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08.12.2006 Feature Article

When Dancers Play Historians and Thinkers-Part 19

When Dancers Play Historians and Thinkers-Part 19
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As Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, Nkrumah, we learn quite prosaically, was capriciously divisive and vindictive against Generals Ankrah and Otu, the two senior-most Ghanaian military officers, whom the notorious African Show Boy deftly and routinely played against one another, and also against the relatively less senior Major-General Barwah in a devious attempt to rendering Generals Otu and Ankrah professionally ineffective, in a well-calculated bid to getting the latter two removed so that Nkrumah could promptly replace them with his personal favorites.

Indeed, the usage of Gen. Barwah, of northern Ghanaian extraction, as a tool against Generals Otu and Ankrah, two southeasterners of Akan and Ga extraction, respectively, must have been tinged with some not-so-subtle ethnic sentiments on the part of the African Show Boy, a southwestern Ghanaian of Akan but quite distinctive Nzema sub-extraction. On this account, the author of The Life of Lt.-General E. K. Kotoka notes: “In 1964[,] Brigadier Ankrah was promoted to Major-General and became the Deputy Chief of Defense Staff under General Otu. Nkrumah's idea was to play one General against the other. But Nkrumah did not intend to keep those two Generals for long, since he could not trust them. He therefore kept bypassing them deliberately by giving instructions direct[ly] to Barwah. It was Barwah whose advice he sought first on military matters before consulting [the other] senior officers. In 1963 [for instance.] the Minister of Defense issued a directive that party education should be introduced into the Armed Forces. The majority of the senior officers were against the idea, but Barwah was very enthusiastic about it. Yet [the Sandhurst-trained trusty of the African Show Boy] was sensible enough to discern the [hostile] attitude of most of the soldiers to the spread of party ideology to advise Nkrumah to go warily. Although there were a few enthusiasts in the Army, the plan was shelved temporarily because the President probably did not consider the time ripe for radical changes in the Armed Forces' political education” (Life of Kotoka 55-56).

In any case, before we move any further into the historic events surrounding the auspicious overthrow of the Convention People's Party, it may be quite in order to provide the reader with this brief portrait of the ill-fated Major-General Barwah by Professor Ofosu-Appiah: “Still, Nkrumah tried to make some headway in[to] the teaching of party ideology to soldiers by using C. M. Barwah, a Sandhurst-trained officer of outstanding merit and a real gentleman, according to General Ocran. Nkrumah became interested in Barwah late in 1961 when he was a Major. After the dismissal of the British Officers in 1961, he was made the commander of a new battalion in the North; but he did not stay there long enough to gain the necessary experience as a commander. For, in 1962, he was promoted Brigadier and made Commander of the First Infantry Group [Brigade?] in Accra. Under normal conditions[,] he should [ought to?] have commanded the Second [Infantry] Brigade in Kumasi, since he was the more junior Brigadier; but evidently[,] Nkrumah needed him in Accra to carry out secret assignments of all types, military and non-military, for him….” (Life of Kotoka 55).

Further, Ofosu-Appiah writes: “Since Barwah was Nkrumah's most trusted officer, he was in charge of all security arrangements affecting the Osagyefo, and was the only person who had direct access to the Russian and Chinese officers, to whom he gave orders. He knew where all the secret training camps were in Ghana, and was in charge of the distribution of arms in Ghana and outside, and had to work closely with the Director of Military Intelligence, Colonel Hassan, a trusted Nkrumaist. Barwah often went abroad to distribute arms for subversive activities; and his special position in the President's court made his fellow officers suspect him, and few would treat him as a friend. He therefore gradually lost touch with the troops, and was distrusted by the senior officers. After the dismissals of Generals Otu and Ankrah in 1965, Barwah and Brigadier Nathan Aferi were promoted Major-Generals. Aferi became the Chief of Defense Staff and Barwah became Army Chief of Staff, a post he held until he was killed on February 24, 1966 [in his rather fanatical, albeit quite understandable, bid to obstructing the salutary and historic overthrow of the Nkrumah regime]” (Life of Kotoka 56-57).

