KUMASI—A statue of an Indian independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi, was unveiled at the University of Ghana in June by the Indian president, Pranab Mukherjee, who had delivered a speech calling on students to “emulate and concretize” Gandhi’s ideals. What ideals, one might ask? What ideals should our students who we support through our tax payer cedis emulate other than our unique Ghanaian ideals? Or do we not have any? Worse, Gandhi happens to be the only statue in the university’s long colonial—and now its so-called independent—history as the premier university in our modern collective imagination.
Imagination here is key. It is a point demonstrably overlooked by our scrofulous classes who call themselves elites. Thousands of ordinary Ghanaians who cared to know about the Gandhi monomania have since signed petitions and launched awareness movements, calling for the statue to be torn down. Why? The main argument has been, and continues to be, that not only was Gandhi racist towards Black South Africans when he lived there from 1893 to 1914, but that he campaigned for the maintenance of the caste system in his own country, India.
Certainly, in Ghana, a country that is still emerging from the haunting of three hundred years of slave raiding on our coasts, a nation that is still dusting off more than a century of British colonial occupation and meddling, and a people still grappling with the imperialism of neoliberalism on a daily basis, the rise of a racist statue in a public space, let alone on the campus of one of the highest institutions of learning in the land, is six of a slap in the face for every step we have taken towards total emancipation and half a dozen of a gross disrespect by the Indian president. Although Mukherjee should know better, the blame lies elsewhere.
Under these circumstances, the debate about the statue of a racist foreigner newly erected in our country continues to stupefy most people. How can a public university adopt a foreign hero for its campus? How can our tax payer money be used in feeding a diet of a Gandhi monomania to our own children? Abena Maanu situates this illusion of freedom carefully within the context of the larger paradigm of cultural hegemonic neoliberal ambitions of foreign nations in Ghana today. “Why does the burden of honoring everyone fall on us? We have to honor other people’s leaders on our campuses. We have to honor other people’s tomatoes in our stores. We have to honor other people’s books in our classrooms. We have to honor other people’s automobiles on our roads. Meanwhile, who assumes the burden of honoring us?”
Most baffling is the persistent confrontation that has ensued since some of the collective works of Gandhi about race, caste and class came to light. Although the evidence of Gandhi’s racism, his classism, his sexism and his love for imperialist warfare stick up high against his supposed “nonviolent” rectitude, Gandhi’s supporters remain largely resolute in their defense of the belief systems about a man whose image and ideas they have come to solely recall through a selectively fed propaganda. So it looks.
So captivating has the notion of nonviolent action for political change been attributed to Gandhi that it is well-nigh impossible to separate Nii Kwabena Bonne’s January 1948 organized boycott of all European imports in the Gold Coast from Gandhi’s influence. At this rate, if Gandhi’s statue stays long enough at the University of Ghana every single one of our children will learn to reflect on the Accra Riots of 1948 not in the light of the bloody murders of Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey by Colonial Police, but in the illusory miasma of a supposed nonviolent Gandhi monomania.
Consequently, Gandhi remains a hero nonetheless—a hero to a globalist neoliberal ideology, which inherits its mantra from neocolonialism, and which prescribes the quest for political change for the greater good only through monkish nonviolence. It is easy to see how Gandhi stands tall among those who seek only to maintain the culture of “primitive accumulation,” and who would provide or allow wiggle-room only for negotiating kangaroo limits via the illusory slow churning wheels of nonviolent protest. Specifically, in his own home, Gandhi remains the hero for the select few of upper-caste Hindu Indians while the Gandhi monomania continues to maintain that “equality is of souls and not [of] bodies.”
What has all this to do with Ghana? It is only of particular interest to the few government officials in Ghana and at the University of Ghana who seem, at least in every respect, to be the newly emerging adulterous fat-cats of elitism in our country, and who have yet to delineate the effects of the monomania of Gandhi (Gandhism) on the collective aspirations of Ghanaians as to warrant erecting a racist statue on the premier public university campus of our land.
