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Opinions Fri, 24 Sep 2010

Renaming Kotoka International Airport- A slight difference

by Kofi Kakraba Pratt

This has been an interesting debate and will probably go on as long as there is Ghana. Every 24th February, 6th March, 1st July, 13th January, May 15th, June4th, 31st December and now 21st September and many more days to come, there will be some debates which will never go away. In some cases, old arguments would be rehashed and sometimes, fresh ones with new insights will emerge. I hope that what I write here will introduce new insights and angles to this debate and may be accepted some who are as fanatic as me as a new insight.

In 1979, I a few students who believed strongly that the Kotoka airport should be renamed Osagyefo International airport or at best the old name Accra International airport. June 4 offered us a good opportunity and on one find day with the help of some soldiers and two leading members of the AFRC we secured some explosives which were to pack beneath the statue of Kotoka and blow it up. We could not go through with it due to some amateurish planning, cowardice and also intervention by some big wigs in Ghana at the time including Flt Lt John Jerry Rawlings ( who believed that Kotoka was his personal hero). Today, I am glad it did not happen..

No matter how we look at things from the Pro Nkrumah or Anti Nkrumah or just Pro democracy and anti progressives in Ghana, 24th February will always be an emotional date and may hold different meanings, significance and poignant moments for many.

Now lets face it. 24th February was the day the CPP led government of Ghana headed by Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah(who had declared himself LIFE president) was overthrown. The coup was led by Ocran, Afrifa, Ankrah, Harley, Deku and Kotoka. The CIA records now openly available indicate that Kotoka, Afrifa and Harley were given dollar inducements each to encourage them to overthrow Nkrumah. Others were also giving various degrees of encouragement. The CIA had an agenda that did not and never included the interest of Ghana nor did it have anything to do with Dictatorship in Ghana. They probably succeeded in finding some Ghanaians, whose interest at that time converged with theirs and used them to achieve the same goal. - Getting rid of Nkrumah.

But was Kotoka International airport so named because of the coup of 1966? the answer is no even though it has a link because there would never have been a Kotoka without 1966. Is that the truth? No. There always would have been a Kotoka. In fact it is claimed in some circles that Col Kotoka was one of the closest and the trusted friends and confidants of Nkrumah. ( It figures because the CIA always gets people close to you to use against you) Some also claim that it was Kotoka, who my timing of the coup, ensured that most of the CPP folks including Nkrumah was spared death in 1966. The airport was so named because that was the spot at which General Emanuel Kwasi Kotoka was found dead or killed or murdered or assassinated (whichever you prefer) in the late morning of the abortive coup of 1967( please help me if the dates are wrong) with his manhood allegedly cut and placed in his mouth, as a sign that he had been defeated as a man.

Let’s face it. Kotoka was a general who died in combat. I don’t care which combat but those of you who know anything about the military should know by now that once a general dies in combat, even his enemies or opponents do honour him. I hope you have not forgotten General Odartey-Wellignton, who was buried with full military Honours with Flt. Lt John Rawlings and the person who allegedly pulled the first trigger to kill him carrying his coffin. Kotoka was a leading member of the Ghana government at the time and an Army general. He deserved to be honoured. It should be left to posterity to determine whether his part in the overthrow of the CPP and Nkrumah was for personal gain or for patriotism. The CIA files speak volumes and I tempt even the ardent supporters of the coup of 1966 to make themselves familiar with its contents.

Why I hate renaming of already named projects in Ghana is that there is always some politics attached to it and it makes such events very divisive and creates problem whenever there is a new political persuasion or government in place. People feel victimised and bruised and seek to restore such "pride or stupidity" If the NLC " wished to name anything after Kotoka, they ought to have secured funding and built another national project at the time and named it after him. That would have ensured that at least, we have a new national project to be proud of. In the same vein, if the CPP or any political party wishes to name an airport after Nkrumah, They should secure funding to build a new and fantastic airport and name it after him. After all, if we have a new, modern, and bigger international airport somewhere away from the hassle and bustle of Accra, all new arrivals or major arrivals will be at that new airport and the name of Kotoka will not be in the minds of many anymore.

