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Opinions of Monday, 21 April 2008

Columnist: Nelson, Ekow

Likening Nkrumah to Hitler: the ignorant effusions of a Danquah-cult worshiper

A day after I submitted a rejoinder to his article and declared my agreement with him on the P/NDC's achievements, Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr. volleyed another shot in the direction of Nkrumah describing him, not for the first time, as Hitler incarnate ("If Danquah was a CIA Operative, then Nkrumah was Hitler Incarnate", Feature Article, Ghanaweb, April 10, 2008). Although the comparison with Hitler was given pride of place in the title of the piece, it was rather incidental to the article itself and it was clearly designed to provoke and offend.

The article itself was riddled with inaccuracies and the self-serving arguments of a latter-day convert to the cult of Danquah-worship. I say latter-day because, although Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe singles out the Young Pioneer Movement as evidence of Nkruma's admiration for Hitler, as recently as May 2005, he described Nkrumah's YPM, of which he was a member, as "a civic organization which inculcated a positive sense of national identity in its members". He went on to praise the YPM for its contribution to the reduction of "the unsavory spate of ethnocentrism ? or tribalism ? in our country". He wrote: "Indeed, it is to the Osagyefo's great credit that one often hears Ghanaians, as well as many other non-Ghanaian Africans, remark on the fact that the sort of intense and near-pathological tribalism that is routinely alleged to prevail in Nigeria, for instance, does not exist in Ghana. And to a remarkable extent, this may explain why so far our beloved country has been spared the sort of bestial mayhem raging through such countries as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, Congo-Kinshasa, Uganda, the Sudan and Rwanda". He concluded that, far from attributing the "relatively tranquil Ghanaian situation to our purportedly compact ethnic affinities, President Nkrumah's unitary ideological approach to post-colonial Ghanaian politics massively contributed to the relatively more sophisticated Ghanaian national consciousness". Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe's full piece is available at http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/artikel.php?ID=81259

The nagging question for me, however, is this article was written in 2005, some fifty years after World War II ended and I wonder why in all that time, Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., did not recognise Dr. Nkrumah as a "worshipper at the Third-Reichian" shrine of Germany's Chancellor Adolf Hitler" and continued to be a believer until recently. No new facts have emerged and nothing has changed except for the over-zealous display of loyalty by a new convert to a new cult 'the cult of Dr. Danquah' perhaps?

As we have come to expect UP sympathisers demand very high-standards of proof for any charges many against their leaders but believe they are free and justified to make outrageous and deeply offensive comparisons between Nkrumah and Hitler with no compunction. Not only are blithe epithets such as Nkrumah was Hitler incarnate, offensive to Nkrumaists and Ghanaians, they show little sensitivity toward the victims of Hitler's Nazi policies and direct action, which without doubt, represent one of the most heinous crimes against humanity the modern world has ever seen.

Before I deal with that though, let me clear the air on a number of self-serving arguments Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe offered in his piece. First, in relation to Kulungugu, he tells a partial story about Ako Adjei, Tawia Adamafio and Coffie[sic] Crabbe and then moves to exonerate Obetsebi Lamptey by making inaccurate attributions to Sir Geoffrey Bing. I agree with him though that the latter's book "Reap the Whirlwind" is authoritative and I'll invite anyone who has not read it to do so. It is the best account of Nkrumah's time in government by an insider that I have ever read, riveting and hugely informative.

