Patrick Lumumba: How to become a Colonial Constable
PATRICK Loch Otieno Lumumba does not only speak on African solutions for African problems, he raises hell and does not let any sleeping dogs lie. The Kenyan Pan-Africanist lawyer and judge does not take prisoners when it comes to calling a spade a spade in critiquing leaders and calling them out of their corrupt and thieving ways that have let the world down.
There is no doubt that Professor Lumumba has the poor and down-trodden African masses at heart when he confronts the mighty and high among African leaders. Gifted with fire eating oratory skills and cutting baritone voice, Lumumba is only a good interlocutor if he is on your side and advancing your cause, not when he puts you on the firing line of his machine gun mouth.
He has been described as the legal mind that has kept the Kenyan and African political establishments awake with his scathing critique and no holds barred naming and shaming of leaders. For that reason, Lumumba is today one of Africa’s most important public intellectuals and champions of social justice. He has held the position of Director of the Kenya AntiCorruption Commission and he presently is the Director of the Kenya School of Laws.
His superior education, a doctorate in Laws of the Sea from the University of Ghent in Belgium and a leading African legal mind gives Lumumba power, privilege and attention wherever he goes and that makes his work important and also dangerous. He is, in truth, not the first African intellectual to isolate African leaders, Africans and African governments for criticism and scathing descriptions.
There is a long generation of public intellectuals like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, Jack Mapanje and other African thinkers that had to go to exile to escape the wrath of their governments that they haunted with volcanic critic and scathing satire. What is special and therefore very dangerous about Professor Lumumba’s brand of political and intellectual critique of Africa, African leaders and Africans, is the way in which he easily lends himself to the role of a colonial constable who uses his rare and superior intellect and stature to multiply and amplify colonial stereotypes about Africa and Africans.
As a venerated Professor and distinguished lawyer and judge he carries communicative privilege and political stamina, he is a role model, to the extent that even his mistakes and misdirections may be eaten and swallowed as wisdom and law by the uncircumcised. It is important that such political and legal voices like Lumumba are carefully and closely listened to and watched, peradventure their own limitations lead many astray. Vigilant Pan-Africanists such as Chinweizu, a Nigerian decolonial intellectual, as early as the 1960s gave such icons as Wole Soyinka a torrid time, criticising them for using words and language in Africa about Africans that benefited rather than confronted the British Empire in the continent. In that decolonial gesture as that of the Bolekaja critics, Chinweizu and his critics, madness in great Africans must truly not go unwatched.
When Lumumba pursues the theme of sanitation and cleanliness in African politics he crushes and smothers his subjects, something that Ali Mazrui was way too critical to be careless about. Not so with Lumumba. The African leader is an incorrigible thief and a corrupt scoundrel.
Once Lumumba insinuated that Africa was poor and backward because Nigerians are too corrupt and dirty thieves. In Africa thieves elect other thieves to power and thievery is therefore rewarded and promoted in the continent as a political culture and a philosophy of life. Lumumba does not only deliver his speeches, like any gifted orator who knows his job well, he performs them, he is dramatic and spectacular, and words obey him.
In politics as it is in philosophy one can be true and still not be correct in what he says. Yes, truth is not simply right. Like all other expert and trained communicators, Lumumba should know better about audiences, the theatre and the gallery, who are the people that relish in his delivery and who are those that are wounded and why. Lumumba speaks at the dear expense of Africans and Africa, and his otherwise constructive critique has lost its constructive for destructive, a Grade One student in Africa might lose confidence forever in being African after listening to a treat by Prof Lumumba judges Africa unkindly.
Students of language, discourse and political communication will point to it that such words as “hygiene” and “cleanliness” are important words in life but carry a lot of colonial baggage. In the language of colonisers and enslavers, the African was a dirty object that needed sanitisation and cleaning. To give body and power to such terms in trying to constructively critique Africans and African leaders is to play the political and historical ball all wrong at the wrong place and wrong time.
Lumumba feeds into, from and confirms colonial stereotypes about Africa and Africans, a sin that African men and women of letters and laws should not be complicit in. The reason why Lumumba’s critique of Africa and Africans is spreading worldwide like a wild international fire is not simply because of his obvious mental gifts or relevance in world politics, no. His insults
of Africa and Africans please white supremacists and racists who have found in Lumumba an eloquent colonial constable who can express crude racism on their behalf.
This is not to hang the professor out to dry, to throw his baby of critique together with the water of his message, no, but it is to throw this very baby away first that we need, Lumumba is wrong in blaming all problems of Africa on Africans. That Africa is largely what it has become because of slavish and colonial underdevelopment still remains a truism even as African leaders have sinned against Africa, sold the proud continent to the proverbial dogs, in corruption and incompetence that smells to the high heavens, nauseating the very gods.