06.10.2006 Feature Article

When Dancers play Historians and Thinkers - Part 16

When Dancers play Historians and Thinkers - Part 16
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The name of the Accra-based Ga Shifimo Kpee, or the Ga Standfast Organization, has been indiscriminately bandied about by ardent Nkrumacrats who either have no respect for meticulous and systematic scholarship on postcolonial Ghanaian historiography, or woefully underestimate the critical-thinking faculties of their fellow Ghanaian readers and even their general sympathizers. Thus in Part IV of his anti-Danquah counter-series presumptuously titled “The Fallacies of J. B. Danquah’s Heroic Legacy,” Kwame Botwe-Asamoah writes: “After the passage of the Avoidance [of Discrimination] Act [Bill?], the anti-Nkrumah movement, the Ga-Shifimo Kpee, was formally launched in Accra, where a sheep was slaughtered and oaths were sworn against all strangers [foreigners?], including Nkrumah[,] who was accused of encumbering a Ga constituency seat. Strangely, Danquah and S. G. Antor [an Ewe leader, Member of Parliament and leading opinion shaper of the Togoland Congress] were in attendance. From then on, the organization’s young wing, the Tokyo Joes, thronged themselves at vantage points in Accra hooting and jeering at Nkrumah and the CPP leaders. After a trip from abroad [exactly where?], Nkrumah was met with placards reading: ‘Welcome Mr. Dictator….” (Ghana 8/30/06).

First of all, to an unsuspecting reader of the preceding quote, the patently and legitimately irredentist Ga-Shifimo Kpee (or the Ga Standfast Organization) appears to be a terrorist organization, almost on the same order and about the same mission as the CPP Action Troopers. And, needless to say, quite a number of Nkrumacrat pseudo-scholars have almost succeeded in portraying the Ga-Shifimo Kpee as such. Interestingly, however, as Fitch and Oppenheimer point out, the Ga-Shifimo Kpee, championed by the erudite and distinguished Hutton-Mills family, was an organic institution which operated similarly to the erstwhile Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society (ARPS), in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the Fante littoral – or Fante coastal regions. And like the latter, in principle, the Ga-Shifimo Kpee was founded with the inviolable mission of restraining Nkrumah and his CPP attack-dogs from grossly misinterpreting their postcolonial, electoral mandate to imply the massive and indiscriminate expropriation – or seizure – of Ga traditional lands for the exclusive use and benefit of Nkrumah and his cronies: “Only a few weeks later [i.e. after Ghana’s declaration of sovereignty in March 1957] in the capital itself [following the March 4th disturbances in Trans-Volta Togoland], there sprang up an anti-CPP movement of unemployed Ga workers and petty-bourgeoisie, which called itself the Ga Shifimo Kpee (Ga Standfast Organization). They demanded jobs, better housing, and lower food prices. Their rallies and marches, which often numbered in the tens of thousands, forced CPP ministers to drive their limousines down the side streets of Accra. But the really permanent effect of the GSK was to spur the passage of the Avoidance of Discrimination Bill. Henceforth, all ‘tribal,’ religious and regional parties were illegal.’” (Ghana: End of an Illusion 78-79).

Furthermore, Fitch and Oppenheimer recall: “The six-year period of stewardship [that] the [CPP] Party leadership had served under the administration of Governor Arden-Clarke was a poor preparation for learning new political skills. The new situation required, above all, that the leadership make the demands of the most oppressed strata of the working class the moral imperative of the Party organization. The CPP, however, as the Ga Shifimo Kpee and the 1961 General Strike had shown, had grown steadily more and more isolated from Ghana’s masses (Fitch and Oppenheimer 107).

Now, it bears analyzing the multi-varied implications of the two preceding quotes. First of all, as Fitch and Oppenheimer objectively point out, the Ga Shifimo Kpee was largely constituted, in membership, that is, by the “most oppressed strata of the working class” whose inviolable (or sacred) demands for citizenship comforts – particularly in the immediate wake of Ghana’s declaration of African self-rule – ought to have become “the moral imperative of the [CPP] Party organization.” Curiously, however, Nkrumah and his cronies, erroneously believing that Ghana’s independence privileged them to “neocolonialistically” ride in expensive chauffeured limousines, even as millions of Ghanaians went hungry and destitute, chose to duplicate the very class stratification which the CPP had mordantly accused the British colonial regime of fostering by steadily and rapidly growing “more and more isolated from the Ghanaian masses,” the very people who had handed Nkrumah and his CPP their electoral mandate (Ghana: End of an Illusion 107). Thus, with the accession of Nkrumah and the CPP into the reins of governance, Ghana veritably entered the hardly enviable era of neocolonial dictatorship, a period of rank corruption and untold decadence, as picturesquely documented by foremost Ghanaian novelist Ayi Kwei Armah in his globally celebrated classic The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (1968).

And so to begin to fully appreciate the circumstances surrounding the founding of the Ga Shifimo Kpee, the critical student of postcolonial Ghanaian historiography ought to examine the economic culture of pseudo-socialism introduced into the country by the CPP. Indeed, the latter regime was eerily and luridly typified by Mr. Krobo Edusei, sometime CPP Minister of Transport and Communications, whom Fitch and Oppenheimer, citing former Anglo-Irish pioneering Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Dr. Conor Cruise O’Brien, recall as having once cynically sneered: “Socialism doesn’t mean that if you’ve made a lot of money, you can’t keep it” (Ghana: End of an Illusion 102). Perhaps somebody ought to have asked the former newspaper vendor just by what “Socialist means” he had made his millions of Ghanaian cedis.

Interestingly, Part 2 of Mr. Botwe-Asamoah’s “Fallacies of J. B. Danquah’s Heroic Legacy” is “Dedicated to Krobo Edusei’s sister who was [supposedly] murdered in her yard [compound?] by the NLM thugs, while preparing food for her children.” Indeed, the writer deliberately fails to also mention that it was Mr. Krobo Edusei who originally introduced the Indian-imported Preventive Detention Act (PDA). Interestingly, during the 1961 massive strike by Ghanaian workers against austerity measures introduced by the CPP government, Krobo Edusei had the impudence to order workers back to work. Here is how Fitch and Oppenheimer recalled the aforementioned event:

“The first day of the strike, Krobo Edusei, Minister of Communications and Transport, addressed a meeting of railway workers, ordering them to return to their jobs and accept compulsory wage deductions. From no other man in Ghana would a speech on austerity have been more inappropriate. Edusei, the owner of a £70,000 house in Kumasi, also gained notoriety as the importer of the first solid gold bed in Ghana. He once pointed out that ‘Socialism doesn’t mean that if you’ve made a lot of money, you can’t keep it” (Ghana: End of an Illusion 102).

Needless to say, the 1961 massive strike by Ghanaian workers and civil servants was in direct response to the Nkrumah-led CPP’s attempt to force Ghanaians to “save” five-percent of their wages and salaries, deducted at source, to enable Nkrumah prosecute his political profligacy, after unwisely facilitating the frittering away of nearly a half-billion pounds sterling of Ghana’s foreign reserves. And here, it is also significant to observe that by September 4, 1961, the day of their massive work stoppage, Ghanaian workers, across the board, were at least 400-percent in wages and salaries behind the inflationary rate (Fitch and Oppenheimer). We must also add that in his later years, Mr. Krobo Edusei is reliably reported to have become a Christian evangelist and “repented” of the profligate and wayward years of his youth, the same as Aaron Ofori-Atta, the nephew of the Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics who curiously collaborated with the African Show Boy in order to derail Dr. Danquah and, with the latter, truth and responsibility in postcolonial Ghanaian politics.

As we hinted earlier, the presence of Dr. Danquah at the founding of the Ga Shifimo Kpee was simply a matter of course, being that the Doyen was an indefeasible drum-major for justice; and, needless to say, the Ga Shifimo Kpee was founded in direct response to Nkrumah’s attempt to summarily alienate the Ga-people from their stool-lands or indigenous landed property. For instance, under Nkrumah estate houses were being built on expropriated Ga lands and readily handed over to Nkrumah’s cronies and tribesmen and women, a remarkable number of which cronies were not even indigenous Ghanaians! And it was, indeed, the latter whose services Nkrumah retained to terrorize any perceived enemies, particularly Dr. Danquah and his peers and followers.

As for Mr. Botwe-Asamoah’s claim that “a sheep was slaughtered and oaths were sworn against all strangers, including Nkrumah[,] who was accused of encumbering a Ga constituency seat” ( 8/30/06), a provable fact, we find the foregoing assertion to be rather infantile and risible. For in reality, on such a momentous occasion, it is a cow (or even an ox) that ought to have been slaughtered. And for one who lays stentorian claims to advanced scholarship in the discipline of African Studies, nothing could be more pathetic. But then, is it not also strange that Mr. Botwe-Asamoah would initially claim that the Akyem are anti-Ewe and anti-Ga, and virtually anti- every other ethnic or sub-ethnic group in Ghana, and then turn round to accuse Dr. Danquah, a supposed Chief-Akan-Tribalist of consorting with the Ga Shifimo Kpee, or Gas, in general, in order to undermine President Nkrumah and his insufferably despotic CPP government? Then also, to have a supposedly anti-Ewe Danquah win 90-percent of Trans-Volta Togoland votes in the 1960 Presidential Election, when the Doyen had, by Nkrumah’s edict, been prohibited from campaigning? (see Omari’s Kwame Nkrumah: The Anatomy of an African Dictatorship). Then again, for Danquah to be found in the company of Mr. S. G. Antor, a leading member of the Togoland Congress and a bona fide Ghanaian Member of Parliament of Ewe extraction?

Of course, 60-year-old Kwame Botwe-Asamoah fully recognizes the sorry fact that an infinitesimally

small number of Ghanaian readers have been taken in by his atrocious mendacities. And thus his belated apologetic disclaimer at the end of Part 4 of his “Fallacies” (no pun intended, by the way): “I am not in a debate with any person or persons who express emotions, because debate, as we know, is the art of debunking the data of one’s opponent with facts.” And if one may ask to know: Just what facts has Mr. Botwe-Asamoah presented to shore up his case for facilely presuming to impeach and impugn the patriotism, worth and dignity of the Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics? It is also interesting for Mr. Botwe-Asamoah to be lamenting the fact that “on July 7, 1961, two bombs exploded in Accra, one wrecking Nkrumah’s statue in front of the Parliament House” of all places to maintain the symbolic presence of an unabashedly despotic and “socialistic” African Show Boy.

It is also quite intriguing when, in presuming his readers to be cognitively vacuous – or empty-minded – Mr. Botwe-Asamoah disingenuously asserts that the 1958 Preventive Detention Act (PDA) as well as the Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1957, were laws “debated in parliament before their enactment and the consent of the British Governor General” (“Fallacies” 8/30/06). Yes, indeed, these laws were debated while Britain still maintained a Governor-General in Ghana, as a figurehead, of course, representing Her Majesty the Queen of the British Empire. But, of course, we expected Mr. Botwe-Asamoah to deliberately fail to also observe the obvious and glaring fact that the Governor-General was an imperial relic who had no constitutional powers in the Ghanaian Parliament.

Indeed, the symbolic role of the Governor-General was akin to a non-combatant United Nations Peacekeeping soldier – in sum, the Governor-General was a veritably passive observer. Which largely explains why the Earl-of-Listowell could do absolutely nothing when Nkrumah set about his devious and deadly and unpatriotic and undemocratic business of dismantling the discrete powers of the Ghanaian Parliament, in order to unilaterally impose his Hitlerized Marxist-Leninist, pseudo-Socialist ideology on a largely unsuspecting Ghanaian electorate. Even so, not everybody was readily fooled. And on the PDA, we hereby quote excerpts from a parliamentary speech delivered by Mr. J. A. Braimah, a sometime cabinet member of the extant CPP government.

In the very introductory paragraph of his anti-PDA speech, Mr. Braimah puts paid to Mr. Botwe-Asamoah’s hare-brained attempt to legitimize the PDA by invoking a purported British presence in Ghana in the symbolic representation of the Governor-General. In the main, Mr. Braimah calls the moral sensibilities of his CPP cohorts into question, particularly the ethical antenna of then-Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah, if, indeed, the latter had any: “By introducing this Preventive Detention Bill into this House, the Government are [sic] behaving as if the British had not left behind in this country a deep respect for individual rights and an understanding of the practical mechanics of democratic law and government. Are [sic] the Government telling us that there is no longer going to be the rule of law in this country? This three-paged Bill, containing only five clauses, and with only seventy-two lines, if allowed to be passed into law, can deprive any person who is a citizen of Ghana of his liberty for a period of five years or 1,825 days” (Kwame Nkrumah: The Anatomy of an African Dictatorship 179-189).

In other words, emphatically observed Mr. Braimah, the PDA effectively and thoroughly undermined the very fabric of Ghanaian political culture and civilization. Further, he adds: “We gather from the Preventive Detention Bill that it will no longer be the obligation of the prosecution to prove that a crime has actually been committed by the person accused. If a person is accused with[of?] the commission of acts which are prejudicial to the defense of Ghana or to the relations of Ghana with other countries, or to the security of the State, it is necessary and it should be the obligation of the person making the accusation to produce exhibits as evidence to prove that the offense or crime has[,] in fact[,] been committed; and not only that[,] witnesses must be called to identify such exhibits, but witnesses must also be called to testify that they actually witnessed the actions of the accused persons, which are prejudicial to the defense and security of the State. We are aware of the fact that in this country people can fabricate stories in order to get their enemies into trouble, and the members of the Convention People’s Party take great delight in this thing. The ministries are full of petitions and letters containing fabricated information of diabolical plans of members of the Opposition. But let us first examine our laws to find out whether or not adequate provision exists to meet the offenses listed in the Bill, offenses which are so vague that no one knows exactly what amounts to an offense under the Bill” (Emphasis added).

And further: “The purpose of this Bill is to enable the Government to get rid of all persons who are considered by the Government to be ‘socially dangerous’ or ‘a danger to the Government.’ For the 112 years that the people of this country had been under imperialist rule, they had never been threatened with detention without trial. All those persons whose actions were considered to be prejudicial to the security of this country were tried in open court before they were confined behind the bars. The Prime Minister and some of his colleagues were amongst many who were given a fair trial” (Emphasis added).

Still further: “This Bill is going to make slaves of all of us in the land of our birth. It is a threat to the liberties of all citizens of this country, including even the ministers and party members of the Convention People’s Party. ***The Prime Minister himself is aware of its danger to himself and, for this reason, he had refused to leave its operation to the Minister of the Interior and must see that the powers of ordering any persons detained are vested in him as Minister of Defense. With these powers in the hands of the Prime Minister, he holds everyone in this country to ransom. This Bill denies to every citizen, I repeat[,] every citizen[,] of Ghana the freedom of expression. It seeks to deny the citizens of Ghana the right to criticize the Government; it will deny the people of this country the freedom to meet even at [on?] street corners to discuss the events of the day; it will deny the people the right to complain when they are hurt; we are being denied the right to remonstrate publicly against the abuses of power in the strongest terms. And, above all, it seeks to deny this country the freedom of the press.” (Uproar).

And when Mr. Braimah is briefly interrupted with the patently silly question of: “Is the Honorable Member a pressman?” from a presumable CPP Member of the House, Mr. Braimah continues: “I blame mostly all those who accepted the slogan: ‘We prefer self-government with danger to servitude in tranquility.’ I was of the opinion that, having achieved independence for the country, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah would play the role of a statesman and say to the people of this country: ‘Well, now, as I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master,’ for it is only this that expresses the idea of democracy.”

And penultimately, the CPP’s Mr. Braimah describes just how with the regrettable enactment of the PDA, the CPP lapsed into fascist governance: “Having accused the British imperialist of oppression and suppression, it is unforgivable for Dr. Kwame Nkrumah himself to use worse methods of oppression in the administration of the people he is said to have delivered from imperialist oppression. ¶….We can see the beginning of the establishment of a legal system which will place the State above the law, alongside with suppression and use of force, so that no freedom can be permitted to the political opponents of the party in power.”

And finally: “If this Bill is allowed to be passed, the Government will be the complainant, the prosecutor and the judge at the same time. How do Members expect the poor accused person to get a fair trial? If Hon. Members are in this House to protect the interests of the people who elected them to this House, and care for the individual’s liberties and are determined to ensure their true freedom, then they must, as in duty bound, oppose this Bill and ask for its withdrawal. But if, on the other hand, Hon. Members are here to serve their personal interests and do not care if the people we represent become slaves in the land of their birth, provided that they remain as Members of Parliament, then they should support the Bill and allow time to tell. There is always a day of reckoning. ¶ In conclusion, I will say that we are all educated and we must therefore act as educated men….¶ Despite all the Government’s threats of arrests without trial, the quest for true liberty and true freedom will continue in this country until there is equality for all, irrespective of the individual’s party affiliation, in all aspects of life. I beg to move” (Kwame Nkrumah: The Anatomy of an African Dictatorshup 179-189).

Of course, Mr. J. A. Braimah was grossly mistaken in presuming most of his fellow CPP House Members to be “educated men.” For in the end, his foresighted motion fell on deaf ears, just as Dr. Danquah’s motion for the establishment of a bi-cameral national assembly a decade earlier had fallen on deaf ears or, in actuality, “death/dead” ears. But in reality, just like in the Doyen’s case, it was Ghanaian political culture and civilization that had suffered an apocalyptic humiliation under the despotic tenure of Kwame Nkrumah and his CPP regime.

*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 twelve books, including “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (, 2005). His forthcoming publication is titled “Nana Kwame, Too, Can Read!” an anthology of children’s poetry.

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