Feature Article of Wednesday, 10 November 2010
Columnist: Antwi, Peter
This is a follow up to my previous article with the appellation “How Nkrumah disintegrated Ghana with Cruelty and dictatorship”. And in this article, you will appreciate how Ghana under the first tyrant President of Ghana – Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was engulfed with visible corruption and decadence. Instead of dealing with this conspicuous corruption, Nkrumah decided to continue inflicting torture, mayhem and intimation on his so-called political opponents or detractors in Ghana, hence, the consequence fall of his administration.
In fact, Nkrumah’s administration crumbled badly in early 1966 and it became very obvious as a result of political, economic and social reasons.
Nkrumah came to assume excessive powers and applied them according to his convictions. Through the obnoxious Preventive Detention Act (PDA) of 1958, he terrorised his political opponents. Many people, some of them innocent, found new ’homes’ at the Nsawam Medium Security Prison where they were put in solitary confinement. Cases of torture and abuse of fundamental human rights were reported all over the country. Among his victims were J. B Danquah and Obetsebi Lamptey both members of the ’Big Six’.
Danquah died from a heart attack in the Nsawam Prison in his 70s while Obetsebi-Lamptey also died in the same prison on 29 January 1963. The independence of the judiciary was not only described as threatened, but was destroyed under Nkrumah. For instance, the dismissal of the Chief Justice, Sir Arku Korsah - the first Ghanaian Chief Justice over the trial of Tawiah Adamafio and others in the Kulungugu assassination attempt on Nkrumah (the trial judge acquitted them for lack of evidence), was seen as not only an unnecessary act of exasperation and spite, but an affront to the judiciary and against the due process of law.
Under the PDA the courts could interfere with a detention order under the Act only by showing that the President who had made it, was not ’satisfied that the order was necessary’ and therefore the Rule of Law under which courts should operate was overtly subverted.
Again, Kwame Nkrumah set up for trial of political offences, a Special Criminal Division of the High Court where the presiding judge had no right to rule that there was no case to answer, but had to call upon an accused person for his defence, whether or not a prima facie case was made against him.
Under his purview, there was also ample evidence of serious corruption among Ministers of State and CPP activists. This was manifested by the way those in government and their cohorts flaunted their new finery (riches, etc.) in the midst of mass poverty. Worst of all, the identity card of the CPP became the yardstick for employment. People who belonged and claimed allegiance to the CPP were employed irrespective of their qualification just like what we’re witnessing today under the current president of Ghana Prof. Mills, an avowed Nkrumaist and his NDC government. Through the constant creation of corporation, party functionaries, who were usually made Chairmen and Board members of state corporations, began to attain financial stature, and could later afford to boast, like Thomas Hutton Mills the then Minister for Commerce, Industry & Mines and a distance cousin of the current Ghanaian president John Evans Atta Mills who openly said: "I have now left poverty behind me forever”. When Thomas Hutton Mills became Minister of Health and Labour, he then openly said again that “it is lucrative to belong to the CPP party”. Nepotism thus became a national practice despite the fact that it had very destructive consequences for a young country.
As the coup plotters were later to allege, Nkrumah’s reign of terror created fear and panic among the populace. General insecurity created by mistrust came to take over from the well-knit Ghanaian society as husbands could no longer trust their wives and vice versa. Neither could parents trust their own children since any report of dissent nor opposition to the CPP by any member of the public to the authorities, could land one in jail.
For instant, on September 17, 2009, one of the victims of Dr. Nkrumah’s government, Mr J. S. Boye Doe, justified the 1966 overthrow saying, “if I was given a bomb today and Nkrumah lived, he would throw it at him without any compunction.
Sharing his experience of such 'senseless' imprisonments, he said he was 15 years when he was arrested in 1960 and detained in the Usher Fort prisons without charge. He claimed; “I am a living witness of the crimes that Nkrumah committed against humanity and I am still waiting for an apology from any member of that government. The crimes Nkrumah committed (against) his own cabinet ministers (were serious)”. Mr. Doe argued that “Ghana’s first president was the worst thing that happened to the country”. Speaking on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, Mr Boye Doe said “the enormity of the crimes committed by Dr Nkrumah cannot be forgiven”. He also claimed that hundreds of homes were destroyed by Nkrumah’s government after breadwinners of those families were unjustifiably thrown into jail.
In his attempt to achieve socio-economic revolution within the shortest possible time, Nkrumah entered into unfavourable financial arrangements to the detriment of the country’s economy. Even though the adoption of the system of ’suppliers’ credit" to finance projects was not the best of options, CPP Ministers continued to negotiate suppliers’ credit. This often led to inflated costs. For instance, the West German government guaranteed a £9.5 million contract for a German firm to improve Accra’s water and sewerage system; yet before the contract had been given, an expert study carried out by consultants appointed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Special Fund had recommended a plan costing only £6.5 million.
Consequentially in 1960, the economy started showing very disturbing signs as the country’s reserves showed a downward slope. Deficit financing came to be a feature of government fiscal policy and severe inflation hit the country. For instance, between March 1963 and December, 1964, the price of locally grown food rose by as much as 400 per cent in some parts of Ghana. The average rise in food prices was 36 percent and the average rise in all prices was 17 percent.
Earlier in 1961, in an attempt to still follow its capital expenditure (in the face of a fall in the price of cocoa) the government was forced to draw heavily on its reserves and a harsh budget was introduced in mid-July which increased duties on a wide range of consumer goods to raise additional revenue. A new system of purchase tax was also adopted and a compulsory savings scheme was imposed whereby a levy of 5 per cent was deducted from all salaried and wage incomes of over £120 a month.
In fact, between March 1963 and December 1965 under Nkrumah, consumer price index rose by 65 per cent according to Ghana Statistical Dept records. As expected, prices rose sharply and the net income of farmers and wage-earners alike fell. The hardest hit by these measures were the skilled and semi-skilled worker. And as a sign of protest, a major strike took place in September 1961 among the railway and harbour workers in Sekondi-Takoradi. Though the compulsory savings scheme was abolished two years later (in the 1963 budget), the high import duties on petrol and consumer goods were retained and increased both in 1962 and 1963. This added more woes to the already suffering worker and cocoa farmer.
By juxtaposing Nkrumah’s way of capital expenditure and taxation to what Ghanaians are experiencing today under the current NDC/Mills’ government, one can attest to the similarities in Prez Mills’ 2009 budget which increased taxes on almost everything drastically, especially the tax on imported rice, leaving the Ghanaian populace with no other choice than to buy the high price of imported rice. Ironically when Ghanaians criticised this, Mr. Samuel Dapaah – the Chief Technical Advisor to Agriculture Minister Kwesi Ahwoi made one of the most despicable comments ever heard from a public servant when he spoke on Metro TV's 'Good Evening Ghana' programme on September 14, 2010. Mr. Dapaah the former Chief Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture ‘asked Ghanaians, especially those in Accra and Kumasi, to resort to eating cassava if they think rice is too expensive’.
In 1965, the anger of the Ghanaians deepened and Dr Nkrumah realised that in the face of his frustration and dejectedness, his ministers, regional and district commissioners, party officials, and the leading figures in the CPP’s auxiliary organisations lived in comfort.
It is on record that at the time of his overthrow in 1966, not only had Nkrumah depleted the £200 million reserves that the country had at the time of independence, but Ghana’s total external debt obligation soared to £349.2 million in 1964. The nation’s ability to service her external debt obligations decreased. Black marketing became a lucrative business; foreign exchange became the most valuable asset in the country. Foreign-owned banks grumbled at requirements forcing them to hold government securities against their deposits. Complaints about the difficulty of getting payment from Ghana started sending wrong signals to the outside world.
More disturbing was the fact that, the developed countries (especially those from the West) refused to assist Ghana under Nkrumah because the CPP government was extravagant and corrupt and had generally mismanaged the economy so much that to give it any accommodation would only lead to further indebtedness. In the midst of these negative developments, the army with active support from the police came to the rescue through a coup d’état on 24 February, 1966.
Undoubtedly, Nkrumah’s foreign policy was clearly not in the best interest of Ghana. His Communist ideology and the desire to create a ’United States of Africa’ under his leadership created more enemies than friends for him. Nkrumah’s ambition towards the birth of United Africa led him to create the Bureau of African Affairs, secretly known as the Special African Service and itself part of Die national security apparatus to train Africans from many states, notably Niger, Upper Volta (Burkina Faso), Nigeria, Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Burundi in guerrilla warfare.
Living in secret camps located at Brekum, Wa, Navrongo, Yendi, Obenemasi, Okponglo and at least thirty other locations, and under the supervision of Soviet, Chinese and Cuban instructors, these men were used for espionage and other subversive activities throughout the continent.
This was not only frowned upon by countries which did not share Nkrumah’s ideas, but coming at a time when there was tension between the Communist blockheaded by the defunct USSR and the West led by the USA, the latter felt Nkrumah was a big threat to Western interests in Africa. It therefore came as no surprise when on 9 May 1978, the New York Times, in an article credited to Seymour Hersh who was quoting ’first hand intelligence sources’, claimed the American CIA was neck deep involved in the coup.
Moreover, Nkrumah was guilty of paying more attention to foreign issues (especially African) than finding solutions to the economic problems that had become evident in the 1960s in Ghana. Really, his financing of African liberation movements, and, more especially, the loan of £10 million to Guinea, were seen by many as unacceptable as the moneys could have been channelled into more useful ventures for the country.
Nkrumah’s growing intolerance and dictatorial tendencies also resulted in his overthrow. His method of silencing his critics and political opponents alike through the obnoxious PDA and other oppressive laws was not only an infringement on the right of the individual to freely express himself in a sovereign state, but the outlets for criticism from the Minority began to narrow. This development created disaffection among the security forces. Furthermore, the forced retirement of Major-General Otu and Major-General Ankrah and in their places the appointment of Brigadier Nathaniel Aferi-CDS and Lt Col. (temporary Brigadier) Charles Mohammed Barwah, his deputy, gave more signals to members of the regular army that their continued employment would depend on their loyalty to Nkrumah, a situation some found very unacceptable.
The CPP also sought to control the Armed Forces by giving the officers ideological education in an attempt to integrate them in the direction of a single-party regime and identify them with the orientation of the government. In 1965, CPP application forms were even issued and sent to all army units and a branch of the party was opened at the Teshie Military Academy. This did not find favour with some officers and men of the Ghana Army.
This mood was explicitly stated by Afrifa who complained that the CPP for a long time "made a steady assault on the Army with a determined programme to indoctrinate it" but he and many other officers simply refused to fill in the party forms "on the principle that the Army must be above party politics".
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupt absolutely.