Interestingly, contrary to the widely held view of some Ghanaian and non-Ghanaian scholars, historians and critics, as Ofosu-Appiah poignantly and authoritatively depicts, Ghanaians were not as docile under the extortionate CPP dictatorship as they have often been made out to be. Indeed, from the promulgation of the infamous Preventive Detention Act (PDA) to the CPP's overthrow in February 1966, the CPP's jackbooted terrorists were almost squarely matched blow-for-blow and grenade-for-grenade: “The security measures taken by Nkrumah during the period 1962-1965 were the direct result of the police-state methods which he systematically adopted after Ghana became a Republic. By the use of the Preventive Detention Act to crush the Parliamentary Opposition and any organized opposition in the country, Nkrumah succeeded in turning Ghana into a one-party state, in fact, long before it became one in law, in February, 1964. The indiscriminate arrests led to violent reaction among the opposition groups. After the Kulungugu bomb plot, a group of people in Accra began a terrorist campaign to bomb the Convention People's Party's fanatics [in-]to surrender. There were several bomb attempts in Accra from September, 1962 to January, 1963. A curfew was imposed on Accra for two weeks in September, 1962, but all the searches for the bomb-throwers proved futile right up to the end of 1962. One feature of the regime was the total disregard for the [rule of] law [brazenly] displayed by the law-makers themselves. The legal provisions of the Preventive Detention Act were not complied with; and when the five-year period of the Act was coming to an end, it was extended and made a permanent part of the laws of Ghana. Though processions and public meetings were banned, in January, 1963, Kwame Nkrumah went to the Accra Stadium in the company of his trusted Commissioner of Police, Mr. E. R. T. Madjitey, to celebrate the 13th anniversary of Positive Action. Naturally, the terrorists were waiting for them, and let loose their bombs after the haranguing had ended. Nkrumah and his immediate entourage, however, were unhurt. But after this breach of the law, Nkrumah had managed to trap the bomb-throwers to disclose their identity by offering a reward of £G 5,000 to anyone who could give a clue to the identity of the terrorists. One of the terrorists, Adotei Addo, was living with an Electricity Department worker called Antwi, who tricked him into giving him the required information on the understanding that he would obtain the reward for him. Adotei Addo was promptly arrested and took the police to the hideouts of the other members of the group. They were all arrested and thrown into prison and later brought before a 'Special Court,' on which sat the Chief Justice, Sir Arku Korsah, Mr. Justice W. B. Van Lare, Justice of Appeal, and Mr. Justice Julius Sarkodee-Adu, Justice of Appeal. The accused persons, five in all, including a woman, were not allowed to have lawyers. Three were condemned to death and two sentenced to five years in prison” (Life of Kotoka 57-58).

Again, and interestingly, in their bid to abjectly underestimating the capacity of the ordinary Ghanaian to resist dictatorial oppression, some fanatical Nkrumacrats have attempted to capriciously and gratuitously link Dr. Danquah to the evidently isolated and purely incidental, albeit hardly illogical, attempt by Constable Ametewee to assassinate President Nkrumah on January 2, 1964, at the Flagstaff House, the official residence of the African Show Boy. On this score, this is what Professor Ofosu-Appiah vividly recalls: “The terrorism was checked, but there were individual attempts to remore Nkrumah between 1962 and 1964. Afrifa in his book, The Ghana Coup, tells how on his return from [his] second tour of duty in the Congo [,] in 1962[,] he had felt an urge to [staging] a coup but had resisted it. He also states that in 1964 he contacted Colonel Crabbe about the possibility of using the army to topple Nkrumah, but nothing came out of it, and the Military Intelligence got wind of it and interrogated Colonel Crabbe. The most determined attempt[,] however[,] was made by a Police Constable, Ametewee, who, on 2nd January, 1964, when he was on guard duty in Flagstaff House, fired shots at Nkrumah but missed him, and killed his aide instead. This incident made Nkrumah mad, and he barricaded himself behind the walls of the Castle while repressive measures were taken all over the country and security precautions were tightened in Flagstaff House. Certain top-ranking police officers, including the Commissioner of Police, were dismissed and put under house arrest until they were finally detained under the Preventive Detention Act at the Nsawam Medium Security Prison in May, 1964. Two senior Police Officers, one of whom was a merciless butcher of Nkrumah's opponents, a Deputy Commissioner of Police called S. G. Amaning, was detained because the assassin [had] deliberately implicated him in the crime. The former Chief Justice, Sir Arku Korsah, who had been mentioned by Ametewee as a possible accomplice was promptly arrested by the Security Service and interrogated for hours. He was later released and kept under house arrest till the coup freed him. Dr. J. B. Danquah, however, was never released when he was arrested on January 8, 1964, and after months of suffering, to which Nkrumah was indifferent, he died on 4th February, 1965, at the Nsawam prisons. The reign of terror affected most families, and Ghanaians began to wonder if their soldiers had any guts, since they were all expecting deliverance from the Army. For, with the [tactical] disarming of the Police after the assassination attempt, the only group which could use force effectively was the Armed Forces. The story which follows is their response to the wishes of their countrymen” (Life of Kotoka 58-60).

