NO TEARS FOR AFRICA’S INTELLECTUALS
An FAF Publication in New African (October 1996).
The most painful and treacherous aspect of Africa's collapse was the wilful and active collaboration by Africa's own intellectuals, many of whom were highly "educated" with Ph. D.s, and who should have known better. Yet a multitude of them have prostituted themselves, selling off their principles and integrity to partake of the plunder, misrule and repression of the African people. In fact, according to Colonel. Yohanna A. Madaki (rtd), when General Gowon drew up plans to return Nigeria to civil rule in 1970, "academicians began to present well researched papers pointing to the fact that military rule was the better preferred since the civilians had not learned any lessons sufficient enough to be entrusted with the governance of the country" (Post Express, 12 November 1998, 5).
One such prostitute was Kokou Koffigoh who joined President Gnassingbe Eyadema as Togo's Prime Minister in 1992. New African (January 1993) wrote that "the opposition thinks Koffigoh has sold out the gains of the Togo National Conference by not carrying out its decisions and by allowing President Eyadema to return to power" (19).
Another was Gwanda Chakuamba of Malawi, who was appointed the chairman of the "presidential council" by former Life-President Hastings Banda in 1993. As The Economist (20 November 1993) reported: "Chakuamba was an old Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and ex-minister, who was jailed in 1980 for sedition and released in July 1993. He then flirted briefly with the opposition United Democratic Front, but, while Dr. Banda was in hospital, suddenly emerged as secretary-general of ruling party and acting head of state" (47). Chakaumba's move was roundly denounced "as a betrayal to the opposition, who had tirelessly campaigned for his release following local and international pressure on the MCP government's poor human rights record. "Reliable sources reported that whilst he was in prison, Chakuamba was subjected to immersion in water and was chained hand-and-foot for months on end" (African Business, December 1993, 29). How could an educated man, whose basic human rights were viciously violated in detention, suddenly decide to join his oppressor?
When Captain Yahya Jammeh overthrew the democratically elected government of Sir Dawda Jawara on July 24, 1994, the only minister from the Jawara administration enticed to serve the military regime was the finance minister, Bakary Darbo, a very well respected economist -- even in international circles. He was instrumental in getting the World Bank to resume aid to The Gambia. On 10 October 1994, he was fired by the military junta: He was no longer useful to them. Then on 15 November, he was accused of complicity in the 11 November abortive coup attempt. He fled to neighboring Senegal with his family.
Next to assume the finance ministry portfolio was Ousman Koro Ceesay. When he became no longer useful to the military junta, "they smashed his head with a baseball bat," said Captain Ebou Jallow, the number-2 man in the ruling council who defected to the United States on 15 October (The Washington Times, 20 October 1995, A15).
Time and time again, despite repeated warnings, highly "educated" African intellectuals throw caution and common sense to the winds and fiercely jostle one another for the chance to hop into bed with military brutes. The allure of a luxury car, a diplomatic or ministerial post and a government mansion often proves too irresistible. Nigeria's Senator Arthur Nzeribe once declared that General Babangida was good enough to rule Nigeria. When pressed, he confessed: "I was promised prime ministerial appointment. There is no living politician as hungry for power as I was who would not be seduced in the manner I was to invest in the ABN, with the possibility and promise of being Executive Prime Minister to a military president" (The Guardian, 13 November 1998, 3).
So hordes of politicians, lecturers, professionals, lawyers, and doctors sell themselves off into prostitution and voluntary bondage to serve the dictates of military vagabonds with half their intelligence. And time and time again, after being raped, abused, and defiled, they are tossed out like rubbish --- or worse. Yet more intellectual prostitutes stampede to take their places.
African countries that have imploded in recent years were all ruined by the military: Algeria, Burundi, Ethiopia, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, and Zaire, among others. In country after country in Africa, where military rule was entrenched, educational institutions (of the tertiary level - universities, and colleges) have all decayed --- starved of funds by the military. Although the official excuse is always lack of funds, the military predators always find the money to purchase shiny new pieces of bazookas for their thugs. But the real reason? "It is not in the best interest of these military governments to educate their people," says Wale Deyemi, a doctoral student at the University of Lagos. "They do not want people to be able to challenge them" (The Washington Post, 6 October 1995, A30).
In Nigeria, the sciences have been hardest hit. Science teachers have been vanishing with such alarming frequency that Professor Peter Okebukola, the president of the National Science Teachers Association of Nigeria, lamented at the association's thirty-sixth annual conference at Maiduguri that "good science teachers are increasingly becoming an endangered species" (African News Weekly, 13 October 1995, 17).
