Kwesi Pratt Jnr,Thinkers and Development

Published on 4th October 2005

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong says there is the need for more thinkers such as the legendary Okomfo Anokye, who created the Asante Empire, to move Ghana\'s development process further in the wake of the journalist Kwesi Pratt\'s heckling of President John Kufour and his regime for not thinking enough about Ghana\'s problems.

There may not be heated public talks nationally about the power of thinkers in the development process as other issues such as the immense health benefits of drinking or eating cocoa products, as Ghana\'s Vice President Aliu Mahama would tell you. But the inimitable Kwasi Pratt Jr., editor of the Accra-based \"The Insight\" newspaper, has given it a jolt, whether some Ghanaians think he is a loudmouth without original ideas or his mass \"Wahala\" appeals can be fleeting. Though simplistic, in Kwesi Pratt, there are signs that the development process and thinkers are coming together or maybe, they are not separate worlds after all. Pratt\'s statement that the ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) \"inability to think through the problems facing the country and come out with workable measures to address them\" may sound partisan, since he a Convention Peoples Party (CPP) leading member and a frontline \"Wahala\" demonstrator against the NPP regime\'s petroleum price increases and other policies, but more seriously his statement raises the issues of thinkers in national development.

Partisan or not, Pratt\'s \"thinking and policy making\" diatribe against the NPP have to be seen in the context of a much more open Ghana\'s development process and not necessarily a NPP bashing. The reason is because Ghana is immensely entrenched in colonial or foreign values or thinking but not Ghana\'s values. As Dr. Y.K. Amoako formerly of UN\'s Economic Commission of Africa fame would say, there is need for public thinkers or intellectuals to \"direct the public conversation\" in relation to Ghana\'s progress, taking on both the good values that have not been appropriated for development (such as the tapping of traditional rulers as human resources materials) and the outmoded traditions that need to be either modified or destroyed for the public good.  

Pratt\'s statement also come in the wake of the global debate about \"The Power of Thinkers,\" as \"The Ottawa Citizen\" editorialized, about the U.S-based \"Foreign Policy\" and \"Prospect\" magazine existence of \"Top 100 Public Intellectuals,\" who have \"shown distinction in their own field along with the ability to communicate ideas and influence debate outside of it.\" Though the list includes Pope Benedict XVI, the linguist and the century\'s leading thinker Noam Chomsky, the controversial political scientist Samuel Huntington of \"The Clash of Cultures\" fame, and the development guru Jeffrey Sachs, there is no African among the top 100 thinkers. This is where Pratt\'s charge of President Kufour and his NPP\'s inability to think through Ghana\'s problems comes in. The reason is that more than ever, Ghana/Africa needs a new generation of bold thinkers who could think from within the values of Ghana/Africa to direct the continent\'s development process. Said Pratt, \"If you look at the direction of policies in this country, whether the policy is economic, social or political, you begin to wonder whether our policy makers do any thinking at all, because the policies simply don\'t make sense.\" This is because the policies do not emanate from within Africa\'s values and environment.

It is not that the NPP regime or their policy makers or the bureaucrats cannot think. They think alright but their thinking is not realistic and informed. Genuine thinking in relation to a society\'s progress emanates from within the society\'s values first and any other borrowed second; such as \"people who overthrew inherited ideas,\" as \"Time\" magazine says of Western thinkers who opened the doors for Western progress. The bold European thinkers who brought the remarkable changes to the continent\'s progress thought within their cultural values, driven by \"an unwavering doubt in the perfectibility of human beings, a fierce desire to dispel erroneous systems of thought (such as religion) and a dedication to systematizing the various intellectual disciplines.\"

What colonialism did was to close off Ghana/Africa\'s values and impose its values - and that\'s policy imposition. Why? Because the colonialists wrongly believe Ghanaians cannot think, cannot make policies. As the late Senegalese President Leopald Senghor would say, Ghanaians are better at expressing their emotions than thinking. Ghana\'s policies from the colonial era to now are driven heavily by the British colonialists\' policies or values or thinking. There has not been any attempt to mix Ghana\'s values and the colonial legacies in order to roll out holistic policies that will make national development policies make sense to Ghana\'s development process..

From the coming together of the 56 ethnic groups that made up Ghana to contemporary attempts to live well, attempts to unveil Ghanaian thinkers in relation to her progress run to the past as well as her future; from Okomfo Anokye to King Osei Tutu 1 to Kwame Nkrumah, Dr. Kofi Busia, Gen. Kutu Acheampong, President Jerry Rawlings to President John Kufour. Is Rawlings a thinker? What about Busia? And how do you feel about Okomfo Anokye or President Hilla Limman or Kwasi Pratt? Is the Asantehene, King of the Asantes, Nana Osei Tutu 11, a thinker in terms of his development process? Before Pratt\'s maybe unintended broader implications and incursion into the issue of thinkers and progress, there have not been any national reflection about thinkers, national policy making and the development process.

\"One way,\" as \"The Ottawa Citizen\" argues about how \"thinkers owe much to the past,” is to \"give an idea a shot at immortality. It is to give it to the public and see where it goes.\" Individual Ghanaians have the right to pick anybody they view as a thinker in Ghana\'s development process. But, if thinkers owe much to the past, what comes to my mind right now is Okomfo Anokye, the humble high priest with no colonial appendages and endowed with pure Ghanaian thoughts and visions, who virtually created the Asante Empire, via King Osei Tutu I. In terms of landmass and population, Ghana, just through his spiritual weight, peeked further behind disparaging and acrimonious families, ethnic groups and tribes\' curtain than anyone had since creation of Ghana — then spent the rest of his years spiritually nurturing its fruition.

Just imagine Ghana\'s development process today without Okomfo Anokye\'s thinking, vision and spiritual insight and feat. As \"The Ottawa Citizen\" would say of Okomfo Anokye\'s thinking exploits, \"Once in a while, a true intellectual revolutionary appears, without whose recorded thoughts, the world would be unimaginably different.\" Just imagine how extremely rough that era was, and parallel it with our so-called educated elites today who appear weak, cannot think from within Ghana\'s values as Okomfo Anokye did, despite the immense developmental problems we are facing. Let there be more Ghanaian Okomfo Anokyes and the power of thinkers in Ghana\'s progress, constantly heckled by the Kwesi Pratts to open up the development process doors. Let Ghana think.



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