Opinions Sat, 6 Nov 2010

Ghana and the Nkrumah Factor

Controversies on Nkrumah’s pre-self rule, leading to independence contributions to Ghana continue to rage on and are becoming even more impetuous under John Mills NDC administration that has smuggled the CPP into the Castle through the back door to the chagrin of his mentor Rawlings and his wife. Two weeks ago, Busumuru Kofi Annan expressed his opinion on a political culture he finds deleterious for any prospective forward looking political climate. The former UN Secretary General’s opinion was specific on our elected governments that have been mandated to serve a specific term but his expressed opinion has apparently opened rather the vomitory for the blame game by NDC/CPP tub-thumpers with direct reference to Nkrumah’s projects as erroneously having been purposely abandoned by the UP/NPP tradition. Prof Agyeman Badu Akosah, the defeated CPP leadership aspirant has added his voice but not without controversy. Such statements have not been uncommon especially with the NDC and CPP Nkrumahists, prominent among them Kwesi Pratt. Kwesi is among the many who claim that the abandonment of Nkrumah’s projects has been the direct cause of Ghana’s socio-economic predicaments. When such infantile and defeatist statements are made, I wonder what is ruminating in their mind and also if they are really awake to the contemporary world.

It can never be denied by anybody ever that Nkrumah embarked upon a number of projects between 1952 and 1965 in his various capacities as Leader of government business, Prime Minister and President of Ghana else history would never forgive us. In the field of education, under his CPP administration, several secondary schools especially were opened under the Ghana Educational Trust. I can tell these monomaniac Nkrumahists on well-informed facts that if they are that ignorant about the centuries old Renaissance into the 20th century of the mid-1950 and 1960s, the school master had long been abroad. It would therefore be grossly naive and irresponsible for any leader at any time in the 20th century to ignore education not only for the young and up-coming generation but also for the aged especially on matters affecting their civic rights and responsibilities. It would therefore be a mug’s game for any government to ignore education hence Nkrumah’s policy on education was in the right direction so there was nothing new in that. As far as I am aware, none of these second cycle educational institutions was abandoned under any regime under Nkrumah and I dare anybody to challenge and point out which educational project was abandoned after his overthrow. If anything has gone wrong with Ghana’s educational system, the best person to be blamed is John Rawlings. Even Nkrumah’s rather selective and particularised free education policy for only Northerners up to University level and beyond without means testing their parents was not abandoned and has never been to this day. This is why Alban Bagbin’s children enjoy free education though he should be able to pay. Ghana’s free education for non-Northerners under Nkrumah was limited to primary education so parents had to pay for their ward’s secondary and further education unless awarded CMB scholarship. On education, I contend that as the system was in the beginning under Nkrumah, so has it been till today under Mills until a future patriotic leader mutates it to be universal for all Ghanaian children.

On infrastructure, Nkrumah spent a colossal sum on the 28 kilometre Accra – Tema killer concrete dual carriage road. It is a killer road because the concrete surfacing is not ideal for our hot tropical climate but may be ideal for temperate climates. It is very shocking that none of our Ghanaian road engineers has come out with this characteristic problem to scientifically analyse why there are constant tyre-busting incidents on the motor way at particular points to and from Tema. Some people blame it on the usual Momus inclined speeding Those overtaken with superstition blame it on a malignant blood-sucking evil spirit that lives along the motorway. Upon my enquiry from tyre bursting road incidents here in the UK, if the concrete road were to stretch up to 100 km, no vehicle would be able to cruise the entire length on a hot tropical afternoon without bursting tyres. British and Western European engineers do not recommend concrete-surfaced roads for several reasons including safety irrespective of their durability. Nkrumah therefore could not have continued with this particular project first for financial constraints, second for safety if only he would listen to non-Soviet independent objective expert advice to save lives. I use the reference non-Soviet because the Russians were Achitophel-type tertius gaudens who would do anything to further the growing spite between Nkrumah and Ghana and any Western influence. Roads that are similar to and even better than the concrete-surfaced motorway safety-wise have been built by subsequent governments after Nkrumah. The all-concrete motorway as planned by Nkrumah to have been extended from Tema to Takoradi and from Tema to Kumasi and Tamale and beyond was a Quixotic and Disney fantasy project.

On industries, Kwesi Pratt always talks about the abandoned Aboso Glass Factory with jeremiad, ignorantly stressing that the only raw material needed to feed the factory is common sand which is abundant on our seashore, such is the Pratt mumpsimus. The glass factory was functioning several years after Nkrumah but later abandoned by John Rawlings whom Nkrumahists including Pratt hail as their hero. Though abandoned by Rawlings and not by any other regime as some ignorant people presume, the raw materials used for the project such as silica sand, dolomite, lead oxide, zinc oxide, potash etc were all imported to feed the factory. The raw materials so imported had to be transported by road to Aboso, increasing the cost of production. The factory was run at a high cost to the ailing economy yet subsequent governments were very pusillanimous about closing it down as a non-profitable venture. It was John Rawlings who had the nerves to do so. In my opinion, it was the right thing done in the economic circumstances for acting so boldly and diligently.

