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Opinions of Friday, 28 January 2011

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Ananse as an African scholar

By George Sydney Abugri

Steady your nerves today for a bone-jarring and truly bumpy ride across treacherous terrain and while you are about it, old chap, keep your helmet on tight, because all manner of pebbles and jagged stones might come flying our way when we arrive breathless.

Rocking the canoe. Upsetting the cart. Stirring up the killer beehive. Apt expressions that vividly illustrate what I am about to do: It might well upset the status quo and various elements in society who are content with living a big lie.

The irony is that I am myself pretty much upset about the issues domestic and regional, that I shall raise. To begin with, I submit that the republic is living a big, fat lie and putting up appearances when it comes to the complementary values required for building a progressive and prosperous society.

This culture of living a lie and putting up appearances threatens to saddle our mighty nation with future generations of popcorn personalities pretending to be what they are not.

If we insist on living this lie, other nations which are nursing citizenries of creative minds in order to continually break new grounds in discovery, invention and profound, original thinking will stay ahead of us all the time:

That is why although it might earn us loads of resentment and possible abuse, we still need to stop dead in their tracks before it too late, those gate-crashers in world of thought and scholarship, whose own pretence threatens to influence and dilute the future quality and integrity of our human resource capital.

In Ghana many people bearing titles like businessman, Dr., CEO, Prophet, Managing Director, bishop etc are anything but any of these.

Someone wants to be an evangelist, a real Jesus man of the hallowed pulpit and what does he do, Jomo? Does he do a triple check to establish that he does indeed have a truly divine calling? Does he then set out to go through the many years of pastoral training that a minister must undergo?

Nah, he just jumps into some clerical robes brandishing an obese Bible and hey presto, he is a bishop straightaway. The media immediately substitute the honourable title of bishop for the words “swindling pervert” and report his activities in headlines that do great injustice to the integrity of Ghana’s clergy.

Someone fancies public recognition as a scholar and an intellectual but neglects to take the painful but necessary and ultimately rewarding path that leads to scholarship. All the same he is a scholar and an intellectual in one swell swoop because he says so and who is to contradict him?

If folks investigated the rigorous personal discipline and extended years of extremely hard work and grueling academic study that leads to a PhD in the best universities, they might think twice about monkeying around with the meaning of scholarship.

Knowledge is universal and that means aspiring African scholars will have to continue to study, cite and quote Western scholars if their work is to be accepted as true work of scholarship for the award of degrees and for publication.

It is a fact of history that now appears to have intellectually enslaved African scholars to the point where we fear to question long-held and existing philosophical and academic arguments and assumptions espoused by Western scholars over the centuries

Someone I resume to be a scholar sent me an email the other time pointing out what he said was my wrong use of the expression “daylight robbery” to describe the refusal of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust to pay me my pension contribution last year.

I ignored his mail but he persisted until I posted him a response to the effect that the existence of the English language expression “daylight robbery” in the context in which HE was using it, did not mean a robbery cannot occur in broad daylight and be rightly described as such.

Imagine a scholar who is so enslaved by his education that he believes the existence of the English language expression “daylight robbery’ to describe cut-throat overpricing of goods and services, makes it wrong for me adapt a figurative use of the literal meaning of the phrase to describe the case of someone withholding money that is rightfully mine!

Read newspapers, books and magazines from across Africa and you will notice how African writers and scholars are always copiously quoting Western thinkers, philosophers and scholars to impress others about their own outstanding scholarship.

There appears to be an acute shortage of Africans ever worthy of quote, except perhaps for occasional references to Africans like Mandela and Westerners of African decent like Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey and a few others.

If African scholars, real or only self-perceived, keep quoting only Western scholars and thinkers as frequently and as copiously as they do, without generating creative ideas of their own which can add to universal knowledge, who is take responsibility for generating new perspectives on the ideas they keep quoting?

I also find it upsetting that originality in the various creative pursuits of our society, is all but dead, that is if it ever it ever lived. There is total obsession with imitating and copying everything with a Western label on it:

The football club in the republic today that does not bear the name of an English League club instead of a Ghanaian name, is the perhaps the exception.

Folks say African movies but especially Ghanaian and Nigerian films pack so much pornography, violence and superstition, familiar features of many Western movies, except perhaps for the third. To make Africa’s propensity for imitation and copying of all and everything complete, the industry in Nigeria has to be Nollywood and that in Ghana Ghalleywood. What embarrassing nonsense is this, Jomo?

On and off stage, from ear rings, sunglasses, singing voice mode, hand gestures, every young musician in town is trying to look and sound every bit like the gangster rapper from the Bronx.

If there is any other issue which has upset me, Jomo, it is La Cote D’Ivoire: In about 48 hours, the African Union will be meeting in Addis Ababa and the Ivorian crisis will no doubt be top of the agenda.

It has now emerged that “the use of force” to oust Laurent Gbagbo is not necessarily a reference to a military invasion of the Ivory Coast.

The steps that are already being taken to force out Gbagbo just might work or will they? Since the start of the crisis, Gbagbo has been withdrawing huge sums of cash from Central Bank of West Africa only because Philippe-Henri Dacoury-Tabley, the Ivoirian governor of the bank, had been approving payments to Gbagbo in contravention of sanctions against Gbagabo’s regime. Now Ouattara has had Tabley sacked, so no more cash for Gbagabo from the CBWA.

The European Union has also announced sanctions against the Gbagbo regime and asked member states of the union not to purchase cocoa from the Ivory Coast. That will mean a further loss of tens of millions of dollars in taxes and tariffs that would have been paid to the Gbagbo regime.

If these and other sanctions can be enforced by a UN naval security block around the ivory coast and Western powers working for peace in La Cote D’Iovite take appropriate measures to bring some economic relief to cocoa farmers and Ivoirians who will be hit by the sanctions, the pressure on Gbagbo might build up to breaking point, or will it?