In spite of all this evidence, some African intellectuals still vociferously defend military regimes while their own institutions --- the very places where they teach or obtained their education --- deteriorate right under their very noses. One would have thought that these professors and intellectuals would protect their own institutions, just as the soldiers jealously protect their barracks and keep them in top shape. But no! For small change, the intellectuals have been willing to help and supervise the destruction of their very own university system.
Another expendable intellectual prostitute was Abass Bundu of Sierra Leone --- the former secretary-general of ECOWAS --- though his fate was less horrible. When he was appointed by the 29-year-old illiterate Captain Valentine Strasser to be Sierra Leone's foreign minister in early 1995, he left home to grab the post in a cloud of dust. In August 1995 he was tossed into a garbage bin in a radio announcement. He claimed in a Voice of America radio interview that "he never applied to join the junta" (African News Weekly, 8 September 1995, 12).
"We just discovered that he's an opportunist and one cannot trust such people. So we kicked him out," said spokesman of the Strasser's National Provisional Ruling Council. "When we appointed Abass Bundu through a radio announcement, he didn't complain but when we fired him though another radio announcement, he wants to make noise" he added (The African Observer, 8-21 August 1995, 5).
Another case was that of Sierra Leone's fearless human rights lawyer, Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie. He was a vociferous critic of the ruling NPRC over human rights abuses and was reported to have a personal dislike for the military. He was hailed on student campuses as a young radical barrister and was invited to student conventions, giving lectures on human rights and negative consequences of military rule. On several occasions he called for a national conference to prepare the way for civilian rule. Then suddenly in April 1995 he joined Sierra Leone's military-led government as secretary of state in the Department of Youth, Sport and Social Mobilization. His detractors never forgave him.
Then there was Paul Kamara of Sierra Leone --- a fearless crusader for human rights and ardent advocate of democracy. He published and edited the widely respected For Di People, whose circulation exceeded 30,000 copies a week. In January 1996, he joined the military government of Brigadier-General Maada Bio --- a decision that by his own admission, "disappointed many people" (New African, May 1996, 14). On election night, Feberuary 26, five men dressed in military fatigues with guns waited for him at his newspaper offices. When he left his office and got into his official four-wheel-drive car, the soldiers chased him and opened fire. "We've got the bastard at last," one of them shouted. But luckily, the "bastard" escaped death and was flown to London for treatment. His troubles did not end there. On August 20, 1999, he was assaulted by three Revolutionary United Front (RUF) commanders following an article alleging laziness and corruption by RUF commanders based in Freetown. “An ECOMOG officer declined to intervene while the attack took place” (Index on Censorship, Nov/Dec 1999; p.249).
In Burkina Faso, Clement Oumarou Ouedraogo was not so lucky. He was the number- two man in the barbarous military dictatorship of Blaise Compaore. He later resigned and launched his own Burkina Labor Party. On 9 December 1992, he was killed "when unidentified attackers threw a grenade into his car as he was returning from a meeting of the opposition Coalition of Democratic Forces" (West Africa, 16-22 December 1991, 2116).
In neighboring Niger, when Lieutenant-Colonel Ibrahim Barre Mainassara seized power in the January 1996 coup, overthrowing the civilian regime of President Mahamane Ousmane, the first civilian to join the new military regime as prime minister was Boukary Adji, who was deputy governor at the Central Bank of West African States in Dakar (The Washington Times, 1 Feberuary 1996, A14). Do Africa's intellectuals learn?
In Nigeria, Baba Gana Kingibe, a career diplomat, was the vice-presidential candidate of Moshood K. O. Abiola in the 12 June 1993 presidential elections . Abiola won the election fair and square, but the result was annulled by the military government of Geneneral Ibrahim Babangida. Baba Kingibe then accepted the post of foreign minister from that same military regime. Nor did he raise a whiff of protest or resign when his running mate, Abiola, was thrown into jail. Neither did Chief Tony Anenih, the chairman of the defunct Social Democratic Party, on whose ticket Abiola contested the 12 June election. In fact, Chief Anenih was part of a five-man delegation, sent by General Abacha to the United States in October 1995 to "educate and seek the support of Nigerians about the transition program." At an 22 October 1995 forum organized by the Schiller Institute in Washington, "Chief Anenih and Colonel (rtd) Emeka O. Ojukwu took turns ripping apart the reputation of Abiola. Anenih took pains to discredit Chief Abiola, whom he said was being presented by the Western media as the victimized President-elect. Some of the Nigerians in the audience denounced the delegation as `paid stooges' of Abacha" (African News Weekly, 3 November 1995, 3).
