By Toyin Falola
There is always a community of Afro-pessimistic scholars, occasionally joined by their in-house accomplices, who assert that the unity and togetherness that Africans try to muster in their contemporary history is a recent development whose timeline emerged with colonialism. Under this assertion lies an impression that there was nothing like a common or unified African race before the coming of the Europeans. More benightedly, they add that Africans lacked the sense of common identity to forge widespread unity across the continent. All these are said to consolidate the assumption that the continued proliferation of internal contradictions, strives, and the greed of unimaginable proportion that characterizes the African continent and people in the postcolonial time indicate that Africans are intellectually weak, a bunch of primitive people who do not understand the art of survival. While some of the “African conditions,” especially with the unfolding events of the postcolonial are true, the foundations are entirely contrived. It was created out of the Europeans’ self-serving arrogance and grandstanding attitude to gaslight and manipulate the people they already had negative thoughts toward.
It must be reiterated that the lack of African unity or their scattered identity in pre-colonial history was not because of their weak intellectual condition, as wrongly asserted, but rather due to the lack of political or economic expediency that compelled such development. However, coming to realize that a common fate befell them because of the color of their skin, it became a matter of survival tactics to develop an identity through which they could channel their collective revolutionary actions against forces of colonialism and perpetrators of slavery. When the Black man or woman gruesomely taken from the shores of Ghana met someone of similar skin color in New York, not as an economic star to socially reckon with, but as an enslaved individual taken from Nigeria or Ghana, something intuitive told them that their enslavement was perhaps necessitated because of their skin color. They would be compelled to understand that they either construct a force to combat those who have imposed themselves on them or face unbearable humanitarian atrocities due to their fate.
Even when they considered themselves one, it did not stop the gruesome experience of slavery, colonization, economic deprivation, and socio-political inequity they would eventually face during colonization and beyond. This continued unabated for many years, stretching from at least four hundred years ago until the contemporary. The problems that come from this are multi-layered. For example, generational loss of integrity caused by the political leaders’ abrasive demonstration of greed, the benumbing decline in their interest in indigenous philosophy, the widespread framing of their institutions along the lines of their erstwhile imperialists, and other devastating issues, are things Africans have inherited from their relationship with the Europeans. Meanwhile, all the inheritance items are combined to determine the future of Africans in contemporary times, which is explainable.
Having been confronted by forces of changes that led to profound changes, the Europeans searched for and eventually found collaborators eager to continue the art and act of control without their active or physical involvement. Interestingly they found willing collaborators in droves. These collaborators rose to the occasion not because they naturally wanted to betray the common course of their history and the freedom of their people but because the weak structures created by the Europeans have benefited them immensely. Only a few did not succumb to the pressure of the West, and those who refused to dance to these European tunes met an uncelebrated fate.
We call postcolonial connivers agents of African dehumanization because they are tirelessly working to declinate African integrity through their policy interventions that satisfy the interest of the West and because they operate the conquer-them-by-force method imposed by their erstwhile imperialists. This is why opposing voices are not recognized in many African countries today, and the same reason allows otherwise morally rotten characters to find themselves in the political class, dishing principles and policies that would further weaken economic infrastructures. As people did against the colonial powers, so also are they resistant in the contemporary time to forces of oppression, necessarily because the forfeiture of African philosophy enshrined in the political system that they practiced has always been the reason behind the perpetual strives, economic depravity, social anomaly, and even sociocultural deracination that are prevalent in the continent today. This is why one would find a handful of revolutionaries across different countries in Africa, and the awareness that most of the people who take that root have been killed in history does not weaken their resolve. Africa has continued to produce revolutionaries from Nigeria to Ethiopia, Senegal to the Gambia, Liberia to Ghana.
