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Is Pan-Africanism affecting my Ghanaianness?

Posted by abocco on Tue, 10/21/2008 - 12:35 GhanaThink Managing Executive

It's been two weeks since my last post. I didn't see this silence coming when I started blogging. But what you should know is, I got stories, lots of stories. Last Thursday, I attended a meeting regarding a new NGO set-up to raise funds for students in one district in Kenya. One of the founders has been my Swahili tutor for two quarters. To show that I belonged, I started speaking the little Swahili I knew to whoever would listen. "Why are you studying Kiswahili?" This is the question other people at the meeting asked me. I responded "Marafiki zangu 'plenty' wanatoka Afrika Mashariki" which means 'a lot of my friends are from East Africa'. My Swahili tutor went on to say 'This guy is a Pan-Africanist'. That is a cool thing to hear given my love for Kwame Nkrumah, but is it really a cool description? How are Pan-Africanists seen today? People blamed Nkrumah for concentrating too much on other African countries and he eventually began to alienate his own people. Will being a Pan-Africanist thread me on the same path?

The other attendants at the meeting had learnt Swahili for a longer time than I had. Some were 'white' Kenyans (kids of white missionaries who now call Kenya home). It was no different from my actual Swahili classes. I was like the only African in both of the Kiswahili classes I took, the first one I took had an Eritrean. I am probably not going to spend more than a month in East Africa in the near future (or would I?), I attended the meeting because I felt I had to, because the guy conveying the meeting was my Swahili tutor (who is from Kenya) and besides, it is an effort to help Africa. After that meeting, I 'bocked' the dining hall to grab some 'chow' (food) and hurried home. I hurried home so that I could catch another meeting at the Stanford Law school. This meeting was a fundraiser for a world-class hospital in Nigeria. Why did I attend? I didn't know the fundraisers and I am not particularly interested in health. If I remember the correctly, I was the only non-Nigerian African there. Maybe, I went for the free food; because I did walk away with 5 free T-shirts. The T-shirt reads, "They will suffer no more on my watch". Is it possible to watch over the Nigerians too?

The night before, I had helped a Kenyan move into his new apartment, and actually worked overtime that I ended up sleeping over at his place. Talk of dedication to the Pan-African cause. His roommate who is Nigerian, went to the same college like the double two both of us. You know what's cool about Pan-Africanism? You hang around a lot of Africans enough to figure out our differences. I swear I could tell quite well if some guy was from Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, etc if I saw him. I think identifying Habeshas (Ethiopia) is the easiest. I can even identify Rwandans and Burundians. Don't test. Have you noticed the differences in how some people pronounce English words? Take the word 'work' for instance. Ghanaians say 'wek', Nigerians say 'wok' and Kenyans say 'wak'. Get some of them who lived in the respective countries for a long time and put them to the test and I'll be vindicated.

I am trying to remember the last time I attended a Ghanaian event sef. I do know I went to the Nigerian independence celebration party last month and acted like I was a Nigerian; welcoming Nigerians to their own party. Why did I attend this event? I wanted to meet some more Nigerians (someone would say women) in the Bay Area. Up till today, I did see a lot of Nigerians there but I only met a handful of them. I am proud of the negotiating skills I displayed to make sure I paid the advertised gate fee/damage/price though. No one can 419 me. Hey, I also went to see a Somalian rapper perform and a South African choir sing, all because I wanted to support my fellow Africans.

In the midst of closely following the run-up to the Ghanaian election and my favorite Black Stars, I think I may have lost track of being pro-Ghanaian. My services to GhanaThink has suffered, and am wondering what is up with Stanford's own Akwaaba Ghanaian Students Association because I haven't really bothered to find out. I am too interested in Obamamania, which has probably sparked my interest because of its Kenyan angle. Is it possible to strike a good balance between being nationalistic and being Pan-African? Can one be nationalistic and be open to other cultures at the same time? How is that done? Surely, something will suffer abi? You may hear me saying 'wetin dey happen' more instead of 'what dey happen'.

But wait, the great Osagyefo said "Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa". We must celebrate our diversity but we must have a dream tied to it. We must synergize our energies for our common good and a vision that must be defined by our leaders. Pan-Africanism and African unity should not confuse us in our bids to better our lots as Ghanaians or citizens of other African nations. Pan-Africanism should not suffer my love for Ghana or vice versa. We have a lot to learn from each other and share what works and what does not. If we can take interests in foreign things, why not what is foreign and close? We sometimes face a lot of different circumstances, and these differences can educate us.



Osagyefo had a dream. Often misunderstood and often misconstrued, it was a simple case of extending our charter in Ghana into an African context. It was about individual african states 'one nation, one people one, destiny ' expanding into inter-state corelation, cross border participation, inter-regional alliance and a total union of African states. The reason and basis was for empowerment against external forces and standing our ground and taking our rightful place amongst the global movers and shakers (Abocco style) and of course there were other things to be gained in trade, human and security relations.
Whatever his critics said, OAU, ECOWAS, ECOMOG and other African united entities are testament to how advantageous mergers are. They might not be as strong as we might like them to be, but chances are if Osagyefo's dreams had been pursued we could have been somewhat better by now.

Now coming back to being a Pan-Africanist, it is actually the little trickles of efforts that become the big ocean of comradeship. Imagine if every person took an interest in what was happening in other people's cultures what a colourful, enlightening, educative, helpful and understanding atmosphere there will be of how we and our other black brothers tick. Chances are there might be a new age of acceptance and tolerance for one another.
Imagine what a single policy such as that held by the European Union in Brussels might have done for woe-begone and rogue african states who always rock the boat, and what a powerful force the continent would have been to reckon with instead of the sad cases we have all become; only attracting negative accolades such as black and poor. And true it may have disadvantages and cross state murmuring here and there on this policy or the other, but the advantages would have far outweighed the disadvantages.

To me there is nothing wrong with Pan-Africanism, the only snag being that if your own lot are not forth coming, not rising to occasions and proving to be boring and unappreciative then like you i might find myself going where the action is and actually enjoyinhg it and learning something from it.
Like i always say, a prophet is not hailed in his own village. But if he were to go to another village, he will be treated with the due he deserves and his predictions will be taken seriously. Such was the message of Nkrumah; his own folks did not like his message but other states took it and run and they have done well by it whiles the former black star of hope in Africa is still languishing.

I personally find the PHD (put/pull him down) attitude amongst our contemporaries very distasteful indeed and often times it prevents people from coming forward to help. I dont know about other African groups, but i have noticed that whenever you join a Ghanaian entity be it a nobua group, church or any alliance or anything of the sort, the whole thing descends into a hierachycal domain of the the old guards who do not want anyone to be on the podium and kokonsa and the this and that is rife, often swaying attention to important matters at hand and what other people might want to contribute. As such i politely turn down invitations, choosing to do whatever i can unseen or through a representative.