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Opinions of Wednesday, 12 July 2006

Columnist: Kwamena, Ato

Born To Destroy: The Legacy Of Chairman Rawlings

(PART 1 OF 2)

You don’t have to be an Nkrumahist or a CPPist to appreciate the great vision that our first president had for this country. All you need is a little humility of character and an iota of truth in you and you will appreciate the genius of Dr. Nkrumah, even when you don’t share his political ideology. Yes, like all ambitious leaders, Dr. Nkrumah had his own weaknesses. But overall, he was a fantastic leader. Take a good look at all the Institutions of State that we have now and you’ll see Dr. Nkrumah’s handwriting on all of them. To this day – 40 years after he had left the scene – majority of the infrastructure that we have in our country were built by his administration.

Part of Nkrumah’s vision for this country was to industrialize Ghana at the shortest possible time. In 1962, on a radio broadcast to the people titled “Work and Happiness: Ghana’s Seven-Year Development Plan” the President launched a massive industrialization project. This vision was founded on the Volta River Project; a massive and ambitious undertaking to explore Ghana’s vast bauxite stores to process it into aluminum. To do this we needed a smelter. A smelter can’t operate without cheap electricity, and at that time hydroelectric energy was the cheapest. So Nkrumah moved and managed to convince President John F. Kennedy to help us generate cheap electricity to supply the proposed Volta Aluminum Company (VALCO) to smelt our bauxite and process it into Aluminum by financing that project. So he got the Akosombo Dam to be built – a massive undertaking at the time. The availability of electricity meant that other industries could take off. So in effect, Nkrumah foresaw the positive trickle-down-effect that the construction of the Akosombo Dam and the Aluminum industry would have on the economy. His ultimate goal for VALCO was to supply aluminum to a plethora of Ghanaian companies who would then process this aluminum into other products like cooking utensils, roofing sheets, etc, etc. so that Ghana would be a net exporter of value-added Aluminum products.

Nkrumah also started the GIHOC industries (Ghana Industrial Holding Corporation). GIHOC had several subsidiaries. Nkrumah knew there could be no industrialization without steel. So he established the Tema Steel Factory. Steel and glass often go together; hence the Abosso Glass Factory was started. Cement is also an important ingredient in any nation-building project. GHACEM was established. Now he turned his attention to the agricultural sector. Cocoa was the mainstay of our economy. Yet we were importing sacks to package our cocoa beans in. It was a waste of resources. ‘Can’t we produce these ourselves?’ he must have thought. So he started the Jute Factory in Kumasi to manufacture cocoa sacks for our farmers. He intended for us to eventually process our own cocoa beans and supply value-added products to the world market and not just be a supplier of the raw material. Hence, he established the West African Mills to process our cocoa beans.

Tomato is an important ingredient in any Ghanaian cooking. We use it in the preparation of soup, stew, etc. We grew tomatoes ourselves, yet part of the year we had a huge shortage of the product on our markets. Not because we didn’t grow enough, but because we couldn’t preserve the excess tomatoes for the leaner season. To curb this Dr Nkrumah started Tomato Factories: one at Pwalugu, and another at Wenchi. He also started a Meat Processing Factories to supply us with a clean healthy source of protein to nurture us.

Our security institutions like the Police Service, the Military, etc all had to rely on imported shoes or boots to wear. Nkrumah thought we could do better so he established a Shoe Factory in Kumasi which manufactured boots or shoes for our security institutions, and others. As Africans, alcoholic beverages are important in most of our social functions. But even in those times the Ghanaian was developing an insatiable taste for foreign alcoholic beverages as they were deemed to be more superior to our local gin. To supply this demand he established the GIHOC Distilleries. There can be no effective health care system without an adequate supply of medications to treat the sick. The GIHOC Pharmaceutical subdivision was established at Tema to take care of this. He also established the GIHOC Electronics subdivision to manufacture electronic devices such as radios (sanyo) to the people and also to help us gain technological know-how. Nkrumah established the Continental Hotel (now Golden Tulip) and the City Hotel in Kumasi, amongst others. I could go on and on, but in the 9 years he was in office, not one subsequent leader has achieved a quarter of what he did, in terms of industrial development. Not even a quarter!

