31.08.2006 Feature Article

When Dancers play Historians and Thinkers - Part 10

When Dancers play Historians and Thinkers - Part 10
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No authoritative or intellectually enriching study of postcolonial Ghanaian politics would be complete without a critical examination of T. Peter Omari's Kwame Nkrumah: The Anatomy of an African Dictatorship (New York: Africana Publishing Corporation, 1970). And so, it is to the preceding treatise that we now turn.

The two epigraphs to this book highlight the respective ideological suasions of Mr. Kwame Nkrumah and Dr. J. B. Danquah. For Nkrumah, laws are a veritable instrument almost exclusively reserved for the manipulation of populist leaders. In other words, the ordinary individual in society has no fundamental human rights as such, except those, if any, determined by the Supreme Ruler as redounding to the collective benefit of “society as a whole,” where society is unmistakably defined as personified by the Head-Chief or, in the case of Nkrumah, the elected dictator: “Our laws must be divorced from society. While they must aim at safeguarding the freedom, the happiness and the prosperity of the individual citizen, they must not lose sight of the interests of society as a whole.”

In brief, it is rather bizarrely paradoxical to insist, as Nkrumah does in the preceding quote, on the fundamental “inorganicity” of laws governing society and within the same ideological breath, or purview, assert that the same laws which are supposedly extraneous to the intricate dynamics of society must be applied to the cause of “safeguarding the freedom, the happiness and the prosperity of the individual citizen.” In other words, the ideology of Nkrumahism, as propagated and practiced by Kwame Nkrumah squarely aimed to proscribe the legal significance of the individual Ghanaian even while brazenly pretending to be operating in our collective interests.

And if, indeed, the preceding hermeneutical purview has validity, then either Nkrumah and his ideological disciples and criminal accomplices took the average Ghanaian citizen for an intellectual (or cognitive) basket case, or they woefully had no remarkable appreciation for the significance and role of laws in societal governance.

In this section of our discourse, it is our firm contention that the history of the Convention People's Party (CPP) points clearly towards an even combination of both of the preceding observations – that is, the fact that the ideological praxis of Nkrumahism is absolutely no respecter of the fundamental human rights of individuals and society as a whole. For Nkrumahism is about “populism,” and populism is essentially the unctuous and pontifical eulogizing of the proverbial “masses,” even as the statal or national government staunchly pursues an elitist agenda of cronyism. And since Nkrumahism brazenly posits a total “divorcement” of laws from “society,” it stands to reason that this bizarre breed of political pseudo-theory would be averse to a salutary democratic culture.

Thus, it is only to be expected that in riposte to such schizophrenic Nkrumahist abstraction, Dr. Danquah was to poignantly and perspicuously observe as follows: “Who are the components of 'the whole'? If you destroy all the individuals by taking away their rights, for whom do you keep the 'interests of society as a whole'? The idea that society is an end in itself must have caused the French King to ask: 'The State? Who is the State? I am the State!'”
No wonder then that in his quite instructive mini-essay titled “Nkrumah: The Leninist Czar,” renowned Kenyan political scientist Ali A. Mazrui made the following observation of “practical Nkrumahism”: “Yet, briefly, it was after Ghana's independence that Nkrumah's concept of organization became more clearly Leninist. The 'masses' were eulogized by CPP party ideologues right up to the end, but the party became increasingly elitist de facto. It got beyond even that, as authority became personified in Nkrumah himself. And in the end, the CPP betrayed the very principle of organization on the basis of which it had once prevailed over its opponents” (Transition 26 [1966]: 11).

In his quite insightful “Foreword” to Omari's authoritative treatise “Kwame Nkrumah: The Anatomy of an African Dictatorship” (1970), renowned Ghanaian jurist and a sometime close political associate of President Nkrumah, Nii Amaa Ollennu, eloquently shores up our firm contention that the proverbial African Show Boy's understanding of the political culture of “democracy” made absolutely no room for the fundamental human rights of the individual. In essence, those fanatical Nkrumacrats and their sympathizers who naively claim that their hero was a genius “ahead of his time” are not only grossly wrong in their rather ill-informed assessment of their man, but they may need to promptly and thoroughly revisit and revise such ahistorical assessment. For in the words of Justice Ollennu, Nkrumah's perspective on modern politics appears to have been more intimately aligned with nineteenth-century proto-Marxism than the civilized, cosmopolitan milieu of the twentieth century.

