13.09.2006 Feature Article

When Dancers play Historians and Thinkers - Part 12

When Dancers play Historians and Thinkers - Part 12
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If we agree, for the sake of argumentation, that the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), the first modern political party to be founded in Ghana (1947), could aptly be re-designated the United Gold Coast Conservatives, then it perfectly stands to reason to re-designate the Convention People’s Party (CPP), the first of its kind to form a government in independent Ghana (1957), as the Corrupt People’s Party.

Indeed, a critical survey of the activities of the CPP ineluctably points to the latter’s massive contribution to moral decadence in postcolonial Ghana. For the leader of the CPP, Kwame Nkrumah, was notorious for his personal and political abuse of Ghanaian women and may well be aptly credited with having singularly promoted rank infidelity and abject promiscuity. In some unofficial circles, there were even rumors to the effect that some members of Nkrumah’s cabinet and their closest associates were engaged in the orgiastic practice of wife-swapping – at the time of this writing, however, no concrete evidence to the preceding effect had been unearthed. Nonetheless, regarding Nkrumah’s apparent promotion of moral decadence Omari has written:

“The women kept him in their houses and looked after him when the police were looking…to arrest him, as when Ako Adjei’s sister hid him under her bed once during a police search. They also paid bail for him when, for lack of funds, it seemed certain [that] he would go to jail; they kept him from debt in the numerous libel cases that were brought against him. ***Nkrumah once advised his ministers to share the women of the country among them and to love them well and everything would be all right” (Kwame Nkrumah: The Anatomy of an African Dictatorship 38).

In other words, the immortalized founding father of the Convention People’s Party and the first prime minister and president of Ghana was a professional “spiv,” somebody who brazenly makes a generous and parasitic existence off the weak, vulnerable and kindly-hearted. But that Nkrumah was also reckless in his dealings with the public dole – or the proverbial taxpayer’s money – is, here again, recalled by Omari:

“He tried to pay back some of his debt to the women of Ghana by passing special legislation to admit a number of women to Parliament, and by his generous monetary ‘gifts’ to women from ‘public’ funds. It was when the women – the market women – began to complain bitterly about the unbearable conditions of life in the country, and to display publicly a hostile attitude towards Nkrumah’s regime that most Ghanaians knew, perhaps for the first time, that Nkrumah had reached the end of the political road. For when the women could not get Nkrumah to improve their lot any more, he was ‘bound to give,’ for they are an ‘immovable’ object – very formidable indeed in size, weight and spirit” (Anatomy 38).

It is thus perfectly legitimate when both Professor Kweku Folson (see “An African Tragedy” Encounter 33.1 [1969]) and Dr. T. Peter Omari poignantly and forcefully argue that an objective assessment of Nkrumah’s achievements must be more squarely predicated upon what the over-celebrated African Show Boy could have achieved, given Ghana’s massive capital resources at independence, rather than judging merely by what he could show for his fifteen-year stewardship on the eve of his auspicious overthrow in February 1966:

“Nkrumah was a leader of enormous energy and magnetism, with a possible potential for great statesmanship, but he sowed the seed for his own destruction. Perhaps this is something that other would-be great statesmen in Africa will note well. Nkrumah may well be judged so [as?] much for what he accomplished as by what he could have accomplished with the resources and opportunities that he inherited. Future historians may well conclude that Nkrumah was psychologically unstable – a coward who sought to cover up his inadequacies with power and still more power. Many of his acts can only be explained by some such mental imbalance. But unfortunately, one of his chief weaknesses was his tendency to rely on morally weak opportunists to promote his policies at home and abroad” (Anatomy 6).

The preceding notwithstanding, the author of Kwame Nkrumah: The Anatomy of an African Dictatorship (1970) laments the grim fact that almost every one of Nkrumah’s cabinet members and other henchmen was to heartily testify against the African Show Boy in the wake of his overthrow:

“His foreign minister deserted him when he was supposed to act as his representative in Addis Ababa at the Foreign Ministers’ Conference in February 1966, after the coup. His Minister of Defense and political protégé for eighteen years, Kofi Baako, at a press conference after the coup against him, declared: ‘It pained me to realize that Nkrumah was not a genuine leader but a fraud of the highest order.’ His closest adviser on African Affairs, [Michael] Dei-Anang, also realized immediately after the coup, apparently, that Nkrumah had all along been pursuing a bankrupt policy on African Unity, and was a ‘political incubus.’ Yet Dei-Anang himself had helped to enunciate such policy in one of a number of books that came to be written on Nkrumah’s role in the redemption of Ghana and Africa. The Young Pioneers, upon whom Nkrumah had lavished such devotion and such luxuries, denounced him as a false messiah even before the cock [had] crowed thrice on the very day of the revolution” (Anatomy 7).

