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Reflections – Legacy of Danquah-Busia and Nkrumah Traditions – Part 2
By Kwesi Atta Sakyi B.A.Hons (Econs) Ghana, MPA (summa cum laude) UNISA Lusaka, 6th August 2013
Danquah and Busia belonged to the Matemeho or Dombo conservative and federalist school of thought in Ghana’s political history. J.B. Donquah was an Akyem who was affiliated to the royal family from Kyebi. He was sponsored by the Abuakwa State to go and read law in the UK in the 1920s. He later earned his PhD in Moral Philosophy, the first continental African to have done so at the time, from the University of London. Danquah was a maternal uncle of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, the NPP flag bearer.
Danquah did not get the chance to become a president or prime minister of Ghana. However, he left his indelible mark on the Ghanaian political landscape, as he led in other ways and left a huge legacy. After all, all of us cannot become heads of state in our lifetime, because there is only one political space at a time, and fortune and circumstance may not be germane to all at the same time. As they say, some lead in the front, on the sides, from the rear, in the middle, and from different positions and approaches. Whilst Nkrumah may have led from the front, perhaps Danquah might have led from the rear or from the middle.
Danquah's legacy to Ghana, even though massive, may not easily be known by many Ghanaians. Whilst on a Gold Coast petition delegation to London in 1934, he went to his alma mater, the University of London, where he researched and came up with the name Ghana, as the name the Gold Coast should adopt at independence. Danquah was also a co-founder of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) at Saltpond in 1947.
Danquah wrote two classic books namely, Akan Doctrine of God (1944), and Akan Laws and Customs (1928). Whilst he was a student in London, (from 1921 to 1927) he became the editor and president of the West African Students' Union (WASU). Danquah canvassed for the then Ashanti Colony and Northern Territories to join the Gold Coast Colony to form the Ghana we know today.
Of course, the Plebiscite of 1956 added Trans-Volta Togoland later. Before the Burns' Constitution of 1946 was promulgated, Danquah, Kojo Thompson and Sir Arku Korsah had worked on a 400 page document as a forerunner to the Burns' Constitution. In the 1950s, Danquah joined the National Liberation Movement (MLM), which became known as Matemeho or Dombo Party, with people like R.R. Amponsah, Baffour Akoto, Joe Appiah, and S.D. Dombo in that political stable. They were for federalist and separatist form of government, whilst Nkrumah's CPP was for a unitary form of government for Ghana. The latter view and sentiment prevailed, to the discomfiture and anger of the former, who later resorted to violence, intimidation, and unpeaceful actions.
Danquah prevailed on the colonial administration to establish the Cocoa Marketing Board (CMB) in 1947, hence the farmers of Ghana conferring on him the title of Akuafo Kanea (Light or Beacon of Farmers). I am sure many Ghanaians reading this article will recall that in the 60s, 70s and 80s, there were scholarships awarded to children of cocoa farmers who gained admission to boarding secondary schools in Ghana, such as Achimota, Mfantsipim, Prempeh College, Accra Academy, Wesley Girls High School, Winneba Secondary School, among many others. Some of us did not have cocoa farmer parents, so we could not benefit when we passed with flying colours in 1965 in the Common Entrance examination to go to GSTS in Takoradi. All the same, the largesse rubbed off on us, when we entered teacher training college via another route, for our post-elementary school education.
When Nkrumah arrived on the Gold Coast in 1947, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) was led by stalwarts like Ako Adjei, Pa Grant, Casely Hayford, J.B. Danquah and William Ofori Atta or Paa Willie. They were among the intelligentsia in the then Gold Coast. Nkrumah was in London after his studies and stint in the USA, where he had acquired degrees in Education, Divinity and Political Science. In London, he wanted to read Law.
