I read Mr. Kwesi Pratt’s intemperate vitriol against the British High Commissioner to Ghana, as usual, with amused contempt and even wondered whether this 50-something career rabble-rouser would ever mature beyond emotional adolescence.
For starters, we learn that Dr. Nicholas Westcott had participated in a public lecture organized by the Public Affairs Directorate of the University of Ghana during which forum the British envoy had made his clearly instructive remarks about the perennially regressive anti-investor policies indulged by many an erratic Ghanaian government.
What is interesting is that the British High Commissioner said exactly the same thing that my late father used to say about Ghanaian governments for umpteen years and times before his glorious passing in November 2001; which is simply and commonsensically that the rampant change of policies anytime that there is a change of government in Ghana has not augured well for the development of the country.
Indeed, while I was growing up at Kwabenya, where the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) and the latter’s nuclear-power plants are located, in the late 1960s, my father used to point to the unnecessarily wasteful fact of us, his children and, of course, those of his friends, colleagues and neighbors having to be bused every morning to school at distances of between 5 to 15 miles from where we lived. The irony of it all inhered in the fact that a few hundred yards across the street from our part of Kwabenya, the so-called African Quarters, lay rotting building materials that had been earmarked for the construction of an elementary and middle school but had been abandoned in the wake of the overthrow of the Convention People’s Party (CPP).
For some inexplicable reasons, neither the Kotoka- nor later Afrifa-led National Liberation Council (NLC) had deemed it appropriate to pursue this worthwhile project. And while I was growing up under the Busia-led Progress Party (PP) government, the aforementioned building materials were still wastefully exposed to the elements, as it were.
Then we also have the sorry policy of summarily dishonoring all the agreements initiated by the Progress Party with foreign governments and individual investors by the Nkrumah-leaning National Redemption Council (NRC) junta led by then-Col. I. K. Acheampong. The latter policy became known as “Yenntua” and initially seemed to be the most patriotically proper thing to do. And just like his ideological mentor, Mr. Acheampong acted as if Ghanaians lived in an autarkic fish tank, whereby official policies could be dictated more by caprice than cognition. No wonder then that shortly after the NRC assumed reins of governance, Ghana’s economy began to totter to the brink of virtual stasis; and it would take hectic diplomatic and apologetic measures to get the country’s economy moving again.
In essence, what we understand Mr. Kwesi Pratt to be saying is that as representatives of foreign governments, first and foremost, Dr. Westcott and his ilk had no business in either attending the public lecture organized by officials of the University of Ghana or making what clearly appears to have been a constructive, albeit patently pedestrian, observation about the perennially erratic and outright idiotic policy of deliberate discontinuity routinely indulged by successive Ghanaian governments. In the case of the Kwabenya school-building materials, for example, the ultimate loser was the proverbial Ghanaian taxpayer.
Well, Mr. Pratt is quite accurate in his decidedly superficial assessment that Ghana is no longer a British colony. Interestingly, however, seeing and listening to his own name, one would readily think that Ghanaians were still stuck in the colonial phase of our history. Actually, we are not very far from the latter situation; from the look of national affairs, particularly vis-ŕ-vis our increasing dependence on foreign investment and Ghanaian Diaspora remittances, one would expect the likes of Mr. Pratt to at least deport themselves with the kind of diplomatic decency befitting a people who are instructively cognizant of the fact that ours is a metropolitan, as well as cosmopolitan, interdependent global economy and culture. In this new postcolonial environment, no human personality is a foreigner or stranger to another, irrespective of geopolitical and/or geographical context.
We also have Mr. Pratt impugning the integrity of the British Serious Fraud Office’s recent investigation of the Mabey & Johnson scandal, in which a remarkable number of highly placed members of the Rawlings-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) were found to have bilked the Ghanaian taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars mostly for either and/or products and work never delivered or performed. In other words, Mr. Pratt seems to be saying that the British government had absolutely no right to expose the slimy underbelly of such presumptuous apostles of probity and accountability as Messrs. Rawlings and Sipa Yankey.
In the case of the alleged British arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which Mr. Pratt recalls primarily in order to expose Britain’s hypocrisy, the logic is rather superfluously sophomoric. First of all, the public lecture attended by Dr. Westcott during which the British High Commissioner allegedly made the observation attributed to him bordered on the general “unclassified” socioeconomic well-being of Ghanaians at large, whereas the British-Arabian arms deal was a patent case of “classified” national security concern which, hypocritical or not, was fundamentally a British affair. The Mabey & Johnson scandal, on the other hand, regarded what might aptly be termed as “Noblesse Oblige,” the bounden duty of a privileged former colonial power to ensure the welfare of its far less privileged erstwhile colonial and current semi-colonial. For what does Mr. Pratt think Ghana’s membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations is about? Interestingly, the critic also provides us with absolutely no evidence indicating that Dr. Westcott did or did not comment on the British-Arabian arms racket, thus making it rather presumptuous of Mr. Pratt to ask where the British High Commissioner was in the wake of the same.
On the question of Ghana’s membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations, guess what? Mr. Pratt’s own ideological idol, Mr. Kwame Nkrumah, was indescribably proud to have been named to the Queen’s Privy Council in the wake of Ghana’s independence. To hear Prof. Ali Mazrui narrate it, Nkrumah even rapturously claimed that such accolade made him the symbolic beacon of continental Africa’s recognition to the global community (See Mazrui’s “Nkrumah: The Leninist Czar” Transition 26 : 8-17).
In any case, it is rather ironically risible for a man who proudly wields his British surname like a law-enforcement official’s swagger stick to be lecturing his intellectual and moral superiors about Ghanaian sovereignty and national integrity. You see, Dr. J. B. Danquah both midwifed and baptized the Gold Coast into Ghana, once the road to independence became evident. And to the best of our knowledge, nobody ever put a gun to his head to prevent an immitigably anti-British Mr. Pratt from changing his name. For make no mistake about this, the first salient mark of psychological sovereignty is a name change for any person of sanity.
Thus, once upon a time, Mr. Francis Kofi Nwia saw the light of cultural self-rediscovery and confidence and became simply known as Mr. Kwame Nkrumah. Then recently, Mr. Kweku Baako also contracted an Arabo-religious madness and became “Malik” Kweku Baako. Now, of course, it is the turn of Mr. Kwesi Pratt to demonstrate that he is capable of regaining his postcolonial sanity by renouncing his Afropean nominal identity for an organic, original African one.
Source: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI), t
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