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27.08.2005 Feature Article

The Enduring Legacy Of Dr. J. B. Danquah – Part 17

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In the next three segments of our series, we shall highlight Professor A. Adu-Boahen's 1988 J. B. Danquah Memorial Lectures, sponsored by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. We shall then conclude this series with a cursory survey of the philosophy of our subject; for the putative “Doyen of Ghanaian Politics” was first and foremost a global thinker par-excellence. And on the latter score, we shall also emphasize the fact that, as many Danquah scholars and enthusiasts have intimated, the veritable Architect of Modern Ghana was more of a scholar-statesman than a traditional politician. Indeed, it is our studied contention that the Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian Politics was too much of an inclusive and organic thinker and pragmatist to have been labeled, rather restrictively, a politician. For Danquah was indefatigably engaged in the proactive and indispensably pioneering vocation of nation-building than sheer political, or ideological, domination of his countrymen and women.

In his 1988 J. B. Danquah Memorial Lectures, titled The Ghanaian Sphinx: Reflections On The Contemporary History of Ghana, 1972-1987(Accra-Ghana: Ghana Academy of Arts And Sciences), Adu-Boahen offers the sole reason for Danquah's first detention in October 1961 by President Nkrumah as the former's fearless opposition of the CPP's state capitalism (or Marxian scientific socialism) by Danquah's more organic and Afrocentric ideology of “Ghanaism,” defined in terms of free enterprise with human sensibilities or spirituality, as opposed to Karl Marx's so-called Scientific Socialism, which appeared to be solely predicated on material wealth and populism, an ideology which the astute philosopher in Danquah deemed to be crassly ignoble and outright alien and incompatible with traditional African humanistic values: “In favour of this Ghanaistic ideology, JB rejects the totally strange and new-fangled Marxist type of socialism, which, he contends, is hardly 40 years old and which rejects religion and any kind of idealism or humanism from its materialistic interpretation of man's long history. By its creed of 'He who would not work shall not eat,' it is clear that socialism takes the self-interest of the individual (his bread or his belly) to be the universal motive force of human nature. It does this without paying any heed to man's permanent motive forces or commitments, the commitment to his God, to his country, to his family and to the dignity of man as man./ In other words, as opposed to Marxism or scientific socialism, the ideology of Ghanaism emphasizes the worth of the individual, individual initiative and individual enterprise; it emphasizes the freedom and dignity of the individual and not sordid materialism, regimentation and state ownership of property as Marxism or socialism does. In fact JB abhorred Marxism[,] which he described as a 'German-made thalidomide tranquilizer which may produced disfigured, limbless and malformed societies for us in this pregnant generation.' And he emphasized that 'the three great nations which have achieved an[y] industrial marvel after World War II, namely Western Germany, Italy and Japan, did so not on socialistic or State capitalist economies, but rather on the basis of individual initiative and free enterprise, guided by the free and intelligent hand of their respective governments”(Ghanaian Sphinx 5-6).

Boahen deftly and scholastically debunks Professor Kofi Awoonor's “pseudo-historiography” which rather naively perceives the 1972 Acheampong-led coup-detat as being primarily the breast-work or brainchild of the Ewe military community, in a purported showdown with the dominant Akan community: “It must be evident to all Ghanaians by now that for some reasons that were not yet clear, Ewes in the armed forces have achieved the reputation of being notorious coup-makers and plotters against successive governments. This could be scribed partially to the fact that Ewes, the second[-]largest ethnic group in the country, see themselves in opposition to all governments in Ghana which inevitably become Akan (Ashanti) dominated. As it were, the contest for power is reduced in simple terms to a fierce contest between the Akan (Ashanti) and the Ewes. The large Ewe presence in the civil service, the military and the institutions of learning is seen as an effective check on Ashanti efforts at hegemony” (Awoonor, The Ghana Revolution).

