24th February, 1966: Cocoa's First Victim!

Mon, 24 Feb 2003 Source: Yeboah, Kwesi

Rhapsodies On ‘Kindness’ – Verse 19

February 24th is an emotional day for many Ghanaians. It is a day of fury and a day of joy. Fury for those who think the development of Ghana was compromised by the action of Kotoka and Afrifa; joy for those who were the victims of the tyranny of the Osagyefo, the Fount of Honor.

For us February 24th shall be remembered as the day that cocoa claimed its first victim in Ghana. Cocoa, chocolate, that ancient Mayan delicacy that had been introduced to the rulers of Europe, and which had now become a staple for the sophisticated palates of the masses and nobility alike.. Smuggled to Ghana, it had now come to dominate the national economy, and the rise and fall of its price on the world market would determine the fate of almost every single government in Ghana since independence.

February 24th would be remembered as the end of the first tragedy-cum-farce combination in Ghana. The tragedy was that of a gifted orator and idealist who took the Gold Coast by storm only to be swindled by the colonialists into presiding over the very system, which ensured our exploitation. Farce because even when Providence conspired against the neo-colonial economy and sent in the Swollen Shoot disease to eradicate our economic dependency on the crop, the goldsmith’s son, an ardent crusader against the ills of neo-colonialism, would hear none of it and spent a fortune to get farmers to replant their cocoa trees. Ghana became the world’s leading producer of cocoa beans – not chocolate – and the economic dependency re-established.

In the end, when the world prices of cocoa bottomed out in 1965, and the Osagyefo’s Seven-Year development plan had ground to a halt for lack off funds, and the country was on the verge of bankruptcy, and 'tinapa' had shot past the accepted price of ‘taku ne daama’ (seven pence), time had run out for the goldsmith's son. Farce because only 5 years later cocoa will bring down the Busia government in a similar set of circumstances.

For a man who had rather surprisingly, accumulated very little personal wealth, it was quite disenchanting to hear the invective and slander that was hurled at his name when he was overthrown. I remember my father and my kid brother going round our house singing with glee, and joined by the neighbors in a tune that sounded like the Christian hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus.”

Owudi nii, Kwame Nkrumah, The murderer Kwame Nkrumah)
W’awia Ghana sika nyinaaa, (Who stole all of Ghana’s money)
O de akosi dan wo Cairo, (And used it to build a house)
A ma ne yere Fathia. (For his wife Fathia)

In the aftermath of the coup, logic was thrown to the winds and people could actually be made to believe that all the money in Ghana’s coffers had been used to build a house for one woman ion Egypt. But when your salary has not been paid for a while, your imagination knows no bounds. And could you blame my old man? His flourishing business in import-and-export had been suddenly truncated by the powers-that –were simply because his wife, my mother, was Dr Danquah’s niece. And Dr Danquah was Nkrumah’s arch foe. And Ghanaian politics being what they are, my father was denied his import license for being a UP sympathizer by marriage!

The Osagyefo was a tragic hero of Shakespearean proportions. His idealism and nationalism had been forged in the burning crucible of the racial politics of the US in the late 1930s and the1940’s. From here he had founded his creed of a homogeneous Black race that was oppressed by the white man. His vision would not accept the realities of the different nations and ethnic groups within Ghanaian society, and even if he did, he thought he could wish them away, if not through education then by the force of his soon-to-be omnipotent will.

For some one who was so much against colonization, he trusted the ‘white man’ too much, and in 1951 the British easily inserted him into the colonial machine as Leader of Government Business where he was initiated into the workings of the colonial machinery. Even then every attempt he made at diversifying the economy by introducing science and agricultural research were denied by the British. Independence, when it came was only a change of baton.

Alienated from the Ghanaian intelligentsia, he surrounded himself with a gaggle of foreign advisors and sycophants who combined to inflate his boundless ego until he was swindled into building a dam and power plant complete with harbor to satisfy Kaiser’s bottomless appetite for cheap aluminum and profits.

His industrialization program which hinged around import substitution was so flawed because it was totally dependent on imported plants, technicians and,, often raw or semi-processed materials, that today many of those factories still sit idle growing weeds, forests and fungi.

Apart from the struggle for independence, his legendary organizational skills failed to mobilize the nation onto the path of development. In the end the constricting controls he had imposed on Ghanaians alienated him from the masses who had once called him ‘show boy’. More and more this alienation turned him to turn towards Africa away from his own people in Ghana. Not surprisingly, when the end did come, he was in far away Hanoi, attempting to solve the Vietnam War by himself, whilst Ghanaians were feeling the pangs of falling cocoa prices.

And the people, his foot soldiers of African liberation, the cynical masses that he never understood, lined the streets on 24th February and welcomed the new Liberator with song and dance:

Kotoka, ya fa wo hye! (Kotoka, we love you!)

Kotoka, ya fa wo la! Kotoka we ‘la’ you!)

Oh, Oh, nnipa dasani, (Oh humanity, )

Do wo yo yonko se wo ho (Love your neighbor as yourself)

Kotoka, ya fa wo LANTROSE ! (Kotoka, we love you like LANTROSE!)
But Kwame shall never be forgotten. His legacy of African consciousness and the rather obscure African Personality, that made Africans stand tall, and his creation of a Ghanaian consciousness even if ill conceived, shall always remain ideals that generations of leaders in Ghana and Africa will at least pay lip service to.

And 24th February 1966 shall forever remain etched in out memories as the day when the illusion of hope and promise that was born at independence, was shattered beyond a reasonable doubt. Kwalonto', Koforidua’s most beloved mad man of the time eulogized the day as nobody in his right mind can. He sang,

Kwame Nkrumah Nkwasiasem no, (Kwame Nkrumah is full of nonsense)

Pam no oooh, (Over throw him)

Kotriko, Pam no ooh, (Kotoka, overthrow him)

Eh, eh ,eh, Pam no ooh, (ei, ei, ei, overthrow him)

Kotriko, Pam no ooh. (Kotoka, overthrow him)

And we named an airport after Kotriko!

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of Ghanaweb.
Columnist: Yeboah, Kwesi