What is the import of Gandhism to our fat-cats? What are the ideals that the president of India and our government officials want students to emulate about Gandhi? Is it perhaps the need to entrench a general and collective revulsion for seeking political change by any means necessary? Is it perhaps to emasculate the political will of the people and to castrate every verve, every courage and every bravura the people might need to muster, in difficult times, in order to effect political and revolutionary change in their own country? Or is it to train a new generation that will sit and stand timid in their monkish and sheepish regard for higher authority? Which, is it?
But there’s more to this detrimental influence that a statue of Gandhi brings to the collective consciousness of our continuing struggle for self-assertive manhood in nation building. Identically, the essence of Gandhi, which his collective works show, represents the paradox of our struggle against ourselves and our humanity as Africans, as Ghanaians.
Gandhi, Race, Class and Caste.
Few can debate the true meaning of the monomania as Gandhi’s collective works show. Gandhi signifies the tussle of his upper caste and his “superior race” of Indians, spurred on by the “superior races of whiteness,” against attempts “to degrade the Indian to the position of the Kaffir.” Gandhi embodies a racist ideology against which “persistent ill-treatment [of] Indians [by whites] cannot but degenerate [them], so much so that from their civilized habits they would be degraded to the habits of Africans… [that is] a large portion of Her Majesty’s subjects instead of being raised in the scale of civilization, will be actually lowered [to the scale of Africans].”
More succinctly, Gandhi represents a bigoted “struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon Indians by the Europeans, who desire to degrade the Indian to the level of the African whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.”
That is the Gandhi ideal. That is the Gandhi monomania. That is his sheer inhumanity; that is his pure disrespect for Africans and his steep arrogance with which he dispatched his statements about us. That the president of India, with the help of a bunch of brainless professors at the University of Ghana and their equally retarded counterparts dare to impose this nincompoop of a person and of an ideal on the collective consciousness of Ghanaians, is itself testament of the depths to which we have allowed an escharotic bunch to define the state of our self-esteem.
No doubt, to most people in South Africa and across Africa and the diaspora, Gandhi remains a man who unashamedly and unapologetically constructed a legacy of racism against Blacks; who supported racial segregation in South Africa; who cheered and participated in British colonial wars of conquest; whose insensitive and racist remarks about mass murders in Nazi Germany remain barbarous; whose disturbing amiability towards Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini confound any objective reading of his collected works; and whose shocking disregard for the psychological well-being of his own grandnieces and consistent belittlement of Indian minorities such as Dalits and Sikhs, continue to baffle the decision by university administrators in Ghana to receive his statue and erect it as the first and still the only statue on that campus.
Yet, amidst this uncomfortable historicity, Gandhi’s supporters abound in Ghana. They have railed against those who dared to challenge the university decision to erect the statue of a racist foreigner on their public campus without permission. Some of these supporters even point to Gandhi’s record. A record of a nonviolent ideology for social change, but which when examined, when the real collective works of Gandhi are examined, they stand in stark contrast to what he has been portrayed to be in text books and in the media the world over.
The simple facts upset his supporters. More troubling, we have yet to even understand why the concerted effort, albeit pitiful, by Gandhi’s supporters in Ghana to scour through the collected works of Gandhi to “find traces of bits and pieces of information to show how much Gandhi may have loved; how much he may have sympathized with and how much he may have cared for Africans.” A petition that rose against another petition asking for the removal of the statue failed to “show in any definitive statement from Gandhi himself where he openly recanted his offensively prejudiced insulting remarks against Blacks in South Africa or where he apologized honorably for them.”
The extraordinary lengths to which some of these Ghanaians have gone to express, without proof—of how those who choose to be racist actually loved Africans—unveils a deeper festering virus in our collective national psyche. An issue worth inoculating ourselves against: That some Ghanaians are, in fact, only capable of below average human dignity; they partly despise and partly hate themselves. The pathology remains fascinating and fashionably idiotic precisely in the face of this Gandhi monomania.
Even Gandhi’s own grandson and biographer, Rajmohan Gandhi, acknowledged that his grandfather was “undoubtedly” ignorant and supremely prejudiced about Blacks in South Africa. And in the same vein, like the supporters of the statue in Ghana, he seems to think that Gandhi actually and invariably helped Blacks in South Africa through his racism. The argument is mind-boggling when Rajmohan maintains that his grandfather’s “struggle for Indian rights in South Africa [actually] paved the way for the struggle for Black rights.”
