Soyinka no doubt sees Nkrumah essentially as one of Africa’s progressive leaders, though he may have had some reservations about certain aspects of the latter’s leadership style and political profile, as every intelligent and astute observer of progressive political leadership should be. In fact Soyinka has reservations about every single political leader who has come under his radar! This is hardly surprising because he is a human being and because political leaders, not unlike him, are human beings too! It is the political apparition of President Kongi that keeps haunting the Confederate critics of Nkrumah, who only see debit where there should be credit in the balance sheet of Ghana’s political history, and that “harvest” in “Kongi’s Harvest” is symbolic of the apocalyptic terror Nkrumah’s enemies unleashed on Africa through the 1966 coup. If indeed the play was about Nkrumah, which we correctly believe it is most probably not (see Part 1 for authoritative references), then Soyinka may have adopted the abstract drama and rhetorical mime techniques of the late Ugandan playwright, Robert Serumaga, to confuse some of his readership.
Idi Amin, for instance, misconstrued Serumaga’s techniques of thespian presentations as playful gymnastics. Amin’s atrophied psychology could not see through the theoretical obscurantism of the Stanislavsky system, say, let alone make out the logarithmic outline of artistic import behind the curtain of Ellisonian invisibility. Amin’s bulky frame with its emaciated psychology could simply not bear the weight from the thespian gravitation of conceptual or artistic ambiguity, complexity, and obfuscation and against that background, confused thespian criticism of his leadership with artistic gymnastics enacted in his presence. Unlike Serumaga’s political audience represented by the largely non-sophisticate Amin, Soyinka’s sophisticated audience made up of cunning political actors at the national level easily grasped the political import of his thespian, prosaic, and poetic imagism and objectivism. Amin, as we may all know, chose the path of unmitigated simplicity and emotional directness over tactical and strategic prudence in matters of politics.
It turns out there exists a degree of concreteness in the narrative infrastructure of Soyinka’s thespian vagueness that meets the eye, much as Ellisonian invisibility is centrally about visibility viewed from a detached, condescending angle of white racial superiority and cultural hegemony. Soyinka has resisted both. What is more, his play “A Dance of the Forests” may be technically complex but its central message has already eloquently been said by Frantz Fanon. And many others including, but not limited to, Mary Kingsley, Attoh Ahuma, Ama Mazama, Cheikh Anta Diop, W.E.B. Du Bois, J.E. Casely-Hayford, Molefi Kete Asante, Marcus Garvey, Albert Memmi, Malcolm X, and Sekou Toure. In fact, Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s aesthetic and axiological novelization of the central theme of “A Dance of the Forests” is the narrative flashback equivalent of the controversial literary masterpiece “Petals of Blood,” Ngugi’s maiden novel.
Again, this is how the Confederate bashers of Nkrumah view the Pan-Africanist approach to the unitary continentalization of Africa’s strategic geopolitical interests. Formation of the EU, for instance, did not come about on a silver platter. As a matter of fact, the EU became a material reality after a long history of mutual suspicion between and among European nation-states and after a long history of wars, economic recessions, mutual betrayals, petty jealousies, and lack of political will. Unresolved questions related to cultural diversity played out in the political gamesmanship of the unitary continentalization of Europe. This underscores the strategic and tactical differences between the West and Africa. Having found themselves eclipsed by America’s entrenched power and the meteoric ascension of China and Asia in general, European nation-states, before long, discovered a new political urgency to come together as a bloc.
This was done to forestall a possible emergence of another Nazi Germany, to neutralize a unipolar world represented by America’s industrial and military might, and to out-compete the emerging industrial and economic powers of the Asian Tigers. It does not matter that America has been using her influence with Britain to undermine the unification efforts of European nation-states, the EU in short! The EU has refused to allow the subversive agenda of American foreign policy to derail its sense of continental purposefulness in puerile obeisance to a world dominated by the political histrionics of American unipolarism.
