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Opinions of Monday, 27 July 2020

Columnist: Prosper Setsoafia

Obama’s jaundiced advice: Eleven years on

Former US president, Barack Obama Former US president, Barack Obama

“No people can liberate itself by ignoring their own cultural resources, where they exist, to embrace those of their enslavers” - Ayi Kwei Armah.

Eleven years ago, ‘God’ made a brief stopover in Ghana. Giant billboards, customised clothes, T-shirts, songs etc. were like sirens announcing the visit of Prez Obama to the centre of the world. Ghanaians, like expectant mothers, were delivered of joy when they caught a glimpse of the Obamas on various media outlets.

The highlight of this historic visit of an ebony-skinned cum ivory- minded President of the free world was brief and concise. There seems to be no intellectual discussion on his applauded common sense laced-speech. He layered his speech with a brief genealogy of his African ancestry, but not complete with his kitsch advice – We Africans [Ghanaians] are on our own and can solve our problems with a ‘capable, reliable and transparent institutions’.

His speech like music has a wonderful hook, ‘Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions’. Parroted on almost all morning talk shows with cosmetic praise-singing tones was this ambiguous statement. All the post-mortems have failed to interrogate the kind of institutions He was referring to. The culture from which Mr Obama hailed from gives a clue about the institutions he was referring to.

He re-mixed the value of the colonial or better still the Eurocentric institutions and structures that we failed to excise from our so-called independent organisms. His claim of reading the works of the razor-sharp African-American scholar cum activist, Malcolm X doesn’t mean he believed in the potency of our indigenous structures was balkanised during the colonial invasion, where our ‘We’ comradeship was into ‘I-ship’.

His reading of Malcolm X as he opined in his memoir-like monograph [Dreams from my father] is like the white ‘poo’ that capped the black ‘shit’ of a lizard. A 'Rosetta' is not needed to decipher the glaring mess the alien structures and institutions have created. Apart from the claim of strengthening the Eurocentric institutions. he opined that “each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and line with its own traditions”

Majority of our institutions are a mere outpost of foreign institutions. Capacity building conferences, workshops etc where theories of democracy and economics were spun and tried out in imaginary laboratories [Ghana] hold these European structures in place. Arguing based on the universalistic ethos of some ideas is an escapist fantasy.

Can the various government agencies contribute to a home-brewed democracy? What happens if a judge votes based on the political or personal interest of his/her appointing authority? This according to Dr Atugugba’s research findings seems to the norm. Does that strengthen our democracy? What of the fiction[constitution] that makes the president a neo-Hitler?

Most of our academic institutions are mission houses evangelizing non-African standards. How can they give life to a Ghanaian democracy? What of the quasi-Westminster parliamentary model?

Mr Obama’s advice is not only conflicting and myopic but it is polite nonsense. He doesn’t have the moral right to advocate for the strengthening of the colonial structures and make a U-turn to claim “each nation gives life to democracy in its own way and line with its own traditions”.

We await the birth of the 'Beautyful' ones.

To be continued...