Indeed, such cockamamie works and interpretations are what abound in the collective deliberations of Gandhi and what constitute the ideals of Gandhi—what the Indian president wishes our Ghanaian students to emulate—a pathological hatred for themselves, a compulsive hatred for their kind, and a neurotic love and admiration for any other human, other than themselves, who must be raised above Blacks, even on their own godforsaken campus.
The retardation is not without the venal government backing of our land. A few politicians in Ghana have come to support this Rajmohan view—which explains the official decision to allow the statue to still stand even after several protests. In a measure to profess their astute political prowess and awareness and perhaps even the sociological understanding of the implications of Gandhi’s racism, these government officials have cited the benefits to Ghana of the “kind gift” of the Indian President. But hell, no matter, let’s understand it.
The “Kind Gift” of a Racist Statue.
Government reports concerning the nature of this “kind gift” continue to confuse and befuddle. However, the following is our general knowledge. In return for erecting the statue in Ghana, the Indian government has promised to increase trade between the two nations from its current one billion dollars to a new “economic interaction” worth over five billion dollars by 2020. Indians in Ghana have also pledged to register more businesses in Ghana to augment the over seven hundred businesses they already own in Ghana. On the other hand, the number of businesses opened by Ghanaians in India is not clear. Some analysts put the number at three although the President of Ghana has no plans to facilitate a reciprocal relationship in this regard.
Further, those who support the “kind” Indian gesture of a statue cite numerous economic projects that both governments of Ghana and India are undertaking. One such project involves the import of India’s TATA heavy duty busses (on account of TATA and Ashok Leyland vehicle manufacturing) to “improve public transportation in Ghana.” This flies in the face of the fact that Ghana actually has a car manufacturer in Kantanka that the government has since refused to work with to improve Ghana’s public transportation.
Another project involves a 35 million dollar Komenda Sugar Factory and a 24 million dollar sugarcane farm to feed the factory. Still more, President Mahama stated that India also wishes to finance a 30 million dollar fish processing project in Ghana and another unrevealed sum that India has promised to put up to modify the Yendi Water project in the Northern Region.
These “reparations” to Ghana for Gandhi’s crimes against Blackness specifically committed in South Africa are entrenched in the Rajmohan worldview held by our elected officials in the shamelessness with which they cite “kind gifts” as if they are evidence of Gandhi’s benevolence to Africans. Some of them assert circuitously that Gandhi’s racism was actually “good” for Blacks in South Africa. That Gandhi’s racism actually helped ease the plight of Blacks in apartheid South Africa. That without Gandhi’s racism, Blacks in South Africa could have never found the inspiration to fight for their own independence from racist whites.
The current narrative in Ghana, in support of the statue, is shaped exactly by this Rajmohan worldview. Some students of Gandhi in Ghana even believe that without the influence of Gandhi’s ideals in independence struggles in Ghana, we could not have [adequately] achieved our independence from Britain. So careful has this argument been honed over the years that even the Civil Rights movements of African Americans in the United States has the Gandhi monomania sprinkled into every crevice for its “tasty” success. To reiterate my previous point, it now seems completely difficult to separate the self-assertive bloody and violent struggle for freedom in America by Blacks from the influence of Gandhi’s bloodless sermons in that struggle.
It is in this light that the one sided-relationship between Ghana and India must be examined.
The monomania together with the Rajmohan worldview remain the bulwark argument for supporting a donation of Gandhi’s statue to the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research at the University of Ghana. India’s “reparatory” projects continue to remain the examples on which supporters fall to buttress Ghana’s “meaningful” relationship with India in contradistinction from India’s relationship with Britain in case the government of England were to donate a statue of Col. Reginald Dyer to a university in India. How would the Indians feel? Dyer was the British officer responsible for the Amritsar massacre in 1919.
But let us re-consider the facts. Let’s go deeper to see what’s really happening here.
