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Opinions of Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Columnist: Anipa, Marlon

Editors attacks on NPP Ministers over Kotoka

Editors attacks on NPP Ministers over Kotoka – Lets be proportional

I have been following the news on radio, in the print media and in cyber space with intense interest and curiosity over the week. A news item that runs across most Ghanaian newspapers and websites and cannot be missed are certain outrageous comments made by editors of some independent papers purported to be a response to statements attributed the Deputy AG , Hon Osei –Prempeh and Hon Kofi Dzamesi , the Volta Regional Minister. These comments were supposed to have been made by the Minsters at a recent occasion to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Lt Gen EK Kotoka at his native Fiaxor in the Volta Region in Ghana.

The news item had screaming headlines such as, on Ghanaweb, “NPP celebrates Nkrumah’s overthrow’; on PeaceFM on-line ‘ Kweku Baako takes on NPP Ministers’ and on Joy on line even more sensational - ‘Kweku Baako lashes at NPP for celebrating Kotoka’. It was like jungle warfare among the print media as though they wanted to outstrip each other as to which get the most sensational headline, never mind the facts and the contents of the news item.

Having seen those headlines, I thought I was indeed going to read about a ceremony organised by the NPP– a ceremony where the top echelon of NPP national party executives and membership were present and stating a party position on an issue.

However, as it turns out to be, it was all about some three editors of the independent media - Messrs Kweku Baako, Kwesi Pratt and Egbert Faibille, condemning the ‘lavish praise’ heaped on coup makers, especially the leader of the February 24, 1966 coup d'etat, the late Lt-Gen. E.K. Kotoka. These lavish praises were supposedly made at the 40th anniversary celebrations to mark the death of Gen. Kotoka at Fiaxor in the Volta Region by Mr. Kwame Osei-Prempeh, Deputy Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, and Mr. Kofi Dzamesi, Volta Regional Minister.

So then, to my mind, these headlines were either simply misleading or were much ado about nothing really as the captions did not reflect the news item. Then there was another twist which I find rather somewhat perplexing. The argument of these editors shifted drastically from this supposed lavish praise of Lt Gen EK Kotoka to these Ministers, by their comments, supporting the 1966 coup. Then by some strange logic, they deduced that by some stretch of some imagination, not only were they justifying 1966 coup but justifying coups in general. This view has taking its own spin on SIL on Ghanaweb where Silians are now debating whether there are good coups or not. There was this editor Ebert Faibille who went on to talk about the double standards of the NPP, National Reconciliation etc etc all based on the comments of these Ministers at this same occasion in Fiaxor. I thought Ebert Faibille has a very fertile mind and can really dream or rather really hallucinate.

In my view, these attacks on the NPP Ministers are totally misplaced and misdirected. These editors especially Kwesi Pratt and Ebert Faibille were being extremely disingenuous and unfair to the Ministers. Such blatant twisting of what the Ministers said and the spin on the implications were remarkably far-fetched, illogical and preposterous. I believe these Ministers are capable of stating their opinions on coups without any equivocation rather than leaving it to any logical deduction and speculation if they wanted to. They could have just said coups are justified. But since they did not say that, it is wrong and deceptive for anyone to put words into their mouths or attempt to make deductions, draw conclusions and attribute it to them.

Dr Nkrumah led Ghana to political independence from Britain in 1957 and became Ghana’s first president, serving until 1966, when he was toppled by a military junta. That is a fact. He was overthrown by the military. That is stating the obvious.

The people of Fiaxor decided that they will honour their son for his illustrious career and distinguished service in the Army and also for his role in the overthrow of the Kwame Nkrumah regime. Someone tell me what was wrong with that? Boris Yeltsin died this week. If in 40 years his folks decide to honour him for his services to Russia and for his career, what will be wrong with that? Honouring sons and daughters of an ethnic community, town or city is something that takes place in the world all the time. This is not novel to the people of Fiaxor.

Ministers of state of the current regime were invited to attend the durbar of the chief and people of Fiaxor, where they addressed the durbar. In their various speeches, these Ministers reiterated the reasons for the durbar and then commended the people for their efforts in honouring their son – for his distinguished service in the army and for his role in the 1966 coup and the NLC until he was untimely killed on 17th April 1967 in an abortive coup. They also extolled the virtues in the man, Kotoka, and praised him for his contribution to the political history of Ghana. Can someone dispute the fact that Lt Gen E,K Kotoka had a distinguished military career? Don’t forget that this man was not only a soldier but also a teacher, a blacksmith and then for a year or so a member of the NLC.

