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27.02.2007 Feature Article

When Dancers play Historians and Thinkers - Part 23

When Dancers play Historians and Thinkers - Part 23

Much vitriol and ill-will have been routinely heaped on the organized political opposition – led by Drs. Danquah and Busia – for supposedly retarding the forward and steady march towards Ghana's salutary attainment of sovereignty. Interestingly, however, just like the self-engineered Kulungugu episode some eight years later, Dennis Austin imputes the delaying of Ghana's attainment of full-status of sovereignty squarely to the transitional administrative ineptitude of Nkrumah and his CPP: “In the meantime it was agreed between the Gold Coast and United Kingdom government that an interim measure should be introduced, and in April 1954 a new Order in Council was promulgated to provide for the grant of full, internal self-government as a 'final stage' before independence. It was at this point, however, that the CPP began to falter, and a dangerous quarrel developed over the nomination of candidates as local interests were asserted in defiance of the authority of the central committee. The leaders [of the CPP] sought desperately to steady the party, but despite the urgency of their appeal to nationalist loyalties, despite, too, the chorus of praise for Nkrumah as 'Africa's Man of Destiny,' the unpleasant fact remained that (as the date of the election approached) the nationalist party was deeply divided. Its constituency executives split into warring groups, and 'rebel candidates' appeared. An unexpected opportunity was thus afforded the opposition parties. And, heartened by the prospect of division within the enemy's ranks, they hastened to strengthen their bid to rescue the country 'from the degradation and ruin which threaten it as a result of the inefficient, incompetent, nepotistic, corrupt and nefarious Government of the CPP.'” (Politics in Ghana 202).

The preceding notwithstanding, in order to fully appreciate the theatrically grotesque levels to which the African Show Boy had taken his monarchical travesty, or his dastardly attempt to effectively undermine this time-honored traditional Ghanaian institution, it may be edifying to read the following account on Nkrumah's appearance before a Party audience to personally announce the names of all 104 CPP candidates slated for the 1954 Parliamentary election, after having ridden roughshod over the democratic right of local party executives in the selection of these candidates: “In the meanwhile the Evening News and the Ashanti Sentinel (the party's newly established paper in Kumasi) stressed that every decision taken by the national executive had the sanction of the Life Chairman, and laid emphasis on the need not only for party discipline but [also] for a personal loyalty to Nkrumah. Thus, in addition to a natural tendency to see power in terms of loyalty to a particular person, there was the added need in 1954 to keep the sprawling mass of the party together as it entered the final weeks of the pre-election campaign; and Nkrumah became a national arbiter whose judgment, it was hoped, would be accepted as final. Accordingly, the first list of approved candidates was read out to the Arena crowd in Accra on Sunday 2 May amidst an elaborate ceremony built around its leader: 'Riding in a Jaguar car [and] wearing batakali [Northern smock] and his P.G. [i.e. Prison Graduate] cap, the Osagyefo arrived at about 4:15pm accompanied by K. A. Gbedemah, Kojo Botsio and T. Hutton-Mills all wearing P.G. caps. The gigantic [sic] crowd suddenly burst into deafening applause when the Osagyefo Tufuhene was lifted high in a white 'palanquin' with the CPP Tricolor at the back amidst the firing of muskets…. The long procession wended its way through Knutsford Avenue to the Arena as the conspicuous State umbrella, made in red, white and green velvet cloth, continued to 'dance' jubilantly over the head of Ghana's chosen leader. The climax was reached when the Wonder Boy arrived at the arena. Everything was kept moving and everybody was rushing to behold his leader. The masses victoriously responded as their emancipator waved majestically and confidently at them. Before the Man of Destiny delivered his soul inspiring speech preceding the release of the [names of the] 104 candidates he stated that the hand of God was in our struggle otherwise we could not have reached where we are now. …. After Nkrumah had spoken to the Arena crowd at its dusty meeting-ground – open to the sky, fenced [in] by a dilapidated palisade, and with a simple wooden platform guarded by the party's women 'police' and strong-arm followers – he was 'led to the gate of the Arena where a bullock had been slaughtered and customarily bathed his feet in the blood after the Nai Wolumo [fetish priest] had poured libation asking blessings for Kwame Nkrumah'” (Politics in Ghana 219).

