Sunday, 7 November 2010

Three Oxford University Educated Africans, 2 Different Perspectives

Former Ghanaian President John Kuffour saw no need for Europeans to apologise for the trans-Atlantic enslavement of Africans, nor did he think there was a case for reparations for enslavement and colonialisation. He was happy to officially open University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation in 2006. When he spoke of Wilberforce’s “legacy”, one hopes he saw the Abolitionist’s work in terms of end the trafficking, and not enslavement itself.

Another Oxbridge educated Ghanaian head of state, former Prime Minister Kofi Busia, was so steeped in a Western mindset, he famously informed the British media: “Oxford made me what I am today.” A highly educated man, but from whose perspective?

There’s nothing wrong with Oxford or Western education per se. It’s how it’s viewed and applied that’s at issue. Take for instance the pan-Africanist Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem. Even though he applied for the Rhodes scholarship, he did not give the selection panel an easy ride. He deliberately wore traditional Africans clothes to the interview and quizzed the panel as to why they’d want to associate someone like him with a scholarship that perpetuates the image of the imperialist and colonizer of southern Africa. Becoming a Rhodes scholar, the elite amongst the scholarships, did not stop Abdul-Raheem being an ardent pan-Africanist champion in and outside Oxford University.

He certainly was not made by Oxford. He learnt from Oxford, but nevertheless had an Africanist perspective, which was not dulled by his Oxbridge education. Ditto the likes of Kwame Nkrumah, who had a Western education, but still managed to have a (pan-)Africanist viewpoint.

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