Like many young seekers I have always known and taken Gandhi as an inspiration just as some African liberators like Nelson Mandela did. I have on some occasions quoted him.
The movie, ‘The Great Debaters’ cites him as an icon of civil disobedience.
However, my admiration for Gandhi took a turn in June 2016 when a friend told me about Gandhi’s ‘racist’ part. It was as revealing as it was breaking. He quoted his source to be one of our lecturers and said the lecturer even questioned why his statue should be erected at the premier university.
We were then returning from lectures and we had realized that the occasion that brought people to the University of Ghana and caused some sections of the roads leading to the quadrangle to be blocked as we saw on our way to lectures was the unveiling of Gandhi’s statue.
Earlier, I have read somewhere that the Indian president will be on campus to deliver a lecture. I had planned going because he was to speak on a youth related topic. But knowing how sandwich programmes are structured I dared not attempt any extracurricular activity.
Indeed that day’s revelation startled me. Mahatma Gandhi a racist? But coming from a political science student and attributed to a renowned political science lecturer I did not argue further.
Then and there I knew I had one of two options. To read for myself or to let time reveal such knowledge. Indeed time has tested the revelation even to the extent that Gandhi might fall and die a second time.
Like some time ago this demand is not coming from students. It’s from the university’s own professors. It cream of scholars and intellects.
By this one can confidently tell that the statue is an imposition and that consultations were not done. Perhaps as an ugly aftermath of India’s benevolence to Ghana. At least one can easily think of their dashed cathedral. I mean the seat of Ghana government, the flagstaff house. It is also obvious that an animal farm situates within the academia. And in an environment where we are all looking up to give this country the leadership it deserves it is thus clear there is the lack of it or just an iota of it.
What is interesting in this whole saga is in the rumours that the University leadership at a point ‘fiercely contested the efforts of one department to name its blocks after some eminent professors.
For me the debate as to whether Gandhi should fall or not to fall is one that sits deeply within our moral aspirations as a nation and a continent. It is a matter of where we want to place our moral values within the context of leadership and in the history of our political struggles.
For me the only extremism we must tolerate is the one in solely defence of liberty as Barry Goldwater posits. And so if Gandhi’s ‘racial extreme’ has no relation to the struggle then he obviously has no merit in black history and for that matter the University of Ghana.
Nelson Mandela is documented to have told his then wife Winnie that his freedom as an individual cannot come at the cost being paid. Indeed Winnie Mandela despite her contributions to the struggle remains a controversy in South African history. Seekers are torn between placing Winnie’s excesses above or below her contributions to the apartheid struggle.
In a 2010 BBC post by John Thynne captioned ”Can Winnie Mandela’s heroism outshine her crimes?”, one Mathatha Tsedu is quoted to say of Winnie Mandela; “I think history will view her as a complicated personality with a streak of leadership….who had a flawed personality that resulted in an atrocity being committed, that became a shame on every one of us occupying any position of leadership in this country.”
And so for me no matter what we do history will forever view Gandhi as a racist and a hero. But as to which one should outshine the other is a matter of where you belong. I am a moralist and thus belongs to those who say Gandhi must fall.
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