Nkrumah was a patriot, no doubt about that! We were his people. We shared the same lineage. He could identify with our pains. As one of our own kith and kin he wanted to make a difference in our future. A positive difference! These companies that I’ve listed above do not capture every single company he established. What I’ve listed is just the tip of the iceberg. There are more that are not captured here because time will not permit. Nkrumah wanted our people to work and earn a living. He wanted us to Work and be Happy. There’s nothing better than enjoying the fruits of one’s labor. The companies that he established provided job opportunities for the people. It also provided the opportunity for the Ghanaian to develop invaluable managerial and entrepreneurial skills. And for this, we would forever be grateful to him for his vision and leadership.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe in the State doing business. But I’m also realistic enough to know that at that time Dr Nkrumah was managing the affairs of our country, only the State could make any meaningful impact in terms of industrialization. So I don’t fault him at all. And although I don’t think Government should be in the business of running companies, I do know that even today, it’s important for the State to be in partnership with the private sector to push the frontiers of our economic development and hasten it. Ours is an economy in its toddling stages. Our legs are not yet strong. Our cerebellum has not fully been ‘wired’ to coordinate our forward march. We need to hold on to things in order to move forward. The State is that “thing” that we must hold on to. To industrialize, our State must continue to offer partnerships with our Private Sector until such a time that our Private Sector would be strong enough to take over the economic and industrial development of our beloved country. Until that time, ‘the State has some business forming partnerships with the Private Sector.’ And I call on the Kufuor Administration to quadruple their efforts in forming State-Private Partnerships. That’s the only sensible way for industrializing our country at the shortest possible time.

You must be wondering what happened to Nkrumah’s companies, aren’t you? In the late 1980s and early 1990s the disappointed-socialists in the PNDC military junta led by the Ahwois, Kwesi Botchweys, Kojo Tsikatas, Ebo Tawiahs, and their Godfather, chairman Rawlings, dumped their socialism and communism ideology and accepted capitalism. When he came to power, chairman Rawlings idols were Fidel Castro and Muammar Gaddafi – hardcore socialists and/or communists. Rawlings and his cohorts cursed and hurled insults at the IMF and World Bank for our woes. But after a few months in power they started realizing that the Castros and the Gaddafis are all just talk. That they (Castro & Gaddafi) would not put their money where their mouth is and support the then new PNDC junta which had pledged to be an obedient disciple of their (Marxist) ideology. Disappointed, Rawlings had to eat back his words and turn to the same IMF and World Bank. Needless to say that the promise of money was a great motivator for the reversal of ideology. Money talks, friend!

So the IMF told Rawlings to give up the State’s control of those Nkrumah-established industries. They told him to privatize those companies. As I stated a few paragraphs above, privatization is not a bad policy at all. I support privatization, but not the way chairman Rawlings went about his! The IMF said privatize those companies, they didn’t say shut them down and let the machines and equipments rot. Pwalugu Tomato Factory was the pride of the North. As a part of the country that had been marginalized by the colonial administration, the people valued these companies that Dr Nkrumah had given them. They also valued the Meat Processing Factory at Bolgatanga. It was the source of employment for a lot of people, directly or indirectly. So what did Rawlings do? His first action was to shut down these factories and fire all the employees! Sending them home on a retrenchment policy, with a paltry sum as their end-of-service benefit. Pwalugu which alone could feed Ghana with all her tomato needs was left to dry up. The hardworking tomato farmers at Pwalugu lost their source of income. Human lives were devastated! Poverty became more endemic. Go and trace the worsening poverty situation in Ghana’s Upper East and you’ll find that the worsening poverty situation moved in tandem with the closure and abandonment of these projects. The motivation to work hard and expand their farms was gone! At the stroke of his pen Rawlings took away the livelihood of thousands of people. The Tolon Irrigation Dam which Kutu-Acheampong had built to help these farmers be productive around the year was left to dry up. Today, Ghana’s Pwalugu is a net importer of tomatoes from Burkina Faso. A country that is closer to the dry Sahara Desert supplies tomatoes to Pwalugu and for that matter Ghana. A similar fate faced the Wenchi Tomato Factory. Very sad indeed! Pwalugu Tomato Factory was shut down by Rawlings in 1989. Fourteen (14) good years after the closure of the Factory our people from Arigu and Walewale emotionally appealed to the Kufuor Administration to re-activate the Pwalugu Tomato Factory to save tons of tomatoes that go rotten as a result of lack of storage facilities. The Arigu-Walewale Youth Association made the appeal in Accra stating that farmers found it difficult to cart tomatoes to Kumasi and Accra. Mamprusis Appeal for Reactivation of Tomato Factory (Sept 8, 2003) – GNA. President Kufuor had earlier promised the people of Zuarungu and Pwalugu in 2002 that he would arrange a partnership to reactivate these factories and give back to the people their livelihood that was painfully taken away from them by the stroke of Rawlings’ pen, adding “l have not been happy about the manner in which the two factories have been abandoned for so many years with the machines being in absolute state of disrepair.”– Daily Graphic Oct 14th, 2002. Ironically, the NDC Minority in their 2003 press conference statement beautifully titled: ‘A Litany of Broken Promises and Shattered Dreams’ reminded the good people of this country that “in 2001 Ghana imported more than $10 million worth of tomato products principally from Italy while tomatoes continue to rot in various parts of the country. Promises of tomato processing plants have largely remained unrealized and farmers continue to suffer huge losses from the seasonal tomato gluts that occur frequently”. – A Litany of Broken Promises and Shattered Dreams. Minority Perspectives (February 20, 2003) –GHP. May God bless the people of Ghana for their calm spirit! Where else in the world would such a group of people be tolerated? They shut down the tomato factory, fired the workers, and then shamelessly turned around to insinuate the people using their own closure of the Factory as evidence that the new government was not performing! I’ve always said that that cult called NDC thrives on misinformation. It was borne out of a communist philosophy so they are masters of misinformation and propaganda of lies. This alone should be enough motivation to the Kufuor Administration to vigorously push for an increase in the literacy rate in our country. On April 20th, 2006, Alan Kyeremateng – the Minister of Trade and Industry & PSI – gave our citizens in Pwalugu news that they’ve been waiting for; for a good 17 years! ‘The Pwalugu Factory is going to be reactivated and should start operation by June 2006.’ The editor of the Accra Daily Mail, a true patriot, was so overjoyed by this announcement that he came out with the screeching headline “Hurray!” in his April 27th, 2006 edition of the paper. In a State-Private Sector Partnership, Northern Star Tomato Ltd would run the reactivated factory and give the people’s bread back to them. It was immoral for a government to have snatched from them ‘the morsel of bread’ that they had (Ironically, today Rawlings can talk about the “destruction of the moral fiber” of the country. Ask him where his morality was when he was snatching the people’s ‘bread’ from them). It’s even more than insensitive and insulting for the NDC to turn around, and scorn the people as they did in their “Litany of Broken Promises” press statement. The time it took for President Kufuor to reactivate this factory goes to show the difficulty that a person encounters when they try to build. With a stroke of his pen chairman Rawlings shut down Pwalugu. In one day he destroyed the Pwalugu Tomato Factory that Nkrumah had taken years to build. And it has also taken President Kufuor over 5 years to reactivate or rebuild the same Factory. Will we ever learn as a people? Will we ever learn to be ‘builders’ and not ‘destroyers’? Will we ever learn from our not-so-distant history? I hope so. But am beginning to doubt that we will. Alan Kyeremateng went on further to state that the “refurbishment of the factory, estimated at about four million US dollars, would create employment for people especially the youth. He said 10 hectares of crops including tomatoes, maize, pepper, and beans would be cultivated during the farming season. The Minister of Trade and Industry noted that the project was in line with Government's District Industrialization policy, under which at least a factory would be sited in each district in the country. Mr. Kyeremateng said Government would assist the assemblies and communities to find private entrepreneurs to revive divested companies for which no investor had been found. He explained that Government's assistance to the assemblies and communities to operate the companies was to enable them create wealth for the people. Mr. Giorgio Costa, Spokesman for De Simone Limited, the construction company undertaking the civil works, said [the constructions] would be completed by May this year.” – GNA

