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Prof. Kludze’s Take On Nkrumah’s Dictatorship. Part Three

This PDA section may be concluded in the same way that it began. The suggestion that the Preventive Detention Act of 1958 was enacted in response to attempts on the life of Kwame Nkrumah is a palpable lie. It is a baseless fabrication. The Kulungugu bomb attack occurred four years after the passage of the Preventive Detention Act and cannot be the reason for it. These are demonstrable and verifiable facts.

Assuming arguendo, but without admitting, that there had been bomb attacks or other attempts on the life of Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah in 1957 or early 1958, that was not even a sufficient justification for wielding the arbitrary power of imprisonment without trial of Ghanaians. It is to prevent such malevolence by miscreants that the police and other security agencies had been established and were paid for by the tax payers of this Nation. Furthermore, the regular courts have always been available. Persons accused of such serious infractions of the law must be given a fair trial where they will be allowed to mount their defence with the assistance of lawyers of their choice. To make President Nkrumah the accuser, the complainant and the judge in his own cause is inconsistent with even the elementary principles of democracy and the rule of law. It turned the rule of law into the rule of one person. That was the slippery path to repression and dictatorship into which Ghana descended very fast under the rule of Kwame Nkrumah.

Furthermore, the facts show that those who plotted his physical elimination were leading members of Nkrumah’s own ruling party who may have become disenchanted with his incipient dictatorship. The dissatisfaction emerged within the Party itself and within the corridors of government. Although other small fry of questionable political allegiance were mentioned in the Kulungugu plot and other minor incidents, the major plotters for the overthrow of Nkrumah did not, on the hard evidence, emanate from the ranks of the opposition. They came from within Nkrumah’s own Convention People’s Party, the ruling party of the day which was rapidly being transformed into the only lawful Party of the contemplated One-Party state.

Preventive Detention Could be Kwame Nkrumah’s Original Idea

It is certainly difficult to fathom the mind of a political leader, more so a dictator of the ilk of Kwame Nkrumah. We may therefore never know for certain why Nkrumah chose the path of dictatorship through the Preventive Detention Act which brought so much pain and suffering to many Ghanaians and Ghanaian homes. It was not because of any perceived threat to his life because there was no such move as would lend colour to such a suspicion when he imposed that Act on the young and newly Independent nation of Ghana.

It is not improbable that Nkrumah saw the Preventive Detention Act as a violent and repressive instrument which would facilitate and actualise his determination to be the President of Ghana for life. In that frame of mind, it was logical for Nkrumah to consider all political opponents as enemies who would frustrate his insatiable ambition. This view, rather than any other factor, may have motivated Nkrumah to resort to such repressive measures in order to silence his opponents. This view is also consistent with the personality traits that Nkrumah exhibited before his accession to power.

Before his return to the Gold Coast to work for the United Gold Coast Convention, Kwame Nkrumah had formed a secret political group in England. The group was known as THE CIRCLE. Membership of THE CIRCLE was to champion the anti-colonialist struggle. It was in itself a noble idea. However, THE CIRCLE was structured around Kwame Nkrumah and he made himself the only and the supreme leader who could not be changed. To ensure that his sole and personal leadership could not be challenged under any circumstances then or in the future, his personal leadership position was written into the constitution of THE CIRCLE. Members of THE CIRCLE had to swear personal allegiance to, and support for, the person of Kwame Nkrumah. A member on admission had to swear that “I…accept and abide by the laws of THE CIRCLE…” What did the laws of THE CIRCLE contain? Law 7 of THE CIRCLE stated that “I accept the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah.” At that time Nkrumah had not received an honorary doctorate, and had not self-assumed the title and style of “Osagyefo.” He was, therefore, known as plain Kwame Nkrumah. Acceptance of Kwame Nkrumah’s leadership was part of the laws binding members of THE CIRCLE. This was a requirement for membership. It was clear, therefore, that THE CIRCLE was never intended to be a democratic organisation with leadership by the choice of the members. Nkrumah was to be the only leader who could not be removed even if he lost the confidence of his followers. Although THE CIRCLE was a private association, the manner in which Nkrumah entrenched himself was clearly indicative of the fact that he always wanted to lead any organisation to which he belonged, and that his position therein was incontestable by election or other means. Unknown to the leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention, this was the person that they had invited to be the General Secretary of the Convention. As it turned out, Nkrumah could not have remained in the United Gold Coast Convention of which he could not become the undisputed leader. He either had to become the undisputed leader, perhaps a leader for life, or else he had to find his exit. In other words, even if there were no ideological or strategic disagreements between Nkrumah and the leadership of the United Gold Coast Convention, it was only a matter of time before he would break away. The failure to appreciate this character trait of Kwame Nkrumah must have caused the leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention much grief. It was the same personal desire to assume leadership positions by fair or foul means, and to retain such power for life, which may explain the passage of the Preventive Detention Act by Nkrumah and which motivated his indiscriminate wielding of that power of imprisonment without trial.