Needless to say, the same electoral candidate selection circus would be reprised some eleven years later in 1965, when, having summarily declared Ghana to be a One-Party State, Nkrumah proceeded to almost single-handedly select all 198 candidates slated to run in a Parliamentary election. Also fascinating, recalls Dennis Austin, is the following electoral appeal which appeared on a CPP propaganda leaflet: “This is your man, voters of Accra Central, the Sun of Ghana, Star of Africa, Man of Destiny, Hope of the Common Man, Wonder Boy of Africa, the giant surrounded by opposition dwarfs for whom you must vote. The destiny of Africa is bound with the destiny of Ghana, the destiny of Ghana is interwoven with the success of the Convention People's Party and the success of the CPP is deep-seated in the winsome personality of Kwame Nkrumah. Therefore, voters of Central Accra, vote for Kwame Nkrumah'” (Politics in Ghana 219).

It is also quite amusing that in spite of its obstinate pride in labeling itself as the Party of Verandah Boys, in the run-up to the 1954 elections, the CPP national executive made a determined effort to field a remarkable number of college graduates, thereby sheepishly, albeit quietly, concurring with the UGCC-GCP-UP intelligentsia that, indeed, nation-building required the active involvement of the best brains of a subject country, rather than vacuous populist demagogues and slogans: “In the end, of the 34 party members elected in 1951, only 23 were selected to stand again in 1954, leaving more than 80 seats for the central committee and the constituency executives to quarrel over, and the candidates finally approved were chosen from very mixed motives. Because the central committee was anxious to strengthen its intellectual side – a persistent hope in the party's history – it was now prepared to sponsor Ako Adjei (Ll.B.) in Accra, K. A. T. Amankwah (B.A.) in Amansie, and E. O. Asafu Adjaye (Ll.B.) in Kumasi South, all of whom had opposed the party in 1951” (Politics in Ghana 220).

Also contrary to what some ardent Nkrumacrats and fanatics would have their audiences believe, Austin significantly and critically observes that its stentorian pan-Africanist rhetoric notwithstanding, by 1954, the CPP had yet to establish any organically unifying foothold in the Northern Territories: “The Northern People's Party was in a different category altogether. It opposed the CPP not on principle but out of self-interest – a much more solid ground of support – and it had a region of twenty-six constituencies as its field of operation. In April-May 1954 it was by far the strongest challenger to the CPP that had yet appeared. This was partly because the CPP had not yet time to cross the Volta into the Northern Territories in anything like the strength it had in the south; partly, however, because the social base of its support did not exist in the northern chiefdoms. When, for example, the writer [i.e. Austin] was in the western districts of the Protectorate in June 1954, and asked who was likely to win the Wala North constituency, the reply came: 'It is fairly clear that the NPP candidate will have the best chance. Because, as we can see, he is more enlightened than either of the two other candidates. He is of royal descent and in addition to this he is the oldest. He is physically better built and has an impressive appearance. His language is full of logic and conviction. He stands for a party the chiefs and people favor…. The CPP candidate is a driver with no special education. He is a native, it is true, but he spent much of his time on the coast. He is a very ordinary man…. The Independents are from very poor families and not much known in the constituency'” (Politics in Ghana 228).

It is also interesting to further observe that his neo-traditional flamboyance – finding gauche expression in the indiscriminate cannibalization of such royal, or monarchical, titles as “Osagyefo,” “Kantamanto,” and “Oseadeeyo” – notwithstanding, Nkrumah had yet to tactically appreciate the integral centrality of chieftaincy in the political affairs of the Northern Territories. On the latter score, the much more reflective and intellectually oriented, albeit relatively far less cohesive Ghana Congress Party (GCP), led by Dr. K. A. Busia, had it seriously ventured Up-North, would most likely have routed the CPP beyond electoral and ideological repair. Unfortunately, the GCP, made up largely of splinter opposition groups and without any direct access to the sort of public resources that the CPP, being a junior partner of the British colonial government, could readily avail itself, faltered miserably in this potentially significant national battlefield.

