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04.04.2007 Feature Article

WHEN DANCERS PLAY HISTORIANS AND THINKERS – PART 25

As Ghana swiftly moves away from the rhetorical prolix of the anti-colonial era (1946-1957) into the constructive phase of the postcolonial era (circa. 2000-2100), a number of monographs purporting to objectively apportion credit and deficit, one is also naturally inclined to believe, to the prime movers and shakers of the postcolonial era have been written and published. And while, indeed, a remarkable portion of these have been frank and boldly objective, others may, at best, be aptly characterized as being merely “earnest” in their ideological thrust and purview. Among the latter ranks is an anthology titled The Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1993), edited by Professor Kwame Arhin, a former director of the University of Ghana's Institute of African Studies. This anthology of some seventeen essays was generated out of a commemorative symposium organized by the faculty and staff of that renowned Institute in honor of its eponymous subject and first President of postcolonial Ghana.

What makes this anthology at best an “earnest” contribution to postcolonial Ghanaian historiography, is the vehement and often strained attempt by many of the writers to make President Nkrumah appear, proverbially, to be all things to all people. In an introductory essay authored by George P. Hagan, also a former director of the University of Ghana's Institute of African Studies, for example, the author writes: “One abiding effect of the leadership of Nkrumah is that the peoples of Africa now have a consciousness of their cultural identity and possess a definite pride of culture. Africans are also aware of the need, in fact the necessity, to discover their cultural heritage and develop it. In Ghana, by the time of his overthrow, Nkrumah had established practically all the institutions we now identify with cultural development, and it is difficult to tell what significant additions have since been made to them” (Life and Work 3).

Paradoxically, three pages later, Professor Hagan glaringly contradicts himself by also noting that the very purported “founder” of modern Ghana, who also supposedly “invented” modern Ghanaian culture was, after all, a formidable personality who barely appreciated traditional Ghanaian and, in effect, African cultures: “Another source from which one might expect to obtain an idea of Nkrumah's cultural policy in respect of African unity is Nkrumah's book Africa Must Unite (1963). Nkrumah's declared purpose in his book was 'to trace briefly the African background and the effects of centuries of colonialism on the political, economic and social life in Africa as a whole; to place development in Ghana in the broader context of the African revolution; and to explain his political philosophy based on his conviction of the need for freedom and unification of Africa and its islands.' Yet, though the cultural effects of the centuries of colonialism have been more enduring and not less damaging than the political and economic, Nkrumah gave intimations of this awareness in no clear terms. What hints the book gives of this awareness and what the cultural problem demands by way of policy, we only obtain here and there in the chapter on the 'Intellectual vanguard' and in the chapter on 'Neocolonialism in Africa'” (Life and Work 5-6).

Interestingly, notes Hagan, a prominent Ghanaian cultural anthropologist, whatever Nkrumah understood of culture, as it pertained to the Eurocentric Ghanaian academic curriculum, was rather pedestrian: “Our pattern of education has been aligned hitherto to the demands of British examination councils. Above all, it was formulated and administered by an alien administration desirous of extending its dominant ideas and thought processes to us. We were trained to be inferior copies of Englishmen, caricatures to be laughed at with our pretensions to British bourgeois gentility, our grammatical faultiness and distorted standards betraying us at every turn. We were neither fish nor fowl. We were denied the knowledge of our African past and informed that we had no present. What future could there be for us? We were taught to regard our culture and traditions as barbarous and primitive. Our textbooks, telling us about English history, English geography, English ways of living, English customs, English ideas, English weather. Many of these manuals had not been altered since 1895” (Life and Work 6).

Needless to say, as evinced from the preceding extract, Professor Hagan is expectedly too sophisticated an intellectual to cast matters in such rather crude terms. Even so, the temptation to cite the life and intellectual and cultural orientation of Dr. J. B. Danquah as a striking case in point of one who proudly defied the norm of a docile or pliable British colonial, cultural ersatz, or mediocre copy of a British cultural original, comes readily and unabashedly to mind. But then again, those who are critically aware of President Nkrumah's sweeping attempts to summarily destroying the indispensable Ghanaian institution of Chieftaincy may, in all likelihood, not be very much impressed by Professor Hagan's largely apologetic essay: “That Nkrumah did not survey this wider cultural view was due to the fact that he was a thinker [that] Isaiah Berlin might have described as a hedgehog rather than a fox. He [i.e. Nkrumah] had big visions and had the instinct for big constructs, often leaving it to others to work out the small[er] details. He had no natural inclination to compose grand designs out of minor strands or small pieces” (Life and Work 7).

