Four Africans attended the Pan-African Congress in Manchester in 1945 and all four of them became influential to the history of their countries with no less than three of them becoming Heads of States and the fourth one founded a political dynasty in the largest country in Africa. Given this record, it is clear that the Manchester Congress has assumed the single most important meeting in contemporary African history and therefore worthy of scholarly interrogation. More than this however, its message should be taken on board and milked for all the political importance it contains. When we look at the subsequent careers of those of them that had the responsibility of being leaders of their countries before and after independence, we must question the importance of this meeting to the political development of Africa and dismiss them as rank opportunists who abused their privileged positions in seeking first the political kingdom.

Kwame Nkrumah took to heart all the lessons of the Manchester congress and was sure that the only way for Africa to rise was to unite; and to achieve this objective African sovereignty had to be shared and even sacrificed to achieve the goal of African resurgence on the world stage. Each African country was therefore required to look at herself as being part of a United States of Africa and play down issues of narrow nationalism which promoted one country above the other and play down all the issues: nationalism, provincialism, regionalism, tribalism and clan affiliations which all came together to frustrate African coalescence and political development. The political kingdom which was so much worthy of working to achieve was bigger than the interests of each individual country or persons. To the dismay of many of his contemporaries in Ghana, Nkrumah advocated for a unitary government for the country and tried very hard to work against all the forces of regional, provincial and tribal interests all of which were antitheses to the goal of African unification. The failure of Nkrumah’s political vision is based on his failure to convince his compatriots of the need to think outside their tribal box and work towards the ideal of African integration. Instead, all over Africa, people have retreated into tawdry tribal enclaves and are taking pot shots at people from other tribes, which is why there are so many conflicts all over the continent blighting the possibility of any form of human development on the continent. To all intents and purposes, Pan-Africanism is a dead concept and we have not been able to bring about the evolution of anything to replace it.

The other concept to come out of the Manchester congress was that the economic development of Africa was dependent on the adoption of socialist principles and this made a lot of sense even if this is only because the main cause of African development and subjugation was her continued exploitation by global capitalism. The only sensible reading of the situation was that capitalism needed Africa to provide raw materials to Western factories and also provide the market within which manufactured goods were to be sold. When Nkrumah rose to power in Ghana, it did not take him long to find that the future of his country was determined more by the price of cocoa on the world market than by whatever strategy or ideology he could devise for the development of his country. If world capitalism was inimical to the growth of Ghana and other African countries, it stood to reason that capitalism within Ghana could not be in the interest of the country. But the powerful people who operated on the fringes of global capitalism were determined to protect their petty interests at all cost and made it impossible for Nkrumah to even think of operating a socialist system within the country. And when Nkrumah persisted in going ahead with his plans for the young nation, the military moved in to protect the interests of their mentors and he was tufted out, bringing to an end the country’s flirtation with both Pan-Africanism and socialism.

Obafemi Awolowo, our man in Manchester did not become a Head of State but like all the others he spent time in jail, not fighting against the British but for being in serious disagreement with the people who inherited Nigeria from the departed colonialists. Depending on who you listen to, he was a victim of political rascality perpetrated by his political opponents but there are others who swear that he was plotting to overthrow those who had somehow won the right to rule over the country. With Nkrumah in charge virtually next door in Ghana, his involvement in the charge of treasonable felony could not be discountenanced and it was not. Obafemi Awolowo had been espousing policies which sounded too suspiciously close to what Nkrumah was saying and trying to do in Ghana and he had to be guilty by association at least. The end result was that he was given a ten year prison sentence for what was described as treasonable felony. He was three years into this sentence when the turmoil into which the country had been plunged dictated that he be let out of prison to contribute whatever quota he had to give to sorting out the crisis which had the country by the throat. As earlier mentioned, he served with distinction as the man in charge of the finances of the country but never was he presented with the privilege of leading the country in his own image so that his participation in the Manchester congress cannot be as rigorously assessed as it could have been had he been able to ascend to the leadership position.

Culled from THE NATION NG

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