K.A. Busia Was Ill-Prepared to Lead and Govern Ghana 1

Fri, 17 Apr 2015 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

It is not in doubt that historical, social, or selective amnesia serves as an excellent, even a convenient, riposte to psychological inconveniences for those individuals who seek to avoid inconvenient truths at all cost. For obvious reasons it poses as a powerful tool of immanence as well as gives a semblance of internal stability in many a situation, as it were. What is the point of all these? Our primary concern is an individual’s attempt to dissemble one another’s weaknesses and foibles in non-existent, or imagined, coffins of greatness is harmful to the corrective compass of political history. We shall soon make our intentions clear in the following pages. But before then, we ask: Did Nelson Mandela, George Washington, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, John Major, Mahatma Gandhi, and Thomas Jefferson go to Oxford?

Which of the following leaders from John Major, Ronald Reagan, George Washington, Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman, James Monroe, to Abraham Lincoln had the same number of degrees Nkrumah had? Or the degree of formal education Nkrumah had?

Then again which of the following American Presidents from Andrew Johnson, Zachary Taylor, Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland, Martin Van Buren, Abraham Lincoln, to Millard Fillmore attended college or university, let alone acquire a degree? Do Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have doctorates? The fact is that only Pres. Woodrow Wilson had a doctorate. If that is the case, how come George Washington and Abraham Lincoln got to join the likes of Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial? Let us take a brief detour: How about Britain then, Ghana’s former overlord? It also appears the only British Prime Minister who has a doctorate is Gordon Brown. Yet other British Prime Ministers, like Nkrumah, Azikiwe, Desmond Tutu, and Mandela, have been awarded honorary degrees for their political achievements and contributions to their societies. Perhaps the most essential question is: Did the Queen of England, Elizabeth the Second, have a doctorate when she served as the sovereign ruler of the then-Gold Coast?

Is it remarkable that Churchill won a Nobel Prize in Literature (1953) without a degree, his formal education having barely gone past high school? One wonders whether Bob Marley, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Cheikh Anta Diop and Oprah Winfrey acquired their doctorates at Oxford!

And did Mandela have a doctorate? If in fact he did, did he acquire it at Oxford [Busia] or at the University of London [Danquah]? The important task for us at this moment is unraveling, understanding, or making sense out of the facts of political history, that, the achievements of world-renowned leaders like Nkrumah and Mandela far surpassed those of mediocre, visionless men such as Danquah and Busia. For one thing, Danquah believed in Nkrumah’s intellectual, organizational, strategic and tactical thinking to an extent he was able to assure two mass rallies that “If the UGCC fails you, Kwame Nkrumah will not fail you!” Let us recall that Nkrumah’s political acumen “retired” Busia’s and Danquah’s political careers until the 1966 fortuitous coup d’etat gave the premiership to the former on a silver platter. We will also do well to recall again that the Working Committee of the UGCC passed a vote of no confidence in Danquah after the 1951 election debacle.

Danquah eventually lost the vice-presidency on that account. On the whole he lost three major elections (1951, 1954, 1960) in his lifetime, losing in his own Akyem Abuakwa Central backyard to his nephew Aaron Ofori Atta, who became a Minister for Justice and a Minister for Local Government in the CPP government. Danquah’s frustration with the discerning masses would manifest itself in his condescending attitude toward or outright rejection of the people. He said “I don’t like this thing of the masses” while dismissing their aspirations as mere “emotion.” Yet he would have wanted the masses to rise against the democratically elected Nkrumah (and his CPP government). Danquah made these “confessions” to the African-American writer Richard Wright in a 1954 interview.

A few questions on our minds: Why did ordinary folks defeat the likes of Oxford and University of London graduates like Busia and Danquah, respectively, when the British Colonial Government rooted for them [the latter two]? What was it with or about Busia’s Oxford anthropology and sociology that he could not have brought aboard to win elections for him? What about Danquah’s philosophy and law? Why did the UGCC collapse after Nkrumah’s departure (though he had petitioned the Working Committee to allow the CPP to be appended to the UGCC as a junior party, a request which the Working Committee rejected)? Why did the Ghana Congress Party led by Busia completely vanish from the good book of Ghana’s political history after the 1954 elections? Why did Danquah and Busia transfer their frustrations to the National Liberation Movement (NLM), a terrorist, ethnocentric, and secessionist organization? Why did Nkrumah and his CPP beat Danquah and Busia at every election, when their Oxford and University of London education should have given them leverage if education is everything? (Note: Busia lost a municipal election in Wenchi where his brother was the king!] And if Oxford education and doctoral was everything, why did Busia not win independence for the Gold Coast?

