By Ademola Araoye
In its essence, pan-Africanism was not state-centric. The following is an excerpt from “The Ghettos of Pan Africanism” repudiating the conceptual deflections of revisionists to hollow out the authentic tenets of this historic radical philosophy for the holistic emancipation of black humanity.
Addis Ababa: May 1963 remains a red-lettered month. Lest we forget, from 23 to 25 May 1963, the summit of all leaders of what ought to have been tentative statehoods just emerging from colonial struggles in Africa took place in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. The vision of a truly concretized expression of Pan-Africanism in a united continental African Republic was however dissipated at this gathering of those assumed to be the catalytic agents of a new glorious African millennium. But this was not to be as the pan-African vision was effectively repudiated. The rejection, including consequential antagonisms that emerged, was papered over in the politeness of euphemisms and rationalizations. Such was the animosity between the progressive camp, which advocated immediate birth of the United States of Africa, and the Monrovia group, the conservative group of states that ostensibly preached gradualism in substantive repudiation of unity, that Africa was split apart. Makonnen Ketema notes that the views and policies of the two groups were so antithetical as to make it impossible for them to work together as partners in an enterprise to which all are mutually devoted. Yet indeed, philosophically and in practical terms, the chasm between the two visions was a bridge too far.
Further, Ketema observes that the Casablanca group, led by the charismatic leader, President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and the Monrovia group, led by veteran politicians, such as President William Tubman of Liberia and President Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, had become sworn enemies. By the decision to repudiate the birth of the Republic of Africa and the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Monrovia group turned out to be Africa’s wounding fathers. The 32 supposed statesmen and leaders of the struggle for independence across the continent that gathered in Addis Ababa did not heed the prescient warnings not to let slip by the grand and historic opportunity to unite Africa. If they did otherwise, the masses of the people of Africa would not forgive them. But they seemed oblivious of the harsh judgment of history. In the fullness of time, it has turned out that the rejection of political consolidation of the continent was for the personal aggrandizement of the leaders. Again, with the benefit of hindsight of over 60 years, as predicted the unfortunate outcome of Addis 1963 represents historic infamy and an inglorious watershed for black humanity.
In May 1963 the thirty-two men holding the destiny of Africa, and by extension of all black humanity, in their hands derailed the consolidation of emerged embryonic states into the continental United States of Africa. Such a continental Republic could then have been the launching pad of black humanity on a projected natural trajectory to the authentic pan African destination: a vision and mission of African continental political unity with a mandate of an emancipation thrust for global black humanity. The projected continental unity had its roots in the valiant and gallant struggles of the black race for emancipation over the centuries. The struggle for the potential dividends of continental unity that was, hopefully temporarily, repudiated in Addis Ababa 1963 go as far back as the late 18th Century in the Caribbean or to the revolt in Philadelphia of Absalom Jones and Cyril Allen or even to the bold sacrifices of other numerous unsung forces. The horrendous cost to Africa of this unmitigated betrayal in the six decades of instituted contingent statehoods is self-evident. Black humanity is mired in crisis everywhere. The crisis is expressed in distorted identities, associated with new false and incongruous nationalities as well as numerous fictive sovereignties are incalculable: in material, fiscal, cultural, spiritual and in the totality of the endeavors of black humanity. The most damning has been the complete loss of a sense of racial dignity at all levels. There is open jostling to reject black identity and to acquire of new identities. That includes the impositions of strange spiritualities across all strata throughout the continent and the black Diaspora. Black communities, including factions of the Igbo in Nigeria, now proclaim Jewish antecedents without a shred of evidence. The Lemba community in Zimbabwe also accentuates its Jewish heritage. The thriving temple and enclave of a Guru Maharaji in Ibadan, the heart of Yoruba land in Nigeria, reflects the evolved eclectic spirituality of black Africa. These quotidian imponderables define the deep crisis and the associated existential predicaments of black humanity. In terms of economic development, the World Bank highlights that growth rate of GDP of about 3 per cent in 2019 of sub Sahara Africa barely improved on the 2.7 per cent recorded in 1961 and 2.781 in 2015. In the Human development Index of the United Nations Development Program, a statistic composite of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators, which are used to rank 189 countries on human welfare, 33 of the 56 African countries were classified as in the low human development category in 2019. The continent is thus lagging in different aspects of human wellbeing when, some have noted that Africa is richly endowed with an abundance of natural resources as well as human capital. The existential crisis is replicated in the black Diaspora. Kofi Awoonor sums the predicament of Africa as deluded of his speech and his African religious system, denied entrance into the world of the “civilized” white man, disillusioned by early hopes of liberty and equality during those post bellum years, he sought solace in Christianity and when the going was hard in desperate acts of rebellion that were put down with ferocious intensity.