It is also interesting to learn that a party which envisaged the intelligentsia's disdainful label of “Verandah Boys” as a great symbol of honor and pride, the CPP, would, in turn, later label the National Liberation Movement (NLM) as a party led by a “feudal illiterate.” The problem here, however, was that this derogatory label alluded more accurately to the CPP constabulary than the remarkably more intellectually endowed NLM although, initially, the NLM, being wholly engineered or founded by Asante cocoa farmers, had a profile which was strikingly similar to that of the CPP, with the equally striking exception of the fact of the NLM having the staunch backing of such distinguished traditional rulers as the Asantehene, the paramount (or supreme) monarch of the Asante Confederation: “The separate threads of support for a new party were now drawn swiftly together. The intermediary in September 1954 between the AYA spokesmen, the farmers, and the chiefs was a local Kumasi leader of great enterprise: Bafuor Osei Akoto, a middle-aged, alert, energetic leader, a wealthy cocoa farmer, and a senior linguist (okyeame) of the Asantehene. When the CPP leaders learned of Bafuor Akoto's part in bringing the new movement into being, they liked to accuse the NLM in its early months of being led by a 'feudal illiterate': but this was by no means the case. Bafuor Akoto had attended Kumasi Boys' School up to Standard VI (that is, nine years of schooling) before being apprenticed for six years as a motor mechanic to the important firm of Messrs. Swanzy Transport. Eventually he had been made chief fitter for Messrs. Cadbury & Fry in Kumasi; later again, in 1934-5, he had spent some thirteen months in Tamale as a fitter-driver in his own business until, with the restoration of the Ashanti Confederacy, he was called back to Kumasi and appointed one of the six senior linguists to the new Asantehene. Brought up in the city as a child amidst stories of the 1900 rebellion and the past greatness of Ashanti, this was a post that he liked to fill (and filled very well); and in 1954 he was a man of great experience, widely known and respected by the chiefs who visited Kumasi to discuss state matters with the Asantehene, known and liked too by the Kumasi crowd of young men, not least because of his generous patronage of the Asante Kotoko football team” (Politics in Ghana 260-61).

It is also both interesting and significant to observe that whereas many a fanatical Nkrumaist has been quick to blame the NLM for having, supposedly, contributed to the delay in Ghana's salutary attainment of sovereignty from British colonialism, as Austin vividly recalls, the seventh of the eight NLM list of aims and objectives calls for: “…[the quickening of pace for] the achievement of self-government and help build a prosperous, healthy, tolerant and God-fearing Gold Coast Nation” (Politics in Ghana 263).

Then also, much capital has been made by CPP-ites regarding a purported refusal of the Danquah-Busia Group – represented by the NLM – to promptly accede to Britain's granting of sovereignty to Ghana between 1954 and 1956. In reality, however, it was the CPP rather whose leaders, hell-bent on imposing their zero-sum brand of pseudo-socialism on Ghanaians, particularly the inland Akans whom Nkrumah immitigably hated, more for their intransigent republican spirit and democratic capitalist culture, who balked at the suggestion of a mandate-deciding election, albeit to no avail, in 1956. And on this latter question, this is what Dennis Austin has to say: “Thus every attempt by the CPP to persuade the NLM that its points could be met within the framework of the 1954 constitution had failed. The government's overtures to the opposition had been rejected; Nkrumah himself had been outmaneuvered. These were unusual and unpleasant roles for the nationalist party to play. It hesitated, uncertain of itself, pleaded with the Governor and the Secretary of State, until – finally – the United Kingdom government forced the issue. Since the Achimota Conference 'had failed in providing the requisite agreement, there appeared to him [the Secretary of State] no alternative but to hold a general election.' Nkrumah pleaded the risk of violence, warned Gordon Hadow (the Secretary of State) that 'if a general election were held in the near future, it appeared extremely doubtful that it would be conducted without violence,' and once pointed out that his own party executive was against it. None of these reasons was likely to impress the United Kingdom government as an argument in favor of granting independence. Even now, however, Nkrumah did not give in without a final effort. Nonetheless, it was probably fair to assume that a good part of these last-minute negotiations were undertaken more to convince his own party executive that there was no alternative to a third general election than in the hope of persuading the Secretary of State). On 23 March Kojo Botsio was sent to England to put the case for immediate grant of independence on the grounds that there was 'no need whatever to go back again to the country to seek anew a mandate