The January-28th February Incidence: Kwame Nkrumah's Role.
Nevertheless, the feeling of the discontent that Nkrumah found would lead to the two major uprisings in the “country” in January and February 1948, fuelling the drive for Ghana's independence. The two major uprisings coincided with the return of Kwame Nkrumah to the Gold Coast. With the exception of the ex-servicemen's march, Nkrumah had no knowledge of the plans for the boycott of the Association of West African Merchants (AWAM) and Syrians' commodities organized by Nii Kwabena Bonne. The end of the Nii Kwabena Boone strike coincided with the ex-servicemen's peaceful march on February 28 with a petition containing their grievances to the Governor, during which three of its Union members were shot dead with others wounded at Christiansborg Cross-Roads. This incidence subsequently led to the arrest and detention of the six Executive members of the UGCC. Did the UGCC play any role leading to the February 28 uprising leading to their arrest? Earlier, Danquah and Nkrumah had addressed the ex-servicemen on February 20 at Palladium to express solidarity with their concerns. Yet, Danquah's telegram to the Secretary of State for the Colonies regarding the 28th incidence ended with the words “God Save the King.”
On the other hand, a careful investigation of what appears to be Nkrumah's calculated statements may possibly shed some light on his complicity in the ex-servicemen's march. He wrote: “I was certainly aware of the general dissatisfaction of the ex-servicemen and “was acquainted with their Union through my work as general secretary of the UGCC;” “it had been my intention to organize them in due course as an arm of our movement;” and that “I was fully aware that they intended to make peaceful demonstration.” The question is how did he know this? I put this question to the leadership of the Veterans Association of Ghana in my 1990 interview with them at their headquarters in Accra, and the answer I got was revealing. Its Chairman (one of the leaders of the ex-servicemen at the time of the 28 February march) emphatically said it was Kwame Nkrumah who wrote their petition and passed it on to them through Ako Adjei. The Watson Commission also noted that Kwame Nkrumah had circulated the “The Circle” in which he advocated civil disobedience, demonstrations, boycotts, and strikes. So the Watson Commission was right in attributing the two uprisings to Nkrumah's arrival.
Detention, Watson Commission and The Myth of The Big Six.
The anger of the remaining Ex-servicemen and general public over the death of Sgt Adjetey, Cpl. Attipoe and Private Odartey-Lamptey fueled the violence that erupted leading to massive looting and destruction of public property. Subsequently, Governor Creasy on March 12, 1948, issued Removal Order for the arrest and imprisoned of the six executives of the UGCC, namely Jones William Ofori-Atta, Joseph Danquah, Ako Adjei, Obetsebi Lamptey and Akuffo-Addo and Kwame Nkrumah for being responsible for the riots; hence, they collectively became known as “Big Six.” While in prison, the other five blamed Kwame Nkrumah for the riots and their imprisonment and expressed their regret for inviting Nkrumah to take up the secretary generalship of the UGCC. To this end, they blamed Ako Adjei for his role in recommending Nkrumah to the group. Dr. J. B. Danquah wept saying that he would not have supported the recommendation by Ako Adjei, had he (Danquah) known of Nkrumah's ideological persuasion.
After their release from prison to appear individually before the Watson Commission of Inquiry regarding the two uprisings, the other five members dissociated themselves from the two uprisings. With the exception of S. E. Ackah, all the Executive members of the UGCC totally disowned Nkrumah's recommendations, which they had previously approved. But upon cross-examination, several members of them admitted to having received the recommendations from Nkrumah, but went further to clarify that they never associated themselves with it. In other words, Kwame Nkrumah was just and employee of the UGCC, and, as such, they could not entirely be held responsible for his actions. Such acts of betrayal, denial and cowardly behavior are the marks of those pretenders. Certainly, they were traitors worthy of rebuke. “The Big Six” is, thus, a misnomer.
But to acknowledge Kwame Nkrumah as the major driving force in the UGCC at the time, it is worthy of notice to quote the Commission's observation:
From the internal minutes evidence of the Minute Book of the Working Committee, the Convention did not really get down to business until the arrival of Mr. Kwame Nkrumah on 16th December, 1947, and his assumption of his assumption of the post as Secretary (see the Watson
So, in essence, the UGCC was an inert organization before Kwame Nkrumah's arrival to become its General Secretary; thus, it was he who built and breathed life into the UGCC, thereby giving rise to political and national consciousness across the entire country as we know today.
