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Opinions of Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Columnist: Otchere-Darko, Gabby Asare

Danquah On Nkrumah's Propaganda Climb To Greatness

By Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko

In his maiden address to Parliament in January 2009, President JEA Mills, an
avowed Nkrumaist, said, "We intend to honour Dr Kwamne Nkrumah's memory with a
national holiday to be known as Founder's Day."
Thus, September 21 is now one more of developing Ghana's numerous public
holidays (17) to force on the nation a break from our usual 'work and
unhappiness' routine.

Several articles were written and speeches made from the likes of political
historian, Prof Mike Oquaye, a Danqua-Dombo-Busiast, and political scientist Dr
Vladimer Antwi-Danso, an Nkrumaist, to the effect that "We cannot say that
Nkrumah was the founder of the nation we call Ghana. Ghana does not have one

As our way of marking the day, the Danquah Institute has provided below an
article wrote by Dr J B Danquah on October 2, 1961, where he traces Mr Nkrumah's
contribution to the independence struggle and the propaganda tactics he used to
turn the 'masses' of Ghana against the other nationalist leaders. Please read
below J B in his own words:

The world is full of curious, unrepentant, people. As far back as four years
ago, I gave Ghana's first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, an opportunity to correct
or withdraw certain misleading defamatory and malicious statements made by him
against me in his Autobiography published on Ghana's Independence Day, March 6,
1957, by Thomas Nelson and Sons - a book discreditably entitled "Ghana.”

Up to now, apart from a formal acknowledgment signed by Dr Nkrumah"s Personal
Secretary, no attempt of any kind has been made by him or his publishers to
withdraw the statements, nor has any apology or expression of regret been
tendered for painting me as a selfish sheep in Ghana’s struggle for

And, judging from information to hand, the book has gone through several
editions or impressions and has been translated into many languages, to the
personal benefit of Dr Nkrumah and his publishers and to my discredit and
damage, said the newly appointed British High Commissioner to Ghana, Mr A.W.
Snelling, when first introduced to me at a party late in 1959: "Oh, Dr Danquah,
I have read quite a lot about you in that famous book.”

And so it is that seeing how truth cannot be known unless people are made
familiar with the facts, Mr H.K Akyeampong has thought of digging up my past to
let the world see how I myself painted it in Ghana at a time no publisher, nor
“a poet of Agamemnon,” was looking on, except a long line of imperial British
Governors - Ransford Slater, Shenton Thomas, Arnold Hodson, Alan Burns and
Gerald Creasy – or an occasional Biitish pro-consul, Lord Hailey or Mr Oliver
Stanley, or an occasional British High Fabian, Mr Arthur Creech Jones on a visit
to Ghana, the former Gold Coast.

There is nothing much I can add to this collection of my speeches and writings
except to say that having survived the exciting events they portray, I am now
more than ever convinced that I have never known myself as my Maker knows me
inside out.

He fashioned me and has used me in His own fashion, and, as I see it, the reason
why I still live and breathe and am able to exert myself in life must be the
simple one that my Maker hasn’t quite finished with me yet. There are lots more
He wants me to suffer for, and to use me for. I do not myself mind suffering so
long as it is not suffering for myself. To suffer for oneself is the emptiest of
all suffering; to suffer for others is the greatest spiritual elevation.

As to my 1957 letter to Dr Nkrumah, I have not yet got over the surprise of how
the letter struck me when Mr Akyeampong asked me to approve the three-year old
office copy for inclusion in this collection. I read it through in complete
silence, except for occasional grunts, and when completed, I said, almost
unconsciously, “How terribly mild! Is that what I am, mild to my great
malefactors?” one may even ponder over the situation and ask: What kind of earth
or heaven is promised for an inheritance in the Sermon on the Mount to those who
are mild to their malefactors?

It is possible that Dr Kwame Nkrumah may one day write to express his regret for
the offensive and libellous statements made by him against me in his book. Or
perhaps Dr Nkrumah is waiting for a Court to call upon him to amends. But, on
the other hand, it is possible not.

So far as I can personally see, my main fault with the man who is today Ghana’s
President was to have taken him round in January and February 1948 to introduce
him to Ghana audiences as the new general secretary of the United Gold Coast
Convention named by me (through Mr Ako Adjei) for that appointment.
I did not previously know the man nor was I at the time aware of what he now
reveals about himself in his book, page 62 et passim. Namely, when in 1947 he
responded to the call of the U.G.C.C to come to Ghana from England, and he asked
us to send him a hundred pounds “to cover his passage and travelling expenses,”
he actually planned on his arrival to undermine our personal positions at home
and to climb to the top over our dead bodies.

