“I have learned to hate all traitors, and there is no disease that I spit on more than treachery” (Aeschylus).
CONTRADICTION OF THE CENURY: AFROCENTRIC DANQUAH VERSUS KWAME OKOAMPA-AHOOFE, AN UNABASHED DEFENDER OF AFROCENTRISTS
Perhaps the most laughable—if not comical—aspect of journalist Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe is the Afrocentric label he attaches to Danquah. In fact on Ghanaweb and other web portals he wrote a two-part article, titled “Boko Haram Scholars and King Kongi,” a direct titular reference to Afrocentric philosophers, scholars and writers. Today, thanks to this same yellow journalist called Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Danquah now qualifies to wear the “Boko Haram—King Kongi Scholar” mortarboard!
Why has it taken this yellow journalist this long to come to this conclusion about Danquah? How can a “Boko Haram—King Kongi Scholar” become an “acclaimed philosopher”?
While he appears on Ghanaweb and other web portals with poorly written articles, from the point of view of the low quality research foundation of his write-ups, to miseducate and deceive his unsuspecting readership, Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe does not tell this readership, that, the Theory of Afrocentricity and Afrocentric scholars played an important role in his graduate education as well as in his doctoral dissertation, which he titled “Atumpan: A Critical Analysis Of Twentieth-Century Ghanaian Anglophone Poetry (1998).”
KWAME OKOAMPA-AHOOFE IN DEFENSE OF THE THEORY OF AFROCENTRICITY, OF AFROCENTRISTS
What is more, his New York Times article (1999) “When Human Dignity is Besieged: An Afrocentric Critique of the Diary of Anne Frank” is, ironically, itself based on the Theory of Afrocentricity as is implied in the title (this article appeared on the Letters Column of the New York Times). Moreover, he would author a couple or so articles and hand them to academics—editors he now calls “Boko Haram—King Kongi Scholars” for them to be published in an Afrocentric peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Black Studies, co-founded by Molefi Kete Asante!
Then also he would author a whole book “The New Scapegoats: Colored-On-Black Racism” to critique Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Harvard-based anti-Afrocentric scholar. Here is just one way Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe went on the attack in defense of Afrocentric scholars and of the Theory of Afrocentricity (our emphasis):
“In fact, he [Henry Louis Gates, Jr.] unabashedly called himself a cultural and genetic hybrid. He also routinely made vitriolic remarks against the Afrocentrists, and, in fact, it was hybrid intellectuals like Skip Gates who convinced some right-wing White-Americans to equate the Theory of Afrocentricity with Minister Louis Farrakhan’s branch of the Nation of Islam.
“During the 1980s and 1990s, for instance, Gates snobbishly portrayed the Afrocentrists, particularly the Temple University School spear-headed by Molefi Kete Asante, as a band of pseudo-scholars and pharaoh’s of a patently fabricated ancient African civilization.”
Elsewhere he dismissively referred to Gates as “A Feeding Bottle Theorist” and “Mainstream America’s Sonny Liston.” Significantly, Gates American Book Award-winning text (1989) “The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism,” perhaps his well-known work among literary scholars, borrowed heavily from the Theory of Afrocentricity and the work of Molefi Kete Asante in particular (see Wahneema Lubiano’s paper “Henry Louis Gates, Jr. And African-American Literary Discourse” in “Black Literature Criticism Supplement.” Eds: Jerry Moore & Jefrrey Hunter”).
In fact Gates’ blurb praise for Asante’s influential text—“The Afrocentric Idea”—went as follows:
“Asante’s wide range of references, his delightful examples taken from black traditions, and his sheer pleasure at discussing black culture, all combine to make his argument both cogent and important. This will be a major book.”
In other words, Asante’s Theory of Afrocentricity which borrows from Nkrumah’s own work contributed to Gates’ influence today, as exemplified by his influential text “The Signifying Monkey.” The Theory of Afrocentricity is one of the most influential theories in the world today. Yet, Gates, like Molefi Kete Asante, represents one of the heavyweights in the American Academy! Nobody knows Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe as he occupies the neglected periphery even of the Ghanaian Academy! His popularity is being the “Putative Doyen Of Ghanaweb Yellow Journalists”!