In sum, with the preceding apocalyptic reign of terror indiscriminately and relentlessly visited upon a hitherto largely unsuspecting Ghanaian electorate by President Nkrumah and his so-called Convention People's Party (CPP), Ghanaians had no other alternative, if they were not to be thoroughly and irreparably damaged psychologically and psychically, but to call on the hitherto apparently lethargic Armed Forces for prompt and swift administration of justice. Thus was set the salutary stage for the February 24, 1966, coup detat. Interestingly, however, as Professor Ofosu-Appiah aptly points out: “The initiative for staging a coup detat, however, did not originate with the Armed Forces. It was a policeman, Mr. J. W. K. Harlley, who felt that unless Nkrumah were removed by fair or foul means, the country would be ruined beyond repair. He decided in 1963 that Nkrumah should be removed by the Police, and therefore approached Mr. E. R. T. Madjitey, the Commissioner of Police, with the suggestion. But Madjitey was prepared to cooperate only if the military would undertake the exercise. Harlley, who was then in charge of the Special Branch of the Police, decided to explore other avenues, and hit upon the bright idea of soliciting the help of the British. His approaches to the British Conservative Government were promptly rebuffed, and there was [even] a threat to report his plans to Nkrumah. Luckily that threat was not carried out when the conservative Government fell from power in 1964. And so the man who was destined to break Kwame Nkrumah's power was saved from prison and the gallows, while the British Prime Minister at whose suggestion Nkrumah went on his fateful mission to China got into the saddle. The power of fate, as Sophocles says, is a dread power. When this second attempt failed, Harlley did not give up his plans, but continued to devise new methods of achieving his aim. This time[,] luck came to his side. For, after the attempted assassination of Nkrumah by Ametewee in January 1964, Madjitey was dismissed, and Harlley was appointed the Commissioner of Police. He now felt able to carry out his plans, and sought the cooperation of the Army. His original idea had been to kidnap Nkrumah and hide him somewhere, and then urge the army and the police to seize power. But when this proved impracticable, he decided on a full-scale coup detat” (Life of Kotoka 61-63).

Going by the preceding narrative, it becomes quite plausible to admit of a modicum of the Nkrumacratic claim that the U. S.-Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) may likely have participated in the events culminating in the auspicious overthrow of Nkrumah and his so-called Convention People's Party, as, indeed, recent documents purported to have been declassified by the United States' Department of State indicate. However, contrary to the Nkrumacratic claim, it does not appear historic or logical that the CIA, rather than bona fide members of the Ghanaian intelligence community, including the erstwhile Special Branch of the Ghana Police Service, and, of course, the Ghana Armed Forces constituted the primary architectural engineers of the February 24, 1966 Revolution. Indeed, not only does staking an exaggerated primary claim for the U. S.-Central Intelligence Agency woefully underestimate the native intelligence and courageous and creative initiative of the suffering Ghanaian electorate but, perhaps, even more significantly, such argument attempts to gratuitously justify Nkrumah and CPP atrocities, which is what fanatical Nkrumaists have been doing for some four decades now.