Thus when it [Europe] suited their strategic interests and material survival, European states, with America acting as a willing observer, found common ground and a common reason to, as a matter of fact, justify the geopolitical fracturing of Africa for themselves during the so-called Scramble for Africa conference. Africa’s humanity suffered a terrible blow from that day forward.
Nkrumah and some of his visionary peers conceptually addressed the African Personality and Pan-Africanism to that browbeaten humanity.
Nkrumah’s categorial conversion represents the discursive interface between Africa’s dehumanized personality and its corrective antithesis. Clearly, there is a manifest discontinuity scattered across the discursive interface within the political differential calculus of Africa’s seemingly entrenched psychological disarticulation from the epistemological critique of African-centered location. We see the antithesis of this in the internal political structure of the EU. As such, the strategic political calculation of the leadership of the EU should be contradistinguished from the directionless bent of Africa’s political leadership. A corollary of the preceding fact reinforces the view that the implied powers of neocolonialism makes for character ossification in the political practice of personality development where progressive African politicians are hounded by the incorrigible greed of their internal and external enemies (see Dr. Motsoko Pheko’s article “Democracy and Legitimacy in Africa,” New African, Sept. 18, 2013).
It is the anti-African-centered consciousness of African political leadership that should be the central focus of constructive criticism. Absent the preceding opinion, one is compelled to arrive at the conclusion that lack of political consciousness on the part of the African masses problematizes the visionless politics of Africa’s contemporary Eurocentric leadership, a situation that requires a sense of practical urgency in presenting a balanced critique of the political landscape of African leadership.
That is why the critiques of the Ama Mazamas, the Wole Soyinkas, Ngugi wa Thiong’os, Ama Ata Aidoos, the Ayi Kwei Armahs and their ilk, including the newly-minted Afropolitan school of thought, are urgently needed. But critics of African leadership must always be on guard against the encroachment of undue pressure from external interests and the political implications of the so-called Nudge Theory. This point is extremely important to the methodological inviolability of political criticism. And there are good reasons for that position. It turns out the CIA clandestinely funded literature in Britain’s former African colonies in the 1960s via a number of fronts. Some of the intellectuals and writers who are believed to have benefited from the CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), a CIA European affiliate, included Wole Soyinka, Rajat Neogy, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Chinua Achebe among several others.
Es’kia Mphahlele, a South African writer and educator, assumed the directorship of the French branch of the CCF.
Soyinka himself has eloquently written on the subject in some of his books. Achebe’s Ibadan-based Mbari Club (co-founded with Ulli Beier) which published J.P. Clark and Wole Soyinka among others benefited financially from the Fairfield Foundation by way of the CCF. The CCF and the Farfield Foundation played an important role in the founding of the Heinemann African Writers Series. Keith Booker notes in his book “The Chinua Achebe Encyclopedia”: “THE CIA SET UP A SHAM GRANT-MAKING BODY, THE FARFIELD FOUNDATION, TO ENABLE IT TO PROVIDE FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR SELECTED INDIVIDUALS AND PROJECTS. BEGINNING WITH AN EXPOSÉ IN THE ‘RAMPARTS MAGAZINE’ (1966), THE LAST THIRTY-FIVE YEARS HAVE SEEN EXTESNIVE UNRAVELING AND ANLYSIS OF THE FUNDING PATTERNS OF THE CIA.”
Selected individuals and projects? What is that supposed to mean? In any case Booker writes elsewhere: “SUCH SUPPORT FOR LITERARY/INTELLECTUAL JOURNALS WAS IN LINE WITH CIA PRACTICE IN SEVERAL CONTINENTS, WITH ‘ENCOUNTER’ AS PERHAPS THE BEST KNOWN. AS WE HAVE SEEN, ‘BLACK ORPHEUS’ HAD ALREADY BEEN SUPPORTED IN WEST AFRICA. THE BENEFIT OF SUCH PUBLICATIONS FOR WESTERN-EDUCATED AFRICANS IS MANIFEST; THAT FOR THE CIA, BY NO APPARENT MEANS.” Again Wole Soyinka and other leading African writers and intellectuals became associated with the “Black Orpheus” (see Cédric Vincent’s article “Transition: A Review Tested by Post-Colonial Africa”).
