Research and data yield scarce insights into development pathways, says Okello Oculi
David Apter once attributed Kwame Nkrumah’s enormous popularity among ‘little’ Ghanaians to what he called ‘CHARISM’. The term meant that special vapor which rises from certain individuals and generates excitement in masses of people. This special call has been described as transitory as a source of legitimacy for a government led by such a leader.
Apter was silent on the impacts of decades of colonial taxation without popular consent; quantities of cocoa and gold exported from the labor and lands of the people while their benefits accrued to British businesses, industries, workers and the economy in general.
Cocoa farmers had refused to sell their cocoa beans because the low prices paid by British companies did not match the energies they were expending to grow, harvest and process the pods and seeds.
For the Ashanti people, the humiliation of their KING, the SANTEHENE, reeked of the highest heavens in hearts and minds.
The wars between the communities with rifles provided by the European merchants for the capture and the sale of the victims for the sending in slavery, had also left deep scars; stagnation and decline of populations.
It is for all of these that Nkrumah’s call for ‘FREEDOM NOW’ has aroused ‘sleeping warriors’ in people. Unlike educated female lawyers who spoke English ‘through the nose’, traders in Ghana recognized true manhood in Kwame Nkrumah, who spoke to them in FANTI and GA languages.
He was the real man they secretly yearned to save them from the oppression of foreign rulers. Kwame Nkrumah and his political party, the Convention Peoples Party (CPP), won the election while he was in jail for calling people to hate the colonial dictatorship.
Amilcar Cabral, the leader of the war against Portuguese oppression by the peoples of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, taught the lesson of researching people’s living conditions to learn and exploit what pleases them . As an agronomist, tours across the country allowed him to hear perspectives and see the daily experiences of various categories of people.
Léopold Sedar Senghor in Senegal, Mallam Aminu Kano in Nigeria and Julius Kambarage Nyerere in Tanganyika also visited village communities; ate and slept among the host villagers under the moonlight during the Harmattan seasons. These experiences gained support and gave them rare insights into development pathways.
In the campaign for Kenya’s August 2022 presidential elections, Vice President William Ruto billed the contest as one between ‘Sons of the Aristocracy’ and the children of ‘The Wretched of the Earth’. Uhuru Kenyatta, the president and son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first independence leader, openly supports Raila Odinga, the son of Jomo Kenyatta’s opposition politician, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.
Presenting Raila Odinga as the son of an ”aristocrat” is implausible. His father led demands for the release of Jomo Kenyatta from detention based on the false accusation that he was the leader of the Mau Mau war against British immigrants occupying KIKUYU land.
Kenyatta rewarded him by firing him from the vice presidency and forbidding him to remain politically silent.
Ruto was accused of owning more than 10 commercial properties. He is accused of post-election violence in 2007 targeting Gikuyu who bought land evacuated by European immigrants. His KALENJIN people expressed their bitterness by killing Kikuyu farmers and burning crops and other properties. The data of this historical drama are in the electoral campaign.
Under Arap Moi’s presidency, the KALENJIN elites practiced the corruption of the ‘IT’S OUR TURN TO EAT’ syndrome that Jomo Kenyatta’s allies inherited from the British. Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta are the sons of an “aristocracy of corruption”.
Critics allege that this Ruto and Kenyatta trait is shared by Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar. Widespread opposition to this political record fueled the horrific post-election violence in Kenya from December 2007 to February 2008. More than a thousand people were killed. Similar frustration has fueled violence during the 2020 ‘END-SARS’ protests, arson and killings across Nigeria.
Dr Doyin Okupe, a key staff member of Labor Party presidential candidate Peter Obi, is among those who say mass frustrations over unemployment, killings by ‘unknown gunmen’ and Islamists , the rising cost of food, have been blamed cumulatively on politicians of the previous generation.
Without in-depth data, it is claimed that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have lost popular support; and Peter Obi is the new ”Redeemer”.
RUTO and OBI probably did not sleep in the moonlight in villages like Senghor, Mallam Aminu Kano and Nyerere. In Nigeria, it was clear that MKO Abiola winning Kano State (against Bashir Tofa, a son of Kano), was a big surprise. Whether the legacy of Mallam Aminu Kano’s political education or the erosion of benefits provided by Abubakar Rimi’s PRP government influenced voters has not been investigated by campaign staff.
Professor Oculi writes from Abuja