By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
The desperate tendency to magnify the perceived achievements of Ghana’s first postcolonial premier beyond practical reality continues to be shamelessly displayed by Nkrumah’s ideological disciples. The problem, however, is that oftentimes it is not even clear whether these disciples adequately appreciate the thrust of their own arguments. In the latest of such ideological confusion, the Dean of the Faculty of the Arts at the University of Cape Coast, Dr. Raymond Osei, is reported to have asserted, rather gratuitously, that Mr. Kwame Nkrumah’s adamant decision to forge a socialist course was primarily informed by the fact that: “Ghana lacked the requisite human resources at independence and there was the need to develop a critical group that could assist in the transformation of the country from a colony to a state” (See “Late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah Commended” Modernghana.com 3/22/10).
It goes without saying that the foregoing process was well under way, with the establishment, in 1948, of the Danquah-championed University College of the Gold Coast and, before the latter, the group of critical intellectual mass, founded as far back as 1929 by Dr. Danquah, called the Gold Coast Youth Conference (GCYC), long before Mr. Nkrumah assumed reins of governance both as a transitional understudy-leader and substantive premier of an independent Ghana.
But even more significantly, a quarter century before, indigenous Ghanaian leaders, notably those in the Cape Coast-Anomabo area, had themselves clearly recognized the need for the induction and/or creation of a “Talented Tenth,” in DuBoisian parlance, for the rapid and radical transformation of the country. The latter came in the form of the founding of the Mfantsipim School, the post-primary elite academy that would cultivate and nurture the illustrious likes of Messrs. William Ofori-Atta (partially), K. A. Busia, A. Adu-Boahen and Kofi Annan, to name just a handful.
What is more, as Dr. J. B. Danquah had occasion to point out, the phenomenal transformation of the Ghanaian economy between 1890 and 1910, when Ghana became the world’s leading producer of cocoa, was not achieved via the kind of Western socialism or, properly speaking, State Capitalism doggedly espoused by President Nkrumah. Rather, it was achieved through the entrepreneurial spirit of Ghanaians themselves.
Furthermore, as the Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics highlighted in 1948 (See Danquah’s “The Voice of Prophecy”), the remarkable level of success achieved by the private/individual Ghanaian cocoa farmer would almost definitely not have been registered if agricultural control had been ceded to the State, as pertains to the socialist economic regime. And so it is not clear precisely what he means when Dr. Raymond Osei, rather lamely, asserts that “Ghana could not have adopted the capitalist ideology at independence because the country did not have the people who were financially capable [of sustaining] such an ideology.”
The fact of the matter is that his morbid pursuit of nepotism pretty much guaranteed that Nkrumah would cozily protect such capitalist relatives as Mr. Yaw Djin, even as the latter blindly and voraciously amassed personal wealth through the brazen and wanton abuse of the Cocoa Purchasing Company (See The Findings of the Djibowu Commission). Conversely, Nkrumah systematically undermined the fortunes of Ghanaian entrepreneurs who did not fanatically subscribe to his brand of economic development, particularly entrepreneurs who subscribed to Danquah’s ideology of a “property-owning democracy.”
It would also have been quite intriguing during his widely reported Nkrumah-centenary lecture, if Dr. Osei had palpably demonstrated exactly how Nkrumah’s socialist ideology created a critical funding pool, or monetary/capital resource, for our national development. The stark fact of the matter is that by the close of his 15-year tenure, beginning from 1951, Nkrumah had bankrupted our national coffers three times over, with little to show by way of material improvement in the lives of Ghanaian citizens!
It has also been quite tempting for the Nkrumacrats to desperately assay a feint at indemnity, on behalf of their idol, by slyly equating “capitalist welfarism,” an inbuilt safety mechanism, with state capitalism or socialism proper. Dr. Osei is also quoted as claiming that “Nkrumah’s establishment of the Ghana Education Trust schools, state corporations, roads, hospitals and factories were all aimed at making the country self-sufficient, less reliable [reliant?] on foreign countries and [assisted] in creating employment opportunities for Ghanaians.” The truth of the matter, as amply and meticulously detailed by erudite historians and political scientists like Dennis Austin, is that Nkrumah’s rash and sophomoric policy of “Africanization” was shortly to backfire, with the embarrassing result being the massive recall of expatriate deportees at twice, sometimes even thrice, their original paychecks by the government of the so-called Convention People’s Party (CPP). Then also, in his morbidly profligate and adolescent zeal to industrializing Ghana almost overnight, Nkrumah ended up creating jobs, largely in the engineering and technological sciences, for which only the very Europeans at the brunt of his anti-imperialist ire were the only ones qualified to apply.
Ultimately, while his significance cannot be lightly ignored, nevertheless, on a balance, Nkrumah’s regime was almost as much of a liability as it was an asset. In the area of democratic governance and human rights, as Mr. J. A. Braima once bitterly lamented, the erstwhile British colonial administration was light years ahead!
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI), the pro-democracy policy think tank, and the author of 21 books, including “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (iUniverse.com, 2005). E-mail: email@example.com. ###