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Opinions of Monday, 9 February 2015

Columnist: Amuna, Paul

Kwame Nkrumah’s Take on “Bringing Unity to Ghana”

Paul Amuna

Over the last few weeks we have heard a lot about JB Danquah and his undoubted role in our nationhood. We have also read “excerpt” of letters he wrote to the Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, president of the Republic during his detention in 1962 and prior to his unfortunate death on 4th February 0f that year.

These happenings have provoked a lot of sentiment and generated a lot of ‘online insults’ and counter insults from the usual protagonists. In the mist that has clouded these historical landmarks, I have observed genuine concerted efforts to present the truth, efforts to whip up emotions and apportion blame at the corridors of government and indeed accusations (and attempts even to forgive) levelled at Nkrumah (and his family despite the cardinal principle that when it comes to family, politics should stay clear). I have also noticed a lot of misrepresentation of historical facts for which various people have tried (mostly in vein) to correct amidst the usual reciprocal rhetorical insults.

Hmmmm, Hmmmm, without wishing to add to it, may I simply and humbly clarify and set the record straight that it was NOT Joseph Boakye Danquah who proposed the name Ghana for our nation, but in fact, Kwame Nkrumah. Apparently the two had had discussions about this, and JB decided to go do his own search and this is what the World Biographical Encyclopedia has listed under JB Danquah in respect of this claim: "His historical research led him to agree with Dr Kwame Nkrumah's proposition that on independence the Gold Coast be renamed Ghana after the early African empire of that name" (Source: Joseph B. Danquah", Encyclopaedia of World Biography). I hope we can all lay this one to rest once and for all and I also hope for historical records, if this is to be taught to children in our schools, that the correct claims can be made.

That said, I agree wholeheartedly with all those commentators out there such as kk who have rightly pointed out that the so-called “Big Six” as part of their deliberations about moving forward must have been discussing what to call ourselves and surely, they all must have had a hand in what in the end, we came to call ourselves. Isn’t that a much better narrative than all the claims and counter claims?

Now, in respect of all the arguments about the prevention detention act (PDA), the merits or otherwise of Danquah’s detention (along with others), letters to the president and his apparent insensitivity to Danquah’s concerns and Nkrumah’s “Dictatorial tendencies” and “wickedness”, I feel it is unfair to only have a one-sided view and so have dug up something from the ‘horse’ own mouth’. I have taken this from Chapter Four of “Africa Must Unite” by Kwame Nkrumah, first published in 1963. Because of the length of the chapter, I will hope to present this in instalments as follows:

Chapter Four: Bringing Peace to Ghana (By Kwame Nkrumah) “The resounding victory of the CPP at the 1956 polls so weakened the opposition that they decided to assert themselves outside the democratic framework. Their agitation in Ashanti, in the Northern Region and in Togoland, had already led to serious clashes, often developing into armed violence, in which some C.P.P. workers were actually murdered. As our independence dawned, we were placed in the anomalous position of having to send the forces of law into now free Togoland to quell armed disturbances. These outbreaks were fomented with the purpose of discrediting me and my government. They gave the impression that we were not in control of the country, that we were not a popular government, that there was widespread discontent.

In a country just emerging from colonial rule, there are many ills to right, many problems to solve. Time and money and expert knowledge are required to deal with them. The end of the colonial administration in /Ghana left us, moreover, with a low level of education among the bulk of our people, and no system of universal education. Such a public is easy prey for unscrupulous politicians. It is amenable to demagogic appeals and readily exploitable by eloquence that arouses emotions rather than reason. It was not difficult for the opposition in these conditions to discover grounds of dissatisfaction in which to plant and water the seeds of resentment and grievance. In Accra, they worked upon the tribal feelings of the Ga people and related them to shortage of housing. They encouraged the formation of the Ga Shifimo Kpee, a strictly tribal organization, in our capital that was fast becoming cosmopolitan: they fomented separatism in Ashanti and dissension in the North. They tried to demonstrate to the world that they, the opposition, had been right in insisting that we were not ripe for independence.

Ghana was the cynosure of all eyes, friendly and unfriendly. The world’s press was represented in our capital, and what they missed the opposition filled in for them with their own explanations. No occasion, no event, was too small to exploit in order to discredit both Ghana and the government before the world and reduce the prestige which our struggle and attainment of freedom had won for Ghana. Not often, surely, has an opposition been so active in sacrificing the interests of its country to serve its own ends in disrupting the essential national unity.

I saw the state as being undermined, its independence in danger of destruction, all in the name of democracy and freedom of expression. Our opposition used the press as a forum in a way that it had not been used in Europe, to vilify and attack us as a means of destroying our young state. To have served writs upon them for libel would have kept us busy in the courts to the exclusion of our proper duties. Though under extreme pressure from my party, I was still hesitant to take action. Having placed our faith in the working of a liberal democracy, I ardently desired to give it every chance, even at the risk of some abuse to which I knew it was open, especially in the absence of a legal code such as operated in the United Kingdom but had not been applied to the archaic laws of the Gold Coast. We were finding that an administrative and legal pattern under which a colonial regime could contrive to maintain itself required constant piecemeal adaptation to deal with the very different problems of our need to bring order and unity within a democratic framework to establish a base for our national development.

Our toleration of the disruptive excesses of the opposition was accepted not as an expression of good faith in the democratic process but as a mark of weakness, and stimulated them to ever bolder action. The disinclination to take salutary measures was also being understood abroad, where it was being regarded as a trial of strength between us, the lawfully constituted government, and the subversive non-governmental elements. We watched the antics of the foreign press with misgiving. It seemed the overseas critics were intent upon destroying us before were ever got started. Nothing was too small to be twisted as evidence in misrepresenting the strength and quality of my government or to support the fiction of the growing strength of the opposition.

In times of national emergency, the Western democracies have been compelled to limit their citizens’ freedom. We were facing a time of national emergency. We were engaged in a kind of war, a war against property and disease, against ignorance, against tribalism and disunity. We were fighting to construct, not destroy. We needed to secure the conditions which would allow us to pursue our policy of reconstruction and development.” ………………

I hope to continue on this chapter and hopefully allow readers to make up their own minds as to the undercurrents, antecedents leading to some of the decisions taken at the time by the CPP government, including the PDA and Nkrumah’s own take on the issue. At this stage, I do not wish to make any other comments or give my own impressions, but will do so in due course. All I can say is that if we truly wish to know the truth about our recent political history, all these wonderful leaders who started working together for our national liberation and the fall out which led to the divisions which remain today, we need to be open, objective and fair minded.

To be continued……