which was renewed only as recently as June 1954,' and that 'to impose new conditions on [the people] would defeat the essence of parliamentary democracy.' A week later Botsio returned to announce that the Secretary of State was 'genuinely out to help the Gold Coast gain its independence,' but that 'a general election [was] the only answer.' Now at last Nkrumah was prepared for a third election, telling the Governor that, given strict security precautions, he 'would be prepared to declare a general election during the forthcoming session of the Legislative Council, the date of the election being in all probability towards the middle of July.' It was the Secretary of State, however, who made the first public announcement, saying: 'I have been in close touch with the Prime Minister of the Gold Coast on these matters. It is the considered view of his Government that the time has now come for the Gold Coast to assume full responsibility within the Commonwealth for its own affairs. I have made my view clear to him that because of the failure resolve the constitutional dispute we can only achieve our common aim of the early independence of that country within the Commonwealth in one way and one way alone; that is, to demonstrate to the world that the people of the Gold Coast have had a full and free opportunity to consider their Constitution and to express their views on it in a general election. I have told Dr. Nkrumah that if a general election is held Her Majesty's Government will be ready to accept a motion calling for independence within the Commonwealth passed by a reasonable majority in a newly elected Legislature and then to declare a firm date for this purpose.' A week later the Governor's 'Speech from the Throne' at the ceremonial opening of the 1956 session of the Legislative Assembly in Accra announced that the government would 'seek a mandate from the people that they desire the immediate grant of independence' on the basis of detailed constitutional proposals to be submitted to the House. …. The NLM argument was ably set out by Dr. Busia in a special 'Advertiser's Announcement' in the Daily Graphic on 6 July, eleven days before the main polling date. What Africa needed, said the Opposition Leader, was 'constructive leadership,' but where was it to be found? 'Many who most sincerely believed in the CPP and most devotedly supported the party or worked for it have been disappointed. Some because the achievements of the party have not come up to their expectations, and others because they have seen threats of dictatorship or evidence of corruption in the party'…. The movement [i.e. NLM] had been criticized by Nkrumah (said Dr. Busia) as being the work of 'an irresponsible minority' and as 'enemies of the people,' but all attempts by the CPP to break the movement had failed. E. Y. Baffoe, the NLM propaganda secretary in Ashanti, and Kusi Ampofo, holding the same office in Akim Abuakwa, had been stabbed to death, there had been 'riots, the blowing up of houses, arson, murders and public disorders,' and 'deplorable acts of violence all over the country perpetrated by both sides'…. The NLM wanted independence: it had said so repeatedly, but it wanted independence as a 'happy unity of equals.' It did not want 'a Constitution in which it will be possible for a small coterie to dominate the country.' This was the gist of the NLM argument on behalf of its constitutional proposals. But, said Dr. Busia, there was a moral issue as well. 'During the last five years of CPP rule, we have had an increase in bribery and corruption on an unprecedented scale' a 'shameless self-aggrandizement or get-rich-quick policy, and a lying and deceit which members of the CPP, in spite of loud professions of patriotism, have encouraged or perpetrated.' Everyone knew why the CPP had resisted 'so strongly and vehemently' the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry into the Cocoa Purchasing Company, and the forthcoming election was an opportunity for the country 'to express its faith in probity, honesty, integrity and decent standards.' Furthermore, the CPP was not only corrupt: it was also inefficient. Money had been spent fruitlessly on the Dutch Shokbeton and Swedish housing schemes, and extravagantly on expensive roads, luxurious ministerial offices, cinemas and a super-luxury hotel 'in order to titivate Accra.' Meanwhile, for want of an enlightened plan, standards of education had been lowered, the service conditions of teachers 'still cry for improvement' and 'parents pay more for a worse education in spite of fee-free primary schools'…. 'The wealth of this country is in agriculture yet apart from the cocoa cutting out campaign the CPP has spent little on agriculture and food is still far too dear.' Many people in towns and villages were 'drinking dirty water full of hookworm and guinea worm and disease. Little wonder that there is so much debility and sickness and death,' and 'the money spent on luxuries or frittered away could have been used for such things as preventing the disastrous floods of last year or on malaria prevention'” (Politics in Ghana 308-10; 324-26).

