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Opinions of Friday, 25 July 2008

Columnist: Nelson, Ekow

Feeble defence of a visionless party

Rather than demonstrate that, contrary to Dr. Nii Moi Thompson’s earlier claim that the N.P.P. suffered from a "poverty of vision", it was indeed forward-looking and aspirational, Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe chose to remind readers ("CPP Has Absolutely No Vision for Ghana!!!" published on on 15th July, 2008) that the first C.P.P. government also employed the services of foreigners and foreign corporations and in the process, he failed to live up to the promise of his article’s title.

Like his beloved N.P.P., Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe failed to deliver; instead we were reminded that Kwame Nkrumah’s personal secretary (Erica Powell) and his first Attorney-General, Sir Geoffrey Bing QC were British; as was Major-General Henry Templer Alexander the Chief of Defence of Staff of the Ghana Army from 1960-1961. Incidentally, the author, who likes to parade himself as an authority on the postcolonial history of Ghana, does not appear to know that the highest rank Alexander achieved in the army was Major-General; he was never "Lt.-Gen." as the good Associate Professor suggested. But of course these are small matters of historical detail that cannot be allowed to get in the way of Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe’s mission.

Our resident Associate Professor on Ghanaweb and Modernghana took umbrage at Dr. Thompson’s rather accurate summation of the state of our nation: that we have all but given up on running anything for ourselves; but instead of a forward-looking riposte to demonstrate that President J.A. Kufour and his henchmen are the most visionary leaders Ghana has ever had, we were fed with the rather feeble line that, in effect, nothing much had changed since Nkrumah. Even if the piece was not meant as a defence of the N.P.P. it failed to demonstrate, as the title suggested, that the C.P.P. had "absolutely no vision for Ghana".

Since the good Associate Professor sought to impugn the integrity of the first C.P.P. government, I thought it would be useful to share with your readers, in defence of the most successful government Ghana has ever had, the address by the former Gold Coast Trade Commissioner, Mr. TM Kodwo Mercer in October 1955 (a) to advance the discussion and (b) to repudiate the self-indulgent attempt by Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe to rewrite Ghana’s postcolonial history.

[start of address]

The Gold Coast Development Programme

Author: T. M. Kodwo Mercer

The programme is the expression of the age-long will of the people: the will to raise their standard of living in health and housing; in food and water; in enlightenment and education; and to support this programme by improvements in agriculture and industry and trade.

This will was strengthened with the birth of nationalism in the early nineteenth century and was a focal point in the aims of all important movements: the Fanti Confederation in the middle l9th century; the Gold Coast Aborigines Society in the late l9th century; the National Congress of British West Africa in the early 1920s, the Gold Coast Youth Conference in the 1930s; the United Gold Coast Convention and the Convention People's Party in the 1940s.

This was the will of generations of people extending over a century, expressed with such crystal clearness that when the opportunity came with the general elections in 1951, the Government was able at once to draw up a bold and ambitious programme for total development. Here was an opportunity which released the banked-up energies of the people to fulfil some of their dreams - not only of self-government, but of a fuller and better way of living. So vitally important was this step that the Prime Minister, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, created a Portfolio of Development and, for the last four years, has himself been responsible for Development until, a few months ago, he assigned this task to his second-in-command, the Minister of State, the Hon. Kojo Botsio.

The programme itself is a formidable and impressive list of projects of almost every conceivable kind- ranging from water boreholes in the countryside or rural areas to the development of a university college; from housing estates to free, universal primary education; from feeder roads to a new port and harbour.

It plans for better rural and urban housing; free primary education, the development of a university college and technical institutes; the improvement of health with the expansion of medical services and a better scheme for the provision of food for the towns and water for the outlying villages. Communications are to be improved by telephones and underground cables; transport by the construction of new major roads and feeder roads, and the possibility of a railway to the Northern Territories is already envisaged. In agriculture the plan aims at modernising and diversifying crops; and, in industry, it aims at general expansion.

The developments were to foreshadow a new age of progress of a golden age of art and a fuller life; of industry and commerce; of science and learning; of the regeneration of a Ghana which prefers "self-government with danger to servitude in tranquillity."

