How Kormla Agbeli Gbedemah Saved The CPP From Premature Death
Known popularly as "Afro Gbede", K. A. Gbedemah was one of the few political figures whose life and work spanned Ghana's political history. His early life and education, which a lot has already been published on, will be left out of this article.
The article shall therefore focus on how he was instrumental in the formation of the CPP and more importantly making sure the party wins majority of the total seats in the 1951 Legislative Assembly elections.
The political career of Mr. K. A. Gbedemah can be traced back to his days in the United Gold Coast Convention, where he served as the Chairman of the Committee on Youth Organizations, a youth wing of the UGCC.
The CYO was a conglomeration of a number of youth organizations both from the colony and Ashanti.
By February 1948, the bad economic situation that engulfed the colony, and the social frustration of the general masses were at their respective peak. What broke the camel's back, thereby paving way for the beginning of the process of Independence, was a protest march by unarmed ex-servicemen.
On 28 February, 1948, the government police shot into a group of unarmed former soldiers who were marching to the Christiansborg Castle at Osu to present a petition to the Governor. As a result, Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attippe and Private Odartey-Lamptey died on the spot, with several others sustaining various degrees of injury. This line of action by the colonial government degenerated into riots and looting of shops in Accra. The leaders of the UGCC were blamed, arrested and detained in connection with the riots. This has caused some sort of division among the UGCC leaders, paving way for Nkrumah to resign from his General Secretary position to form his own party, the CPP.
At a crucial three-day CYO meeting at Tarkwa, Gbedemah led one faction of the group, and suggested the total breakaway of the CYO from the UGCC. By this, on the 12th day of June 1949, in front of about 60,000 people, the CPP was launched.
In January 1950, the declaration of Positive Action by Nkrumah nearly Killed the newly formed CPP. The Positive Action campaign employed the weapons of legitimate political agitations, newspaper and educational campaigns, and as last resort, constitutional application of strikes, boycotts and non-cooperation based on the principles of absolute non-violence. Due to this, all the leading members of the young party, including Nkrumah, were arrested and jailed. The Vice-chairman and Editor of the Accra Evening News, K.A. Gbedemah, was earlier arrested and imprisoned in October 1949, for publishing false news.
After serving his term at the James Fort Prison, Gbedemah was set to be released. At the time of his release, Nkrumah and other leading members of the CPP, who were arrested in connection with the Positive Action campaign, were brought to be locked. Nkrumah made it known in his autobiography that he had some few valuable minutes with Gbedemah and in this short conversation, charged Gbedemah to lead the front with regards to the operations of both the party and the Accra Evening News.
Now that all the leaders of the party were behind bars, Gbedemah was faced with the burden of party organization and the smooth running of the Accra Evening News. The absence of most of the leaders of the CPP led to the coming into being of power struggles in the party; many members of the party began to contest against each other in order to assume leadership roles. With his God given organizational skills, Gbedemah was able to unite the party. He managed to prepare the party towards the 1951 Legislative Assembly elections. While Nkrumah and the other leaders were behind the strong bars of the James Fort Prison, Gbedemah strategically organized the entire campaign of the party. He was also able to keep the name of Nkrumah alive in the mind of the people; he motivated the supporters of the party to continue the struggle with him until Nkrumah's release.
Though with initial plans to contest the Accra Central seat, Gbedemah supported Nkrumah's idea to contest for that particular seat behind bars. In order to outsmart the colonial authorities, who Gbedemah feared would not hesitate to find a way to disqualify Nkrumah, he filed his name to contest for the Accra Central seat. At the last minute, Gbedemah hurriedly replaced his name with that of Nkrumah and rushed to Keta to convince the CPP candidate for Keta so he can replace him. He succeeded in convincing the man and filed to contest the Keta seat.
A total of 117 candidates filed to contest the 38 seats. The Convention People's Party contested every seat, while the United Gold Coast Convention and National Democratic Party provided strong oppositions. Several independent candidates, as well as the Asante Kotoko party also stood to be voted for.
After moving across the length and breadth of the colony, the campaign efforts of Gbedemah reflected in the outcome of the election. The CPP won 34 out of the 38 elected seats in the assembly, claiming all five seats and nearly 95% of the vote in urban areas. Gbedemah himself won the Keta seat, with Kojo Botsio, winning the Winneba seat unopposed. Due to Gbedemah's hard work, Nkrumah was in prison but won the Accra Central seat with 22,780 of the 23,122 votes cast. In rural areas the CPP won 29 of the 33 seats, taking around 72% of the vote. The main opposition, the United Gold Coast Convention , fared badly, winning only two seats.
The massive victory of the CPP in the 1951 election is hugely creditable to the efforts of Gbedemah. Though his relationship with Nkrumah got deteriorated in the 1960s, resulting in his exile, his role in the formation of the CPP and the struggle for independence is one that our generation and the generations unborn must appreciate and never forget.
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