Feature Article of Sunday, 24 February 2013

Columnist: Tamakloe, Kojo

“Dark days in Ghana” The disaster of Feb 24 1966

Kojo Tamakloe

It was ghosting aka mining aka campaigning time. That time of early morning when it is coldest and noise carries . You want to walk quietly and not shout. Usually the air is also very fresh. The carbon dioxide of the day before would have drifted up and reacted with the ozone and produced fresh oxygen. It makes breathing refreshing. But today it was quite heavy and those flares followed by loud booms . And there was another one again. The air which should be light was pregnant with cordite . That unmistaken smell of sulphur . The boom, boom again . We fiddled with the “made in Ghana Akasonoma radio”, powered by “Made in Ghana eveready “ battery. We wanted to drown the sounds with some music. SHHHHHH came the sound . We tried the SW that got BBC , and then VOA . No luck . What was the problem ? Then boom , boom again . We gave it up and wanted to do some “soaking”, that is garri water . We could not and went to bed frustrated . Damn it all . We could not make noise as the lights of the Boarding master had come on. There were scuttles all over as every one rushed into bed and pretended to sleep . He would come and through his nasalized accent ask, “ what u doing”? That meant punishment . At 5.30 am that morning we heard a hoarse voice that announced the unthinkable . The overthrow of the legitimate government of Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah .

This is how it was described “ The Ghanaian army stages a coup, overthrowing the pan-Africanist government of Kwame Nkrumah—who is in Burma at the start of a grand tour aimed at resolving the conflict. A weak economy, exacerbated by the” deliberate actions of Western governments to destabilize the country” , had severely damaged the president’s popularity among the masses. Additionally, the military was upset with Nkrumah’s cuts to the defense budget and the declining real wage of army officers. The coup itself was supported by the CIA, which had maintained intimate contact with the plotters for at least a year . The CIA’s involvement in the plot was so close that it managed to recover some classified Soviet military equipment as the coup was happening. “

Let us look at how they looked at the coup makers and liken it to how our Chiefs sold themselves short in the slave era and the looting of our resources . “Commenting on the recent coup in Ghana , Robert W. Komer, a special assistant to the president, says in a memo to President Johnson that the overthrow of the Nkrumah government was “another example of a fortuitous windfall.” He gloats over the win noting that “Nkrumah was doing more to undermine our interests than any other black African” and that the “new military regime is almost pathetically pro-Western.” He then goes on to emphasize that the US should “follow through skillfully and consolidate such successes.” He explains: “A few thousand tons of surplus wheat or rice, given now when the new regimes are quite uncertain as to their future relations with us, could have a psychological significance out of all proportion to the cost of the gesture. I am not arguing for lavish gifts to these regimes—indeed, giving them a little only whets their appetites, and enables us to use the prospect of more as leverage”. But we rejoiced and went on to do their bidding

. Behind the scene of the gun holding military was the so called democrats and law abiding party called the United Party , the forbears of the NPP. They branded every thing by Osagyefo as wrong . The 7 year development plan was a “ communist Plan”, the Volta dam and the energy from it a waste and went about closing and leaving the factories for which loans had been contracted to go to waste. The State , they preached should not be producing goods and services. Individuals would do a better job . But No individuals stepped up as most did not have the entrepreneurial ability, capital and skills to run these enterprises . Then they sent away the labor on the farms, under the ‘aliens compliance order” and Ghana moved from No 1 cocoa producer to No 5.These people were given 2 weeks that is 10 working days to establish their residency or nationality . Of course all had to come to Accra to do that . An impossible task . Foreign exchange was scarce so they Devalued the cedi telling us it would boost exports. We asked ,what exports , as we had closed the manufacturing units and were importing everything . “ Import substitution’, became “export substitution” . Production gave way to consumption. “ Do not worry we know best. We are Professors from Oxford as compared to the verandah boys” .By 1969 , the so called elite and intelligentsia were fully in control, Professor Busia as Prime Minister and Akuffo Addo as President. In spite of the foundation laid , Ghana was in reverse gear. Cocoa farms gone to weed, queues for “ essential commodities” . No direction on anything except the privileged few at the top. Parliament was full of semi literate and illiterates whose job was to come in big clothes and shout “ yeah, yeah” . Every where was neglect and decay . Busia himself was heard to say, “ they told us democracy will bring prosperity, but where is the money”. Mr Joe Appiah a staunch UP could not stand the discrimination and left to team up with Attoh Quarshie. But it was the incompetence and the total lack of direction by these leaders that astounded me. Researchers can find out from the Ghanaian papers in the archives the sheer absence of any productive effort from about July 1971 to Jan 13 1972 when the PP was put out of its misery by the then Col Kutu Acheampong . What a missed opportunity as all that was needed were 1. Cash to power the industries set up and 2 Better management . We failed .We failed Miserably This put Ghana in the wilderness

Today 47 years later , the wounds have not healed and where they have the scars still remain . By 1983 nearly a million Ghanaians had to come home from Nigeria as refugees . Ghana “must go” and some jumped into the sea and drowned out of frustration . The dream of Greener pasture gone sour. From those working as 2 “ nailla”, to Professors and project managers , town and City planners to teachers , to shoe shine and dog chain vendors . Some have since panned out to other parts of the world. China , japan, South Pole, North pole and mundane places as USA, UK, Germany , Italy , Zambia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Papua New Guinea , Australia, Canada.

So we exchanged our hard earned independence for subservience in a servitude position. Do we realize it? Nkrumah had a dream of a proud UNITED Africa. We accused him of being “ambitious” He had the dream of an industrialized Ghana and Africa. He had the dream of a high volume of intra African trade . Let us take stock if his vision is wrong in respect of what we have achieved so far. If we have not become prosperous , let us accept our errors and accept the man was correct . Nkrumaism is the answer , not Supreme Court litigations

The writer Kojo Tamakloe is an Nkrumaist who believes the solution to Africa’s underdevelopment is African Unity