It was in this spirit that the Speech from the Throne (the Governor's address) announced to the House "that the Draft 1951-52 Estimates . . . are designed to be carried out as rapidly as the available resources of technical staff, labour, materials, equipment and port capacity permit."

The estimates called for the expenditure in five years, from 1951 to 1956, of £80 million. This was later revised to £108 million owing to increases in costs, and to additional projects. How this was total divided up?

In the first stages of expansion the meagreness of services and communications by road, rail, sea and air, and a shortage of water and electricity, was a big handicap. The provision, therefore, of communications and services was given first priority; so was the provision of an adequately educated and trained labour force, and a healthy community. These priorities are reflected in the way in which monies have been allocated.

In this picture education (and with it other social services), in which field Christian churches had made a substantial and significant contribution, often on their own, is given the pride of place which Dr. Aggrey's countrymen and Dr. Nkrumah's Government cherish.

Development is being financed mainly from internal sources, which are mostly Export Duty and Income Tax, the former being by far the more important at the moment. The export duty on cocoa has enabled the Government in the last few years to set by the present amounts which are being devoted to developments.

What progress, so far, has been made? In the supply of the main source of power electricity, output has increased by over 60 per cent. (from 32,000 kilowatts to 51,000 kilowatts).

Of major roads, over 800 miles have been built, in addition to over 700 miles re-surfaced. These first-class roads include the long stretches from Accra to Kumasi and from Kumasi to Tamale. They also include a new coastal road which visitors say compares favourably with any that man ever built, and which has been styled the "Gold Coast autobahn." In the same period, the number of new motor vehicles has increased fourfold.

The scale of the effect of these developments in internal transport in the Gold Coast may be likened, I suggest, to the impact which would be made on Londoners by doubling the number of motor vehicles in Greater London. Of railways, over 50 miles have been newly-built or re-aligned; of over- head telephones and underground cables over 400 miles have been added and telephone capacity has increased threefold.

Of ports, we see considerably increased capacity and up-to-date facilities at Takoradi and the progress of work on the new harbour of Tema (costing nearly £8 million). In the interests of health 24 hospitals had been newly completed or extended by the beginning of this year; extensions and facilities are being developed at Korle Bu to support a faculty of medicine which is to be founded in the University College at Achimota. And there is rising in Kumasi what promises to be the most up-to-date hospital in all the twenty different countries in West Africa, from Maurentania to the Cameroons.

But with housing the Gold Coast seems to have caught a tartar! Here there have been mistakes and difficulties; but no stone is being left unturned, and consideration is being given to the report of a United Nations Technical Assistance Committee, as well as studies by an official of the Building Societies Association. The Gold Coast is likely to send in the very near future a Gold Coast team to Puerto Rico, the scene of joint United States and Puerto Rican enterprise, to study devices which are reputed to have dealt successfully with the hydra-headed problem in an under-developed territory.

And now with regard to education, the archstone an Accelerated Development Plan, announced in 1951 the earnestness of the Government. The main programme included the rapid expansion of facilities at all levels. At the top, special grants to the University College and the Kumasi College of Technology guaranteed their financial strength, and underlined academic independence. Today, additional arrangements are being made to assure their greater future. At the base, a determined administration, with the support of the teaching profession, set out to provide a measure of education for every child of school-leaving age-and not merely for a proportion of the children. It was the policy of the Government to build up as rapidly as possible facilities for sound, primary education throughout the Gold Coast and to encourage every parent to ensure that his children benefited from them. Today, after four years, a large proportion of children between the ages of six and ten are at primary schools. The middle school attendance of children has doubled.

The output of trained teachers has also nearly doubled; secondary school pupils have increased threefold, and many of the scholars are now doing advanced work. Technical institutes and colleges complete the scene. This is the picture as seen by a specialist who visited the Gold Coast last year. Dr. Jeffreys of the London University Institute of Education reported that "in the whole history of education I cannot think of any other country which can match this record of three and half years." However, there are a few problems, the most difficult being an acute shortage of trained teachers.