Indeed, the avid student of postcolonial Ghanaian history is despairingly intrigued by Nkrumah's critical and grievous lack of any remarkable appreciation for Ghanaian culture, short of the Show Boy's patently incoherent, pseudo-ideological monstrosity cavalierly dubbed as “The African Personality,” a theoretical composite originally minted by Dr. Edward Wilmot Blyden, the distinguished nineteenth-century African-Caribbean scholar and thinker and later a citizen and founding President of the University of Liberia: “When in 1958 the Bill establishing the Arts Council of Ghana came up for debate, there was no reference in the debate to [of?] the need to develop Ghana's cultural programs with the aim of entering into cultural exchanges with other African states and achieving African unity; and there was no reference to the concept of African personality as a guiding principle for Ghana's cultural development. These were to come later. The general impression left by the debate was that Ghana's cultural policy had to have a Ghanaian focus and to develop Ghana's wealth of ethnic cultures as the means of projecting Ghanaian 'national culture' which was accepted all round as an existing fact. From the beginning, then, with his mass education program in place, Nkrumah did not have any other policy on culture, nor was there any awareness that his educational program should aim at creating consciousness of African heritage. Culture represented to him an enigma which only gradually came to occupy an important place in his thinking” (Life and Work 9).

The reader may also do well, indeed, to contrast the preceding with Dr. Danquah's yeoman's efforts at authoring Akan versions of African philosophy in the Akan language; once this is done, it almost definitely begins to traumatically dawn on the keen and well-meaning reader how a more auspicious choice by the Ghanaian electorate of Dr. J. B. Danquah would have, in all likelihood, altered the Ghanaian cultural landscape and with the latter the country's intellectual and cultural development in such transcendent manner as to also have positively spilled into the equally critical aspects of the nation's scientific and technological transformation. But, of course, we are also squarely mindful of the fact that ours is purely anecdotal and speculative, albeit a plausible one when one critically examines the remarkable corpus of Danquah's position papers, particularly those pertaining to his activities with the pioneering Gold Coast Youth Conference.

Indeed, Hagan appears to constructively appreciate the preceding dimension of Danquah's genius and unbested organic appreciation of traditional Ghanaian and African cultures vis-à-vis the largely Eurocentric and starry-eyed Kwame Nkrumah, as is implicitly evinced by the following observation: “For Nkrumah, culture represented an irksome problem from the very start of the revolution he led. In his mind, traditional culture had two tendencies militating against African progress. It carried in itself forces of resistance to change; and it also bore the seeds of disunity. However, Nkrumah was too well aware that our people's consciousness of their distinct heritage had constituted one of the major bulwarks against imperialism. This awareness was clear in the thoughts and works of Mensah Sarbah, Casely-Hayford, Attoh Ahuma, Kobina Sekyi and his own direct and immediate predecessor and mentor J. B. Danquah. He himself sought to create this awareness of our identity in order to stir up the masses into rejecting European cultural and political domination. In the heat of the nationalist struggle, however, the incipient negative forces of that same heritage became apparent. What most engaged Nkrumah's mind at the time was not only the people's obsession with aborofosem, European ways and the European values of the elite, but the divisiveness of the tribal cultures and the reactionary leadership of the chiefs to whom the people owed traditional allegiance. He made all these the object of persistent attack. But he directed his most threatening remarks against chiefs whom he saw as a direct threat to the revolution. Nkrumah's enigma in respect of cultural policy had its seeds in his reaction to chieftaincy, tribalism and aborofosem” (Life and Work 10).

But what is even more quaintly fascinating about many an Nkrumaist scholarship is the adamant refusal of these adherents to recognize the fact that on a global scale, pan-Africanism was no remarkable improvement on “tribalism.” And also that what these Nkrumaist theorists routinely dismissed as being constitutive of tribal/ethnic primitivism was, in reality, an organic and salutary expression of the multi-national, postcolonial Ghanaian identity; and also, that any attempt at summarily destroying the latter, rather than constructively harmonizing it, was bound to backfire with certain grievous consequences in store for the would-be agent of such cultural cannibalism.

