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This Cancerous Ghanaian Obsession with Political Personalities

Mon, 14 Sep 2009 Source: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Ghana’s president, Dr. John Evans Atta-Mills, was recently reported to be contemplating declaring September 21 as a national holiday in commemoration of the birth of deposed late President Kwame Nkrumah. We have already written about this issue before and shall be writing about it, once more, in due course.

The one thing with which we are herein concerned, however, is the apparently pathological obsession of some Ghanaians with the cult of personality, an undeniably regressive phenomenon originally perpetrated by Mr. Kwame Nkrumah, himself, and perpetuated in various shades and forms by his successors since 1957.

As we highlighted earlier on, President Nkrumah, himself, clearly observed in his autobiography the fact that he did not know his date-of-birth. By the treacherous art of pure guesswork, however, Ghana’s first prime minister decided on two contingent natal dates one of which was the September 21st date on which President Atta-Mills allegedly intends to declare a national holiday.

Two equally unsavory factors may be behind this luridly absurd attempt at brazenly falsifying both the personal history of Ghana’s first president and that of our beloved nation’s at large. The first, of course, has to do with febrile attempts by the so-called Nkrumaists to neurotically steamroll their cultic icon into our collective national imagination and ethos, without rationally coming to terms with the stark veracity of the fact that President Nkrumah was neither the founder of Ghana, as these Nkrumaists would have their compatriots believe, nor the kind of exemplary statesman who ought to command our unreserved and especial attention above all else.

I was thus quite elated when during a recent visit to London’s Madame Tussaud’s Collection, I discovered that the life-size wax statue of the African Show Boy had been withdrawn from the main floor. I was equally elated to encounter the waxen images of the sterling and morally exemplary likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Nelson R. Mandela.

My long and well-reasoned argument is that if you are going to have the waxen image of any Ghanaian leaders in the Tussaud Collection, such decision ought to be fully informed by Ghanaians themselves. Going by such observation, it stands to reason for the Tussaud Collection to have included the entire membership of the legendary “Big Six” among its display fare, just as Ghanaians have, themselves, seen it to be in synch with fairness and historical reality to have “The Big Six” Founding Fathers boldly and equally represented on their monetary currency. I was, however, disappointed by the conspicuous absence of an image of Mr. Kofi Annan, perhaps the most historically dynamic secretary-general of the United Nations Organization.

While, of course, he is wholly entitled to his opinion vis-à-vis the political stature of Mr. Kwame Nkrumah, nevertheless, President Atta-Mills has absolutely no right, whatsoever, to attempt to impose an “Nkrumaist Holiday” on the nation at large, in the very dictatorial manner once affected by Mr. Jeremiah John Rawlings vis-à-vis the latter’s so-called June 4 revolution. In sum, if President Atta-Mills feels so strongly about the institutionalization of an Nkrumah birthday, let him table such desire, or even demand, before the august Ghanaian parliament for the conventional two-thirds majority voting approval, after which a national referendum could be held for the final determination.

Short of the foregoing, law-abiding Ghanaian citizens have no other alternative but to call for a fully-constituted Ghanaian Supreme Court to render its verdict on this highly controversial question, while we, of course, await the outcome of the government’s pursuit of constitutional protocol.

Maybe quixotically and illegally attempting to unilaterally declare September 21st a public holiday in memory of Mr. Nkrumah is Dr. Atta-Mills’ all-too-cheap attempt at fizzing up his largely lackluster leadership. Either way, the Rawlings minion would be grossly mistaken to anticipate that Ghanaians would, somehow, passively go along with this most wrongheaded approach to leadership in order to, proverbially, get along.

Not very long ago, a cynical commentator of an article that I wrote and published on the “Nkrumah-Birthday” question, wanted to know whether it really made any difference, whatsoever, whether the African Show Boy was born on September 21st or September 12, or even not in the month of September at all, since the bottom-line, to this cynical critic, seemed to be the historical fact of Ghana’s first president having been born at a specific, even if calendrically unknown, date in time.

My simple and terse response to the critic was that if truth-telling, morally, mattered just as much as lying had been widely observed to seriously breach trust and human dignity, then, of course, whether Nkrumah’s birthday was celebrated on a date purely predicated on guesswork mattered in what it told the rest of the world about our national ethos and ethical sensibilities in general.