Boahen aptly diagnoses Awoonor's rather amateurish misrepresentation of post-colonial Ghanaian political history for what it is, a veritable historiography of “Persecution Psychosis.” But what is even more rankling and invidious is the renowned poet-novelist's persistence in monolithically characterizing all Akans as “Asantes,” thus brazenly presuming the kind of abject ignorance that is often associated with non-Ghanaian or external perspectives on Ghanaian historiography. On the preceding score, Boahen insightfully observes: “If Kofi Awoonor is correct, and being an Ewe and an insider himself he must know, then Heaven save this country. Fortunately, his explanation is not only dangerous and exceedingly unfortunate, but it is simply unconvincing. He seems to be unaware of the fact that the leader of the coup who did the first broadcast was an Akan himself and an Asante too and Major Kwame Baah, another architect of that coup, is also an Akan. If the coup was simply the outcome of the contest for power between the Akan and the Ewe, how on earth could that original Ewe/Akan cooperation which generated the coup have taken place? I think Kofi's explanation is either the product of the persecution psychosis which he must have been suffering from, especially as a result of his arrest and detention in 1976 by Acheampong, or just sheer naivete or warped and misguided judgement. From the available evidence, it seems to me that the coup of January 1972 was the outcome of the personal, inordinate and egoistic ambitions of Acheampong himself and the idealism of some disgruntled officers, irrespective of their ethnic origins, who were enraged by Busia's policies towards the military. Ethnicity or tribalism did certainly become an issue but this was a later development as will be seen below”(Ghanaian Sphinx 9).

Even so, Boahen observes that the 1972 military putsch led by then-Col. I. K. Acheampong and his posse of greedy senior Ghanaian military personnel of dubious political knowledge and skills, amply demonstrated the reason why professional soldiers ought not to be in the critical and cognitive business of government. Among other things, the former chairman of the University of Ghana's Department of History notes at length: “The third cause of the [economic] disaster [brought to bear on Ghanaians by the so-called National Redemption Council, later re-designated as the Supreme Military Council] was the active interference of [Col.] Acheampong himself[,] and the officers in general[,] in the work of the civil servants and other officials of the State, especially with respect to the award[ing] of contracts, issu[ing] of import licences, and the distribution and sale of certain commodities. This became particularly glaring with the introduction of the import licence system when, with his famed [infamous?] green ink, Acheampong would peremptorily order Principal Secretaries of the Ministries of Trade and Finance[,] in particular[,] to issue import licences to people, usually girlfriends, mistresses and shady businessmen. A typical one [instance?] quoted by Mike Ocquaye (see Politics in Ghana, 1972-1979) reads: 'His Excellency the Head of State and Commissioner for Finance recommends that Import Licence worth C 152,000 for the importation of one (1) Ford Cortina Estate Car and six (6) Model 3022T Forestmil portable sawmills be issued to Madam Alice Adae Garbrah of Post Office Box 86, Tepa, Ashante, for the establishment of a rural industry at Tepa.' Similarly, heads of corporations and even private firms were often ordered to supply goods, particularly cement and flour, to the favourites of Acheampong and his officers. Never in the history of this country have we seen so many businesswomen and women contractors whose usual qualifications were simply their attractive figures. Given the contempt with which Acheampong and his officers treated expert advice, with the haphazard and crazy issue [issuing?] of orders, chits and import licences, is it surprising that the economy performed so dismally?”(Ghanaian Sphinx 15).

It is significant and interesting to note that Adu-Boahen deftly and sarcastically characterizes the preceding visceral – as distinguished from cerebral or cognitive – approach to political praxis as “Acheamponomics”(Ghanaian Sphinx 16). Citing renowned Ghanaian political scientist Kweku Folson, Adu-Boahen intimates that the grim entrenchment of military juntas in Ghanaian political culture has not been without the blind, self-serving and wholly unprincipled collaboration of highly positioned Ghanaian civil servants and administrators. For Boahen, therefore, such honorable words as “sacrifice” and “courage” are sorely lacking in post-colonial Ghanaian political vocabulary, indeed, to such a damnable extent that even Principal Secretaries, or senior civil servants, who witness gross political misbehavior on the part of military administrators – or more appropriately, military personnel in government – are too diffident and timid to speak up or stand up against such patent political corruption. Consequently, intimates Boahen, the wanton domination and untold corruption on the post-colonial Ghanaian landscape is the collective responsibility of Ghanaian citizenry at large. In sum, vis-à-vis the morally dispiriting preceding state of affairs, for Boahen, the one salient distinction between the sterling and luminary likes of Dr. J. B. Danquah, R. R. Amponsah, Dr. Busia, Mr. Koi-Larbi, among quite a considerable number of other distinguished Ghanaian statesmen and politicians and the contemporary generation of Ghanaian leadership, resides almost squarely in the fact that the Danquah generation was willing to sacrifice, against brutally overwhelming odds, whereas the post-independence generation may be tragically and pathetically envisaged to be pathologically cynical and ideologically myopic:

“But surely there must be a final reason for Acheampong's dismal performance which is no less crucial and this was the failure of the bureaucrats and technocrats and other experts to stand up to Acheampong and his gang of predators by simply refusing to implement some of their crazy and disastrous orders. Could not the Principal Secretary of Finance politely but firmly tell the Head of State that his order was against certain financial regulations and could therefore not be implemented? Could not the Governor of the Bank of Ghana simply refuse to print more money or grant loans to the government for reasons which were obvious?/ You may wonder whether this could have been done? I am glad to point out that at least one official did just that. When the Supreme Military Council wrote to the Electoral Commissioner in March 1978 that 'there should be no counting of votes at the polling stations during the forthcoming referendum,' and that all Ballot Boxes should be sent to the Regional Counting Centre under guard for counting, he replied in a long letter in which, after quoting the relevant regulations, he [boldly and politely] stated [among other things]: “It is therefore clear from the above that the decision of the Supreme Military Council as contained in your letter under reference is contrary to provisions of the law which they themselves caused to be enacted. You may admit that the said decision of the Supreme Military Council is just an administrative decision or directive which cannot override statutory provisions. In fact it cannot have any legal effect whatsoever. You [the Secretary to the Cabinet] may therefore respectfully convey to His Excellency, the Head of State, that the said decision cannot be implemented[,] in view of the legal impediments as explained above'”(Ghanaian Sphinx 16-17). Further, Adu-Boahen poignantly adds: “As Folson has commented, this letter 'deserves to be carved in gold on the national coat of arms.' [Indeed,] it is certainly true that any official who takes such a [hard] line stands a great risk of being dismissed and even detained – in the case in question [,however,] he was not, but would not such personal sacrifice be better than the ruining of the economy of the whole country? Such blind acceptance of orders which are palpably stupid, wrong or dangerous smacks of sycophancy, opportunism and lack of moral or professional courage and should[,] in my opinion[,] be condemned”(Ghanaian Sphinx 17).

His vehement protestation regarding what Adu-Boahen calls Awoonor's affliction with “Persecution Psychosis” notwithstanding, the former also alludes to the grim fact that Gen. Acheampong's unorthodox domination of the Ghanaian political landscape might have given a reasonable cause, on the part of Ghanaians of Ewe-Voltaic extraction, to cry foul. If, indeed, Boahen is accurate in his assessment, and we have no reason not to concur with the foremost Ghanaian historian of his generation, then is morally and ideologically damning of Awoonor as one who might be clinically under the weather, as it were, may be rather gratuitous, to speak much less of the patently disingenuous and utterly contradictory. And regarding the interesting question of Acheampong's “politics of tribalism,” this is what Boahen has to say: “It should be emphasized that Acheampong's mismanagement [of Ghana] was not confined to the economic and social fields, but was extended to the political arena as well. In the first place, as has been pointed out already, the 13th January coup was the outcome of the cooperation between Akan and Ewe officers, and it was expected that the collective leadership would continue during the ensuing administration. However, it became steadily obvious that Acheampong wanted to run the show alone. This trend culminated in the abolition altogether in 1975 of the NRC on which the original coup makers [plotters?] were adequately represented, and the arrest, dismissal or forced retirement of most of the original makers [plotters?] of the coup. The NRC was replaced by the Supreme Military Council (SMC) made up of the heads of the various sections of the armed forces – the Army, Navy, Air Force and Border Guards[,] as well as the Chief of Defence Staff and the Head of the Police. Following the dissolution of the NRC and the subsequent promotion of Akan officers at the expense of the Ewe ones, the Akan/Ewe solidarity broke down and tension came to exist between the two groups which greatly weakened the Army and endangered the stability of Acheampong's UNIGOV: The Attempt to Entrench the Military in Power”(Ghanaian Sphinx 17-18).