Indeed, to fully appreciate Busia's highlighting of rank corruption among the ruling CPP constabulary, one needs to read the following description of the Cocoa Purchasing Company by Dennis Austin: “As will be seen in the account of the way in which the parties managed their election campaign, the CPP made good use of para-political organizations like the Cocoa Purchasing Company, whose access to government funds and a network of local agents stood the party in good stead in many of the Ashanti and Colony constituencies. The party was able to hold out before a particular local council the promise of a generous development grant (or its withdrawal) or the dispatch of a 'community development team' into (or from) the area. 'The King's wrath is a roaring lion but his favor is as dew upon the grass.' Such was the burden of propaganda carried on by many CPP executives, the field officers of the CPC, and by emissaries from the party headquarters who brought with them the favor or displeasure of the 'party in power'” (Politics in Ghana 335).

While, indeed, the Busia-led NLM, as well as the latter's allies, decisively lost the historic 1956 general elections, nonetheless, it wickedly staggers the truth for many a CPP operative or sympathizer to cavalierly maintain that the CPP single-handedly midwifed the salutary process of Ghana's re-attainment of her sovereignty from Britain. Interestingly, this is how Dennis Austin, an expatriate participant-observer, witnessed the entire elaborate process: “Thus, on the surface, early in 1957 an unexpected harmony was achieved after the violent discords of the past three years. Nkrumah told the Assembly members: 'Mr. Speaker, I have great pleasure in announcing…the results of the consultations that I have had with the Leader of the Opposition on the United Kingdom Government's White Paper on the proposed constitution of Ghana which was published a few days ago. The Leader of the Opposition and I are at one in accepting the White Paper, to our general satisfaction. [Hear, hear] We consider the White Paper, and the Order in Council to be based on it, acceptable as a basis for the working of our Independence Constitution. [Hear, hear] With mutual confidence and cooperation we are certain that the foundation of our Independence which is now being truly laid, will support firmly the superstructure of our political and economic life and lead to the greater happiness and progress of all sections of our nation. Dr. Busia concurred. Mr. Speaker, as stated by the Prime Minister, the Opposition have agreed to accept the United Kingdom's White Paper and the Order-in-Council to be based on it as a workable compromise. It does not indeed provide all we asked for but we are prepared to cooperate to make it a successful foundation for the democratic life which we all desire to see established and practiced in this country. [Hear, hear]…. I am painfully conscious of the deep divisions among the representative supporters of the Opposition and the Government which have resulted from our differences over the constitutional issue. I would appeal to all on both sides of this House to join together to work for the success and greatness of our nation.' [Hear, hear]. Three weeks later Nkrumah addressed the last meeting of the Gold Coast Assembly on the last day of colonial rule, tracing the history of the nationalist struggle since 1951 to the point where: 'By twelve o'clock midnight, Ghana would have redeemed her lost freedom.' His speech was endorsed by S. D. Dombo, Deputy Leader of the Opposition. At midnight, before the Legislative Assembly building, the Union Jack was lowered: and a red, green and gold flag, overprinted with a black 'lodestar of African freedom,' was hoisted in its place” (Politics in Ghana 357-58).

Perhaps even more significant, it must be observed, as well as stressed, the fact that the Ghanaian liberation struggle did not originate in any realistic sense in 1951, as then-Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah now preferred to maintain, for obvious reasons. The struggle did not even begin with the founding of the United Gold Coast Convention in 1947, or even with J. E. Casely-Hayford's more pan-Africanist-oriented National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA) but, in all practical realities, with the historic seating of George Kuntu Blankson in the Colonial Legislative Council in 1874 (see Peter Omari's Kwame Nkrumah: The Anatomy of an African Dictatorship) and even way before!

And contrary to the routine dating of the so-called Brain-Drain on the African continent in general but Ghana in particular, to the 1980s, Austin recalls the grim fact that this patently inimical geopolitical process began almost immediately after Ghana became independent in 1957, when the ruling CPP government appeared to have abruptly and totally lost its appetite for the salutary pursuance of a democratic political culture: “In general, the civil service, the university at Accra, and the Kumasi College of Technology weathered a great deal of abuse without being greatly affected by it. Similarly, the courts remained free under magistrates and judges who were appointed by a Judicial Service Commission. The laws were harsh, and the government was able to bypass the courts under legislation of a special nature, like the Preventive Detention Act, but where the courts had jurisdiction the laws were impartially administered” (Politics in Ghana 366-67).

Ultimately, Austin observes that being temperamentally undemocratic, even as the parliamentary Opposition was intransigently democratic, albeit dead-set against the apparent pathological penchant of the Nkrumah regime for one-party dictatorship, the 1957 Constitution and thus the entire independence package farmed out to both sides of the Ghanaian leadership during this undoubtedly historical epoch was, nevertheless, wrong-footed from the outset. The democratic essence of Ghana's independence, as enshrined in the 1957 Constitution was, in brief, stillborn: “The argument set out in the foregoing paragraphs rested on the basic assumption that it was possible to limit the conflict between the parties to 'mutually acceptable limits.' It was on this basis, however, that it foundered, for compromise required caution and prudence – qualities essential to the 1957 Constitution if it was to function effectively: without them, there was little hope of its survival. And so it proved. The reasons for its failure were those given in the introductory chapter, namely, a profound dislike by Nkrumah of any open criticism of his rule, the nationalist zeal of a recently formed People's Party which (under Nkrumah's leadership) sought to identify itself with the state, and the rash behavior of the opposition which supported every group and cause that it thought might overthrow the government. Evidence of the breakdown of the temporary truce achieved in 1957 was soon forthcoming. As the first year of independence came to an end, it was clear that whatever nominal recognition the CPP gave to the advantages of an opposition – and its leaders had not yet formulated their belief in single-party rule as a necessary feature of the African landscape – there was little taste for it in practice. And within six months of independence, the CPP had begun to repeat the argument tentatively advanced in Nkrumah's Autobiography that, since the party's opponents were 'violent, waspish and malignant,' there was need for 'temporary benevolent dictatorship.' On the basis of arguments of this kind the leaders began to augment and consolidate the power of the party by whatever means they could devise. For their part – in the face of such pressures – the opposition hastened all the more anxiously to sponsor every outbreak of discontent with CPP rule, rashly confident (despite the outcome of the 1956 election, and beyond all the evidence available) of bringing about its downfall. It was a disastrous policy (from its own point of view) for the simple reason that the ruling party was far better placed and armed for an all-out struggle between the two sides” (Politics in Ghana 370-71).

