BY J E SOLOMON
To openly attack people I hold in high esteem is not something I normally would do. However, when facts are twisted intentionally not only to misinform but to destroy a person’s well-deserved achievements, then I refuse to be gagged.
Former President John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana is reported to have told leaders of the International Democratic Union (IDU) that Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, “destabilized the peace of the country and also plunged the country into chaos” and also led the country into “poverty it had never known before.”
He’s also alleged to have stated that “the country tasted true democracy only after 1992 when we were ushered into the 4th Republic.” Is Mr. Kufuor telling us that in the 2nd Republic under the rule of Dr. K A Busia, a government in which he was the deputy Foreign Minister, Ghana didn’t have a true democracy? The then Progress Party government was a direct off-shoot of the erstwhile United Party, the opposition group that forced Kwame Nkrumah to become the dictator he was.
Nkrumah had his faults. He grew intolerant of opposing ideologies. That’s very true. He was, unquestionably a smart dictator, a visionary incomparable to any of his peers and the most brilliant mind ever to emerge on the African political scene. His capacity to see through insidious manipulations by neo-colonialist powers was unmatched.
His successes became increasingly uncomfortable for his adversaries, who obviously had no answers to his meteoric rise and growing popularity at home and internationally. Factors that raised the image of the African in the eyes of the world, especially with regard to Ghanaians abroad.
In desperation, the opposition chose the path of violence and unconventional tactics to bring him down. Lies, vicious lies packaged through propaganda and fear mongering among the populace, became the modus operandi of the opposition. They were determined to cause his disaffection by any means fair or foul. Regardless of the consequences.
To accuse Nkrumah of “plunging the country into chaos” and leading the country into “poverty it had never known before” is unacceptable. These statements attributed to Mr. Kufuor have touched on an emotional button within me that cannot be reset or silenced. And so I venture to defend the man reckoned to be Africa’s greatest statesman.
Why would I even elect to defend Nkrumah? This was the leader under whom my own maternal uncle was put into jail. H H Cofie Crabbe was jailed along with Tawiah Adamafio and Ako Adjei for their alleged roles in plots to overthrow the government. The three, members of Nkrumah’s government, somehow, were implicated in the 1962 Kulungugu bomb attempt on Nkrumah’s life. There were reported bomb explosions at CPP rallies in Accra that maimed innocent citizens. And those were the works of opposition members, some of whom colluded with dissidents from outside to procure the grenades used in the bomb throwing.
In the midst of such violent attacks, did the opposition expect Nkrumah to be politically soft?
Any leader in his shoes would have taken the same steps he took, like the Preventive Detention Act enacted in 1964, to ensure a smooth running of governance.
If ever there was chaos in the country, it surely started with the desperate and lawless actions of the opposition as mentioned earlier. The military coup of February 1966 came to add to the chaos. The emergence of the military on the political scene elevated military personnel participation in areas where previously the police were solely in charge. Military-cum-police mounted road blocks soon became noticeable. There were public beatings of civilians accused of breaking the law.
Ultimately, it was the Progress Party that benefited from the 1966 coup and Mr. Kufuor became a deputy Foreign Minister under Victor Owusu. The then National Liberation Council banned all members and party functionaries of the Nkrumah regime, making them ineligible to form political parties or hold public office. The move presented the Progress Party with a neatly paved road to political incumbency. Mr. Kufuor and his government didn’t see the banning of CPP members from politics as “undemocratic.”
With political power virtually handed over to them on a silver platter, the Busia administration callously deported nationals of other West African countries, mainly Nigerians, some of whom had been born and bred in Ghana, married in Ghana and also raised children in Ghana. Children who, like their parents, knew nothing about Nigeria to call it their home. Yet they were forced to leave. Some of those Nigerians who owned stores and had properties were forced to under-sell or abandon their lifetime possessions amid looting by some heartless Ghanaians.
Hither to, Nkrumah had tried to open up the country’s borders with her neighbors. A move in direct consonance with his United Africa dream. And so it wasn’t a surprise that other West African nationals found Ghana a place to reside in.
The misguided deportation order sowed the seeds for future economic chaos and poverty in Ghana. In 1983, Ghanaians who had escaped economic hardship and migrated to Nigeria were similarly deported back home. This was a time of severe drought, scarcity of food as well as goods. Interestingly, Mr. Kufuor didn’t seem to remember the harsh economic realities of that time, one that aptly fits the description, “poverty like never known before.”
Ghana, our dear country, has been wounded several times in the past. It had bled, and still bleeds from the wounds inflicted by self-seekers and political adventurers who believe more in personal wealth acquisition than the collective wealth acquisition of the whole nation. What we need at this crucial moment are words that unite us, not words that ignite emotions and excite resentment. Mr. Kufour, if you’re bereft of words that inspire and unite, please keep quiet. Ka w’anu tum.