Opinions Tue, 10 Mar 2015

Ghana's Story in 58 Lines

By Angelina K. Morrison and Naana Ekua Eyaaba

1. Independence from Britain in 1957 after nearly five hundred years of European occupation, adopting the name of the ancient Ghana kingdom.

2. The most advanced and prosperous country in sub-Saharan Africa; all economic indicators showed that Ghana was at par with Malaysia and Singapore, and well ahead of Brazil and Argentina.

3. With over £250m in bank reserves and great endowment in cocoa, gold, timber, bauxite, manganese, diamond, a very fertile land and goodwill around the world for the 'New Boy on the block,' the sky was the limit for the Black Star of Africa.

4. Like other British and French colonies of West Africa, Ghana did not have to fight a bitter guerrilla war for its independence, just a war of wits, first against the colonial power, then among its indigenous elite; the very first bad omen: a divided nation was bound to stumble.

5. The losers could not do so with grace, neither could the winners, with magnanimity; a draconian law, Prevention Detention Act (PDA) was rushed through a Parliament that was overwhelmingly dominated by the victorious party; the effect, incarcerate political opponents without trial.

6. Passed in 1958, PDA was strengthened in 1959 and 1962, with more arbitrary powers of detention for the President, following assassination attempts on him in 1961 and 1962.

7. The treason trial following a bomb attempt on Kwame Nkrumah by the radical wing of the CPP in the persons of Tawia Adamafio, Ako Adjei (then minister of foreign affairs), and H. H. Cofie Crabbe, led to the sacking of the eminent Chief Justice, Sir Arku Korsah; the beginning of the end was in sight, not only for the president, but burgeoning democratic Ghana.

8. Meanwhile, a young people’s organisation, The Young Pioneer Movement had been inaugurated in an effort to inculcate patriotism in the youth of the country.

9. Originally voluntary, it soon became apparent that it could not compete with the morally upright and age-old Boys’ Scouts, Girl Guides, Wolf Cubs, YMCA, YWCA, CYO, PYO and others, it became compulsory for all school-age children of Ghana.

10. Some school heads and parents who opposed the membership of their children and charges were hauled into prison under PDA.

11. By 1959, the Queen of England and nominal head of state of Ghana and her Governor-General were becoming a hindrance to our forward march towards total African emancipation.

12. Trade Union leaders, particularly of the Railways and Harbours in Sekondi-Takoradi who had been major allies of the first President had suddenly become enemies of the African Show Boy, Kwame Nkrumah, they had to be dealt with, sent to jail in droves, following a general workers’ strike in 1960.

13. Amidst the encircling gloom and crepuscular portents, primary and middle schools were being built in every hamlet of the country like desirable mushrooms springing up on a misty morning.

14. New secondary schools were opened under the Ghana Education Trust, while the missions and individuals like Rev de Graft Johnson of the Methodist Church of Ghana, Ofori-Dankwah, Bruce Konuah and others, were encouraged to open new secondary and technical schools.

15. Factories sprang up, mostly in Accra, Tema, and Sekondi-Takoradi, the first wrong step, of Arthur Lewis’s import substitution model.

16. With a population of only 6.5 million and factories that were completely dependent on imported raw materials and machinery inputs, and the constituted managements based on political considerations rather than palpable and proven competence, the future was not bright.

17. In the face of ringing opposition and caution to hasten slowly, a referendum was organised with 99.9% yes vote to make Ghana a Republic, despite the scattered pockets of strong opposition in every corner of the country.

18. With that, a rubber stamp Parliament approved the Life Presidency of the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Ghana.

19. Meanwhile, in the field of sports, a young and dynamic sports administrator in the name of Ohene-Djan, a divisional chief of Aburi in Akwapim, was taking Ghana sports to dizzy heights and sterling pinnacles.

20. In football the national team, the Black Stars were lords of Africa covering themselves with glory; and Uganda had the hasty temerity of challenging the Stars to an independence celebration soccer match, and were humiliated 13-0 at their own national stadium.

21. In athletics, Ghana held the Commonwealth record for the old 4x110 yards relay jointly with England at the Perth Games of 1962.