He had to cut short his stay in London after he was summoned by a telegram to come to the Gold Coast to act as Secretary General of the UGCC, on the recommendation of Ako Adjei. In London, Nkrumah had championed the cause of the Pan African Congress, and had a big hand in organising the Fifth Pan African Congress in Manchester in 1945, immediately after the Second World War, and two years before the independence of India and Pakistan. His Pan African Activism brought him in close contact with future African leaders such as Herbert Macauley, Dr W.E.B. du Bois of NAACP (National Association of American Coloured People), Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, George Padmore, Obafemi Awolowo, Hastings Banda, among many others.
As soon as Nkrumah reached the Gold Coast, he hit the ground running by touring the whole country to get to know the people well, and learn first-hand their needs and aspirations. Nkrumah had had a brush with the left-leaning strategists like Marcus Garvey, V.I.U. Lenin, Ras Makonnen and others, either by physical contact or through his research. When he arrived on the Gold Coast, Nkrumah travelled in a Spartan manner, carrying very sparse clothing, and sleeping rough. Nkrumah later distanced himself from the UGCC stalwarts because of their incrementalist and gradualist approach to independence, and formed the CPP, which declared Positive Action and Self Government Now, a pro-radical stance.
He saw and felt the dynamism of the youth, the zeal of the ordinary market women, the industry of poor artisans, and the tenacity of farmers, among others. Nkrumah made friends among the most powerful traditional leaders such as Nana Sir Agyeman Prempeh I (the Asantehene), Nana Sir Ofori Atta (the Okyehene), Ya Na, Nana Sir Tsibu Darko, Nene Azu Mate Korle (Krobohene), Nii Amugi (Ga Manch3), Nii Tackie, Nii Kwabena Bonne, Nana Kwafo Akoto, Nana Ayerebi Acquah, among others. He was also a man of the ordinary suffering folk, some of whom he called Verandah Boys, such as those students who were expelled from a secondary school in Cape Coast, and whom Nkrumah used as the nucleus to found the Ghana National Secondary School (GNSS).
For his advisers, he had the British woman, Erica Powell (1921-2007) as his dedicated personal private secretary for the whole period he was in power, until his overthrow in 1966. He had Sir Arthur Lewis (1915-1991), the celebrated West Indian Nobel Laureate economist (1979), E.N. Omaboe (1931- ), now known as Nana Wereko Ampem, Economist and Statistician, who worked with Neustadt and Birmingham to diagnose and survey Ghana's economy, to develop an economic blueprint for Ghana. Alhaji Kwaw Swanzy was Attorney General, and Gyeke Darko was the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions). In the police, he had E.R.T Madjitey as IGP, Rear Admiral Otu and Major General Otu in the Armed Forces, General Alexander, Genevieve Marais at GBC TV, Geoffrey Bing (1909-1977) British lawyer, W.E.B. du Bois (1868-1963) Harvard Phd, and George Padmore (1903-1959), alias Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse. He connected with the owner of Drevici Group of Companies to set up factories in Tema.
Nkrumah brought to Ghana, Hannah Reitsch (1912-1979), a world champion and ace pilot from Nazi Germany, to establish the Afienya Glider Pilot Training School. The Drevici Group, from Italy, established food processing complexes at Tema Harbour. Nkrumah undertook the Seven Year Development Plan to accelerate industrialisation in Ghana.
Nkrumah had his fair share of scandals such as the NADECO and Savundra cases, which implicated his Minister of Interior, Krobo Edusei, who was alleged to have bought a golden bed for his wife. Nkrumah himself was linked to an amorous scandal with Genevieve Marais, who it was alleged, was his paramour from South Africa, and for whom he had bought a Nissan Thunderbird, an expensive luxury limousine at the time.
Nkrumah utilised the Workers Brigade to establish large scale commercial farms throughout the country, to produce farm produce which would be feeding some of the factories he established throughout the country, such as Komenda Sugar Factory, manned by the Czechs, Kumasi Jute Factory to produce sacks for cocoa farmers, Bonsa Rubber factory, Bolgatanga Meat canning factory, Kade Match factory, Aboso Glass factory, Tema and Akosombo Textiles, Takoradi and Tema Flour Mills, Kumasi Shoe Factory, among others.