More pathetic was the case of Alex Ibru, the publisher of The Guardian Group of newspapers in Lagos who became the internal affairs minister. On 14 August 1994, his own newspaper was raided and shut down by the same military government under which he was serving. He did not protest or resign. After six months as interior minister, he too was tossed aside. In October 1995, his two newspapers, shut down by the military government for more than a year, were allowed to reopen after Ibru apologized to the authorities for any offensive reports they may have carried. Then on 2 February 1996, unidentified gunmen in a deep-blue Peugeot 504 trailed him and sprayed his car with machine-gun fire. The editor-in-chief, Femi Kusa, said that the car was bullet-ridden and Ibru was injured. He too was flown to Britain for treatment.
After the annulment of Nigeria's 12 June elections, General Babangida was eased aside by the military top brass and Ernest Shonekan became the 89-day interim civilian president until he too was removed by the military despot, General Sani Abacha. On 19 September, Shonekan accompanied Nigeria's foreign minister, Tom Ikimi, to London to deliver a "confidential message" to British Prime Minister John Major. Nigeria's military junta told Westminster that it would pardon the 40 convicted coup plotters if British would help with the rescheduling Nigeria's $35 billion debt, and support its transition program to democratic rule, its bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, and its attempt to gain U.S. recognition of its effort to fight drug trafficking.
First of all, how could Ernest Shonekan act as an emissary for the same barbarous military regime that overthrew him? Not only that, he accepted an appointment from Abacha to a committee of experts to plan for "Vision 2010." According to African News Weekly (7-13 October 1996), "Vision 2010 will focus on Nigeria's growth into the next century. Details of the plan are to be set out by a non-political committee which will sit for between 9 and 12 months, targeting gross domestic product, inflation, agriculture, industrialization, literacy, health and employment" (2).
Second, who thought that 35 years after "independence" from British colonial rule, Nigeria's government would be holding its own citizens as hostages, demanding ransom from the former colonial power? It did not occur to any of the "educated" emissaries that their mission sank the concept of "independence from colonial rule" to new depths of depravity. Mercifully, the British refused to capitulate to these terroristic demands.
Dr. Tom Ikimi was the activist, who, in 1989, formed the Liberal Convention party to campaign for democracy in Nigeria. In June 1989 he launched a branch in the United Kingdom, where he made glorious speeches about participatory democracy and denouncing military regimes. In 1994 he became Nigeria's Foreign minister under the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. He even appeared on The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, on 3 August 1995, and strenuously defended Nigerian military government's record on democratization, calling General Abacha "humane."
Then there was the case of Phillips David Sesay, with various academic degrees including a doctorate in philosophy. He was the head of Sierra Leone's chancery in Washington. For three years, he was not paid; yet he remained at the post. In 1996, he left his wife and son in Washington and returned to Sierra Leone in a hurry to accept promotion as Acting Chief Protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the country's ruling military regime. That the former protocol at the ministry had worked with the junta for only 4 days and had fled the country did not bother Sesay, who took that post. Following a coup on 23 May 1997, Sesay fled the country. "When his plane landed in New York on 20 December 1997, Sesay's diplomatic passport with a multiple-entry permit to the U.S. was found to be insufficient. His visa was canceled at the behest of the State Department and he was placed in detention by the Immigration and Naturalization Service" (The Washington Post, 2 January 1998, A30).
Ghanaians would point to a swarm of intellectual prostitutes who sold out to join the military regime of Fte./Lte. Jerry Rawlings: Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, the former minister of finance; Totobi Kwakye, minister of communication, who as a student leader battled the former military head of state, Col. I.K. Acheampong; Dr. Tony Aidoo, a presidential adviser; Dr. Vincent Assisseh, a press secretary; and Kow Arkaah, the Vice-President who was beaten up by President Rawlings in December 1995.
Vile opportunism, unflappable sycophancy, and trenchant collaboration on the part of Africa's intellectuals allowed tyranny to become entrenched in Africa. Doe, Mengistu, Mobutu, and other military dictators legitimized and perpetuated their rule by buying off and co-opting Africa's academics for a pittance. And when they fall out of favor, they are beaten up, tossed aside or worse. And yet more offer themselves up. The moon shines so brightly but it is still dark in some places.
*************** George Ayittey,