NKRUMAH - THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN
By: David Anaglate
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was no doubt a colossus who bestrode Africa as he struggled, first, to liberate Ghana and the entire continent, then to bring about its unit and lastly to free the minds of Africans to have confidence in their own capabilities. I followed closely Nkrumah’s political career as a student in the 1950’s. 1 was in form five when Ghana attained independence.
After two years at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), followed by a stint at the Daily Graphic (59-60) 1 had the rare opportunity to follow Nkrumah’s exploits at close range when I joined Radio Ghana News Department as Assistant Editor in 1962 becoming editor and then senior editor by 1965.
As one of three editors on duty 24 hours a day we had to drive the half-mile distance from Broadcasting House to Flagstaff House before 1.OOp.m. to receive the latest press releases from the office of Nkrumah’s press secretary., Mr. Eduful and to show the news scripts as compiled by us for vetting.
Indeed it was because I had to perform this duty everyday that Flagstaff House supported my application to buy my first car (A Peugeot 403) from SCOA in 1965. Sometimes Mr. Eduful or one of his assistants, Mr. Obeng for example would come to the Newsroom before 1 p.m. to bring press statements from Flagstaff House and to read through the news as we compiled it for 1 o’clock.
You could not progress in GBC news if you were not politically conscious and thus 1 could not help noting the “positives” and “negatives” of the Nkrumah era at close range right up to the coup of 1966.
But as I write on the mistakes of the Nkrumah regime of those days, I do so as someone who is disappointed that the great vision of Nkrumah had to be disrupted by that coup d’etat It is not my desire to dampen the enthusiasm of the celebration of the centenary, Far from It. I am not a “kill-joy” or a wet blanket”. Nkrumah deserves all the honour we are showering on him, however belated.
I am only pointing out these mistakes some of them “mistakes of omission” rather than of “commission” in the hope that present and future leaders would ponder over them and resolve to avoid them. No human being is perfect but learning from history will help us attain a better future for our people. Some of the people praising Nkrumah are refusing to talk about his mistakes and are glossing over them.
Still “to make assurance doubly sure” and to avoid being misunderstood as belonging to that group of people who do not like Nkrumah – such as the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the Danquah – Busia clique – I will start by enumerating the positive achievements of Nkrumah.
First Education, Nkrumah’s achievements in the education sector were great He expanded the system by building more schools especially secondary schools through the Education Trust he set up. The fees were moderate and affordable. There were government scholarships too. My personal story — a full scholarship from a “cyto” school at Anyako to attend boarding school at GSTS Takoradi 250 miles away one that can be replicated by many in my age group.
Those days, teachers were well motivated so there was no need for private preparatory or so-called international schools, charging exorbitant fees — contrast this with the situation today when private schools are creating a class society in children to those schools and their product secure places in the top senior secondary schools. Thus children of the rich elite — Ministers, business tycoons, Directors of Education, - yes — they end up taking 7500 of places in universities leaving poor majority of children from “cyto” schools to drop out after SSS or senior secondary because only 25 per cent of university places were available tit gen! (See study by Education experts led by Prof Djangmah.)
Industries: To create jobs for the products import- substitution goods. Thus we had sugar factories (Asutsuare and Komenda) Nsawam Cannery, State Housing Corporation, Glass Factory, Pre-Fabricated concrete Slab Factory, Marble Factory Cocoa Products Factory, the Cocoa Silos, Food Distribution Corporation, and its Food Silos, Meat Marketing Board, Bolgatanga Meat Factory, Workers Brigade for State Farms. Tema Oil Refinery. Tema Harbour and Township.
African Independence and Unity
Nkrumah fought for the independence of other African colonies through the African Affairs secretariat The External Broadcasting section of GBC was a powerful tool in this struggle as well as for the unity of the continent.
The formation of the Casablanca group made up of Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Egypt and Morocco (opposed by the Western imperialist supported Monrovia axis countries of Togo, Liberia, Congo Kanshasa, etc later to be fused into the Organisation of African Unity in 1963.
One recalls how Nkrumah’s enemies shouted that his call for continental union government was motivated by his ambition to be the President of Africa, and his reply that he was ready to serve under any capable President and that his only pre-occupation was for the creation of a United Africa
I recall that even a-progressive leader like Julius Nyerere of Tanzania found Nkrumah’s pace too fast. One day, suspecting that Nkrumah had a hand in an attempt to destabilize Tansania, Nyerer declared “this continental government idea is being used to do the most unfriendly things against the African countries”. President Sylvanus Olympio of Tago, like the vapitalist that he was, hated Nkrumah’s socialism and declared”. The days of “ISMS” were gone forever” Tanzania, Nyerere declared “this continental government idea is being used to do the most unfriendly things against the African countries”. President Sylvanus Olympio of Togo, like the capitalist that he was, hated Nkrumah’s socialism and declared”. The days of "ISMS" were gone forever”
Well, he could be pardoned for saying so because Nkrumah had earlier said he wanted to make Togo “the seventh Region of Ghana” These were some of the jealousies in the air at the time Nkrumah pushed for the continental Unity concept.