Yet, the argument for why the CIA funded the program in the first place is explained away via another embedded argument, that the recipients were ignorant of the source of the funding for the CCF. Or met with outright condescending, sanctimonious silence and occasionally with a sense of detached paradoxical evasion.
Prof. Lewis Nkosi, a late South African prolific writer, had this to say: “Since, so far as we know, there was never any ideological attempt on our collective effort, it is difficult to see what American intelligence hoped to gain by supporting so diverse a group of writers, intellectuals, journals and cultural clubs.” Saunders’ examination of declassified US records provides shocking insights and revelations that would have informed Prof. Nkosi’s stunted observation had he had the opportunity to read her work (For further reading, readers can consult “Toward the Decolonization of African Literature” (Chinweizu et al.), “The CIA and American Democracy” (Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones), “Black Orpheus, Transition, and Modern Cultural Awakening,” (Peter Bensen), “The Odike Story” (Chinua Achebe), “An African Voice: The Role of the Humanities in African Independence” (Robert W. July), and “Afrika, My Music” (Es’kia Mphahlele); see also Cedric Vincent’s article cited in the preceding paragraph).
The mid-1960 exposure of CIA covert involvement with the CCF and Neogy, founding editor of the literary journal “Transition,” now a Harvard University-based scholarly magazine under Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s watch (Hutchins Center for African and African American Research), found him [Neogy] in serious conflictual lockstep with Milton Obote and Idi Amin. Funding from the CCF contributed to the founding and operational sustainability of “Transition,” which was later resuscitated in 1971 in Accra, Ghana, after going out of circulation for a couple of years following Neogy’s detention, with Soyinka serving as its editor beginning in 1973. And as Dr. Kalliney notes:
“THE CIA WAS THE MOST ACTIVE AND INFLUENTIAL PATRON OF AFRICAN ANGLOPHONE LITERATURE DURING THE 1960S.”
We have two questions for consideration: Could it by why some have labeled Soyinka a CIA agent, a speculation we strongly believe he has already forcefully declaimed? But why would the CIA fund Soyinka, Achebe, Thiong’o and others anyway? (see Dr. Peter J. Kalliney’s book “Commonwealth of Letters: British Literary Culture and the Emergence of Postcolonial Aesthetics” for additional information; see also the article “Modernism, African Literature and the CIA” on the website of the Library of Congress, Insights: Scholarly Work at the John W. Kluge Center. Author: Travis Hensley).
Also so, finally, the Congress for Cultural Freedom was founded by the American Government during the Cold War ((Readers should take a look at the piece “Origins of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, 1945-50” on the website of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)). Beyond these snippets of information are the aggregate centralities of Cold War psychology, psychological warfare, and lack of resources that foreground the flying speculations, hidden truths and half-truths, and conjectures, reportedly linking the CIA and the covert funding of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), to a corps of African intellectuals and writers. We also have to state with categorical conviction that the revelation of the CIA funding some African writers via the CCF is nothing new. The story had been known some five decades ago, and been widely discussed among African intellectuals.
Meanwhile, James Currey in the book “Africa Writes Back: The African Writers Series and The Launch of African Literature,” Obi Nwakanma in “Christopher Okigbo 1930-1967: Thirsting for Sunlight,” and Frances A. Saunders in “The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and The World of Arts and Letters” and “Who Paid the Piper?: CIA and the Cultural Cold War” present insightful, well-resourced, and detailed discussion of the subject. Of the three the latter relies on declassified documents to advance her central thesis. Saunders mentions George Orwell in her study, bringing to mind “Animal Farm” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” both of which were intensely critical of Hitlerite and Stalinist forms of totalitarianism, and yet with the British Ministry of Information finding itself in a hypocritical if paradoxical fix there was not much Britain could do other than to work behind the scenes to discourage publishers from publishing the former work, because Britain found herself on the same side with the Soviets during the Second Imperial War (WW2) (see Orwell’s “The Freedom of the Press”).
