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Nkrumah destroyed the hen that laid the golden eggs

Nkrumah Birthday Dr Kwame Nkrumah

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 Source: Baidoo, Philip Kobina

As human beings, we have been blessed with an incredible nervous system that enables each individual to live a superior life than all biological life forms. Unlike analgesics, we experience pain, and we do everything within out power to terminate it. It is not human to do otherwise. I am aware that the above caption will engender vituperative attacks and name calling. The milder bunch will harmonize the following: there goes the Nkrumah hater again. However, I believe my open-minded readers will concur that disagreeing with somebody does not constitute hatred. Among these self-appointed ultra Nkrumahists, there is one particular attack dog whose position I think is even untenable, because he has all the time in the world to go through my archive on ghanaweb, yet chooses to be selective and completely miss the boat on what my central position espouses. To set the record once more, I need to stress here again that I don’t hate Nkrumah. The fact is I used to worship at his shrine, and drink copiously from the fountain of Nkrumahism.

For a person who grew up in Tema, where we have the highest concentration of the Nkrumah industries, you cannot help, but stand in awe of this man. This is where we had the erstwhile Black Star Line, Tema Food Complex Corporation, Tema Harbour, Tema Steel Works, Tema Shipyard & Drydock Corporation, Ghacem etc. Let me stop here before I run out of space. Of course, this goes beyond impressive, and veers into the realms of awe inspiring. As a child, it captured my imagination. I remember very well during the 1979 election, though I was very young you hardly forget a well-made jingle, and that of the PNP was one of the best it catalogued all the remarkable achievements of Nkrumah and tailed it off in a very sonorous voice with some of his iconic accomplishments – Akosombo Dam and the Super Motorway – a brain child of a dynamic party. You cannot help it, as a youngster, but to be enthralled by all these. And I must say I was lethal and aggressive in the defence of his success, but that is when you rationalise only through your visual cortex. On the other hand, I am a human being; I can feel and see pain light years away and, therefore, shy away from it in the interest of my physical health and psychological well-being. That is why I am no longer Nkrumahist, and it will be selfish not to spread the word.

When Nkrumah came to power, the blue print of the evil and unworkable nature of communism, euphemistically referred to as socialism, had been laid adequately by the Russians. All the empirical evidence pointed to the fact that communism or socialism is a basket case of failure. The latest country to join that ignominious club is Venezuela. 70 years of Soviets communism proved the childishness and bankruptcy of that ideology beyond all reasonable doubt. Yet, the lily-livered progressives want to foist it on the rest of the world through lies, deception and underhand tactics. Russia, before the October Revolution, used to export grains from their abundantly rich grassland. However, when the Bolsheviks took over they could not even feed themselves and they died like flies. Unfortunately, the evil monster of socialism kills you slowly in a very drawn out painful death. As a result, and sadly, the Soviets lingered on for almost four decades before collapsing with a mighty clap of thunder that made the big bang sound like a Sunday picnic. Obviously, Nkrumah thought himself smarter and perhaps could do what Napoleon couldn’t make good. He, therefore, embarked on his so called scientific socialism – a hodgepodge of half-baked ideas, which was sustained by our voracious appetite to rid ourselves of the vestiges of colonialism. It was a complete catastrophe, but for those who judge success based on the use of their visual senses devoid of objectivity and subjectivity, Nkrumah was the best thing that happened to Ghana, which I beg to differ.

Nkrumah after winning power in 1951 wanted to industrialise at a breakneck speed, and, of course, that requires lots of money. Then again, the country’s workforce was basically agrarian subsistence. The concept of taxation was very rudimentary. Majority of the population did not pay any tax at all. So, where was Nkrumah going to get his resources to finance his ambitious industrialisation projects? He could not hike up taxes on the multinational companies, because they could fold up and move their capital in a heartbeat. However, the cocoa farmers did not have that luxury; they were virtually sitting ducks. He, consequently, used them as his piggy bank for his industrialisation.

To be fair, Nkrumah was not the originator of the single idea that will decimate the industry. On the other hand, if he was that smart, as his ridiculous PhD holders in Nkrumahism would like us to believe, he would have known that the self-immolation policy conceived by the post WWII bleeding heart socialist Atlee Labour government when they established the cocobod in 1947 was the death knell of the industry. But he was ordinary and shallow as any average thinker who could not evaluate or fathom the consequences of his actions few years down the political, sociological and economic maelstrom. All that he was interested in was building white elephants across the length and breadth of the country. As a result of his ravenous craving for cheap money for his now albatross projects, he continued with that regressive policy of the socialist Labour government. Perhaps, it is possible that he knew the consequences of that silly policy, but he rationalised that industrialisation will be the new engine that will power the Ghanaian economy. Therefore, he was willing to sacrifice the cocoa industry to build his showy projects that were not self-sustaining.

Obviously, it did not turnout quite well. After years of heavy export tax on cocoa yielding hefty revenue for the government, Nkrumah just on the heels of 1954 election upped the ante. He announced that the government was going to pay half of the prevailing world market price to the farmers, which is literally 50% tax on their sweat. Let me make it very simple. Can you imagine if you are a farmer who produces just about ten bags of cocoa for the whole year, and the government out of its infinite wisdom decides to appropriate five bags out of your sweat, because it wants to industrialise. In effect, it became a disincentive to be a cocoa farmer – the main export earner and profitable industry of the economy. Mind you, this is what happened in the Soviet Union that led to the death of 20 million and likewise 30 million in China based on the same flawed mentality. It was a regressive tax that hit mainly the poor farmers who scratch on two or three-acre land for their living.

