The Dynamics of Political Struggle in Ghana – Part 3
By Explo Nani-Kofi **
When I arrived in Ghana a number of welcomes I had prepared me for this part of my write up. I remember when I met, H.E. Dan Abodakpi, at Besmond Hotel in Peki, and when I was introduced to him, he told me that it was good to see me alive but “no more Marxism-Leninism”. Another one was when I met Hon. Dan Botwe in Parliament House, and he said that “revolution is finished” and that there was nothing like revolution anymore. My good friend, Castro Vivor, recently informed me that his friend, Damesi, said that he wanted to come and assist me in education work in Ghana and that there was no revolution anymore. I started wondering why he thought you cannot have education work on revolutionary ideas, issues and action. I also met an old secondary school English Literature master of mine it the midst of other elders and when I said that I have not changed any of my beliefs and convictions for the 27 years that I have been outside he told that there is no more revolution talk in this country. I had comments which were not very much different from Hon Osei Prempeh and Hon O.B. Amoah in the House of Commons Cafeteria. I also approached one Peki-hailed citizen, who I knew to be of the radical Left, to deliver the Kwame Nkrumah – Kofi Ameko Memorial Lectures and he told me that people were no longer interested in these things. Why are these people saying this or why has this been so important for them as their welcome addresses?
Between 1975 and 1980/81, it takes a lot to lose a student leadership election on any of Ghana’s university campuses as a radical Leftist and even if you lose you could always win a by-election or be involved in a certain way. So for people in my generation radical Leftists from the university campuses appeared as future leaders. It wasn’t surprising to hear them on radio programmes like the GBC Programme with title Leaders of Tomorrow. The only radio programme I was interviewed on before the PNDC era was Leaders of Tomorrow where I appeared as co-interviewee and co-panelist with my good friend, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the present Minority Leader in the Parliament of Ghana. By 1981, politics was shifting Leftwards and the private press was mostly pro-Left issues inclined. One E.V. Asihene, an active member of the then opposition Popular Front Party (PFP) said at University Hall Porters’ Lodge in 1981 that one reason why he doesn’t want any coup d’etat is that any coup that will come will be pro-Left. Then the 31st December 1981 occurred as was pro-Left as the Right feared and for them there couldn’t be any greater nightmare than this. The PNDC regime was for people the peak of this Left ascendancy which they feared – communism is in Ghana they screamed and scared themselves. How could the radical Left’s fortunes vanish so easily? Some of the issues have been addressed in Parts 1 and 2 but that could not be all that will destroy a vibrant political force on ascendancy.
The Left’s involvement in the PNDC was that of a flyweight boxer going to fight in the heavy weight division and also allying themselves with a character they know very little. Some say that until the CIA Files of the 1980s are declassified we may not really understand what happened with the early days of the PNDC and how the coup d’etat came about. The Left with all its members, supporters, sympathizers could be up to only about 500 people according to estimates by Kwame Mfodwo. After the coup, there were appointees, special assistants, all manner of activists so in terms of numbers the Left was swallowed. For Leftists who became Ministers (PNDC Secretaries) experiences were worse. They found themselves in the midst of hostile forces within which to adjust as team workers and see sense in their arguments without any assistance. Whilst writing this paper, I was involved in a discussion about the how PNDC Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning had no fall back team of radical forces to help him with the issues of Finance and Economic Planning within his ministry and he had to put up with the right wing bureaucracy in there.
The Ghanaian radical Left might have organized student/workers demonstrations, issued press statements, and confronted military regimes as students with universities being closed or going underground for a bit and coming back. What they hadn’t prepared for was being taken to cells and threatened with death and having to denounce personal and political associates at the point of life and death. The Left was not prepared for this. It is also clear that the taste for petit-bourgeois life styles and aspirations of the Left elements was not any different from that of their Right Wing peers that the difference was only in terms of slogans and it is clearly shown in how most of them socialize. Under pressure the factions of the Left started building cross class alliances along lines ethnicity, old student associations and all manner alliances. Even those cross alliances were not sustained when the pressure was tough.
For almost all those who were seriously wanted, their exit involved others taking risks to smuggle them out, even giving material support and in many cases people, who have never traveled abroad, buying them their air tickets for them to flee abroad. However, after some years after these Leftist have been outside they started concentrating on their personal lives. With insensitivity the leading Left elements who went into exile did not reflect about the reality that some of them had led initiatives and others being loyal to them had died as a result of such following and loyalty. What will be their reciprocal loyalty to these people who died? Do they actually care that these people also have families and friends who hold them so dear? When I met the mother of the late Kwame Adjimah, 27 years after the PNDC had murdered this young man, she said that was the first time in the 27 years that her son had been killed that anybody had come to express his or her sympathy to show that somebody still remembers her son Auste (Kwame Adjimah). Kwame died thinking that he was part of some radical Left which was going to pursue a struggle to the full and if I had died, as both Kwame and I were framed up because of our over-enthusiasm in publicizing the fact that we should mobilize to raise the mobilization component of our recovery programme, and both of us were escaping through 19th June 1983 Jail Break, I would have thought the same and boldly died to the pain of my parents and siblings, just as Kwame Adjimah was felt all those 27 years by the Adjimah family of Kpandu and the Seayor family of Anfoega.