Interestingly and quite curiously, however, Boahen characterizes Acheampong's ill-fated Union Government campaign as “a new political system for the country,” without also promptly adding that UNIGOV – as it became popularly known – was a devious attempt at resurrecting Nkrumah's equally ill-fated ideology of the One-Party State 14 years prior, in 1964. And here again, as noted earlier, Boahen obliquely accuses Joe Appiah, putatively dubbed Ghana's “Political Chameleon,” as being almost solely responsible for Acheampong's dastardly attempt at falsifying the results of the Union Government referendum in March 1978. “The referendum took place and at least three results were published, two official which gave victory to the government, [and] one unofficial[,] which declared the opposition [to be] the winners. Though many scholars have accepted these results and have inferred from them all sorts of conclusions, I am [herein] asserting positively that all these results were false; the first two were fabricated by Acheampong and his then[-]Acting Electoral Commissioner and the other was concocted on the basis of the official figures by a small group of politicians and professionals in the office of a barrister who should remain nameless. Nobody will therefore ever know the true results of that referendum”(Ghanaian Sphinx 18). Maybe Boahen is quite accurate in observing that “Nobody will…ever know the true results of the [UNIGOV] referendum.” What is curious, however, is the haste with which the leading Ghanaian historian asserts, rather confidently, that then-Gen. Acheampong and his then-Acting Electoral Commissioner concocted the first two results conceding victory to the ruling Supreme Military Council (SMC I), without offering the reader any concrete proof or evidence to that effect. Also, his curious refusal to, proverbially, name names, regarding the purported “barrister” who sat in his office and “concocted” the third results of the referendum conceding victory to the political opposition, considerably vitiates Boahen's evidentiary authority on the preceding score. And it is not even clear whether this writer's suspicion of Mr. Joe Appiah, vis-à-vis the purported fabrication of the third results of the UNIGOV referendum, has any historical legs to stand on. Nonetheless, in the critical and woeful absence of any concrete evidence to the contrary, Professor Boahen leaves the well-meaning reader with no other viable alternative besides sheer speculation. And on this score, the certainty, or veracity, of the suggestion regarding Mr. Joe Appiah having facilitated the concoction of any version of the UNIGOV referendum results, becomes patently and palpably suspect, particularly when one also realizes the fact that Joe Appiah was in the proverbial pay of Gen. Acheampong regarding the UNIGOV question. Interestingly and ironically, in 1964, the former, who had once been imprisoned by President Nkrumah, was unflappably ranged against the latter's Marxist-oriented ideology of the One-Party State. Even so, Professor Boahen, himself, appears to fall in lockstep with the third results of UNIGOV referendum which conceded victory to the splintered ideological opposition. To this effect, the author of African Perspectives On Colonialism writes:

“Nobody will therefore ever know the true results of that referendum. But even accepting the official figures for the sake of argument, first it is evident that less than 50% of the registered voters did cast their votes, and so many people refused to vote – it is important to emphasize – as an expression of their disgust with and opposition to the government. Secondly, only 56.5% of those who voted are alleged [by whom?] to have voted in favour of UNIGOV. This means that less than a quarter, or 22.6% registered voters were allegedly in favour of UNIGOV, a figure which could not really be interpreted as indicative of national approval of Kutu's UNIGOV proposals”(Ghanaian Sphinx 18-19). Needless to say, Boahen's thesis may be aptly deemed to be neither here nor there, as it were. For if the distinguished scholar and sometime presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party actually believes that “only 56.5% of those who voted are alleged to have voted in favour of UNIGOV,” then, needless to say, the preceding figure may be plausibly seen to have constituted a virtual landslide for Gen. Acheampong. On this score Boahen's spirited attempt at disputing the UNIGOV results, even “for the sake of argument,” is remarkably vitiated. What is more, his argument that “less than 50% of the registered voters did [,indeed,] cast their votes, and so many people refused to vote,” does not cut ice or an Odum-tree, for that matter; and, here, the relevant question becomes: Why register at all, if one does not intend to vote? But, perhaps, even more significantly, it ought to be stressed that historically in times of crises and rank political disaffection, such as prevailed during the 2004 American general elections, going by Professor Boahen's own computation, less than 40% of registered American voters cast their ballot in favor of incumbent president George Walker Bush. Does such dismal electoral outcome, therefore, automatically invalidate Mr. Bush's presidential mandate? Absolutely not! And, indeed, going by Professor Boahen's own computational analysis, President John Agyekum-Kufuor, winner of the 2004 Ghanaian presidential election, may woefully lack the mandate to govern, since in real or concrete statistical terms, the New Patriotic Party's flag-bearer won far less than 50% of the total number – not votes cast, mind you, reader – of registered Ghanaian voters. In any event, what we loudly and clearly understand Professor Boahen to be implying is the fact that Ghanaians are, by and large, loathe to docilely accepting the patently inelastic ideological notion of the One-Party State, a veritable carryover of Nkruma(h)ism. And we wholeheartedly agree with the critic. And here, also, we must point out that it was not totally accidental for Gen. Acheampong to brazenly attempt to recklessly herd our country into the unsavory direction of the One-Party State; needless to say, Gen. Ignatius Kwasi Kutu Acheampong was a bona fide Nkruma(h)ist, notwithstanding the slain president's near-pathological penchant for Western market-economy, the 'Kalabule' version, that is. *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 eleven volumes of poetry and prose, including Sounds of Sirens: Essays in African Politics and Culture, all of which are available from Amazon.com, Elibron.com, Barnes & Noble.com, Powells.com and iUniverse.com. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., © 2005

The author has 4874 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

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