By Charles Onunaiju
This month of September, two important figures whose lifelong endeavours were engaged in defining a future for Africa based on adequate knowledge of ‘our weakness’ so that we do not lay claim to “easy victory” and equally a future secured on the understanding of our “concrete reality” and on which basis we can reclaim the authentic and autonomous trajectory of our historical process would be posthumously 97 years.
Both Amilcar Cabral and Abdulrahman Babu born on the 13th and 22nd September 1924 respectively were important torchlights in the anti-colonial struggles in Africa but more importantly, were totally devoted and dedicated to the post-colonial construction of independent African states, warning vicariously that mere political independence would not suffice to position Africa on the trajectory of inclusive democratic participation and the guarantee of the material and economic foundation for sustainable growth and development.
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Amilcar Cabral, the founder and leader of the Africa Party of Independence for Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), was a profuse thinker, theoretician and consummate revolutionary who espoused original ideas in understanding the nature of colonialism and brought unique insight to the concept of national liberation.
Cabral, who was murdered by the agents of Portuguese fascist dictatorship on the 20th January 1973, few months to the formal independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, was devoted wholly to the vision of Africa’s post-colonial trajectory, which is true to the understanding of our “weakness” and tackling in methodical manner questions relating to popular democratic participation and mobilisation. Cabral whose views and practices are thoroughly immersed in scientific outlook came to the objective reality of the post-colonial leadership in Africa. Once independence was achieved and the popular masses began to demand their fair share of the fruits of independence, the leadership comes face to face with the existential dilemma of either to betray the national liberation or independence by siding with imperialist capital or remain faithful to the anti-imperialist goals of the independence struggle by “committing suicide as a class in order to be reborn as revolutionary workers completely identified with the deepest aspirations of the people to which they belong”. For Cabral, this alternative is the historic dilemma of the petit-bourgeoisie leadership in the context of national liberation or independence in Africa and the way the dilemma is resolved would determine the success or failure of the national struggle.
Today, the claim of easy victory and a recluse to the more comfortable option of merely stepping into the shoes of the post-colonial state, without fundamentally aligning it to the interests of the people and resolving a number of questions related to the initial disruption of the historical process of Africa’s communities by colonial domination.
Amilcar Cabral was certain that post-independence construction would run into troubled waters except the emergent states in Africa took the difficult path of restructuring the state to serve the aspirations of the broadest section of the African people and he was not in doubt that would be possible without identifying the principal agency of neo-colonial exploitation in the context of imperialist domination. From Cabral’s vigorous analysis, the state form that would be most compatible to political inclusion, sustainable economic development, and broadly shared prosperity in Africa cannot be merely wished or desired but must be worked out, in the full knowledge of the historical trajectories, clarified through strict interrogation of our reality and outlined this process as the most likely to yield an outcome compatible to steady progress.
Abdulrahman Babu was a Marxist revolutionary and Pan-African activist, who was a founding member of the Ummah Party in Zanzibar. Following the federation between Tanganyika and Zanzibar to form the union of Tanzania in 1964, he was made a minister of Economic and National Planning under Julius Nyerere and was largely responsible for the nearly 1000km railway line constructed by the Chinese, linking the Copper mines in Zambia to the Dar es Salaam port in Tanzania. Abdulrahman Babu had earlier in 1959 visited China and maintained contact with the leaders of the Communist Party of China. However, in 1972, he was arrested and detained, accused of complicity in the death of Shiekh Karume in Zanzibar, and was subsequently incarcerated. Following the international campaign for his release, Babu was released in 1976. While in prison, he wrote his famous book, “Africa Socialism or Socialist Africa,” arguing that scientific socialism whose method of inquiry, which consists of interrogating reality is that path, African must travel. Though, rigorous and far from easy walk to freedom, Abdulrahman Babu like Amilcar Cabral opined that colonial domination was fundamentally and structurally abusive of Africa’s historical process and the transfer of power from the colonialists to Africans is the simplest part of regaining the indigenous initiative and momentum to re-set Africa on the course of autonomous and independent development that would satisfy the needs of the various Africa people. Like Roza Luxembourg, Abdulrahman Babu, trenchantly pointed out that the choice for Africa is either socialism or barbarism. He dismissed the Ujamma socialism of Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda’s Humanitarianism and other variants of so-called African Socialism, insisting that scientific socialism with its method of dialectics as a form of inquiry that interrogates reality and establishes facts as they are, is the only way for African states to move in the direction of genuinely independent states with independent initiatives in key policy areas and choices. Babu who remained active on pan-African affairs till his death on August 6th, 1996 at the age of 72 gave series of weighty insights on several issues on the continent.
History today bears out Amilcar Cabral and Abdulrahman Babu as visionaries guided by the most rigorous analytical insight. Their iconic interventions on the methods and paths suitable to the future of Africa, which was disregarded by the power elites in Africa has brought the continent to the current state, where her fortunes fluctuate between the boom and burst of commodity prices in the international market.
The works of Cabral, Babu and others, including Franz Fanon, Walter Rodney, Kwame Nkrumah, Obafemi Awolowo and even the riveting treaty of Nwafor Orizu, “Without Bitterness,” are some of the resource materials on which contemporary Africa can draw to pull back from the brink that currently oscillates between formalistic hollow democracy and bankrupt military dictatorship, which leaves the people with the miserable choice of fatalistic despondency or chaos.
Mr. Onunaiju is research director of an Abuja-based Think Tank