The preceding notwithstanding, for the author of The Life of Lt.-General E. K. Kotoka, an even more interesting narrative vis-à-vis the auspicious and historic ousting of the Nkrumah regime, regards the choice of Kotoka by Harlley as the lead actor of the February 24 Revolutionary Drama. To this effect, Ofosu-Appiah writes: “The choice of Kotoka was ideal, and it seemed that at that moment Harlley had made a tryst with destiny; for Kotoka so hated Nkrumah and his regime that he had been thinking very seriously of overthrowing him. It was therefore easy for the two men to begin planning for the removal of the tyrant. They afterwards met frequently to discuss plans and to think of reliable collaborators. They added to themselves like-minded officers of the Ewe tribe, like Lt.-Colonel Kattah, who was then Adjutant-General; Colonel Tevie and Captain Avevor. Their first plan was to prefer specific charges against Nkrumah and to force him to abdicate immediately. To prevent any attempt to foil their plans, they proposed to have a strik[ing] force ready to deal with any unpleasant situation that might arise if Nkrumah refused to cooperate. It was also planned to send a copy of the charges to the Chief Justice because, under the Constitution, the President had to tender his resignation to the Chief Justice. Kotoka's main assignment was to get more soldiers in the lower rungs of the Armed Forces to help in the venture, while Harlley tried to get Generals Otu and Ankrah to take the lead in toppling Nkrumah. Harlley's strategy was as follows. He decided that the economic situation of the country should be used to convince the Generals that the moment had come for them to take a decisive action to rescue the country from inevitable collapse. He therefore asked Mr. R. S. Amegashie, who was then the Director of the School of Administration of the University of Ghana, and Mr. E. N. Omaboe, the Government Statistician, to give him a concise appraisal of the economic situation to enable him to use the document to convince the Generals of the seriousness of the matter, and to get them to [promptly] act. Harlley first showed the document on the state of Ghana's economy to Otu and then talked at length with him about the state of the nation, and what the Ghanaian population expected the Armed Forces to do to put the country back on its feet. Though Otu was sympathetic to the idea, he could not trust his deputy, Ankrah, who had been appointed by Nkrumah to make it easy for him to carry out his divide and rule policy. Otu frankly confessed his misgivings to Harlley and Harlley assured him that he would see and bring the two of them together to undertake the exercise. He later met Ankrah and showed him the document and proposed that he join the conspirators to remove Nkrumah. Ankrah was also very willing, but confessed that he could not trust Otu, because he might leak the plot to Nkrumah. But Harlley set his mind at rest by revealing that he had already secured Otu's agreement to cooperate, so there would be no problem. The conspirators planned to destool Nkrumah sometime in April 1965. They decided that Harlley and Ankrah should on the appointed day go together in a ferret with the support of a task force of soldiers and serve Nkrumah with the charges and force him to abdicate. Kotoka had made military plans to deal with any opposition to the plot which might arise among dissident soldiers. But this time luck was not on their side. For when it came to decisive action, General Otu lost his nerves and asked for a postponement of the operation. He felt that their plans must have leaked out, and any arguments which Harlley advanced to the contrary did not satisfy him. The operation was therefore abandoned” (Life of Kotoka 65-68).

Perhaps it may also be in order to highlight Nkrumah's fascinating, albeit absolutely comical and farcical, attempt at nurturing “Democracy” in Ghana shortly after the May 1965 military coup attempt to overthrow the CPP; and so we, hereby, fully reproduce the same as eloquently recalled by Professor L. H. Ofosu-Appiah, in the latter's biographical work titled The Life of Lt.-General E. K. Kotoka: Hero of the 24th February Revolution: “Soon after this event, Nkrumah agreed with Geoffrey Bing that the life of the Ghana[ian] Parliament, which had run from 1956 should end in May, 1965, and a new Parliament elected. Since Ghana was a one-party state, such an election was, at best, a farce. Out of the blue[,] it was announced in the press that Parliament would be dissolved on May 26, 1965, and that general elections would be held on June 8, 1965. Nominations would close on Tuesday, 1st, June at 2.00 p. m. All that was necessary was for the President, who was the General Secretary of the Convention People's Party, to nominate the 198 prospective members of Parliament and to publish the list of candidates. Nomination papers were provided for the selected candidates by the District Commissioners and other political officers. Some people like Mr. Jateo Kaleo, who had been a staunch opposition Member of Parliament throughout the CPP period, found himself nominated without his consent for the constituency he had represented for years. He had to accept the nomination or go to prison or into exile. He decided to accept the nomination. Some did not even know where their constituencies were; and someone like Alex Quayson-Sackey heard of his nomination while he was in France and had to rush back home to sign his nomination papers. But before he could hand them in, the radio announced on June 2, 1965 that all the 198 candidates had been elected to Parliament! As Time Magazine put it, Ghana had outstripped the Communists in the game of democratic elections! But Ghanaians preferred to call the exercise 'selections.' Parliament met early in June and elected Nkrumah President for another term of five years, and he appointed his Ministers and set up a Presidential Commission before he left for London to attend the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference on 14th June 1965” (Life of Kotoka 68-69).

In view of his irredeemably primitive and globally embarrassing appreciation and practice of “Democracy,” it came as hardly any surprise when shortly after enacting his one-man parliamentary democracy in June 1965, the Show Boy allowed his overweening ego to get the best part of him, by imperiously taking the bait of a suggestion from British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, during that year's Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, that Nkrumah join a delegation to broker a peace agreement between the major factions of the Vietnam War. As usual, anxious that he might be upstaged by other Commonwealth premiers, Nkrumah quixotically and single-mindedly took it upon himself to embark on a one-man delegation to China and Vietnam.

