Feature Article of Monday, 31 December 2012
Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.
in Contemporary Ghanaian Politics
“Thou shalt not bow downe thy selfe to them, nor serve them; For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquitie of the fathers upon the children, unto the thirde and fourth generation of them that hate me.” (Exodus 20:5, King James Version, 1611 Edition)
The erudite Ekow Nelson’s “stentorian” feature article, titled “Time’s up for the CPP,” which was published recently on Francis Akoto’s Ghanaweb.com, the leading and oft-accessed pro-Ghana(ian) Internet portal, captures a smorgasbord of quintessential facts about Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party (CPP) – from its heralded founding several decades ago to its shocking irrelevance in contemporary Ghana. Refusing to kowtow to the irascible and injudicious arguments of some dyed-in-the-wool Nkrumaists in regards to the gnawing insignificance of the political platform Kwame Nkrumah once stood on to both consolidate and abuse governmental power, Ekow Nelson boldly and correctly calls for the dissolution of the party he once loved to the death. Time is up, indeed, for Kwame Nkrumah’s CPP! The CPP’s trouncing in Election 2012 was the party’s death knell, and these grimacing storks have at once lost their greatness and endured too many embarrassing defeats in national elections so as to not ever want to see their beloved party reduced to a laughing stock in the future.
Indeed, it did not matter when Dr. George Panyin Hagan was at the helm of affairs of the party. It also did not matter when Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom was in charge. And, certainly, it has not benefited the CPP to have Samia Yaba Christina Nkrumah as the face of the party. In fact, we cannot blame those who once served, or are presently serving, at the helm of the party for the decline in the CPP’s fortunes; rather, the party’s deterioration is the result of a trifecta of ideologies on which the party was founded: tyranny, intolerance, and abuse of citizens’ rights. Sadly, Samia Nkrumah’s outrageous “overthrow” of Paa Kwesi Nduom was reminiscent of her father’s intolerance of political opponents, which led to the proscription of rival political parties and the detention, and subsequent death, of many notable Ghanaians whose political activism had led to the founding of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), the party that, paradoxically, would give Kwame Nkrumah the national exposure that he so desperately craved. The rest, the pundits argue, is history.
Well, I am aware that diehard Nkrumaists would argue that Kwame Nkrumah had to save himself from those who wanted him dead, but Nkrumah’s dictatorial proclivities preceded his opponents’ defiance and, sadly, the purported and real attempts on the dictator’s life. The man’s inglorious pursuit of a life presidency would, in retrospect, make a mockery of the struggle for independence and devalue the ideals of the emerging republic. In Nkrumah, Ghanaians trusted – some willingly; others unwillingly. This obligatory reverence for a dictator was antithetical and antipathetic to national unity. I dare argue that this forced veneration of the Ghanaian dictator was no different from what Americans are wont to call black-on-black hounding.
Until we are willing to squarely face the twin facts that the founding of the CPP and Nkrumah’s deplorable behavior towards his political opponents were designed, ab ovo, to stifle dissension and raise the profile of the man far above that of any other politician, we cannot move forward with the debate regarding pluralism in our society. In fact, Ghana’s foray into the firmament of multiparty democracy in 1992 would not have been possible under Kwame Nkrumah, which explains why discerning Ghanaians have chosen to embrace the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) – rather than the CPP and other worthless political parties – as the relevant vehicles promoting Ghana’s contemporary democratic laurels, notwithstanding the recent brouhaha surrounding the outcome of Election 2012. Indeed, the trenchant disputation of the outcome of Election 2012 by the NPP is the epitome of a deepening, rather than a retrogressing, democracy.
My criticism of Kwame Nkrumah does not make me an agent of Western imperialism, for I, like many Africans domiciled in the West, have been a veritable victim of the vestiges of overt racism. But we must always pursue and preach the truth, even if our concerted efforts do not win us any hugs. If the foundation of a house is poor, and if the inheritors of the house do not reinforce the foundation, then the house will eventually collapse. That is the story of the CPP. That is Kwame Nkrumah’s legacy.
Below I share with the reader a (slightly edited) feature article that I had written a few years ago, a frank expository account of the legacy of Kwame Nkrumah.
The late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, was a symbol of hope and optimism for many across the continent of Africa in the 1950s, a decade in which black consciousness – both in the Western world and Africa – was becoming crystallized, a natural response to the approximately two hundred years of white oppression and stranglehold on the rights of black people to self-determination and political freedom. In his quest for absolute power, Kwame Nkrumah exploited certain Christian morals for self-aggrandizement. Camouflaging his true intent by combining the tenets of Christianity with a ruthless suppression of political rivals, this Marxist-Leninist demagogue gradually catapulted himself into a demigod, transforming Ghana into a one-party state, and silencing opposing voices via a number of ridiculous ordinances and acts. Paradoxically, Nkrumah’s bloated ego and throttlehold on power would eventually lead to his overthrow and ultimate demise.
My work in this article is based partly on the Gramscian Theory, a salient theory of governance propounded by Anthony Gramsci, an Italian sociologist. Rejecting Karl Marx’s theory of “economic determinism” (Simms, 2003), Gramsci postulated that, in order for commoners to overcome subjugation brought on by capitalist structures, “the masses had to be educated to appreciate the exploitative nature of their subalternation before they could overthrow capitalism and establish a Gramscian ‘workers democracy’” (Kiros, 1985, as cited by Simms, 2003). In effect, Gramsci believed that in each society, the forces of hegemony and counter-hegemony were constantly battling each other, with the direction of society determined by the more dominant of the two ideologies. Gramsci defined hegemony as leadership by the ruling class based on culture. And Gramsci defined counter-hegemony as a revolutionary, psychocultural ideology set in motion by intellectuals from among the proletariat, in an effort to destabilize the leadership of the ruling class (elitism) and replace it with democratic socialism (Boggs, 1968, as cited by Simms, 2003).
My enunciation of the afore-referenced ideologies is necessary to provide a platform for my polemic, without which my scholarly analyses will be incomplete. A detailed examination of the Gramscian Theory reveals a methodical application of counter-hegemonic ideals by Nkrumah in his fight against England’s domination of the Gold Coast. With England’s rush to conquer foreign lands – the ultimate goal was obviously the exploitation of the vast array of many colonies’ natural resources – the Gold Coast became an English protectorate in 1874. The British had declared that their control of colonies was appropriate because “it is the genius of [the White] race to colonize, to trade, and to govern” (Lugard, 1971). And with this influx of colonists came a menagerie of evangelists with one salient goal: the proselytizing of natives who were considered pagans. Over time, a subset of this legion of British aristocrats, public servants and preachers began to espouse British imperialism and hegemony, slowly “Westernizing” the minds of the Gold Coast natives.
In line with the preceding argument, school curricula were also designed to promote British dominance, which ultimately accelerated the natives’ willingness to accept the colonists’ “superiority.” Fortunately for Nkrumah, the same institutions that produced the hegemonic ideologies of the English elite, would simultaneously serve as the avenues that the former would employ to promote his counter-hegemonic gospel. After Nkrumah was appointed the General Secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention, he saw an opportunity to solicit the support and cooperation of his fellow intellectuals to embark on strikes: Nkrumah began what came to be known as “Positive Action” – a plethora of boycotts and labor unrests, which ultimately compelled the British to “approve a new constitution in 1956 and to grant the colony independence [in 1957]” (Simms, 2003).
Sadly, Kwame Nkrumah would exploit Christian teachings and, in the process, engage in what Christians will unequivocally refer to as blasphemies, in his attempt to consolidate his power base and force everyone – friend and foe alike – to kowtow to his Marxist-Leninist ideological leanings. Perverting Christian virtues by casting Jesus Christ as a nonconformist – this stance was vehemently opposed by European Christians at the time – Nkrumah and his ideologues would go on to convince their fellow citizens to pattern their civil disobedience after Christ’s “examples.” Unfortunately, the largely uneducated population was unable to decipher this blasphemy in order to reject it.
While all Ghanaians unambiguously identify with the moral justification of the clamor for the political independence of the Gold Coast, it is the deception perpetrated via the false application of Christian teachings by Nkrumah that many consider to be extremely self-serving and morally unacceptable. Between 1948 and 1966, the Evening News, the government’s flagship newspaper, carried out some of the most influential propaganda, elevating Nkrumah’s stature unabashedly and comparing him to Jesus Christ. For the millions of Ghanaians (almost 69% of the population) who serve Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior today, this revelation about the maligning of Scripture to further one man’s ideological pursuits would be discomfiting and downright untenable.
In a further effort to entrench himself as the nation’s life president, Nkrumah empowered the Evening News to preach Nkrumaism while, at the same time, he passed the Newspaper Licensing Act of 1963 proscribing all privately owned newspapers, in order to rigorously curb all forms of criticism leveled against him. Employing four Marxist-Leninist tenets – state ownership of economic infrastructure; the promotion of a one-party system; a so-called social parity based on egalitarianism; and the extension of his political views to the entire African continent (Simms, 2003) – Nkrumah forcefully burrowed his way into the nation’s socio-cultural fabric, hoping to gain full acceptance in the process. For those who still believe in Marxist-Leninist ideology, the collapse of the Soviet Union demonstrates that this form of governance does not work: human beings have a free will and are apt to decide their own choices in life, which is why the imposition of rules and laws that prohibit the ownership of private property does not propel people to be resourceful, since individual productivity is not rewarded.
The Convention People’s Party (CPP), on whose platform Nkrumah envisioned his odds of a life presidency (no one can deny that this plan by Nkrumah was unmistakably dictatorial), “utilized Christian symbols, terms, imagery, and honorific titles to popularize and [legalize] Nkrumaism, portraying Nkrumah as the nation’s Messiah and itself as the Party of God” (Simms, 2003). Most young Ghanaians today are unaware of the fact that Nkrumah’s presumptuous propensity for perpetual rule forced him to engage in some outrageous human rights abuses. According to Dr. Yakubu Saaka (1994), “Under the Preventive Detention Act, some of the regime’s opponents were locked up indefinitely for political crimes that could not be substantiated. For some Ghanaians, the regime and Nkrumah himself will forever stand indicted for allowing his chief rival, J. B. Danquah, to die in prison. Nkrumah harassed his opponents, bullied the civil service, subordinated the courts to the needs of his party, and even dismissed the chief justice.”
Believing that the religious and the secular could be juxtaposed, the CPP “used the mass media to deify Nkrumah, employing biblical imagery to identify him with Christ, the Judeo-Christian Messiah, Who, according to the Party, preached a message of political liberation. [Buttressing this sacrilegious view, the Evening News, on February 4, 1960, declared:] ‘[T]he whole phenomena [sic] of Nkrumah’s emergence is second to none in the history of the world’s Messiahs from Buddha and Mohammed to Christ’” (Simms, 2003). But, once again, what would the approximately 69% of Ghanaians who today identify themselves as Christians think of this type of pontification?
As if these rapacious, preposterous, and conceited comments were not insulting enough to the deity of Christ, the Evening News, between March and April 1960, further posited that Nkrumah’s “revelation” on the political scene was synonymous with Christ’s Transfiguration on the Mount (see Mark 9: 2-10 for an account of Christ’s Transfiguration). This newspaper also declared that “Some people call [Nkrumah] the Second Christ. Others call him Son of God the Messiah, the Organizer, the Redeemer of Men, the Positive Actionist.” Nkrumah’s sycophants, in their rush to carry out their master’s bidding, encouraged a one-man leadership dogma that, in the process, subjugated the ideas of other brilliant men and women in the country, in regards to nation-building. Hopefully, modern-day Ghanaians would have enough mental ammunition to expose anyone who would attempt to stultify their collective conscience, or brainwash them, via some false ideology, someone who may pretend to be a repository of all wisdom about nation-building, someone whose unilateral idea of governance is supposedly an elixir to Ghana’s economic and social emancipation.
I wish to remind the reader that, indeed, Kwame Nkrumah built many institutions of higher learning for Ghanaians; gave us the Akosombo Dam; constructed the Volta Aluminum Company, amidst an array of industries; and also built the Accra-Tema Motorway. Yes, Kwame Nkrumah was a visionary, who seemingly tied the liberation of Ghana to that of the rest of the continent of Africa. But on the flipside was a man, unbeknownst to many, who would have quivered at Ghanaians’ burgeoning embrace of multiparty democracy today; scoffed at ex-Presidents Kufuor and Mills and current President Mahama for not locking up political opponents who posed a threat, real or imagined, to their leadership; and smiled at Kim Jong Un – this tyrant’s age, we are told, is still on the nether side of thirty – for maintaining the stifling system of governance that his late father and grandfather had forced down the throats of those poor North Koreans for decades.
Yes, Nkrumah believed in the emancipation of his people from colonial rule, a justifiable act in every respect, but he was correspondingly intolerant and despotic in his views. He also delivered his message by twisting and perverting the Holy Scriptures in order to first propel himself to the zenith of political power, and then worry later about the nation’s needs.
Were Nkrumah’s ambitions geared primarily towards the political liberation of the nation, he would not have imprisoned his political opponents, and he certainly would not have tried to become life president! There are two things that separate Nelson Mandela – another great leader in his own right – from Kwame Nkrumah: Mandela made a concerted effort to preach racial harmony soon after he became president (his efforts perhaps averted disaster for many White South Africans); and he voluntarily relinquished power after serving only one term in office, the latter a move that portrayed the man as a true liberator without any self-serving desires!
While Nkrumah did not face issues about race, he was unable to overlook differences with his opponents. To those intransigent Nkrumaists who still believe that their mentor never engaged in any misdeeds, this piece of writing holds the facts for you, but I am not in any way attempting to obliterate Nkrumah’s memory, for in the annals of the nation, Kwame Nkrumah remains, arguably, Ghana’s most accomplished leader (in the proper context of national development). But Nkrumah’s virtues were intertwined with his vices, and we ought to be courageous enough to discuss the good as well as the bad, for, in so doing, we become purveyors of pragmatism, honesty and impartiality. I completely endorse Ekow Nelson’s gloomy, but true, entreaty: “[t]ime’s up for the CPP”!
© The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, is a doctoral student who also serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Criminology, Law & Society at George Mason University. He holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the same university. He is a member of the National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration in the U.S.A. He may be followed on Twitter: @DanielKPryce. He invites the reader to join the pressure group “Good Governance in Ghana” on Facebook.com, which he superintends. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.