That is not to say Orwell was not critical of British colonialism and imperialism. He more than certainly was. Indeed his novel “Burmese Days” and essay “Shooting An Elephant” depict his critical disaffection with British colonialism and imperialism.
It is beyond belief that we should mention another profound speculation circulating in certain intellectual and political circles that, reportedly links Ayi Kwei Armah’s authorship of “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born,” perhaps his Magnus opus, to the CIA, although we have not been able to independently confirm the allegation and to pinpoint its precise provenance. In a twist of irony Armah’s afore-referenced classic novel finds exegetical sympathy with and intellectual embracement in Soyinka’s “Myth, Literature and the African World,” a text containing a corpus of polemical essays that comes across as a critique and defense of African literature against the universalizing condescension of Eurocentric hegemony. As well, Soyinka’s text “Art, Dialogue, and Outrage: Essays on Literature and Culture” speaks to several ideas one might easily come across in Nkrumah’s books, speeches, and public lectures.
More so, both Soyinka and Armah share a common aversion to the Heinemann’s African Writers Series, a fact we cannot gloss over in any juxtapositional valuation of the two writers.
Evan Mwangi quotes Ayi Kwei Armah as saying: “a neo-colonial writers’ coffle owned by Europeans but slyly misnamed ‘African’…the series ‘did it best to stunt the growth of African talent.’” Likewise, Soyinka had this to say about the series: “I must tell you that, at the beginning, I was very skeptical of the Heinemann’s African Writers Series. As a literary practitioner, my instinct tends toward a suspicion of ‘ghetto’ classifications, which I did not feel this was bound to be. When you run a regional venture, it becomes a junior relation to what exists. Sri Lankan literature should evolve and be recognized as literature of Sri Lanka, release after release, not entered as a series. You place books on the market and let them take off from there. Otherwise there is the danger you start hedging on standards. You feel compelled to bring out quantity, which might comprise on quality. I REF– USE TO PERMIT MY WORKS TO APPEAR IN THE SERIES, TO BEGIN WITH (see Dennis Abrams’ “Was Chinua Achebe the ‘Father of African Literature?’”, Publishing Perspectives, May 21, 2013). Need we say more?
Thus, we may hazard that part of Armah’s aversion to the series may be found in what Mwangi describes as “Armah does not hold a very high opinion of the West, its institutions, and African intellectuals who seek refuge there.” In the end both Soyinka and Armah at one time advanced Kiswahili as a lingua franca within the cultural polyglossia of Africa, a view clearly within the immediate purview of Nkrumah’s Pan-African vision for Africa and of his unifying political methodology of African-centeredness. Namely, the ideological and philosophical convergences between Nkrumah and his critics are essential to understanding the methodological framology of post-colonial politics and its informed or uninformed cognate, political criticism.
The irony is that Armah had one time wanted Soyinka to supervise his doctoral dissertation, to which the latter declined for whatever reasons, according to writer Evan Mwangi in his article “Ghana Writer Kwei Armah Refreshes An Old Debate.” Mwangi notes: “Unlike Achebe, Soyinka reads Armah’s works sympathetically.”
Mwangi goes further: “When Armah, disillusioned with post-independence bureaucracy on his return from America, resigned as the scripts deputy departmental head at the Ghana Television in the 1960s, his mother had him tied up and taken to a metal asylum in Accra…He recounts in his memoir ‘The Eloquence of the Scribe’ (2006) how his friend, Ana Livia Cordero, arranged for his release from the asylum.” On the contrary Achebe writes of Armah’s debut novel, “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born”: “a sick book. Sick, not with the sickness of Ghana but with the sickness of the human condition” (see the essay “Africa and her writers” in the book “Morning Yet On Creation Days”). Writing of Achebe’s critique of Armah’s literary technique, Mwangi quotes the former to the effect that “Armah is imitative of Western modernist writers, who are obsessed with alienation and fragmentation.”
What may have probably irked Armah the most and eventually led to his seemingly never-ending impasse with Achebe may have been the latter’s assertion that “Armah is quoted somewhere as saying that he was not an African writer but just a writer.”