Still, to more vividly appreciate the ineffable hollowness of the Nkrumacratic attempt to squarely and curiously blame the U. S. – Central Intelligence Agency for the opportune events of February 24, 1966, this is what the erudite and prolific author of The Life of Lt.-General E. K. Kotoka had to say: “The [then-newly-elected] British Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Wilson, with peculiar insight into Nkrumah's vanity, had suggested at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in 1965 that the President of Ghana should be a member of a Commonwealth delegation to Hanoi to try and bring an end to the Vietnam War. Nkrumah felt so [fatuously] pleased with himself that he sent his Foreign Minister, Mr. Alex Quayson-Sackey, to Washington to seek an assurance from President [Lyndon Baines] Johnson that the United States would not bomb him if he went over to Hanoi. The American President said [that] there would be no such danger. So, even though the Commonwealth delegation never got off the ground because of the Rhodesian Unilateral Declaration of Independence [UDI], Nkrumah went ahead with his own arrangements to go to Hanoi to see Ho Chi Minh, who had agreed to his visit. Nkrumah was sure that his power in Ghana was impregnable, and cheerfully committed the sin of overweening pride when, on the death of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in the Nigerian coup of 15th January, 1966, he went on the air and assured the world that Sir Abubakar was a victim of forces [that] he [i.e. the slain Nigerian premier] did not understand. To him all was well in Ghana; Nigeria was a neocolonialist state, which was ripe for a coup, and so there was no need to lament over what had happened. The Volta Dam was inaugurated in January after the Nigerian coup, and in mid-February a very tough budget was introduced in[to] Parliament. The country's economic position had taken a dangerous turn. Yet Nkrumah felt secure enough to leave Ghana with a large following of security officers. When he reached Cairo, President Nasser shrewdly asked him why he felt so sure about his position in Ghana as to leave the country at that time, but [the cartoon-dimensional] Nkrumah brushed aside the question because he could not imagine anybody taking over power in his absence! When he reached India and was asked by the Foreign Minister what the problems of Ghana were, he replied[,] with characteristic naivete, that 'the only problem about Ghana is that we have no problems'!!! No wonder he could not believe his ears when two days later he was informed that the greatest problem of Ghana was himself, and that that problem had been solved in the only way possible at the time!” (Life of Kotoka 84-85).

Interestingly enough, the received mainstream Ghanaian version, at least in Nkrumaist circles, for forty years now, has been that then-American President Lyndon Baines Johnson had, personally and treacherously, solicited the purportedly conciliatory acumen of President Nkrumah in the diplomatic resolution of the Vietnam War. Obviously, Nkrumah appears to have desperately craved global political canonicity. The equally curious aspect of this tale is that knowing what Ghanaians publicly knew about their President's stentorian ranting against “Western Imperialism,” the African Show Boy ought to have been, in the words of Professor Ofosu-Appiah, pathologically naïve, indeed, to have so readily taken such certain suicidal bait from his inveterate Western detractors.

Of the sterling cast of heroes of the February 24, 1966 Revolution who accorded Kwame Nkrumah and his so-called Convention People's Party a fitting quietus, Professor Ofosu-Appiah writes: “By the end of the day[,] the planners of the coup [had] set up a National Liberation Council to run the country by decree [even as the African Show Boy had run Ghana by imperial edict]. They invited Major-General J. A. Ankrah, who was then in retirement, to become Chairman of the Council and promoted him [to] Lt.-General; while Mr. J. W. K. Harlley became its Deputy Chairman. The other members were Colonel Kotoka, Colonel A. K. Ocran, Major A. A. Afrifa, Mr. A. K. Deku, then Deputy Commissioner of Police, CID., Mr. J. E. O. Nunoo, then Deputy Commissioner of Police, and Mr. B. A. Yakubu, an Assistant Commissioner of Police who was, until the coup, one of Nkrumah's ADC's. The first act of the coup leaders was to promote those who took active parts in the operation and those who became members of the National Liberation Council but did not take part in the operations. Kotoka became a Major-General and General Officer Commanding the Ghana Armed Forces; Ocran became a Brigadier, and Afrifa a Colonel; Harlley became the Inspector-General of Police; Deku, Commissioner of Police CID, Nunoo, Commissioner of Police Administration, and Yakubu, Deputy Commissioner of Police. On February 26, 1966, the National Liberation Council issued a comprehensive proclamation for the constitution of a National Liberation Council for the administration of Ghana. This was the legal document under whose authority the Armed Forces and the Police rule the country till the 30th of September, 1969. What started as a rebellion had ended as a revolution, and Ghanaians were very grateful for their deliverance. A new nation had been born” (Life of Kotoka 96-98).

