Saturday, March 3, 2007
GHANA @ 50
Nation On The Move
EBO QUANSAH - Reporting
“At long last”, screamed Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, first Prime Minister of this nation to thousands of reveling nationals at the Old Polo Grounds in Accra, at midnight of March 5, 1957, “our beloved country is free and free forever”.
The Prime Minister went on to pledge that there would be no rest on the part of the new independent country until all African nations under foreign domination also threw off the colonial yoke. “The Independence of Ghana is meaningless unless linked to the total Liberation of the African continent”, he said.
That pledge has been redeemed to a very large extent. With the exception of Western Sahara, which continues to wallow under Moroccan subjugation, all other 52 African nations are independent.
Next Tuesday, 24 African Heads of State and other world leaders will join President John Agyekum Kufuor, President of the Republic of Ghana on the podium at the Independence Square as the year-long celebration of 50 years of self-determination reaches its climax.
Dubbed ‘Championing African Excellence’, the celebration has been choreographed to tell the story of the struggle to be free as well as for merry-making.
Accra and all major cities, towns and villages are flying the national flag on ceremonial roots. In schools and colleges, students are working themselves into frenzy to accord 50 years of self-government a fitting recognition.
For the next one-month at least, the power outages that have ruined the evenings and threatened both businesses and the harmony in private homes would be consigned to the memory lane. It is time to let the hair down. But while Ghanaians rejoice over the Golden Jubilee, a lot of reflections would also feature.
“From now on”, said Dr. Nkrumah in his maiden independence speech, “there is a new African in the world and that new African is ready to fight his own battle and show the world that after all, the black man is capable of managing his own affairs … We are going to demonstrate to the other nations that, young as we are, we are prepared to lay our own foundations. We are going to create our own personality and identity”.
For the nine years that the Convention People’s Party of Dr. Nkrumah was in power, the nation witnessed phenomenon growth and expansion in all spheres of national life. On January 22, 1966, when the first President switched on power from the Akosombo hydro-electric project, the nation was poised for giant industrial take-off. The Volta Aluminum Company was set up to process bauxite into aluminum products. The Ghana Industrial Holding Company (GIHOC) was set up to co-ordinate the activities of various industries. The construction of the Tema Harbour, added to the Port of Takoradi, made Ghana an important destination for ocean Vessels. There was the Tema Oil Refinery, a chocolate factory, a cement factory, both at Tema, the Nsawam Canneries etc.
The CPP Government policy of full employment manifested itself in the establishment of the Workers Brigade, a para-military institution engaged in large-scale farming. A number of state farms were established in all corners of the country employing large number of Ghanaians.
On the education front, the establishment of the Ghana Education Trust, powered by cocoa money ensured the establishment of a number of well-resourced secondary, technical and commercial schools as well as teacher training colleges.
Two new universities – the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology specializing in providing two level manpower in science and technology and the University of Cape Coast, churning our graduate teachers to man the various Second Cycle Institutions were established and with the University of Ghana, founded by the colonial masters, made Ghana the education hub of Africa.
Unfortunately, the rapid expansion meant that incomes could not match expenditure. The decline in the external price of cocoa and fold also had a devastating effect on the economy and by the time Nkrumah was overthrown on February 6, 1966, the nation’s external reserves which stood at over 200 million pounds at the time of independence had whittled down to one million pounds, according to statistical data available.
Very appalling human rights record did not help either. When in 1964, the nation became a one-party state; there was no room for dissent. Dr. Joseph Boakye Danquah died in Nsawam Medium Security Prisons in 1965 and following several clandestine activities to either assassinate the President or overthrow his regime, a number of political opponents were placed behind bars.
In his book, The Ghana Coup – 24th February 1966, the then Colonel Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa one the three architects of the overthrow of the Nkrumah regime wrote on page 31: “A coup de’etat is the last resort in the range of means whereby an unpopular government many be overthrown. But in our case, where there were no constitutional means of offering a political opposite to the one-party government, the armed forces were automatically made to become the official opposition of the government”.
The National Liberation Council formed by the coup plotters was headed by Lt. Gen. J.A. Ankrah, who had been removed from the armed forces a year earlier.