Kwame Nkrumah’s own autobiography gives a clue to his decision to impose himself on the people of Ghana as a President for life. Nkrumah did not subscribe to the democratic ideal. More than that, his beliefs were antithetical to electoral politics, since popular votes could depose him from his leadership pedestal. This can be seen from the type of philosophical and political concepts which animated his thought and programmes of action. At pages vii-viii, being the Preface to Ghana: Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah, Nkrumah gives a list of people whose idea molded his own. He wrote of his student days that

“At this time I devoted much energy to the study of revolutionaries. Those who interested me most were Hannibal, Cromwell, Napoleon, Lenin, Mazzini, Gandhi, Mussolini and Hitler.”

Now, who are those people who so much interested Nkrumah? The great Mahatma Gandhi, according to Nkrumah’s own autobiography, did not make much impression on him with his pacifist philosophy. That tactical approach, in any case did not appeal to Nkrumah because there was no Indian type of mass movement. By the time Nkrumah returned to the Gold Coast in 1947, the mass political movement and national consciousness had been kindled by Dr. Danquah and the leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention. All that Nkrumah needed was to endeavour to wrestle the mantle of leadership from the Convention.

Hannibal was an ambitious military general who at the age of about 26 manouvred to become Commander-in-Chief of the Army. Propelled by the passion for leadership and consumed by eternal hostility to Italy, he precipitated the two Punic Wars. Of Oliver Cromwell we know that he usurped the position of the Crown and became Protector who sought to impose himself on the United Kingdom. At least twice he dissolved Parliament because it would not do his bidding. He insisted upon government by a single person (himself) and Parliament He believed that he had been “called” to power, much as Nkrumah would proclaim his right to rule Ghana with “Messianic Dedication”. Mazzini was noted for his efforts at a united Italy. He plotted conspiracies against the existing governments of Italy in the 1830 and 1840s but the revolts met with failure. Ghana was not faced with an Italian Risorgimento for which Nkrumah could deduce any useful lessons from Mazzini except subterfuge.

We know the expansionist ambitions of Napoleon Bonaparte which plunged the world into the Napoleonic wars. Significant, however, is the grand scheming by which Napoleon was able to dispose of his colleagues on the early ruling Council to eventually become the Emperor of France. One is reminded, in this context, of Kwame Nkrumah and the Big Six. Of the five others arrested with him by the colonial Government, Mr. E. Akuffo-Addo was the luckiest. He was dismissed by Nkrumah from the Supreme Court of Ghana in disgrace. The rest were not so lucky. Mr. William Ofori-Atta (Paa Willie) was in and out of prison without trial during the Nkrumah era. Mr.Ako Adjei remained in detention in prison until released when Nkrumah’s government was overthrown in February, 1966. Mr. E. Obetsebi-Lamptey, although his body was riddled with disease, was sent on a stretcher to the Nsawam Prison and detained there without trial until he died. The case of Dr. J.B. Danquah is well known and well documented. When he was detained in prison the second time without trial, Nkrumah ensured that he endured the most cruel and inhumane treatment leading to an excruciating and painful death in a condemned prisoner’s cell at the Nsawam Prison.

Who are the rest of Nkrumah’s influential thinkers? Benito Mussolini, Lenin and Adolf Hitler. The populist sloganeering of Hitler’s National Socialist Patty (NAZI Party) and the vilificatory propaganda of Josef Goebbels must have appealed to and greatly influenced Nkrumah. He founded the Convention People’s Party by vilifying Dr. Danquah and others of the United Gold Coast Convention through the fabrication of baseless lies about them. That was Hitler’s path to power in Germany. Similarly, Nkrumah must have admired the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini who, with iron fist, forced Italy into the embrace of the Axis Powers during the Second World War.

The Communist leaders were greatly appealing to Nkrumah and he adopted many of their totalitarian measures in the new Ghana. His admiration for communism as a political system was not disguised. He had Soviet and other communist advisers in the economics and finance ministries of Ghana when he was in power. They also advised and controlled his military and security agencies which became agents of oppression. The fascination with Lenin, therefore, was a logical deduction even if Nkrumah himself had not volunteered the information.

Nkrumah’s Preconceived Proclivity to Dictatorship

It is true that many adherents of Nkrumah’s repressive regime have contrived to find explanations for the dictatorship that he clamped on Ghana. In all these, they have sought to contend that Nkrumah was compelled by the atmosphere of violent opposition in the post-independence Ghana to have recourse to undemocratic, authoritarian and totalitarian measures to rule Ghana. They would blame everybody except Nkrumah himself for the tyranny he unleashed on Ghana. They would blame the moon and the stars, but never Kwame Nkrumah himself, for the ugly situation he designed and applied to Ghana. Therein lies the hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty of many of our compatriots, particularly those with respectable levels of education and sophistication.