Interestingly, however, even if one accepts the equally deleterious contribution of the Opposition to the collapse of the 1957 Constitution, the fact remains that Nkrumah and the CPP's determined zeal to unilaterally impose their pseudo-socialist agenda on Ghana, virtually guaranteed, beforehand, that Ghana's landmark independence anniversary would not be a very memorable one in practice – except, of course, in the realm of the ideological abstraction of moral principles – to avid students of contemporary Ghanaian history: “There was also a more immediate explanation [for] the failure of the 1957 Constitution. Because it was designed to function on the basis of compromise and tolerance, it required at least an initial convalescence after the turmoil of the 1954 struggle. The nationalist [fascist?] temper of the government, and the antipathy of the leaders towards each other, meant that the temporary accord reached between them was open to every breath of suspicion fanned by one side or the other. And, unfortunately, there was ample material for such suspicions in the actual course of events after March 1957. Indeed, the warmth of the independence celebrations was quickly chilled, first by a renewal of local violence in the Ewe Togoland area, and then by a sudden outburst of rowdy discontent in Accra. And something must be said of both these events in order to understand the action subsequently taken by the CPP and the Opposition” (Politics in Ghana 371-2).

Again, in a more telling memorandum drafted by the much-maligned Ga-Adangme Shifimo Kpee (or the Ga Standfast Association), Austin observes the fact that the members of this latter organization constituted themselves originally as integral and bona fide members of the CPP who felt horribly discriminated against, in spite of then-Prime Minister Nkrumah's stentorian pontification about the ideological purview of the CPP supposedly transcending ethnic and regional divisions. For the members of the Ga-Adangme Shifimo Kpee, no CPP propaganda could be farther from the truth: “The complaints of the Ga community in the capital were first voiced within the CPP itself through a memorandum submitted to the central committee at the beginning of 1956 by the Accra regional executive: 'Resolutions Passed at Meetings of the Accra Region held at Orgle Street on 5-12 January 1956 and forwarded to the Hon. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Prime Minister, Life Chairman of the Convention People's Party. This Council comprising the three Municipal Constituencies (East, West and Central Accra), the Ga-Rural Constituency and the Dangme-Shai Constituency having had occasion to discuss various topics affecting the welfare of the Party resolved: 1. Whereas it is known that we find it difficult to criticize and it is improper to criticize our party in public. 2. And whereas it is known that we are given no opportunity to criticize our Party internally. 3. And whereas it is known that any attempt to offer suggestions or to make any criticism against the Party is misconstrued and accepted by the power[s] that be as disloyalty. 4. And where[as] it is known that criticisms are never known to have been invited by the powers that be from us, though directives are from time to time issued to us concerning organizational work…. 7. And whereas it is known that the Fantis, Ashantis, and Ewes in the past, principally Fantis, though preaching against tribalism and nepotism are actually practicing these administrative vices as witnessed by the number of them who are employed in the Ministries…. 9. And whereas it is rumored that a Fanti Minister, Fanti Ministerial Secretaries and some of their wealthy friends are busily engaged in paying for and thereby acquiring for themselves some of the Estate buildings taken from defaulting members of the Party…. 12. And whereas the Ga-Adangmes have deceived themselves into thinking that tribal barriers were broken down forever…. 22. And whereas this discrimination has weakened some of our members [thus] creating defections and making organizational work difficult…. 27. And whereas in spite of everything else the Ga-Adangmes are being treated by the powers that be [as being] of no consequence…. 38. And whereas Sir Tsibu Darku who once said 'who are the people' was appointed chairman of the Tema Development Corporation, earning allowances averaging £ 150 a month…. 48. And whereas it is the prevailing practice of party leaders to refuse interviews with accredited members… (as witness the refusal of the Life Chairman to meet representatives of the Accra Region (CPP) recently. 49. Therefore BE IT RESOLVED AND IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED that while this feeling in the Ga-Adangme area…gathers and engenders a ferment for an eruption likely to blow up any time, the Hon. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah be made known of it before it is too late if he seems not to know or does not know it….' But the rallying cry of Ga Shikpon (Ga Lands) brought in other groups. The Ga students of the University College, for example, met at the Accra Community center in May and June to support the demand for an inquiry into the allocation by the government of the estate houses…. A senior traditional ruler – Nii Amunakwa II, Otublohun Manche – presided over the rally; the leading fetish priest – the Nai Wulomo – poured libation and slaughtered a white sheep…. As the Ga movement gathered momentum, it touched off unrest among other discontented groups. The day of the inauguration of the new party, an emergency meeting was held of the Supreme Council of Ex-Servicemen, at which protests were recorded against the government's handling of the allocation of the estate houses, and a declaration issued to the effect that its members would 'march on the Castle' (where Nkrumah had now taken up residence) unless they were afforded proper recognition” (Politics in Ghana 373-75).

