Opinion

Kwesi Pratt, Thinkers and Ghanaian Development

10 October 2005 at 02:15 | 469 views

Our Ottawa analyst Kofi Akosah-Sarpong says in this article that there is the need for more thinkers such as the legendary Okomfo Anokye, who created the Asante Empire, to move Ghana’s development process further in the wake of the journalist Kwesi Pratt’s heckling of President John Kufour and his regime for not thinking enough about Ghana’s problems

There may not be heated public talks nationally about the power of thinkers in the development process as other issues such the immense health benefits of drinking or eating cocoa products, as Ghana’s Vice President Aliu Mahama would tell you. But the inimitable Kwasi Pratt Jr., editor of the Accra-based "The Insight" newspaper, has given it a jolt, whether some Ghanaians think he is a loudmouth without original ideas or his mass "Wahala" appeals can be fleeting. Though simplistic, in Kwesi Pratt there are signs that the development process and thinkers are coming together, or maybe that they are not separate worlds after all. Pratt’s statement that the ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) "inability to think through the problems facing the country and come out with workable measures to address them" may sound partisan, since he a Convention Peoples Party (CPP) leading member and a frontline "Wahala" demonstrator against the NPP regime’s petroluem price increases and other policies, but more seriously his statement raises the issues of thinkers in national development.

Partisan or not, Pratt’s "thinking and policy making" diatribe against the NPP have to be seen in the context of a much more open Ghana’s development process and not necessarily a NPP bashing, and this calls for deeper reflections by Ghanaian elites. The reason is that because Ghana is immensely entrenched in colonial or foreign values or thinking and not Ghana’s values or thinking largely (as Dr. Y.K. Amoako formerly of UN’s Economic Commission of Africa fame would say), there is the need for public thinkers or intellectuals to "direct the public conversation" in relation to Ghana’s progress, taking on both the good values that have not been appropriated for development openly such as the tapping of traditional rulers as human resources materials (as Dr. George Ayittey of the American University in Washington says) and the outmoded traditions that need to be either modified or destroyed for the public good.

Pratt’s statement also come in the wake of the global debate about "The Power of Thinkers," as "The Ottawa Citizen" editorialised, about the U.S-based "Foreign Policy" and "Prospect" magazine existence of "Top 100 Public Intellectuals," who have "shown distinction in their own field along with the ability to communicate ideas and influence debate outside of it." Though the list includes Pope Benedict XVI, the linguist and the century’s leading thinker Noam Chomsky, the controversial political scientist Samuel Huntington of "The Clash of Cultures" fame, and the development guru Jeffrey Sachs, there is no African among the top 100 thinkers. This is where Pratt’s charge of President Kufour and his NPP’s inability to think through Ghana’s problems comes in. The reason is that more than ever, Ghana/Africa need a new generation of bold thinkers who could think from within the values of Ghana/Africa to direct the continent’s development process. Said Prattt, "If you look at the direction of policies in this country, whether the policy is economic, social or political, you begin to wonder whether our policy makers do any thinking at all, because the policies simply don’t make sense." The policies just don’t make sense simple because the policies do not emanate from within Ghana/Africa’s values/environment, experiences, history, and traditions in the context of the structures of the country’s colonial legacies.

It is not that the NPP regime or their policy makers or the bureacrats cannot think. They think alright but their thinking are not realistic because their thinking are not informed foremost by Ghana’s values/experiences (For instance, the "Wahala" demonstration shouldn’t have taken place if Ghana’s petroluem pricing history and experiences coupled with a bipartisan approach and the consultation other stakeholders had been done in developing the petroluem pricing - that’s unearthing and operating the Ghanaian/African ethos of consensus building in the petroluem pricing). In this regard, the problem with no publicly acknowledged thinkers in Ghana and her development process emanates from the country’s culture and history via colonialism and the long-running instability run by military juntas, one-party system and inept regimes that did not open up the public to think freely or think aloud about their development process.