It is apparent that the farmers will rebel. There are two certainties in the world – death and taxes. If we do not like the former it is most likely that we do not romanticise about the latter. Nobody likes paying taxes. Does the American revolution ring a /bell? This is the basis of the rebellion in the Ashanti region, which has shaped our politics for the past 62 years. Yet, this preposterous group of people called Nkrumahist do not see the evil shadow that their god has caste over the landscape of Ghanaian politics for the past half century. All that they think about is the righteous rebellion of the people their god was grinding under wheels, and not his stupid policy that engendered it.

The nationalisation of the marketing of the cocoa industry is what has destroyed Ghana. Those who can’t see beyond their noses will spout spurious alibis as the reasons that pulled the rug from under the industry and the dwindling fortunes of the country’s economy. When Tetteh Quarshie brought the cocoa plant to Ghana in1876, because it was profitable to cultivate, nobody told hard working Ghanaian farmers to grow the plant. However, the farmers pursuing their own interest made Ghana the largest producer of the crop in the world before wrong government policies and mismanagement made us cede the position to the Ivorians. During the 1983 cocoa season, production plummeted to less than 200,000 metric tonnes from 557,000 at its peak in 1965 with a population of around 6 million. By 1983, our population was about 14 million. Think about it.

The PhD academics in Nkrumahism will bulldoze their way to find every word available to counter in a desperate attempt to salvage a hopelessly leaking vessel. They will muddy the waters with the argument that it was the drought, bushfires and aging trees that destroyed the 1983 cocoa season, which marked the lowest ebb in cocoa production in the country. The question that these people will have to answer is this: why did the industry not recover after the rains came back and the bushfires were brought under control?

In the 80s, the nation had roughly about 800,000 hectares under cocoa cultivation. Out of this, 60,000 were destroyed by bushfires, which is less than 8%. Besides, those who attribute the debacle to aging trees will have to remember that all the 800,000 hectares under cultivation were not planted the same year. In reality the industry should have bounced back the following year, but the underlying problem was very deep and sinister.

When I was a child, at the height of cocoa smuggling in Ghana, I used to agonise bitterly why Ghanaian farmers will do that. Of course, I was a child and my brain power could not explain the reasons why. But I think answering such a modest question will put us in the right frame of mind. Why will a farmer after a whole year’s work of toil and sweat take his cocoa to a produce buying clerk who will cheat him through weighing and the little crumbs he gets he has to travel back and forth for his money. It was due to the shenanigans of the clerks that the Akuafo cheque was introduced, and that did not even stop the blatant arrogance of those nation wreckers. Some of them went to the extent of issuing bad cheques, which was the last straw for most of the farmers.

The obvious biggest jigsaw that the Nkrumahists are refusing to acknowledge is that due to the continuation of Nkrumah’s socialist policies farmers were discouraged to reseed their aging trees as a result of the activities of the produce buying clerks. Those who were badly burnt cut down their trees and planted something worthwhile. The courageous ones smuggle their produce to the neighbouring countries. In addition, the young, who were supposed to take over from their aging parents, abandoned the farms and joined the exodus to the cities, Europe and other industrialised nations. In my humble opinion the downfall of Ghana, which opened the door for monsters like Rawlings, is incontrovertible. The collapse of the cocoa industry in the 80s was the inevitable culmination of the evil socialist policies intensified under Nkrumah. The hallmark of dictatorship is enacting laws that are difficult to obey like taxing poor farmers 50% of their sweat. The rebellion of the Ashantis for separation fizzled out and the farmers adjusted to the high taxes. But how do you adjust to the criminal activities of the produce buying clerks? This is socialism for you; and we are paying the bitter price, which is not worth paying with the sort of resources and brain power we have.

The road to hell is paved thick with good intentions. We have been practicing an economic ideology called socialism since independence, which is so beautiful and magical on paper. It has brought us nothing but pain, shame and humiliation. As human beings, we hate pain, shame and humiliation so why do we continue on this path and label those who have got brains to stop the pain as unpatriotic. And we put border patrols on them and hound them like dogs. Do we ever stop to ask the question why the farmer did not do that before but now? Has anybody ever ask the question whether they are lesser human beings than the Europeans or the Americans? What makes people think that we shouldn’t be on par with the South Koreans, Malaysians and all the post WWII economic successes around the globe? How did we become the world’s leading producer of the crop? We couldn’t be lazy other than that there is no way that achievement would have been possible. We are a hardworking people, but when the incentives change it changes people’s attitude. Socialism has mutated the attitude of Ghanaians, and for the bureaucrats the least said about them the better. That ideology has turned a promising country, at independence, into a beggary status.

Most people, including very intelligent people, have erroneous impression that the government can make the people rich by building plants and factories without the requisite expertise and incentives. Even when the Russians wanted a modern car plant they did not do it themselves; they brought in a foreign expert. It was Henry Ford who went there to build them Russian owned 100,000 unit per-year automotive plant. When the Japanese were shocked by Commander Matthew Perry, they solicited the help of American and British finance and expertise, initially, to build their railway.

The Akans have a very profound saying that advice does not change people, but tragedy. Most of the time as human beings we think ourselves of being smarter and we get our hands severely mutilated repeating the mistakes of those who came before. The Russians cannot be considered as fools; neither will Nkrumah be labelled as one. However, future generations will not forgive us and will ascribe the word fool to us if we don’t stop this nonsense called socialism. The fact is first fool is not a fool. For those who even strangle themselves to uphold the name of Nkrumah think of him as one of the greatest thinkers of his era, but he was just an ordinary human being who could not learn from the mistake of others. Our current suffering is his legacy. Pure and simple. The earlier we abandon his policies the better it will be for us. And don’t be scared about those Nkrumahist with childish and romantic vision about society.

Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr London baidoo_philip@yahoo.co.uk

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Columnist: Baidoo, Philip Kobina