Moses maintains his stand:
Dr. Aluko's two questions excellently distill the main issues under discussion. His clarification of Manan's questions captures all the dimensions of the problem before us. But it is VERY wrong to say that these are the questions that George Ayittey has raised. In fact Ayittey's controversial prescriptions do not raise questions; they offer themselves as answers and solutions to all of Africa's problems with a finality and conclusiveness that makes one wonder if his prescriptions are for a small, single-ethnicity, and culturally homogenous village instead of a traditionally diverse, culturally heterogeneous, and dynamic continent of close to a billion people.
For me, the key turns of phrase in Aluko's questions that differentiate them from Ayittey's position are:
1)"Š..many (or most) countries in Africa are MULTI-TRADITIONAL AND MULTIETHNIC.
2) "Š..then using the abundant resources around us, and combining all of them beneficially with EXTERNAL ones"
3)"Š.. our leaders' penchant for seeking ONLY external solutions to our myriad problems"
The first turn of phrase quoted above defines my lingering concern about George's overly homogenizing, reductive, and flattening prescriptions and diagnosis. The first question to answer before we can take seriously George's claim of having diagnosed all of Africa's problems and crafted a solution that will work all over the continent (or in most parts of it) is whether all of Africa's peoples or most of them have ever shared a single tradition, political heritage, ritual of governance, or even cosmology. Answering such a question will determine if George's diagnosis and prescriptions have any merit or analytical value.
In my view George has not demonstrated to us that Africans subscribe to the same tradition or share the same symbolic universe or politico-cultural experience. I know that this is the bedrock of his agenda and that he never tires of asserting it, but is it a historical or sociological verity that is borne out by a skeptical investigation of the African past and present? The weight of available historical and anthropological evidence is not in favor of collapsing Africa's many traditions-dynamic as they were/are-and political practices into a set of simplistic homogenizing categories.
The second question to consider is that of whether the generalization of the traditional/precolonial political system(s) of one or a few African ethnic groups or polities to the rest of the continent's many groups either as an intellectual exercise or policy recommendation is not a recipe for disaster, which is bound to foster feelings of marginalization and exclusion in multi-ethnic countries, which all African countries except perhaps Somalia are. I have pointed out that in my own country, Nigeria, any attempt to prescribe the Ama-ala as a model of national governance or crisis resolution is guaranteed to generate more trouble in the polity than the problem that it is designed to solve.
As a sampler of the bewildering heterogeneity of Africa, consider the fact that Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups, some with admittedly similar traditions, customary practices, and political systems, but most with radically different cultural and political protocols and socio-historical experiences.
Dr. Aluko's second turn of phrase:"Š. then using the abundant resources around us, and combining all of them beneficially with EXTERNAL ones" eloquently conveys my prescription of working out ways to effectively combine local initiatives and resources with EXTERNAL ones----the point that I have been making throughout this debate and which Baffoe-Bonnie has now derisively called the "Combo" solution (thanks, Baffoe-Bonnie for that catchy title).
Aluko's third turn of phrase: "our leaders' penchant for seeking ONLY external solutions to our myriad problems" is a legitimate concern shared by us all, and it reflects my point about the woeful performance of African postcolonial leaders and their poor development choices. But should such disillusionment lead us into the domain of illusory nostalgia and lead us the chart an insular direction for Africa? The key word that Aluko himself capitalized is "only." It is true that African leaders have perhaps not looked inwards enough, but how does that sentiment convey George's outlandish prescription that African countries should stop seeking or accepting foreign financial, logistical, technological, or diplomatic resources in the effort to solve their problems, or his more controversial call on foreign governments and international agencies to stop giving aid to Africa because as he claims ALL solutions to Africa's problems must come ONLY from Africa (African solutions to African problems).
If George Ayittey had been as pragmatic in his postings as Aluko is in his queries above, I doubt if the debate would have gone on as long as it has or if I would have opposed him (if at all) as vehemently as I have.
I, like Edward Kissi, do not object to harnessing our resources and positive aspects of our societies' cultures to bring about development and progress. What I strongly object to is George's insistence that Africa should repudiate foreign aid and foreign involvement in its conflict resolution efforts and that a homogenized tradition offers the way forward, a prescription which disregards current global geopolitical realities and the immediate shortage of crucial resources on the continent, most notably finance, technology, and logistics.
George has not been willing to acknowledge that Africa deserves, should seek, or accept any foreign aid or assistance. This is a dogmatic and unrealistic position that is inexplicable to me and which I strongly oppose. This position of George's, which is different from the thrust of Aluko's posers, is the reason why the debate has dragged on. I will never subscribe to the notion that Africa should abruptly shut itself to foreign aid or support and that this insular path will somehow usher in development and relief for Africa's many troubles. I agree though that foreign aid ALONE will not guarantee our economic survival or bring long-term relief to Africa's seemingly endemic crises. Thus, it is clear, as I have pointed out over and again, that I am for the "Combo" solution and that I, like Aluko, believe that the debate should move to the "HOWs" instead of the "WHYs" of combining foreign aid effectively with local initiatives and resources and of curbing our leaders' "penchant for seeking ONLY external solutions to our myriad problems."
A consensus has since been emerging in this debate that a combination of African initiatives and resources with foreign/international ones is the way to go for Africa. Dr Kissi, Emetulu, myself, Dr. Sisay, and now Aluko support this position. The question is: does George Ayittey? Will George still say that Africa does not need foreign aid and support, or will he warm up to this realistic position taken by most Africans?
When George says that US policy makers and other Western donors should stop giving aid to Africa and that this will solve the continent's problem by forcing leaders to look inward, is it a humane or realistic prescription in view of the global system of inequalities and economic asymmetry and the numerous humanitarian crises and challenges on the continent? More importantly, is this not dangerously proximate to Right Wing and racist discourse in the West, which essentially claims that Africans---being the primitive, self-destructive, and irredeemable creatures that they are--- should be left to their devices and that it is a waste of time for the West to border with a lost cause?
I frankly still do not see why one has to even argue the self-evident point that Africa's developmental efforts can benefit from an effective combination of foreign and local resources and initiatives, since the developmental annals of the many countries of the world support this rule. As a historian I learn from historical antecedents even while remaining sensitive to dynamism, contingency, and the unpredictability of human agency.