In other words, rather than being deemed a genius, Nkrumah was the veritable product of a feudalist culture. And this may, at least, partly explain his pathological confusion of traditional African “Communalism” with the Marxist-Leninist breed of “Communism,” a patently inorganic but expedient tool of populist dictatorships. To this effect, Justice Ollennu observes: “The difference between the rule of law which is justice [and that to which Dr. Danquah staunchly subscribed] and that which is 'socialist legality' pure and simple, [and that which Nkrumah servilely endorsed and religiously employed], proceeds from two different concepts of democracy. In the one kind of democracy, power is placed in the hands of the majority, with entrenched fundamental rights for all, including minorities; these rights are guaranteed by free elections at reasonably frequent intervals or in an emergency, whereby the people's likes or dislikes of the laws passed or policies pursued by their representatives can be expressed. The other democracy is based upon the Marxist doctrine [the parent ideology of Nkrumahism] that 'the individual as such has no rights,' but that his interest must always be subordinated to a policy of what amounts to a small hierarchy selected not by the free choice of the people, but by a ruling party which itself is not selected by the people” (Omari xv).

In the main, Justice Ollennu's argument has what might be termed as logical finesse or cognitive éclat. The problem, however, is that the overall thesis of the celebrated Ghanaian legal authority on traditional African land-tenure system and former Acting President of Ghana during the 2nd Republic (from August 7-31, 1970) has a bizarre edge of abject hypocrisy and historiographical evasiveness to it. For instance, Mr. Ollennu remarks, rather disingenuously and at length as follows: “Again, Nkrumah in his discretion, dismissed judges of the superior courts. But in that regard also he acted constitutionally in pursuance of powers vested in him by the proviso to Article 45 section 3 of the Constitution as amended by Act 224 section 6 of 1964…. Looked at in this light, the arbitrary detention and other oppressive measures employed by Nkrumah must be regarded as in conformity with the spirit of the Magna Carta; and all the steps taken by Nkrumah were constitutional, and provided such freedom as the law of the land guaranteed. But in actual fact every Ghanaian who lived under the Nkrumah regime knew that he had no freedom and justice, and all non-Ghanaians who knew what freedom is had no doubts that there was no freedom in Ghana under Nkrumah” (Omari xiv).

First of all, Justice Ollennu ought to have candidly informed his readers that as a member of the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly during the early 1950s, when Dr. Danquah urgently called for the establishment of a bi-cameral parliamentary system for an independent Ghana, in order to serve as a healthy check on an emergent Nkrumah dictatorship, Nii Amaa Ollennu was the only one of the two Accra representatives in the Legislative Assembly who vehemently voted against the measure. And not only that, Mr. Ollennu cynically taunted the Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics for having even fathomed such a motion. Needless to say, when Dr. Danquah's proposal was put to a vote, the Doyen heavily lost (see “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana”).

And here, also, we must quickly recall the fact that the other Accra representative in the Legislative Assembly, Dr. Nanka-Bruce, a man of great integrity and dignity – and also one who was described as, perhaps, the best-dressed gentleman in the Assembly, a man of impeccable foresight, stood to be counted, by voting with Dr. Danquah. And so did another of the representatives, Dr. I. B. Asafu-Adjaye, a representative from Asante Province, side with Dr. Danquah.

Secondly, rather than hold the entire Ghanaian electorate responsible by excusing the avoidable political excesses of the African Show Boy on the dubious grounds of “constitutionality” or parliamentary legality, Mr. Ollennu, here again, ought to have apprised his readers of the glaring fact that by 1964, President Nkrumah had, literally, run the entire parliamentary opposition out of Ghana's National Assembly, with the distinguished leader of the parliamentary opposition, Dr. K. A. Busia, forcibly exiled in Britain; this, indeed, was also the year that the African Show Boy declared Ghana to be a one-party state and himself the country's Life-President. And to be certain, this was the whole gimmick behind Nkrumah's devious and swift move in declaring Ghana a Republic in 1960. For having comfortably established himself as an inveterate enemy of parliamentary democracy, indeed democracy of any sort, breed or shade, the African Show Boy deemed the democratic protocol of the Prime Minister reporting periodically to Parliament to account for his stewardship to be patently incongruous with his temperament as a Machiavellian dictator. It couldn't, in any way, have been that the supposedly anti-imperialist Nkrumah wanted to disengage Ghana from any dealings with the dinosaur that was the British Commonwealth of Nations; for as Ali Mazrui aptly pointed out, the African Show Boy was madly in love with British imperialism, particularly his apparently pathological and psychological need to pleasing Her Royal Highness the Queen of England. In sum, this is what Professor Mazrui had to say on this matter:

“Nevertheless, Nkrumah did have a flamboyance which was, to a certain extent, comparable to that of many American Negroes at the time of the Reconstruction following the Civil War. A keenly felt sense of racial humiliation now exploded into a self-assertion which was partly exhibitionist. The monarchical tendency was an aspect of this.

“But the monarchical style of African politics has other subsidiary causes in the colonial experience. In British Africa one subsidiary case was the British royal tradition itself. The myth of imperial splendor came to be so intimately connected with the myth of Royalty that the link was conceptually inherited by the African themselves. The process of political socialization in colonial schools kept on reaffirming that allegiance to the Empire was allegiance to the British monarch at the same time. This inculcation of awe towards the British royal family left some mark on even the most radical African nationalists. When the Queen appointed Nkrumah as Privy Councillor soon after Ghana's independence, Nkrumah had the following to say to his own people following the appointment: -

“ 'As you know, during my visit to Balmoral I had the honor of being made a member of the Queen's Privy Council. As the first African [Read: “Head-Nigger” or “Afropean”] to be admitted into this great Council of State, I consider it an honor not only to myself, but also to the people of Ghana and to peoples of Africa and of African descent everywhere.'” (“Nkrumah: The Leninist Czar” 15).

To the preceding, Ali Mazrui acutely and painfully observes: “The [ironic] tendency of African nationalists to be flattered by the Royal favors of the British monarch is perhaps what made Dr. John Holmes of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs come to the conclusion that Africans seem to have a fondness for Queens” (Mazrui 15). Of course, the imagery of “Queen” is an understatement with overtones of a double-entendre vis-à-vis our subject of discourse.

The joke, of course, was on a largely illiterate and unsuspecting Ghanaian electorate. And to be certain, in 1960, when Dr. Danquah heroically decided to contest the presidency against the African Show Boy, it was primarily in order that the Doyen might be able to reverse the evidently ruinous political path onto which the newly re-designated ( and redecorated?) President Nkrumah was steering the country.

And for those of our readers who might not recognize the difference, re-designating himself as an “Executive President” implied that the constitutional powers of Mr. Nkrumah would far exceed that of Ghana's National Assembly, instead of vice-versa (see also S. K. B. Asante's 2002 J. B. Danquah Memorial Lectures Series). Dr. Danquah lost the 1960 presidential election squarely on the flagrant grounds of rigging, rather than the Ghanaian electorate – which by now was beginning to wise up to Nkrumah's charlatanical antics – considering him to be micro-nationalistic. Otherwise, how does any critical thinker explain away the fact that both the Akan-dominated National Liberation Movement (NLM) and the Northern People's Party (the original NPP), which in the opinion of many an ardent Nkrumacrat was insuperably anti-Akan, dispatch a joint resolution to the British Colonial Secretary cautioning the Crown against a possible Nkrumah win of the 1956 election? But even far more significant is the fact that the predominantly Ewe Volta Region of Ghana went for Danquah during the 1960 presidential election; the Doyen defeated Nkrumah in the Volta Region by 90-percentage points to Nkrumah's 10-percent. How so? We ask the “de-tribalized,” Nkrumacratic Pan-Africanists.