Once again, Austin brings up the critical issue of the 1960 constitutional plebiscite, which witnessed Nkrumah's CPP stage-managing and ledge-hammering electoral outcomes in order to ensure the peremptory dictatorial imprint of the ruling party on the country's postcolonial destiny via socialism: “The chief interest in the plebiscite lay less in the outcome than in the means adopted to secure a result favorable to the CPP's view of the position it held in the country. Not only was the full weight of the government brought to bear on the electorate, but – when the size of the 'yes' vote for Nkrumah and the proposed republican constitution was thought to be insufficient – the party officials (so the evidence suggests) tampered with the actual conduct of the polling on the two subsequent days of the plebiscite. Although they were suspicious that this might happen, the United Party leaders decided nonetheless to oppose both the government's draft constitutional proposals and Nkrumah's candidature as President. But had left the country in 1959; others were in prison: but the remaining members of the national executive of the party called upon the electorate to reject the constitution, while sponsoring Danquah as a rival presidential candidate. This somewhat contradictory policy did not appear to puzzle the electorate (the number of votes for Danquah being roughly the same as those against the Constitution). The decision by the Opposition to take part, however, almost certainly helped the CPP to muster its own supporters. The appeal made by the CPP to the electorate had very little to do with the proposed Constitution. It stressed the determination of the Party to mount a program of national welfare within which every section of the community would find its reward: 'VOTE NKRUMAH AND 'YES' BECAUSE In education, the CPP offers free university education: more secondary schools for girls; more technical schools. If you are a worker, the CPP offers security, better, cheaper houses for renting and eventual ownership; plans for cheaper prices for foodstuffs. If you are a farmer or co-operator, the CPP offers loans to develop; more feeder roads, better marketing facilities; a canning factory. If you are a fisherman, the CPP offers a hire purchase scheme for motorized vessels; a modern market at Takoradi; a canning factory. For every citizen, the CPP offers a fair share of produce; more and better equipped hospitals; economic security; social security. If you are a market woman, the CPP offers liberal loans; expanded market space. If you are a chief, the CPP offers you dignity and social security under the Constitution including the possibility of an appointment as Ambassador. If you are a businessman, the CPP offers extended guarantee corporation facilities and economic prosperity.' The ability of such a program to win support was hardly in question, particularly when backed with threats of what might follow opposition to the CPP. A typical example appeared in the Evening News on the third day of voting. 'Already our opponents have been virtually pulverized in many constituencies which have voted and whose results have been announced. It must be made still worse for them today. Our opponents and traducers should be reduced to a really abject situation. It is then that they will realize in the fullest measure that the people support Comrade Kwame Nkrumah and utterly reject their crazy policies and wicked methods. As for their threats, in spite of their magnitude, they remain what they are – threats. Whoever ranges himself against the CPP and Comrade Nkrumah would soon discover to his bitter chagrin that he is a mere butterfly on the great wheel of our party machine whose velocity is terrific.' Evidence not only of the intention, but of the ability, of the CPP to enforce its authority lay all about the electorate – in the recently acquired fleet of white Fiat cars bought for its officers by the TUC, in the lorries which carried groups of uniformed Builders' Brigaders across the constituencies, in the procession of large cars which accompanied the District Commissioners and CPP members of parliament from polling booth to polling booth, in the activities of the constituency agents who urged electors to 'vote red' for the letters YES and for Nkrumah, and the flood of propaganda leaflets and posters which appeared during the weeks before the first day's polling. Every effort was made to impress upon the electorate that the CPP was, in fact, as it was intended to be in theory: 'a powerful force, more powerful…than anything that has yet appeared in the history of Ghana…more than a political party…the living embodiment of the whole glory of our lives” (Politics in Ghana 387-89).