Armah’s riposte took on the following rhetoric temperament: “Critics who haven’t pawned their integrity have difficulty seeing that I am an African and my work is African…We all know of pseudo-critics who are too lazy or too busy to read an author’s work and analyze them seriously. They prefer to base their pretensions to expertise on supposed inside tidbits about the author whose works he doesn’t know much about.” Armah directed the latter part of his rhetorical venom also at Charles R. Larson, a Western literary critic of Armah, on whose criticism Achebe may partly have relied upon to assess Armah’s literary works. Again according to Mwangi, Armah dismissed Larson as “’a racist white Westerner’ whose mode of criticism is ‘idiot-simple’ in trying to seize credit for the West every time he recognizes talent in an African writer” (see also Armah’s book.”
Armah finally addressed this critique to Achebe: “If the idea of my defining myself as a non-African came to you through Larson’s brain, I can only confess I pity you. Don’t use the ‘quote’ again. It’s a lie…In case Larson didn’t tell you (how funny that an African writer goes to a white Westerner racist critic when he’s looking for information on a fellow African writer), I have so far written five books” (also see Armah’s book “Remembering The Dismembered Continent”). Evidently, Armah may have taken umbrage at or strong exception to Achebe’s (and Larson’s) critique of his modernist technique, particularly as employed in “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born.”
We should point out that Larson, like Bernth Lindfors, has written extensively on African literature and its development.
Most significantly, whether the string theory of allegations and speculations are imbued with elements of factual substance is a question which this essay will not attempt an answer, even as they make African literature, its continuing evolution, and the practice of political criticism seem like well-orchestrated stage choreographies and purposeful manipulation of political literarysm. They may even be immaterial to the possible veridical logicality of the core of the speculations. It is patently ironic to see how Ayi Kwei Armah has become more critical of post-Nkrumah Ghanaian (and African) political leadership than “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born” is of Nkrumah’s Ghana. We may even extend our observation to Thiong’o and his “Petals of Blood,” Achebe’s “Man of the People,” Farah’s “Sweet and Sour Milk” and “Sardines” and “Close Sesame”…
There are several themes covered in this corpus of literary works that clearly overlap with Nkrumah’s vision and legacy. Not even has the rich corpus of Soyinka’s writings managed to escape the gripping interventionist focus of social-political activism in the tradition of Nkrumah. This includes the objectivist and imagist interpretation and critique of society, political leadership, exploitation, and social injustice. Both have also relied upon the humanist resources of Africa’s historical memory to enrich their social theories, cultural criticism, nation-building and statecraft, social justice, as well as race and internal relations.
Some of Soyinka’s major ideas have centered on the practicality of African nation-states working closely together to improve the existential suffering of the masses, an indispensable framology of the human condition. That fact is, however, not far removed from the heliocentric emphasis of Pan-Africanist unitary continentalization of collective development and survival and social solidarity, which we might otherwise call Nkrumahism.
By Nkrumahism we simply mean the creative fusion of African communitarianism, scientific and technological modernism, social responsibility, patriotism, African humanism (the African Personality), social solidarity, and respect for ethno-cultural diversity. Furthermore, notwithstanding his intellectual ambivalence towards socialism, Soyinka is widely known to have publicly declared his intention to work with socialists in the interest of Nigeria, as Maria T. Bindella notes in her book “Imagination and the Creative Impulse in the New Literatures in English.” She writes: “IT IS A CHANCE FOR SOCIALISTS AND RADICAL ACADEMICS TO COME TOGETHER TO SHAPE THE DEMOCRATIC DESTINY OF NIGERIA [SOYINKA SAYS, BUT GOES ON]. I WILL JOIN THE BETTER ORGANIZED PARTY AS AN ACTIVIST. I AM A POLITICAL ACTIVIST.”