22. In Commonwealth boxing, Ghana together with England were right ahead of the pack, with our stylish pugilists like Eddie Blay, Jomo Jackson and others holding sway.

23. There were secondary school or “academicals” teams in football, athletics and hockey that competed with their Nigerian counterparts on an annual basis, serving as feeder clubs for the senior teams.

24. Cricket was not far behind, as there were annual competitions with Nigeria, and later Sierra Leone joined the fold.

25. Soon, the Empire Day Games, used to unearth sportsmen and women in all fields of endeavour was re-christened “The Founder’s Day Games.”

26. With an increasingly socialist outlook, more fields, farming (Young Farmers’ League and Workers’ Brigade), trading, construction (State construction Corporation), were centralised.

27. In football, an elite model football team, Real Republicans (Osagyefo’s Own Club or OOC), was created with a selection of the players of Accra Hearts of Oak, Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Accra Great Olympics, soon to be followed by Independence in Sekondi and Great Ashantis in Kumasi; a programme that would spell the downward spiral of Ghana football, from which it is yet to fully recover.

28. In the meantime, on the political scene, families and individuals were using the PDA to settle personal scores and fisticuffs.

29. At the international level, Kwame Nkrumah led the fight for the total emancipation of the African continent, with the first All Africa Conference in Accra in 1959, followed by the formative meeting of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa in 1963.

30. Ghana was also at the forefront of the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement with countries like Egypt, India, Algeria, Malaysia and Burma, among a few others.

31. On the wider world stage, Ghana’s shrill rhetoric at fora like the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement and OAU did not escape the attention of the Americans and their other western allies.

32. Clandestine plans were being crafted towards the military overthrow of the Nkrumah government.

33. The Ghana Army had been used in a disastrous effort to shore up the government of the young Congolese Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba in 1960-61.

34. Back in Ghana, the two top army officers, the Chief of Defence Staff and his deputy, Major-Generals J. A. Ankrah and S. J. A. Otu, were dismissed from the army, along with Police Commissioner E. R. T. Madjitey.

35. Meanwhile, in then Rhodesia, Ian Smith had declared unilateral independence from Britain, under a racist constitution that prevented the majority Black people, from participating in the affairs of their country.

36. In Accra, there were rumours of the Ghana Army being sent to Rhodesia, to fight on the side of black liberation movements that had sprung up in that country.

37. Remembering the disaster of the Congolese operation, a section of the Ghana Army led by Colonel E. K. Kotoka and Major A. A. Afrifa of the Second Battalion in Kumasi, struck at dawn on 24th February 1966, following the President’s departure to China on the 22nd, on his way to Vietnam, to mediate between that country and America at the searing height of the Vietnam War.

38. Millions of Ghanaians from all walks of life jubilated from dawn to dusk, throughout the country over several weeks, and even months, in some areas.

39. Nkrumah’s ministers, friends, party honchos and even relations to the man, denounced him in sometimes unprintable terms with vigorous assaults and venomous maledictions.

40. That first coup d'état opened the floodgates to military adventurism and political instability and anarchy for the next twenty-six years.

41. On the blind side of President Kwame Nkrumah, many of his ministers led by the semi-illiterate Krobo Edusei, had sown the noisome seeds of corruption in Ghanaian society; a rancid phenomenon, which would continue to develop into the palpitation and prevalence of corruption in the national blood.

42. The National Liberation Council which replaced Nkrumah’s government ruled for three-and-a-half years and handed over power to Prof. Kofi Abrefa Busia’s Progress Party (PP), a sort of resurrected United Party, after new democratic election in 1969, under the new Westminster-style Parliamentary democracy of the Second Republic.

43. Busia was confronted by dire economic straits, with falling world prices, and a grossly over-valued cedi.

44. The PP Government of Busia embarked on rural development, which would have minimised the uncontrollable current urbanisation, with its huge and potentially disastrous social and economic consequences for Ghana.

