Feature Article of Saturday, 5 March 2011
Columnist: Akosomo, Kwadwo Nyantakyi
Ghana is the first black African country to achieve independence, nevertheless, having gone through turbulent regimes, Ghanaians did not taste freedom, justice and democracy until Nkrumah’s government was overthrown in1966. As we celebrate the 54th independence anniversary of our beloved country, Ghana, we can not forget our sister countries in Africa who are going through tumultuous time in their quest for representative democracy from tyrannical regimes. As if destined, all African countries have to go through this struggle before it can get better
Few African countries have the status of representative governments like Ghana. The problem is most African leaders ascend to power, through military coups, and they use every revolutionary rhetoric in the book to justify their actions, which include consolidating power to themselves, their relatives and close associates and, creating a network of security forces and militias to coerce their people into conforming to the whims of their cruel regimes.
The sheer brutality that our brothers have to go through in the regimes attempt to suppress anti-government protests in Algeria, Libya etc. have exposed the fallacy of the post-colonial dictatorships, which all African tyrants have relied on to legitimize their perpetuation of power.
Chronology of events as retold by this writer will indicate that, Ghana, the gateway to Africa has never been spared if it comes to turbulent regimes and that real Freedom, Justice and Democracy begun in February 24th 1966 COLONIAL ERA Colonization of Gold Coast begun when Europeans countries were attracted to the Coast of Guinea by gold, ivory, timber and spices. The countries included the Portuguese, Danes, Swedes and British. After chronology of events, Portuguese sold all their holdings including Elmina Castle for 10,000 pounds to the British in 1824, then in 1872, the Dutch lost interest in the coast and ceded their Forts free to the British. The British tried to dominate the trade along the coast but the Ashanti incursions in the Coastal region threatened their interest. In 1824, the powerful king of the Ashantis, Osei Bonus, whose territory extended beyond present Ghana died. The British sort for a chance to break Asante control of gold coast trade and first Anglo Asante war broke out. During the melee some Nfanti chiefs signed an agreement with the British in 1844 to pay tolls for protection, that became the legal stepping stone to colonial status for the coastal area.
Great Britain gradually conquered the Ashanti Kingdom between 1896 and 1910, made Ashanti and the northern part protectorates. This in effect gave them total control.
The British had about 50yrs to plunder the land. They overly mined the gold fields, harvested the land of it‘s wealth, and carried away every pebble that shines. After 50yrs of plunder all the gold bars had arrived in England leaving behind gold dust. No wonder Nkrumah renamed gold coast as Ghana in remembrance of our ancestors.
STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE
The cheating and arrogance of the colonial rulers became very offensive. High positions were reserved for Whitemen while Ghanaians became hewers of wood and drawers of water. They had the ruling class attitude, young District Commissioners (DC) showed no respect to the old chiefs. Local pay was bad. There was no good rural health or education policy. Up to 1950 the Government Secondary schools in the country were 2. Ghanaians approached the independent struggle on two fronts, internal and external. Names that comes in mind are Dr Aggrey, George Ferguson, John Mensah Sarbah. Others like king Ghartey IV of Winneba, Otumfuo Osei Agyeman Prempeh I raised the political consciousness of their subjects. The scholars who championed our cause externally and internally were popularly referred to as the BIG SIX. These leaders were Dr. J.B Danquah, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Obetsebi Lamptey, Akuffo Addo, William Ofori Atta and Ako Adjei. The U.G.C.C. which awakened fervent national consciousness in the Gold Coast got divided, Nkrumah’s CPP “self government now” slogan melded well with the people. KWAME NKRUMAH (6 March 1957 – 1 July 1960)(1 July 1960 – 24 February 1966) Nkrumah's style and the promises he made appealed directly to the majority of workers, farmers, and youths who heard him; he seemed to be the national leader on whom they could focus their hopes on so he won the 1957 general election overwhelmingly. Nkrumah attempted to rapidly industrialize Ghana's economy but overspending on capital projects caused the country to be driven deeply into debt - estimated as much as $1 billion USD by the time he was ousted in 1966. Kwame Nkrumah was western educated but forgot about the rule of law. He resorted to a reliance on secret police and draconian laws to subordinate Ghanaians. Nkrumah did not feel secured until all his political opponents have been silenced and made himself president for life. His word was law and wise counseling meant, “yenim nso yenfa”.
December 1957, the Emergency Powers Act was enacted to deal firmly with political opponents. Next in line of the repressive laws was the Preventive Detention Act (PDA - 18 July, 1958) repealed and re-enacted by Act 240 of 1964 under which the President could order the arrest and detention of any citizen of Ghana for five years (without the right of appeal to the courts) The country was Independent without Freedom and Justice. Nkrumah died in exile and this is enough to compensate for his inhumanity against opponents. Let’s forgive him and remember him for championing our way to independence.
KOTOKA and AFRIFA (1966-1969) On February 24th 1966 Ghanaians breathed a sigh of relief when Afrifa and others felt the need to remove Nkrumah and return Ghana to constitutional rule complete with civil liberties and competitive electoral systems. This was the beginning of our Freedom and Justice. He made members of the armed forces' aware that their place was in the barracks. Afrifa handed over to the Progress Party (PP) administration in late 1969. He was great and dedicated countryman whose valor would never be matched.
Dr K.A BUSIA (1969 – 1972)
The most ingenuous leader Africa has ever had but was not allowed to show his mettle. In 1969, his PP won the parliamentary elections with 104 of the 105 seats contested. Opened Ghana to international market, raised cocoa price to prevent smuggling, focused on feeder roads, respected free speech and freedom of the press, raised the image of the country by discouraging violence in African countries (like Rhodesia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, etc) that were fighting for freedom, proposed “dialogue” as a way to deal with apatite South Africa. Dialogue eventually became answer to peace in South Africa. He adopted a liberalized economic system, renegotiated Ghana’s debt. He knew the devaluation of the cedi in 1971 will make him unpopular but he loved his country more than himself. We miss this glorious person of humanity.
GENERAL ACHEAMPONG(1972 – 1978) Acheampong terminated Freedom and Justice when on Feb. 1972 he over threw the Busia government to make himself the most hated leader the country has ever had. Discipline and morality went down the drain and trust became foreign. Cheating in business became the order of the day during his reign, a son could not trust even his own mother in terms of business. If a business partner told you to look up, you were better of looking down as there was black-hole for you to fall in. The only good thing he did was lifting the image of women and he and his men did not hesitate to enjoy the fruit of their labor. The drop dead beauties never needed to go any where to get exploited, for there was room in the castle for them, they never came out empty handed. Ghana will always remember him for his quixotic and nauseating uttrances, yentua, me ye nyame na mato nsuo, wone ahoaden yen pem kyale, wo maame temu bi menso metemubi, metwa bi a metumi ka nkwaseasem, mede tuo na gye ye, ect. He destroyed the economy completely. Inflation rose to over 300% and the effect is still being felt. The students and professional led Ghanaians in many demonstrations against his regime. Acheampong attacked students in campuses, closed Universities for many years and chased many prominent people out of the country
GENERAL FREDRICK WILLIAM AKUFFO (5 July, 1978 – 4 June, 1979)
General Akuffo and other members of the SMC staged a palace coup on July 5, 1978 to remove Acheampong, formed SMC 11. The Akuffo regime initiated moves to return the country to civilian rule by instituting a new Constitution Drafting Committee but SMC 11 was over thrown by AFRC. He and his SMC 11 members were men of nobility. They looked manly men in uniform but proved themselves as men in tights. They cowed before a non commission officer. Dr. HILLA LIMANN (24 September, 1979 – 31 December, 1981) Limann acted like a passenger in his own government, his government was plagued with bribery and corruption, the Nkrumah old guards who were in control had another chance to redeem themselves but how can a lion stop it’s spot?. One hundred and fifty tractors meant for Ashanti and Brong Ahafo farms did not reach Achimota. Four hundred bicycles meant for the Northern Region arrived safely in Upper Volta (Burkinafaso). These men were thieves and would steal anything nailed down with railway spike.
Limann made lot of promises during his campaign but could not fulfill even one promise in his manifesto and “flooding the market” became abomination. The answer to all his promises came from his zipper, his wife had a baby the first year at the castle.
J.J.RAWLINGS(Dec 31,1981- Jan6,2001) Despite Limann’s inefficiencies, Ghanaians welcomed Rawlings second coming with mixed feelings. Rawlings was finally accepted overwhelmingly with the support of the students. Like his first appearance Ghanaians never expected Rawlings to stay for longer time but he turned what could have been a graceful and peaceful exit from power into untold hardship for Ghanaians. He ignored the wise counsel of the wise and surrendered himself with “wee smokers“, cold blooded murderers who were impervious to feeling of compassion. Descipline in the military broke loose: women were raped and whipped naked in public, minor offenders were shot, judges were abducted and murdered, Rawlings lined up and shot all past leaders, some opponents of his government have been missing till now. Students took to the streets for all the atrocities in the country. Several demonstrations were organized to get rid of him but he fought peaceful demonstration with fire, students were hunted from their class rooms, harmless students were executed for attempted coup, traders did business in fear as soldiers rampaged the market, professionals were chased out of the country, the economy fell flat, unemployment rose above 65% and every body’s clavicle(Rawlings chain) became prominent. Anyway, he tried to reinvent himself as a civilian leader but the killings and disappearances did not stop. Rawlings should definitely be referred to the world court to answer all the atrocities of his regime.
J .H. KUFFOUR(7 January 2001 – 7 January 2009) Ghanaians breathed a sigh of Relief when Kuffour assumed the reigns of government. He brought back the dignity of the people, encouraged business opportunities, Freedom of speech, Freedom of the media, had the determination to lead the country for a full transformation. Kuffour scored hundred percent when he respected the will of the people by handing over the reigns of government to Atta Mills and did not resort to intrigues like some African leaders. Gentle giant as he’s known outside the country is man of peace, he formed the National Reconciliation Committee to heal past wounds, bravo Kuffour. ATTA MILLS (7 January 2009) Atta Mills is so far scoring well in this time of global economic hardship. He’s continuing the good work started by Kuffour, freedom of speech and of the press have been respected. Democracy by the people, of the people and the people is being felt and every body has the chance to vent without victimization. He is fair and just and has not been swayed by evil and militant ideas. With oil money in hand he can bring Ghana forward and I can envision industries and skyscrapers rising high in our towns and villages in the nearest future. His only problem is, he’s not getting hundred percent support from his own people because he has ignored the good people who brought him to power, secondly Rawlings and his wife have managed to divide NDC into two camps which will make him one term president but Ghanaians will continue to enjoy Freedom and Justice.
With all these said and done and as we celebrate our hard won freedom (Independence) let’s all say never again totalitarians, never again tyrants, never again bloody rulers, Freedom, For Ever!!!!!!.
Kwadwo Nyantakyi Akosomo Toronto/Canada