This was the same path Nkrumah trod in his strategic attempt to garner support for his iconoclastic vision for Africa, while the sentential emphasis recalls instances invocative of Soyinka’s condescending disrespectfulness, even intolerance, of contrarian views, his having been known in certain circles as a vocal literary bully. Could this be Afro-realism or Afro-pessimism? That path extends into the philosophic overlap Nkrumah’s thinking shares with other major writers and philosophers as well. That said, we may have to hammer home to readers that Soyinka, a one-time Paris café singer and guitarist, himself was at one time a socialist, a fact he has stressed with categorical reservation:
“I WAS ONCE A SOCIALIST, BUT I COULD NOT ACCEPT THE MARXIST INTEPRETATION OF HISTORY” (see Maya Jaggi’s article “Ousting Monsters,” The Guardian, Nov. 2, 2002).
We should also add that there is nothing peculiar about this statement because not even Barack Obama, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, and Francois Mitterrand accepted the socialist credo with uninformed reservation and assiduous uncriticality.
More importantly, Karl Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels would, likewise, reject or revise some of their earlier ideas. Albert Einstein did the same with his theories of relativity.
Such a process is a common phenomenon and experience in epistemology and in the evolution of ideas and knowledge.
But that is far from our consuming preoccupation. For one thing Achebe may have been influenced, even compelled, by Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” to produce an entire institution of postcolonial literature from an African perspective, culminating in his magnum opus “Things Fall Apart,” its sequel and allied novelistic bibliography, yet he was merely pursuing a critical methodology Nkrumah called African-centered (Afrocentricity). More significantly, his critical essay “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” assumes the approach of the African-centered methodology to literary criticism, an epistemological approach distanced from the imposed universalism of Eurocentric condescension.
Soyinka’s rhetorical deployment of Yoruba mythology, ritual, cosmogony, cultural motifs, folk memory, spirituality and religion to theorize about the existential sociopolitical conditionality of the African world is illustrative of the African-centered approach, which does not endorse outright logical negation of external conditionalities and realities.
Armah’s novels “Osiris Rising” and “KMT: In the House of Life” as well as a corpus of his later essays embody the tactical elements of Pan-African agency and the African-centered methodology, with some of his articles, essays, and public lectures calling for a Pan-Africanist unitary continentalization of Africa. Ama Ata Aidoo, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and several influential members from their literary generation have come under one political and intellectual influence of Nkrumah or another. Nkrumah’s “The African Genius” sums it up best! We might even have to add, on the contrary, that Soyinka does not have all the answers although he is a good place to start. Sometimes his proposed solutions are almost simplistic and quixotic for the complex and dogmatic world he lives in, to the point of his almost religiously relying on spirituality, religion, and metaphysics rather than on science and technology.
This is not to overlook his important contributions to postcolonial political thought, but rather to incorporate them in the methodology of political criticism. It is however regrettable that Soyinka, like Shakespeare, does not offer the world much by way of political economy, science, technology, mathematics, management science, and engineering. Thus John Maynard Keynes, Karl Marx, and Adam Smith are more important than Soyinka and Shakespeare in the sphere of political economy. For instance it was William E. Deming, an American engineer, statistician, physicist, and management scientist, not Shakespeare who was obsessed with non-platonic love and romance and power dynamics and political intrigues, that Japan owes her post-war economic and industrial might. And what we lack in Soyinka, we certainly have in the likes of Kofi Kissi Dompere and Cheikh Anta Diop among others. Dompere, an Nkrumahist and one of the world’s leading and respected authorities on political economy, has developed powerful mathematical models that explore how the practice of political economy can be made more effective.
Dompere’s large body of highly technical mathematical and scientific works is the policy focus of international institutions, national governments, and think tanks. Not even the economists and managers of Wall Street can run away from the practical and theoretical implications of his work. Thus, the Orwellian cryptography of Soyinka’s thespian orthodoxy has not done much for Africa in the practical sense of political economy. We can say the same of Shakespeare. This is not to argue against anyone reading Shakespeare and Soyinka. Far from it. Soyinka seems to have realized some of the shortcomings of his literary legacy, which is the virtual neglect of political economy in his corpus of literary works and social-political activism.
