Famous political scientist A. B. Assensoh reviews two recent submissions to reach a different conclusion. Where is home? What should African Americans do for Africa? Who is us?
Many of us still feel very elated and grateful for these meaningful and timely dialogues that Toyin has brilliantly initiated through the USA/Africa Dialogue. With permission from submitting pundits and light as well as heavyweight scholars, it is my serious suggestion that each year's submitted and published dialogues should be edited and published, just as the indomitable Dr. Tai Solarin of Nigeria's Mayflower College fame did with his submissions to his great 1960s' Daily Times newspaper column, titled 'Thinking With You."
While I greatly enjoyed Ebere's excellent submission and even shared it with my Indiana University colleagues and graduate students (who also found it very useful), please permit me to comment briefly on Submission Nos. 47 & 49, respectively. I smiled a great deal as I read Ebow's submission, titled "Go back home." Since Ebow is from Ghana, I wish to play the devil's advocate by asking him pointedly: "Where is home, and to which home should one return?" (in Submission #49). I also wish to ask Ehiedu, "What partnership was he referring to, with his reference to Africans abroad" (in Submission #47)?
Maybe, Ebow has not taken a good look at Ghana's latest constitution, which invariably disenfranchises several overseas-based Ghanaians. Of course, the current regime of President John Kufuor is not to be blamed for some of the, seemingly, disturbing contents or stipulations of the constitution, as the regime merely inherited the document from past regimes. Also, I do not blame the civilian regimes of former Ghanaian President J.J. Rawlings because they also inherited the document from a Constitutional Assembly, which was made up of eminent Ghanaian citizens. What is sad, however, about some aspects of the constitution that all Ghanaians are to respect and abide by include the fact that, again, many overseas-based Ghanaians have "smartly" been disenfranchised, indeed as they cannot return home today and immediately run for any electable office. As I saw them this past summer, when I was back in Ghana, there are constitutional provisions calling for (1) how long one should have stayed in a particular constituency before one can stand for an election there; (2) if one's parents were bona fide citizens or residents of the area; (3) where one was born in Ghana, etc.
A typical example was the temporary dilemma that faced Ghana's current deputy Finance Minister, Dr. Akoto Osei, who was running for the parliamentary seat at Tafo-Pankronu: some of the local newspapers claimed, unsuccessfully, that although his late father was born in the constituency, he and his mother were born elsewhere in the Brong Ahafo Region and, as a result, he should be barred from standing for an election in a constituency in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, etc.
Also, it is a constitutional provision that any Ghanaian, who is not a registered voter cannot hold certain earmarked high positions, including cabinet posts (according to the same governing constitution). I asked a former leading judicial scholar from Ghana why such provisions -- very inimical to the aspirations of overseas-based Ghanaians -- were incorporated in the current constitution; his responses were both sad and interesting: first, as he told me, to prevent rich overseas-based Ghanaians from rushing home to "hijack" local/national political elections or lucrative positions with their "almighty" Dollars, Pound Sterling or Deutchmark and, second, also to punish these same overseas-based Ghanaians, who ran away from mosquito bites and other societal Ghanaian discomforts or problems to enjoy "good" life overseas, etc! That is why I, initially, asked Ebow: "Where is home, and to which home should one return"? Ehiedu, too, may answer similar queries in his reference to abroad-based Africans possibly serving in strategic parnerships, instead of being in "fruitless handwringing..."
Above all, does Ehiedu, in his radical submission, see African-Americans as part of the abroad-based Africans? In the late President Kwame Nkrumah's 1957 autobiography, he underscored, in detail, part of the discussions of an interesting business meetings that he had, in the mid-1950s, with some then-called Negro (or African-American) leaders in New York and Philadelphia, respectively, during his trip to the U.S. to accept an honorary doctoral degree from his alma mater, Lincoln University (then headed by President Horace Mann Bond, the late father of the indomitable NAACP's Julian Bond), accompanied by his then close political companion and Cabinet Minister Kojo Botsio. The Osagyefo, seeing African-Americans (or Black Americans) as part of the diaspora-based Africans, appealed to all African-Americans to return home (to Africa), indeed in the spirit of Marcus Garvey's "Back to Africa" clarion call!
Yet, as we have learned over the years, do all African-Americans consider themselves Africans or the kith and kin of continental Africans? Will they return to help rebuild the continent, as the Osagyefo appealed in his discussions with their leaders? Indeed, if all (or most) African-Americans consider Africa as their ancestral home, they would have worked hard to make Africa a household word in America and, as a result, an American Journalist would not have asked former American First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (as she reported on page 400 of her published memoirs, Living History): "What is the capital of Africa?" Also, the author of Out of America, a prominent Washington Post Journalist, would not have ended his book that he was happy that his ancestor(s) did not "miss the [slave] boat..."
Well, folks, please find time to chew on the foregoing thoughts, especially whenever we (a) think about home, or (b) urge brothers and sisters abroad to return home, to see the need for strategic partnerships back home and, indeed, (c) when we discuss brain drain. As for the debate on brain drain, it is a problem of its own, especially if one should think about all the meaningful monetary and other contributions that overseas-based Africans send to their various countries on the continent as opposed to the nuance that a qualified African returns home (to an African country from abroad) but finds no job to do because he or she does not belong to the ethnic group (or tribe) of the political elite in political power there: which one is a brain drain, (i) staying abroad to work and contribute meaningfully to your people back home, or (ii) returning home to stay idle because one cannot be trusted to hold a responsible or a "sensitive" position?
A good radio commentator once used to say, "Over to you..."! Have a good day, A.B. Assensoh.