Now can someone explain to me, what was wrong or where did these Ministers transgress? Should they have refused to honour the invitation or should they have not stated their views on the political history of Ghana and state their views on the role Lt Gen Kotoka played in the political history of Ghana? Does Kotoka not have any place at all in the annals of Ghanaian political history? Facts are facts although opinion is free. And again and more importantly, facts are sacred and it is important for our leaders to tell it as it is.

In my view the Ministers did not, by what they said as reported in an earlier news item, in any way shape or form try to justify coups. However, if these journalists want a serious debate on coups, whether there are ‘good’ coups or ‘bad’ coups then I am happy to do so. However, they should not introduce the debate in such a circuitous, convoluted and unprofessional manner. That must be totally separate from the issue of Anlos honouring their son, Gen Kotoka and then creating a platform to malign some Ministers and the NPP in the process. That is cheap and playing roulette with our history.

If these Editors have any problem, it should not be with the Ministers but they should rather be directing their frustrations to the people of Fiaxor. They were the people who organised the event and not the Ministers or the NPP. These editors should go and tell them as Kwesi Pratt puts it ‘Kotoka was a complete disaster’. In fact he should be given a platform to go and teach them that Kotoka was an imperialist agent and therefore does not deserve any honours, even in his home. He can then add if I am allowed to stretch my imagination as these editors did, to inform them that it will be better for them to honour him, Pratt, instead since he is the beacon of democracy and without him they were likely to remain ignorant, brutish and misguided.

In fact, these so -called Nkrumahist I will advice, must go read what Nkrumah had to say on journalist. In one of his famous writing Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for De-Colonisation this is what Dr Nkrumah had to say:

"The history of a nation is, unfortunately, too easily written as the history of its dominant class’( i.e. what Ministers say, what doctors say, what chiefs say etc sic )and he went on to say ‘ the connection between an ideological standpoint and the writing of history is a perennial one. A check on the work of the great historians, including Herodotus and Thucydides, quickly exposes their passionate concern with ideology. Their irresistible moral, political and sociological comments are particular manifestations of more general ideological standpoints. "

So be advised the Pratts and the Eberts and Baakos of this world, try to write about our people, what the people think and stop bashing personalities. That is too easy an option. That is no way of positioning and championing an ideology – says Nkrumah. Take the people of Fiaxor on and leave Hon Kwame Osei-Prempeh and Hon Kofi Dzamesi alone. They went to Fiaxor to fraternise and work in solidarity with the people of Fiaxor and we must be grateful to them for that. If these Editors are serious about debunking anything they think the Ministers have said, then I will reiterate again that they go to Fiaxor and tell them and stop littering the world with their illogical analysis.

On the issues of coups, suffice it is for me to say for now to refer to what Kwame Nkrumah had to say on the military in politics. He was in doubt that that there was a case for military intervention in politics, albeit their involvement must be transient and transitional as they must quickly arrange an election to restore democracy if it was ever necessary for a military intervention in politics.

Was Lt Gen E.K Kotoka therefore just taking a leaf out of Nkrumah’s book? I wonder. For some reason, I do not think so but isn’t that rather very interesting indeed?

Again, if these Editors think that the 1966 coup was not justified then they must start looking at the track record of the Nkrumah regime. A track record shared by ordinary Ghanaians as demonstrated in 1966, when he was overthrown by a military coup - Ghanaians danced in the streets, burning his effigies, tearing down formal photographs of Nkrumah from offices and billboards when they heard that the myth has been broken and Nkrumah has been thrown out of office

Nkrumah was vital in the independence movement and became, on behalf of Ghana, the symbol of emergent Africa. By 1966, however, he has become ambitious, built a cult of personality and ruthlessly used the powers invested in him by his own constitution. He developed a strange love for absolute power and declared Ghana a one party state and himself the Life President. Tell me what the succession plan was? Mr. Editors. And where was this plan? – Was it in some document, or in one person’s head? - Some determinate human superior. I understand Kweku always has documents to buttress his points so he might as well show me one. Kwame Nkrumah’s legacy in history is an uneasy dichotomy. On the one hand, he was a hero of African nationalism; on the other, he was one of Africa’s first postcolonial dictators.

In conclusion, I must add that Nkrumah track record, in my view, does not take out the fact that today Nkrumah is still one of the most respected leaders in African history or even world history. Indeed in 2000, when he was voted Africa's man of the millennium by listeners to the BBC World Service, I gladly participated in the poll and I was happy with the outcome.

But then what has that got to do with the people of Fiaxor or what NPP Ministers said to commemorate the honouring their son Lt Gen E K Kotoka? The people just want to honour their son who served Ghana well and in whom they are proud of. Is that too difficult a view for some to respect?

Gentlemen, just back off

Marlon Anipa is an ardent follower of political and social developments in Ghana.

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