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What Gabby Did Not Say (About Nkrumah) In America

What Gabby Did Not Say (About Nkrumah) In America

Mon, 27 Sep 2010 Source: Thompson, Nii-Moi

Here is a response to Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko's recent diatribe against

Nkrumah in America.

A recent lecture purportedly given by the executive director of the Accra-based

Danquah Institute, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, to “students and professors” at

“Pennsylvania University” in the United States, and given wide publicity by the

Ghanaian media and in cyberspace on the basis of a write-up by the institute, is

remarkable not so much for what he said as what he didn’t say. (If you are

wondering why I used so many quotation marks, it is because I couldn’t find

“Pennsylvania University” on the internet).

Ethics and good conscience require that Gabby should have started his lecture

with a full disclosure along the following lines: “Students and professors of

Pennsylvania University, the institute that I head back in my country Ghana (not

to be confused with Guyana in South America) is named after a great grand-uncle

of mine, J. B. Danquah, who was also a political adversary, nay opponent, of

Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first prime minister-stroke-president. What you are

about to hear therefore is a gutted and bastardized version of Ghanaian

history. Take it or leave it.”

Such brutal honesty would have endeared Gabby to his audience and maybe – just

maybe – preserved his reputation and that of his “policy institute”.

He then could have proceeded as follows, kind of:

Ladies and gentlemen, in this lecture about how Ghana and Africa came to be

emblems of 20th century decay, I will make many claims, some of them false, but

I will make them nonetheless. I will claim, for instance, that Nkrumah won the

referendum for one-party state in 1964 by 99.91%. That’s a lie. I know it. As

the executive director of a policy institute, I must. And I guess some of you

do, too. But I can’t help it. All my life, that’s what I’ve been told, and as

Hitler’s propaganda chief, Goebbels, once said, a lie repeated enough times

eventually takes on a life of its own and becomes revealed truth. And since I am

here to vilify Nkrumah, not to sanctify him, who better to inspire me than


In any case, 99.9% is a cute number that can be useful in many situations. If I

were to ask how many of you had, before today, heard of J. B. Danquah, chances

are 99.9% of you would say you hadn’t. But were I to ask a similar question

about Nkrumah, I’m sure 99.9% of you would say you had.

Such is the beauty of 99.9%: It can be used to educate or obfuscate, depending

on the motives of the user. You are free to speculate on my motives if you

want, but frankly I don’t give a damn (pardon my feeble attempt at


The correct figure for the referendum, if I may be truthful for a fleeting

moment, is 86.8%. You see, in 1964, there were 3,000,000 registered voters, out

of which 2,603,223 voted “yes” amidst intimidation and calls by the opposition

for its supporters to boycott the referendum, which explains why there were

“nil” votes in some opposition strongholds.

But even the 86.8% might be too high for some of you, especially Americans, who

gave us the catchphrase “too close to call” in 2000 and then stood helplessly by

as your supreme court brazenly robbed Al to pay George.

But in the case of Nkrumah, you have to understand that his Convention People’s

Party (CPP) was no ordinary political party; it was a mass movement with a track

record of clobbering the opposition at the polls even when the British were in

charge and had an abiding dislike for Nkrumah and the CPP.

In the 1950 municipal elections, for example, the CPP won landslide victories in

Accra, Cape Coast, and Kumasi, heartland of the opposition. But, as we say in

Ghana, that was only the “comedies”. In the 1951 legislative assembly

elections, the CPP again made mince meat of my people, winning 34 out of 38

seats and leaving the party of my ancestors, the United Gold Coast Convention

(UGCC), in the dust with only two seats. We swore back then that Nkrumah would

pay for such humiliation, in life and in death, through fair or foul means; it’s

a political blood feud we are determined to carry into eternity and I’m grateful

that you have given me the platform today to do just that. I thank you in the

name of my forebears.

But the story gets even more humiliating, you see. From behind bars, where the

British had sent him before the elections for publishing seditious material

against the colonial government of the Great Queen of England (may God the

Merciful bless her and grant her eternal life), Nkrumah won a stunning 98.5% of

the vote for the Accra Central seat (22,780 out of 23,122). And he wasn’t even

from Accra! Nor did he campaign. The bloke sat on his backside in prison and

with the sheer power of his reputation pulled an electoral stunner. To not hate

such a person is to not be human. And I’m human (at least I think I am), so I’m

here to hate Nkrumah with every fiber in my body. I thank you for giving me the

platform to do that.

I must say, though, that Uncle J.B. also won his seat, if only barely – as did

my other uncle, William Ofori-Atta: The former got 95 out of 180 votes

(52.8%), while the latter managed an 87-83 win, or 51.2%. A third opposition

member, K.A. Busia (thus the name Danquah-Busia Tradition, which my party in

Ghana uses as a proxy for ideology), lost out completely but managed to worm his

way into the assembly through one of the seats reserved for the Ashanti

Confederacy Council.