He brought in Impregilio from Italy to build the Akosombo Dam, and Kaiser Aluminium to build VALCO. He also built the Tema Motorway, Nsawam Canneries, and established the GET (Ghana Education Trust) secondary schools. He established the Ghana News Agency (GNA), Ghana Bureau of Languages and Encyclopaedia Africana. In those days, GNA published news from Pravda, Tass, Reuters, Al-Ahram, among others.
Landmarks such as Okomfo Anokye Hospital or G, Korle Bu Hospital, Adomi Bridge, and the Accra–Cape Coast coastal road, are all legacies to Nkrumah’s credit. He also established institutions such as GNTC and COCOBOD. As a young nation in 1957, Nkrumah saw the need for skills training and empowerment, so he sent many Ghanaians abroad to train as medical doctors in Russia, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, among others.
He instituted free education up to the university level, thus creating massive reserves of skilled manpower in Ghana. He also established KNUST and Cape Coast Universities, with Connor Cruise O'Brien from Ireland, the Vice-Chancellor at the University of Ghana from 1962 to 1965. At independence, we inherited 250 million pounds from the British, but by 1966, Ghana was running a colossal deficit. Nkrumah was largely into eleemosynary economics.
Nkrumah, however, had megalomaniac ideas which benefitted Africa as a whole, but in a way, impoverished Ghana. For instance, officially, he gave Mali and Guinea 10 million pounds each when their colonial master, France, deserted them at Independence. Nkrumah established the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute (KNII) at Winneba, to offer leadership training to future African leaders. He gave a lot of financial and physical support to a lot of African countries, with the hope of achieving his dream of a united Africa. Some of his colleagues saw him as being over-ambitious and over-bearing, perhaps wanting to be the first President of the whole of Africa.
Thus, we had a great divide on the political scene in Africa, with radicals in the Casablanca Group, and conservatives in the Monrovian Group. The radicals included Nasser, Modibo Keita, Nyerere, Ben Bella, Sekou Toure and Nkrumah. The conservatives included Tubman, Tafewa Balewa, Haile Selassie, Sylvanus Olympio, Habib Bourguiba, among others.
Nkrumah was a missionary and messianic Black Moses, whose vision was far-reaching into the future for Africa. In 1965, when Ghana hosted the OAU Conference, Nkrumah caused JOB 600, the 13 storey conference building, to be built in record time of 6 months. It caused some fatalities when a part of the building caved in and killed some workers. Nkrumah, with Bronz Tito, Gamal Abdul Nasser and Jawarhalal Pandit Nehru, championed the Afro-Asian Solidarity Organisation, part of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
Nkrumah’s legacy was overturned when Kofi Abrefa Busia assumed office in 1969 from the opposition stable. Busia drastically changed the focus of Ghana’s foreign policy, and with Malawi and Ivory Coast, supported Apartheid in South Africa. Busia implemented the Aliens Compliance Order in 1969, which sent away thousands of Nigerians, who for decades had made Ghana their home.
They were accused of smuggling diamonds and dominating the retail trade in Ghana. Their expulsion did not augur well for Ghana, as we lost a chance to continue being the lodestar of Africa's emancipation from the shackles of oppression. Nigerians in Ghana had provided a source of cheap labour. Besides, our cocoa exports dwindled and Ivory Coast overtook us as number one producer of cocoa. In international relations, there are no permanent enemies or permanent friends. It all depends on how you treat others, on the basis of reciprocity. Busia's insular and irredentist policies hugely dented the image of Ghana.
Busia was in cahoots with foreign powers to sabotage Nkrumah’s regime whilst he was in exile. At one time, Ghana’s Cocoa price reached rock bottom from 1500 pounds per ton in 1956 to 900 pounds in 1963, on the international market. Busia established his propaganda outfit called the Centre for Civic Education (CCE), whose motto was culled from Socrates, reading, ‘The unexamined life is not worth leading.’ Busia, as an eminent Sociologist, should have seen beyond the immediate effects of his foreign policies.