In the end, Omari poignantly observes that Ghanaians, as a whole, are to blame for Nkrumah’s despotism. Refreshingly, however, the writer makes a significant exception of Dr. J. B. Danquah, whom the author aptly and implicitly likens to John-The-Baptist: “That Nkrumah was what might well be described as an evil genius, one might readily believe through a study of his life. But he was nevertheless a genius who, given a more sophisticated and demanding citizenry, could have been contained more successfully than was the case. No single person can perform as much good or as much destruction as Churchill, Hitler or even Nkrumah did without the vigorous or passive support and collaboration of his compatriots. It was no less a despot than Hitler who said: ‘It is a national disgrace to be ruled by a madman.’ Ghanaians must take some of the blame for allowing one man so much scope that they could virtually be enslaved through fear and cowardice. With the progressive run-down of the economy and the spread of hardship, most Ghanaians came to appreciate the evil effects of the regime. ***But, long before this, the conscience of the nation was pricked by a handful of courageous fighters who were prepared to defy detentions. Notable among these was Dr. J. B. Danquah who, almost single-handedly at one stage, fought for the liberty of the subject through the courts. Unfortunately the Supreme Court did not want to be involved in the fight” (Omari 8).

Needless to say, Dr. Danquah did far, far more than vehemently oppose President Nkrumah’s political cannibalism. For instance, as repeatedly noted, the Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics almost singularly fought for the establishment of our country’s flagship academy, the University of Ghana. It is also quite interesting to note that recently a “Zongologist,” as opposed to a full-fledged “Historian,” who claims to have graduated from the University of Ghana, Legon, vehemently denied the remarkable instrumentality of Dr. Danquah in the establishment and development of Ghana’s foremost academy. We promptly “Googled” the latest bulletin/catalog of Legon’s and, for the benefit of our readers, we hereby reproduce the introductory paragraph of the History of the University of Ghana as approved and published by the University Council as follows:

“The University of Ghana was founded in 1948 as the University College of the Gold Coast on the recommendation of the Asquith Commission on Higher Education in the then British colonies. The Asquith Commission, which was set up in 1943 to investigate Higher Education, recommended among other things, the setting up of University Colleges in association with the University of London. This was followed up by a number of separate Commissions in different regions. The West Africa Commission was under the Chairmanship of the Rt. Hon. Walter Elliot. The Elliot Commission published a majority report which recommended the establishment of two University Colleges in the Gold Coast (Ghana) and Nigeria, and a minority report which held that only one University College for the whole of British West Africa was feasible. ***The British Government at first accepted the minority report of the Elliot Commission and decided that a University College for the whole of British West Africa should be established at Ibadan in Nigeria. But the people of the Gold Coast could not accept this recommendation. LED BY THE SCHOLAR AND POLITICIAN, THE LATE DR. J. B. DANQUAH, THEY URGED THE GOLD COAST GOVERNMENT TO INFORM THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT THAT THE GOLD COAST COULD SUPPORT A UNIVERSITY COLLEGE. THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT, ACCORDINGLY, REVIEWED ITS DECISION AND AGREED TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF THE GOLD COAST.”

Indeed, one can hardly blame a professionally trained dancer who presumes himself to be a competent historian, largely based on the specious strength of his age rather than scholarship. For Mr. Zongologist has figured out that most of the readers of are under the age of 40, which means that most of them were not born at the time of Nkrumah’s ouster. Which, in turn, means that unless they are fairly well read or knowledgeable about Ghana’s postcolonial history, they may be prime – and desirable – targets of any rascal “historian’s” well-orchestrated package of historiographical mendacity. Needless to say, these rascal “historians” are almost invariably fanatical Nkrumacrats. And for a fanatical Nkrumacrat lies are the stuff of patriotic historiography, particularly if the fascist and seminal phase of postcolonial Ghanaian politics is to be successfully reprised. And here also, it goes without saying that those of us who have been privileged with the cognitive spirit of truth intend to immitigably expose and, literally, run the cormorant Nkrumacrats out of town – and in this instance, it would not matter whether these mendacious Nkrumacrats flee with their sandals or stilettos. Our unabashed mission is to run these “crazy bunk-heads”, apologies to Bob Marley, out of town. For this is the irreversible era of political democracy, not the reprise of an effete and moribund parody on Marxist-Leninism.

Omari also poignantly highlights the psychologically sterile role that Western Christianity continues to play in Ghanaian politics, particularly regarding the sadomasochistic nurturance of despotism: “Under Nkrumah, a few clergymen spoke out at different times against godlessness in public life; but, on the whole, the Church put up a weak resistance. As Dr. Conor Cruise O’Brien, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, wrote after the coup, ‘It is a joint achievement of the Tudors and the Convention People’s Party that in all Anglican churches in Ghana the congregation had prayed each Sunday, up to last Sunday, that Kwame Nkrumah may have victory over his enemies ‘spiritual and temporal.’ In accordance with a tradition which is as Anglican as it is African, it will be for the victory of his enemies that they will pray henceforth” (Anatomy 9).