And from 1948 to 1957, it actually did happen that while we, quite blindly, kept
our eyes on the main chance, namely, our country’s liberation, others were busy
creating a new “front” within our ranks.

The adversary in the struggle no longer was imperialism as such but the
well-to-do African, the professional man and the business-man, who up to that
time, had carried the struggle in their competent hands, without a division in
the nation’s ranks. Out of that material was now created a new class, “the
Masses” of “the Common people.” It was made to appear that those who,
fortunately or unfortunately, did not look common, but were in an way
distinguished, by wealth or learning or success in life, were enemies of the
people and stooges of imperialism.
It was at about that time that it was maliciously published abroad, chiefly by
means of a whispering campaign, the false story that members of the Working
Committee of the Convention, of which Dr Nkrumah was general secretary, had been
bribed by Imperial Britain to give up the struggle for independence, that the
sum given to each of us was G25,000, by cheque, and that the only man who
refused his share was Dr Nkrumah. (And, as I learned many years later at
Kwabeng, in Akim Abuakwa, a slip of paper was fluttered in the face of the
audience at Anyinam as the speaker wound up his speech on the crescendo of the
refusal “to take his cheque”).

At that time, on my persuasion at the 1948 African Conference in Lancaster
House, London, Sir Sydney Abrahams had visited Ghana again to re-organise our

Sir Sydney had been previously Attorney General in Ghana, and, being of a
literary turn of mind, had become a close friend by his contributions under a
pen name in my newspaper, The Times of West Africa, published at Accra. Sir
Sydney who belonged to a family of sportsmen, (a brother of his was Sports
Editor on a London daily), had also organised the first Ghana Athletics
Association of which he became President before he left for East Africa where he
rose to the post of Chief Justice.

In 1948, Sir Sydney had retired and was serving in the Colonial Office as
Assistant Legal Adviser. I met him at a tea party in Lancaster House at the
African Conference, and enquired whether he could visit us in Ghana to
re-organise our sports for us. He said if I could arrange it with the Colonial
Office he would gladly come.

I saw Mr Leslie H. Gorsuch, then in charge of the West African Department, and
also Sir Andrew Cohen, and eventually Mr Creech Jones, on the matter. It
appeared that permission was likely to be given, and I left England highly
optimistic of the outcome.

The point is that my political plan was for Ghana’s liberation and progress on
all fronts. I therefore stretched out my hand to reach facets of the nation’s
life which had little to do directly with liberation from an imperial

For economics and business, I sponsored the establishment of a National Bank and
the Cocoa Marketing Board. For education, I sponsored the established of a
University College, separate from that for West Africa at Ibadan. For general
literature, I sponsored the first successful daily newspaper in Accra which,
with my editor, Mr MacNeill Stewart, the West Indian poet, co-operating, won
fame at Achimota as reminiscent of the work and style of Steele and Addison in
English literature of the 18th century.
In addition to these I tried to lead the way with books for an understanding and
appreciation of Ghana’s institutions, religion, philosophy and art. Sports, too,
could not reasonably be excluded from his plan, and I pushed the need for it in
the same fashion as I pushed the other needs for the total progress of Ghana.

In April, 1949, in response to my invitation, Sir Sydney Abrahams came to Ghana
on the subject of sports and I managed successfully to introduce him to an Accra
audience at the Palladium. At first as a result of inflammatory articles in Dr
Nkrumah’s newspaper, the Accra Evening News, the audience was hostile to the
idea of sports being made a subject of public discussion but to everybody’s
delight I carried the day at the Palladium. Others on the platform were Sir
Patrick Branian, Attorney-General, and Sir Leslie M’Carthy, Puisne Judge, who
later became President of Ghana’s Sports Council.

Eventually out of Sir Sydney Abraham’s visit the country obtained the enactment
of the first Amateur Sports Council Ordinance, and the provision of public funds
for the building of the Accra Sports Stadium of which most people, including
even the protesting politicians, are now very proud.

But Sir Sydney’s presence in Accra together with his association with me, was
enough to give colour to the campaign of Imperial bribery: “There is the man who
brought that money, 25,000 each. Danquah has given up politics for sports!”

