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Opinions of Friday, 6 March 2015

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis

J.B. Danquah And Co.: The Case For The Preventive Detention Act Part 2

Now, given the various accounts of Drs. Biney, Botwe-Asamoah, Gyamerah, Owusu-Ansah, and Mr. Nelson, it becomes clear why the Opposition adopted as its modus operandi “any means necessary” to save itself from “imminent political extinction” rather than to liberate the country from a perceived encroaching tyranny. Therein lies the roots of the political confrontations between the Opposition and the CPP. The Opposition’s negative political calculations would chip away at one of the important pillars of Nkrumah’s progressive thinking. Dr. Biney writes: “It is evident that the principles of freedom, equality, and independence that shaped Nkrumah’s thinking during his days in America and London underpinned his political practice during the dyarchic period.” Dr. Biney marks this era of the Nkrumah political dispensation as the “dyarchic period” which she situates between 1951 and 1954.

Among other extrapolations that can be gleaned from the historical connotations of this “dyarchic period” is the birth of the NLM in 1954. This year signals the epochal beginning of the erosion of the budding democratic institutions chalked under Nkrumah’s progressive leadership.

She also notes that: “By the end of 1954, violence in Kumasi had spread to surrounding areas and led to an uneasy existence between the CPP regional headquarters and the NLM party offices, which coincidentally functioned side by side in Ashanti New Town” The irony is that the World Veterans Federation awarded Nkrumah its 1954 World Peace Prize! On the other hand, Dr. Botwe-Asamoah’s comments regarding Nkrumah’s inaction in the face of violence is implied in Dr. Biney’s assessment of the same. She writes: “It appears from this observation that Nkrumah preferred a more hard-line response to the Ashanti problem...However, his [Nkrumah’s] hands were tied by the dyarchic relationship. This seems to suggest that Nkrumah would not have demonstrated timidity in employing draconian measures to deal with the Ashanti problem.”

It may be recalled that in Part ? we explored some of the reasons Nkrumah’s government adopted a soft approach toward the “Ashanti Problem.” Dr. Biney’s personal convictions about Nkrumah’s inaction notwithstanding, it has widely been acknowledged that Nkrumah was not a human being of violent predisposition. Nkrumah’s adoption of Gandhian non-violence philosophy, his immersion in African humanism, religious beliefs and spirituality, and his pacifistic temperament detached him from any tendency towards violence as a counter-response to the excesses of the Opposition. His Positive Action is a good example of this.

Moreover, regarding the origins of political violence as it relates to the NLM, we may recall that Vile’s augury assumed a serious dimension of political actuation when he wrote: “It is quite possible that the core of determined young men [of the NLM] will take to the forest and engage in guerrilla warfare from there if other methods fail” (our emphasis). One wonders why the Opposition, a political minority, chose the medium of violence, terrorism, and armed insurrection to break the will of popular sovereignty in order to impose its minority opinions on the masses. Also, why Danquah, Busia, Antor, Obetsebi-Lamptey and their ilk did not resort to terrorism, political insurrection, violence, and clandestine collaborations with foreign intelligence organizations, the CIA say, to overthrow the Colonial Government remains an unresolved mystery, a multi-billion dollar question historians, both Danquah and Nkrumah apologists, and political scientists are yet to ask let alone answer.

In the main the terrorist, secessionist, and violent tactics of Danquah, Busia, Obetsebi-Lamptey, S.G. Antor, and their colleagues to impose their minority will on the masses confirmed Vile’s general predictions. This they did by targeting Nkrumah’s and Archie Casely-Hayford’s residences for bombing. This is where the PDA, introduced in the Ghanaian parliament by Krobo Edusei, received parliamentary approval after its merits for stemming the tide of violence had been thoroughly debated, with leading Opposition members in attendance. The parliamentary process enjoyed the consent of British Governor-General Lord Listowel. For one thing, the PDA became what Benjamin Netanyahu and George W. Bush call “pre-emptive strike.” For another, the Edward Snowden and Wikileaks revelations, the USA Patriot Act and the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp controversies, Charles Krauthammer’s “the Bush Doctrine,” and the fates of terrorists like Osama bin Laden, Timothy McVeigh (America), Anders Behring Breivik (Norway), and Mohammed Yusuf (founder of Boko Haram) provide insights into the extent leaders go to protect themselves, their countries and strategic interests from the scourge of terrorism.

Still, Dr. Botwe-Asamoah cites the contents of a letter one Barbara Ward wrote to President Kennedy describing the dire security situation in Ghana. Ward said in the letter that: “Ghana has real security problems and has done much better than many other newly-independent inexperienced governments. Thus it cannot fail to sense a core of hostility and cold superiority in Western reactions.” Ward was actually reacting to attacks in the Western media in which the latter characterized the PDA under Nkrumah’s CPP government as “incipient dictatorship” and “destruction of due process” (see Dr. Botwe-Asamoah’s and Mahoney’s books).

How did the West, including America and Britain, that have used similar laws to contain internal violence, to protect its strategic interests at home and abroad, and to build its nations and empires expect Nkrumah to do otherwise in order to prevent the imminent collapse of the new nation? Is it not a fact of history that Krobo Edusei first came into contact with the PDA in India where the British had introduced it? Moreover, the contents of a White Paper which the CPP government released in 1959 further reinforced the moral dimension of laws such as the PDA and their direct implications for nation-building, where safeguarding the geopolitical integrity of Ghana assumed strategic priority.

This White Paper centrally addressed the CPP government’s unqualified commitment to: “the very existence of the state of Ghana by not allowing to go unchecked plots and conspiracies which might result in the destruction of the state itself.” The CPP government set out to achieve two primary goals: 1) The elimination of sectarian or sectional tendencies which militate against the unity and security of the Ghanaian state, and 2) The elimination of the structural basis of the tendency toward national fragmentation. Ghana therefore needed a piece of legislation like the PDA to bring these two strategic aims to political fruition.

More importantly, though, the PDA’s enactment, like its statutory-sisters the Avoidance of Discrimination Act and the Nationality and Citizenship Act, both enacted just the year before, derived from a basic principle of statecraft or of governance, which is that government primary responsibility goes towards safeguarding national security, protecting its citizens, guaranteeing internal peace, and preventing ethnocentrism, racism, religious bigotry, and regionalism from taking root in national politics. These responsibilities make a unitary system of governance stronger.

But the concept of unitary nation-state collided with the Opposition’s political philosophy based on the mantra “No Federation, No Self-Government,” or “yate yen ho” (see Dr. Ama Biney), and with Busia’s and Danquah’s intellectual investment in Edmund Burke’s political ideology, which imputed strategies of rulership to the preordained elite. What's more, the power Nkrumah reposed in the masses through his and the masses’ political investment in universal suffrage took away the Opposition’s preordained entitlement to the rulership of the would-be nation-state, forcing Danquah into a debilitating psychological fix that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

More so the masses, in turn, expected the mandate which they had given their representatives in parliament to translate to proactive, actionable statutory protection of their aggregate yet diverse interests, national security priorities, human rights, properties, national development, Ghana’s territorial integrity, her foreign policy and image in the international community, among others. As expected, the Opposition soon found the masses’ demands activated through their franchise politically convenient, giving the former cause for labelling popular sovereignty represented by Nkrumah and the CPP “dictatorship,” to which the Nkrumah riposted: “If I were a dictator, the opposition would have no place to stand to make the noise they are making.”

Rather, Nkrumah was more concerned about “feudal tyranny” which he essentially saw as a mark of a “certain intellectual snobs, traitors and saboteurs” usurping the masses’ political rights and replacing them with their appropriation of Edmund Burke’s parochial, anti-democratic political ideology. Nkrumah also expected “a strong and well-organized Opposition Party in the country and in the Assembly” which was not forthcoming. The depth of political encumbrance which the Opposition imposed on the new nation demanded an exercise of executive veto, which Nkrumah lacked for reasons we have already gone into.

But the executive veto came in the form of CPP’s parliamentary majority, which represented the will of the people. Thus, the failure to pass appropriate laws by the people’s parliamentary representatives would have amounted to sheer betrayal of public trust in the CPP government and of the principles of popular democracy, a dereliction of national responsibility to the people. It was therefore in the context of the Opposition’s distaste for the public interest and participatory democracy that he [Nkrumah] further opined the following: “The present political issue is a test as to whether parliamentary democracy will live and strive in this country or whether we shall revert to feudal tyranny and despotic rule. We must not forget that democracy means the rule by of the majority, thought it should be tempered by sweet reasonableness in the interest of the majority. In a parliamentary democracy legitimate constitutional opposition is a part of its fabric, but not opposition that breeds and fosters violence” (see Dr. Ama Biney).

This sets the stage for contextual valuation of statutory codes and parliamentary deliberations during the political dispensation of the First Republic. It was under these popular expectations that the PDA came under parliamentary deliberation. In other words, the Congressional process that brought the Patriot Act into statutory existence was no less credible than the parliamentary process that gave the PDA its statutory affirmation in Ghana’s Constitution as well as powers of enforcement. Thus, the PDA, an emergency Act of Parliament, became the law of the land.

This law became one of the most important legal instruments in Ghana’s political history, unlike other administrations after Nkrumah’s that passed useless laws with no implications for national unity and development economics. For instance, while the parliament under the CPP enacted anti-terror legislation to combat subversive activities directed at the country’s internal balkanization by Danquah and his ilk, the parliament under the Busia Administration spent a whopping 17 hours to deliberate passage of the “certificate of emergency.” This piece of legislation criminalized the mention of Nkrumah’s name and display of his portraits. As a matter of fact, it is one thing to tremble in the physical presence of greater human beings, but quite another to tremble before the names and portraits of greater human beings. What an irony! What relevance did that piece of legislation have to development economics, affirmation of unitary statehood, nation-building, and political economy?

Of course, that aside, ignorance of the law is not an excuse for self-defence (ignorantia juris non excusat). Rather, ignorance of the law is harmful (ignorantia juris nocet) and justifiably so. As an illustration of the first point, lawyer Danquah, a reprobate political criminal, and Ataa Ayi, a hardened armed robber, both knew the law and what was required of them by society yet they ignored the law thinking they were too smart to get caught in the dragnet of their misdeeds. It therefore appears the terminal stage of Danquah’s political criminality had no use for his compass of inner compunction, like Ataa Ayi’s. This probably explains why he [Danquah] kept vacillating between acceptance and rejection of the Coussey Commission Report that, among other issues, addressed the regionalization of the country’s political administration and a second legislative chamber, though the masses had rejected both in favour of the 1951 Constitution (see Prof. Ninsin). He [Danquah] did this when it suited his political whims and stilted allegiance to the elitist claims of Edmund Burke’s political ideology. The result of this was his [Danquah’s] political apostasy that culminated in his assassination attempts on Nkrumah, his involvement in subversive activities against the state, and his clandestine collaboration with external intelligence (CIA), among others, thus necessitating the enactment of emergency instruments such as the PDA.

Accordingly, Danquah brought his detention under the PDA upon himself given his anti-patriotic statement that the laws of the land did not apply to him and the people of Akyem Abuakwa. Yet he [Danquah] and his people of Akyem Abuakwa went along with colonial laws without so much as collaborating with the CIA to get rid of the Colonial Government. Put differently, his detention resulted from his deployment of vicious and violent anti-democratic methods to seek redress for what he could not have otherwise achieved through the ballot box, similar to the situations of Busia, Obetsebi-Lamptey, S.G. Antor, and others. What is also ignored in the historical narrative was Nkrumah’s twice pardoning some PDA-prisoners as well as offering amnesty to political exiles, mostly self-imposed. Nkrumah even pardoned Danquah for plotting his assassination and for other subversive activities against the state. The courts also freed a PDA-prisoner like Kojo Ayeke, a member of S.G. Antor’s Togoland Congress that declared war on the eve of Ghana’s independence, after he successfully appealed his case.

One wonders why Danquah, a trained lawyer and a politician, did not follow Ayeke’s example to appeal his case against the state with assistance from his relative Aaron Eugene Kofi Asante Ofori-Atta, who served as a Minister for Local Government and a Minister for Justice in Nkrumah’s cabinet! Accordingly, the PDA became his [Danquah’s] chaperone and helped break any ties he shared with terrorists and ethnocentric secessionists, like Obetsebi-Lamptey and S.G. Antor, and the CIA as Richard D. Mahoney, an American political insider, vividly describes in his work, “JFK: Ordeal in Africa.”

That said, taking everything into consideration the PDA served Ghana very well. In contrast, under the Preventive Custody Decree (PCD), the National Liberation Council’s version of the PDA, more people were imprisoned and more people were subjected to abuse than was the case under the PDA, given that the latter had a much longer constitutional existence than the PCD, which was rather executed through military decree rather than through the deliberation process of constitutional attestation. Magnus George, M.O. Kwatiah, and E.A. Maclean, three members of the CPP, died under the PCD. What is more, Busia served as a principal advisor to and collaborator with the National Liberation Council, a cabal of coup makers who threatened Nkrumah’s eighty-year-old mother, almost blind, at gun point to say Nkrumah was not her true son. They later dragged her to a Commission of Inquiry and again questioned her whether Nkrumah was her real son. As if what they did to Nkrumah’s mother was not bad enough, this cabal of men dragged Nkrumah’s high-school niece to the Commission of Inquiry and quizzed her “as to the relationship between her and Nkrumah” (see Dr. Botwe-Asamoah and Prof. Kofi Awoonor). They also peddled the falsehood that Nkrumah’s father was a Liberian, not a Ghanaian. Finally, this cabal collaborated with their foreign co-conspirators (CIA) to destroy the Atomic Energy Program! The question is: What did Busia have to say about the excesses of the National Liberation Council as far as the Preventive Custody Decree and his own excesses as a Prime Minister of the state in respect of his disrespect for the courts, the principles of democracy, subversive activities against the state, and boycotting parliamentary deliberations on issues relevant to nation-building went?

We shall end this essay with Mr. Nelson and Dr. Gyamerah who cite Geoffrey Bing to underscore the NLC’s propaganda aimed at discrediting Nkrumah and the PDA: “‘Of the seven hundred and eighty-eight [788]’ detained persons that were released [after the coup in 1966], [some] three hundred and fifty to four hundred [350-400] were criminal detainees ‘apparently let loose for the purely propaganda purpose of increasing the total number freed.’” According to these authors, “This led to an embarrassing upsurge in crime rates in the country after the coup.” It is important to note again that, according to these two authors, much of the police force under Police Commissioner J.K. Harley and his Deputy A.K. Deku pleaded with the CPP government “to extend the PDA to common criminals by 1960.”

We shall return...