Contrary to the widely held belief, largely among cynical and fanatical Nkrumacrats, that Kotoka, being a professional soldier, was ill-equipped for the democratic governance of Ghana in the wake of the ousting of the pseudo-socialist Convention People's Party regime, Ofosu-Appiah firmly believes that Kotoka appreciated the practical realities of the political culture and rule of democracy in a way that ardent Nkrumaists could barely dream about: “Kotoka was a strong believer in democracy, and accepted Busia's idea of the establishment of a Center For Civic Education to teach ordinary men and women and children their rights and responsibilities. But he did not live long enough to see the center inaugurated. However, during his lifetime he put an effective stop to the sycophancy displayed by Ghanaians to men in authority as far as he himself was concerned. He did not accept presents readily, except Bibles, for he was deeply religious. But that did not prevent unscrupulous Ghanaians from using his name for profit. For, in the first few months after the coup, certain smart men devised a pass which they called 'Kotoka Pass.' This pass, which cost some money, was supposed to admit the bearer [in-]to Accra. A number of innocent villagers suffered from this type of fraud until it was effectively checked. Some of the hardened criminals, who were mostly aliens from other African states, caused a lot of trouble, and the Army had to be used to combat the thugs” (Life of Kotoka 110-111).

For Kotoka's biographer, perhaps, the greatest ideological bottleneck to postcolonial Ghanaian economic and cultural development has been Kwame Nkrumah's unsavory promotion of a policy of do-nothing Socialism, which did little to motivate the putatively lethargic work ethic of the average Ghanaian. For, in reality, the indiscriminate creation of occupational sinecures under the CPP regime has continued to regressively encourage most Ghanaians to passively look up to their governments for handouts. In a large part, Nkrumah and his minions had been able to, literally, get away with such unproductive policy because, at independence, the CPP had inherited enormous foreign-exchange reserves which, on the eve of Nkrumah's ouster had been virtually drawn down to naught: “The greatest problem which faced Kotoka as the NLC member responsible for Labor and Social Welfare was [acute] unemployment. Generally Ghanaians, especially the town and city dwellers, are very lazy, and do not take the initiative to start small enterprises or to engage in modest trading. They are also too proud to accept jobs as farm laborers. They were led to believe by the 'socialist' politicians that it was the duty of the Government of Ghana to find employment for all its citizens. And so while Nigerians, Malians and other West Africans came to Ghana with nothing in their pockets and worked as laborers or petty traders, able-bodied Ghanaians looked for work in state enterprises, which were running at a loss, or loitered around the Labor exchanges and became a social problem. The State Farms Corporation, which had been established during the sixties, employed a lot of people who merely went up to answer to their names and left for their homes and later came back for their wages at the end of the month. Since the economy could no longer sustain such idle hands, several of these people were thrown out of work, but refused to take on work on farms or accept menial labor. Such men [and women] began to miss the 'good old days' of Kwame Nkrumah. Strikes, which were outlawed by the Nkrumah regime, common as soon as the Trades Union Congress became free of Government control. The National Liberation Council tried to solve the problem of unemployment, but it was not easy, because Ghana was full of aliens who were working hard, but most of whom had no residence permits. Smuggling became more rampant when the boundaries with the neighboring countries were reopened and travel became very easy. The most lucrative items for smuggling were diamonds, which were sold to speculators in Togo and Nigeria. As both Ghanaians and foreigners were engaged in the racket, it was extremely difficult to check it. The high taxes and duties imposed on alcoholic drinks, cars and other consumer goods[,] led to a good deal of smuggling from the neighboring countries. Cocoa, whose [producer] price in Ghana was the lowest in West Africa, was also smuggled [in-]to Togo and the Ivory Coast, where the prices paid were higher. The proceeds were used to buy goods for sale on the black market. These were some of the problems which Kotoka and his colleagues tried to solve, but they did not meet with much success. It is not easy to change ingrained national characteristics [habits?] overnight. Perhaps if the NLC had not kept too rigidly to its policy of unrestricted individual liberty, it could have introduced direction of labor with military ruthless, and more work would have been done on the farms. Since the peasant farmers could not produce enough food to feed Ghanaians, the Government had to spend [huge sums of] money on the importation of food. While trained Ghanaian agriculturists were reluctant to work on farms, some of them gleefully went to Tema Harbor to accept[,] with [shameless] smiles[,] food items donated by foreign Governments, whose agricultural graduates had sweated to produce the food! The problems [in the wake of Kotoka's demise and the advent of the Busia-led Progress Party] are still with us. After a year in office[,] the National Liberation Council could claim to have made Ghana a better country than it found it. Government expenditure had been drastically reduced, but the cost of living was still very high because of the high cost of locally produced foodstuffs. There were, however, such consumer goods as sugar, milk and rice in the markets and the shops, and the long queues which were a [common] feature of the last years of Nkrumah's regime had now become history” (Life of Kotoka 113-116).