Years later, when Dr Nkrumah and his CPP were in power and I was leader of the
U.G.C.C Opposition in the Legislative Assembly, I urged them in speech after
speech in the House that now that they were in power and had access to the
imperial papers and the Imperial ear, would they kindly let the world have any
evidence they could lay hands on that we who had been in the vanguard of the
struggle for at least a generation, did succumb towards the end, when victory
was actually in hand, to taking corrupt or any kind of money from the Imperial

No one from the Government benches ever answered the challenge. Obviously the
effect they desired had been achieved, the evil had been done. My group and I
had become discredited, perhaps for ever, perhaps…

Blood and sweat
In June 1959, I came across an extremely nasty bit of legislation proposed by Dr
Nkrumah’s Government for passage into law by Parliament. It was the Protected
Timber Lands Bill (now the Protected Timber Lands Act, No. 34 of 1959). The Act
takes power for any area in Ghana outside a forest area to be declared a
“protected area.” Under the Act it becomes an offence punishable wit a fine of
50 or six months imprisonment, or to both such fine and imprisonment, if any
person including the owner of the land in question, is seen on the “declared
area” felling a tree, or making a fire, or making a farm, or residing in any
building, or erecting any building in the area. Such a person, unless he is
exercising rights under the Concessions Ordinance, or holds a licence from the
Minister to do any such act, is liable to instant arrest, “without warrant,” by
any Forest Officer.
Since under the Concessions Ordnance an owner of land is not bound to apply for
a “Concession” to himself, the injustice of the Act becomes apparent to any one
who has ever owned anything!
As I often do in regard to such matters of public interest, I wrote personally
to Dr Nkrumah to say that in view of the fact that it was the abortive Lands
Bill of 1897 which made the British name stink most in these parts as an
imperialist people, it was rather surprising to see his government, the first
African government, proposing a law worse in many respects than the old
imperialist Bill.

The 1887 Bill never became a delegation of the Aborigines Rights Protection
Society was sent from Cape Coast to the Colonial office against it, and because
Joseph Chamberlain, the Colonial Secretary, explained to the Queen that the
delegation had come from the Gold Coast in West Africa notorious as the land of
the mosquito and the White Man’s Grave. Said Queen Victoria to Joseph
Chamberlain: “Tell my people of the Gold Coast, what I want is their loyalty,
not their lands.” It was this answer which saved Ghana from becoming a second
Kenya and which also made it easy for Ghana to lead successfully in the
liberation of Africa and to become the first free Colonial country in Africa,
(apart from South Africa) – By Dr Danquah.

In the surprising reply received by me from Miss Erica Powell, the personal
secretary, Dr Kwame Nkrumah urged vigorously that it was because of me that he
and his government had been passing certain repressive laws in the country,
(scil. The Preventive Detention Act, the Avoidance of Discrimination Act, the
Deportation Act, etc). Dr Nkrumah’s letter dated 19th June 1959, reads:

“Dear Sir,
I have been requested by the Prime Minister to acknowledge your letter No.
284/P/59 of the 16th June, 1959.
“The Prime Minister has asked me to say with regard to the second paragraph of
your letter, that he is at a loss to understand your claim to have worked for
Ghana’s “liberation from oppression for the best part of your life.” He has
asked me to point out that, on the contrary, it has been on account of your
repeated and determined efforts to hamper the forward march of those who, after
much blood and sweat, succeeded in liberating Ghana from her oppressors, that it
has been found necessary to introduce certain legislation and to the other
protective measures in order to ensure that the freedom which has been won by
the personal sacrifices of the common people is secured forever.
Yours faithfully,
E. Powell
Personal Secretary.”

Naturally I sent a rejoinder, and it was in the best of terms reminding Nkrumah
of the true history of the country’s liberation. In the penultimate paragraph, I
said to Dr Kwame Nkrumah.

“Let me say finally that while I have much sympathy for you in the great task
before you as Prime Minister, I think you have made great mistakes which have
increased your own difficulties, and diminished your chances for greatness. Such
mistakes have made this country a very unhappy one to live in, a country full of
bitterness and hostility between groups and a kind never known before. The
bitterness is so intense that unarmed men passing through a village in a lorry
in Ashanti were fallen upon and murdered by others; Baffoe was murdered in
Kumasi, and Oheneba Ampofo murdered at Old Tafo, all from political motives – a
thing which was foreign to the nature of the true born Ghanaian, and of which
one never heard even during the worst days of imperialism – except the killing
of Sergeant Adjetey and others – but which has happened frequently under your

Something could have happened, for instance a denial that the excruciatingly bad
letter of June 19, was written by Erica Powell with Dr Nkrumah’s authority. But
nothing happened. Four or five months later, I received another letter from Dr
Nkrumah’s Office, this time from his African Secretary to the Cabinet, Mr E.K.
Okoh, inviting me to accept nomination as one of 20 handpicked foundation
members of the Ghana Academy of Learning, of which he Dr Nkrumah was to be
Chairman and his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh was to be President. When
the election for the governing Council of the Academy was made at Flagstaff
House, the President’s resident, I duly attended the meetings with Dr Nkrumah in
the Chair, and I duly witnessed myself elected a member of the Council of Nine.
At one of these meetings, it was intriguing to hear Dr Nkrumah refer to me
affectionately as “J.B.”

Since then I have been asking myself: Does Nkrumah honestly believe that I am
what he tars me to be in his book and before Miss Erica Powell, his Personal
Secretary, or was it not really a prophetic sign that my letter to him was as
mild as it was? Who knows but that many of these unfathomable pains and
sufferings this man has consciously inflicted upon me are merely a means of
justifying “the ways of God to Men?” Talk of “blood and sweat” or “personal

How much “blood and sweat” or “personal sacrifices” did Dr Nkrumah expend in
liberating Ghana “From he oppressors” when, indeed for the 13 years that the
intensive intellectual battle for liberation of Ghana was joined between us and
Ghana’s “Oppressors,” from the 1934 Colonial Office Delegation of the Colony and
Ashanti, to the legislative union of the Colony and Ashanti in 1946 and the
subsequent formation of the United Gold Coast Convention in August, 1947, Dr
Nkrumah was a student in Lincoln University, USA, or at Gray’s Inn Road, London,
and was not even known in Ghana’s politics?

A Game of Chess
Or, coming to recent events, was not the specific intellectual act of February
1948, which declared to the Imperial Power our readiness to govern ourselves,
and the specific publication of March 1948 (“The Hour of Liberation has Struck”)
which sounded the death knell of imperialism in Ghana, my own decision and my
own act?

True enough, compared to what others suffered elsewhere before their country
could be liberated from oppression, what happened in Ghana was but a pleasant
song – due entirely to the patience and tolerance of the Ghanaian. He was
confident that where others would use demonstrative emotional acts, his leaders
would play an intellectual game of chess with the Powers that Be, until one
wrong move on the part of the Powers that Be sent the entire works wobbling to
the ground. In such an atmosphere to talk of “blood and sweat” and “personal
sacrifices” is mere bombast or a calculated exaggeration.

True enough the decisions and acts of 1948 led to my arrest and detention and
the arrest and detention of five of my colleagues in the United Gold Coast
Convention. Those acts and decisions led also to the subsequent test of our
integrity at a public inquisition by the Watson Commission in 1948. But it
should be recalled that Kwame Nkrumah had not been with us for more than six
weeks (January 16 to February 28) before these great decisions became ripe for

It was as an outcome of those decisions that the Watson Commission, upon
enquiry, found that our nationalist cause and course were right and that we were
ripe for self-government “within ten years.”

And it was as an outcome of the same decisions that His Majesty’s Government of
the United Kingdom accepted the Watson recommendation and pledged themselves to
speed up the machinery for the attainment of independence by Ghana.
Dr Nkrumah’s own exclusive “contribution,” such as it is, was to come much
later, after the battle had been won. His own Party, the Convention People’s
Party, was formed in June, 1949, long after the Imperial Power had conceded
independence and had pledged themselves to speed up the exercise towards it. Dr
Nkrumah’s own act, perhaps the “blood and sweat” act, namely, the abortive
“Positive Action,” staged for a Constituent Assembly, and which sent him to
prison in 1950, actually came two years after the pledge for independence had
been given by Mr A Creech Jones, Secretary of State, in the White Paper,
Colonial No. 232 of 1948.