The Wenchi Tomato Factory was also reactivated in 2003. Said the Ghana News Agency (GNA): “The re-activated Tomato Factory at Wenchi in Brong Ahafo currently on trial production, processed 50 tons of tomatoes a day, Mr. Godwin Anang, Production Manager said at Wenchi, at the weekend… Mr. Anang added that Afrique Link, German Development Cooperation (GTZ), Unilever Ghana Limited and Wenchi District Assembly were running the administration and technical aspects of the rehabilitation of the factory. When completed and assumes full production, the nation will achieve significant economic growth, as the processed tomatoes will be exported, the production manager said, adding that the factory currently has 50 staff and 100 casual labourers. – GNA (Nov 9, 2003) . One man surely destroys only for another to rebuild the same. How would we ever move forward if all we do is to rebuild things that were destroyed? Today, chairman Rawlings says ‘he feels the people’s pain’ and is fighting for their economic well-being. When he was shutting these factories down where were the people in his thought process? They weren’t important. Now that he’s lost power he says he’s fighting for those he fired. And we believe his lies! The Legacy of chairman Rawlings is shocking! His worshippers are going to say, “Why do you we have to go to the past and not concentrate on today and the future”. I say “we can’t build bridges to the future if we haven’t gotten over that ‘monkey’ which sits on our backs”! We can’t move in the right direction as a country if we close our eyes and play the ostrich with our recent history. We can’t pretend that we don’t have any past. But when we accept our past, and scrutinize it fairly to learn from it, then we would know our mistakes and not repeat them. Then the true character of all those who portend to be champions of the people’s interest would be known to all and sundry. Otherwise, tomorrow Ataa Ayi is also going to come out of jail and claim to be a champion of the ‘ordinary’ Ghanaian, even after he had shot, robbed, and killed them. We must put every single person in our land who desires any office for himself, his cronies, or anointed ones in the light of their own history, and then decide for ourselves whether we ought to trust them or not. “History despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, however, if faced with courage, need not be again” – Maya Angelou.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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