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Evaluating the Place of Nkrumah in Ghana's Political History - An Anti-Nkrumah P

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Author: Kwaku S. Asare
Date: Wed, 06 Mar 2002
The United Gold Coast Convention [UGCC] was formed in August 1947 as a movement
to seek political reforms in the then Gold Coast. There was consensus among poli
tical activists at the time that a more viable movement was needed to carry on t
he work of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society, the Youth Movements and the
various political cells that had mushroomed in the country as far back as the b
eginning of the century. The founding fathers of the UGCC included Akuffo Addo,
J. B. Danquah, R. S. Blay, R. A. Awoonor Williams, George Grant and Ako Adjei. T
he UGCC was an immediate hit and it became apparent that they needed a full time
person to coordinate its activities. At this time, most of the founding fathers
were too busy with their own professional lives and, on Ako Adjei's recommendat
ion, the Reverend Kwame Nkrumah was invited, from London, to become its full tim
e secretary in December 1947. One of Nkrumah's jobs was to spread the UGCC's mes
sage to the rest of Gold Coast. Prior to his arrival the UGCC was entrenched onl
y in what was then called the Colony and Nkrumah quickly extended the UGC into A
shanti as well as the then northern territories. Nkrumah was an instant hit with
the masses who had become wary of the conservative and elitist approach of the fo
unding members of the UGCC. A crucial event occurred in 1948 when Major Imray or
dered his men to shoot at several unarmed ex-servicemen who were going to presen
t a petition to the Governor at the castle. Sergeant Adjetey and Attipoe died in
stantly culminating in the famous February 1948 riots and looting. The destructi
on to property and life was so intense that the British appointed a commission (
headed by Watson) to investigate. The Watson commission called for political ref
orms and advocated for a constitution prepared by Ghanaians. The British Governm
ent acceded and appointed the Coussey constitutional committee. Coussey's consti
tutional report became the basis of the 1951 elections. The Birth of the Convent
ion People s Party The membership of the Coussey commission included all leading m
embers of the UGCC except Nkrumah. At the same time, in August 1948 Nkrumah had
been demoted by the UGCC to treasurer because of his radical ideas and affiliati
on to some socialist groups. In June 1949, a committee headed by William Ofori A
tta convened in Saltpond to try and settle the differences between Nkrumah and t
he other members of the UGCC. However, the youth wings (then called CYO) that ha
d become increasingly frustrated insisted that Nkrumah not be reconciled to the
intelligentsia. Under the threats of abandoning him, Nkrumah sided with the CYOs
and broke up from the UGCC. The next day he announced the formation of the CPP
with an aim to attain self government NOW. In view of his exclusion from Coussey
, the Osagyefo simply declared the Coussey constitution as fraudulent and bogus.
The CPP went on the offensive attacking both the colonial government and the UG
CC. The colonial government fought back imprisoning many CPP members including G
bedemah, Amegbe and ultimately Nkrumah himself. In spite of these imprisonments,
the CPP won the 1951 elections and went on to win the second elections in 1954.
The birth of the National Liberation Movement Few political movements have been
misunderstood or misrepresented as the NLM. The NLM, which was launched in Kuma
si in September 1954, arose out of 4 clear concerns: 1. The reneging of the camp
aign promise to raise the price of cocoa. During the electioneering campaign, Nk
rumah had promised to raise the cocoa price to 5 pounds per load. The CPP even i
ndicated the new £5 bill was issued for that purpose. However on winning, the CPP
decided to peg the price at 3 pound 12 shillings. This infuriated the farmers wh
o felt used. 2. Several youth members of the CPP from the Asante state (Ghana ha
d 4 States then -- Gold coast colony, Asante, northern territories and the Briti
sh Togoland) were disillusioned with the activities of the party. They, in parti
cular, hated the creeping dictatorial tendencies and centralization of power at
the national headquarters. Before the 1954 election, national headquarters had i
mposed candidates on the constituencies and the 81 members who refused to cooper
ate were all dismissed. Several of these former CPP members, including Osei Asib
ey Mensah, were the later spirit of the NLM. 3. The local government system intr
oduced in the first legislative assembly (1951) under the CPP had weakened the c
hieftaincy institution considerably. Matters that were previously vested in them
were transferred to elected local councillors. Naturally, the chiefs disliked t
his development and wanted a means to oppose the CPP. No wonder the leader of th
e NLM was Baffuor Osei Akoto, a linguist. 4. The Asante state was pissed by the
work of the Van Lare commission which redrew the electoral map in 1953. The Van
Lare commission ignored population and arbitrarily redrew the map in a way that
disadvantaged the Asante state. The seats of the north were increased from 19 to