Then there is also this three-paragraph “no-news” article which appeared in the Ghanaweb.com edition of July 14, 2009 captioned “John and John: No Bad Blood Between Us.” The thrust of the article was far more eloquently captured by its accompanying photograph that had Messrs. Obama, Atta-Mills, Kufuor and Rawlings in a clockwise deployment holding forth. The unsigned article, sourced to Peace-Fm Radio, claimed that Ghana’s “[T]wo former presidents, Jerry John Rawlings and John A. Kufuor[,] have denied that there is any bad blood between them. They blamed the media for creating this impression. ‘For your information[,] we are the best of friends,’ in answer to media men when asked how the relationship between them is [sic] faring.”

In the preceding, it is not clear who exactly made the remark enclosed in internal quotation, though one gets the impression that it likely was a synchronous and simultaneous riposte. If this observation is valid, then something quite interesting is going on here. In sum, if, indeed, Messrs. Kufuor and Rawlings “are the best of friends,” then one wonders where Nana Akufo-Addo stood sailing into Election 2008, particularly in view of Mr. Kufuor’s widely remarked maneuvers aimed at effectively torpedoing an Akufo-Addo presidencdy, once it became flagrantly evident that the Manhyia street tough’s “favorite nephew” would not be making the glorious saunter into either the old slave castle at Osu or the massively renovated, and/or rebuilt, Flagstaff House.

Equally intriguingly, quite recently, Mr. Kufuor was widely quoted to be insisting that the former premier had absolutely no hand in the electoral defeat of his former Justice and Foreign Affairs minister. Of course, we fully recognize that this is not the time to continue “beating up on a dead horse,” as New Yorkers are apt to remark. Nonetheless, we shall be commenting on that story later. Suffice it to say here, and for the record, however, that ever since he expediently, albeit grossly unwisely, opted to serve as a cabinet member of Mr. Rawlings’ so-called Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), the very purportedly national unity and pseudo-civilian junta that ordered the abduction and summary execution of the three Ghanaian Supreme court judges and the retired Army major, I have eyed Mr. Kufuor with studied and informed suspicion, even while fairly giving the “gentle giant” the proverbial benefit of the doubt where deemed necessary and plausible.

The problem here is not that we find it to be either immitigably unsavory or outright shocking that Mr. Kufuor would claim to be fast friends with the man who has publicly, consistently and incessantly labeled the Oxford-educated lawyer a common criminal, “Ataa Ayi Kufuor,” but the fact that Mr. Kufuor should publicly have pretended to have severed all meaningful ties with the infamous Butcher-of-Dzelukope while he doggedly pursued the presidency in the name of Drs. Danquah and Busia.

The truth of the reality of matters between the two former Ghanaian premiers which those of us avid students of postcolonial Ghanaian politics unreservedly accept as such, is that whatever pretense to fast friendship by these ideological opposites is just that, sheer pretense. In all likelihood, the joint public media/press conference between Messrs. Kufuor and Rawlings was skillfully staged to highlight the historic significance of President Obama’s whirlwind tour of Ghana this past July. The disturbing dimension of such “fast friendship,” however, inheres in the fact that it has come to light just about the same moment that the Rawlings-minted ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) appears to have embarked on an eerie bout of political purgation in strikingly much the same manner that a Rawlings-led PNDC embarked on a deliberate and systematic purge of the Ghanaian judicial and civil services throughout much of the 1980s.

What is more, President Kufuor’s curious latter-term decision to confer the highest state honors on Messrs. Rawlings and Atta-Mills, while leaving absolutely no doubt about his utter contempt for the personality and remarkable contributions of Nana Akufo-Addo to Ghana’s political and judicial development, incontrovertibly affirms this Fifth-Columnist trait of Mr. Kufuor’s, a clinically inimical trait that is likely to haunt Ghanaian political culture for quite a while.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is also a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI), the pro-democracy think tank, and the author of 20 books, including “The New Scapegoats: Colored-on-Black Racism” (iUniverse.com, 2005). E-mail: okoampaahoofe@aol.com. ###

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame