Much venom has been spewed at the great revolutionaries who laid down their lives to ensure that an ideal political climate of “Freedom and Justice,” the national motto, would prevail in postcolonial Ghana. Especially singled out for gratuitous vitriol, largely by some Ewe micro-nationalist Nkrumacrats is Lt.-Gen. E. K. Kotoka, the man who led the February 24, 1966 coup detat against the insufferably despotic regime of the so-called Convention People’s Party (CPP).
For instance, in his palpably pathetic series of incoherent tirades against the putative Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics titled “The Fallacies of J. B. Danquah’s Heroic Legacy” (Ghanaweb.com 6/4/06), Kwame Botwe-Asamoah, an ethnic Ewe who sports an Akan name and was, in fact, born in the Akyem-Abuakwa State of Ghana, describes his revolutionary tribesman as “the traitor Emmanuel K. Kotoka.” What is interesting about the latter characterization is the fact that there were at least two other Ewe revolutionary members on the National Liberation Council (NLC), the transitional government which replaced the Convention People’s Party and ruled Ghana from 1966 to 1969. Mr. Botwe-Asamoah also imperiously and risibly claims that any scholastic attempt to put the Nkrumah era in a critical historiographical context is, perforce, tantamount to a gross and crass “falsification of history to achieve a short-term gain, as has been the case of the traitor Emmanuel K. Kotoka.” As to the kind of “short-term gain,” the writer does not specify, though it is glaringly evident to the critical reader and thinker that by “short-term gain,” Mr. Botwe-Asamoah implies Kotoka’s auspicious and salutary alignment with the democratic forces of Ghana in ridding the country of the neocolonialist and “neo-Hitlerite” CPP regime. Needless to say, we intend to, in due course, allow Mr. Botwe-Asamoah’s singular target of obloquy to riposte via Professor L. H. Ofosu-Appiah’s remarkable biography of the slain and immortalized General titled The Life of Lt.-Gen. E. K. Kotoka (Accra: Waterville, 1972).
For now, however, we turn to the semi-autobiographical memoir of, perhaps, the most fascinating personality among the brave and patriotic revolutionaries who opportunely consigned Nkrumah’s CPP to the stale footnotes of postcolonial Ghanaian historiography. And here also, it is quite remarkable to recall the fact that Brigadier A. A. Afrifa, author of The Ghana Coup: 24 February 1966 (London: Frank Cass, 1967), partly dedicated his book: “To all Ghanaians whose freedom we fought to secure.” Needless to say, the latter dedicatory note is a tough nut to crack, as it were; for it clearly implies that the independence of Ghana, the erstwhile Gold Coast, which Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah pontifically declared on March 6, 1957, was a patent chimera. In sum, observes Brigadier Afrifa, Nkrumah’s stentorian declaration of Ghana’s sovereignty was veritably and curiously paradoxical, in the sense that the proverbial changing of the guard was simply akin to the theatrical handing over of the political whip (the allusion here is to a horse and its rider) – or is it a scourge? – from one slave-master to another. But what is even more comical in its superfluous theatricality inheres in the grim fact that in Prime Minister Nkrumah, the “New Ghanaian merely received a Black slave-master in place of the old White slave-master. And as, according to the author of the Ghana Coup, it turned out, the Black slave-master was even more brutal in his dealings with his new Black Subjects, whom the new Black Slave-master, rather deviously dubbed as: “My fellow countrymen and women.”
In essence, the Ghanaian masterminds of the February 1966 putsch that toppled the CPP could be aptly described as the veritable architects of the floodgates to Ghana’s collective self-emancipation. Nkrumah, in fine, had simply wrested the reins of governance – of the Gold Coast, of course – from the vampiric tentacles of Western imperialism, only to callously encage his countrymen and women in a re-coated pillory box of untold self-flagellation. On the preceding score alone, observes Afrifa, the Ghana of March 6, 1957, could only be aptly characterized as THE GREATEST POLITICAL HOAX OF TWENTIETH-CENTURY AFRICA. If so, then how so?
To effectively address the preceding, let us read the following abstracts from Appendices A and B of Afrifa’s Ghana Coup. On judicial tampering, jurist nullification and legal evisceration, the Bulletin of the International Commission of Jurists (March 1964) reported on the eve of the CPP’s ouster: “The International Commission of Jurists has on a number of occasions drawn attention to disturbing trends in the laws of Ghana and in particular has commented on the system of preventive detention in operation there and on the Act creating a Special Court in 1961. Briefly, preventive detention in Ghana admits of no recourse to a judicial tribunal and applications for habeas corpus have been unsuccessful. In other words, preventive detention is a matter of executive discretion.¶ A Special Court set up in 1961 consists of a presiding judge and two other members sitting without a jury. Its jurisdiction extends to offences against the safety of the State, offences against the peace, and offences specified by the President. The Court is constituted by the Chief Justice in accordance with a request made to him by the President. Commenting on the introduction of this Court, the Secretary-General of the International Commission of Jurists drew attention to the excessive interference by the executive in judicial affairs, but at that time (February 1962) the act had not yet been invoked” (Ghana Coup 127).
“Already, on November 6, 1963, the Preventive Detention Act of 1958 had been given a further five years of life. This meant that persons whose release was almost due could be and were retained in custody and under the law now in force may be kept for another five years. It is impossible to see respect for human rights and the Rule of Law when a man may be detained for ten years without ever being accused of any crime, let alone being tried and convicted” (Ghana Coup 128).
And regarding jurist nullification and evisceration: “The Special Court [i.e. Nkrumah’s] recently dealt with allegations of treason against five persons [i.e. Kulungugu], three of whom were either former Ministers or party officials of the ruling Convention People’s Party. After a trial lasting over three months before a court consisting of Chief Justice Sir Arku Korsah, Mr. Justice Van Lare and Mr. Justice Akufo-Addo, two persons were convicted, but the three members of the Convention People’s Party were acquitted. President Nkrumah reacted sharply by dismissing the Chief Justice. The Chief Justice of Ghana holds office at the pleasure of the President, but a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature was necessary to dismiss a judge of the High Court. The reason given for the dismissal of Sir Arku Korsah was that in a matter involving the safety of the State he should have conferred with the President before announcing the decision of the Court. It was said that State security was essentially within the province of the President. The Attorney-General of Ghana condemned the decision of the Court as savoring of discrimination. On December 12, 1963, the President of the International Commission of Jurists, Mr. Vivian Bose, sent a cable to President Nkrumah expressing deep concern and pleading earnestly for revision of this decision. Mr. Sean MacBride, the Secretary-General, made a personal appeal to President Nkrumah and in a press statement commented that ‘the removal of a judge from office…by a government which is displeased with a legal decision strikes at the very foundation of the Rule of Law. It is hard to conceive [of] a more grievous blow to the administration of justice in any jurisdiction. ¶ Unfortunately, President Nkrumah has gone even further in the same direction. The Ghanaian legislature voted him powers at his urgent request to set aside verdicts of the Special Court, and this he did without delay” (Ghana Coup 128-129).
Interestingly, relatively speaking, Nkrumah’s despotic and outright barbaric manipulation of the judicial system, was still ages in advance of the equally savage methods employed by the so-called Provisional National Democratic Congress (P/NDC) during the two decades that Flt.-Lt. Jerry John Rawlings ruled as the de facto Head-of-State and later a pseudo-constitutionally elected President of the so-called Fourth Republic of Ghana. Under Rawlings, judges who displeased the P/NDC were more likely to be summarily executed than being simply removed from office.
Still, the kind of judicial culture instituted by Nkrumah’s CPP was anything but either civilized or democratic: “The battered remnants of organized opposition in Ghana have received another blow by the acceptance of the principle of a one-party State. After the recent attempt on the President’s life, there was a further group of arrests under the preventive detention legislation and once again Dr. J. B. Danquah, President Nkrumah’s defeated opponent in the presidential election, is languishing in custody. The climate of free and legitimate opposition to the Government, a prerequisite in any democratic society, African or otherwise, is scarcely propitious. If there is to be a trial for offences against the safety of the State, it will be by a special court consisting of judges dismissible at the discretion of the President, the judgment of the court being equally at the President’s discretion. Should this not be sufficient, there remains preventive detention until November 1968 and no guarantee that the 1963 Act will not be renewed. The high hopes that were aroused when Ghana led the way as an independent African State in 1957 have been sadly shattered” (Ghana Coup 131; emphasis is added).
And: “Ghana [i.e. Nkrumah] has now chosen the [primrose] path of centralized personal rule. The mechanism of dictatorship is now [fully] in place, and supreme power over all organs of State is now in the hands of one man – power which, as usually in the case of a dictatorship, is said to derive from the people. The use to be made of this power was sketched out with chilling decisiveness by Radio Accra on January 24, 1964: ‘If we were to continue on our course towards socialism, the Judiciary, as well as any other section of the state apparatus, had to be welded into the socialist administration. The judges had to be controlled by the people, not the other way [a]round. Osagyefo (‘the redeemer,’ i.e. President Nkrumah) decided that the period of tinkering and patchwork was over, that a floor under all of the State machinery had to be built immediately…. The question of overhauling all the administrative and governmental machinery will then be taken up, but on the basis of an understanding by all officialdom that it has no career and no future except as servants of the people. The Judiciary remains a great problem. At present, a judge on appointment is far above the people and becomes an independent power. There will be no such entrenched offices and such privileged persons in the State when the people have voted ‘yes’ in this referendum. When the referendum is over, the history of socialist Ghana will truly begin” (Ghana Coup 132-133).
In rather prosaically (or unimaginatively) attempting to shape Ghana into some purportedly extant pre-colonial “socialist culture” (or African communalism), Nkrumah scandalously demonstrated his lack of any critical understanding of that unique component of the postcolonial Ghanaian’s African personality. That primitivistic experimentation, in the shockingly sophomoric and megalomaniacal manner that Nkrumah had in mind for Ghana, had absolutely no place or relevance in a New Ghana and Africa, shall be presently demonstrated. In the meantime, let us turn to a critical analysis of the ideological temperament – or mindset – of the subject of our discourse.
In his introduction to Afrifa’s Ghana Coup (1967), Tibor Szamuely, a sometime faculty member of the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute (KNII), describes “Nkrumaism” as a neo-Nazi pseudo-theory: “The actual power wielded by Stalin was greater than that of Hitler and incomparably more so than Nkrumah’s, but the external trappings of power were very dissimilar. It was not Stalin [contrary to what Afrifa would have his audience believe] but Hitler’s brand of leadership that Nkrumah aped. Like Hitler, Nkrumah combined the functions of supreme legislator, supreme administrator and supreme judge. State, party and nation were united in his person. He was independent of all institutions – there could be no institutions independent of him. His was the sole power to approve and abrogate legislation, to convene Parliament, to dismiss judges, to revoke court sentences, to make all appointments of any importance. The official formula was invariably ‘Osagyefo the President has decided, ordered, appointed, dismissed….’ Just as in Nazi Germany, the armed forces of Nkrumaist Ghana had to take the oath of allegiance to the person of the Leader” (Ghana Coup 19-20).
Further, Tibor Szamuely adds: “The justification for his power was essentially irrational: it rested on the assertion that Nkrumah was endowed with qualities lacking in ordinary mortals. These supernatural, Messianic properties of a divine or quasi-divine nature emanated from him and pervaded the State, the Party and – as long as they behaved themselves properly – the people” (Ghana Coup 20).
In essence, asserts Szamuely, both Nkrumah and his teeming lackeys of Party operatives envisaged the African Show Boy as a Jesus Christ Superstar, almost the Biblical Godhead: “The divine origin of Nkrumah’s leadership – his presence on earth as a reincarnation of Jesus Christ – was insisted [up-]on quite literally. And toward the end[,] the obscene deification of Nkrumah acquired an openly fascist character. In September 1965[,] it was announced that ‘the monolithic foundation of the Party’s organization and philosophy can [sic] be best expressed in the fusion of the Party’s ideology with the personality of the author of this ideology, Osagyefo” (Ghanaian Times, 30th September 1965).
Indeed, perhaps, the foremost promoter of such obscene cult of personality was Mr. Kofi Baako, a British-trained Ghanaian lawyer and an ardent capitalist and businessman who, like Krobo Edusei, found no functional incompatibility between personal praxis and public profession of Socialism. Kofi Baako was also the first CPP hack to undertake the patently quixotic task of articulating and attempting to give a semblance of ideological coherence to “Nkrumaism.” At a Conference of Ghanaian Envoys held in Accra from January 4 to 22, 1962, for example, Mr. Baako scandalously asserted: “I have always looked upon this [i.e. Nkrumaism] as Ghana’s conception of African Socialism and what we have to do is to try and spread it and work on it successfully here. In fact[,] we are not forcing Nkrumaism on any African state. ***It is like Christianity, Christ himself did not form Christianity, it was the Apostles who formed Christianity, and it has been accepted in the whole universe. Nkrumaism is a philosophy and knows no boundaries, so that there is no question to be set down on this possible jealousy which is everywhere in the world. You, the ambassadors here, are not asked to go and preach Nkrumaism in the countries [in which] you are serving. What you have to do is to let Nkrumaism be seen in your actions” (Kwame Nkrumah: The Anatomy of an African Dictatorship 203).
It is, indeed, rather sad that in his vacuous zeal to carrying water for the proverbial African Show Boy, Mr. Kofi Baako fails to readily recognize the fundamental contradiction in his argument. For how does one insist that “we are not forcing Nkrumaism on any African state,” while also claiming that “Nkrumaism is a philosophy [that] knows no boundaries,” even though Nkrumaism is capsuled [or packaged] like Christianity to be propagated by the Apostles of Nkrumaism? And here, it is significant to observe that not everyone in the top echelons of the CPP was taken in – or fooled – by the pathological antics of Kofi Baako and the African Show Boy. In a discussion that glaringly prefigured his reaction vis-a-vis the February 1966 coup, Mr. Alexander Quaison-Sackey wittily interjected: “Mr. Chairman [i.e. Kofi Baako?] I think you will [sic] agree with me, if I asked whether it does not embarrass the President in using his name as a great man, and talking about Nkrumaism?” to which Mr. Baako, the clinical lickspittle, riposted: “We cannot help it. We shall have to talk about it everyday, and if [even] the President himself asked us to stop talking about Nkrumaism[,] we shall not stop – we the masses” (Anatomy 202).
In reality, as Tibor Szamuely poignantly and sarcastically elucidates, the very creation of the fascist and cultish ideology of Nkrumaism had almost absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Kofi Baako, who merely served as an impudent embouchure – or mouthpiece – for the great Machiavellian manipulator: “The official justification of this rather incoherent new line leaves no doubt as to its source: ‘In our situation[,] the people need a charismatic leadership, a beacon light to look up to in their development…. Without this charismatic leadership[,] the people are bound to look for leaders and saviors from many other sources’”(Evening News, 2nd October, 1965). But even more so, Nkrumah’s immitigable craving for immortality found unmistakable resonance in this Young Pioneer slogan: “Nkrumah Never Dies!” (Ghana Coup 21).
For Szamuely, the fascinating thing about the Convention People’s Party government was that it was an untenably vacuous political machinery: “Nkrumaist Ghana was an ideological state without an ideology, a one-party dictatorship without the party. It was also a Socialist state without a trace of socialism, whether of the Western or the Eastern brand – if by ‘socialism’ we mean something more than just extravagance, waste, incompetence and shortages. The Ghanaian economy under Nkrumah was basically a capitalist one. The ‘commanding heights’ – the foreign currency earners – were ranged firmly in the private enterprise sector. This essential fact should not be obscured by the existence of numerous State corporations (run almost invariably at a fantastic loss), of rigid (and highly lucrative) State controls, and of elements of (quite disastrous) State planning” (Ghana Coup 22).
Further, Tibor Szamuely observes: “Allowances must, of course, be made for Ghana’s exposed position in the world economy. The primary [-commodity?] producing countries in general have not had too easy a time of it. But by Afro-Asian standards[,] Ghana was a rich and promising nation. It was Nkrumah and Co., as Col. Afrifa convingly shows, who brought her to ruin: in eight short years[,] they went through their inheritance of £ 200 million in foreign reserves, plus chalking up an external debt of £ 250 million. A record of profligacy and mismanagement that can scarcely be equaled” (Ghana Coup 22).
And here also, we must hasten to add that Fitch and Oppenheimer’s attempt to blame the Afro-Caribbean economist and Nobel Economics Prize laureate, Sir W. Arthur Lewis, for the CPP’s bankrupting of Ghana’s economy is rather lame, since the CPP itself was staffed by grossly incompetent personnel, the so-called Verandah Boys (Ghana: End of an Illusion 83). Indeed, Fitch and Oppenheimer themselves provide part of the key to CPP ruination of the Ghanaian economy within the transient space of nine years: “At this point one might ask: ‘If Nkrumah simply maintained all the old colonial institutions, what made the ‘free world’ attack him so bitterly? Why did the Soviet Union consistently single him out for special praise? How did Ghana become known as a center of African socialism?’ The answer is that there was not one Ghana, but two – a pro-Western Ghana from approximately 1957 to 1961, and a pro-socialist Ghana from 1961 to February 1966. The first Ghana operated as an ordinary neo-colony stagnating within the British sphere of influence. It looked to the British pound as its ‘anchor of safety,’ kept its external reserves in London instead of Accra, and allowed the British banks to systematically deflate the economy. Post-1961 Ghana attempted to adopt socialist planning techniques, tried to build up the state industrial sector, and finally brought the British banks under some measure of control” (Ghana: End of an Illusion 82).
Indeed, the glaring but widely unacknowledged fact that the men who led Ghana into declaring its sovereignty from Britain, in 1957, were veritable neocolonialists is reflected in this abstract from a Parliamentary exchange between CPP Finance Minister K. A. Gbedemah and the NLM’s Joe Appiah on the need for Ghana to promptly assert its economic independence of Britain:
“Gbedemah: It may be that some future Government of Ghana will wish to break away [from the pound] to set forth on uncharted and unpredictable financial seas.
“Appiah: Is the honourable Minister afraid that honesty and integrity will have to be imported in?
“Gbedemah: But this present Government will not expose the new ship of State to such hazards. That is why we introduce Clause 18 as a vital provision in this Bill – ‘The parity of the Ghana pound shall be one Ghana pound to one pound sterling’ – (Interruption). Honorable Members opposite are making rude political jokes which do not disturb me. We shall maintain the parity of the Ghana pound to the pound sterling. That is our anchor of safety” (End of Illusion 72).
One wonders whether it was not rather the CPP’s Finance Minister, Mr. K. A. Gbedemah, who was “making rude political jokes” of Ghana’s economic independence instead of the Parliamentary opposition. In sum, in fervidly preaching about the missionary need to grabbing the “political kingdom,” the African Show Boy appears to have woefully forgotten the patent fact that it is, in actuality, an irreproachable mastery of the “economic kingdom” that stood to facilitate Ghana’s salutary development at all levels of national endeavor.
In essence, observes Szamuely, Ghana’s apocalyptic economic ruination under the CPP government was religiously guided by what might aptly be termed as the “Verandah Mentality”: “The prime factors in the ruination of a potentially prosperous country were the social and economic policies of Nkrumaism. Little need be said about the Saturnalia [or orgiastic spree] of spending presided over by the Redeemer. A phenomenon of far greater social significance was the wholesale corruption of the Nkrumaist elite: a vivid demonstration of the mentality, the practices, and the immense opportunities inherent in a totalitarian political system – based on uncontrolled and unlimited power – that was grafted upon a private enterprise economy.
In Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah the machine of spoliation had a master as hungry for wealth as he was for power. The details of the monstrous robberies perpetrated by this cynosure of Western ‘progressives’ [Sir Geoffrey Bing was a glaring case in point] are only now slowly coming to light. But Nkrumah was by no means alone: the people whom he had brought to power, both in the centre – the so-called verandah boys – and at [the] local level, followed his example with a vengeance” (Ghana Coup 22-23).
For his part Dennis Austin, a highly regarded authority on the politics of Nkrumaism and a sometime lecturer at the University of Ghana, describes the meteoric accession of the Convention People’s Party into Ghana’s reins of governance as an era of unparalleled ideological and moral decadence: “The significant feature of C. P. P. rule from 1951 onwards was that it marked the arrival at national and local level of a new class of poorly educated commoners who seized power (through the ballot box) both from the British and from those whom the British thought they were grooming for self-government. In very simple terms, the elementary school leavers displaced the secondary school leavers (the ‘intelligentsia’) and the chiefs; in less accurate phraseology[,] one might say that a bourgeoisie manqué had been eclipsed by a new petty bourgeoisie of the municipalities and local market centers” (qtd. in Ghana Coup 24; also, New Society March 10, 1966).
In view of the preceding state of virtual anomie, Afrifa’s declaration that Nkrumah’s timely and salutary ouster signaled the emergence of a new and more constructive era of moral and sociopolitical and cultural rejuvenation cannot be gainsaid or impugned: “We want to build a new Ghana, a country ruled by men [and women] of integrity and conscience; for when one’s conscience pronounces judgment, there is no court of appeal against its verdict…. We stand against anything undemocratic. I believe that all men [and women] are born free. Democracy based on the freedom of the individual is more acceptable than any form of totalitarianism. We are against fascism and communism. I cherish the hope that in our history no man will ever be allowed to lord it over us again. I am a great admirer of the British way of life, its legal system, the Magna Carta, the Petition of Rights and the Bill of Rights. These are institutions on which civil liberties of the people are founded. The British Constitution safeguards not only [the] rule of law[,] but also freedom of the press, of thought, of action within the law, and of the individual. It is these things that make Britain the home of democracy…. Liberty comes and lives only where the hard-won rights of men are held inalienable, where governments themselves may not infringe, where governments[,] indeed[,] are but the mechanism to protect and sustain these principles. It was for this concept that we effected the Revolution of the 24th February. We now seek for [sic] solutions to our many difficulties, and they will only come through the constructive forces which arise from the spirit of free men; we seek the purification of liberty from abuses, and the restoration of confidence in the rights of men [and women] from which come the release of dynamic forces of initiative and enterprise. By this alone can we find our solutions and the purpose of Ghanaian life be assured” (Tibor Szamuely’s “Introduction” to Afrifa’s The Ghana Coup 28-29).
Thus, contrary to what many an ardent Nkrumacrat and Nkrumaist as well as pseudo-pan-Africanist scholar and critic would have his or her audience believe, Afrifa was a rare kind of civic-minded and responsible soldier who unimpeachably appreciated the fundamental human right of the average Ghanaian to a liberal and civilized culture in the postcolonial era. To this effect, the quite eloquent author of The Ghana Coup writes: “A coup D’etat is the last resort in the range of means whereby an unpopular government may be overthrown. But in our case where there were no constitutional means of offering a political opposition [or alternative] to the one-party government[,] the Armed Forces were automatically made [forced?] to become the official opposition of [to?] the government. This may also be true of other one-party states on the continent of Africa. There is ample justification for our moves on the 23rd of February, 1966; and when the operation commenced[,] we had no doubts in our minds as to the justness of our cause. This conviction gave us the additional courage to carry the exercise through at all costs and[,]if the worse came to the worst[,]to fight a civil war and stand our ground until the Nkrumah government was overthrown” (Ghana Coup 31).
Afrifa also recalls being at once surprised and elated at the virtual spontaneity of consensus among the rank-and-file members of the Ghana Armed Forces, regarding the imperative need for the overthrow of President Nkrumah (Ghana Coup 31-32). But even more significantly, the co-architect of the CPP’s ouster notes the quite interesting irony which lay in the fact that even as the Ghanaian premier vehemently campaigned against Zimbabwe-Rhodesian apartheid, back home, in Nkrumah’s own country, the Convention People’s Party cultivated a pathological culture of fascism: “To us the exercise [of ousting Nkrumah’s CPP] commenced at 0400 hours on Wednesday 23rd February, 1966, when 600 men representing all the units in our Garrison at Tamale started moving. They were moving south and to an unknown destination for a test exercise in connection with the Rhodesian operation. Since November 1965[,] we had been in a high state of readiness to move into Rhodesia at short notice. We exploited this situation to deceive the intelligence system” (Ghana Coup 32).
Equally significantly, Afrifa sarcastically debunks the widely circulated myth surrounding the coup as an ethno-Asante putsch: “Our coup has been described elsewhere as one of the Ashanti invasions. If [,] indeed[,] it was, we hope this will be the last [of such invasions]. This description is correct [only] to the extent that the coup was planned in Kumasi by Colonel Kotoka and Mr. Harlley [both of bona fide Ewe extraction] and myself [sic]. But Colonel Kotoka and Mr. Harlley are not Ashantis. The Ashantis and the Ewes, their tribes, are, however, traditional allies” (Ghana Coup 33). Thus it is quite interesting and also amusing to hear such anti-Akan, Ewe micro-nationalists as Mr. Kwame Botwe-Asamoah and his equally fanatical Hausa micro-nationalist Neo-Pharaoh Abu Jihad, both of Temple University’s Neo-Nkrumah Ideological Institute characterize Gen. Kotoka as an Ewe traitor to the supposedly ethnically neutral, pan-Africanist cause of President Nkrumah and his CPP cohorts (see Botwe-Asamoah’s “The Fallacies of J. B. Danquah’s Heroic Legacy” Ghanaweb.com 6/4/06 ff. Parts I-V).
Equally fascinating is this terse abstract of Gen. Kotoka’s maiden address in the salutary wake of Nkrumah’s ouster: “Fellow citizens of Ghana, I have come to inform you that the Military in co-operation with the Ghana Police, have taken over the government of Ghana today. The myth surrounding Nkrumah has been broken. Parliament is dissolved and Kwame Nkrumah is dismissed from office. All ministers are also dismissed. The Convention People’s Party is disbanded with effect from now. It will be illegal for a [any?] person to belong to it. We appeal to you to be calm and co-operative; all persons in detention will be released in due course. Please stay by your radios and await further details” (Ghana Coup 34-35).
Indeed, so hermetically entrenched was the Nkrumaist myth that as Afrifa quaintly recalls in the wake of the coup: “At [sic] Kumasi a funny incident happened. At the end of Colonel Kotoka’s broadcast[,] the Ashantis flocked to the bars drinking and singing the praises of the Armed Forces. Then someone said, ‘You don’t know Kwame Nkrumah. This is one of his wicked plans to test the loyalty of the masses. He wants to find out who is with him and deal with those who are not.’ And as if they had been ordered to disperse at gun point, the gathering crowd disintegrated at the run into their houses. This was at Ashanti New Town, one of the United Party’s strongholds” (Ghana Coup 35).
Once again, Afrifa affirms the democratic intent of the 1966 coup by noting the fact that he and Mr. Harlley, the police chief, had promptly declined “the offer of Head of the Revolutionary Government in favor of Maj.-Gen. Ankrah,” who had been promptly promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General by the National Liberation Council (NLC) (Ghana Coup 36). But even more intriguing, for quite telling reasons, was the predictably ironic reaction of Mr. Krobo Edusei, the man who imported the PDA (or Preventive Detention Act) from Prime Minister Nehru’s India into independent Ghana. Mr. Edusei, as Afrifa vividly recalls, appears to have been a happy-go-lucky CPP hack: “Mr. Krobo Edusei, Chief of State Protocol and a [founding] member of the Convention People’s Party, was jubilating in his house with a bottle of whisky in his right hand, a white turban around his head, pouring libation to the gods of Ghana when the news of the coup reached him [actually, the foregoing was Mr. Edusei’s reaction upon learning of the February 1966 coup, rather than the vice versa]” (Ghana Coup 37). A summer soldier, indeed, in the memorable words of Mr. Thomas Paine, the eighteenth-century Anglo-American revolutionary.
Again, Afrifa recalls the unpardonably bleak Ghanaian political landscape on the eve of Nkrumah’s overthrow: “Between 1961 and 1966[,] the old regime of Kwame Nkrumah had instilled [cringing] fear into every Ghanaian. There were security men and women everywhere, and no one trusted his friend. Fathers did not trust their sons who had been indoctrinated with Young Pioneer ideas, neither did husbands trust their wives. It was a reign of terror. The Preventive Detention Act was used indiscriminately. The Army itself was being infiltrated by the Convention People’s Party. It was a painful period. Kwame Nkrumah was strong; there was no constitutional means of getting rid of him” (Afrifa 37).
In sum, Afrifa appears to have fully appreciated Constitutional authority in a manner apt to putting his Nkrumaist detractors to shame. On this score, the co-architect of the 1966 coup observes: “I have always felt it painful to associate myself with a coup to overthrow a constitutional government, however perverted that constitution may be. Oliver Cromwell was a good general, but he did not take his rightful place in the glorious gallery of British generals because he overthrew a constitutional authority by force of arms. It was [extremely] painful, therefore, to come to the conclusion that the coup was necessary to save our country and our people. We owed allegiance and loyalty to the Government of Ghana by [the] practice of our profession. But we also owed allegiance to the people of Ghana for their protection and to us it was ‘Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori’ [It is pleasant and noble to die for the fatherland]” (Ghana Coup 37-38).
Afrifa also uses the opportunity granted by his memoir to debunk Major-General Barwah’s persistent claims that Colonel Kotoka was incurably tribalistic and impudently pro-Ewe: “I do not think [that] this is a correct assessment. My firm estimation is that the Colonel is pro-efficiency” (Ghana Coup 40). And, needless to say, Afrifa was fully in the know regarding the preceding because the brilliant Sandhurst graduate worked directly under Gen. Kotoka. We also highlight this charge because Gen. Barwah, whose blind loyalty to Nkrumah’s fascist regime cost the former his life (for Barwah had fatuously attempted to block access to the arsenal of the Ghana Armed Forces to the February 24th Revolutionaries), has often been cited by ardent Nkrumacrats in sharp relief against the purported treachery of the valiant men of the February 24th 1966 coup.
For Afrifa, Nkrumah’s much-touted pan-Africanist proclivity was seriously impaired by the African Show Boy’s evidently inordinate penchant for the twin-bane of nepotism and tribalism: “I remember how I once sensed [that] he [Kotoka] was in danger of being removed from his command and replaced by an officer more favored by Kwame Nkrumah. I told him [i.e. Kotoka that] this was probably a senior officer of the Military Academy and Training Schools, Teshie, who was married to the daughter of an important official of the National Council of Ghana Women. This woman was using her influence in Flagstaff House to replace Colonel Kotoka with her son-in-law. Fortunately, this was not to be. I detested these moves. Our army was being run on [familial] sentiments unbefitting any decent army. I felt that if this was the way [that] our army was going to be run, then there was no future for the young officers who had decided to make it their career” (Ghana Coup 41-42).
Afrifa also recalls the fact that the February 1966 coup was a three-man design: “The broad plan for the coup was drafted in Colonel Kotoka’s office at Kwadaso in Kumasi. After this, the Colonel and I swore to each other that, in the event of anything [untoward and unforeseen] happening to either of us, the one left alive would see the coup through. The Colonel told me that if he was killed or captured in Accra in the course of our preparations[,] I should continue with our mission and carry it through to the end. So far as I know, the only other person who knew the details of the plan was Mr. Harlley, whom I had not met at that point. We had all agreed that Major-General Ankrah should head our revolutionary government” (Ghana Coup 42).
On a more informal note, it may interest the reader to learn that in researching for this segment of our series, I have been fascinated by the intimate genetic linkages among all Ghanaians, particularly, as in my case, the Akan. For in tracing Afrifa’s lineage to the Asante-Mampong royal stool-house, I also found myself, rather tragically and belatedly, being reunited posthumously with my own cousin. But Afrifa could also easily have been my maternal uncle, being that he was only two years younger than my mother, whose paternal grandmother, Nana Awo (Mary) Baduaa Aboagye, of the Akyem-Begoro Biretuo Clan, was heir to the Asante-Mampong Queen-mothership. In sum, this author and Gen. Afrifa are both great-grandsons of the Amaniampong stool, whose scion was my maternal grandfather, the Reverend T. H. (Yawbe Aboagye) Sintim (1896?-1982), the man who also, incidentally, founded the Asante-Mampong Presbyterian Middle School, and had also built up the Asante-Mampong Presbyterian Primary School, during the 1920s, from grades 4 through 6. Thus, Afrifa also recalls this author’s genealogy when he writes: “I come from a long line of chiefs who had served in positions of command in the Ashanti Army. There was my great-grandfather Owusu-Sekyere, Mamponghene (i.e. Chief of Mampong). There was Amaniampong, who fought to win a silver stool for Mampong…. My father Kwaku Amankwaa, was the son of the Mamponghene’s linguist” (Ghana Coup 43).
Also contrary to the widely held Ghanaian opinion that never-do-wells are the prime grist for recruitment into the Ghana Armed Forces, Afrifa proves himself the rare exception. Read, for instance, the following account regarding the future revolutionary’s maiden encounter with the soon-to-be fascist dictator of postcolonial Ghana: “At Adisadel, my aim was to study and become a priest, and so I took to the classics with zeal. As for the sciences, I could not go beyond Archimedes’ Principle. Latin and Greek were my joy; I remember in 1955 I collected seven prizes – Latin, Greek, Religious Knowledge, History, English Language, [Literature? and] Geography – and topped my class. [And just guess] who was to award my prizes but Kwame Nkrumah! He said to me: ‘Young man, keep it up. I am most impressed by your performance.’ [Well,] I hope he is still impressed with our recent performance on the 24th of February” (Ghana Coup 47).
*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” (iUniverse.com, 2005).