26. The colony from 37 to 44; trans Volta from 8 to 13; and Asante from 19 to 2
1. In spite of significant protestations by the Asante state, their appeals were
turned down. The Asante state concluded that the British had never forgotten he
r stance in the colonial times and were in collusion with the CPP to punish them
. The NLM had not participated in the elections of 1954 and it won the argument
for new elections prior to granting independence. The elections which were slate
d for 1956 was clearly won by the CPP. The CPP won 71 out of the 104 seats. Neve
rtheless, it was clear that the CPP had won because the NLM did not have time to
coordinate with the 7 other opposition parties that run against the CPP. Nkruma
h had become very unpopular and the election results revealed significant weakne
sses in Asante, Volta and the northern territories. The parties that contested t
hose elections included: Ghana Congress Party (GCP); Northern Peoples' Party (NP
P); Muslim Association Party (MAP); Togoland Congress (TC); Anlo Youth Associati
on (AYO); Ghana National party (GNP); and the Ghana Action Party (GAP). On 9th O
ctober 1955, Twumasi Ankrah, regional propaganda secretary of the CPP murdered E
. Y. Baffo, the chief propaganda secretary of the NLM. Though Twumasi Ankrah (li
ke Amartey Kwei in 1982) was arrested, tried and subsequently hanged, there rema
ined a lingering concern that the Osagyefo and the CPP outfit had engineered thi
s cold blooded murder (just as some think JJR knew about the murder committed by
Kwei). This incident, more than any other, explains the deep suspicion that Cha
racterized the relationship between the CPP and the NLM. The incident also accou
nts for the violent clashes, shootings, burning of cars and houses, breaking up
of rallies, etc. At this time, Nkrumah was serving a second term under the recen
tly amended Coussey constitution. But he was largely ineffective in containing t
he violence. Indeed, no CPP minister could enter Kumasi for the next three years
. Therefore, contrary to myths, it was not only the NLM that was opposed to the
creeping dictatorial tendencies of Osagyefo. In Accra, there was significant ten
sion between the CPP and the Ga people culminating in the formation of the Ga Sh
ifimokpee (Ga Standfast Association). It was worse in southern Togoland where th
e people were in open rebellion and even boycotted the independence celebrations
in 1957. Nkrumah & Independence Nkrumah's responses, soon after independence, w
as what cemented the culture of violence that had been initiated by Twumasi Ankr
ah. 1. He suspended the NLM dominated Kumasi city council and ordered the probin
g of its activities, to break the hold of the NLM in Kumasi. This was in clear v
iolation of the constitution. 2. In spite of the protections that had been empla
ced in the constitution to preserve local control, he appointed CPP Politicians
as chief regional commissioners in the regions. 3. In July 1957, a deportation a
ct was passed and used to deport Amadu Baba and Alhaji Lalemi, two leading NLM m
embers, and a number of anti-CPP Syrians and Lebanese. 4. Government withdrew re
cognition of Nana Ofori Atta as Omanhene of Akyem Abuakwa and set up a commissio
n to probe the Akyem Abuakwa state council. His offence was that he was a strong
NLM supporter but the main aim of this was to send a message to other chiefs. 5
. In December 1957, almost all opposition parties were made illegal by the passa
ge of the so-called "Avoidance of Discrimination Act." This act banned organizat
ions, parties and societies that were confined to particular tribal groups and w
hich were used for political purposes. So the Northern Peoples Party, Muslim Ass
ociation Party, Togoland Congress, Anlo Youth Organization, Ga Shifimokpee, etc.
all became illegal. Several of these parties had been around and contested the
1951, 1954 and 1956 elections. 6. The emergency powers act was introduced and ap
plied in January 1958 to introduce martial law in Kumasi. 7. Ashanti was split i
nto two --- creating the Ashanti and B/A regions. Several pro CPP chiefs were in
stalled in Ashanti and Volta as paramount chiefs to the consternation and disapp
roval of the local people. 8. The regional councils, entrenched in the constitut
ion, were abolished. 9. The controversial PDA was introduced as a bill in parlia
ment on 14th July 1958 and passed by 16th July 1958. This act empowered the gove
rnment to arrest and detain for 5 years anybody suspected of or found acting in
a manner prejudicial to the defence of Ghana, to her relations with other states
and to state security. Political violence, which was started in 1955 by Twumasi
of the CPP, had been consolidated by the Osagyefo! The Birth of the United Part
y As discussed, the "Avoidance of Discrimination Act" passed in December 1957 ma
de all the opposition parties illegal. In response to this act, the opposition p
arties --- NPP, MAP, NLM, WYA, AYA, the Ga Shifimokpee - united to form the Unit
ed Party (UP) under the leadership of Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia. Within a short time
the UP's message and popularity had spread through the country. The PDA's ugly
teeth devoured the meat of this New Popular Party (NPP), a party that has now re
incarnated as the NPP. In November 1958, 39 people were detained under the PDA.