Significantly, however, and objectively so, the author of The Life of Lt.-General E. K. Kotoka makes no tendentious attempt to apotheosize the star-players who constituted the transitional government of the National Liberation Council (NLC). Consequently, as was to be shortly expected, the government of the NLC, once its honeymooning days were over, began to lapse into some of the exact corrupt practices of the Nkrumah regime and which the NLC pontifically claimed to be seeking to extirpate from Ghanaian society: “The military members of the National Liberation Council made the mistake of giving themselves further promotions on Liberation Day. Kotoka was promoted to Lt.-General, Brigadier Ocran became a Major-General, and Colonel Afrifa became a Brigadier, a promotion which he declined to accept at first, but which Kotoka persuaded him later to accept. There were grumblings in the lower rungs of the officer corps, and those malcontents in the country who had lost a lot from the overthrow of Nkrumah began to take advantage of the changed attitude to the National Liberation Council to engage in subversion against the regime” (Life of Kotoka 117).

It was partly the preceding state of affairs which led to the April 17, 1967, abortive counter-coup which also resulted in the brutal assassination of General Kotoka by Lt. Benjamin Arthur (and the latter's alleged accomplices, namely, Lt. Yeboah and 2nd Lt. Osei-Poku) in what became known as “Operation Guitar Boy” (Life of Kotoka 118-137).

Interestingly, some ardent and fanatical Nkrumacrats have often invoked Lt. Arthur's abortive counter-coup to cynically shore up their dubious claim that the April 17 military action was aimed at the restoration of the deposed President Nkrumah and his Convention People's Party regime. A critical analysis of data provided by Professor Ofosu-Appiah, in his biographical work on Gen. Kotoka, indicate something totally different. For Lt. Benjamin Arthur was reported to have vowed that he wanted to go down into the record books as the first subaltern to have staged a successful military putsch on the African continent (Life of Kotoka 117-137). Also quite significant for the serious student of postcolonial Ghanaian history and, indeed, also the general reader, is the fact that the location of the giant pedestal on which Gen. Kotoka's life-size statue reposes on the foregrounds of the Accra International Airport, renamed for the slain firebrand revolutionary, also marks the exact spot on which Gen. Kotoka was brutally felled by Lt. Benjamin Arthur on April 17, 1967.

Also significant is Professor Ofosu-Appiah's cautionary note to postcolonial Ghanaian politicians, both present and future: “Ghana is a country in which political leaders have to be very careful of what they do in public life, since false and unfounded rumors about them are readily believed. Soon tongues began to wag that the members of the NLC were amassing wealth and filling high positions with their friends and relatives. It was openly stated that the Ewes and the Gas were dominating the majority tribes, since there were three Ewes and two Gas on the NLC and only two Akans and one Northerner. That the composition of the Council was purely fortuitous did not weigh much with the rumor-mongers. The bogey of tribalism soon became a part of the national life and we are now living to regret it. It was in that atmosphere that some people began to plot to overthrow the National Liberation Council” (Life of Kotoka 117-118)

Interestingly, the pro-Nkrumaist National Redemption Council (NRC), which overthrew the popularly elected Busia-led Progress Party (PP), and the NRC's subsequent emanations of SMC I and SMC II juntas were to pursue similar self-serving cultures, as was also the Rawlings-led P/NDC regime which concentrated its purview more on the personal aggrandizement of public wealth, even while summarily executing the major players of its predecessor juntas on the dubious grounds of pathological corruption and abject lack of probity and accountability.

The preceding notwithstanding, the seminal significance of General Kotoka to the salutary realignment of progressive and democratic forces on the postcolonial Ghanaian political landscape, particularly vis-à-vis the imperative overthrow and exorcizing of the formidable demons of the Convention People's Party dictatorship, cannot be overemphasized. And it is for this very reason that we hereby reproduce in full, the eternally flaming tribute of Professor L. H. Ofosu-Appiah to General E. K. Kotoka, the putative leader of the celebrated February 24, 1966 Ghanaian Revolution:
LT.-GENERAL E. K. KOTOKA
A Tribute by L. H. Ofosu-Appiah

The news of the brutal murder of Lt.-General E. K. Kotoka by some of his own soldiers came as a real shock to the majority of Ghanaians. His fate resembles that of an ideal tragic hero who has all the qualities of greatness, but who makes a mistake of judgment which leads to a reversal of fortune and a sudden pitiful fall. Such deaths lead the audience to wonder whether the gods can ever reward virtue and valor, and this is precisely what the majority of Ghanaians felt when the news of his death broke in on a stunned country.