He started the liberalisation of the Ghanaian economy, and advised withdrawal of allowances paid to teachers in teacher training colleges in 1967, under the NLC military regime. Ironically, Busia in his time as a student, had enjoyed state largesse and sponsorship from missionaries, notably, the Methodist Church. In Busia’s time, he had the zeal for rural development and grand plans for a super sewerage system for Accra, with Israeli expertise and support. Busia’s era saw the size of kenkey debated in parliament, with big wigs throwing their intellectual weight about, people like B.B. da Rocha, Odoi Sykes, Kwesi Lamptey, Munufie, da Costa, Saki-Scheck, among others.
They were too elitist as many were well educated and they kept a huge power distance between them and the people on the ground. They bought themselves sleek Mercedes Benzes and the most expensive suits. Some of them had their clothes laundered in London. In parliament, they engaged in theatrics, as at one time, one MP told his friend that he was suffering from constipation of ideas and diarrhoea of words. They often called for the Oxford Dictionary to be brought to parliament to establish the meaning of certain words.
In January 1972, Colonel Kutu Acheampong staged a bloodless coup to oust Busia. His regime was famous for its drive of Operation Feed the Nation, and the Union Government idea. However, the Generals became corrupt as some engaged in, ‘Fa woto b3gye Golf’, and the famous green ink notes to Managers of GNTC to give Essenco (essential commodities) to girlfriends of the Generals. It was the era of Kalabule or abject corruption. In a palace coup in 1977, General F.W.K Akuffo swept aside General Acheampong. In 1979, we had J.J. Rawlings coming to power with the AFRC (Armed Forces Revolutionary Council).
We had the Third Republic led by Dr Hilla Liman. Liman’s government also became tainted with corruption, with Nana Okutwer Bekoe allegedly thick in the fray. In December 1981, Liman was also swept aside by J.J. Rawlings, in his second coming from 1981 to 1992. Rawlings' PNDC regime led the country until the 1992 Constitution was promulgated, to usher in once again multi-party politics. Rawlings neither toed the Dombo-Matemeho (rightist) tradition nor the leftist stance of Nkrumah.
He decided to establish himself on the scene by attempting to obliterate the images of past leaders. In 2000, he stepped down for John Kufuor of the NPP to come to power, after losing in the general elections. Kufour is one of the greatest and astute leaders we have ever had in Ghana. Even though he came from the Matemeho-Dombo tradition, he built bridges across the political divide and pursued the agenda of Ghana-for-us-all. When he heard that Fathia Nkrumah, Nkrumah’s widow, was sick in Cairo, he went to visit her and when she died, he brought her to Ghana to bury her beside the tomb of her husband, in line with her will. What a great man Kufuor is!
Nkrumah was unafraid to bring in dedicated foreigners to head institutions such as the newly established Cape Coast University, where he put the Irish, Connor O’Brien in charge, and Brennan from Malta to establish the National Lotteries. Right now in Ghana, we need to inject discipline in our systems by possibly considering bringing in some expatriates to head institutions such as IRS, Ghana Medical Services, ECG, National Airports, among others. We can give those expatriates contracts, and pay them well to deliver quality services.
This will be in contrast to a legacy of Busia, which through his wisdom, he implemented by trying to indigenise Ghanaian institutions through implementing the obnoxious and elitist Aliens Compliance Order (ACO). Busia also implemented the notorious Apollo 569 retrenchment and hiving off of government workers, in what at the time, was perceived as a witch-hunting exercise against some political opponents, and a spoils system incarnate. All those issues pointed out that Busia would not last his tenure, despite some of his excellent projects on Civic Education, Rural development, and implementing a comprehensive sewerage system for Accra, using the expertise of Israelis.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org ©2013 The author is a Senior Lecturer at Zambia Centre for Accountancy Studies (ZCAS) in Lusaka, Zambia
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