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Opinions of Thursday, 13 October 2011

Columnist: Nelson, Ekow

Dr. Danquah’s Goebbels Debunked!

Ekow Nelson, 12th October, 2011

In his response to my earlier rejoinder to his trite and predictable one-pony show piece that as usual attempted to attribute the achievement of Ghana’s independence to Dr J.B. Danquah ( see Opinion: “Another Propagandistic Twaddle” MyJoyOnline 11 October 2011 and Ghanaweb 12 October 2011), Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe peddled a number of untruths that must call into question his credibility as a knowledgeable commentator on Ghana’s political history and he cannot be taken seriously. He played fast and loose with the truth presumably in the hope that he could get away with it but more plausibly out of sheer ignorance.

His suggestion that “it was highly unlikely for Mr. Ebenezer Ako-Adjei to have been conferred with an honorary doctorate in 1962, when the man who introduced the future President Nkrumah to Dr. Danquah and the mainstream of modern Ghanaian politics was in prison facing the death penalty, having been charged for a dubious role in the Kulungugu assassination attempt…” is a bald-faced untruth! - even allowing for the slight ‘probabilistic’ equivocation.

After reading similar comments he posted as his ‘initial’ response to my piece (See “Comment: Ghana and Africa: Nkrumah the Undisputed ‘Motivating Force’” 7th Oct. 2011) on, I resolved to put the matter to rest. To avoid going backwards and forwards I (and my good friend and collaborator Prof. Michael Gyamerah) decided to go to the authoritative source of the award and wrote to the Executive Vice President of Lincoln University in charge of External Affairs, requesting him to confirm whether “both [Nkrumah and Ako Adjei] were awarded Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws in 1951 and 1962 respectively” by Lincoln University.

A few days later I received a response from the Office of the President of Lincoln University stating the following:

“Our records indicate that Kwame Nkrumah, '39, received a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa from Lincoln University in 1951. E. Ako Adjei (ex. '42), received a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa from Lincoln University in 1962.” Signed: Jody C. Brunner, Administrative Assistant, Office of the President, Lincoln University.

So Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe’s suggestion that “[i]n 1952, Messrs. Kwame Nkrumah, Kojo Botsio and Ebenezer Ako-Adjei were all conferred with the honorary doctorate by Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University”,…and that “[it] is also a matter of public record – personally attested by Mr. Cameron Duodu,” is a blatant falsehood.

I am reliably informed that Cameron Duodu whom he cites as his ‘authoritative source’ has denied ever saying or writing any such thing which further undermines the credibility of this wannabe political historian.

So the matter is settled: Lincoln University awarded Ako Adjei a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa in 1962, NOT 1952 as Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe alleges; and Nkrumah was awarded a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa by Lincoln University in 1951, NOT 1952.

The predictable and relentless Nkrumah basher, however, remains undaunted and recycles another old canard that “Ako Adjei and Botsio had been expressly forbidden by ….Mr. Nkrumah not to officially respond to their honorary doctoral degrees”. We have established, quite emphatically, that this could not have happened because as Lincoln University has confirmed, Ako Adjei was not honoured at the same time as Nkrumah.

Quite apart from the factual error it is inconceivable that anyone with any knowledge of our political history would be a sucker for the allegation that Nkrumah forbade Ako Adjei from using a title in 1951. In 1951 Ako Adjei was a member of the UGCC and stood against the CPP in the Accra Central constituency. He remained in the UGCC and joined its successor party Ghana Congress Party (GCP) after the former lost miserably in the 1951 elections. Ako Adjei only joined Nkrumah’s CPP in May 1953. So how could Nkrumah forbid an opposition member from using a title (for an award he never received) in 1951? This so amateurish and ludicrously risible it is unbelievable coming from an Associate Professor.

This bring us to another of Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe’s shameless revisionisms that Ako Ajdei could not have been awarded an honorary degree in 1962 because he was in detention at the time. To cover our bases, again we asked Lincoln University whether - to the extent that there was one - “the award was made in absentia”, because all credible sources, including Ako Ajdei’s own autobiography, suggested he was indeed awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Lincoln University in 1962. Again this is what the Office of the President of Lincoln University wrote in response:

“Honorary doctorate degrees from Lincoln University are rarely granted in absentia”.

Clearly, Ako Adjei’s detention later in 1962 could have been one of those rare exceptions implied in Ms Brunner response and so we are left with examining and scrutinising the exact dates of the award and his arrest as any careful researcher would do.

Having done that, let me do what Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe’s promised but failed to deliver woefully: “regale” him (and readers) with THE facts and some history: 1. The Office of the President of Lincoln University has confirmed in their email response to me, that Dr. Ebenezer Ako-Adjei was awarded a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa in JUNE 1962 2. The Kulungugu bombings for which Dr. Ebenezer Ako-Adjei was falsely implicated and later convicted occurred on 1st AUGUST 1962. 3. Dr. Ebenezer Ako-Adjei was arrested and detained on Wednesday 29th August 1962 4. The judgement of the trial presided over by Justice Arku Korash, V.B Van Lare and Edward Akuffo-Addo was made on 9th December 1963.

These, ladies and gentlemen, are the incontrovertible facts so let me restate what I wrote in my original piece to which Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe took exception: “Dr. Ebenezer Ako Adjei, Nkrumah’s contemporary at Lincoln University was also awarded an honorary doctorate by his alma mater in 1962”. There is nothing misleading about this statement unless the learned Associate Professor is suggesting that Dr. Ebenezer Ako Adjei was arrested earlier than JUNE 1962 (when he received the award) and before the Kulungugu bomb went off in August of that year. Maybe he does not know (or care to know) when the Kulungugu bomb went off or wishes to rewrite that too!