In the wake of that crushing defeat, the UGCC, drawing upon all its intellectual

and financial capital, embarked on a kind of restructuring, including change of

name to Ghana Congress Party (which soon morphed into the National Liberation

Movement (NLM), which later became part of the United Party).

In the agony of defeat and confusion of reorganization, the British, against the

selfless opposition of my ancestors, released Nkrumah, then only 42 years old,

and made him leader of government business and later prime minister of the first

African-led government of the Gold Coast. I don’t know what the British were

drinking or smoking back then but to put a whole country in the hands of

rabble-rouser of lowly birth like Nkrumah was, in my view, the height of folly.

In his book, Dark Days in Ghana, Nkrumah, boastful as usual, suggests that in

five years he did more for the Gold Coast than the British did in over a hundred

years. He claims, for example, that he spent £117.6 million mostly on

infrastructure development, compared to the £75 million that the British

half-heartedly planned to spend over 10 years. I have no proof to the

contrary, but as a policy I don’t believe anything Nkrumah says. I insist that

you do same.

Then came 1954, when the British, bowing to opposition pressure, organized

another election to give my ancestors a chance to redeem themselves at the

polls. However, fate was not on their side and both of my uncles lost their

seats. The good news is that Busia won his. Our detractors say he did so by

only 11 votes, but who cares? A win is a win is a win. Period.

It wasn’t my intention to share details of the results of that election with

you, but in the interest of academic fairness, I will. And so here we go – by

the number of seat won per party: CPP: 71; Northern People’s Party: 12;

Togoland Congress: 2; Ghana Congress Party: 1; Muslim Association Party: 1;

Anlo Youth Association: 1; and Independents: 16.

When Nkrumah tried to cash in the results of the elections for independence, we

were quick to put up another stumbling block: A demand for another election in

1956. He opposed it but we insisted and eventually convinced the British to

organize the election. We had done our homework (or so we thought) and were

sure that this time around we would trounce that rascal and his verandah boys.

But once again, we fell short and the CPP won an impressive two-thirds of the

vote. The fact that Uncle J.B. lost yet again is irrelevant to this lecture,

and so I won’t mention it. Nkrumah must remain our focus.

After the 1956 electoral massacre, my people abandoned the idea of independence

altogether and instead began agitating for the country to be carved up into tiny

unsustainable federal fiefdoms – just to spite and frustrate Nkrumah. The CPP

again resisted and again we persisted until they eventually settled for

“regional assemblies” to placate us. That’s how Ghana eventually won its

independence in 1957 – March 6th, to be precise.

At this point, you are probably wondering how an opposition party headed by

blue-bloods of the highest academic and financial pedigree would implode so

dramatically at every election to the point of legislative irrelevance.

I will let Joe Appiah, a most implacable foe of Nkrumah’s, tell you in his own

words: The CPP, Uncle Joe once told a journalist in the 1980s, “were prepared

to sleep on verandahs with the boys, popularly called Verandah Boys because most

of them were sleeping on verandahs at the time. And when they went down to the

villages, they went down with them together…sang their songs…drank palm wine at

the street bars, street corners, with them and generally threw their lot with

them at all times and at all places. Now, this Danquah and others were not

prepared to do. Nor indeed would they have been proved honest if they had

attempted to do it because it just didn’t suit them, it wasn’t in their

character, it wasn’t in their make-up, and they could not pretend to be with

them in those directions without exposing their own hypocrisy.”

I’d rather not comment on Uncle Joe’s treasonous assessment of my uncle and his

hard-working colleagues. I just thought you should know that we had our fair

share of traitors in the opposition.

Some Marxists in my country have cast our holy crusades against Nkrumah as some

sort of a class war between plebeians and patricians. Whatever it was, my

people decided that if we could not govern Ghana, we would make Ghana

ungovernable. Back home, we call that “Konongo kaya”. Here you call it “dog in

a manger”. Well, we were rabid dogs in a manger!

We adopted several strategies to attain our aim. First, my people spread rumors

that Nkrumah was in fact a Liberian, not qualified to be in the Gold Coast much

less govern anybody. When that didn’t fly, we turned to violence. But our

bomb throwers were a lousy bunch who couldn’t even piss straight, much less kill

Nkrumah. Instead, they were killing and maiming little school children around

him. Of course, I blame Nkrumah for such tragedies; he had no business

allowing little children around him. He should have been alone at all times.

In the 1960 presidential elections, Uncle J. B. made one more desperate attempt

at electoral redemption but, as in the two previous attempts, he fell woefully

short of his objective, gathering only 10% of the vote. But, again, I am here

to demonize Nkrumah not to point up the shortcomings of my relatives, so let’s

stay on course, shall we.

