In much the same manner that President Kwame Nkrumah has been putatively regarded and designated as “The Father” and “Founder” of modern Ghana, Dr. J. B. Danquah, putatively designated “The Doyen of Gold Coast [and Ghanaian] Politics,” could also be legitimately accoladed, or monikered, “The Father” and “Founder” of the modern Ghanaian academy. And here, perhaps it bears in significantly observing that neither President Nkrumah nor Dr. Danquah single-handedly achieved any of the heroic landmarks widely attributed to them. For instance, by 1947 when the future leader of the pioneering Convention People’s Party (CPP) returned to the erstwhile Gold Coast, to assume organizational leadership of the Danquah-led United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), the collective struggle of his countrymen and women for the re-assertion of their sovereignty was at full-throttle, although it could be cogently and meritedly – or meritoriously – argued that the UGCC existed more as a popular, loosely-organized movement than a bona fide political party, in the classical sense of the term. It was the young Kwame Nkrumah, newly arrived from his equally eventful sojourn in the United States and Britain, respectively, who rapidly galvanized the movement and enabled it to take on the remarkable semblance of a modern political party. And so in 1949, when an internal structural crisis prompted the hitherto inimitably dynamic general secretary of the UGCC to resign and constitute his Convention People’s Party, much of the steam and vim which the new CPP leader had infused into the UGCC dissipated almost overnight.
But here also, it is significant to note that the quite widespread, albeit rather gratuitous, charge, by their most ardent critics, that the older leaders of the UGCC including, most notably, Dr. Danquah, were far more concerned with the relatively petty care, or cause, of eking a comfortable existence out of their elite professional skills and practice, is highly exaggerated. For other than Mr. George Alfred (Paa) Grant, founding president of the UGCC whose personal dole of Five-Hundred Pound Sterling (approximately $ 800) in 1947 currency gave life to the newly established, quasi-political movement, and to whom Dr. Danquah affectionately and reverently dedicated his classic booklet The Voice of Prophecy (Accra-Ghana, 1969), who was a full-time businessman, most of the other executive members of the UGCC fairly equally devoted their energies and time to the liberation of their fellow countrymen and women huddled under the crushing yoke of British colonial imperialism. It was, indeed, in apposite recognition of this fact that during the recent 40th anniversary commemoration of the death of Dr. Danquah, substantive Ghanaian president John Agyekum Kufuor unreservedly lauded the widely coveted patriotic, nationalist zeal of the former as having conspicuously and largely contributed to the fact that “The Doyen of Ghanaian politics” never became a wealthy man.
Likewise, contrary to what his most virulent detractors would have their audience and disciples believe, Dr. Danquah was nobly humble enough to defer to his peers and associates when the occasion so required. Thus in his dedicatory note to Paa Grant, Dr. Danquah magnanimously observed in bold-print: “IT WAS HE WHO WON THE GREAT BATTLE OF LIBERATION FOR GHANA BEFORE THE WATSON COMMISSION.”
But, perhaps, even more importantly, as an intimate relative of our subject recently pointed out, it was the entrepreneurial diligence of Paa Grant, as well as the professional dexterity of the other executive members of the UGCC, that assured the young Kwame Nkrumah his quite decent general-secretary’s salary of 250 pound sterling (about $400) per annum. The latter sum would be shortly increased by 50 pounds after the lone salaried UGCC employee bitterly complained about his financial insolvency. Nkrumah would also be offered an automobile to enable him to more comfortably travel around the countryside mobilizing supporters for the inalienable and insistent cause of Ghana’s independence. Indeed, the preceding may largely explain why the leaders of the UGCC felt utterly betrayed when Nkrumah abruptly resigned to found his Convention People’s Party. In his quite massive autobiography, titled Joe Appiah: The Autobiography of an African Patriot, the man who has been derisively nicknamed “The Political Chameleon” had this to say about the mercurial temperament of his former political associate: “Nkrumah loved power and was prepared to give up his right hand in order to retain power. I think that he derived a great [deal of] pleasure in [from?] the exercise of power over other persons and not for the acquisition of wealth for himself. Beneath his apparent ruthlessness he was always prepared to show mercy and pour charity on persons who did not threaten his position directly. It was this love of power, deepened [worsened?] by the many ‘gaping sychophants’ and flatterers at his court, that inexorably led to his downfall.”
And regarding the critical question of Danquah’s imprisonment and death at the Nsawam Medium-Security Prison, without the benefit of a judicial trial, the putative Political Chameleon had this to say: “It is in this context [of Machiavellian ruthlessness] that one should [ought to?] understand why Nkrumah turned deaf ears to the mercy pleas of the sick and dying J. B. and Obetsebi Lamptey in prison while he was prepared to grant amnesty to convicted murderers and burglars.” In sum, what Appiah is implying in the preceding abstract is that President Nkrumah may well have technically assassinated his arch-rival and ideological nemesis. And while there does not appear to be any scientific or forensic evidence to prove or authenticate Joe Appiah’s glaringly grievous charge, suffice it to say that keeping the aging and ailing Dr. Danquah under lock-and-key, as it were, for thirteen long months without formally preferring charges against “The Doyen,” let alone arraigning him before a court of law, does not look good, or morally appealing, in Ghanaian history books.