There emerged what I’ll refer to as fashion asylum cases. Under the guise of going to build an organization outside a number of people who went out on scholarships sought asylum outside after their courses. Some of these people were paid in hard currency of dollars when they studied as students and after their courses received huge shipping allowances in dollars for them to send their items home to Ghana. Instead of going home, they went to various western European countries. Affidavits were produced about threats to people’s lives as a reason why they had to flee. In some cases, people’s relatives also joined the asylum crowd. One wonders what radical left organizational capacity all this has produced beyond individual economic settlement in the name of the masses and at the expense of the Ghanaian workers and peasants. The only way out outside was to work and organize as part of the radical Left in your country of residence outside otherwise you practically find yourself out of radical left politics and jus wear the left label when you visit old associates.
Contrary to the building of organizations, we have seen settlement abroad “burger style” and wheeling in and out of Ghana to their bases as latter day “been tos”. The people who looked up to them back home as cadres rather started being jealous as it seems that people satisfied those close to them, in getting them to outside or setting joint selling and buying kind of businesses with them. In my attempt to get a colleague who assisted me together with others to help me organize a remembrance for the late Kwame Adjimah in Kpandu this colleague said that the reason why he has decided to stay back is because he didn’t get the benefits that others got. Even those who got these benefits will not admit that they had them or their relatives will not admit it. There was a member of the Home Front of cadres of the left who was assisted through an Account course to become an auditor. Immediately he got into the position he forgot everything about any organization and was only heard of looking for assistance after he was accused of an embezzlement case. I am told of a colleague who was assisted by political associates to enter a school but I have heard his family said more than once that he was totally neglected. There are others who keep totally way from politics when they get some material boom and come back only when the fortune is dried up.
In some cases exiles had confidence in non-Ghanaians who they chose to act on their behalf. When the non-Ghanaians get to Ghana and see that those of us who sent them have no reliable contacts on the ground, and that we had grown pale as far as information on the ground is concerned, they took their own trajectory. They would even get uncritical welcome in the spirit of typical Ghanaian hospitality which can only be referred to as the liberalism which Mao Zedong advises that we should combat. Others arrive as people coming to settle in Ghana, will be totally ignorant of the history of the class struggle and therefore not even aware of where to connect from and once they have resources, they also pitch their flag exactly like the European merchants of old and an organization starts leading to probable foreign legion with slogans but no class compass in the country.
These are things that people are whispering about and to avoid leaving them to “Chinese whispers” we have to bring them into the open so that the whisperers can keep quiet if they cannot come out into the open. It is also to frankly see what next as we cannot just say that all people who carried some label 30 years ago should just come into a room and no matter what we just tag along. We have to take stock and network clearly on concentric circles of trust and not any free range liberalist crowding. How can you people who had put into public print materials that had described others as enemies who could have been killed because of hose labels into a room with the victims without no resolution of these criminal and self-seeking motive publications? In my discussion with comrades at Cape Coast University we said that in such a situation it is even difficult to talk of a Left including all these elements.
The registered political party scene is no better. Considering the route and class support of the 31st December 1981 coup d’etat and its associated processes which led to National Democratic Congress (NDC) one would have seen that as left of the New Patriotic Party, which has donned the cap of the traditional right wing in Ghana by labeling itself Danquah-Busia tradition and in recent times making it Danquah-Busia-Dombo family. Maybe they want to win a seat around Alavanyo or Ho or Kpandu before remembering the Antors or Ayekes or Dumorgas too or they will be satisfied with Ms Elizabeth Ohene being mentioned from time to time to represent my former headmaster, S.K. Ohene. However, despite this class route, history and base, as a result of the lack of vision of J.J. Rawlings, who emerged as leader of the revolution but had nothing beyond populism and charisma to offer as features of leadership, the party si a turmoil of a mob trying had to develop dome order for the semblance of a party out of the pockets financial pillars of fiefdoms.