Neither Danquah nor Busia built any mass nationalist movement(s) in their entire lives, political or otherwise, unlike Nkrumah! It was Nkrumah who taught and guided the leadership of the UGCC on what to do, including telling them to found a newspaper, because, as he correctly explained to them, no movement seeking freedom had succeeded without a newspaper; he also told the UGCC leadership to open a bank account on which to run the affairs of the organization. All things considered, Nkrumah appointed Danquah as the Director of Legal Education in Ghana; he also made him [Danquah] a member of the Ghana Arts and Academy of Sciences.

As well, Nkrumah extended invitations to Busia and other members of the Opposition to join his government, an invitation which the latter [Busia] rejected. Among other reasons, Nkrumah extended invitations to his political opponents because he wanted to save them from the grip of social disgrace as they fell from grace, one after the other, on account of their repeated popular rejections at the polls, and to bring ideological diversity to his CPP government. Why did Busia and Danquah fail to make good use of their Oxford and University of London education to mobilize the masses in their political favor?

Could they have picked up some useful clues from Marcus Garvey and his proficiency in mass mobilization techniques? The irony is that Marcus Garvey, Nkrumah’s ideological “mentor,” succeeded in establishing one of the most influential mass movements in human history without an education and degree from Oxford, from the University of Pennsylvania, or from any of the other top universities in the world. His United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), and the organization’s newspaper “Negro World,” shook the foundations of the American state and its political existence, while, at the same, threatened the very existence and moral complacency of the colonial enterprise. European countries banned the newspaper “Negro World” in their colonies.

Garvey helped lay down the political and moral foundations for America’s Civil Rights Movement, while impacting American institutions, liberation movements in the Americas and Africa, and individuals from Malcolm X, Nkrumah, Bob Marley, to Barack Obama. Late Dr. Tony Martin, perhaps the world’s foremost authority on Garvey, provided insights into the latter’s political vision, his movement, and work (see Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association”; the two other leading Garvey scholars are Rupert Lewis and Bobby Hill). In the meantime, American men and women who had gone to Harvard University and other American elite universities, and acquired advanced degrees and social-political connections found themselves intellectually inadequate and quite in need of an ideological leverage to counteract the Garvey’s political weight. In the end, it took the American federal government, the intelligence community, and security services to bring him on a mere trumped-up charge of mail fraud!

The truth of the matter is that neither Danquah nor Busia attended a better school than or superior to Nkrumah’s. Lincoln University, one of Nkrumah’s alma maters, has produced some of the best and finest minds in the world. The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), where Nkrumah did his graduate work, is ranked among the top universities in America as well as the world. Like Lincoln University, too, UPenn has also produced some of the best and creative personalities in the world. What is more, UPenn is part of the Ivy League system, eight in all (Columbia University, Yale University, Princeton University, Brown University, Dartmouth College, and Brown University, Cornell University). These facts aside, where did Nkrumah’s education start and end as far as the trajectory of his formal intellectual evolution was concerned? (Nkrumah arrived in the US in 1935)

1930: Nkrumah acquired his Teacher’s Certificate (The Prince of Wales College at Achimota or Government Training College).

1939: Acquired a BA (Sociology and Economics) from Lincoln University.

1942: Acquired another BA (Theology) from Lincoln University. He graduated at the top of his class.

1943: Acquired an MSc. (Education) from the University of Pennsylvania

1943: Acquired an MA (Philosophy) from the University of Pennsylvania

During this period Nkrumah lectured in African History; voted “Most Outstanding Professor-Of-The-Year” by his fellow students (“The Lincolnian”); became instrumental in the establishments of the African Students Association (America, Canada), the African Studies Association (America, Canada), and an Institute of African Languages and Culture (University of Pennsylvania), and won various prizes (Lincoln University). Nkrumah also wrote the best paper on “labor problems in Africa,” a piece titled “Imperialism: Its Political, Social and Economic Aspects,” winning him the “Robert Fleming Labree Memorial Prize in Social Science.” For being the best candidate in his theological department class, Nkrumah was cited for the “Robert Nassau Prize” (see Carlos Nelson “Kwame Nkrumah: A Study of His Intellectual Development In the United States, 1935-45”).