Currently, India’s GDP per capita stands at 1,582 dollars whereas Ghana’s GDP per capita stands at 1,381 dollars, according to World Bank 2015 data. In every respect the difference between Ghana’s ability to take care of its population and India’s remain statistically insignificant. Ghana has more to benefit from investing in Kantanka Automobile Company than its investment in TATA. Ghana has far more to benefit from Ghana-Nigeria relations (Nigeria’s GDP per capita is 2,640 dollars) than it does with India. Ghana has more to benefit from Botswana (6,368 dollars per capita) than it does with India.
Undoubtedly, if the political argument on bilateral economic relations is examined, Ghana has nothing to lose by refusing a statue of Gandhi that insults the very essence of the constitution of our nation. If the statue remains the means by which a bilateral relationship must be forged and maintained, Ghana stands less to benefit from it. The Rajmonhan worldview is also nonsensical since none of the investments that Ghana is making, ala India, can be shown to become beneficial to the masses of Ghanaians, ever, now or in the future.
Even more, the idea that the contribution to Ghana’s GDP by Indian immigrants might falter is particularly lame if not totally ludicrous. There are two parts to this foolishness: (1) The mindset assumes that all Indian business persons domiciling in Ghana are so depraved that they would accept the sanctimony of the Gandhi monomania and (2) that Indians are only in Ghana to dictate how Ghana manages its public spaces. Or, are they?
How then does a country like India that is barely managing to feed its population, carefully succeeding in convincing Ghana’s educated administrators to accept its investments in Ghana, up to and including a statue of a racist? There are several facets to this issue and I will illustrate three incredible parts for clarifying the illusion of independence among Ghana’s ruling class.
The first is that, like Gandhi, the Indian political elite are only interested in facilitating the business opportunities in the rest of the world for India’s business class. This is pragmatic. No one can fault them. Second. Or, that India is actually interested in improving the economic situation of all Indians and sees investments in Ghana and across the Africa continent (India plans a 10 billion dollar spending spree in Africa since the India-African business forum in New Delhi, October, 2015) as the particular means to achieving this goal. This is also self-interest and no one can fault their maneuvers.
The third is salient, which is a means to achieving the first two goals. India recognizes the importance of culture and outlook in staging wide acceptance for its products in Ghana and the rest of the world. The “kind gift” of a statue of Gandhi is the Trojan horse necessary to prop up wide acceptance of Indian economic exploitation. Gandhi’s statue, together with its elevated propaganda of nonviolence, is then a form of cultural exploitation to achieving its goal of economic exploitation in Ghana without trouble—in peace.
Whatever the reading one might consider to be the Ghana-India relationship, the above points about business or economic outlook do not auger well for the well-being of Ghanaians, except, if one feels the need to predict the profits that could possibly be accrued to Ghana’s economy through Indian “reparatory” aid. As a student of aid, however, this argument can rarely be made. From wherever aid has come, one can show that more often it has come to hurt than to advance the economic ambitions of Ghanaians. In like manner it is not a farfetched feeling that the aid of a racist statue comes not to build, but only to tear down.
Why Haven’t We Removed the Statue Already?
In the same coin, the argument that removing Gandhi’s statue from Ghana’s premier university will upset Indian aid to Ghana and definitely hurt the Ghanaian economy is an argument that has only been fabricated in hell. There’s no merit to it. The debate then must shift focus. What do Ghanaians stand to gain from a statue of Gandhi? A racist ideal? Quite frankly, absolutely nothing more than what has been fed the venal Ghanaian elite about Gandhi’s nonviolent movements against oppression.
The irony of this is not lost on the University of Ghana, the government of Ghana and the people. While administrators embark on the campaign to keep the statue of a foreigner, a “hero of India,” in a public space, and in the psyche of Ghanaians, in a bid to foster the very essence of a “nonviolent freedom fighter” against imperialism (although the facts do not bear out this reading of Gandhi), they also seek to entrench on Ghanaians, against the will of the people, the false impression of a doctored Gandhism. That is oppression.
The nature of this tyranny in Ghana is also not lost on the ordinary Ghanaian. Few mistake the appeal of nonviolence to achieving political and economic freedom for reality. Although most people recognize that freedom in Ghana was achieved through bloodshed. In fact, it is no accident that the first color in Ghana’s flag remains Red—a color symbolizing the blood our ancestors poured in obtaining our freedoms.