Of course, he has been a consistent critic of Nigeria’s and Africa’s skewed political economy, but that is far from engaging it scientifically, philosophically, and mathematically and linking it to a nation-state’s economic and industrial development. He will advise and encourage Kopano Matlwa, a medical doctor, a writer (debut novel “Coconut”), and the winner of the 2008 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa ($20,000), and the younger generation of African writers to write about the economic basis of the human condition. In fact, writing about the economic foundation of the human condition is somewhat closer to the critique of political economy, which Soyinka is already noted for. Arguably political economy may be a more complicated subject matter than economics. Further, Soyinka’s environmental consciousness is one of a kind (see his play “The Swamp Dwellers”). Also his contributions to eradicating illiteracy and poverty of mind are unquestioned.
There is an imperative need for the older generation of Africa’s literary giants to emphasize environmental consciousness and critique of political economy in the works of the younger generation of African writers.
The younger generation may also need to stay away from what Ngugi wa Thiong’s calls “metaphysical empire,” a critical methodological focus of Ayi Kwei Armah’s current novelistic explorations quite removed from his original infatuation with and habituation to his Eurocentric modernist slant. Perhaps Dompere’s “African Union: Pan-African Analytic Foundations” and “Polyrhythmicity: Foundations of African Philosophy” states it better than Thiong’s. Dompere’s has the validation of mathematical and scientific oversight. This is largely missing from Soyinka’s work. Thus, what probably matters at this point is giving the methodology of narrative criticality a prominent place in the vigorous framology of African-centeredness. Still that philosophic overlap among the competing strands of ideas we have explored in this essay extends deeper into the stratosphere of international relations and political strategizing, the moral inquest of social-political solidarity as it relates to an amalgam of regional or continental strategies.
Unfortunately, the largely Eurocentric leadership of Africa does not appear to see what European (or Western) leadership sees in the merit of strategic collaboration on the basis of unitary continentalization. The case then is that African leadership, undoubtedly, is still trapped in a congealed paleontology of conceit, myopia and self-aggrandizement, let alone pay serious attention to the paradox of Africa’s contemporary developmental challenges, as the rest of the world passes the African continent by. Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere did make it clear that: “SINCE THEN EUROPE VIA THE EU HAS ADOPTED HIS [NKRUMAH’S] ENTIRE PROPOSAL APART FROM THE ONE ON A UNION GOVERNMENT.” Nyerere merely made an affirmative assertion in defense of the unitary continentalization of Africa just as Aristide Brian and Winston Churchill made in defense of the European Union, specifically a United States of Europe, with Churchill at one time calling for a “Council of Europe” to the chagrin of the United States.
Was the United States perhaps afraid that formation of a United States of Europe could undermine its power and influence in Europe and the world, just as France and the larger Western world saw and still see African unification as a major threat to their industrial, economic, and geopolitical interests? It bears repeating that Gaddafi and the political leadership across Africa tried to revive Nkrumah’s ideas, yet he [Gaddafi] was assassinated because, among other things, those ideas he championed potentially threatened the very survival of the West. It is widely acknowledged that the West did not take to Gaddafi’s sustained interest in reviving Nkrumah’s brand of radical Pan-Africanism. France, Britain, and America could not sit idly by and let that radical brand of Pan-Africanist unitary continentalization of Africa materialize at the expense of their strategic interests.
Still, rarely discussed was the attempt by Europe to “integrate” North Africa into the EU, with the EU assigning Egypt a provisional leadership leverage over the entire political geography of North Africa second only to the supreme hegemony of European leadership, a strategic calculus that gained political traction only when Gaddafi championed the cause of African unification against the popular disaffection of Arab North Africa, particularly Libyans. The surrogate leadership status given Egypt and the facile economic assimilation of North Africa into the EU, a nominal appendage to European leadership if you will, were political calculations meant to alienate Gaddafi.
Obviously the West chose that path to undermine African unification as it challenged her industrial and economic survival.