Renaming the airport has several connotations and I will urge the CPP or NDC to stay away from it. When the NPP was in power, they did everything to woo the people of the Volta region including building of roads costing millions of dollars, new projects and also (with a hidden agenda) the complete renovation and beautification of the Kotoka International Airport with the view of telling the people from our Ninth region (number 9) that the offsprings of the Victor Owusu “Inward looking” insult party had changed. BUT no. The people never forgave them and till today, the stigma still sticks. The NPP is still paying for Victor’s insults. In the same way, since a majority of the people from Volta see Kotoka as a national hero and one of their own and see nothing wrong with his “betrayal”, any attempt to remove his name from such a national monument will be seen as an attempt on the integrity and national identity of the people of Volta. It will create a political time bomb that neither the NDC nor the CPP could recover from or any such political party would recover from. It will rather play into the hands of our detractors and they will be the ones to benefit from it.

If I were in the NPP, I would be very silently and behind the scenes pushing the current government to commit electoral suicide by urging them on to change the name and then make political capital out of it come the next elections. It will level the playing field in the Volta region and ensure that whoever had more votes from the other regions won the elections. The NPP should pretend to fight the change of name while urging it from the sidelines and not oppose it if it should go to committee or parliament. If they do they would have neutralised the NDC World Bank for good. Is this what Prof Badu Akosa and the CPP or NDC leadership should be advocating for? As the saying goes- “cutting their nose to spite their face”

My last argument,( which I have made before) is that whether we like it or not, 1966 is part of our history. Kotoka was one of the architects of the coup. He was killed and the airport was named after him. Let us continue to leave his about $15,000.00 turned back the clock of development of their beloved (or is it be hated) country? By accepting the encouragement of the CIA which was against the interest of the people of Ghana and acting on their instructions even if the two interests converged, they harmed Ghana and Africa’s development. There were several ways Nkrumah could have been neutralised without taking the whole of Ghana down with it. The proponents and architects of the 24th February Coup though helped to remove a “dictatorship” in Ghana,(By their understanding and perception) handed over a massive propaganda victory and struck a near fatal blow to the emancipation of the Blackman, the development of the African personality and Identity and gave the impressions that the Blackman was not capable of ruling himself even though there were continuous spanners being thrown into the works by the west ensuring that we never had control of and being in charge of our natural resources , which, the west needed so badly at the time to feed their industries, make their nations rich, create more employments for their citizenry and also ensure that they had ready markets for their cheap goods ad services.

I say, leave Kotoka International airport as it is as a reminder of our failures and setbacks and also as a prick to our conscience and (if it helps) a reminder to future leaders of Ghana and Africa, that no matter how good your intentions are, making it impossible or very difficult for a smooth change over of power or creating the near impossibility of another person succeeding you lawfully could eventually result in the loss of your ideal and vision that you wished to leave as a legacy anyway. Osagyefo has been very fortunate. His vision was timeless and cut across all sections of Africa and generations. Also those who came after him had no clue as to what they themselves stood for. After they had been bamboozled with false information and assisted in making a political fool out of themselves, they came up unstuck with no plan, No agenda and no hope for national reconstruction, national unity or no hope for national development. Several years after Nkrumah’s natural death, his ideals live on and most of Africa continue to see him as the “future” for African emancipation and development.

Because, I strongly believe that by 1970, if Ghanaians knew what they know now and if there were free and fair elections in Ghana without anybody being barred and without any party being giving a head start and nicodemous help, Kwame Nkrumah’s CPP would easily have won another elections in Ghana. The 1979 electoral victory by the PNP with Dr. Hilla Limann as its leader attest to this. So what could have happened is that the CPP could have been thrown out of office momentarily in an election out of dissatisfaction with austerity and also due to effective campaign by the then opposition if it were allowed. BUT it would have bounced back into power to enable it carry out its programs after a few years in opposition (which would have helped it to purge itself, reorganise and come back stronger) Sometimes in politics, a spell in opposition is always good.

Whether we like it or not, by 1966, certain elements within the CPP had become corrupt and had lost the sense of duty and had become gods. A kick in the butts at an election would have been a good wake up call. Ghana would have been several times better off with a temporal CPP in opposition resulting from elections than what happened because some sections of the nation felt completely disenfranchised and unable to strife to achieve the highest office of the land. This disgruntled elements and national foes then eventually worked together with our enemies to destroy the dreams of a whole generation and that of a continent.

Please leave Kotoka International Airport as it is now.

Columnist: Pratt, Kofi Kakraba