Today, the Theory of Afrocentrity has permeated the American Academy and society in a way no one seemed to have anticipated. Asian scholars are borrowing ideas from the theory just as feminist studies have done. It is even a global phenomenon. Moreover, Gates (and his scholarship), like Kwame Anthony Appiah (and his scholarship), are widely known around the world for their scholarship, while the largely self-published works of some of our unproductive pseudo-scholar journalists are completely ignored in any serious academy because they lack value.
On the other hand Dr. Dompere, one of the leading Nkrumah scholars in the world and the American Academy, is ranked among the “World’s Top 100 Leading Thinkers” while Molefi Kete Asante, the world’s leading Afrocentric theorist and an Nkrumah scholar himself, has also been ranked among the “100 Leading Thinkers in America.” These are the kind of academics and thinkers whose ideas are moving the world.
It is partly the works and ideas of Nkrumah that have propelled the likes of Dompere and Asante onto the world stage! The journalist Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe’s own works have benefited from the Theory of Afrocentricity.
The insults Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe showered on Gates are the same insults he is now showering on Afrocentrists today. On Ghanaweb he has turned himself into another Gates, an unabashed enemy of Afrocentrists and of the Theory of Afrocentricity. One has to be seriously sick in the head, to be schizophrenic for that matter, to insult Afrocentric scholars and academics and the Theory of Afrocentricity, only to turn around and appropriate the Afrocentric title for one’s idol.
Since when did it become useful, even fashionable, to appropriate the word “Afrocentric” for J.B. Danquah? Doesn’t that make Danquah a “Boko Haram—King Kongi Scholar”?
It is sad, even regrettable that while Afocentrists approach race relations, the sociology of knowledge, history and morality, human psychology, and the like from an essentialist viewpoint and methodology, others employ similar—if not the same—tools of essentialism to promote bigotry, ethnocentrism, hatred, ethnic hatred, and poor journalism. This is not what progressive African-centeredness is about!
THE FOUNDING OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GHANA
As for your reactionary Prof. Robert Addo-Fening the less said about him and his revisionist history, the better. His writing on the subject never even bother to detail the yeoman’s job Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford (Ekra-Agiman) Hayford, one of J.B. Danquah’s foremost mentors and teachers, and other West Africans from the Sierra Leonean Dr. Africanus Horton (1835-1883)…I have written about this before. Here:
“In 1911, Casely-Hayford took up Dr. Africanus Horton’s proposals for a West African University, and rather campaigned for a university for the Gold Coast. Nine years later, the National Congress of British West Africa, led by Casely-Hayford, petitioned the British Government ‘to found a British West African University on such lines as would preserve in the students a sense of African nationality…
“This request yielded no positive response until 1945, when the Colonial Government finally embraced the idea of a university for the Gold Coast. This change of attitude was based on two separate reports submitted to the Colonial Government by Asquith and Elliot Commissions. Contained in the reports, the mission of the university was to train a new platonic African elite…
“Importantly, the National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA) was founded by JE Casely-Hayford, Kobina Sekyi, A. Sawyer, Thomas Hutton-Mills, Sr., A.B. Quartey-Papafio, Edward F. Small, Henry van Hien, and F.V. Nanka-Bruce. Admittedly, J.E. Casely-Hayford did the groundwork for the establishment of a university in the then-Gold Coast. Of course, Dr. JB Danquah did his part, though tangentially, and, as a result, as history consciously and eloquently informs the world, the seminal idea of establishing such a university in the then-Gold Coast was certainly not Danquah’s.