It is submitted that no amount of sophistry, and no amount of calumny or distortion of history, can successfully controvert the truth that Nkrumah never intended that under his leadership Ghana would be allowed even the elementary principles of freedom which the people yearned for, and for which he had fought for liberation from colonialism. To Nkrumah, the end of colonialism would only catapult him into the position of an absolute dictator who would rule with iron hand for life. He revealed this tendency in the list of persons whose lives and political philosophies he imbibed and sought to emulate. We have seen above the unenviable list as stated by Kwame Nkrumah himself.

Notwithstanding the revisionist theories of modern-day Nkrumaists, if there is a word like that, Kwame Nkrumah himself had outlined very clearly his vision of the Independent Ghana. It was not to be a Ghana with a free market economy and it would not be allowed a system that would countenance a liberal democratic rule. In his autobiography, which he presumptuously titled Ghana, and which was published in 1957 on the eve of Ghana’s Independence, Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah spelt out in plain language what was in store for Ghana. Wrote Kwame Nkrumah:

“Capitalism is too complicated a system for a newly independent nation. Hence the need for a socialist society. But even a system based on social justice and a democratic constitution may need backing up, during the period following independence, by emergency measures of a totalitarian kind. Without discipline true freedom cannot survive.”

Like many of Kwame Nkrumah’s categorical assertions, he needed no authority or data to support them. The atmosphere of political repression in which he operated at that time was such that every word falling from him was to be accepted as categorical truth emanating ex cathedra from the authority of the “Osagyefo.” To have disputed them at that time would have been a quixotic flirtation with the prospect of imprisonment without trial.

Today we can controvert the self-styled “Osagyefo” Kwame Nkrumah’s assertion that “Capitalism is too complicated a system for a newly independent nation.” Kwame Nkrumah had no statistical, scientific or empirical evidence for that statement. It was a bald, unsupportable, egocentric and evidently self-serving statement by a nascent dictator to justify and lay the foundations for the denial of a free market economy in the newly independent Ghana. There was no evidence, not even anecdotal evidence, to support that statement. At the time of Ghana’s Independence, there were four other “newly independent” nations in Africa, in addition to the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia. These were Liberia, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. In all these independent African states, the economic system was “capitalist” with, of course, variations of detail to accommodate local conditions. There were also newly independent nations like India, Pakistan and Malaysia, none of which had rejected capitalism as too complex.

Characteristically, Nkrumah wrote that statement without an effort to explain the alleged complexity of capitalism for the new nation of Ghana. In a sense, any attempt by him to expatiate on this would have lent support to the imperialist arguments that such peoples of the world were not ready for self-determination but had to remain under colonial tutelage to prepare them for self-government. Nkrumah’s version of this neo-colonial argument is that Ghanaians were not ready to assume their own destiny as a free people to chart their nation’s destiny. They had to remain in the Nkrumaist chains to learn to understand the complexities of the “evil” system of capitalism as contrasted with the blessings of socialism. The way Nkrumah would teach the people of Ghana to be ready to take their destiny into their own hands was through their imprisonment without trial under a Preventive Detention Act. This was notwithstanding the fact that imprisonment without trial under Kwame Nkrumah was not conscription into the proverbial “re-education camps” of the type experienced in the communist countries. Re-education was to be later imposed on public and party officials at the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute where bogus theories of Nkrumaism were spewed.

Nkrumah’s castigation of capitalism as “too complicated,” not only for Ghana but for all newly independent nations, was a deliberate strategy to reverse the course of democracy which had been nurtured under British rule and which the good people of Ghana had evidently adopted. Such adoption was demonstrated in the protracted pre-independence constitutional conferences in which all segments of the Gold Coast society had insisted on democratic rule and a free market economy. By opting out of capitalism without articulating the difficulties inherently associated with it, Nkrumah was clearly advocating a leaning towards socialism. At that time the socialist countries were known. They included the communist countries of the Soviet Union, China and North Korea. Their economic systems were intertwined with communism, and they rejected the democratic system of government. In these counties there was no freedom of conscience; and imprisonment without trial was the norm. By peremptorily rejecting capitalism, whatever that meant to him, Nkrumah was directly advocating an economic and political system of communist rule. The fact is that all countries which professed socialism were communist countries where personal liberty was set at naught and where the communist state was more important than the individual citizen. This system was perfectly consistent with and actually inherent in the system of democratic centralism that Nkrumah imposed on Ghana. The violent tool for such enforced conformity to non-democratic, semi-communist rule was the notorious Preventive Detention Act with which Nkrumah succeeded in reducing Ghana into a totalitarian state. Thus, although Nkrumah never really abandoned “capitalism,” and never seriously completed converting Ghana into a socialist economy, his socialist and communist rhetoric enabled him to whittle away the liberties of Ghanaians. We must all now be honest to admit that this was a tragic episode in our nation’s history.

Edited and Reproduced by Dr. Samuel Adjei Sarfo, Attorney and Counselor at Law

Columnist: Sarfo, Samuel Adjei

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