Ernesto Yeboah is one of the leading African revolutionary voices in contemporary times. A Ghanaian, his philosophical ideas are weaved to counter the horrendous experiences of financial and economic privileges reserved only for the select few in the country. On many occasions, he has given a comprehensive perspective as to why and how the country has continued to experience decline of moral values, prevarication of collective dreams, and displacement of common philosophy. Just as it is a conventional tactic, Yeboah first implanted the seed of revolution into the minds of a handful of willing Ghanaians who would eventually become the movement’s mouthpiece. Doing this is practically necessary because the action of leading people who are kept under bad governance is the most fearful engagement that anyone would be involved in or venture into solitarily. This is so for many reasons. We have learned through knowledge that Stockholm syndrome―a term used to designate the admiration that people have for their violators―is mostly responsible for the emotional and mental distance that people give to anyone who attempts to be free from the shackles of economic and political problems that they were reluctantly drawn into. And also, like many other individuals of revolutionary orientation, Yeboah has faced different pressures and frustrating treatments that sometimes threatened but could not break his resolve.
Under Yeboah’s leadership, the Economic Fighters League has connected the issue of slavery, colonialism, and neo-colonialism as the forces acting against the rise of the African people, especially in Ghana. Having succeeded in replacing the African values in the minds of potential African political representatives in the postcolonial setting, the West has also made a resounding success in short-changing that value with European systems, which, upon adoption and practice, appeared to have less economic and political values that can transform the lives of the common people. Consider, for example, that the imposition of democracy as the appropriate political philosophy has resulted in more manipulation than desirable results. It seems obvious that the continued denigration of the existing African socio-political system was geared towards imposing democracy as an alternative on the African people, but this would later show that democracy offered no prospect for their true freedom because it allowed leaders to perpetrate more heartrending activities on the innocent people. Democracy allows leaders to have unassailable access to wealth control, using the power to siphon humongous amounts with great impunity. It is the same democracy that allows political opponents to be hunted at will by the ones heading the system. In essence, Yeboah considers alternative paths to Ghana’s success.
However, given all the varying circumstances that characterize occasions and issues of national concerns, having an alternative path to actionable plans that can facilitate desired changes does not on its own translate to immediate success. Many people see that there are problems with a system in every human civilization, but not all of them dare to raise their voices to challenge the obvious anomalies. Revolutionaries are always many, a number of them manifesting in different dimensions. For example, in the case of Ghana, many groups of virile minds are interested in pursuing collective courses that would bring freedom and enhance national growth. But the problem that such groups face is that, in most cases, their pioneer leaders, who have committed substantial finances and emotional resources to the struggles, do not always want their association toppled by another revolutionary group essentially because of the potential problems of deciding who leads. This seeming crack has always been exploited by the unrepentant government officials who have committed themselves to looting and to mismanage the people’s resources to no end. They bask in the euphoria that the masses’ uncoordinated actions of rebellion can always be unilaterally controlled where and when needed.
In light of this, people have asked Yeboah about the possibility of infractions if he and his group of disciples find themselves in a situation where he would have to give up his leadership position. This question is necessary for many reasons. Emerging revolutionaries have always been confronted by the challenge of containing their ego for common development, despite how good and lofty their ambitions are. If not that some revolutionary groups and their leaders being resistant to an alliance, those who perpetually benefit from the rotten system in history or the modern time would not have maintained that position today. But because it has been ideologically difficult for revolutionaries to combine their energies to combat a common enemy, the totality of revolutionary ambitions associated with many groups has always gone unachieved. Yeboah, however, shows a difference from his standpoint. He considers himself a very relational leader who shows people the way when it is most needed and not a positional leader who distances himself from the people he leads. Based on this arrangement, he submits that his leadership in the EFL (Economic Fighters League) is flexible, and he is ready to combine their revolutionary energies with groups that share similar ideological convictions with them, even if it means sacrificing his leadership.
Meanwhile, constituting a strong force to challenge the superstructure of their disproportionate hold on the reins of power costs humongous money that the promising youth population desirous of change cannot afford. This is another cringing factor that impedes the advancement of Africans’ political and economic lifestyles in the postcolonial time. It has been discovered that commodifying the political system is a deliberate engagement to break the categories of people in society. This implies that the economic gap between the haves and haves-not of the society is intentionally widened so that the latter would find it eternally difficult to contest power even if they have the numerical strength required to become victorious in elections. This has been the reason for the continued economic depravity we have mentioned. Here, the #EndSARS protest in Nigeria is a shining example. The bubbling youths are choked by irresponsible leadership and took a remarkable stand against it by floating a nationwide protest that triggered unrest in the camp of the oligarchs and sent shivers to the spines of totalitarians. They recorded massive patronage and drew the empathy of the global audience, which placed them on the right pedestal to actively participate in politics. Of course, this is part of their ambitions. However, the energies died out for many reasons, one of which is the inability to fund or launch a political umbrella that would challenge power from its abductors.