The question may be asked: How much of these “blood and sweat” and “personal
sacrifices” of 1950 went into the foundation of Ghana’s achievement of
independence? True enough Dr Nkrumah has actually got himself cognised on
Ghana’s coins as “The Founder of Ghana,” and he has had a monument built to
himself from public funds in Parliament Square to the same effect. But which
Ghana does Nkrumah have in mind, ancient or modern? In his Autobiography, Dr
Nkrumah places his ancient Ghana at Kanem, near Lake Chad, far away, by over a
thousand miles, from the actual position of the real Ghana, south-west of
Timbuktoo. But if ancient Ghana had been a part of the Kanuri country in and
around Lake Chad we might long ago have become a patrillineal Moslem and French
and not possessed of any of the particular values which make today’s Ghana on
the West Coast what she is – a matrilineal, pagan, Christian, Akan, British
product. The true Ghana of today was founded by those who were aware of these
facts and being conscious of that faith, worked for its realisation, not
otherwise. One can only say here that tropical illusions of greatness are
permissible but history as a fact takes little account of the cold greatness of
such illusions.

Africa’s new Mission – Ikhnaton
As for the rest of Mr Akyeampong’s book, I think it best to let each speech or
article speak for itself. One of the most interesting facts about each of these
speeches and articles is its date, namely at a time when no one or only few were
saying that kind of thing, such as “Africa for the Africans,” or “the Gold Coast
is Ghana.”

Today, those phrases are the most commonplace and are no longer original. Some
even are hackneyed or are actually getting out of date. Such, for instance, is
this huge idea of a Continental Tribalism, (African Trade Union, African Farmers
Union, Union of African States,) which really in these days of atomic,
trans-continental weapons, is as out of date as the old group morality – the
tribal primitive system between village and village – got out of date just about
the close of the feudal period and the invention of gunpowder.

And with the United Nations here today, what need is there for a single Union of
African States with only one vote at the General Assembly of the United Nations
and at its Councils and Committees.

Few are those who have bee ready to see ad to acknowledge the very simple fact
that more than anything else it was the very fortunate World Wars I and II which
widely opened the great doors of Africa’s liberation from imperialism and
foreign domination to true freedom. It s equally true that the two World Wars
have effectively closed the great door, (I hope for ever), to Africa’s isolation
or possible relapse into a peculiar co-efficient of her own, whether it be
self-imposed, or it be the physically imposed by the Sahara and the Kalahari
deserts, and the Rift Valleys, or whether it be the result of a colonialist
insulation by imperialist powers at a Berlin Conference of the nineteenth

Africa, the mother of cultures, is also the mother of inventions, religions and
measures. She invented bronze, for instance, and discovered iron. She invented
monotheism as well as the calendar. Today there is hardly awake in Africa a
continental consciousness for any particular culture, such, for instance, as a
continental African language. The great desire today is for us Africans to
master French and English languages in our bid to make a mark with Negritude and
the African Personality.
But what really arrests the greatest attention in the world today is the human
being seen as an image of God. It is not an image of a native of Europe, or of
America, or of Africa, or even of vast Asia with its millions of Chinese,
Indians, and Japanese, al of whom are at the height of their intellectual power.
It is the human being as such. In his recent visit to Africa what attracted the
greatest attention of Mr Harold Macmillan, head of the most stable imperial
power of the 20th century, was the fact that whether black, brown, olive or
white, we are all human beings, all equal, and could really have it good if
properly led.
In my view the African’s great mission in the future lies not in racial politics
perpetually reminding the world of the Africa’s colour – black, brown or olive –
but in national or cultural politics, in the duty of each nation and culture
making a supreme contribution to the achievement and happiness and survival of

If when the world needed monotheism, Africa discovered its sign and produced its
system, today when the world needs humanism or human equality, it could fall
again to an African Ikhnaton to discover the sign for it and produce its system.

The selection of speeches and writings in this book shows how leadership in this
field of an effort to secure human equality started for us in Ghana many more
years ago than I care to remember. As for those whose alpha and omega of Ghana’s
modern history is Kwame Nkrumah’s Autobiography one can only repeat here what
Horace in a similar situation said of Agamemnon’s predecessors: Vixere fortes
ante Agamemnona.
Yiadom Chambers,
Accra, Ghana
October 2, 1961

Culled from Historic Speeches and Writings on Ghana by Dr J B Danquah, compiled
by H K Akyeampong, and published by George Boakie Publishing Company, Accra.For
more details contact:

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