It is also rather curious that a cultural anthropologist like Professor Hagan would endorse Nkrumah's rather gratuitous Avoidance of Discrimination Bill, under the guise of the latter having constituted “a first step towards creating national consciousness to replace pride in tribe” (Life and Work 14). Indeed, what the author fails to appreciate, either willfully or unwittingly, is the fact that “ethnicity” primarily revolves around an organic sense of communal and cultural values, whereas sheer nationality deals with geopolitical boundaries and is thus less immediate and compelling, at least in the manner in which the latter was carried over to continental Africans by the erstwhile Western colonial administrators. Even so, the National Liberation Movement (NLM), around whose activities much of the discourse on the Avoidance of Discrimination Bill has revolved – or focused – was more of an economic organization – composed largely of cocoa farmers who felt shortchanged by the CPP government – than any single ethnic or sub-ethnic group. Of course, the significant fact that the bulk of cocoa farming and production was undertaken by the Akan, particularly the Asante and Akyem, among other significant Akan sub-polities, meant that this movement would be so dominated or constituted.

It is also rather curious that Hagan should capriciously fashion out a purported Nkrumah cultural policy by acrobatically acknowledging that such policy, after all, did not exist in terms of concrete reality, and yet adamantly insist, beyond basic logic, that the pathetic lack of any definitive cultural policy on the Show Boy's part, in of itself, constituted the veritable essence of a palpable fundamental cultural policy: “Now if this is the outline of Nkrumah's cultural policy, then it had three major failings. First, for a great leader who saw the masses and their need as a major factor in culture, Nkrumah failed to project any active role for the workers and people of Africa though they constituted the creative source and vitality and guarantors of Africa's heritage. Where Nkrumah mentioned the people, he saw them as recipients rather than as cultural innovators or creators, with the new intelligentsia, of African culture. And this attitude arose out of a second fault in his strategy. It is clear that Nkrumah saw cultural education in terms of classroom activity instead of a learning process carried out in life and spanning each person's life from birth to death. The strategy he put forward therefore neglected the learning and creative experience which is informal and [which] occurs in the general ambience of African life outside the classroom. The third failing in his strategy is that it neglects to give serious place to the preservation of the African cultural ambience in the process of developments that are likely to change the African way of life and African mores. Are the ways in which our cities, public buildings and modern houses designed, to be influenced by African concepts and conditions of life? This is neglected by Nkrumah's strategy. Whatever its failing, however, the strategy which Nkrumah uncovered in his speech, The African Genius, would quite likely influence the thinking of policymakers for a very long time to come. History would judge Nkrumah's cultural philosophy and strategy as a very important and necessary stimulus to the examination of how Africa would preserve and develop its cultures in a Pan-African framework. Did Nkrumah have a cultural policy? It is obvious [that] he had one in the making. He got as far as fashioning the intellectual or philosophical foundations for it. We cannot say [that] he actually succeeded in erecting its superstructure” (Life and Work 24).

In sum, if the preceding does not come off to you, dear reader, as a coherently packaged set of Nkrumaist cultural policies, you are definitely not all by yourself. Still, we make bold to observe herein that, like almost everything else designated “Nkrumaist,” the abject lack of logical coherence is, in of itself, the fundamental essence of Nkrumaism, ideological or otherwise.