Nevertheless, having numerical power does not automatically imply that they would constitute a structure that can unseat the current power system in the country. As one of the interviewers suggested, the coming together of different agitation groups would lend credence to their voices and give them a better chance of achieving their political potential. But it seems the possibility is countered by the fact that groups guide their interests regardless of their alliance. As the EFL leader responded, merging with other groups is not a problem, but it is a way to sometimes downplay the contributions and efforts to which they have committed human resources, financial materials, and even their lives. It downplays it because the groups that are to be merged could nurse ambitions that may not be known by the mergers, making them vulnerable to potential manipulations. This suggests that some groups are usually created with the wrong ambitions that only gratify the desires of the selfish pioneers. These groups always appear to represent the masses’ interest while simultaneously looking for opportunities from political figures with whom they would negotiate and do business. Yeboah relies on history as his guide and always has been wary of such alliances that do not factor in the principles of the group.
One of the interviewers asked if, in the event of a fate twist in which the government begins to commit itself to the principles of the inclusive economic framework and democratic culture, which are the cornerstones of the agitations of EFL and other groups, what the group’s reactions would be to keeping the movement. The response is that the government has made it clear that it is uninterested in incorporating distributive democracy into its engagement through its responses to the agitations for change that have arisen throughout history. They appear to have perfected the art of deceit to the point that they find new ways to trick the people and make them perform franchise that does not translate to good living. By deceiving them that they would teach the actions of purposeful leadership, they have defeated several revolutionary groups who bought the government’s deceit to convince their group to accept political merchants in their country. Therefore, history is the best teacher in educating the people about the government’s insincerity to them. If the government commits itself to a certain action, it does so not because it would potentially have a great impact on the masses but because it promises to benefit them in all ramifications. It then becomes a matter of ideological convictions not to put much trust in government representatives.
Faced with the temptation of globalization, some contemporary African revolutionaries have complicated their struggles and course for freedom by subsuming their agitations under the status of the group leader. Instead of focusing on the course of action, the leaders have received undue recognition and cheers. Meanwhile, the underlying disadvantages of this condition to the freedom project are numerous, one of which is the discouragement of willing people who intend to join the movement because of their desire for freedom. Thus, the fame and attention given to these leaders can pull them away from the foundation of the struggles because not only do they become carried away in the process, but they also abandon their objectives for unnecessary reasons. But it seems Yeboah’s approach to this problem is different because he has shown through his actions that his ambition is not to become a superstar leader whom people recognize as uncharismatic but zealous. He believes that until the agitation group leaders consider building an active citizenry, it would be difficult for them to achieve a political condition that prioritizes the well-being of the masses. He believes that putting people at the center of governance will help accelerate policies that respond positively to immediate economic or political problems.
Given the various layers of socio-political experiences to which they have been subjected, Yeboah is convinced that the best way to revitalize African dreams and achieve a fair political atmosphere that will hold enough promises to the average citizens in the African continent is to continuously impress on the minds of the people the orientation that would sanitize and expose them to the demand of justice and fairness in the structuration of the economic system of the country so that people would have the necessary access to wealth which they can use to transform their lives. According to him, any movement that does not factor in the education of the masses on the need to first transform the people’s minds would not achieve the needed changes because uneducated minds about the basic tenets of democracy will misuse given opportunities. People who get power by accident will not understand why it is important to place a premium on the masses and would potentially run their governance in the ways the society has taught them. In essence, the best way to bring about change is to sell distributive and equitable governance to all so that everyone can fulfill their responsibilities when given the opportunity.
(This is the first report on the interview with CiC Ernesto Yeboah on April 24, 2022. His views have travelied wide, reported in several newspapers. For the transcript, see YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSqmYKdJU_A; Facebook: https://fb.watch/eplrzy4gb_/)