Finally, Nkrumah delivered the graduation oration class of 1939 on the topic “Ethiopia Shall Stretch Forth Her Hand Unto God.” We should bear in mind that these words are the inscriptions one will see on the “Kwame Nkrumah Monument” in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His professors’ evaluation of him painted him as a good and promising student.

More important, Nkrumah completed his course work and preliminary examination for a doctoral degree at the University of Pennsylvania. He wrote most parts of his doctoral dissertation, a copy of which is kept at the University of Pennsylvania, although he had differences over the contents of his work with his doctoral dissertation advisor. It turned out Nkrumah had gathered all the materials required for a dissertation topic he preferred, “The Philosophy of Imperialism, with Special Reference to Africa,” which Dr. Morrow, his dissertation advisor, had rejected. Historian and writer Sherwood recalls details of a letter Nkrumah had written to Dr. Morrow. It reads in part: “The Philosophy of Imperialism, with Special Reference to Africa…for many years, I have accumulated material to that effect, and consequently should like to make a more detailed study of it with reference to the major thought-trends of Europe in the 19th and 20th century.”

Nkrumah chose this topic because he wanted to work on a doctoral dissertation topic that had direct philosophical relevance to Africa’s decolonization, not otherwise. Instead, he was asked to do a topic on ethnophilosophy (“Mind and Thought in Primitive Society: A Study in Ethno-Philosophy with Special to the Akan Peoples of the Gold Coast, West Africa”) which was contrary to his evolving political philosophy at the time.

Still, Nkrumah wrote most of the chapters on “ethnophilosophy” but the disagreements over the dissertation content continued. Sherwood notes again: “NO MATTER WHAT A PAPER WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ON, NKRUMAH ALWAYS TWISTED IT AROUND TO WRITE ON AFRICAN FREEDOM AND ANTI-COLONIAL STRUGGLE. OTHERWISE, HIS PAPERS WERE EXCELLENT. HE COULD HAVE BEEN A BRILLIANT SCHOLAR IF HE’D STUCK TO THE TOPIC.” This rhetorical indictment of Nkrumah had been exchanged between his doctoral dissertation advisor Dr. Morrow and Dr. Flowers, both of the University of Pennsylvania. Knowing that his final work would be published as was and still is the policy in today’s universities if he effected the required changes, Nkrumah withdrew from the program and went to England to read a doctorate in political science (and law) at the London School of economics where he believed he could work on a dissertation topic other than “ethnophilosophy”! (see Marika Sherwood’s “Kwame Nkrumah: The Years Abroad, 1935-1947”).

At the London School of economics he dropped his “ethnophilosophy” dissertation in favor of “Knowledge and Logical Positivism,” but he was soon to be trapped in the dragnet of political activities leaving him inadequate time to concentrate on his new dissertation project, under the supervision of the logical positivism scholar Alfred J. Ayer.

Looking back however, it appears Nkrumah may have committed a “terrible” mistake. It is important to stress that, financial difficulties (and the burden of political works) coupled with his distaste for the dissertation topic and constant disagreements with his advisor, played an enormous factor in his final decision to leave the program. As an instance, he failed to receive his degree from Lincoln University the same year he was supposed to have graduated because he owed the school in fees. This incident thwarted his earlier desire to get into the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism upon graduating from Lincoln University.

It is no secret that Nkrumah was not in any way as fortunate as Danquah and Busia. The Akyem Abuakwa State and the Asante State underwrote Danquah’s and Busia’s education abroad, which meant that all they [Busia and Danquah] needed to do, was to concentrate on their studies. On the contrary, Nkrumah had to work to take care of his accommodation (rent), food, and so on.

That said, Nkrumah made some extra money lecturing, working as a library assistant, selling fish, waiting in cafeterias (or dining halls), working in a mortuary, writing reports for his fellow students for a fee, and preaching in the Philadelphia and Harlem to supplement the scholarships he won as a result of his academic brilliance. Yet his case is not unique. The Nigerian writer, historian, and scholar Dr. Chinweizu Ibekwe, popularly known as Chinweizu, encountered a similar problem at the State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo. He too, like Nkrumah, had disagreements with his doctoral dissertation advisor Claude E. Welch over the contents of his work.