All 39 were UP members. 9 of the 12 detained in 1959 were prominent UP members i
n the Asante region. All 16 detained by July 1960 were UP members in the Volta r
egion. The opposition parties had virtually been killed under the PDA (see Birth
of the UP). By 1960, 3 of the opposition MPs had been detained; 1 was in exile;
and 12 had crossed to the government's side. An alien's compliance order had be
en instituted to harass and deport opposition "foreigners." Both the Ashanti and
Akyem Abuakwa councils had been probed and politics had been injected into chie
ftaincy. A culture of silence and political recession was born. One has to keep
in mind that Nkrumah had been elected as prime minister in 1951 and in 1954. Whi
le the British were around, politics and political debate flourished. Sadly, onc
e the British departed on 6th March 1957, Osagyefo single-handedly launched the
country into an unprecedented political recession from which we are still recove
ring. Thus Reverend Nkrumah was responsible for Ghana's first political recessio
n. The Economic Mess In 1947, the Osagyefo published "Towards Colonial Freedom."
In this treatise, he advocated economic planning, abolition of poverty and econ
omic exploitation and a control of the means of the production by the people. Th
e CPP 1951 constitution, introduced the party as a nationalist, democratic socia
list movement. On the eve of independence, the Osagyefo in an address to parliam
ent, asserted that the citizens of Ghana must play a far bigger role than at pre
sent. Ghana's economy was so much dominated by foreigners at independence that a
ny measures at all would have led to some progress. Over 90% of the import trade
, timber concessions and mineral concessions were in the hands of foreigners. Bu
t the Osagyefo fell asleep during the first three years after independence. W. A
. Wiafe's pleas for him to restrict retail trade and introduce import license pr
eferences to Ghanaians fell on deaf ears. Indeed, the Syrian and Lebanese influe
nce in retail increased by 1960. To add insult to injury and to spite Wiafe, the
Osagyefo gave a large loan to Anastasias Leventis, a Greek, to enable him to ex
tend his trading activities to Ghana. Similar calls to include Ghanaians in mini
ng fell on deaf ears. Rather, grants and interest free loans were given to faili
ng expatriate mining companies to allow them to continue in operations. In const
ruction, government establish the GNCC in partnership with an Israeli firm but t
he industry continued to be controlled by expatriates. The same is true of insur
ance and manufacturing where cosmetic changes were made. manufacturing industrie
s where government had equal or minority shares was 6 at 1957 and 6 in 1960. The
only exceptions were cocoa purchasing and Banking. In cocoa purchasing, the Gha
na Farmers Marketing Cooperative and Ghana Cooperative Marketing association wer
e by 1960 purchasing 50% of the total crop thru local agents. The Central Bank w
as established in 1957 and the Ghana Commercial Bank, established in 1952, had a
bout 50 percent of the deposit. Thus, in the economic realm nothing of substance
happened between 1957 and 1960 even though we had 200 million pounds to make th
ings happen. Worse, there were no policies on transfer of profits abroad allowin
g huge profits to be repatriated rather than reinvested in Ghana. The First Repu
blic I outlined some of the callous political measures that were emplaced by the
Reverend Kwame Nkrumah during the period between 1957 and 1960. While those mea
sures effectively created a political recession, they pale in comparison to the
political moves of the Showboy in the period from 1960 to 1966. The first move i
n the pre-1960 era was a plebiscite under which Ghana was to became a republic.
The plebiscite was a colossal waste of resources as the outcome was already fore
gone. The new constitution abolished the post of the Governor-General and the sh
owboy became the Head of State under the new title of President. The new constit
ution itself had several controversial articles:
Article 55 gave the President powers to rule by decree or legislative instrument
. Interestingly, this article was not in the draft constitution that was adopted
under the rigged plebiscite. It was smuggled into the constitution by the CPP c
onstituent assembly set up to pass the constitution (similar to how the certain
clauses of the transitional provisions were smuggled into the 1992 constitution
--- I will get to that someday). Then there was an article which empowered the p
resident to appoint and dismiss the chief justice. Further, the president could
appoint, transfer fire, probate and discipline all members of the Public Service
, which includes the civil service, the judicial service, police service, the lo
cal government service, military service and any service as may be provided by l
aw. Finally, the President was given the power to give assent to any bill from p
arliament - he could accept, reject, modify or do whatever he pleases with the b
ill. The coup de grace was the plebiscite of 1964 to determine whether Ghana wil
l become a one party state and whether the president could dismiss high court ju
dges without cause. Of course, the one party state proposition won with 2,773,92
0 votes to 2,452. Ashanti was reported to have voted 100% for a one party state!
