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05.10.2008 Feature Article

The Original Credit Goes to J B Danquah, and then Busia!

The Original Credit Goes to J B Danquah, and then Busia!
On October 3, 2008, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) published a brief news item in the General News section of its website titled “UK Secret Doubt at Ghana Freedom.” In a gist, the story carried the conflicting views of former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan on the viability of the Nkrumah-led Ghanaian independence movement. In the main, the man oft-quoted and widely perceived to be, perhaps, the most foresighted and progressive European leader on African affairs had sarcastically let on to Westminster (or the British Parliament) that “these people,” meaning Ghanaians in general, possessed “every quality for democratic government” among any sovereignty-seeking people, because “They appear to be incompetent, divided and corrupt.” Shortly thereafter and while on an official visit to then-Apartheid South Africa, the same Prime Minister Macmillan would inform the lilywhite parliament of that country, by way of a cautionary observation, that: “The wind of change is blowing through this [African] continent whether [European imperialists] like it or not, the growth of national consciousness is a political fact, we must all accept it as a fact and our national policies must take account of it.”

Indeed, while both conflicting views of Mr. Macmillan are equally accurate and, in hindsight, prophetic, it is Dr. J. B. Danquah, the putative Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics to whom singular and indisputable credit is owed. For, as relatively far back as 1949, when Mr. Kwame Nkrumah conferred upon himself, Garvey style, the title of Life-Chairman of his newly formed and tautologically named Convention Peoples Party (CPP), Dr. Danquah eerily observed that unless something was promptly done to clip the wings of his vaulting leadership ambitions, an independent Ghana chaperoned by a Prime Minister Nkrumah was almost certain to culminate in a dictatorial tyranny the likes of which had yet to be witnessed or endured in twentieth-century Ghanaian political history (see Danquah's Voice of Prophecy).

Consequently, Danquah championed the politically meliorating and balancing system of a Federation. Unfortunately, the latter would be promptly and roundly rejected by the British colonial regime and, in the stead of the latter demand, a far less powerful system of regional assemblies would be grudgingly allowed. But, of course, Nkrumah would promptly rid himself of this mild attempt at checking his well-anticipated dictatorial tendencies. Nkrumah would vigorously and temporally eloquently argue that Ghana was geopolitically too small to be constituted into a viable Federation. He would also proceed to second-guess the all-too-pragmatic ideological genius of the Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics and, in fact, Nkrumah's own political mentor. Nkrumah would impute Danquah's incontrovertibly foresighted and pragmatic proposal to raw envy and morbid ethnocentrism. In other words, for Mr. Kwame Nkrumah, Dr. Danquah was singularly and dangerously afflicted with what may be aptly termed as “Tribal Myopia.”

And, of course, the preceding attack is quite interesting about the man who staunchly and singularly fought the British colonial regime in order to get the erstwhile Asante Federation organically integrated into the Gold Coast colony in 1951 (see Joe Appiah's The Man J. B. Danquah).

Now, it refreshingly turns out that in reality, the British government had privately sided with Dr. Danquah all along. Needless to say, the Doyen's sole motive for demanding a federal status for Ghana, other than Nkrumah's talent-stifling dictatorial proclivities, squarely regarded the ethnic and cultural diversity of the people, an expedient political wedge that the British colonial regime tactically used to thwart the progressive efforts of astute statesmen like the Tawfohene of Akyem-Abuakwa.

In sum, in the BBC article, Dr. Danquah is almost wholly vindicated as follows: “Back in the 1950s, the UK was feeling the heat from [vehement] calls to set free its African territories and ministers were in a hurry to do something about it. But even though the Gold Coast, as it was then [called], had been promised independence, ministers doubted that Ghana would be a democratic and viable unitary state. Experts reported [serious] problems of corruption and hostility between [among?] the three main communities – Muslims in the north, tribal African communities in the interior and then the peoples of the [relatively] better-off coastal strip. Ministers told the Colonial Secretary, Alan Lennox Boyd, that Ghana should instead be a federation. He said it was too late for that.”

It is our convicted contention here that Sir Alan Lennox Boyd promptly declined expert counsel for the federation of Ghana primarily because the original architect of such proposal, Dr. J. B. Danquah, was no darling of Imperial Britain. On the other hand, as amply evinced from his line-toeing voting record in the Legislative Assembly, for one salient example, then-Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah was the star-pupil of the neocolonialist agenda of the British Crown.

On the question of rank corruption, the BBC news article is likely alluding to the epic corruption scandals unearthed by the famous Jibowu Commission that enquired into allegations of rank corruption and nepotism in Nkrumah's Convention People's Party (CPP) government. We have amply detailed the preceding elsewhere and therefore find it absolutely unnecessary to rehash the same herein.

What those of us who have spiritedly and valiantly fought against dastardly attempts by President Nkrumah and his minions, fanatical disciples, adherents and sympathizers to impugn both the patriotism and integrity of the Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics itch to learn, in due course, is the exact extent to which the British Government unconscionably collaborated with Mr. Kwame Nkrumah to thoroughly destroy Ghanaian democracy and creative initiative, as fervidly championed by Drs. Danquah and Busia, among a legion of others. This earnest request could only be satiated once Downing Street and Westminster decide to make public classified – or confidential – documents regarding the critical political era between 1946 and 1966, in much the same manner that the US Congress and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have publicized Washington's covert and overt activities on the African continent during the same period in recent years.

We make the foregoing observations because according to John Willie Kofi (JWK) Harlley, a former Commissioner and later Inspector General of the Ghana Police Service and the largely unsung original architect of the 1966 coup-detat that toppled the so-called Convention People's Party, he had initially approached the British Government for assistance in defusing the Nkrumaist dictatorhip but had been promptly rebuffed. Mr. Harlley had then also been threatened by a sitting British Prime Minster who had promised to alert President Nkrumah of Harlley's intentions, unless the then-IGP forthwith ceased harassing British intelligence operatives.

Significantly, though, we must also observe the prompt, albeit confidential, acknowledgement by the British Prime Minister in question of the fact of him deeming President Nkrumah to be a political nuisance to the British Government, which had ceded power to the Show Boy, as well as a veritable embarrassment to the global comity of the British Commonwealth of Nations (BCN) itself.

Needless to say, once the preceding is put into historical perspective, it begins to make absolute sense why Dr. Busia would, reportedly, lead a delegation to the British Colonial Office, in London, seeking to prevent the African Show Boy from certain reckless piloting of the proverbial Ghanaian ship of state into perdition, as it were. In this instance, as has been widely noted, the British Crown promptly and roundly rebuffed Busia's overtures. What is equally significant here, though, is the grim and factual reality that, indeed, both Dr. Busia and the British imperial government knew that Nkrumah aimed to run Ghana aground in no time at all, wittingly or unwittingly. The stark difference here, however, is that whereas Dr. Busia deemed it to be his bounden obligation and patriotic duty to prevent Mr. Nkrumah from ruining the political economy and culture of the country, the departing British colonial administrators could absolutely not care less or give a whit, as it were.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing 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” (, 2005) and “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Atumpan Publications/, 2008). E-mail: [email protected]
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., © 2008

The author has 4800 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

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