24.02.2006 Feature Article

Ghana, Our Beloved Country Four Decades Ago

Ghana, Our Beloved Country Four Decades Ago
24.02.2006 LISTEN

We must always remember the past, to help us understand the present and to guide us for the future. If we do not know where we came from, we would not recognize where we are now, neither would we know where we are going.

Ghana four decades ago was officially and constitutionally one-party state. The first three years of political independence has been a period of systematic conditioning and eradication of political opposition. By January 1966 it was illegal to organize or belong to any political party apart from the CPP founded by the president-for-life Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

Most prominent Ghanaians who espoused different political ideas from that of the CPP were either in prison or in exile. Among those in prison were Messrs Victor Owusu, R. R. Amponsah, Apaloo, William Ofori-Atta, Dzenkle Dzewu and Joe Appiah. R.R. Amponsah and Apaloo were former parliamentarians convicted for planning a military coup with one Major Awhaitey. Of those in exile, the list included Prof Busia, one time parliamentary leader of Opposition and Oheneba Kow Richardson, the General Secretary of the then prescribed United Party. Two other opposition members had died in exile. These were Amponsah Dadzie, one time member of parliament for Cape Coast and Mr. Ashie Nikoi, a foundation member of the CPP and Ga Shifimo Kpee. The latter had the distinction of being present at the 5th Pan African Congress in Manchester and also among the first victims of the obnoxious Preventive Detention Act. Two members (Dr. J. B. Danquah and Obetsebi Lamptey) of the historical Big Six of the independence struggle had died in detention without trial. As if the absolute political power that characterized the crudest persecution of dissent opinion was not enough, the election of 1964 added yet another dimension.

The general election held two years earlier (1964) had given the president unprecedented extensive powers. The president could fire judges at his whims and caprices. The colors of the flag of the CPP (red, white and green) had replaced that of the national colors of red, yellow and green.

Militarily, all other units of the Ghana Armed Forces were playing a second fiddle to the Flagstaff House-based Presidential Own Regiment. There was also a semi-military outfit in the character of Workers Brigade. As the military apparatus was being weakened, its professional place was being occupied by an intelligence unit headed by a semi-literate Ambrose Yankey. Members of this KGB-like apparatus were believed to be every where. Ghanaians could not openly comment on national issues. Besides the hated intelligence apparatus, the Young Pioneer movement was another agent for collecting intelligence. This group of impressionistic youth owned an unalloyed loyalty to the person of the president. They were brain washed to report even their own parents who made any negative remarks about “His High Dedication”, the 'Redeemer'. The Young Pioneers also served another purpose. They were the linchpins in relentless campaign for the personality cult of Nkrumah.

Economically, Ghana was flirting dangerously with half-baked socialist ideas. We had the ubiquitous state enterprises littered all over the country. Nkrumah it seems, was trying to remake Ghana four decades ago, in the image of not necessarily of the industrialized west but Soviet world. Nkrumah could have done better if development had been steered to the traditional lines by, for example supporting peasant farmers and fishermen. The justifications for locating some of these enterprises were immoral if not idiotic. An example would suffice here. Abosso Glass Factory was the last of such state enterprises to be established and opened by the 'redeemer' before his timely overthrow. As the name palpably indicates, the plant was to manufacture glass bottles and other glass products mainly for the domestic market. The significant industries (breweries, soft drink manufacturers and distilleries) that utilized the finished products were located in Accra and Kumasi.

The available bulky local raw materials needed i.e. calcium (from shells) were accessible at Battor in the Volta Region. Most of the chemical needed were imported from Europe by sea. Melting of the calcium and other raw materials into molten state consumed a large energy. The lines from Akosombo power grid system passed overhead at the plant. Ironically, the plant installed at Abosso was designed to consume fuel oil obtainable from the state owned oil refinery at Tema. The equipment and machinery installed in the factory were pre-1945 vintages. To operate therefore, bulky calcium (shells) and fuel oil were transported respectively from Battor and Tema across country to Abosso. Imported chemicals were shipped on unreliable railway lines from Takoradi. End products were then shipped by either rail or road to Kumasi and Accra. Given the age of the machinery, and the logistical nightmares involved Abosso Glass Factory was doomed for failure at birth. Objective analysis of the factors that dictated where other state manufacturing enterprises were sited revealed random abandonment of economic principles. Thus a mango factory at Wenchi, Sugar Factories at Komenda and Asutsuare were all sited for reasons other than economic.