Now to problems at home
The years before his overthrow were the period of the One-Party State. By then the CPP had become just a machine for people to climb to high office. There was no free discussion within the party — not to talk of the general community outside the party. One criticized policies at his peril.
Incidentally, the absence, nay, the dearth of literature in Ghana in the early sixties when African novels were flourishing in Nigeria, East Africa and elsewhere can be attributed to the intolerance of criticism prevailing in Ghana at the time.
You see novels are a critique of society. The novels of Aikwei Armah, Prof. Professor Nyidevu Awoonor, Ama Atta Aidoo dl came out after the fall of Nkrumah. In Ghana everybody had to fall in line and shout the slogans of the time. The louder you shouted the higher you rise in the party.
Tawia Adamaflo for example — shouting “socialism socialism” while hating the concept. No Wonder Nkrumah in a moment of anguish the hypocrisy of some of his lieutenants, remarked that “you cannot have socialism without socialists” and proceeded, alas, too late, to establish the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute.
The spokesmen of the CPP did not let the people realize that the good things they were enjoying — free schooling, jobs, social mobility. And ethnic harmonies were the fruits of social mobility, and ethnic harmonies were the fruits of socialism.
That was the reason why, when Nkrumah fell, many people rejoiced because they did not know that with Nkrumah and socialism gone, the good things will follow him out! They though, naively and 1 was one of them to my shame-that the Natipnal Liberation Council (NLC) which succeeded Nkrumah, would preserve the good social policies of the man while eliminating his perceived mistakes. We all forgot that that would have been a contradiction in terms. Capitalists cannot maintain social interventions.
The Preventive Detention Act
This law was necessary to put down the separatist rebellions like the NLM, Shifimo Kpee and Togoland Congress. But it was misused by some people to detain personal enemies. I used to think that Nkrumah did not have a machinery to ensure that Act was not abused.
But when 1 read the report of a 1967 commission of inquiry into chieftaincy affairs in Anlo, 1 realised that under the procedures of the PDA, no one should be detained unless approved by a committee under the Ministry of he Interior in Accra.
The fact is that this healthy procedure was ignored; and District Commissioners took over to order local police to detain people by heart. Many of the people who jubilated at the fall of Nkrumah on February 24, 1966 did so because of the misuse of the PDA.
Failure of Industrialisation
Nkrumah’s factories were doomed from the start because they could not expand into the larger markets of our neighbouring countries — the imperialists made sure of that by inciting the jealousies of those countries against Ghana.
The Western imperialists saw, correctly, that if Ghana succeeded, they would lose their markets in Africa. (Ghana’s market alone was too limited to permit the economy of scale needed for the factories to prosper. Things were not helped by the corruption of the managements of these establishments who saw them as their ticket to wealth and practiced corruption and nepotism.
On the larger issue of the fast pace of Nkrumah’s drive to socialism, the question may be asked: Did Nkrumah appreciate the fact that his policies were creating powerful enemies against him.
My answer to this question is Yes and No “Yes” he must have realized that he was making powerful enemies in the West and that must have informed his decision to he form and then join the Non-Aligned Movement. It was an attempt to find strength in the “ensemble” of non-aligned countries while distancing (Ghana from the communist bloc.
But this was too little, too late because it was the internal socialism of the leading non-aligned countries that drove the West to hate these countries — Nkrumah’s Ghana, Game! Nasser’s Egypt, Sekou Toure’s Guinea, Modibo Keita’s Mali and Broz Toto’s Yugoslavia
The West has not forgiven President Tito for bringing the Balkan communities of Bosnia — Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosova into a strong Federation with his own Socialist Serbia. This explains why the West had been determined to cripple Yugoslavia and has succeeded in breaking up the Federation.
A leader s fist duty is to make life better for his people and not to impose hardships on them unnecessarily If Nkrumah had slowed down his socialist policies a little, the incipient shortages experienced before the coup would have been avoided and there would have been no fertile ground for the subversion brought by the CIA against Nkrumah, and the February 24 coup might not have happened, Nkrumah’s vision and progress would have proceeded at an admittedly slower pace, yes, but we would have avoided the massive disruption and setback caused by the coup d’etat and its disgraceful aftermath.
Daily Graphic Page: 21 Thursday, June 24, 2010