Why Ghanaians Should be Grateful to Rawlings and Nkrumah

Sun, 14 Nov 2004 Source: Jeffrey, Peter Nee

Since the colonialists left Africa to its fate in the 1960s, Ghana is among the only few countries south of the Sahara that has virtually escape all the civil strife that have engulf the whole sub continent and is still burning furiously. The on going crisis in Ivory Coast is a case in point.

Since the ex British colony in the West Coast of Africa, formerly known as the Gold Coast gained its independence from her colonial masters, the two people who have helped shaped the country?s future were its two former presidents, Late Dr Kwame Nkrumah and ex-President Jerry John Rawlings.

When Dr Nkrumah, who was one of the few respected political philosophers to have emerged from Africa, led his country to independence from the British colonial rule, embarked on a social programme based on his political ideology of unifying a country with diverse cultures and different languages including the then Trans Volta Togo land.

To neutralise the few trouble makers in the Ashanti Kingdom who were advocating for federation, Dr Nkrumah created the Brong Ahafo Region in the heart of the country and promoted lesser traditional rulers as paramount chiefs. Thus Chiefs like Nana Agyeman Badu of Dormaa Ahenkrom were encouraged to actively express their views in the national arena.

Dr Nkrumah also encourage inter marriages between tribes who previously were sworn enemies in order to foster development, harmonisation and peaceful co-existence.

In the field of education, Dr Nkrumah realised that in order to achieve his cherish goal of rapid industrialisation under the Import Substitution Strategy, then educational development should be evenly spread right across the country. To achieve this Dr Nkrumah implemented free education in the northern half of the country and some districts in the former Trans Volta Togo Land. He also established a scholarship scheme for the cocoa growing farmers of the country. Perhaps his greatest achievement of all was the Young Pioneer Movement. The aims and objectives of the movement were foremost to ensure that was educated, ensure unity among children from different tribes and backgrounds living side by side. Although this policy was condemned by Dr Nkrumah?s detractors mainly to gain political points, and some even accused Dr Nkrumah of using children to spy on their parents, the policy to some degree was a huge success. Because membership requires every that every child is enrolled in school, and because of Dr Nkrumah?s charisma, majority of mothers were happy to have their children enrolled to join the Young Pioneer movement, and thus enrolled to go to school. Despite his failures in other spheres of his social development, his successes in fostering peaceful co-existence through his active inter marriages programme has stood the test of time as the crisis in the West Africa sub-Region bear witness.

Countries where such programmes were implemented disintegrated, such as the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda when the original architects left the stage. Thus almost decades after his death, groups who were previously marginalised have come to the fore. In Ghana no party can win power without the inclusion of our northern and Voltarian compatriots. This is one legacy that Dr Nkrumah bestowed on his country. In the case of ex-President Rawlings, most commentators would ask what he has done to be grateful of. Well, when the country was on the verge of anarchy in the early 1980s as results of misrule by previous military juntas, he single handily save the country from the brink of total collapse. This was the period that many of his country men and women could not stand the hunger and decided to leave to seek greener pastures else where on the continent and abroad.

Ghana was the only country that lost most of its skill labour. In Diaspora, Ghanaians were ashamed to be associated with their homeland. It was also around this period that many ex-President Rawlings compatriots were expelled from neighbouring countries. He personally helped in the evacuation of his countrymen and women, some pregnant, and others with young children and their belongings. The site of these helpless citizens moved ex-President Rawlings, and as a disciplined and professional military man as he was known, he broke down in tears. The humanity shown by ex-President Rawlings and his adoption of the drastic Bretton Woods Structural Programmes to help uplift his country was phenomenal.

These policies and the strategies Rawlings adopted to implement them have been criticised by many commentators. However, without the measures Rawlings took, aided by able technocrats such as Dr Kwesi Botchway, Ohene Kane and others Ghana would have ended up as those countries in the sub-Region, including Ivory Coast where civil war has become the norm. The most important achievement of ex-President?s rule was the link he established with compatriots who left the country in the 1980s, the so called ?Lost Decade? for sub-Saharan Africa. The Skill migrants? remittances is now said to be totalling $1.5 billion dollars per annum. He also peacefully handed over power when his party lost the 2000 elections to the then opposition NPP, a first in a continent where politicians use political power to enrich themselves and their cronies.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Jeffrey, Peter Nee

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