For, all genuine thinking in relation to a society’s progress emanates from within the society’s values first and any other borrowed second; such as "people who overthrew inherited ideas," as "Time" magazine says of Western thinkers who opened the doors for Western progress. The bold European thinkers who brought the remarkable changes to the continent’s progress thought within their cultural values, driven by "an unwavering doubt in the perfectibility of human beings, a fierce desire to dispel erroneous systems of thought (such as religion) and a dedication to systematizing the various intellectual disciplines."

What colonialism did was to close off Ghana/Africa’s values and imposed its values - and that’s policy imposition. Why? because the colonialists wrongly believe Ghanaians cannot think, cannot make policies. As the late Senegalese President Leopald Senghor would say, Ghanaians are more good at expressing their emotions than thinking. And so Ghana’s policies from the colonial era to now are driven heavily by the British colonialist’ policies or values or thinking and not Ghanaian values or thinking. Comfortable with the colonial policies since the colonial era to now, there has not been any attempt to mix Ghana’s values and the colonial legacies in order to roll out holistic policies that will make national development policies make sense to Ghana’s development process, as a World Bank study reveals.

From the colonial times to now, some Ghanaians have thought about this. Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., of State University of New York, informs Ghanaians, the late Dr. J.B. Danquah, perhaps Ghana’s foremost development process thinker and pro-independence campaigner who named the colonial Gold Coast "Ghana," informed by the experiences and values of ancient Ghana Empire, had strongly advised then to ground Ghana’s development process policies on her values or a mixture of Ghana’s values or thinking and the British colonialists legacies but was ignored. Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe reveals, among others, how Dr. Danquah saw the "imperative need to organically intermarry African judicial tradition with our inherited British colonial counterpart."

From the coming together of the 56 ethnic groups that made up Ghana to contemporary attempts to live well, attempts to unveil Ghanaian thinkers in relation to her progress run to the past as well as her future; from Okomfo Anokye to King Osei Tutu 1 to Kwame Nkrumah to Dr. Kofi Busia to Gen. Kutu Acheampong to President Jerry Rawlings to President John Kufour. Is Rawlings a thinker? What about Busia? And how do you feel about Okomfo Anokye or President Hilla Limman or Kwasi Pratt? Is the Asantehene, King of the Asantes, Nana Osei Tutu 11, a thinker in terms of his development process activities? Before Pratt’s maybe unintended broader implications and incursion into the issue of thinkers and progress, there have not been any national reflection about thinkers, national policy making and the development process.

"One way," as "The Ottawa Citizen" argues about how "thinkers owe much to the past," is to "give an idea a shot at immortality is to give it to the public and see where it goes." Individual Ghanaians have the right to pick anybody they view as a thinker in the Ghana’s development process, as somebody mentioned Pratt for his long-running democratic campiagns at the risk of his life during the brutal Rawlings-led Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) regime which partly helped ushed in the current democratic dispensation. But, if thinkers owe much to the past, what comes to my mind right now is Okomfo Anokye, the humble high priest with no colonial appendages and endowed with pure Ghanaian thoughts and visions, who virtually created the Asante Empire, via King Osei Tutu I, and in terms of landmass and population, Ghana, just through his spiritual weight, peeked farther behind disparaging and acrimomious families, ethnic groups and tribes’ curtain than anyone had since creation of Ghana - then spent the rest of his years spiritually nurturing its fruition.

Just imagine Ghana’s developmet process today without Okomfo Anokye’s thinking, vision and spiritual insight and feat. As "The Ottawa Citizen" would say of Okomfo Anokye’s thinking exploits, "Once in a while, a true intellectual revolutionary appears, without whose recorded thoughts the world would be unimaginably different." Just imagine how extremely rough that era was, and parallel it with our so-called educated elites today who appear weak, cannot think from within Ghana’s values as Okomfo Anokye did, despite the immense developemental problems we are facing. Let there be more Ghanaian Okomfo Anokyes and the power of thinkers in Ghana’s progress, constantly heckled by the Kwesi Pratts to open up the development process doors. Let Ghana think.

Photo: Kwesi Pratt, contemporary Ghana’s most controversial journalist.

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