"I had preached to Feisal [king of Syria, 1920; and first king of Iraq, 1921-33] from the beginning that freedom was taken, not given"--T. E. Lawrence, the British soldier and writer, commenting on the Arab revolt of 1916-18 against the Turks, during which he proved himself an outstanding guerrilla leader for the Arabs and became known as Lawrence of Arabia.
"Osahene to a, yefa ne dom nnommum" (When a war commander or a great leader falls, his followers are picked easily), so say our elders in Ghana. In other words, great nationalist leaders are people to treasure and protect. That must have been why the great Bob Marley sang: "No longer shall they kill our prophets/while we stand aside and look."
In the past, we have stood aside and watched--our arms foulded and mouths shut--as our prophets, our great leaders, who could have made a difference to the African condition, were cut down. No longer should this happen, Bob Marley admonished. But it is still happening many years after Marley's death. This is why, this month, I'm beginning a series in this column, for us to have a mature debate about this sad state of affairs. Thus, this "Part I" is only the preamble.
Remember Steve Biko: "The greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor," he wrote, "is the minds of the oppressed." Bob Marley put it the other way: "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery ...
"Osahene to a, yefa ne dom nnommum" You can go back into history and check on the validity of this pillar of African philosophy. When the great leaders of pre-colonial Africa fell in the colonial wars, our people and our resources were easily picked and put under foreign domination.
Again, when in the post-independence era, leaders like Nkrumah whose vision for a better, self-sufficient, proud Africa able to look after itself, were cut down, our people again were easily picked. Nkrumah, Lumumba and the other great African leaders fell because we, the people of Africa, allowed them to fall. We didn't give them enough protection. In fact, we didn't protect them at all. Our "minds" were, and still are, "the greatest weapon" in the hands of the people who cut our great leaders down.
Today the dire consequences of our inability to protect our "prophets" are there for all to see. Instead of a self-sufficient proud Africa able to look after itself, we have a begging-bowl Africa pushed around, despised, insulted, disrespected, humiliated, trodden over, and used as a barometer for gauging other people's woes--in fact a benchmark for misery!
"You should be lucky that you are not an African, or you don't live in Africa" has become a popular refrain. Yet for all you know, the person saying this might be living in some decrepit council flat in Peckham, somewhere in London. But he still thinks he is far better--and luckier--than even the richest African living in Africa.
"Osahene to a, yefa ne dom nnommum". Look at what is happening to our Gaddafi. A pillar of the nascent African Union with a mission to build a common continental defence system, Gaddafi suddenly decides to give up his nuclear weapons to Bush and Blair who themselves are not prepared to give up their own nuclear weapons! Incredible, isn't it?
You can call me anything, but I still don't see the point in the now-accepted argument that America, Britain, France & Co have the right to keep (and still manufacture) nuclear, ballistic and other Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), while the rest of us cannot.
The bit that says they can keep their WMD because they are "democratic nations" is utter tosh (if you can excuse my French). If WMD are indeed "the world's worst weapons" and "the greatest threat to life on earth" as President Bush and his British allies want us to believe, then nobody on our planet should have the right to manufacture or keep them.
As Paul O'Neil, George Bush's former treasury secretary, says in his new book, The Price of Loyalty: "For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the US has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap. …