Home » Arts & Culture » The Grand Design of African Renaissance

A grand design for better days runs the thread of Pan-Africanist literature. Pan-Africanism has been up the podium from the outset of the 20th century, chanting down imperialism, propagating cohesion and charting the course to a better Africa. Tragically, the vision remains a file too large to retrieve. As if disunity is not bad enough, inequality continues to short-circuit the African renaissance. With the people’s struggle indefinitely deferred and the vastly downscaled, it is pertinent once again to zoom into Pan-Africanist fundamentals and impediments, and to touch base, breach fortifications and perform again.

Most of those who are fronting the African Renaissance on the intellectual and political podiums today have lost grip of the urgency of the cause beyond rehearsed ear candy.

A rift between the real and the ideal is immediately apparent in the deconstruction of Pan-Africanism – at once the dreamscape of our best promises and the dump-site of our worst perils.

The African Union, being the principal custodian of the vision, has reconfigured Pan-Africanism from its founding template to a political equivalent of the Aeropagus.

African Renaissance has diminished into a bouquet of stillborn promises as leaders Africanism short supply their exalted prose with desktop policies.

As Ngugi WaThiongo puts it, most African leaders would rather remain tin gods than have a God who can make tins, hence the resistance to cede their powers to a federal authority which would ideally serve the people more than the leaders.

Ngugi notes that while the AU’s predecessor organisation, the Organisation of African Unity, was a vastly watered down version of the vision, the AU has further precipitated downgrade, having metamorphosed into a talking shop instead of a fighting club.

The emanations of that talking shop are detached from the immediate and legitimate interests of the people and steeped more in the perpetual adjournment of those interests to a distant future.

There being scant substance in the current strivings of our leaders to evoke credulity in a better Africa, Afro-optimistic euphoria is awakened by reverting to the greener days of Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere than what is being done today.

So many are suffering and youths are up against constricting frontiers while leaders defer everything to the future as if the future is an effortlessly utopian realm which is free of impediments.

By showing themselves disunited, inefficient and corrupt, depravities Nkrumah warned against at the dawn of Africa’s independence, African leaders have gravely harmed millions of citizens who invested trust in them.

As Chinua Achebe points out in “The Trouble with Nigeria”: “One of the commonest manifestations of underdevelopment is a tendency among the ruling elite to live in a world of make-believe and unrealistic expectations.”

“This is the cargo cult mentality that anthropologists sometimes speak about – a belief by backward people that someday, without any exertion whatsoever on their own part, a fairy ship will dock in their harbour laden with every goody they have ever dreamed of possessing.”

The basest irony in Africa, as Sizzla articulates in “Hungry Children,” is that there are so many rivers yet the children are thirsty.

“You are destroying the earth, yet you still want to go to Mars. What’s on your agenda? Who made the policies? You are not for the poor as far as I can see,” Sizzla challenges.

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan notes in his foreword to the “The Pan-Africanists”: “In the next century of men and women of African descent must carry the struggle further still, into a new era when the hopes and aspirations of their leaders will be realised once and for all.”

The challenge is that a post-nationalist generation of Africans is becoming distanced from its leaders’ mesmeric flights of prose, logging out of the patriotic loop, because they have been reduced to negligible add-ons in the general scheme of things.

There is need to engage this generation if such projections as the AU’s “earnest hope that by 2063, we will have a continent free from the scourge from conflicts and abject poverty” are to have a semblance of pragmatism.

The detachment of Pan-Africanism from the people, especially the youths, whereas it is normatively a people’s struggle, obliges retrospection and revitalisation.

Pan-Africanism is, traditionally, an integrative ideology for the emancipation and empowerment of Africans through their universal solidarity and resistance to all forms of domination.

It is largely a response to the Western hegemony over Africa, expressed historically through slavery and colonialism, and now through neo-colonialism, political interference and cultural imperialism and a perpetual multi-disciplinary propaganda war which deems Africans inferior.

Pan-Africanist ideals include the full participation of Africans in world affairs as well as their full dignity and universal equality, as observed by Dudley Thompson in “The Pan-Africanists.”

The ideology, Thompson notes, takes Africa as the centre of all ideas and beliefs, stands for the holistic decolonisation of all African states, assumes a common origin for all Africans and takes pride in relics on a glorious past.

The movement gathered force as leaders and intellectuals of the newly independent African countries and black communities outside the continent came together to intensify the struggle against all forms of European hegemony.

The formation of the OAU in 1963 and the ideological and logistical support given to liberation movements by already independent countries are early demonstrations of Pan-Africanism.

Pan-Africanism remains an influential, continentally ratified, but largely unfulfilled development discourse as the continent remains subject to a system of inequality in which inordinate political and corporate power as well as impoverishing economic and social conditions disenfranchise the masses to gratify the exclusive interests of the elites

Inequality runs the tapestry of African demography. Racial inequality is the more acknowledged form of inequality and Pan-Africanism is primarily a response to this inequality.

Pan-Africanism is bent to affirmative action and overtly inclined towards the reclamation of African pride through the reinterpretation of history, special emphasis to unreported positive African stories, retrospection to monumental feats of African civilisation, busting stereotypes and generating ideas towards the maximisation of the continent’s growth potential.

However, there is also the reality of economic inequality both between Africa and Western countries and among African classes, especially the ordinary African majority in contrast to the continent’s political and corporate elites.

As Frantz Fanon observes, imperialism has left behind relics of domination which must be clinically detected and expunged from the African continent and minds.

Pan-Africanism is an assertive, combative and dynamic Afro-centric school of thought aimed at ridding Africa of self-deprecating imperial influences.

Its call is captured by W.E.B DuBois’s aocacy for the preservation by Africa of its past history and proper chronicling of the present “erasing from its literature the lies and distortions about black folks which have disgraced the last centuries of European and American literature.”

DuBois notes that Pan-Africanism, for which literature and the media are foremost vehicles, must fault and seeks a definitive end to the making of Africans “not simply profitable workers for industry nor stool pigeons for propaganda, but making them modern, intelligent, responsible men and women of vision and character.”

Pan-Africanist proponents have been all-out correcting inter-race prejudices and stereotypes and equipping Africans with an informed premise for self-actualisation.

The discourse must, however, be spread further to embrace the cross-section of the African demography as opposed to the elites.

“While the rich are getting richer, the poor are wallowing in need, and the backlash of this trend may threaten not only the little progress our continent has made, but our collective sense of humanity and decency which defines Africa’s ubuntu philosophy — of community solidarity, care and responsibility that seeks expression in the phrase, ‘I am, because we are and since we are, therefore I am,'” observes Prof. Adejumobi.

In the future, the utility and longevity of Pan-Africanism must be judged by the conditions of the poor and the youths. To fail here is to pretend everywhere.

Source : The Herald