There existed a rigid a suffocating foreign exchange regime and import licensing system. The cedi, the national currency was over valued. All independent analysts cried aloud that the country was at economic precipice. Yet the Evening News, the mouth organ of the ruling CPP proclaimed on banner head lines relentlessly, that the 'economy was buoyant'. In addition to the Evening News, there were other newspapers like the 'Spark' edited by one Kofi Batsa which became a full-time purveyor of socialist garbage indistinguishable from the Pravda of the Soviet Union

Education was not only fee-free and text books-free but it was controlled as well from first grade to the university level. Certain literature books were banned. One such a book was George Orwell's Animal Farm. It was not only what we read that was censored, what movies we were exposed to were equally controlled. To encourage young Ghanaians to take up more science courses at the three universities, special incentive allowance policy was instituted. Science students received higher stipends than their liberal arts counter parts. Socially various student unions organized dances during long summer vacation in their various communities. We thus had Christiansburg and La students unions being named OSU and LASU respectively.

The formation of Real Republikans Football Club at the initial stages of the decade had weakened substantially the age-old rivalry between Accra Hearts and Ashanti Kotoko. The initial players that served as the nucleus of Republikans were poached from the eight original league clubs. Accra Hearts lost Ofei Dodoo and Addo Odamettey. Accra Great Olympics sacrificed Dodoo Ankrah and E. O. Oblitey. Baba Yara was one of the players Kotoko had to forgo. By 1966 efforts to organize even soccer on socialist principles was in an inexorable swing. Apart from Real Republikans and Sekondi Independence, which were state owned soccer clubs, plans were afoot to have the state to take over Kumasi Cornerstones in addition for the impending soccer league for 1966 season. The army had its won soccer team called Defence Stars. Plans were on the drawing board for Builders Brigade to sponsor its own soccer team. In 1964, Nkrumah, in an effort more to further his continental aspirations purchased a gold cup to be competed for by clubs. The finals were held in Accra. A Cameroonian Cotton Club shocked us in Accra. It took the cup away. Floyd Klutei Robertson failed in his second bid to win a world boxing title for Ghana in Mexico in early February. It was alleged he was drugged.

In November 1965, racist Ian Smith of the then Rhodesia unilaterally declared independence from United Kingdom. Nkrumah, 'the fount of honor' and the supreme commander of Ghana Armed Forces started mobilization to 'redeem' the 'benighted' blacks from the iron clutches of racist Ian Smith. A younger junior officer was assigned to report on an exercise of Tamale contingent of Ghana Armed forces. Both the commanding officer of the contingent and the junior officer had seen action previously in the Congo during the Congo (Leopoldville) independence crisis. During the socializing period that punctuated the exercise, the junior officer suggested that they could drive to Accra and use the forces at the disposal to overthrow the corrupt and dictatorial CPP regime entrenched in the capital. This suggestion took the commanding officer by surprise. Even though he had been musing about such matters, he had not been able to verbalize it to nobody. The senior officer not unnaturally, thought the junior officer was an agent of the government. He had to tread with caution. At that juncture, the junior officer had to confess the esteem in which he held his senior.

For, while he was on assignment in the Congo to capture a rebel stronghold Kasai Province, he woefully failed, tirelessly though his efforts. Before he could get to his station in Ghana, dispatches were received indicating that his reliever had accomplished that seemingly impossible task. As fate would have it on January 6, 1966, the military in Nigeria under Ibo leadership seized power to rid their country of an ineffective Hausa-Fulani oligarchy. The writing was on the wall. It was just a matter of time for Ghana to naked Nkrumah.

The myth was broken on February 24, 1966 with tacit approval of the Central Intelligence Agency of the USA. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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