The existential predicaments of black humanity are critically manifest in the massive disaffect and total alienation of the deprived mass from its own humanity. The process of self- repudiation has been expressed in a comprehensive defection at all levels from any and everything black and African; physically, psychically, spiritually, and metaphorically. Self- repudiation of black humanity may be contextualized at various levels of their manifestations. At a first level is the generally roguish environment. The environment is contrived to perpetuate the unsavoury agendas of the appropriation of the totality of the space, economic and political, by the scions of the very traitors of the pan-African vision. Having consolidated the stranglehold,the leadership ominously seek to effectively extricate themselves, or so they imagine, from the grating daily realities of the continent that they have manufactured. They facilitate their defection by siphoning or appropriating the totality of national treasuries to build comfortable escape redoubts and well-feathered nests outside Africa. These are physical and psychological hide-outs from the constantly looming potential fury of the dispossessed. Defection is, as well, a dead end survival mechanism to hibernate from the overwhelming stench of the traumatic dispositions of the African homestead. It is against this backdrop that the beleaguered disaffected mass of Africans also tries to defect from the impositions of pervasive harsh realities. They make near-certain choices to perish in rickety boats in the Mediterranean en route real and imagined greener pastures outside the patchwork of dilapidated establishments that pretend to direct the affairs of the many unviable enclave-states that are directly the outcome of the tragedy of Addis Ababa of May, 1963. The disoriented masses of Africans effectively denounce the continent when they drown their collapsed spirits in tumultuous seas to end the travails of African existence. They do this in and to the glare of global ignominy. Home, Africa, and implied blackness, is a treacherous ghetto to exit.. There is a mass exodus to whiteness, yellowness or just about anything that is not black, given the anti-black concept of beauty. Women in Africa bleached their skin in order to fit into the prevailing idea that whiteness is synonymous with beauty, in spite of the health risks associated with transitioning from black skin to a false whiteness. Anne Locke estimates that twenty five per cent of all Senegalese women, like other Africa women, deploy bleaching creams to tone, tweek, squeeze and alter their bodies into whiteness. In the Diaspora, the defection is in psychological, spiritual, emotional distancing from Africa and the black skin, including the creation of new identities such as American Descendants of Slaves (ADOS), differentiating blacks from the African homelands and descendants of slaves
Yet, in the face of and against this seemingly immovable dolorous background, the discredited collective continental establishments decree chroniclers on putting out Afro-optimistic narratives; bolstered with phantoms of statistical data, surreal analyses and synthetic lies to make them look good. In this conspiracy to deodorize the narratives of the toxic realities of black existence consequential to the abdications of 1963, the conspirators take the world for blind. That nebulous conspiracy is preposterous in a globalized world of around the clock newsreel. To set out on a mission of surreal afro-optimistic narration, even in the glaring context of the opposing stark factual, is a political enterprise that corrupts everyone involved. It is politically expedient in asserting that there is no alternative to the current conglomeration of unviable states and the personalized political-entreprenueurial (poliprenueral) patrimonial structures and institutions that litter Africa. They call it Afro-optimistic narratives aimed at countering what is perceived as globally institutionalized negativity on African affairs or Afro pessimism. Yet, we protest in firm denunciations that this implied paradigm of polarity, optimism or pessimism, on African narratives is itself a false discourse. It is founded, funded and propagated by the delegitimized political elites. This elite has numerous and gargantuan skeletons to hide from the world as beneficiaries of a depraved continental order and regimes. Consistent with the need for a radical negation of the dolorous existent in Africa, we deploy a philosophy of Afro-realism in our intercourse with ourselves as Africans and the External order. Afro-realist narratives would advance and be guided, in the context of the existing torment of black humanity, by the existential realities and interests of the communion of African peoples, in contradistinction from the advancement of the questionable interests of states of dubious phenomenological integrity. Afro-realism would be directed by a radical rationalism of knowledge committed to rolling back, through intense focus on the intentionality of the lived reality, the historic and contemporaneous immobility of the continent, from both endogenous and exogenous forces.