In his essay titled “The Search for 'Constitutional Chieftaincy,'” Kwame Arhin, who also edited the essays in this volume on The Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah makes, perhaps, the most scandalous pronouncement on the integral and central institution of Ghanaian Chieftaincy. The scandal inheres in the fact of Arhin's stunningly incoherent attempt to make a special pleading for the subject of his discourse at the expense of established and legitimate traditional Ghanaian authority. The author's presumptuous, if also vacuous, attempt to invalidate the pre-colonial constitutionality of Chieftaincy must be roundly deplored with the utmost contempt that it unreservedly deserves. In essence, what Arhin is falsely claiming is that until the emergence of Nkrumah onto the Ghanaian political landscape, in the postcolonial era, the institution of Chieftaincy had no legitimacy whatsoever; and also that whatever passed for a modicum of legitimacy for Chieftaincy was, at best, suspect and, at the worst, simply untenable, since Chieftaincy was, in the words of Kwame Arhin, an undemocratic institution not based on the mandate of the people at large: “The argument of this paper is as follows: Kwame Nkrumah's government, like the preceding colonial regime, adapted chieftaincy to the demands of their [sic] administration. The colonial regime – 1874-1957 – had converted chiefly power into authority for the execution of its plans of imperial rule and made chiefs its agents. Nkrumah and his Convention People's Party saw the basis of authority as the People's mandate; and thought therefore, that power had to be located in the people as a whole, and exercised by their elected representatives. Hence the authority granted to the chiefs by the colonial regime was reduced at best to influence, and even that varied with a particular chief's standing with the Convention People's Party. The end result was a 'constitutional chieftaincy.' Chieftaincy under Nkrumah passed through two phases. The first phase began in 1951, when Nkrumah's Convention People's Party (CPP), first formed the government, and ended in March 1957, the year of independence. In this phase, the representatives of the people reduced the authority granted to chiefs by the colonial regime. In the second phase, which began in 1957 and ended in 1966, when Nkrumah was overthrown by a coup d'état, the people's representatives reduced the residue of chiefly authority left in the first phase, and made the chief a passive agent of the central government” (Life and Work 27-8).

Needless to say, no discursive postulation could be at once more absurd and heretical. And on a personal note, it is rather pathetic that today, even as of this writing, Professor Kwame Arhin is reported to be serving as a significant Asante chieftain in the Barekese enclave of the Asante Region of Ghana. In sum, our contention here is that it is the unpardonable intellectual dishonesty of the likes of Arhin that must be held responsible for the cancerous persistence in the portrayal of President Nkrumah as a democratic and progressive Ghanaian premier in the postcolonial era. And here also must be observed the fact that had Arhin familiarized himself, even cursorily, with Dr. J. B. Danquah's authoritative treatise on Akan Chieftaincy, titled Akan Laws and Customs, the editor of The Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah would not have made such patently false and outrageous remarks.

On the other hand, Arhin is dead-on accurate in observing the fact that perhaps the single most significant “cultural agenda” of Nkrumah's Convention People's Party (CPP) was to ensure the total destruction of the immemorial institution of Ghanaian Chieftaincy (see above quote). But what is even more disturbing is Arhin's implicit assertion that Nkrumah's unimaginative attempt to totally destroy the dignified institution of Chieftaincy amounted to a singular, salutary democratic act. And here, needless to say, it is our immutable and uncompromising contention that had Nkrumah succeeded in destroying the integral institution of Chieftaincy, and in the latter's place supplanted pseudo-Marxist autocracy, Ghana would have become irreparably the worse for such nihilistic measure. The preceding notwithstanding, we also acknowledge the fact that enough grave damage was inflicted on the august institution of Chieftaincy to ensure that it take generations, if not centuries, for the institution to recover and repair whatever might have been left of its progressive dimensions in the psychological, psychical, ethical and political dynamics of postcolonial Ghanaian society.

It is also interesting that, even as Arhin himself acknowledges, British colonial governor Gordon Guggisberg far better appreciated the imperative need to preserving the signal institution of Chieftaincy against the “disintegrating [disintegrative?] waves of Western Civilization” such as to prompt the British-Canadian governor to cause the statutory restoration of the celebrated Asante Confederacy” (Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah 29). But even more curious is Arhin's attempt to devalue the aims and objectives of the Danquah-led United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) in order to, apparently, make Nkrumah's opportunistic split with the UGCC and his formation of the CPP seem to be a radical act of proactive heroism. To this effect, therefore, Arhin deviously writes, among other things, “…no chief was a founding member of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) whose aim was to obtain reforms in the 'out-moded' Burns' Constitution” (Life and Work 30).

If so, then how came it about that many an ardent Nkrumaist has sought to differentiate between Danquahist and Nkrumaist ideologies by claiming that the former counseled the attainment of Independence “within the shortest possible time,” whereas the African Show Boy advocated for “Independence Now!”? In other words, Arhin's primitivist argument at the expense of the Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics is not supported by provable historical evidence. But, perhaps, what needs emphasizing more than anything else is the fact that were the UGCC founded merely to seek modest reforms within the stultifying strictures of colonial governance, it would hardly have necessitated the quite expensive repatriation of Nkrumah from the British metropolis in order for the latter to assume the only full-time and salaried job in the United Gold Coast Convention. Indeed, it is only by such sophistry and outright falsification of the record books, as it were, that such fanatical adherents of Nkrumaism, as Kwame Arhin, could hope to legitimize their myth regarding Nkrumah's nonesuch and Messianic emergence and pernicious domination of Ghana's postcolonial political landscape.

Again, Arhin attempts to elevate Nkrumah's stature over and above that of the Doyen of Gold Coast politics by falsely claiming that in 1951 it was the African Show Boy, rather than Dr. Danquah, who had sought, in the wake of the constitutional proposals of the Coussey Committee, to have the Ghanaian Legislative Assembly fashioned into two chambers, namely, an upper house, to be largely composed of the traditional rulers, and a lower house, or a commons, to be composed of the non-chiefly representatives of the Ghanaian electorate at large: “In 1950, when the chiefs declared their loyalty to the British government, after Nkrumah had declared 'Positive Action' in an attempt to advance the attainment of independence, he aroused the hostility of the chiefs to his party with his statement that, should the chiefs refuse to support the people's 'just' struggle for freedom, the time would come when they would run away and leave behind their sandals. In the circumstances it was certainly a 'tactical action' on his part – a ploy to win the support of the chiefs that he prevailed upon the CPP to ask for a second chamber in the new Legislative Assembly, which would be dominated by the chiefs. But this friendly gesture to the chiefs did not win his party a single representative from the Territorial Councils of Chiefs in the 1951 Legislative Assembly” (Life and Work 31).

Needless to say, it was the far more culturally and politically astute and inclusive Dr. Danquah who had originally demanded that an Independent Ghana retain a bicameral legislature. Danquah's demand, to be certain, was squarely predicated on the Doyen's eerie observation of the dictatorial tendencies of Mr. Kwame Nkrumah who, in 1949, shortly after the formation of his breakaway party, the so-called Convention Peoples's Party, had managed to convince his “Comrades” to name him the CPP's Life-Chairman (see Danquah's Voice of Prophecy; also Okoampa-Ahoofe's Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana). The Doyen was to be proven dead-on accurate when in 1964 President Nkrumah declared Ghana to be a One-Party State and himself Ghana's Life-President. Indeed, our version of this event is further corroborated by Kwame Arhin himself, when in a footnote to his essay titled “The Search for Constitutional Chieftaincy” the author acknowledges that in 1953 when the major Ghanaian chiefs asked for a second Legislative Chamber Nkrumah flatly rejected it (Life and Work 48-9). Indeed, another reason why Dr. Danquah demanded an Upper House in the Ghanaian Legislature was the Doyen's recognition of the solemn and grave need to preserving the dignity of the office of Chieftaincy, as well as that of the holders of the office themselves, from linguistic or rhetorical irreverence that might arise were the chiefs to mingle with commoners and their representatives in a unicameral legislative structure (see Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana).

In detailing the landmark battle between the Asanteman Council and Okyeman Council, on the one hand, and the CPP pseudo-Socialist junior partner of British colonial administration, on the other, between 1954 and 1956, Arhin liberally indulges in the kind of sloppy scholarship that ordinarily one would not expect of a quite recognizable Ghanaian intellectual. In several instances, Arhin misnames the Akyem-Abuakwa State Council or Okyeman Council as “Okyeame” (or spokesman) Council (Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah 37). But what is even more strikingly curious is when the author feigns intellectual neutrality, or objectivity, on the incontrovertible fact regarding the founding of the National Liberation Movement (NLM) as a critical countervailing force to Nkrumaist dictatorship: “The Asanteman Council construed dissent by chiefs from the decision of the Council to support the NLM as a rebellion against the Golden Stool, and instigated their destoolment, or made it impossible for them to attend the Council's meetings. The Council sanctioned the use of its funds for promoting the political work of the NLM. The Akyem Abuakwa (Okyeame) [sic] Council did the same. In justification for this, both Councils argued that the NLM was a national movement with the specific objective of securing a federal constitution in which, they supposed, the position of chieftaincy would be safeguarded, and which would secure the country against the 'mass' dictatorship of the CPP and the personal one of Nkrumah” (Life and Work 37).

Needless to say, by 1964, at the apogee of its domination of the Ghanaian political landscape, Nkrumah and his CPP would prophetically vindicate the worst fears of the democratically minded leaders of the NLM, when the African Show Boy declared Ghana to be a One-Party State and himself Ghana's President-for-Life. As to why Professor Kwame Arhin gapingly fails to remark on this historical fait-accompli is far more annoying than surprising, or even downright disturbing. It also, needless to say, shamefully and embarrassingly reflects the temperament of a typical disingenuous Ghanaian political scientist, perhaps even a brazen fanatic.

And, perhaps, without intending to, Arhin also observes the fact that the CPP was hell-bent on installing a constitutional dictatorship in postcolonial Ghana. For instance, unlike the prevailing cultures of many a democratic nation, the CPP made no distinction between “The Party” and the Nkrumah-run government, which means that any member of the Party, theoretically, and oftentimes practically, wielded executive powers over non-party members and, in effect, the citizens of the nation at large. Such a curious setup, though not altogether unexpected, meant that corruption would be accorded a pride of place in CPP political culture. Consequently, for example, whereas under the British colonial administration the Chiefs had been permitted remarkable discretionary powers in matters pertaining to traditional culture and politics, with the accession of the CPP to executive power, government and party summarily annexed and cannibalized the institution of Chieftaincy, thus practically invalidating Ghanaian cultural identity in a way that not even the most rabidly racist British colonial administrator could have fathomed: “Subsequent legislation in the Parliament of Ghana, dominated by the Convention People's Party, even without the defections from the NPP, shows that Nkrumah and the CPP did not regard the matter of chieftaincy as decisively settled by the 1957 constitution. Partly to enable them to carry through the subjection of the chiefs to the Party, which they identified with the Government, they passed the Constitution (Repeal of Restrictions) Act, 1958, and the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 1959. The passage of the two Acts, which permitted the government to act on chieftaincy matters without reference to the chiefs, made it possible for them to appoint Commissions of Enquiry into the financial management and the exercise of customary jurisdiction by the Asanteman, Kumasi State, and Akim Abuakwa State Councils. Consequent upon the findings of the commissions[,] the Government withdrew recognition from Nana Ofori-Atta II, the Kyenhene [sic], and the Asantehene was obliged to make a statement repudiating his relations with the opposition party and pledging support for 'the government of the day'” (Life and Work 41).

What made matters even more quizzical is the fact that such patently Eurocentric and neocolonialist approach to governance was occurring under the watch and supervision of a self-proclaimed African-nationalist regime which also touted its stentorian championing of a protean Afrocentric, irredentist policy called “The African Personality.” But that Nkrumah appreciated very little of traditional Ghanaian culture, much less show a remarkable modicum of respect for it, is evidenced by the following observation from Arhin: “In effect, as Ollennu has it, a people could elect whomever they chose as their chief but he could perform his constitutional duties only at the will of the government. The institution of chieftaincy went full circle: the Act reduced it to an agency of the government just as it had been under the colonial regime. But in contrast to his position under the colonial regime, the chief was a passive, and not an active, agent” (Life and Work 43-44).
In a paper titled “Education in Ghana: 1951-1966,” E. A. Haizel politely questions President Nkrumah's God-Complex tendency of attempting to periodize – or date – every significant modern Ghanaian national achievement from his political accession in 1951. Thus, for instance, in 1963, while inaugurating the Lever Brothers Soap Factory at Tema, “Africa's Man of Destiny” had this to say: “It is not only the favorable climate for investment created by the Government of Ghana which has resulted in industrial development such as the soap factory now before us. The education [sic] policy inaugurated by the Convention People's Party in 1951, when for the first time we had a limited degree of control over our own affairs is now bearing fruit. We have a growing number of skilled technicians, and in some fields the technical ability of our workers can today compare favorably with that of any country in the world. This is an important factor in encouraging foreign investment” (Life and Work 53).

And to the preceding, Haizel has this to say: “This was Dr. Nkrumah's judgment of the educational policy started in 1951, and a restatement of his conviction of the link between education and national development. The story has, however, to be taken a bit further back in time. From 1923, the educational policy of the British Colonial Office for dependent territories began to assume a definite form with the establishment of the Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies. A flow of memoranda started issuing from the Advisory Committee, all aimed at improvement of 'native education.' During and after the Second World War, the documents assumed a tone of urgency. In 1943, the Advisory Committee published the document entitled 'Mass Education in African Society.' In this document, the aims of mass education were described as follows: 1. The wide extension of schooling for children with the goal of universal schooling within a measurable time. 2. The spread of literacy among adults, together with a widespread development of literature and libraries without which there is little hope of making literacy permanent. 3. The planning of mass education of the community itself, involving the active support of the local community from the start. 4. The effective coordination of welfare plans and mass education plans so that they form a comprehensive and balanced whole” (Life and Work 54).

And here, it goes without saying that few Ghanaians possess the authoritative educational, policy insight or acumen of Professor Haizel, a former director of the University of Ghana's Institute of Adult Education. Haizel is also quick to point out that as early as 1948, less than a year after the return of the future first president of Independent Ghana, the British Colonial Office had released a document progressively titled “Education for Citizenship in Africa,” the purpose of which was to “ 'study the technique needed to prepare people for responsibility, and examine generally the problem of building up a sense of public responsibility, tolerance and objectivity in discussion and practice, and an appreciation of political institutions, their evolution and progress” (Life and Work 54). Perhaps Nkrumah would have done himself and the rest of his fellow Ghanaians a lot of good to have availed himself of those portions of the document dealing with the establishment and evolution of political institutions, assuming, of course, that the British Colonial Office document dealt with the august and indispensable traditional, African and Ghanaian institution of Chieftaincy.

Indeed, while many an Nkrumaist has been quick to identify the CPP's fee-free compulsory education as the hallmark of “The Party's” claim to historiographical primacy, Haizel hints at the fact that the Party and its leader's autocratic desire to control every significant Ghanaian social institution might, almost certainly, have remarkably checked – or impeded – the rapid advancement of modern Ghanaian education: “Further, it was 'expected that considerable numbers of educational unit schools will be handed over to Local Authorities.' The missions were not only virtually barred against [sic] future expansion of their primary schools. They were also expected to give up their existing schools. It was permissible for any person, or groups of persons, to open and conduct a private school. But while no public funds would be granted to any such school, it could be closed down by law if it was [deemed to be] potentially dangerous to the physical and moral well-being of the pupils. And, as if in anticipation of a counterattack, the Plan went on to say: 'This policy is one which the people themselves already regard as their own. It implies no disregard for the devoted services and the great achievements of the Missionary Societies and the Churches. Far less does it imply any disregard for moral training and religious education. Opportunities have been provided for them in all institutions supported by public funds.' It was clear that the old partnership which had existed between Government and voluntary effort, especially by the Churches, was completely ruptured and that the Government had made a deliberate move to take over primary schools where Church influence had been strong. The churches were left with no other option but to attach their names to local authority schools and take a back seat” (Life and Work 58-9).

It is also interesting to note that in highlighting the signal role played by the cocoa industry in the phenomenal, financial underwriting of Nkrumah's massive expansion of educational facilities, particularly at the primary and secondary levels, Haizel gapingly fails to mention the fact that the establishment of the Cocoa Marketing Board (CMB), was through the singular instrumentality of Dr. J. B. Danquah, the putative Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics (see L. H. Ofosu-Appiah's Life and Times of J. B. Danquah): “The expansion of education at the primary and middle school levels meant that sooner than later there was going to be pressure on secondary education. At the same time, the siting of the older secondary schools was such that certain areas of the country had no such schools. The Cocoa Marketing Board had to come to the rescue. The Board realized that the cocoa[-]growing areas had no secondary schools, and also took the view that the cocoa industry involved labor from all over the country. With funds provided by the Cocoa Marketing Board, Dr. Nkrumah founded the Ghana Education Trust with the purpose of building secondary schools and colleges all over the country. And before long, secondary schools and colleges sprang up from Half Assini to Keta, and from LaBone through Acherensua and Tamale to Tumu” (Life and Work 64).

Indeed, the fact that Haizel is quick to point out that President Nkrumah founded the Ghana Education Trust (GET) in order to channel the bulk of cocoa farmers' wealth into education, while at the same time neglecting to mention the Doyen's seminal contribution to the founding – or establishment – of the Cocoa-Marketing Board, once again, highlights the dearth of credibility among the Nkrumaist scholars and intellectuals. And neither are we prepared to concede a purely accidental case of “benign ignorance” to a renowned educational expert like Professor Haizel, a former director of the University of Ghana's Adul-Education Department.

Then also, talking about Nkrumah's remarkable achievement in the development of postcolonial education evokes an unmistakable paradox; which is that while he has, more than any other leader in modern Ghanaian history, been singularly credited with the signal and rapid development of the country's educational system (for obvious reasons, of course), nevertheless, the putative patron – or Godfather – of the “Verandah Boys” appears to have lived the part to the hilt. In sum, the paradox inheres in the curious fact of Nkrumah having been known to have been intemperately anti-intellectual, even while embarking on the massive expansion of tertiary educational, physical plants or facilities. And so it is almost a ceaseless wonder that Nkrumah reportedly expected qualitative research and scholarship to emerge out of the leading Ghanaian institutions of higher learning, even while also insisting that the very rudimentary culture of academic freedom was a luxury that the Convention People's Party government could, at best, ill-afford: “In 1959, Dr. Nkrumah had stated that 'with a few exceptions University College is a breeding ground for unpatriotic and anti-Government elements.' He had gone further to state: 'We do not intend to sit idly by and see that these institutions which are supported by millions of pounds produced out of the sweat and toil of the common people continue to be centers of anti-Government activities. We want the University College to cease being an alien institution and take on the character of a Ghanaian university, loyally serving the interests of the nation and the well-being of our people.' So much for the role of the University. Dr. Nkrumah wanted reforms to come from within. Otherwise, and in his own words: 'If reforms do not come from within, we intend to impose them from outside, and no resort to the cry of academic freedom (for academic freedom does not mean irresponsibility) is going to restrain us from seeing that our university is a healthy university devoted to Ghanaian interests.' These were strong words, and, indeed, the CPP did subsequently 'invade' the University to set an example which has been followed a few times during [sic] subsequent regimes. But the reasons have been political and the question [of] whether those in the universities have a right to their political views and their [liberal] expression has yet to be resolved either on the principle of academic freedom or freedom of speech” (Life and Work 66-67).

It also goes without saying that Nkrumah was a grievously conflicted personality. For instance, at the same time that he strong-armed the chiefs in order to get them to toe the line, as it were, the “Wonder Boy of Africa” preferred to operate above the laws of the land. Thus in announcing the establishment of his so-called Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute, this is what the CPP Generalissimo had to say: “The Institute will comprise two sections [sic], namely, the Positive Action Training Center and the Ideological Training Center. The Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute will be controlled exclusively by the Central Committee of the CPP and will not be subject to any regulations of the Education Department or the Ghana Education Trust” (Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah 73).

Interestingly, Nkrumaist apologists like Haizel have employed virtually every discursive means – tenable or untenable – in defense of their hero. Thus regarding the preceding quote, the former head of the University of Ghana's Adult-Education Institute has this to say: “It was just as well[,] since the Institute would have been beyond the control of the Education Department or the Ghana Educational Trust whose roles in education in the country were radically different from that of the Ideological Institute. They were engaged in the linear expansion of the system that existed, while [whereas?] the Institute's aim was to be 'The chief means of counteracting the miseducation which has continued for so long and will in due course effectively direct the freedom movement for African emancipation.' And this should come as no surprise when one remembers Dr. Nkrumah's March 6, 1957, statement. 'The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked [up] with the total liberation of Africa'” (Life and Work 73).
In the next segment, we intend to both continue with and bring our discussion of Professor Kwame Arhin's edited anthology of essays on the Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah to a conclusion, after which we hope to definitively discuss the conundrum of the Volta River Project, also known as the Akosombo Dam.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. Three of his latest volumes of poetry and essays will be published in Fall 2007. E-mail: [email protected]

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

This author has authored 4560 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

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