

What is to be done?

Africa needs a new and refreshed regime of Pan-Africanism and nationalism. The African liberation movements, policy wise, should get a firmer grip of the education and media landscape and centralise the teaching of African liberation history in the humanities and the social sciences. Once again, liberation movements should cultivate new intellectuals as well as court and deploy existing ones to give new energy to the old philosophies of liberation, and give them a bankable new attraction among the youths. There is no intellectual or political excuse why Pan-Africanism and nationalism are not trending on Twitter and blinging on Facebook.

Pan-Africanism and nationalism need to be, and urgently so, restored with their fashionability and political attractiveness. Intellectuals should be produced, urgently, that will give these ideologies of liberation new dictions and vocabularies that will help the liberation movements in Africa to once again capture the mindsets and heartsets of the youth, the new Africans who are living under the sorry illusion that they are born free when they were born tied and contracted to dispossession and poverty.

Liberation movements in Africa should also democratise in the sense that they should urgently learn to contain opposition and criticism within their ranks.

For example, there is no very good reason, except narrow personal excuses of individual leaders, why the gospel of economic freedom that the EFF is preaching in South Africa should not be preached by the youth league within the ANC.

The DA is growing in South Africa because the liberation movement allowed internal dissent to grow into external opposition, weakening the liberation movement and eroding its power, needlessly.

Critical political noise should be allowed within the liberation movement in Africa and creatively, it should be used to fortify and strengthen the movement than to weaken it, a brother and a sister’s insult is far much better for long life than the laughter of a happy enemy and stranger.

*Mkhosana Mathobela Bingweni writes from South Africa

Source: The Southern Times

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