Busia And Postcolonial Ghanaian Politics – Part 4 (Final)
For the unborn and those who were rather too young to have consciously witnessed and fully appreciated, first-hand, the economic hardships precipitated by the CPP's pseudo-socialist economic policies and the one-party state, and especially those Nkrumaist “fan-fools” who insist, against common sense, that the Show Boy's purely megalomaniacal one-party regime was a timely and even an opportune policy, or just about what the proverbial doctor ordered, this is what Busia has to report: “What is happening in Ghana has exposed Nkrumah's false theories that one-party government is the best way to economic progress. Ghana's bitter experience is clear for all to see. You know that the cost of living has been rising. You know that there has been scarcity of essential commodities, such as sugar, salt, fats, oils, onions and meat; that the cloths and consumer goods available in the [so-called] people's shops are very high in price. You know that whatever you wish to buy, be it food, or shoes, or belt or dress material, you have a limited range to choose from, if you have any choice at all. You know that private cars, lorries and public buses have been standing idle for want of tyres or spare parts. You know that the crippling economic controls and the license systems that were instituted have not only been used as instruments of corruption to enrich a few, but that they have failed to increase supplies, and have inflicted hardship on traders and consumers alike, Ghanaian traders are being driven out of business. The saddest thing is the lack of needed drugs. The government just does not care about the health of the people. Deaths have occurred through snake bites for lack of anti-snake serum. Instruments have had to be sterilized in iodine in hospitals, for lack of methylated spirits. Some people have had to find their own drugs to take to hospitals. There has been a black market in drugs. The sick have suffered needlessly because of the shortage of anesthetics, some even dying, for lack of drugs in common demand. All this has happened in Ghana, and yet the government shouts about being the people's government. The signs are that the economic situation which has been deteriorating will grow worse. This is largely because of the muddle in the issue of import licenses, and the confusion between this and the arbitrary exchange control. The shortage in commodities will become [even] more acute; because our foreign exchange earnings from our cocoa, our timber and our minerals, have been irresponsibly bartered for guns, the price of which could have bought life-saving drugs, food and clothes. Besides there are huge sums representing the ill-gotten takings of certain individuals tucked away in foreign banks. There is much talk about the establishment of factories, but what is the good of that when shortage of raw materials and vital spares for the factories hold up their activity? As a result, one factory has shut [down], and some traders and manufacturers have said that they will soon have to close. The trade unions have given notice of pay claims, and in terms of the increase in price, their claim for wage increase is justifiable. But since more and more people are likely to become unemployed, the position is only likely to get worse. Ghana had money which could have been used to provide employment and meet the pay claims workers are demanding[,] but the money is no longer there. It has been squandered on non-productive prestige projects, on gifts and so-called loans, and on subversive activities, in pursuit of Nkrumah's personal ambition to build a United States of Africa under his rule, and, above all, on expensive military equipment. The military equipment would be of little avail if Ghana were attacked by a major power; its real use lies in the fact that it terrorizes the people of Ghana, and so bolsters the Nkrumah dictatorship. When the people needed jobs, food, houses and medical supplies, the government bought guns”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 55-56).
For Busia, Nkrumah's one-party statal experiment was absolutely devoid of any practical value, besides illegitimately entrenching the dictatorship of a leader who had virtually no meaningful appreciation for the time-tested democratic principles undergirding the traditional African system of governance: “Let me remind you of a Twi proverb: 'One head does not form a Council.' That is why traditional political institutions were based on councils of representatives of different groups or communities coming together to give advice, to talk things over, to settle questions together. Where one head constitutes a Council, there can only be folly and disorder. One-party rule for Ghana, in the light of our traditions, is a step backward from the accumulated wisdom we inherited from our ancestors. There is no doubt that many Ghanaians, both those who belonged to the CPP as well as those who never joined [the CPP], feel for the prisoners suffering in jail; there is no doubt that we all love freedom; that we all like to be free to speak our mind; to join what[ever] associations we like; to criticize our rulers and to be able to change them. The one-party regime in Ghana does not allow any of these things. It rests on force, and it therefore encourages simmering discontent which is bound to explode like a volcano one day. The change has already begun. You have only to join in to play your part. Your part is to say and do the things [that] you know to be right, and which fall to your lot to say and do in the service of the community. You will discover to your surprise that you have joined a mighty, irresistible force which will soon drive away every trace of dictatorship and oppression. Others are playing their part. Do likewise”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 57).
In a clearly satirical vein, Busia heartily regales his audience with his own analogical version of the famous Akan folktale about Ananse (the archetypal Spider), the notorious mischief-maker: “Five years ago, at a political rally of the United Party held at Bukom Square, Accra, I told the following story. 'A man thought himself very strong; he repaired to a castle built on a rock; he surrounded the castle with stone walls; he mounted on the walls the mightiest weapons of destruction he could find; his armies stood on guard night and day; then he said, 'now I am safe: anyone who defies me must perish.' One thing he did not know. Beneath the rock on which the castle stood was a small, silent river. Every day, silently, the river eroded the seemingly impregnable rock; it gathered force, till one day it burst through; and all the arms and all the soldiers were useless. In nature, the strongest forces build up and work silently; then they burst out in irresistible strength.' Those who heard me will no doubt remember, and understand better now what I tried to convey then. There are forces of the human spirit which no arms, imprisonments, threats or intimidation can overcome”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 57).
And for those well-meaning Ghanaians who really want to acquire a well-informed appreciation of what it means to be characterized as “Matemeho” or Democratic, Cultural and Political Separatist in the Danquah-Busia-Dombo Tradition, this is what the immortalized Ghanaian sociologist of inimitable genius has to say: “We of the United Party have always laid emphasis on civil liberties and personal freedom, on the right of every individual to the protection of the law and the courts, against illegal or arbitrary action of the government and its agents; on the right to free speech, association and movement; and on the right of the people to choose their own government through free and honest elections. We have fought for these things because we realized that without them there would be no happiness for the people of Ghana, and no foundation for stable and lasting progress. We still believe that national planning, private enterprise and political freedom can and must go together. We believe that the resources of the nation should be used by the government to attain social justice. The government should ensure equality of opportunity and protection against poverty for every individual, and prevent exploitation of the people by individuals, or groups, or by those in power. We believe that planning should not mean indiscriminate, excessive and rigid central control but should aim primarily at the fair distribution of the wealth and produce of the nation among all citizens, and the narrowing of the gap between the well-to-do and the poor not, as at present, where the so-called Nkrumanist [sic] 'socialism' concentrates on controls and on an unjust legal system to create a widening gap between the newly-rich party bosses, whose help Nkrumah needs, and the majority of the people who are made poorer and less free by harsh and oppressive measures. This is to reduce socialism to an immoral economic and political system. It is to make Ghana really free and happy that members of the United Party have fought for so long and endured so much suffering, mass arrests, false accusations, imprisonments without trial, deliberate misrepresentation and distortion of our aims by Nkrumah and his henchmen. People do not make such heavy sacrifices and suffer such persecution for so long[,] unless they firmly and sincerely believe in what they are fighting for. We shall see to it that Ghana gets a fresh start. To this end, we shall achieve, among other things, the following: 1. The release of all political prisoners (including UP and CPP members) detained under the Preventive Detention Acts. They will be given adequate assistance to enable them to make a fresh start in life. 2. The abolition of exit permits, the existing Industrial Relations Act, and other restrictions on the freedom of movement, of association and free speech. 3. The abolition of inefficient and restrictive controls which hinder economic activity and prevent adequate supply and fair distribution of essential goods; and the abolition of oppressive and inequitable taxes. 4. The repeal of the present Constitution[,] to be replaced by a democratic Constitution which will be the work of a genuinely representative Constituent Assembly of the people, not of hired expatriate legal officers; one which will express the people's identity and aspirations, ensure fundamental human rights and personal freedom, and establish a truly free, independent and respectable judiciary. 5. The abolition of the one-party regime, and the holding of fresh elections in an atmosphere of tolerance and freedom. We shall build a Ghana [that is] peaceful and free in which citizens do not live in fear, under constant threats and intimidation. We shall build a Ghana in which all of us join in freedom in the battle against poverty, disease, and ignorance, in a common purpose which promotes human dignity and democracy. We shall build a Ghana in which economic development will provide opportunities for the uplift of man, and not be used as an excuse for oppression; development in which everyone will have a job to do, a house to live in, and a decent standard of living. We shall build a Ghana which will treasure friendship with its neighbors[,] a Ghana dedicated to the building of a free, peaceful and united Africa through genuine co-operation and respect for the rights of all”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 57-59).
Many Ghanaians of age are aware of the findings of the landmark Jibowu Commission, in which then-Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah, among others, was implicated in a corruption scandal involving the Ghana Cocoa-Purchasing Company and the Ghana Cocoa-Marketing Board (COCOBOD) (See Okoampa-Ahoofe's “When Dancers Play Historians And Thinkers”). In The Courage And Foresight of Busia, Ghanaians are also reminded of what came to be known as the Savundra Affair, in which a Britain-based firm called Camp Bird Limited was alleged by Mr. S. I. Iddrisu, a former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, to have been induced by some leading members of the Nkrumah cabinet to offer them a kick-back of £G 100,000 (One-Hundred-Thousand Ghanaian Pounds) in exchange for his company's being allowed to conduct legitimate business in the country (See “Editorial” Ashanti Pioneer May 8, 1959; also, The Courage And Foresight of Busia 62-63). It appears that the then-Prime Minister Nkrumah knew a lot about this epic scam but was initially unwilling to bring down his disciplinary scythe. Eventually, Mr. Savundra, the local British representative of the Camp Bird firm would be punitively deported from Ghana. The irony of the entire affair is that no disciplinary sanctions would be exacted from the CPP cabinet appointees involved in this bribery racket. Instead, then-Finance Minister, K. A. Gbedemah, would mordantly accuse the exiled Dr. Busia of unpatriotically attempting to “blackmail the country outside,” or washing Ghana's proverbial dirty linen before the international community, merely because the former Parliamentary Minority Leader had dared to call for an enquiry into the Savundra Affair at a press conference that Dr. Busia held in London (See “Don't Believe This Iddrisu” Ghanaian Times May 4, 1959; also The Courage And Foresight of Busia 61).
Finally, a quite fascinating editorial also appeared in the pro-CPP Evening News, once the personal property of Mr. Kwame Nkrumah, on the eve of Dr. Busia's prestigious appointment to two endowed chairs, one at the University of Leiden's Africa Studies Center and the other at the International Institute of Social Studies at The Hague, on June 18, 1959. Trenchantly captioned “Busia Must Not Go!” the editorial sought to have the then-Parliamentary Opposition Leader immediately arrested and incarcerated, in order to permanently stop the great sociologist, thinker, humanist and human rights advocate from washing the “dirty linen” of Nkrumah's Ghana abroad: “A report published in a morning paper today[,] carried an allegation that Dr. Busia might be taking up an appointment as a lecturer in an University in Europe and has[,] in fact[,] already dispatched his wife with 26 boxes on the M.V. Accra which left Takoradi Harbor yesterday for the United Kingdom. We call on the authorities to restrain Dr. Busia from leaving this country until any action or actions pending before the courts or otherwise are determined. We cannot, on the other hand, see any wisdom in allowing this arch anti-Ghana propagandist a permanent asylum on that very foreign platform which he has used repeatedly to slander [the] Government and peoples of this country times without number. We are convinced beyond any shadow of doubt that the safest place for this unpatriotic African in the true public interest is not a foreign asylum but the Preventive Detention University [PDU] where he can learn to recover his political senses and the country can be protected against his mischievous and treacherous politics and all other attempts to drag the sacred name of Ghana into mud and sabotage the country's advance to economic freedom”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 65).
Of course, the critical reader and thinker cannot miss the ironical twist of the concluding paragraph of the foregoing editorial (by Mr. Kofi Badu), which reads as follows: “What is Busia afraid of if the report is correct? His own shadow? Or has he suddenly discovered from the report of Saturday's demonstration that everybody in the country is now CPP?
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Ghanaian Politics Today”(Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: [email protected]
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