And here also, we might aptly add that Nkrumah reportedly accused Danquah of being in cahoots with the U. S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); some ardent and outright fanatical Nkrumahists have also electronically mailed this writer similar charges since he commenced this series. The preceding notwithstanding, the logical question becomes: If, indeed, President Nkrumah had any concrete forensic evidence tying Dr. Danquah to the CIA, or a coup plot, why did the Ghanaian premier so woefully fail to speedily arraign his purported felon before a court of law, in order for his arch-nemesis to either clear his name or for the President to judicially and judiciously penalize the culprit, even possibly by letting Danquah face the firing squad? After all, such penalty, had it come to pass, would definitely not have been wholly unprecedented under CPP tenure. Indeed, as an ardent but dispassionate Nkrumahist, I find the preceding state of affairs to be unmitigably repugnant, to speak much less of the outright scurrilous and obscene. For his gaping failure to arraign Dr. Danquah before a court of law, only points to one unpleasant possibility – which is that our proverbial Emperor had no clothes! President Nkrumah had absolutely no case, short of plain-Jane propaganda – engendered largely out of his post-Kulungugu paranoia – and increasing antipathy towards his more brilliant opponent and astute statesman. And as a second-generation Nkrumahist, with legions of CPP stalwart relatives, this is the one page in our founding father’s otherwise classic political drama which I find to be religiously untenable and morally opprobrious and reprehensible. And, needless to say, I am irrepressibly disgusted to receive a flurry of electronic mail from purportedly ardent Nkrumahists attempting to, somehow, justify Danquah’s preventable death in prison by concocting some vapid and vacuous subterfuge about The Doyen’s purported consortium with the CIA, or some such scabrous phenomenon. And here, we need to remind ourselves of the fact that both Danquah and Nkrumah were fallible humans like the rest of us.
We are also herein forced to observe the historical fact that Life-President Kwame Nkrumah was on an official assignment – or mission – on behalf of American president Lyndon B. Johnson, the Supreme Commander of the U. S. Central Intelligence Agency, vis-à-vis the increasingly otiose and vacuous Vietnam War, when he was overthrown on February 24, 1966. And here it is significant for Ghanaians from all walks of life to know just who underwrote President Nkrumah’s vanity trip to Vietnam. And also just what made him think that in a largely unilateral contest between an elephant and porcupine how did the Osagyefo rank or size up himself in order to arrive at the rather unimaginative conclusion that he was the best man for the Sisyphean task of stopping the Vietnam War? In sum, any attempt at making Dr. Danquah seem like a Fifth-Columnist or a Benedict Arnold, in mainstream American parlance, is inevitably bound to backfire. To-date, some of those who claim to be President Nkrumah’s vanguard disciples, scholars and theorists, have yet to intelligently explain to the larger and morally more sensitive Ghanaian populace just who or what gave our celebrated premier the right or temerity to name himself Ghana’s President-For-Life.
And at this juncture, perhaps it may interest our readers to observe that I personally met Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the proverbial “Show-Boy” as a toddler, shortly before he was overthrown. This must have been in 1965, at the inauguration of the defunct Kwabeng Men’s Teacher-Training College, in the Eastern Region. It was a momentous occasion because my maternal grandfather, the Rev. T. H. Sintim, the general manager of Presbyterian schools in the Kwabeng district, as well as the station pastor, was prominent among the local leaders who welcomed the President to the ceremony and took me along with him. And so, when I claim to have met Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, it is not as if, like legions of my fellow countrymen and women, I saw the “Show-Boy” in a convoy while standing anonymously in some street corner or parade grounds. And needless to say, I make the preceding observation in order to underscore the fact that my admiration and reverence for the man are informed by both experience – however tenuous and fleeting – and scholarship. Ironically, in the case of Dr. Danquah, such awareness has largely been gleaned from books and then subsequently shored up by my maternal grandfather, who attended the Begoro Presbyterian Boys’ Boarding School with Dr. Danquah. And for those who care to know, I only discovered my familial kinship with “The Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian Politics” only within the last three years; hitherto, I had always recognized the foremost patriot of modern Ghana as my grandfather’s schoolmate, nothing more or less. Even so, I have always recognized the fact that the greatest bottleneck to our collective development as a nation may eerily stem from the fact that unlike many an American citizen, Ghanaians are, generally speaking, among the nations of people who harbor the least reverence for our pioneering leaders and statesmen and women, for that matter. We also tend to maintain a pathologically univisual (and unidimensional) – or one-sided - perspective on politics.
Quite a number of readers have also written to me, asking that I address a number of quite salient issues of concern during the course of this series. And here, I would like to respectfully assure every one of those writers, including even those who have been linguistically intemperate, that all such concerns will be deliberately addressed in due course. Suffice it to observe herein, however, that throughout the course of our series, I intend to heavily appropriate the available primary sources on our subjects of discourse; in other words, rather than laboriously reference some transient European or Western tourist-scholar whose appreciation for the role and significance of Dr. Danquah, and President Nkrumah, for that matter, in Ghanaian history or collective national memory may be largely based on hearsay and the Eurocentric interpretation of the primary sources, I prefer to conduct my own Afrocentric study and analysis of these primary sources. This is because regardless of the remarkable éclat or competence of an Africanist Western scholar, the final interpretation had better be left to those whose primary fortunes, or lack thereof, are inextricably linked with the destiny of Ghana.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is on a Sabbatical Leave from Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City, where he teaches English and Journalism. His second and latest volume of essays on global African history and politics, titled THE NEW SCAPEGOATS: COLORED-ON-BLACK RACISM, will be published in April 2005 by iUniverse.com. Okoampa-Ahoofe is also the author of eight volumes of poetry, all of which are published by iUniverse.com.