Back to Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe's dissembling efforts. The court that tried them - and with the passage of time most historians - agree that Ako Adjei, Tawia Adamafio and Coffie Crabbe were not responsible for Kulungugu and were framed. As Dr. Michael Gyamerah and I conceded in our article, "The Origins of Preventive Detention in Ghana" (available at http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/artikel.php?ID=110547), "with the passage of time, all honest observers of our history accept that Tawia Adamafio, Ako Adjei and Coffie Crabbe were treated unjustly". Although Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr. often loses little opportunity to quote from sources like Dennis Austin, this time he conveniently skips the latter's assessment of who was really responsible for the bombs. Austin wrote: "[t]hat the [Kulungugu bomb] plots had been hatched in Lome and elsewhere by former opposition members, notably Obetsebi Lamptey" was clear. And, indeed Otchere [R.B.] pleaded guilty. But that Tawia Adamafio, Ako Adjei or Coffie Crabbe had anything to do with the Kulungugu attack became increasingly doubtful as the trial continued. And on 9 December [1964] all three were acquitted. No one who examined the evidence could have supposed the verdict would be otherwise. See Dennis Austin, "Politics in Ghana 1946-1960", pp 413.

Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe's claim that Sir Geoffrey Bing believed that "of all the Kulungugu suspects rounded up for interrogation and prosecution, Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey, then also gravely ill, was the least likely to have been involved" has no foundation in fact. Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe deliberately conflates Bing's sympathy for Obetsebi-Lamptey's ill-health with his opinions of his role. This is what Bing wrote in relation to Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey to demonstrate that contrary to what the opposition and their friends in the media wanted the world to believe, the government did not shirk its responsibilities toward detainees who were taken ill while in prison. He wrote: "I myself visited him [Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey] twice in hospital, where incidentally he was being visited by his relatives, and I talked with the doctors. At the time of his arrest he was suffering from an advanced stage of cancer of the liver. His death was inevitable and in no way connected with his imprisonment. Though at the time he had been charged with organising terrorist bomb outrages in which thirty persons lost their lives and some three hundred others had been seriously injured, he was placed in a private ward in the best equipped civilian hospital in Accra and had all the drugs and attention possible provided for him by the Government", Geoffrey Bing, Reap the Whirlwind, p 274-275. Specifically on his involvement in Kulungugu, Bing wrote (page 411): "Finally, at a public meeting the police succeeded in arresting a man with a grenade concealed between his legs. Investigations of his contacts revealed that Obetsebi-Lamptey, who had retuned clandestinely from Togo where he was living in exile, had supplied the grenades and recruited and paid the actual assassins". Nowhere in Bing's authoritative book does he absolve Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey.

Having dealt with Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr.'s canards, let's return to the broader but egregious charge that Nkrumah was Hitler incarnate. This is not the first time the Professor has levelled this charge nor is he the only one in the habit of making such an intellectually fatuous and lazy comparison. No doubt he will point to Nkrumah's reference (in his autobiography) to Hitler as one of the many world figures he read. If studying Hitler makes one a "servile worshipper at the Third Reichian shrine" then all GCSE history students in the United Kingdom are supporters of the Nazi party. This unthinking and lazy comparison which people trot out blithely is not only intellectually incredulous, at best it betrays an ignorance of the history of the Third Reich and at worst, it is darn right offensive and outrageous.

For the moment, I shall be charitable and assume the comparison is made out of ignorance so I will educate. I have heard some people make the comparison by pointing at two things: Hitler was a member of the German Workers Party (DAP), later the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). Nkrumah claimed to be a socialist and so they shared something in common, they argue. Secondly, the fact that Nkrumah was elected counts for nothing because after all Hitler too was elected.

Now, the Nazis belonged to the tradition of nationalist socialist parties in Europe and North America whose central ideology is racially based. Nkrumah's socialism was rooted in class-based analysis of the Marxist kind and was not influenced by racism or biological determinism of any type. Hitler, on the hand , repudiated class and in his fist speech as Chancellor on 13th February 1933 declared he would rebuild Germany "[n]ot according to the theories of class , not according to the concepts of class". In Mein Kampf (quite rightly described by Michael Burleigh as a "mythopoeia cum political philosophy") he laid bare his dislike for Marxism which he hated with as much passion as he did Jews. In fact, as he plotted his take-over of the chancellorship with Franz von Papen, he made it clear that he would remove Social Democrats, Communists and Jews from all leading positions. True to form, not long after he came to power the Social Democrats dissolved themselves, hundreds of thousands of communists were killed and millions of Jews exterminated in gas chambers from Auschwitz to Treblinka. To belittle such chilling atrocities for the purposes of cheap political point-scoring in Ghana is not only offensive, it is downright insensitive and outrageous.