Nevertheless, the reality on the ground told of a totally different narrative. For quite a sizeable number of Ghanaians averse to the ham-fisted electoral tactics of the CPP reportedly registered their vehement disapproval by staying away from the polling booths. Austin reports, for instance, that of the 57,208 registered voters in the three Accra constituencies, only 25,946, or barely 45 percent, bothered to vote (Politics in Ghana 390). And contrary to what fanatical Nkrumaists would have their audiences believe, Austin authoritatively remarks that Nkrumah's 1960 electoral victory was anything but a landslide. To be certain, notes the veteran political scientist and longtime British resident of Ghana and professor at the University of Ghana, the 1960 election decisively marked the end of Nkrumah's stature as a popular Ghanaian leader: “Danquah had succeeded in winning 35 percent of the vote. Nkrumah had won comfortably, with 65 percent of the vote in a 45 percent poll of registered electorate. The numbers of electors in Accra (after re-registration in 1957) had fallen well below the 1956 figure – from 86,603 to 57,208. Thus the number who were prepared to vote for Nkrumah and the republican constitution in Accra was extremely small: 16,804 in a city of well over 200,000 and (approximately) 100,000 adults. There had been, it was clear, a massive abstention, and a surprisingly high opposition vote” (Politics in Ghana 391). On the republican Constitution itself, Austin notes that about 40 percent electors roundly rejected Nkrumah's flagrant attempt to “democratically” legitimize his creeping dictatorship.

The landmark electoral absurdity, however, occurred in the Atwima-Nwabiagya Constituency of the Asante Region, a traditionally, staunchly UGCC-NLM-GCP-UP stronghold. Austin provides the following tabular illustration:
Electors Pro-CPP Pro-UP
Constitutional proposals 25, 461 22,738 155
Presidential election ″ 22,676 137

And this is what Dennis Austin had to say: “The plebiscite results were hard to accept as valid. B. F. Kusi, the United Party member, campaigned energetically in the constituency where he was permitted to do so. And although it was possible to see that the United Party had lost support in an area where many of the chiefs had been replaced by pro-CPP rivals, and where the district commissioner was particularly active, it was reasonable also to suppose that the UP still had at least a fair minority following. The area consisted largely of cocoa farmers, it had been a famous opposition stronghold, and in the local government elections the previous October (1959) the UP candidates had been given a substantial vote. Yet, when the votes were counted in 1960, it was found that Danquah, using the NLM/UP cocoa tree symbol, had received only 137. It was difficult to believe” (Politics in Ghana 392).

Ultimately and implicitly, Austin concurs with many an avid and dispassionate student of the period under discussion that by the eve of his landmark overthrow on February 24, 1966, Nkrumah and his so-called Convention People's Party had totally lost control of the country, and particularly their ideological and practical sense of direction: “It is impossible to do more than sketch the general direction of politics after Nkrumah assumed office on 1 July 1960. The regime appeared triumphant. The opposition was reduced to no more than a token force, the CPP dominated the unicameral assembly, and Nkrumah was President with very great executive authority. A 'positive neutralist' policy was pursued with vigor abroad, and pan-African theories continued to flourish. Nevertheless, the first years of the republic were as disturbed as those of the previous decade. The CPP was in disarray, the state itself damaged by attacks on the judiciary, police, the civil service, and the universities. The economy was under restraint. Ghana was isolated within the pan-African movement; and the government was under attack not merely in the West but in Africa itself for its suppression of civil liberties” (Politics in Ghana 395).

And finally: “The Sekondi strike [1961] was not perhaps a major threat to the regime, but it was one that might well become so. It is true that the compulsory savings scheme was abolished two years later in the 1963 budget; but the high import duties on petrol and consumer goods were retained and increased in both 1962 and 1963. It was difficult, indeed, to believe that the cocoa farmers were content with their 54s. a load, or that the 'common man' was eager to respond to the argument that he should accept higher prices and a shortage of consumer goods in the interests of the Volta River Scheme or the Kwame Nkrumah steelworks at Tema. Ministers, regional and district commissioners, party officials, and leading figures in the party's auxiliary organizations, still lived a life of obvious plenty: the sacrifices fell on those least able to protest about [sic] them. Moreover, there was a very important difference between the ability of the CPP before 1960 to meet such criticisms and its position three or four years later. At the time of the plebiscite, the party was still an organized force under leaders who continued to work together under Nkrumah. It could even be said … that the party was still a popular force (though far less so than Nkrumah pretended). From 1961 onwards, however, the CPP leaders began to quarrel violently among themselves and with Nkrumah…. The break in party unity was also the result of Nkrumah's own actions and neglect. As already recounted, he was absorbed in pan-African schemes and the pursuit of non-alignment during the greater part of 1960 and 1961. Such time as he gave to the party was spent in an equally fruitless search for a source of radicalism among his followers which would match his own belief in the need for a 'full-scale intellectual, educational and organizational attack on all aspects of colonialism, neocolonialism and imperialism.' The effect was to increase the quarrels among the leaders.” In essence, the center, as it were, could not hold.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. E-mail: [email protected]

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., © 2007

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