In agriculture we have taken steps to persuade, and to work with, our farmers in measures for the control of plant diseases, particularly swollen shoot, which afflicts cocoa. In this connection 40 million trees have been cut down and about 1 million are treated monthly. This treatment is followed by energetic rehabilitation, for which grants of millions of pounds are made to farmers to replace diseased trees. In the current year £1 million have been voted for the purpose. In agriculture, again, research-the faithful handmaiden of correct advance - receives increased and deserved attention. Over £I4 millions have been granted to the West African Cocoa Research Institute to promote its activities for nearly the next 20 years. From fruitful research new types of heavy-bearing varieties have been obtained, and about 2 millions will be distributed for planting this year to farmers. The control of capsid and black pod goes on apace and, together with the extension of cultivation in newer areas, promises to increase the total output of cocoa.

A National Food Board advises on the means of better and more production, and feeder roads are linking the main food producing area to the main roads and centres of population.

With regard to industry, pioneering steps have been taken through the Industrial Development Corporation in the manufacture of bricks and tiles, matches, cassava products, timber and furniture-to mention only some of the products. A capital of £4 million is guaranteed to the corporation by the Government as a sign of its confidence in smaller industries and as a fresh beacon light to private investors.

Income tax encourages pioneer industries and ample constitutional safeguards exist for the security of the overseas investor. Public utilities and services expand to facilitate the growth and development of private industry. In this connection, I wholeheartedly endorse the invitation and the challenge which Lord Chandos gave at the New Commonwealth Luncheon a few weeks ago. The Commonwealth awaits further development; world demand is keen; the conditions in overseas territories are very favourable; certainly there are less[fewer?] risks today than there were in our grandfathers' time. It is the presence of these and other favourable conditions which have made the Gold Coast Development Programme work.

The successes which the Programme has achieved are due in very large measure to the will of the people. I have mentioned this at the beginning of my address. Another important fact is the ready understanding with which adjustments were made after the general elections of 1951. As if overnight, the rulers became advisers and servants, and the agitators took over the new role of responsible administration. Credit, full credit, goes to the senior officials who maintained their equanimity while they were being tried by both extremes of fortune. These officials did more. They worked, the majority and the important ones among them, loyally and faithfully with, and for, the new African Government headed by Dr. Nkrumah. It is an example of these happy relations and mutual respect that Sir Reginald Saloway, a former Chief Secretary, Ministers of Defence and External Affairs, who on several occasions acted as Governor of the Gold Coast, today presides over this meeting to support a man who was four years ago one of his severest critics. Such is the wonderful measure of the present co-operation among officials and nationalists, and among all the races.

The Gold Coast Development Programme, a dramatic expression of the will of the Gold Coast people, is also the joint achievement of several races and interests. It is an all-round effort for material and social progress in which the friendly spirit of the people; their virtues, indigenous as well as those learnt from Christian missions; the confidence and active participation of commercial interests-all combine under Dr. Nkrumah's Government to produce a delightful melody.

The address was given by Mr. T. M. Kodwo Mercer, Commissioner for the Gold Coast, at a joint meeting of the Royal African and Royal Empire Societies on October 27th 1955. Sir Reginald Saloway, K. B. E., C.M. G., (former Colonial Secretary) was in the chair. Source: African Affairs, Vol. 55, No. 218, (Jan., 1956), pp. 27-32 Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Royal African Society).

[end of address]

The vision and programme set out in Mercer’s speech above is unmatched by anything we have seen from the N.P.P. and that was the central thrust of Dr. Thompson’s argument which sadly eluded the good Associate Professor. It also lays to rest the canard that private enterprise was not encouraged under the C.P.P. No doubt we will be fed that old tripe that all of this was possible because Nkrumah’s government inherited ‘loads of money’ from the British which although false, overlooks the obvious fact that while finance makes the realization of a vision possible, one does not need bucket loads of money to have a vision.

Of course, I accept that I have not demonstrated either that the current C.P.P. has a vision for Ghana, but that was not my mission: it was important to first demonstrate that contrary to Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe’s protestations, the C.P.P. did not only employ some talented foreigners to help rebuild our country, it had also had a vision and a well-thought-out programme for advancing our development and progress. Now, we only have to wait for the unveiling of the CPP’s 2008 manifesto to judge for ourselves whether or not it has a vision for Ghana going forward.

Ekow Nelson

July 21st 2008. London