45. However, Busia’s policies of devaluation of the cedi, Aliens’ Compliance Order (which swung open the portals for Ghanaians to enter the retail trade and smother diamond smuggling by the Lebanese) did not sit well with certain sections of the population, and on 13th January 1972, was overthrown by a group of colonels and majors of the Ghana Army led by Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong.

46. Acheampong, a barely literate copy typist from the Swedru School of Business in the 1950s who had no inkling of basic economics, would plunge Ghana into economic disaster and corruption of epic proportions.

47. With the encouragement of some traditional chiefs, Acheampong attempted to perpetuate himself in power with a bogus Unigov concept, in which there were to be no political parties.

48. The concept faced major opposition from civil society, and in October 1978, Acheampoong was overthrown in a Palace coup led by General F. W. K. Akuffo and Major-General Odartey Wellington.

49. Then on 27th May 1979, a young, sinewy, mulatto Air Force Flt-Lieutenant, Jerry Rawlings led a botched mutiny of the Ghana Armed Forces and was summarily arrested and consequently immured.

50. While he was still facing a Court-Marshall, his best man and former Achimota schoolmate Major Boakye-Gyan, led a platoon of soldiers to free him from the swishing onset of certain execution, and then enthroning him as head of an Armed Forces Revolutionary Council.

51. Rawlings’ Armed Forces Revolutionary government would spell one of the most economically destructive and socially shameful episodes of the nation’s history, as three former heads of state and five other military officers after what amounted to kangaroo trials behind wooden screens, and Ghanaian womanhood were humiliated in the most outrageous display of military brutality and barbaric indulgence.

52. After just three months, Rawlings handed over to Dr Hilla Limann of the People's National Party (PNP), an academic and career diplomat from the prestigious Sorbonne of Paris, in 1979, only to wrest power in another military coup on 31st December 1981, a process that would see him rule, first as a military leader of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) till 1992 and Civilian leader for another eight years till under subtle pressure from the Queen of England and President Clinton of the United States of America, he handed over to the elected John Agyekum Kufuor in 2000.

53. Kufuor, the second President of the Fourth Republic of Ghana inherited a bankrupt Ghana that had to declare itself Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPIC), to qualify for debt cancellation.

54. With some prudent economic management, Kufuor managed to grow the economy by more than 300% in eight years, and also supervised the discovery of oil in commercial quantities off the coast of Ghana.

55. However, Kufuor’s feeble attempt at fighting corruption and opulent lifestyles of his ministers and appointees, some would say his connivance with those practices, would cost his party the general election of 2008.

56. That led to power reverting to the National Democratic Congress led by the three-time candidate Prof. J. E. A. Mills, who died in office after two years, and was succeeded by John Dramani Mahama, who went on to win a presidential election in 2012, with the Supreme Court later upholding his election victory, and returning the nation to relative calm.

57. As we celebrate Ghana’s 58th year of independence, we do so as a country whose national capital is being swallowed in filth, sleeps in darkness at least three days in a week, with state institutions weakened by deliberate official action and inaction, and as the only country that ever carried hard currency in a chartered aircraft, to appease supposed patriots representing us at a world tournament; and the world saw, and read, and laughed, and laughed some more.

58. Ask yourself how old we are in age: From independence we are 58, but in terms of real development, we are... for a country that makes its independence day the occasion to measure her progress, and formulate practical plans for visible improvement and veritable development has learned much wisdom in the school of nation building.

Angelina K. Morrison is interested in national development, true religion, and self-improvement. She enjoys thinking, and writes stories only when the muse grips her. Her first short story for public consumption is available for free at Amazon on 28th February & 1st March 2015. Strangely titled Gravellatina, it is part of a breathtaking five-part gripping series. You can email her at angelinakm75@gmail.com, or find her at www.angelinakmorrison.wordpress.com or Facebook page.

Nana Ekua Eyaaba has an overarching interest in the development of the African continent and Black issues in general. Having travelled extensively through Africa, the Black communities of the East Coast of the United States as well as London and Leeds (United Kingdom), she enjoys reading, and writes when she is irritated, and edits when she is calm. You can email her at neeyaaba@gmail.com

Columnist: Eyaaba, Nana Ekua