By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
July 13, 2010
Ghana has had a motley of civilians and military officers as its leaders since it gained independence from Britain some 53 years ago. They may be accused of not providing the good quality leadership skills to help the country develop, which is a serious indictment. In concentrating on such serious issues about them, we miss their funny aspects, which makes our hearts too heavy. It’s time to lighten our mood for a while. All work without play will surely make Jack a dull boy and Jill a jaded jerk. Let’s raise some of those hilarious aspects to laugh over. I provide some here.
Four of our civilian leaders held PhD’s (Dr. Nkrumah, Dr. Busia, Dr. Limann, and Dr. Mills) and one was a Mister (Kufuor), who claimed to have studied law in Oxford. A military-turned civilian one (Flt.-Lt. Rawlings) will not shed his military title or outlook. He is an interesting amalgam.
Those from the military had their own academic and qualifications even though one is not sure how to qualify them specifically. We had:
• Lt. Gen. Joseph Arthur Ankrah (whom Nkrumah described in his Dark Days in Ghana as “a typical colonial soldier who, if he saw action at all, did so in the Congo only as a quartermaster”);
• Brigadier Akwasi Amankwah Afrifa (beginning as such before promoting himself to the rank of a “General,” whom Nkrumah described as “a social misfit characteristic of a society in transition”);
• Col. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong (later promoting himself to the rank of “General” only to be divested of everything and reduced to Mister by Akuffo’s SMC II; he is described as a product of the defunct Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute at Winneba);
• Gen. Fred W.K. Akuffo (described as “a soldier’s soldier” by the Ghanaian press after his successful palace coup against Acheampong on July 9, 1978); and
• Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings (an “O”-level holder known for his exploits as a seasoned Ghana Airforce pilot. Although he transformed himself into a civilian politician after almost 11 years in power, no one could remove the “military” element in him. He still cherishes his official military rank. Once a soldier, always a soldier).
Apart from Flt.-Lt. Rawlings, all the other military rulers gained promotion while serving as politicians, not in seeing action (in the military parlance). The comfort of their political offices fetched them those military laurels.
As if their peculiar backgrounds don’t provide enough substance to excite laughter, each of these leaders gave Ghanaians something about their inner selves. They made pronouncements or conducted themselves in ways that provoked much laughter then and will do so today too. Now, let’s recollect some of those moments:
1. DR. KWAME NKRUMAH (CPP GOVERNMENT)
Dr. Nkrumah is well known for his threatening statement to chiefs opposed to him: “You will run away and leave your sandals behind…”
As if that was not enough to split our sides with, Kwame Kwakye added several more to make the era of Nkrumah more than humorously memorable: “Since Kwame Nkrumah cannot divisible himself into twice…..”; and this one at a court:
—Magistrate (to Kwame Kwakye): Are you the District Commissioner for Akim Oda?
—Kwakye: No, I am the D.C.
—Magistrate: Will you speak English or Twi?
—Kwakye: What? A man like me—in suit, coat, tie, trousers over black shoes? To speak Twi? I will SPOKE English!
2. LT. GENERAL JOSEPH ARTHUR ANKRAH (NLC CHAIRMAN TILL 1968)
General Ankrah is fondly remembered in Cape Coast for one thing: Being lame in one leg, he limped sort of, making his height difficult to ascertain. When he visited Cape Coast to participate in a function at the Victoria Park, the residents made fun of his gait by relating him to a popular local goalkeeper with a similar physique. As they shouted out the goalkeeper’s name in a loud chorus of derisive amusement, Gen. Ankrah thought they were hailing him and enthusiastically responded. His action sent the people into uncontrollable spells of hysteria and tears of joy at the deception they had succeeded in committing. Gen. Ankrah got to know of the stark reality only days after he had settled back at the Osu Castle to read the situation report on that day’s ceremony. He took a belated offence.
Still on General Ankrah, who will not remember his mispronunciation in an interaction with the former King of Lesotho? King Moshoeshoe of Lesotho became King Leshoeshoe of Mosotho.
At the local front, his verbal theatricals at the commissioning of the GIHOC Pharmaceutical Company in Accra came to notice: “I, Lt.-Gen. Joseph Arthur Ankrah, Chairman of the NLC, declare open this GIHOC Pharmaca… Pharmaco… Phaocoma… Pharmakuticals… Sorm…” (Profanity here). Then, in Ga, he added “Kwe… Me ho nke ekoo…,” meaning, “Look... I’ve also said some…”).
Again, will we forget the rumoured faux pas during his interactions with his counterpart from China, when after hearing the Chinese leader mention his name, Gen. Ankrah was said to have jokingly retorted that he was also called “Kwe Kwa Hien” (Literally, meaning “Look at the monkey’s face”)?
Yet another. General Ankrah and his love for Accra kenkey is remarkable. On a trip outside the country, it was said that one of the members of his entourage threw away some balls of kenkey which he felt had become mouldy and therefore unwholesome, which angered Ankrah into shouting: Kwe!... (And he added the usual profanity here)… Ona ake Ga kormi efite da? (Have you ever seen any Ga kenkey spoilt before)?
Finally, when he heard of the June 4 overthrow of the military generals by the junior officers, he shouted out to members of his household to press his military uniform for him to get into because (Gbekebie efei nibie eko… Aba aba tse me non…” (meaning, “The boys have done the thing again… they will soon come for me (to be the Head of State”).
This mood was aroused by what he had experienced after February 24, 1966. At his overthrow, Nkrumah had derided Ankrah: “When those cowards had committed their treachery against me and invited him to lead them, … without pausing to think of the implications, … and in a typical Ga manner, he said “Maafei,” meaning “I will do it.”
3. DR. KOFI ABREFA BUSIA (PRIME MINISTER, PROGRESS PARTY GOVERNMENT)
Dr. Busia’s “No Court… No Court!” in reaction to the court verdict against his “Apollo 568” dismissals from the Civil Service (Known as Sallah’s case) attracted more worries than laughs. The rest is history.
Continued in next segment…