As the leader of the revolution consciously destroyed all the member organizations of the Joint Consultative Committee of Progressive Organisation which the primary organizations backbone of all the initial initiatives of student and youth task force, defence committees, national youth organizing commission, supporting women organizations, people’s shops, association of local unions etc and hunted most of their active leadership out and made them victims of repression leading others to be quiet, the movement left was dominated by later coup invitees, many of whom had no knowledge of the sharp class conflicts that led to the coup but saw Rawlings as some Junior Jesus for whom they could sing praises. A lot of them totally confused when Rawlings started baring his fangs at the decent late President John Evans Atta Mills and screaming about the babies with sharp teeth and evil dwarfs even after the decent man, Asomdwehene, lost his life. Whilst cadres who had developed domestically through the theoretical work and practical struggles in this country like Kwame Mfodwo, Yao Graham, Akoto Ampaw, Goosie Tanoh etc were banned from giving talks at cadre schools, people were sent to foreign countries to be trained as cadres. These people were carried through the rudiments of the history of the working class and associated organizations as taught in those countries but found wanting when it comes to class issues in Ghana as most of them expected to come back and hold positions as bureaucrats or ministers and the latter remains a major concern around they are organized today. 8 years of the declaring a party of the back of the Rawlings’ charisma and populism, the NDC declared itself as a social democratic party and is an active participant in the Socialist International where my senior man, Kofi Attor, is networking with other parties hopefully to learn from experiences of social democracy within the “cadre movement” are sharp internal rivalries and most of them are not ideological but are over issues of control and resource access.
Some of my friends will be angry with this point but I’ll make it loudly and wish that time will prove me wrong. Kwame Nkrumah, who is known for his hard work and intellectual effort, wrote the Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare with a methodology on how to rebuild organizationally. This Handbook is not only about military warfare but it is also a guide for civil organization. Most have decided to avoid the methodology in there by merely adopting the name of Kwame Nkrumah pre-1966 party, the Convention People’s Party (CPP) which death even Kwame Nkrumah recognized before dying if one reads carefully his letters in the Conakry years complied by his literary executrix, June Milne, and maybe with one of the children as the leader a vehicle for Nkrumaism will develop. I touched on some of the result of the electoral performances of this group which is mainly an electoral vehicle with a minority of its activists shouting Nkrumah slogans are praising he old CPP’s performance in government. This group is never able to win a seat without some direct or indirect assistance or omission by the Danquah-Busia NPP. In 1996, they won 5 seats in parliament on the back of the NPP-led, manipulated and dominated Great Alliance. In serious naivety, they were not conscious that these were NPP back passes, so even when NPP hadn’t developed he confidence that they could win by themselves decided to give them more they refused and decided to go it by themselves. One of the MPs, Freddie Blay, who was convinced that he couldn’t win without the back pass went on his knees to the NPP to accept the back pass. Freddie was the only MP re-elected from the CPP in 2000. In 2004, Paa Kwesi Nduom and Kojo Armah also joined Freddie to ask for NPP back passes and 3 of them were elected as CPP MPs. In 2008, the state burial for our founding first lady, Mrs Fathia Nkrumah, by the Kufuor-led NPP regime played a facilitating role in Samia Nkrumah becoming the Jomoro MP for CPP. This does not mean that Samia didn’t work very hard. In the recent by-election in Kumbungu, the CPP has benefited from the boycott of the NPP to get back into parliament but I bet they will never accept this whilst refusal to acknowledge only helps you to dig holes for the future. The CPP is therefore heavily dependent on the commissions or omissions of the NPP for its electoral fortunes.
With the old radical Left, in the face of a dissolution of radical Left structures of any meaningful impact from 1991 to about 1999 and the unsuccessful electoral intervention of Akoto Ampaw and Kwesi Pratt in 1996, people tried to find their levels with the establishment through various involvements with bureaucratic structures and tried to see how much they could influence things towards some sort of social justice in these institutions. Various NGOs function with the aim of influencing in a similar way. Some of these NGOs like the Third World Network initiate activities and platforms like the Economic Justice Network, in which the Trade Union Congress and workers of the non-formal sector are involved, and which have a high potential of organizing working people. The Socialist Forum of Ghana has also emerged around 1999 as a breathe of fresh air in the frozen situation and has been doing its best. The Marxist Study Group in Cape Coast and Winneba which for sometime organized in Legon as well is doing quite appreciable work in equipping young people with theoretical understanding. Enthusiastic initiatives for African self-determination had come up with groups like Africa for Africans, Unification Train, Progressive Students Pan-African Forum. There is also the Kilombo Project relocated from UK to Ghana which has established the Annual Kilombo Conference on Africa, Africans and Social Justice and developing networking groups across the country. There are efforts to develop a website to build on he legacy of the All African Peoples’ Conferences. These are taking advantage of the constitutional dispensation of the 4th Republic which elements who originally organize as the radical Left actively contributed to bringing into as a result of the struggle to end military tyranny. I’ll follow this with a piece with title “Kwame Nkrumah Shows The Way Forward”.
** Explo Nani-Kofi is the Director of Kilombo Centre for Citizens’ Rights and Conflict Resolution, Peki, Ghana and London, UK (www.kilomboeducation.org) and Coordinator of the Annual Kilombo Conference on Africa, Africans and Social Justice in Ghana and the Another World Is Possible Radio Programme currently on GFM Radio. He is also a member of Counterfire (www.counterfire.org) and an international anti-war and anti-austerity activist. He currently writes for the Crystal Clear Lens Newspaper in Ghana.