It was against this backdrop that Gaddafi eventually pulled his country out of that tentative politico-economic amalgamation which, as may be obvious to even a casual political observer, became an enviable seat of exclusive convenience for Europe’s paternalistic bent over the periphery, North Africa. In fact that arrangement of unequal dichotomy would have certainly reinforced the periphery status of Europe’s former African colonies. Gaddafi’s newly-found vision stood rigidly between the two polarities, Africa’s strategic interests and Western strategic interests. Europe through the IMF/World Bank demanded $US500 million annually from African countries to use her network of communications satellite technology.
A group of about forty-five African countries came together and formed an organization that later became known as RASCOM, short for Regional African Satellite Communication Organization, with the goal of having her own communications satellite technology. Gaddafi provided $US300 million for the project. Europe therefore lost a chunk of her annual revenue as a result of Gaddafi’s intervention. As well, the fact that Gaddafi’s leadership contributed to the creation of the African Investment Bank (Libya), the African Monetary Fund (Cameroon), and the African Central Bank (Nigeria) is not in doubt. His earlier decision to accept gold-backed dinar rather than dollar for Libyan oil rankled the West, in much the same way that Saddam Hussein’s threat to accept Euro rather than dollar for Iraq’s oil rankled the American leadership. Both decisions went against America’s secret arrangements with Saudi Arabia to accept dollar for her oil. Other oil-producing countries in the gulf jumped on the deal, hence petrodollar.
Underpinning Gaddafi’s political and economic strategies was his concept of re-introducing the gold-standard with a single African currency through the African Central Bank and the African Monetary Fund. These strategies potentially threatened the American dollar, the British pound, and France’s economic relationship with her former African colonies via the CFA-Franc-Euro connection.
Gaddafi could therefore not go scot-free but to pay a stiff price for sticking his neck out against Western hegemony and economic imperialism. Brian E. Muhammad writes: “With the hope of breaking Col. Gaddafi, foreign governments froze nearly $70 billion of Libyan assets belonging to the Libyan Investment Authority, the 13th largest international investment fund in the world. Although designed to hurt Col. Gaddafi, it injures Africa, because Libya assists with development projects across Africa” (see “Gold, Oil, Africa and Why the West Wants Gaddafi Dead,” Final Call, June 7, 2011). The irony is that Europe had no problem joining the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) American objections.
The Chinese-founded AIIB is a potential contender for the financial and political niches where the World Bank and allied institutions have always dominated and exerted their hegemonic policies.
Perhaps this represents one of the greatest paradoxes of international relations. The freezing of Libyan assets had a collateral component if we may add, which was to destroy Gaddafi’s evolving vision for Africa, to kill Nkrumah’s dream again as it were. What finally happened to Gaddafi is a direct result of what John Perkins famous book summarizes for us. Perkins writes: “The US, the other G-8 countries, the World Bank, IMF, BIS (Bank for International Settlements), and multinational corporations do not look kindly on leaders who threaten their dominance over world currency markets” (see also Dr. Christof Lehman’s article “French African Policy Damages African and European Economies,” nsnbc international, Oct. 12, 2012).
In a related context, the ideological clashes that arose between Thabo Mbeki and the late Gaddafi over the form and political direction which the federative character of African unification should take, adds to the convoluted layering of the continental unification project. Mbeki was highly critical of Gaddafi’s intentions as Soyinka was, even as the age-old ideological antipathy between the methods of gradualism (Mbeki) and saltationism (Gaddafi) resurfaced in the late post-colonial discourse on African unification. It is no secret that Mbeki’s suspicions of Gaddafi made a political devil out of him [Gaddafi]. However Mbeki cannot run from his shadow. The fact of his presidency being recalled is an indictment of his political legacy. The fact of Mandela’s handpicking Cyril Ramaphosa over him as his preferred choice of candidate to succeed him may have constituted a political miscalculation which Mbeki may not have forgiven Mandela for. It has been speculated that Mbeki bugged Mandela’s home, thus forcing the latter to make sensitive conversations outdoors.
These instances bespeak Mbeki’s political and moral deficits as a leader (see David Smith’s article “Sequel to Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom to be Published Next Year,” March 25, 2015).
We shall return…
By Francis Kwarteng