Nevertheless, unlike Nkrumah, he walked away with whatever chapters of his dissertation topic he had completed and got Random House, “the largest general-interest trade book publisher in the world,” to publish it. Following this success and the relative popularity of his published work, he carried the book “The West and the Rest of Us: White Predators, Black Slavers, and the African Elite” to his alma mater (SUNY). He got his doctorate. The second example is the case of Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop (Sorbonne University, France). It took nearly a decade for Sorbonne University to award Dr. Diop his doctorate. Like Nkrumah’s and Chinweizu’s cases, Dr. Diop’s had his dissertation rejected on a number of occasions over disagreements with his advisors on his dissertation content.

It did not, however, matter that he [Diop] had worked with some of the brightest intellectuals in France including the Madam Curie’s family, and that these intellectuals had approved of his doctoral work! The major resistance came from members of his dissertation committee. But, unlike Nkrumah, Dr. Diop agreed with his advisors and effected all the necessary changes required for completion of his doctoral work. He received his doctorate (see Dr. Molefi Kete Asante’s “Cheikh Anta Diop: An Intellectual Portrait”). Ironically, he went back to the original dissertation and had that published as ‘African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality.” It was this, and not the one he “fought” over with his advisors, that catapulted him to global prominence as a formidable historian, Egyptologist, scientists, mathematician, writer, philosopher, scholar, and thinker.

The long and short of it is, what if Nkrumah had taken to Dr. Diop’s or Chinweizu’s approach? The point is that hindsight is never fallible, though we would have hoped it had been right there with Nkrumah during his difficult moments with his dissertation advisor.

John Nash’s 28-page doctoral dissertation on “Non-Corporative Games” which won him the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics (with John C. Harsanyi and Reinhard Selten) and Maulana Karenga’s 170-page doctoral dissertation, titled “Afro-American Nationalism: Social Strategy and Struggle for Community (1976)” (Dr. Karenga has another doctorate based on a 803-page dissertation “Maat, the Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt: A Study in Classical African Ethics (1994)”; see “7 Facts About Dr. Maulana Karenga, Founder of Kwanzaa,” Black Art Deport Today), demonstrate another important fact, that, it is not necessarily the number of pages of dissertation that matters but actually a dissertation’s approved content and its potential to add to the store of human knowledge and impact society that are of primary concern.

Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity and General Theory of Relativity cover no more than hundred pages (see his book “Relativity: The Special and General Theory”). Actually they are less than hundred pages. The Theory of Relativity and Nash’s work on game theory have impacted human civilization in many ways. In one sense, Nkrumah could easily have earned a doctorate with the subject matters of some of his books take up. In another sense, he could easily have earned a doctorate on a dissertation whose contents had combined his social-political work on the African world and a condensed version of his core views taken up in his corpus of written works.

A number of students have successfully done this. Dr. Karenga’s first doctoral dissertation is a good example. C.L.R. James used his personal experiences and broad knowledge on history, political economy; organization; social movements; philosophy; diplomacy; cultural theory; literary criticism; law; international relations; imperialism and colonialism and slavery; race relations; Pan-Africanism; humanism; politics; and literature to guide Eric Williams (First Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago), his former student, as the latter wrote his doctoral dissertation and later successfully defended it at Oxford. Williams’ dissertation was subsequently published as “Slavery and Capitalism.” Let it be known that James did not have a degree though he has been recognized as one of the 20th century’s profound and influential thinkers, writers, Pan-Africanists, and political theorists (Note: Winston Churchill did not have a degree).

Here is a list of some of Nkrumah’s well-known books:

1) Africa Must Unite

2) Axioms of Kwame Nkrumah

3) Challenge of the Congo

4) Class Struggle in Africa

5) Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonization

6) Dark Days in Ghana

7) Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah

8) Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare

9) I Speak of Freedom

10) Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism

11) Revolutionary Path

12) Rhodesia Files

13) The Struggle Continues

14) Towards Colonial Freedom

15) Voice from Conakry




We shall return…

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis