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Opinions of Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Columnist: Sarfo, Samuel Adjei

The Brutal Dictatorship of Kwame Nkrumah II

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By Dr. Samuel Adjei Sarfo
Attorney and Counselor at Law

There are those who ask the rather simplistic question as to why we incessantly criticize Francis Kwame Kofi Nwia Ngoloma Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana. My answer is simply that many myths have shrouded his real persona and led to the false impression that the man was infallible, a messiah, a fountain of wisdom, etc. etc. But we cannot build any foundations to our democracy on fictional narratives or by hiding the sordid truth of our political history. We must separate all the facts from fiction in order to distil the lessons of truth for our future guidance, and for the guidance of posterity. And if all we are doing is chanting praises and justification for extreme wrong-doing, then we are not even beginning to appreciate the foundational realities that must be the prerequisites of our nation building. Our life source as a nation will be to pursue the truth to its logical conclusion: we must critically examine the things that led to our downfall as a nation and to swear that never again shall we commit those terrible errors of judgment that have led to the retrogression of the land. And as long as there are those individuals who maintain that Nkrumah was a saint who did no wrong, we will have to shine an everlasting light on the man’s fault, so that generations will know the truth.
Besides, our present dilemma as a country is the result of Nkrumah’s bad leadership. Would there have been any coup detat in 1966 had Nkrumah conformed his leadership to strict democratic principles? And indeed, the 1966 coup opened the floodgate to military interventions in Ghana which led to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Kofi Abrefa Busia by a young pioneer buff known as I.K. Acheampong. The then military dictator’s taste for power drew ample lessons from the example of Nkrumah when he sought to perpetuate his hold on power through the ill-conceived Unigov. The military adventurism of J.J. Rawlings, his subsequently bloody dictatorship and violation of human rights all emanate from the bad examples set by Kwame Nkrumah. Today, we are being ruled by a party founded and funded with our national resources by a serial coup-maker and a former young pioneer called J.J. Rawlings. So by abolishing democratic freedoms and instituting tyranny, Nkrumah’s enduring legacy to this country is its instability, fake democracy, extreme sycophancy and bad governance.
The fact remains that Nkrumah was a frustrated individual both in America and the UK. He had no property built at home, no family responsibilities and no leadership experience. He was in this stage of none-descript accomplishments when some patriotic individuals procured his passage to Ghana and brought him into the country to support the independence movement. But from the very beginning, the man had his own selfish plans; as he traveled back and forth across the country, he was already selling himself and his own deceptive ideas to the people, until he was able to convince the masses to defect to his side. Thereafter, he broke away to form the Convention People’s Party with the resources made available to him by the UGCC.
But from the very beginning, there was never any true freedom, justice or independence in Ghana. The whole thing was a charade!! The country was soon put under the scourge of the Preventive Detention Act (PDA) in 1958, giving the president the power to put any citizen in prison without trial, and Nkrumah progressively tightened the noose of dictatorship around the country with further draconian laws. Eventually, no law existed in the country because Nkrumah became the law unto himself. He could imprison anybody without trial for as long as ten years. He could appoint and sack judges at will. He effectively abolished pluralistic democracy and made himself a life president with untrammeled powers to run the country as his personal property. He created an ideological institute to corrupt the psyche of the youth to sing his praise until their deaths. He squelched the activities of the Trade Unions that helped him ascend to power. He incarcerated every one of those people who at one time helped in the independence movement, including Arko Adjei and Gbedemah who virtually made him president. He surrounded himself with cowering sycophants and fake ideologues who sang his praises to high heavens. He squandered the national resources in his overweening ambition to become king of the whole of Africa. He led the country on to the path of false ideology and blasphemous hero-worshiping wherein he was proclaimed god, messiah, fountain of wisdom etc. etc.
So given all this tyrannical posture, exactly what did Nkrumah mean by his brand of freedom when there was so much fear and anger and anxiety for his dictatorial posture? What was justice to Nkrumah while his perceived enemies were being incarcerated without trial? Even his tainted trials, wherein the chief justice was dismissed for failing to return a judgment favorable to him would have been much preferred to incarceration without trial. But this travesty of justice was even denied Nkrumah’s enemies. So somebody tell me what exactly was the meaning of the independence which Nkrumah is said to have procured for Ghana? Exactly what happened in Ghana after March 6, 1957 to make Ghana independent? Somebody tell me that!!!
Nkrumah’s real responsibility as the first president of Ghana was to affirm the democratic principles and establish a strong institutional base for the rule of law, the freedom of the press and the human rights of the people. In every one of these areas, the man failed miserably. His opponents point to his numerous infrastructural developments, his attempted industrialization and free educational policies as great examples of his leadership ability. All these do not reflect on an enduring legacy since every fool, given enough resources as Nkrumah, could best him in these ephemeral things. Infrastructure will collapse, and industrialization will rot, and those educated to be obsequious to power and to genuflect to dictatorship will be regarded as mere illiterates by discerning folks. But a people taught in the ways of democracy, respect for law and the endowments of human and people’s rights will endure and thrive forever. Today, very few of Nkrumah’s infrastructure remain, and his so-called educated folks are his praise-singers, but the whole nation is still struggling in the experimentation of democratic governance after over half century of independence. And we still remain immature in its ramification because we had no proper foundation……
There are those who are arguing that Nkrumah had to take all these tyrannical measures in order to protect the country. These people claim that so much terrorism and assassination attempts were perpetrated by the opposition that Nkrumah had to declare a virtual and perpetual state of emergency. But which of these problems are so special in any democracy anywhere? Is it not the case that there are instances of terrorism, assassination attempts and even senseless opposition in every known democracy? And how have these problems led to the abolition of due process, or to the institution of life presidency or the dismissal of judges or the proscription of political opposition and democracy?
And if there was so much evidence that the opposition was responsible for any mayhem, why were they not put before a proper court of law and diligently prosecuted? How are justice, freedom and independence ever achieved by the mass incarceration of political opponents without trial? And how do you fathom peace and stability in the face of blatant affront to due process? I don't know of any flaws anywhere that will merit Nkrumah's dictatorship, and even if we admit that the opposition did what they are often alleged to have done, how do these actions lead to a life presidency or one party state, or imprisonment without trial? Every dictator will find a good reason for any brutality, but a true legacy of leadership has nothing to do with excused dictatorship, but it has everything to do with guaranteeing freedoms in spite of incessant political upheavals. Nkrumah lacked the qualities of a true leader and therefore left no legacy of leadership for Ghana!
As a commentator aptly stated, it is an irony of fate that a nation whose motto is “Freedom and Justice” has since its founding in 1957, known only limited period of freedom and never had justice as a core value to drive every socio-economic development of the country. It is because the first president never believed in freedom and justice. Nkrumah jailed virtually all the other members of the Big Six: Danquah died in political detention; Obestebi Lamptey died in detention (allegedly buried alive); Ako Adjei (the only CPP man in the group aside of Nkrumah) was jailed by Nkrumah; Paa Willie was detained; Edward Akufo Addo was sacked from the Bench for joining in the decision that declared the alleged three CPP Bomb throwers “not guilty”; and Paa Grant, the Chairman of UGCC and the man who paid for Nkrumah's passage from London to Ghana, also suffered episodes of police incarceration and was silenced for most of his later years. He finally died unheralded……..
And in the backdrop of all these pernicious cruelty and arrant dictatorship, we cannot allow history to be buried by the Nkrumaist acolytes, young pioneers and action troopers. We must speak out the eternal truth so that posterity will be guided by the errors of the past. So to those who are today counseling that we should bury the hatchet, our questions are, “How do we bury the hatchet when the landscape of our history is studded with the undergrowth of the Nkrumaist lies? Must we leave undisturbed a dictator’s bones when our true heroes are crying for justice? And how can we hope to build a nation of truth on the foundation of lies?”

Samuel Adjei Sarfo is a Doctor of Laws, Attorney and Counselor at Law, a Teacher of Lore, Certified High School English Educator, Researcher and Scholar. He can be reached at

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