Dr. Atuire delivering the lecture
The Provost of the College of Humanities, Prof. Samuel Agyei-Mensah who chaired the lecture, introduced the lecturer. He said the College was happy to be delivering the maiden lecture on the ICLS platform and noted that the introduction of the inter-college lecture series was in line with the University’s strategic objective of promoting university wide spaces and schedules for sharing and debating intra and inter disciplinary scholarly ideas. He expressed satisfaction that the topic of the lecture provided an interdisciplinary framework to interrogate issues on multipartyism, noting that one of the challenges facing African countries today is how to nurture and consolidate democracy at the national level and at the same time strive to establish and institutionalize intra-party democracy.
Dr. Atuire began the lecture by posing the question, “Is the practice of multi-party democracy we have adopted helping to build a better nation Ghana?”. In addressing this, he traced the different models of governance from the time of independence, namely as a one-party state, civilian rule, military rule, military- backed civilian rule and multi-party democracy.
Dr. Atuire argued that Ghana emerged at independence in 1957 as a State made up several ethnocultural identities; and that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s vision was to build a nation out of the various ethnicities. However, multipartysm, due to its confrontational nature, tends to favour further division and social fragmentation along ethnic and religious lines. Whereas Ghana is lauded as a model of political stability and peaceful electioneering in Africa, Dr. Atuire pointed out that this model of democracy could be undermining the process of nation-building initiated at independence. Some ways to mitigate potential dangers of ethnic and religious conflicts he said, are to focus on promoting national unity and identity through strengthening the myth of nationhood, applying the social principle of subsidiarity, and forging soft values that enhance social and communitarian bonding.
Discussing the differences between statehood and nationhood, Dr. Atuire explained that while statehood is an abstract construct of law and politics, nationhood is more of a social concept than a legal or political concept. He hinted that in normal circumstances, the four most important things that define a nation are, population, sovereignty, a central government and territory.
In his view, building a nation is not simply the summation of the sub-nations but the attainment of cohesion among the smaller nations to reflect the characteristics of a single ethno-cultural nation. Employing the Gestaltic concept of nation building, Dr. Atuire explained that the sum – that is the multinational state – is different from the parts that constitute it. According to him, nation building is not coterminous with national development, or economic development, although those two indices can support the building of a nation.
True nation building, he said, should therefore aim at creating greater cohesion among citizens of a multi-national state. Since nation building is a process that develops over time, he argued that positive action is needed to bring the various nations in a multinational state to the status of a single nation-state.
Dr. Atuire referred to the results of a 10-year survey, which identified the different types of social and cultural allegiances that Ghanaians hold. He ranked them as: religion, occupation, ethnic identity, national identity and political ideology, explaining that these allegiances are not wrong in themselves, but ought to be understood in their proper contexts. He further stated that these allegiances can also be signs of social fragmentation and division which do not augur well for nation building. Religion and ethnic allegiances in particular, he noted, are worthy of attention, as these have caused conflicts in several African countries including Nigeria and Rwanda, for example.
To achieve national cohesion and build the multi-cultural state into a united nation-state, Dr. Atuire provided three recommendations which he said are critical to building a nation, the promotion of myths, the application of the principle of subsidiarity whereby the local community is allowed to govern itself and provide its own solutions, the promotion of soft values to ensure that the society is warm and tolerant, more humane and does not create exclusion.
Dr. Atuire concluded his lecture by stating that the lecture should not be seen as a negative judgement of multi-Partyism but rather an introspection for future development.
The audience at the lecture
The audience had the opportunity to make comments. The Inter-College lecture series under the auspices of the Public Affairs Directorate will continue throughout the academic year.
Dr. Atuire interacting with a group of students after the lecture
The Provost (centre) is seen here congratulating Dr. Atuire after his lecture.
Prof. Kodzo Gavua (left), Dean, School of Arts, looks on