In its inquiry, the Watson Commission also noted that Kwame Nkrumah had circulated the “The Circle” in which he advocated an open defiance to colonialism through civil disobedience, demonstrations, boycotts, and strikes. In effect, this observation and that of the other five members of the UGCC (while in imprison) linked Nkrumah's activities to the uprisings. Yet, while the two uprisings did not threaten the British colonial government, it caused the replacement of the Burns constitution with the Coussey Constitution in 1951. It also served as a prelude to Kwame Nkrumah-GCTUC Positive Action in 1950 from which the British colonial government never recovered. The Watson Commission was therefore right when it forewarned in its conclusion that KWAME NKRUMAH (and NOT the spineless members of the UGCC) was the “MAN TO BE WATCHED.”
Kwame Nkrumah in a Head-on Collision with the UGCC.
First. After blaming Nkrumah for their imprisonment, as well as denouncing his recommendations during the deliberation of the Watson Commission of Inquiry, the Working Committee of the UGCC opposed everything Nkrumah had to do or say. They brought many charges against Nkrumah based on differences in vision, ideology, philosophy and strategy. One was the word “Comrade” in one of Nkrumah's letters Obetsebi Lamptey and William Ofori Attah had confiscated from Nkrumah's office in Saltpond. They quizzed him about the word comrade, since they found it to be synonymous with Communism.
Second. The Working Committee accused Nkrumah of acting outside his authority to set up a school for the dismissed teachers and students on March 28, 1948 for demonstrating against the arrest and detention of the “The Big Six.” The Working Committee objected to the idea when Nkrumah proposed it. In setting up the College, Nkrumah donated half of his monthly salary of twenty five (25) pounds as seed money towards purchasing tins, packing cases and boards as seats and desks for the first batch of ten students. The Ghana College expanded to became the Ghana National College. In fact, they were apprehensive about Nkrumah's reference to UNITED GOLD COAST and United West Africa in his inaugural speech to the students and teachers of what would become the Ghana National College. “Founding Fathers” indeed!
Third. The Working Committee objected to Nkrumah's suggestion for the creation of a newspaper as an organ of the movement, because it would get the members of the Committee embroiled in seditious cases. But when Nkrumah went ahead and launched the “Accra Evening News,” they forget about “seditious” cases and founded their own newspaper called the “The Ghana Statesman”
Fourth. Because of the popularity and success of the “Accra Evening News” (in contrast to “The Ghana Statesman”), some members of the Working Committee prevailed on a few civil servants and the Commissioner of Police to bring libel cases against Nkrumah. The libel cases amounted to about ten thousand pounds, which Nkrumah's supporters raised money to meet the claims of the plaintiffs.
Fifth. J.B. Danquah brought a libel suit against the “Accra Evening News” for publishing an article about the Kyebi ritual murder. Danquah was awarded damages, but not contented with the awards, he went ahead to buy the rights to the paper. In this situation, Kwame Nkrumah outwitted J.B. Danquah. Thus, “The Head Press” which published the “Accra Evening News” was instantly taken over by the “Heal Press” and published the newspaper under a new name, the “Ghana Evening News.”
Sixth. The Working Committee demanded an immediate dismissal of Nkrumah's private secretary on the grounds that Nkrumah appointed him without their prior approval and was being paid out of the UGCC's funds.
Seventh. To buttress their suggestion to Nkrumah to resign from his job as Secretary General of the UGCC, they offered him one hundred pounds to return to England.
Eighth. Realizing that Nkrumah was the key figure in the movement with strong following, and fearful that his removal from the UGCC would lead to a complete collapse of the movement, they moved Nkrumah to the post of treasurer.
Ninth. The Working Committee accused Nkrumah of establishing a Youth Study Group at Osu in Accra with Komla Gbedemah as its Chairman. This would later embody a nationalist youth movement with the Ashanti Youth Association and the Ghana Youth Association of Sekondi, and become known as the Committee on Youth Organization (CYO). The CYO, Nkrumah explained to the Working Committee, was to serve as the youth wing of the UGCC, yet they still objected to its formation. They found the CYO's manifesto, “Self-Government Now” a threat to the program of the UGCC, “Self-Government within the shortest possible time.” As aristocrats, they were nurturing the hope that their gentle approach would be rewarded by new concessions from their colonial masters which would enable them to fulfill their aspirations. Hence, they opposed the CYO as it was composed of the less privileged and radical section of the populace, and who were articulating the economic, social and political aspirations of the rank and file. More importantly, considering themselves as the noblemen, they felt a little uneasy by Nkrumah's open and simple manner approach to the ordinary people.
All the while, Nkrumah and his Comrades were working on turning the CYO into a political party. In the CPP's revolutionary program and forceful demand for “Self-Government NOW” that followed, the UGCC became a lame-duck association as the local branches which Nkrumah had set up either converted to the CPP or collapsed. Subsequently, the Working Committee of the UGCC meeting in Saltpond in 1949 passed a vote of NO CONFIDENCE in DR. J. B. DANQUAH's LEADERSHIP. So why the sudden hullabaloo about one of Ghana's foremost traitors?
The CPP as the First National Political Party.
The CPP's Six-Point Program, prior to its launching, included realization of unity of the chiefs and people of the Colony, Ashanti, Northern Territories and Trans-Volta, and the achievement of full “Self-Government Now.” The emphasis on the realization of a United Gold Coast, in particular, was to have a far-reaching impact on the results of the 1956 United Nation's Plebiscite regarding the fate of the people in the UN trusteeship.
After the formal resignation from the UGCC, Nkrumah launched the CPP on June 12, 1949 in Accra to an audience of about sixty people, with demand for “Self-government Now.” They included people from all the four provinces under the British colonial administration. Nkrumah “declared himself, and his very life blood, if need be to the cause of Ghana.” Remember the three “SSS” (Service, Sacrifice and Suffering) mentioned above? Critical to the successes of the CPP were WOMEN. From the birth of the CPP, they were the topmost field organizers of the CPP. Thus, with women as effective field organizers, the CPP went on to build an unprecedented grass-root campaign by building cells with structures in all towns and villages across the entire country. Consequently, the membership of the CPP by 1950 swelled up to about one million, unknown in the history of the country at the time.
And what did the UGCC aristocrats do? They resulted to name callings, referring to the CPP as a party of “verandah boys, hooligans, and communists.” Prior to the name callings, Obetsebi Lamptey, during the (UGCC) Working Committee's meeting in Palladium on June 16, 1949, questioned why the majority Ga people in Accra should allow themselves to be led by” a “stranger.” Though the remarks caused the meeting to end in uproar and confusion against him, we must ask if these are the attributes we expect from “founding fathers”?
The Coussey Constitution.
The All African Coussey Committee included “The Big Six,” exclusive of Nkrumah. The new constitution still fell far short of the CPP's call for full self-government. Executive power remained in the hands of the British Governor to appoint three Ex-Officio portfolios for Defense and External Affairs, Finance and Justice, and Attorney General. This, to Nkrumah, meant that the Constitution was not designed for the Africans to take over the Government. It was formulated as an adaptation of the principle of indirect rule, whereby change would come through and with the consent of the traditional authorities.
Enamored in Edmund Burke's political ideology of rule by the preordained elite, the Committee's Constitution/Report stipulated that only those citizens with sufficient wages and property would be allowed to vote. In his response, Nkrumah organized “People Representative Assembly” comprising trade unions, farmers, women, youth, unemployed school leavers and others. The Assembly called for a universal suffrage without regard to property qualification, a separate house of chiefs, and demanded a self-government constitution. So when the British colonial government rejected the CPP self-government constitution, Kwame Nkrumah organized the Positive Action with full participation by the Gold Coast Trade Union Congress (GCTUC).
The Positive Action and the Road to Ghana's Independence.
It was Frederick Douglas who once said that “power concedes nothing without a demand.” With this mind, Nkrumah said that colonialism had never been overthrown without a bitter and vigorous struggle. News of the intended Positive Action caused the Ga State Council to summon Nkrumah to appear before them to explain what he meant. Also present were the Joint-Provincial Council of Chiefs. Surprisingly, J. B. Danquah and other ex-UGCC members were present. The Chiefs, led by Sir Tsibu Darku and Nana Ofori Attah II, expressed their total disapproval of the demands of the Peoples Assembly. Ofori Attah's speech, in particular was “abusive couched in language in an undignified language,” Nkrumah described. In deploying the Positive Action, the Joint-Provincial Council of Chiefs characterized its organizers as “grasshopper leaders.”
But when Nkrumah avowed that the Positive Action would go on as planned if the request for the People's Representative Assembly was still rejected, J. B. Danquah responded in undignified and sinister ways. He said: “It is obvious that the law, as far as Kwame Nkrumah is concerned, must go according to him. It is my opinion that those who go against [colonial] constitutional authority MUST EXCPECT TO PAY FOR IT WITH THEIR NECKS.” How and by who? one may ask.
The colonial government on its part, asked for the suspension of the Positive Action. On January 8 1950, Kwame Nkrumah declared “Positive Action,” which called for a general strike, and non-cooperation with the colonial Government. A state of emergency was subsequently declared throughout the whole country, and a curfew imposed.. Thereafter, the office of the “Evening News” was raided, closed down by the police, and banned. Syrian, Lebanese and British nationals were armed as special constables to help the colonial government to restore order. Two African policemen died during a confrontation with an ex-servicemen's demonstration. Nkrumah and his associates (including women) were arrested, tried and imprisoned for instigating the strike. Nkrumah was sentenced to a three-year sentence for public disorder and sedition.
Predictably, Dr. J. B. Danquah condemned the Positive Action “as an act of treachery.” His instant joy over the arrest of Nkrumah and other leading members of the CPP ended in these words: pataku (wolf) has been driven away.”
To Be Continued!!