Recently, when Ghana’s Minister of Tertiary Education (she has since been re-assigned) Ms. Elizabeth Ohene self-righteously deprecated the current state of Ghanaian journalism, we promptly pointed out to the Minister that in reality, there was never an era in Ghanaian political history that journalists were accorded free and creative rein. In other words, Ghanaian journalism as an unfettered business and professional enterprise never quite took off the ground. Thus those elderly pressmen and women who prefer to pontificate about the “heydays” of their practice may, indeed, be living in a fool’s paradise, particularly those who came of age during the Nkrumah era, when a dubious phenomenon called “Development Journalism” dictated that media practitioners would become servile collaborators with the government of the day rather than the traditional “Watch-Dogs” that they are supposed to be. In his quite astute survey of this sector of our national endeavor, this is what Omari had to say:

“Whatever the explanation, it seems intolerable that a country which is not totalitarian in any meaningful sense should be saddled with the tiresome trappings of an authoritarian state suggested by a lamentably poor press and state radio service. The newspapers’ editors, judging by what they print, seem to have got used to being the last people in Ghana to find out about anything that is happening. The reporting is largely confined to a slavish printing of official hand-outs buttressed by obsequious editorials and cartoons whose vulgarity surely underestimates the readers’ sophistication. The state radio, with its dreary speechifying, is equally bad, though there are some newscasters on vernacular programs who manage by subtle emphasis to convey what they think of their shoddy material” (Anatomy 9).

Interestingly, we recall herein that of the three or four Ghanaian newspapers to which we dispatched our analysis, not a single one of them published it. And here also, we must hasten to add that in the year 2006, the postcolonial Ghanaian press could be boldly said to be unarguably the freest on the African continent, perhaps, with the exception of post-Apartheid South Africa.

Indeed, it eerily appears as if Ghanaian newspaper editors and publishers have taken over from where such extortionate dictatorships as the Convention People’s Party and the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC) left off. These days, for example, there even exists a pseudo-media think-tank whose members’ main professional fare appears to be poring over both privately-owned as well as government-owned newspapers looking for expressions deemed to be verbally offensive and calling their targets to order, all in the dubious name of media decency. A new and more sophisticated form of censorship, perhaps? Your guess, of course, is as good as mine, dear reader!

Further, Omari psychoanalyzes Nkrumah and concludes with these quite insightful observations: “Nkrumah was at once brave and cowardly. For example, he was always attended by three physicians, and would never allow himself to be injected with a drug except in the presence of at least one other physician. He must be told the name of the drug in advance, shown the ampoule containing the drug with the label for his approval and the approval of other attending physicians. He never took a pill or capsule unless a new box was brought and opened in his presence. This habit he must have acquired from reading about the lives of other heads of state. But he also had no stomach for a fight or for unexpected events. When the duke of Edinburgh visited the son of Joe Appiah [i.e. Kwame Anthony Appiah] in hospital, while the father was in preventive detention, Nkrumah was shocked so badly that his stomach began to run. [Actually, it was because Kwame Anthony Appiah had directly and sternly pointed an accusing finger at Nkrumah and told the Duke of Edinburgh to ask the Ghanaian Prime Minister where his father was]. Unpleasant things upset him so much that he always had other people do his ‘dirty work’ for him – and he rewarded them appropriately. Whenever any one stood firm against him, he retreated. It is [also] true that he sought other and often dubious means later of getting his way; but that is [was?] because, in the final analysis, there were always willing Ghanaians who[m] he could use for the purpose” (Anatomy 11).

Nkrumah also created a cottage industry out of the Preventive Detention Act (PDA) by way of what may aptly be termed as a spoils system: “t became so easy for so-called activists in the CPP hierarchy to demand and receive ‘dashes,’ payments in [the form of] money or in kind [i.e. sex and other services] from people who could ill afford to part with their meager earnings, under the pretext of striking their names off detention rolls” (Anatomy 11).

In the final analysis, the author of Kwame Nkrumah: The Anatomy of an African Dictatorship urgently calls for the prompt cultivation of an organic spirit of confidence on the part of the Ghanaian citizenry at large, especially if the nation is to witness progress at all levels of endeavor in the offing: “Only a child would so interpret recent Ghanaian history as to so believe that everything is going to be all right [merely] because Nkrumah has been overthrown. The same people who have shouted ‘traitor’ about Nkrumah since the coup were shouting ‘redeemer’ to him before. Intellectuals who are now expounding what went wrong had before this time been incapable of putting their erudition to use[,] for fear of jeopardizing their privileged positions. At independence in 1957, the universities were crying for academic freedom; nevertheless they were unprepared to meet the genuine aspirations and requirements of the government that established them, and were content only to imitate an Oxford or Cambridge University until the government got fed up and began to intimidate them. The same Ghanaians that made Nkrumah are living in Ghana today. Perhaps now Ghanaians can breathe more freely because the ‘tyrant’ has [is?] gone. But the euphoria soon wears off, and the realities of life must be faced again” (Anatomy 14).

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (, 2005).

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