The soldiers in power changed the direction of state policy and sold off all assets considered unprofitable. The NLC also reversed the policy of full-employment sending many Ghanaians on the scrapheap of unemployment.
As the military officers promoted themselves by leap and bounds there was growing perception that the soldiers were in power to enrich themselves. Nana Kwame Ampadu’s hit-record Obi Te Yie Obi So Nte Yie Koraa, was said to reflect the reality of the day. By the time Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busi’s Progress Party took power on October 1, 1969, the soldiers were very unpopular.
The PP won 105 out of the 140 seats in Parliament while the National Alliance of Liberals headed by Komla Agbeli Gbedemah, Finance Minister in the Nkrumah regime won 29 seats.
The Progress Party appointed former Chief Justice Edward Akuffo Addo, a member of the Big Six, a ceremonial President in a government run alongside the Westminster model.
The Progress Party regime was credited with opening up the rural areas for development, promoting rule of law and generally tolerating dissent. But when Cameron Doudu, then Editor of the State-owned Daily Graphic was sacked for opposing the dialogue policy with South Africa, the government’s popularity was undermined. In October 1969, the Government promulgated the Alliance Compliance Order and the Ghanaianisation of the economy described as an attempt to protect the Ghanaian entrepreneur from foreign denomination.
The effect of the two laws was that large migrant workers from neighbouring West African nations had to leave at a very short notice, a situation which created tension between Ghana and her immediate neighbours.
The budget of 1971-1972, introduced more austerities with the cedi devalued by 40 per cent. The general discontent was exploited by Colonel Kutu Acheampong and thee Majors – Kwame Baah, Agbo and Selomey who formed the National Redemption Council after the coup of January 13, 1972 and immediately launched a highly successful Operation Feed Yourself and Industry programme. But when the NRC gave way to SMC I and tried to perpetuate their rule with the introduction of a Union government concept, agitation reached a crescendo.
Acheampong was overthrown in a palace coup in July 1978 and replaced by his former comrade in arms Lt.-Gen. F.W.K. Akuffo. The two leaders as well as Lt.-Gen. A.A. Afrifa and five leading officers of the time were tied to the stake and executed by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council headed by Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings which seized power on June 4, 1979.
The populist stance of the young soldiers created a serious problem for the new administration of President Hilla Limann when the People’s National Party administration was ushered into office on September 24, 1979. With the System completely bereft of goods and services, the Limann Government struggled and was overthrown by Rawlings on December 31, 1981 and unleashed a reign of terror on the body politic.
Rawlings himself described the 11 and half years of the military regime as the era of the ‘culture of silence’. In 1992, following both internal and external pressures, Rawlings was forced to democratize the system.
The Provisional National Defence Council headed by Flt. Lt. Rawlings had Brigadier Nunoo-Mensah, Rev. Kwabena Damuah, Sgt. Alolga Akatapore, Chris Bukari Atim, J. Amartey Quaye and Warrant Officer, Adjei Buadi as members. The PNDC made it clear that it had no confidence in the traditional justice system and introduced the People’s Courts and Public Tribunals which sentenced offenders to long term sentences.
The creation of these courts was met with resistance from the bench and the bar. In June, 1982, three judges – Justice Cecelia Koranteng Addo, Justice Sarkordie and Justice Agyepong were abducted and murdered at a military firing range in the Accra Plains.
The repercussion of these acts of brutalities was that Ghana virtually became a pariah state until constitutional government was returned in 1992.
To the credit of the Rawlings regime, the PNDC implemented an austerity Economic Recovery Programme hailed by the World Bank as a model for Africa and other Third World countries seeking to restructure the economy.
When the New Patriotic Party won power in the 2000 Presidential and Legislative Elections and put President John Agyekum Kufuor in charge of Government House, it was the first time in the history of local politics that a civil regime is taking power from another civil regime in a constitutional order.
It is this victory over military adventurism and the relative success in managing the state economy since the Kufuor administration took charge at the Castle the will be the main beacon of hope at the Ghana @ 50 celebrations. The nation has come a long way since March 6, 1957. The good news is that Ghana is on the move.
THE SPECTATOR - Saturday, March 3, 2007 Pages: 1 & 3