In 1965, elections were to take place under the one party state constitution. T
hat too was not to be as the Reverend simply went on radio and announced who the
new MPs will be. It was a joke as MPs were appointed who had no knowledge of wh
ere their constituencies were located. Elsewhere, I wrote about how the Messiah
used the PDA between 1957 to 1960. In those 3 years, 70 people were detained. Bu
t things were to heat up. Ghanaians, having fought the British for centuries, we
re not about to be intimidated by one of their own. So the more Nkrumah intimida
ted them with his PDA, the more they resisted and the more they resisted the mor
e the Osagyefo played the PDA card. Between July and December 1960, about 175 pe
ople were detained under the PDA. The number was over 300 in 1961 and about 250
in 1962. By 1963, 586 were in detention under the PDA. Of course, not only anti-
CPP stalwarts were detained. For instance, the roll call of detainees in 1961 in
cluded Danquah, Victor Owusu, Joe Appiah but also W. A. Wiafe, P. K. K. Quaidoo
who were CPP MPs at the time. A few lucky ones, like Busia and Gbedemah (Nkrumah
's closest associate) were able to escape into exile. Of course, not only politi
cians were detained. Anyone at all who was reported by spies who had now filled
every corner of the country was a candidate for detention. If a spy reported you
, you were picked up. Nobody in Ghana felt secure after 1961. But it was not the
number of detained or exiled people or the spies that galled Ghanaians. It was
the manner in which the detainees were treated that really spoke to the Osagyefo
's political callousness and that really pricked the political and human conscie
nce of Ghanaians. There were several reports of death, untreated illness, forced
medication and inoculation. When it was announced in 1965 that Danquah and Obet
sebi Lamptey had both died in preventive detention, Ghanaians of all walks of li
fe were now talking about the extra-constitutional options available to overthro
w this demon that they had inherited.
The Apaloo asset commission, which was set up by the NLC to investigate Nkrumah'
assets concluded: "in view of the findings we have made as to how he acquired t
he bulk of his property which he controlled as a Trustee of the people of this c
ountry and his proved duplicity in many matters, we find it impossible to resist
the observation that Nkrumah thoroughly unfitted himself for the high office of
the President of Ghana."
The Fountain of Honour, as they called him, started politics as a penniless poli
tician. He came from very humble beginnings and at one time was a reverend. The
Apaloo commission found that the Showboy was worth 250,000 pounds in cash and ma
rketable securities by 1961. This had increased to 2 million pounds by 1966. Cur
iously, his lawful earnings in this period was computed at 134,000 pounds. What
account for this good fortune? Put bluntly, corruption. The classic example of t
his is the 1 million pound that the cabinet set aside as a "Trust for the Advanc
ement of Ghana." The Osagyefo simply appropriated 750,000 pounds from this for h
is personal use. Several instances of bribery, commissions, etc. were also docum
ented by the Apaloo commission.
At 0500 hours on 24th February, 1966, Afrifa's convoy arrived at the Flagstaff h
ouse. They met resistance and came under heavy machine gun-fire from the entranc
e of the flagstaff house. Colonel led the resistance Zanlerigu. But Afrifa, a Sa
ndhurst trained soldier who had recently seen action in Katanga, was not to be d
enied. He continued his advance toward GBC and by 0525 hours, Radio Ghana had fa
llen to his control. Akwasi Afrifa then went on air and asked a now awakened, un
suspecting Ghanaians to stand by their radios for an important announcement at 6
am. A few minutes before 6am, his commander, Colonel Kotoka arrived at the radio
station. He shook his hands and said "well done, Akwasi." With the following wo
rds, what started as a test exercise for a Rhodesian Operation, liberated Ghana
from the ugly grips of Osagyefo Reverend Kwame Showboy Nkrumah. "Fellow citizens
of Ghana, I have come to inform you that the military, in co-operation with the
Ghana Police, have taken over the government of Ghana today. The MYTH surroundi
ng Nkrumah had been broken. Parliament is dissolved and Kwame Nkrumah is dismiss
ed from office. All ministers are also dismissed. The CPP is disbanded with effe
ct from now. It will be illegal for any person to belong to it. We appeal to you
to be calm and co-operative; all persons in detention will be released in due c
ourse. Please stay by your radios and await further details." Ghana was freed bu
t not before the famous Ashanti New Town reminder. Soon after Kotoka's announcem
ent, 1000s of people gathered at a bar celebrating With early morning agboto bee
r. Then a wise old man said, " You do not know Nkrumah. This is one of his wicke
d plans to test the loyalty of the masses." In less than 2 minutes, the bar was
emptied and was as quiet again as a cemetery. Such was the fear that the Osagyef
o put in us.

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