Lest anybody be fooled by the gratuitous Nkrumacratic notion that the landmark overthrow of the Convention People's Party is a regrettable blotch, or blight, on Ghana's political landscape, this is what Justice Nii Amaa Ollennu, an original member of Nkrumah's Presidium of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, had to observe on this very matter: “The revolution of February 24th, 1966, calls for a change of heart; for a new and better nationalism and patriotism and for aspiration to higher ideals by the nation than were set by Nkrumah. Nkrumah was concerned to impress the world with his greatness and the legality of all his measures. At the beginning, the masses believed in the sincerity of his motives and the rightness of his course [and, perhaps, also his publicly stated cause]; they therefore rallied round him in their thousands and millions, and voted him into power with a national assembly which, at the request of Nkrumah, so amended the Constitution that in the end one of the main principles of the Constitution, 'one man one vote,' which Nkrumah described as the keynote of the Constitution, was abandoned for a new principle: 'one man all votes'” (Omari xvii-xviii).

And, perhaps, even more significantly, Nii Amaa Ollennu calls Ghana's electorate to a far higher standard of political culture than both Nkrumah and his acolytes could ever fathom: “The life of Nkrumah and the history of our nation under the Nkrumah regime teach us that principles superior to [deliberately and expediently staged] legality and constitutionality, and ideals nobler than political power, are required to guide our leaders and people if we should have true freedom and justice. They also teach us that, if we should attain true greatness and prosperity, we must go back to certain fundamentals which Ghanaians and mankind in general cherish dearly: policies which ensure maintenance of the dignity and the security of the State while concurrently upholding the sacredness of the human personality; the dignity and the worth of the individual and the value of each individual to the nation and the world; and, above all, acknowledgment of a spiritual basis of society, with an ever-increasing consciousness that each man is his brother's keeper” (Omari xviii).

But that the salubrious ouster of President Nkrumah and his ineffably venal Convention People's Party posse marked the definitive banishment of vintage neocolonialism, is cast by Nii Amaa Ollennu in these sanguine terms: “The events of February 24, 1966, in Ghana have given us a second chance to demonstrate the true spirit of our motto 'Freedom and Justice': freedom from ignorance, freedom from disease, freedom from want, freedom from regimentation, freedom from subversive action against our nation and against other nations; freedom to make a worthy contribution to the world's civilization, freedom to do and dare what we know is true and fair and, above all, freedom to make God [not the African Show Boy] the foundation of our nation, that in His righteousness we as individuals and as a nation may dwell secure” (Omari xix).

For deliberately untutored and pseudo-Afrocentrists, but for the grace of Nkrumah's untold tyranny Ghanaians would still be languishing in massive and abject illiteracy and disease. The problem with such patently obtuse and ahistorical sacrilege inheres in the fact that, indeed, for every Kwame Nkrumah University of Science And Technology (KNUST), we have a Danquah-championed University of Ghana and an Akyem-Akuapem-facilitated Presbyterian Teachers' Training College (PTC). Indeed, Justice Nii Amaa Ollennu was the vintage product of Akropong PTC, not KNUST. And for good measure, an Ofori-Atta I-founded All-Gold Coast and Ghana-servicing Abuakwa State College, the proto-model of the modern Ghanaian Secondary School. And, in fact, when Nkrumah met Kojo Botsio, the latter was tutoring at the prestigious Abuakwa State College (ABUSCO).

And for every Tetteh Quarshie Memorial Hospital built under CPP tenure is an unmistakable J. B. Danquah signature in the form of a morally constructive and intellectually enlightened petition. And, perhaps, the deliberately untutored may do themselves and the rest of their wet-eared audience a lot of good by reading the developmental agenda of the Danquah-led Gold Coast Youth Conference – particularly regarding the provision of free education and health to Gold Coasters, a Paa Willie Ofori-Atta handiwork, to be precise. The fact of the matter, in the final analysis, is that almost anybody can fabricate any number and volume of myths and pure lies, in the name of HISTORY – about a SALT-PEDDLING AKYEMFO, for instance. But at the end of the day, TRUTH CANNOT AND CAN NEVER BE FABRICATED. Whose truth? You may well ask: That in which the sterling likes of Adu-Boahen, Ali Mazrui, Nii Amaa Ollennu, Addo-Fening and Okoampa-Ahoofe believe.

Then again, who wants to read a “HISTOROID” book written by a tribal nationalist and an impudent plagiarist of tribal poetry who self-righteously declares himself to be: “FIRST AND FOREMOST AN EWE BEFORE A GHANAIAN?”

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. His tenth and eleventh forthcoming books of poetry are titled “Romantic Explorations” and “Abena Aninwaa: Letters To My Daughter” (iUniverse, 2006).

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