Accordingly, the idea of nonviolence in the independence struggles across the African continent and indeed even in India remains untrue. On the contrary, freedom has come to Ghana and the rest of the Saharan world through bloodshed and violence. That Gandhi himself, once a soldier in the colonizer’s army, supported violence in his admiration of the apartheid regime in South Africa and in his admiration of Adolf Hitler and Mussolini are no secrets.
Against this backdrop the neoliberal idea of selling the “emasculated propaganda” of Gandhism as the means by which citizens of the “third world” (see Narmer’s article on removing Gandhi’s statue) must navigate the boundaries of their freedoms, either from brutal dictators, or from western stooges, or now from newly emerging Asian stooges in Africa, continue to be an effective scheme of mitigating forceful collective revolutions that check the balance and abuse of power in our own nations.
But it seems that the people of Ghana understand the complexity of the war being launched against our well-being. We recognize that the war is both economic and mental. It is staged in two parts: (1) Ghanaians must accept Gandhi and his idealism if we want to improve our economic situation, ala India. Which is false! Or worse, (2) that Ghanaians must accept Gandhi and his monomania if they ever feel the need, at any point in their lives, to demonstrate or stand against imperialism. This is also false.
Both hypocritical ways of resolving the plight of the down-trodden in Ghana are illusions. Such an ideology situates the acceptance of Gandhi’s statue within the paradigm of a contained revolutionary verve that oppressed people must demonstrate, if at all they are conscious enough to launch a campaign for their own self-assertive nationhood.
That is, to carefully analyze the extent and impact of the delusion that is independence and sovereignty festering in the minds of the people and those who claim to be their administrators in the government of Ghana and the University of Ghana, vis-à-vis the message the monomania of Gandhism, one only needs to observe the careful petitioning (through nonviolence protest) still ongoing to remove a statue (an idea) imposed violently (by force) on the people, against their will, without their consent, since June of this year.
When these facts are strongly considered in light of the newly advancing cultural hegemonic tendencies of India’s ruling class, not only do we gain a deeper understanding of why the administrators at the University of Ghana have been misled, even out-smarted, by the elite of one of the poorest nations in the world, but we begin to unearth the deeper problem of the putrid Ghanaian ruling class. They live in the squalor of an illusion of independence. They are capable only of below average human dignity. They could be expected to care less about the well-being of their own people. The elite of our country partly despise and partly hate themselves.
Indeed we begin to also comprehend why the illusion of Gandhi’s worldwide monomania of a nonviolent appeal to change has also been applauded by western nations. These very nations that applaud and support ideological movements such as Gandhism at every place else in the world, but in the corridors of their own power, are quite invariably the same perpetrators of violent regime change the world over.
Within this mummery, the people’s country that is the Republic of Ghana has administrators who deride and chastise voices within the country calling for a vulpine invidious statue that has only come to divide Ghanaians, to stop asking for change—to stop asking for the removal of a statue that has been forced upon them.
Even more, to remove this imposition, the duty has been turned inside out and impressed upon the oppressed—the duty of those of us who were minding our own business in the first place before the statue rose in our backyard—to seek not the equal violent means to remove it by which it was erected. On the contrary, we must seek quite the opposite means to violence, that is, dialogue. This captures the very essence of Gandhism vast undermining the revolutionary dynamism of our country to effect change when we want it, how we want it and where we want it. The whole goal is to restrain our freedoms within the careful curtailed prescriptions of Gandhi’s nonviolent struggle.
What Statues Must We Raise From the Dust?
Before Gandhi, the statues of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president; of Yaa Asantewaa, an Ejisu revolutionary Queenmother who fought against British occupation; and even more noteworthy, the statues of various Traditional African priests, like Komfo Anokye, the mettlesome Chief Priest of the erstwhile Asante Kingdom, graced the collective consciousness, if not for all Ghanaians, but a significant number in maintaining sovereign awareness about our country, our culture and our history—where we have come from, who we are and what we shall yet become.