The Aboso factory is not the only project among Nkrumah’s projects that can be said to have been politically motivated, the Jute factory in Kumasi could not survive for same reasons as above. It isn’t Nkrumah alone who was ensnared into politically motivated projects, the NLC under Gen. J A Ankrah built the Wenchi Tomato Factory under similar political influence. The Wenchi factory could best have been sited at Akumadan where tomatoes are produced throughout the year. The Wenchi factory died under the dagger of John Rawlings. Similarly, the Bolga Tomato factory could equally be said to have been misplaced. If Nkrumah had established a greenhouse at Bolga to produce fruits and vegetables by by-passing nature and climatic tendencies, that would have been perfect and the same could have been done in Accra and elsewhere which would have been more feracious. There was a corned beef factory also at Bolga that collapsed under John Rawlings because after establishing the factory, cattle rearing should have been stepped up in the region to feed the factory which neither Nkrumah himself nor subsequent governments paid any particular attention to, though subsequent governments were short lived.

Most of Nkrumah’s projects were bound to fail and have failed for want of adequate ground preparation to guarantee their sustainability however these failed projects met their demise under no other regime than under John Rawlings. They have become white elephants because Nkrumah took himself to be the omniscient and omnicompetent in all matters of rulership, he would neither brook counter opinion on whatever he had planned to do nor would he entertain any counter suggestion; such would be abominable to his personality and an affront to his assumed omniscience in the eyes of Ghanaians who lived in fear and obnubilation but rather had to fawn support. Osagyefo planned everything unilaterally because he looked down upon every Ghanaian and mistrusted even his officials to the extent that when he travelled outside Ghana, contrary to constitutional provisions he could even appoint his chief farmer to act as locum tenens instead of either the Speaker of Parliament or Chief Justice.

Nkrumah had a morbid hatred for everything of Western European or American provenance including selling produce of Ghana on their markets. In 1964, as usual with the mindset of his Russian communist fraternity, a colossal silo was built at Tema by his Russians to store Ghana’s cocoa beans for the 1964 crop year and beyond until he got an alternative buyer instead of selling them to Western markets who continue to consume cocoa products till this day. Nkrumah in his omniscience could not decipher that these giant companies like Cadbury etc store raw materials required for feeding their industries for years ahead and also that it is not only Ghana that sells cocoa to them so he needed a different approach to meet his demands. These Russians could not advice him on the eventual counter-productive economic repercussion such a step taken would have on Ghana’s income but Achitophel-like, they went ahead and built it. Of course poor Russians and Chinese who have been gagged and ‘crippled’ socio-economically on whom he relied in taking most of his rash decisions eat little or no chocolate and other cocoa products because that is a luxury to them and cannot provide an alternative market. All the cocoa beans bought by the government for the 1964 crop year got rotten and were disposed of. I therefore see no reason why any government should encourage continuing any thinking of this sort and repeat such economically sabotaging commission to Ghana’s detriment. The massive silo is sitting in Tema serving no purpose because it is good for nothing.

On his OAU now rechristened AU that Nkrumah was foisting on African heads of State, we all appreciate all forms of henotic co-existence but any unity of nations so diverse in all aspects must be approached from a most appropriate right angle with firm membership conditions laid down, else if nations are to be welded together in the glow of transient feeling, they must be made of metals that will mix else they inevitably fall apart when the heat dies out. A similar transient feeling ignited the hasty forging together of the States of the erstwhile Soviet Union that could not last. A union of African States on the Nkrumah model is a forlorn hope however a union on gradual basis Region by Region on the Western European model may work but at a distant future date.

Ghana is in a state of Socio-economic stasis for reasons both of being socio-politically polarised and Nkrumah’s apotheosized image worshiping as if he is the sole ordained claviger of Ghana’s socio-economic progress, development and prosperity hence a sine qua non yet indeed he committed a host of economic management blunders and has immensely contributed to Ghana’s predicaments. It is worthwhile asking that on what basis would Nkrumah prefer building all-concrete intercity dual carriage roads from Tema to Takoradi and also from Tema to Kumasi and Tamale instead of normal bitumen for road construction?

Finally, John Rawlings is responsible for the collapse of over 40 (forty) Nkrumah’s establishments including 17 (seventeen) GIHOC factories plus the eventual sale of the Nsawam Cannery to his wife yet Kwesi Pratt and his CPPists are scared of facing the bull by the horn by pinpointing him for the demise of their father’s properties irrespective of their unplanned nature and formation that spelt their unsustainability in bold letters. I however commend John Rawlings for his audax et cautus approach in saving Ghana’s fragile economy from a continuum of lavishing State supplements on failed industries but condemn him for selling over 300 (three hundred) State-owned businesses to his cronies.. The German economy after the war was among the worst in the world yet they put behind them all misfortunes of any sort that had befallen the country and pursued hard work towards prosperity that became wirtschaftwunder (economic miracle). Germany is today the world’s leading economy in spite of what had happened earlier. Ghana can do the same however to achieve this, Ghanaians must be bold enough, put party fanaticism behind us, stop image worshiping and apotheosis of past leaders and concentrate on what our generation can do to progress the country, call a spade a spade, show appreciation where it is due and condemn where condemnation is due. If we can do this we can progress, develop and prosper as a nation with happy individuals.

Adreba Kwaku Abrefa Damoa, LLB; MPhil (London UK)
Columnist: Damoa, Adreba Kwaku Abrefa