Finally, the CIA – your CIA – heard our cries and came to our aid. On February

24, 1966, with their financial and intelligence assistance, we managed to

overthrow Nkrumah while he was away from the country. The National Liberation

Council (NLC) (does that name sound familiar?) finally liberated the people of

Ghana from the suffocating tentacles of the dictator Nkrumah.

One of the first acts of the NLC was to scrap Nkrumah’s obnoxious Preventive

Detention Act (PDA) (under which Uncle J.B. was jailed as part of a broader

crackdown on what Nkrumah called opposition subversives) and replace it with the

Preventive Custody Decree (PCD), which we implemented with military efficiency.

In a matter of months, we had imprisoned more Ghanaians without trial than

Nkrumah did under the eight-year run of the PDA. We figured that to liberate,

we had to incarcerate. And incarcerate we did! It’s a tribute to the

efficiency of our propaganda machine that today almost nobody remembers the PCD

but everybody, especially our lazy and gullible journalists, knows about the

PDA. They bring it up any time Nkrumah is mentioned. God bless Goebbels.

Where we took pity on saboteurs, real or imagined, we simply put them in cages

and paraded them through the streets of Accra to remind the public who was in

charge and what can befall them if they dared say anything unkind about the new

and improved Ghana. When Nkrumah’s agents tried to liberate Ghanaians from our

“liberators”, we lined them up at the beach and blew their brains out.

Sometimes you need elimination in order to preserve liberation. We introduced

the virus of firing squad into Ghanaian politics, so don’t believe J.J. Rawlings

when lays claim to that. He’s a liar – like Nkrumah.

But there was one last Nkrumah problem that we had to deal with before we felt a

full sense of accomplishment, which was to destroy his efficient organizational

machine, which remained in the hearts and minds of Ghanaians, and pave the way

for the federalist Busia to lead a unified and unitary Ghana – the very thing he

had spent his adult life opposing. We devised a clever scheme, which was to ban

anything Nkrumah – his name, his picture, his books, his party, and then seize

the party’s properties across the country. We gave the terms “democracy,

freedom of speech, and freedom of expression” a new meaning to suit our agenda.

Predictably, Busia “won” the 1969 elections. What we couldn’t achieve through

honest means, we finally did through subterfuge.

We had hoped that with Nkrumah gone, we would be able to give Ghanaians the

paradise that he had so cruelly denied them. Our detractors say we failed and

they use all sorts of dubious methods to prove their case. In 1962, for

example, they say, Ghana’s per capita income was 64.0% higher than South

Korea’s. By 1966, when we struck, that had gone up to about 80.0%. In 1967

the figure fell to 64.3%, roughly what it was five years earlier. By 1969, when

Busia become prime minister, Ghana’s per capita income had actually fallen

below that of South Korea’s, where it has remained ever since with the gap

between the two growing ever wider.

As of 2008, Ghana’s per capita income was a measly 3.1% of South Korea’s. Or,

stated differently, South Korea’s per capita income was 3,113.4% (three thousand

one-hundred and thirteen point four percent) higher than Ghana’s. Hard to

believe but painfully true.

And whom do we blame for this messy state of affairs? Nkrumah, of course. If

he had not impoverished Ghanaians, we would not have overthrown him, and if we

had not overthrown him, Ghana’s economy would not have gone to the dogs the way

it has since 1966. Indeed, in all likelihood, Ghana today would have been way

ahead of South Korea. But such is life: You take risks and when you mess up,

you blame your “enemies”. It’s convenient.

So no matter how you slice or dice it, we blame Nkrumah for Ghana’s woes, and I

hail my ancestors as heroes. No intellectual worth his salt would reach any

other conclusion.

Time will not allow me to extend my thesis to the African continent, as I had

promised to, but rest-assured that on the eve of the next so-called founder’s

day, I will be back here to the great Pennsylvania University (or whatever you

call yourselves) and continue the political blood feud that my ancestors started

decades ago. As in life, so shall it be in death: We will never let Nkrumah

have his peace of mind.

In the name of the Great J.B. Danquah – even if only two people, including

myself, had heard of him before today’s lecture – I wish you all God’s speed and

a safe trip back to your dorms and homes. (Yes, I believe in God, which is why I

never tell lies or contradict myself. Ever!) But watch out for so-called

Nkrumahists, those fanatical followers of a dead man, who would come telling you

that they have a better history of Ghana than I do. Like their icon, they too

are liars. Ignore them.

Thank you for your attention and understanding.

Credit: Nii Moi Thompson (niimoi@yahoo.com)

Columnist: Thompson, Nii-Moi