An academic giant has once again passed on and little did we realize that while Prof Ali Mazrui has been boldly killing time, time has been quietly killing him.
The most fortunate thing is that the late professor has been killing time diagnosing Africa’s political problems and perhaps he was expecting time to kill them but unfortunately time has chosen him.
Unlike other African authors who write within the precincts of their own nations, Prof Mazrui made a name for himself by writing largely about his continent, Africa.
It is no wonder in his 1986 book Africa: The Triple Heritage, he dismisses the premise of the post-colonial African scholarship that addresses itself to the artificiality of the boundaries of contemporary African states at the expense of the artificiality of the boundaries of the African continent itself.
ATTEMPTS TO DEFINE
In his Africanity Redefined, Mazrui attempts to redefine the meaning of Africanity across geographical spaces, time, and cultures, and he finds that the resulting definition is dynamic — hence forces us to reject neo-imperialist paradigms and ontologies of what it means to be African.
While many are still grappling with tribal issues that are not national at all, Mazrui is leaving a rich legacy to fellow writers that Africa is bigger than any particular country, and the only way writers can take the continent forward is by addressing issues that affect it as a whole.
Mazrui was criticised by fellow writers, with the latest onslaught being staged by the late historian William Ochieng, who saw compliments to Mazrui as too highly prized yet his writings were rather irrelevant to African people.
Prof Ochieng could have picked up the argument from Taban Lo Liyong, who once dismissed Mazui’s intellectualism.
These critics failed to understand that Mazrui’s preoccupation with diagnosis of the African problems could have given rise to solutions.
Intellectuals have the responsibility of building this continent and their intolerance made Mazrui to engage in writings that appear as an elegy for intellectualism in Africa.
The continent is bleeding and stinking with political excrement. Academic institutions are expected to deliver it from this mess but universities, according to Mazrui, are becoming political too.
It is no wonder he notes in The African Condition: A Political Diagnosis that the African Intelligentsia has greatly declined.
The best way to mourn him is for the intellectuals to take a moment of silence in his honour as they reflect on his diagnosis and offer a lasting solution to what he prescribed as Africa’s political, social and economic problems.