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23.03.2009 Feature Article

LSE, the Military and 'Politectuals' in Our National History: a tongue in cheek analysis

The LSE is the place to send your children if you want to have kith and kin in high and mighty places. Isn't it record enough? Three out of the six elected heads of states (in other words half of them) have walked Houghton Street. But that is not the interesting issue I want to discuss. It's a strange correlation which might have animated Karl Pearson the statistician terribly!

It is this issue of the military. All the LSE people who come to lead Ghana seem to have this intricate relationship with the military, of the sort which is very interesting indeed! Take Dr Kwame Nkrumah himself, the great independence leader... yeah, yeah, he wasn't educated in Moscow, mind you! Who said the cradle of capitalism, Adam Smith's own England, can't birth a socialist! Well, Nkrumah, our first leader was LSE educated, fine, prolific scholar in his own right, as well as a strategic politician. But let's get back to the question at hand). Nkrumah's reign was abruptly curtailed by a CIA-instigated coup. Who knows what Ghana +would have turned into if that coup hadn't taken place? Would we have had Lee Kwan Yew's Singapore success story or would we have been an earlier version of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe? The military folks spared us the luxury (or agony) of finding out for ourselves!

Then came Dr Hilla Limann, that fine, gentle, soft-spoken gentleman, also LSE-trained. Going by the track record and international acclaim of his LSE (and ideological) forerunner, I'm sure Limann was set for big things. Maybe he would follow the big projects of infrastructural and ideological developments that the great Nkrumah started. Maybe he'd even grow charismatic and... but cut! We were impatient then, very impatient! And so how many months was it? Never mind, he was whisked off by the military before he completed two years in office. By the way, was it true that when asked what his ideology was, he replied 'My ideology is Ghana!'? Well, I wasn't even incubating then, so there is no way I can get to know that.

And finally, who do we have? ... Prof John Atta Mills! Absolutely brilliant scholar, specialising in an area which one of my good friends believes takes an overdose of IQ and attention to detail to master; tax law. And boy, hasn't he mastered it to perfection! Anyone familiar with the politics of promotion in the university of Ghana (as in many universities) will understand the fears and tears you have to endure before you even get to be a senior lecturer; and then to associate prof and then to prof! C'mon, let's doff our hats! The good prof was also sterling as a tax collector. Even his detractors say they have no problem with him as a person but with the group he chose to associate with. But, DID he choose to associate with...? Well, let's not deviate into controversial areas, lest we draw another long and loud and dramatic barrage of wrathful admonishment.

But what has this Mills' presidency to do with any military. Well, there's never going to be any military involvement again, Ghanaians seem to be quite resolved on this one. But opponents never cease to trace the genealogy of the now ruling NDC. Depending on how puritanical you are, you can end with the PNDC or go way back to the AFRC. So the correlation assumes a different form here, but correlation all the same it is, isn't it?

But what value is this analysis if it doesn't look at countervailing evidence. If we can show with some reasonable degree of certainty that non-LSE leaders have succeeded to avoid contact with the military, then we'd have made a strong point for the apparent correlation between LSE and militarism in Ghanaian politics. Otherwise, we're engaging in an exercise in futility, aren't we?

So I turn to Dr Kofi (and maybe I could here point to the fact that we're both Kofi!) Abrefa Busia, second elected leader (he was prime minister) after Nkrumah, Oxford educated. In fact, I hear this man was so intelligent that wide-mouthed admirers acronymed his name into Best University Scholar In Africa! I mean, he was the first African professor in the University of Ghana and the first head of the Sociology Department in the University of Ghana. But I guess he failed to conduct a study into the sociology of military interventionism, for the military soon deposed him. But this was an Oxford man, you see, not LSE. Once in a while, I hear he's linked to some Apollo-something something!

And then highly controversial (well, not as controversial as Rawlings, of course, but he also has his own moment of outrageous speeches, doesn't he?) John Kuffuor, not yet three months old in his status as an ex. Another Oxford man. Unfortunately, I don't hear people making much of his academic/intellectual super heavyweight as they do the others. Maybe, unlike the others, it was because he doesn't have attached to his name a Dr nor was he an academia person. That notwithstanding, Exeter, his college in Oxford, was so entranced by his superb leadership and management of the economy that they set up a scholarship in his name for Ghanaian students and the award recipients are going to be known as Kuffuor Scholars! Isn't that grand! And, after handing over, Dr Anyimadu gave him very fine popularity ratings on Kweku Sakyi Addo's show on Joy FM.

So what did Kuffuor have to do with military regimes? Well, not his NPP, because they were the most vocal in denouncing coups and pointing to the NDC's umbilical links to a violent military past. But Kuffuor himself? Yeah, he was member of Rawlings' military regime (one of it!). And no small post; he was a deputy minister! Hmm, who says friends don't fall out! Even so, isn't it quite strange when he and old buddy Rawlings decide to have a little go at it? It takes religious leaders and rhyme-reciting day-nursery toddlers to separate them. But the point still is that Kuffuor has had his association with past military interventions. And here too, we have, not LSE, but Oxford material (or should we say product?).

So as we've seen, these military people are no respecters of credentials, LSE or Oxford! Or maybe you think if they'd decided to do all their studies in Ghana, the military might have left them alone? Or maybe we were so fascinated by these eggheads that after voting them into office, we all went to sleep, only to be rudely jostled out of sleep now and then by a bunch of soldiers proclaiming on GBC that they've suddenly discovered the antidote to the problems which has all along been beating our scholarly masters? But that is a question we ought not to bother ourselves with, is it? After all, so we've been told time and again, we've reached that stage that constitutional orderliness has taken over the conduct of the affairs of our dear motherland! Or has it?

Some of us were deeply troubled by occurrences during the just ended elections, not least the conduct of some media houses. The tension in the country was palpable and we were stretched to the limit, the analysts later told us. Since then, I've been wondering whether four successive elections necessarily make our system a 'stable democracy'. And just when things were calming down, some people in great unease remembered Rawlings' warnings to Limann (which were implemented!) after the selfsame Rawlings solemnly issued out warnings of impatience with the 'poverty of inaction' to our beloved new president! And how truly viable and meaningful is what we're doing in the name of democracy if a good number of the electorate can't distinguish between a legislator and an assembly wo/man.

Do you think we'd have a stable prosperous country if we had a company of venerable village elders overseeing our affairs rather than some ivory tower scholars from LSE or Oxford, who were once described by Nkrumah to be having their pompous heads in the clouds and their feet dangling in the air? [Oh, if you were wondering what 'politectual' (in the title of this piece) means, it's some smart aleck who decides to experiment with politics to find out whether the frightfully abstract things they learn (like socialism and neoliberalism or any other isms) can instantly relieve the concrete difficulties their people face. By the way, I think I'm the one proposing this concept, so please mention me next time you use it!] Or do you think maybe if we had one lady heading the state, we'd have had one less coup?

For those who're wondering, I felt I didn't need to draw any correlation between Rawlings' democratic regime and military takeovers for obvious reasons, one of which is that he's seen as the very embodiment of military interventionism in Ghana's history.

But I was talking about the wisdom of sending your children to the LSE. From what I hear, it's a fine, 'open minded' school without a walled compound (oops, I mean, campus). If for nothing at all, at least the view from the Waterloo Bridge on the Thames, in close propinquity to the School, is quite scenic and affords a very beautiful view, in one sweeping gaze, of the City! They can even go and see Komla Dumor after classes, at the BBC, which is just across the street (Aldwych) from the School. But before sending them off to the LSE, make sure they pass well enough to go to Accra Academy, affectionately called BLEOO!!! It would interest you to know that it took two Bleoomicians (i.e. fine statesmen with the true Bleoo spirit!), D F Annan and Peter Ala Adjetey to put our parliament on some footing when we decided to leave the militarist wilderness and join that part of the world that believe in democracy. In case you get girls, you can send them to St Mary's School, which is almost as good as Accra Aca.

Kofi, also called
Mpakoo (if you speak Ga), or
Agya Koo (if you speak Akan)
The author is a graduate of Hampstead Academy
Formerly Hampstead Preparatory School
Korle Gonno
[email protected]

Korle Gonno
Korle Gonno, © 2009

This author has authored 1 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KorleGonno

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