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Gandhi's statue in Ghana

E. Ablorh-Odjidja

September 24, 2016


The noise about the Gandhi statue is ongoing on the campus of Legon University. Suddenly, we have found among us a crop of brave, morally upright Ghanaians who can protest on the appropriateness of a monument.


Indeed, there are monuments around Accra that deserve our attention, some very questionable.

 

So I commend our university Dons for the thought or try. They have been  vocal enough to gain international attention.  The spirit is good enough to tempt me to side with them in their advocacy.

 

But before I do, I must ask, must we be so chaste?  If so, then I have the following observations:


I notice that the Golden Palace, “politically” renamed Flag Staff House, was completed eight years ago, with a grant (a gift) from the Indian government.

 

Perhaps, we should rethink about this gift.  We must  quickly save face with a move of that Gandhi statue to a spot on the Palace grounds.  It can at least signal our gratitude to the Indian government..


Or, we can opt to  lock  the Palace down  from presidential or state use; as a sign of regret of our penchant for accepting gifts, especially one from the Indian government whose national hero is Gandhi, the "racist."

 

Next, we place all Indians under "racist" suspicion, together with their Gandhi, because  they form part and parcel of the same cultural baggage.

 

Then the final move,  we ask our government to be diplomatic and generous:  Offer to pay the Indian government back the cost for building the Presidential Palace.

 

The Indian government already knows we are broke.  But who cares.  We always can fall back on the good old  ”judgment debt” payment method to appease people we owe (or do not owe).

 

We ought to have warned the Indian government that they should have expected this bad relationship coming because  we just discovered that  Gandhi was a "racist."  They should have known the facts before dumping the statue on us!

 

That done, we would only have accomplished a petulant act. The question as to why we uprooted the statue would still remain.


Gandhi is documented to have said some menial things about Africans. That said, it must also be made clear that the statue is not meant to commemorate the "racist" Gandhi, as some would prefer to think.


Rather, the monument is set up to commemorate the positive in Gandhi - for inspiring "non-violence" in fights for civil rights. 

 

Refusing that perspective, the protestors will have to reconsider that Gandhi was also human, just like any xenophobic African in South Africa or Ghana today.

 

Kick back to a few decades and you could hear the nasty names we called each other, from tribe to tribe and country to country. We have even done our share of tribal or ethnic cleansing in many places on the continent.  We have done far worse among ourselves than anything Gandhi could have envisioned for Africa.


Furthermore, being called an insulting name is not a definition for racism.  It may be a point of insult or regard of low esteem. But racism is something else. It is the power to control the subject you have low esteem for. Gandhi had no political power prior to his departure from South Africa. He was also a victim of the same apartheid system.

 

Gandhi's way for fighting freeedom was a historical epic, even though his foremost concern at the time was for and about Indians.


He was inspirational in his fight against colonialism. The exemplary non-violent way he went about it is what we are being asked to celebrate.

 

Gandhi's approach inspired many; Nkrumah for his Positive Action stance and Martin Luther King used the approach for the Civil Rights movement in the USA. 

 

This brings us to the essence of monuments and why we need the right ones in our midst as means to honor ourselves and the ideas we appreciate most in others.

 

Because of his philosophy for non-violence, Gandhi becomes an excellent candidate for a statue of Peace everywhere, especially on university grounds where the free flow of ideas must be encouraged.


Honoring Gandhi's non-violent brand of politics is a necessity for Africa.  Even with the negatives of his youthful intemperate statements on the sideline, it helps to tell the rest of the world that Ghanaians do not lack perspective and context on this polemically charged issue.

 

The slights by Gandhi, implied or said about the people before he left South Africa in 1915, has no resonance on the affairs of the world today, as his call for  non-violent approach to problem solving among people.


So, no need to package Gandhi at this time with virulent racists; Cecil Rhodes, Leopold of Belgium,  Hendrik Verwoerd or any other arrant white supremacist of the past.

 

But I almost forgot the Kofi Annan ICT Center in Accra, built in 2003 under President John Kufuor and replete with assets to grow  " the country’ s ICT skills base..... the home of West Africa’ s first supercomputer"

 

The above, an investment by the same Indian Government,  bears the name of Kofi Annan.  Is this a kind gesture of  respect or the latter is their hero too or both?

 

And, by the way, what do we do or have done for our bona fide heroes?


As implied earlier, the Dons on campus can go ahead and pull the statue down.  But they must, however, leave the spot empty for a successor generation to put a plaque there that says “Here is where the Gandhi statue should have stood.”

I wouldn't mind hearing a future sophomore on campus calling the current effort going on there a hypocritical measure, signaling a “superior” mentality on an issue that requires no such moral posturing.

But I note the audacity in the posture and would wish to direct this to a monument more deserving of the angst.; the name Kotoka on the Accra International Airport.

 

The name is embarrassing.  A man through whom a regime change was accomplished by others, unconstitutionally, does not deserve this honor. His foolish act has proven to be the precursor of political instability and setbacks for Ghana since 1966.


Kotoka has no honor anywhere in Africa or India. Try presenting any university here or over there with a choice of a statue of Nkrumah or Kotoka and see which one they will prefer!

 

However, I am not giving the campus Dons any ideas. All I ask for is a shift of the protest energy from Gandhi to Kotoka, since the problem is the propriety of monuments!



E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Publisher www.ghanadot.com, Washington, DC, Septemper 24, 2016.
Permission to publish: Please feel free to publish or reproduce, with credits, unedited. If posted at a website, email a copy of the web page to publisher@ghanadot.com . Or don't publish at all.

 

 

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