“Particularly, this view is not debatable because of an obscure historical link between the two, Casely-Hayford and Danquah, with a palpable degree of overbearing tutelage which the former dutifully exerted on the latter, a political neophyte at that! Nana Ofori Atta Ayim writes of this obscure relationship:
“‘Dr. Danquah was a protégé of the celebrated and iconic God-father of West African nationalism and the pioneer Pan-Africanist, Joseph Ephraim Casely-Hayford. In his own words, it was at the feet of the eminent nationalist, ‘Ekra Agyemang…’”
In other words, it was through his association with Casely-Hayford that Danquah learned about the former’s (and his colleagues’) exploits in having a university in the West African sub-region, although Casely-Hayford “rather campaigned for a university for the Gold Coast.” This piece of important history is largely missing from Prof. Robert Addo-Fening’s writings on the subject.
Importantly, then, there were so many ideas Danquah picked up from Casely-Hayford and the other Fante leaders, ideas that brought him into political and philosophical maturity, yet a topic we will not get into! They have been extensively covered in many scholarly works. At the end of the day it was the government of Nkrumah that built the University of Ghana, as Danquah was never a member of this government!
CONCLUSION: THE NATURE OF THE CONTROVERSY
Of course, Danquah did go to London at the head of a delegation on the later University of Ghana question. The question then becomes: What role did the other members of this delegation play?
Yes, when it is about those who fought for Ghana’s independence journalists such Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe wants Danquah to have a share in that glory.
But when it comes to whose yeomanly struggles would eventually lay the foundation for the establishment of the University of Ghana, the likes of J.E. Casely-Hayford, Africanus Hortons…and several others are totally excluded from the scholarship!
In this context, Prof. Addo-Fening’s writings on the subject are not authoritative as they ignore this essential part of the long history of the University of Ghana coming into being.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
There are those whose writings rather than adding to the body of knowledge, subtracts from the body of knowledge. Their ethnocentric agitprop writings do not advance nation-building, the scientific and humanistic development of society, and refinement of the mind.
Such impulsive, reactionary writings with their ideological bankruptcies potentially threaten the very foundation and survival of the human race, worsen the human condition, and starve impressionable minds of quality education.
The idea of critical, analytic and scientific intellection and mentation is foreign to them, as it were beyond their reach because they have allowed hatred, ethnocentrism and bigotry to invade their value judgments, to cloud their sense of social justice, and to impair their sense of intellectual honesty.
That is primary why their body of work has no instrumentalist value in the contemporary history of ideas, as well as lacking operational usefulness for development economics, ethnic relations, and development sociology.
Such agitprop schizophrenics with their sensational revisionisms have no place in the modern academy of the twenty-first century, given that their corpus of writings can best be described as a potboiler and given that they primarily write not to educate and inform but rather to feed and satiate their egoistical tomfoolery and low self-esteem. They write to impoverish impressionable minds for the most part.
These writers and journalists find comfort in the excruciating hyperbole of auctorial intemperance and self-worth only in exaggerated verbiage while progressive, scientific, analytic and critical informational content escape their potboiler writings. On this basis of this fact their ideas are stuck in the stone-age of intellectual backwardness, while their intellectually productive colleagues take them for mere dinosaurs in the history of ideas.
Ghana deserves better. Africa deserves. We can do better for Ghana and Africa if we encourage men and women of great ideas, of refined temperaments, of patriotic vision, and of scientific bearings to take charge of affairs. Again, while the Chinese are working on putting man on the moon six years from now, we are fighting over each other by way of excessive adjectivization of partisan politics and historical revisionism and of overexploitation of split infinitives without regard for the analytic content of technocratic—scientific and technological, or industrial—vision!
Furthermore, writing and reviewing books for the Amsterdam News and having a couple of articles published in peer-reviewed journals, for instance, does not put one in the same class of great writers from Toni Morrison, Derek Walcott, Doris Lessing, J.M. Coetzee, Pearl Buck, James Hemmingway, Nadine Gordimer, Gabriel Garcia, Ben Okri, Orhan Pamuk, Naguib Mahfouz, William Faulkner, Buchi Emecheta, and Leo Tolstoy to Wole Soyinka (Note: We have friends who work for are associated with the Amsterdam News in various capacities)!
For far too long, we have allowed unabashed demagogues to define and adulterate the language of political and moral discourse.
We shall return with Part 3!
By Francis Kwarteng