Perhaps our resident Associate Professor with an apparent obsession for the exactness of dates in the Gregorian calendar (as in when Nkrumah was born) has had a temporary memory lapse and forgets that there are 12 good months in a year; otherwise how could he have concluded that Dr. Ebenezer Ako Adjei could not possibly have been awarded an honorary doctorate in 1962 only because he was arrested in the same year? Like all years in the Gregorian calendar, 1962 began with January 1st and ran for another 365 days before it ended. The year 1962 did not start and end on the day Ako Adjei was detained! But of course as those of us who have read him know, Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe has no analytical fibre in his being!

Let me now deal with an offensive aside in Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe’s online response to my article posted 7th October 2011, which attempts to devalue Lincoln’s honorary doctorate degrees, describing the august institution as “a college that on last check circa. 2000 did not even run doctoral programs”

This facile and crass suggestion came as a surprise even to me, a non-academic professional who knows that a University’s power to award and confer honorary doctorate degrees derives from its charter and is not necessarily contingent on running its own doctoral programs. In our letter to the Executive Vice President, we asked to be pointed “to sections of [Lincoln University’s] Charter or other governing instruments that confer the powers to award Honorary Doctoral Degrees on past students or accomplished individuals.” And here is the response we received from the office of the President of Lincoln University:

“The Charter of Lincoln University (Original Act, April 29, 1854) indicates: "Section 4. That the trustees of said university shall have full power to confer all such literary degrees, and academic honors, and titles, as are usually conferred by university corporations." Approved by Anno Domini, April 4, 1866.”

Even as a non-academic professional, I had figured this out, but our Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing, who is so determined to denigrate and sully the reputation of Ghana’s illustrious first President was (at the time he posted that comment at least) apparently ignorant of the workings and practices of the institutions that employ him. If he had an inquiring mind, as one would expect of a scholar, he might have asked, but alas, the inference and the chance to have another go at Nkrumah was so seductive that he reached for it instantly and at once confirmed a temperament more suited to Goebbels-like propaganda than serious historical analysis.

Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe’s shameless attempt to belittle Lincoln University’s awards - one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) – is an affront to the wonderful contribution the institution has made to the education of many distinguished Black academics and professionals. For the benefit of the cheerleaders of Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe who revel in his childish and tiresome game of ‘bash Nkrumah’, we also asked the President of the University to remind us of some of the luminaries who had similarly been honoured with Doctorate degrees and we got this response:

“Some of our luminaries include Edward W. Blyden, LL.D., 1874; Francis G. Grimke, D.D., 1888; Lucy Laney, A.M., 1901; Booker T. Washington, LL.D., 1909; Leslie Pinckney Hill, Litt.D, 1929; Mary McLeod Bethune, LL.D., 1934; Horace Mann Bond, LL.D., 1941; Nathan F. Mossell, D.Sc., 1943; Hildrus A. Poindexter, D.Sc., 1946; Albert E. Einstein, D.Sc. 1946; Nnamdi Azikiwe, LL.D., 1946, 1994; Thurgood Marshall, LL.D., 1947; Ralph J. Bunche, LL.D., 1947; Melvin B. Tolson, Litt.D., 1954; Kingsley O. Mbadiwe, LL.D., 1956; Robert N.C. Nix, LL.D., 1960; Martin Luther King, LL.D., 1961; John Hope Franklin, LL.D., 1961; Jesse L. Jackson, D.D., 1969; A. Leon Higginbotham, LL.D., 1971; Marian Anderson, LL.D., 1976; J. Newton Hill, LL.D., 1981; Shirley A. Chisholm, LL.D., 1985; Desmond Tutu, L.H.D., 1990; Rosa Parks, LL.D., 1992.”

It is supremely arrogant that the achievements and the honours bestowed on the likes of Edward W. Blyden, Booker T. Washington, Albert E. Einstein, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jnr. and Rosa Parks can be questioned by an upstart like Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe who has the chutzpah to imply, however obliquely, that Lincoln University was not qualified to bestow the honours they received; or that the honorary doctorate degrees many of them took time to receive in person were in some way less valuable.

I notice, however, that in his published rejoinder (published on 11th and 12th of October 2011) he refrained from repeating this. He may have done his homework and found he was on a sticky wicket with that one.

But seriously, do we readers here and elsewhere, where Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe Ph.D., plies his trade, have to suffer these errors of omission (for those of you that feel inclined to be charitable) or deliberate commission of this discredited Historian? Do we deserve to have our intelligence insulted by Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe whose only knowledge of Ghana’s history appears to start and end with Dr. J. B Danquah?

Why should the hatred (for that is what it is) of Nkrumah drive any sane person to such lengths as to want to distort verifiable historical facts, sully the reputation of a great institution and by extension, the people whose contribution to the advancement of human progress he cannot even begin to imagine let alone match?

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts”; so goes a famous political aphorism variously attributed to a host of purveyors of the political trade including James Schlesinger and the great Irish patriot and four-term U.S. Senator and Daniel Patrick Monyihan. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Ph.D., however, believes that he can defy this truism and has indeed made it a habit not only to hold his own opinions; he also deludes himself into thinking he can manufacture and own his own facts and we are entitled to believe them because he says so? No!

© Ekow Nelson, London October 2011