The man who became the hero of the 24th February Revolution was unknown to the majority of Ghanaians, but he became a romantic legendary figure from that date. Before his supreme act of selfless devotion to duty brought down the despotism which foreigners thought was peculiar to the African tradition of fear of freedom, public expressions of support for the Government of Ghana was always organized but never spontaneous. Those skeptics who could not believe that the joy of Ghanaians at their deliverance by Kotoka and his selfless soldiers was spontaneous should now reflect upon the widespread sorrow and indignation which followed his murder and realize that he has kindled a flame which no tyrant can quench.

I had never heard of Kotoka before the [sic] 24th February, 1966, but he fitted into my idea of the type of person who would bring down tyranny. I had always maintained that a young officer in the Ghana Army would take the [noble] decision to bring about the final solution of the Ghanaian question, and I decided to get to know him. When we first met in September, 1966, I was genuinely attracted by [sic] his personality, his quiet humor and his modesty. His one passion which I shared with him [sic] was his dislike for the dictator [whom] he overthrew; but he also had open contempt for cowards and was amused by the way in which former Party members denounced Nkrumah. He was first and foremost a soldier, and remarked that if he had ever dreamed of the extent of the economic, social and administrative mess created by the last regime, he would never have staged the coup. But he felt that once the work had been done, it was the duty of other Ghanaians to help put the country on its feet, for Ghana did not belong to the men who staged the coup [Emphasis added].

My wife and I decided to give a party in honor of the General and his friend Afrifa, who fitted into my idea of Achilles and Patroklos, though their fates now have been reversed. The party took place on the 4th of December, 1966 and was attended by some of my friends in [sic] Legon, including the Editor of the Legon Observer. It was a very pleasant evening. When the time came for me to propose the toast, I told the company[,] among other things[,] of the tryst I [had] made with destiny before I left for America. I had set aside £ 100 in a Savings Bank to celebrate some day the fall of the tyrant; and least did I think that I would have the honor of entertaining the men who did the deed. The General's speech was on patriotism and was full of humor. One was struck with [by?] his humanity, since he dismissed any idea of revenge on the supporters of the Nkrumah regime. This trait in him was both a source of strength and of weakness. He later wrote to me on the 14th [of] December and commented thus:

I must say [that] I was really happy when you spoke about
the change which you had long expected and for which you
saved £ 100 to celebrate.
Somehow, I felt that the General needed to revise his views of his countrymen [and, of course, women], and to view events in Ghana more realistically, so I sent him a copy of Lord Kinross' Ataturk, the Rebirth of a Nation, for the anniversary of the 24th February Revolution. It arrived in time for the celebrations and the last letter I received from him was to thank me for the book. I doubt if he had time to read it. I met him for the last time on the 19th of March when I was in an ugly mood and wanted to consult him on an issue which I felt would bring disgrace on Ghana. He disarmed me completely by laughing at me, and proceeded to settle the problem. He had planned that we should dine together again, but that was not to be.

And now he is gone, and his youth has become immortal[ized]. Perhaps what he would appreciate most in the nether world is to reflect that the youth of Ghana will in future follow the advice of Ataturk to the Youth of Turkey. It reads, with [pertinent] substitutions, thus:
If ever the Ghana Revolution should be in danger,
the young man of Ghana is not going to say, 'there is
a police force in this country, there is an army, there is
the machinery of justice in this country.' The young man
of Ghana is going to intervene himself to protect his
country's freedom.

Soberly and unrhetorically[,] it can be said of him that he is now part of that ideal Ghana which knows not selfishness and injustice and distrust. Ghana is all the emptier for his leaving it. (Legon Observer – Vol. II, May, 1967)

One of the few things that this writer regrets, with regard to our subject, is the alleged refusal of the National Liberation Council (NLC) to have John Hevi's biography of Kotoka, titled Toll for the Brave, which the Council itself, according to Professor Ofosu-Appiah, commissioned published. And while readers ought to be generally pleased that the distinguished author of The Life of Lt.-General E. K. Kotoka had drawn on the unpublished work of Mr. Hevi's, still direct access by the reader to the same cannot be seriously contested. And, indeed, we must hasten to add that wherever Mr. Hevi's manuscript may happen to be today, whoever holds the rights to it would definitely enrich avid students of postcolonial Ghanaian history and, by logical extension, almost every serious student of African Studies by rushing Mr. John Hevi's Toll for the Brave to the nearest reputable publisher.
*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).
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., © 2006

The author has 4887 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

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