Out of this awareness, no matter how implicit, the need to rise against tyranny wherever we see it in Ghana has been of utmost importance to the collective makeup of the mentality of our country. To this point alone, the message of Komfo Anokye is most striking. The Komfo “conjured” the Golden Stool that embodies the soul of the Asantes. More, he brought to nation building what most had come to forget in the Gold Coast. That a nation’s soul resides in its symbols and that precisely how it imagines itself is manifested in its symbolic representations. The Komfo of Asante warned that a “nation can never surrender its stool or it ceases to exist.” No matter who defeated Asante in battle, and there are very few that did, she has never surrendered her Golden Stool. Asante has never surrendered her soul. Never!
If in 1695, without much literature to consult—during these Pale Ages we had abandoned much of our writing cultures—on the importance of the symbols of nationhood, Komfo Anokye together with Osei Tutu could forge a powerful unity that transcended the particularism of Ashanti tribes and clans, and Anokye could employ not only the political influence of his priesthood but also the spiritual ties it engendered to transform a loose Ashanti alliance into a national union, what excuse have the leaders of our dear country today?
This consciousness rather than seep into the collective sentience of the university administrators and the government officials of our country has remarkably escaped them or rather it has extraordinarily never seeped into their anencephalous heads. Obviously. So Gandhi’s statue and the kind of timid message it sends to the generations to come, the generations that it will nonetheless terrorize, if it was allowed to stand, marches on to change, diminish, belittle and erase the few remnants of the political will of this part of West Africa in a so-called “nonviolent” manner. What is nonviolent about an imposition?
Now, with a Gandhi statue carefully lodged within the minds and hearts of the future of our nation, by force, and which is notoriously killing the voices of dissent against cultural imperialism, Ghana is on the brink of losing her soul. We are on the precipice of losing our “Golden Stool.” With the death of the idealism of our own Ancestors, with the loss of our own Gods, the demise of our own heroes, brought on by the onset, it seems, of a culture of erecting foreigners on our lands as “our heroes,” one can only fathom where the future of a country like Ghana heads.
The persistent perfection of the ideology that is now Gandhi, against the truth, entrenched through an unrelenting propaganda war by India’s ruling classes and a colluding neoliberal western class in Ghana, brings to our motherland a whole new state of mind, and consequently of our awareness. We are the image that we see in Gandhi. We are the viewer and the viewed. There is no other distracting presence from the statue of Gandhi for the Ghanaian elite we wish to train and fashion in our own universities. There’s no counter narrative but a so-called “nonviolent” approach to “asking” for freedom from our oppressors. Our freedom is now negotiable. It’s taken from us first, through violence, and we must seek nonviolent means to regaining it. In fact, racism which refuses our equal humanity is posed as a benefit to the race.
The image of Gandhi hence, standing at the University of Ghana, in our premier university space, has all the Godly powers that our people must now emulate. It kills us at will. Kills effortlessly. Kills beautifully. In the Rajmohan worldview, we must hate ourselves in order to love it. It dispenses morality and judges endlessly those who seek to challenge and to remove the ideology, the statue, the image, by force. The image of Gandhi as the world’s leading nonviolent change giver and the ritual involved in pleading for the change we want to see in our own country leads us not anymore to a mysterious imperial power abroad, but back to ourselves. We are now the only source of our oppression because the image of Gandhi cannot help but return the expression of fear proper to emasculated societies that refuse to fight for their own freedom.
The illusion of our independence which is pervasive among the Ghanaian elite facilitates the use of the imagery that is Gandhi as propaganda by whoever can control some part of it to continue to enslave, oppress and trick the rest of us—to trick those who remain intransigent in seeing the light. James Baldwin describes what happens to people who gloss over such deeper meanings: “People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”
Our Ghanaian elite have shut their eyes to the reality that is cultural hegemony. They invite our destruction with the elevation of other people’s heroes and their emasculating ideologies into our lands. And they insist on remaining in their state of innocence although in the twenty-first century that innocence can hardly be justified. Our ruling class have become the monsters we sought to eradicate. Until Gandhi’s statue is removed, the intellect of the Ghanaian, let alone his bravery, together with his history, will forever remain in doubt.