As for elections, Hilter's Nazi party's best performances in elections up until 1933 were 37% and 34% in 1932 and 1933 respectively. Contrast this with Nkrumah's CPP that won 29 out the 33 seats in the first municipal elections and then 35 out of the 38 seats in the first general elections in 1951. While the German President at the time, Oskar von Hindenburg, could rightly refuse to name Hitler Chancellor even with the Nazi party's best showing before 1933, Governor Sir Charles Noble Arden Clarke could not refuse Nkrumah his rightful place as leader of the first All-African government in Ghana. In 1954 and 1956, again he won 72 and 71 out 104 seats respectively in parliament. Nkrumah's support was overwhelming securing large majorities in all major open elections.

When Hilter finally got into power, not automatically through elections as some of you would like to believe, but through backroom dealings, he moved to ban the trade unions, marriages or any sexual interaction between the so-called Aryans and Jews, who were disbarred from public life and many professions including the law, medicine and banking. Many were even barred from swimming pools and public wash houses while many others had their business confisticated. In contrast, no tribe or race was discriminated against in Nkrumah's Ghana. His ministers were a reflection of Ghanaian society, from the most educated to the average and included people from the north, east, west and south; as Bing reminds us, even the "Europeans were not expelled. Indeed more of them came to live in Ghana after Independence than before it".

If Nkrumah were Hilter incarnate, where were the concentration and extermination camps? He did not invade his neighbours as Hitler did Poland, Russia, Norway, Belgium, France, Netherlands, Yugoslavia (Serbia), Czechoslovakia, Lativa, Lithuiana, Estonia, Ukraine, Greece and Denmark among others, often in very bloody wars. Where was the equivalent of the "Reichskristallnacht" when Kofi Banda was shot by an NLM supporter from the palaces of the Ejuisuhene? Or when C.E Osei's House was bombed: or when Krobo Edusei's sister was killed and numerous assassination attempts were made on Nkrumah's life?

Hilter caused a global war which drew in innocents from as far afield as Japan and Ghana and is uniquely one of the most horrific pre-meditated mass murders the world has ever witnessed: three million Jews killed; many more millions stripped of their citizenship, deported and assets expropriated; at least 3.3m Russian captives killed in Barbarossa; hundreds of thousands of psychiatric patients deliberately eliminated after the Anschluss in the name of eugenics and euthanasia, along with gypsies and others considered sub-humans. To compare Hitler's mass industrialisation of death whose scope and barbarity the world has never seen, to Nkrumah is not only inaccurate and unscholarly, it is cheap and offensive. Shame on you Okoampa-Ahoofe! Shame!

Now, I know that with Nkrumah, the issue ultimately comes down to the Preventive Detention Act of 1958 which Dr. Gyamerah and I have written about on these pages and elsewhere and I have no intention of rehearsing the arguments. However, to demonstrate how ludicrous Okoampa-Ahoofe's comparison are, I will reference Irving Markovitz's oft-cited "Ghana without Nkrumah- The Winter Of Discontent: The abuses of preventive detention and the outlawing of opposition parties were notorious. To assert, however, that the mass of the people lived in terror would be quite wrong. The commonly accepted estimate of the number of Nkrumah's political prisoners is 1,100, and reports of individual beatings by prison guards may well be believed. On the other hand, credible evidence of systematic torture has yet to be produced, and though the old regime sentenced several people to death for participating in one of the assassination plots, no one in Ghana appears to have been executed for a political crime".

According to the "authoritative" Geoffrey Bing, "of the seven hundred and eighty-eight [788] detained persons that were released [after the coup in 1966], [some] three hundred and fifty to four hundred [350-400]" were criminal detainees "apparently let loose for the purely propaganda purpose of increasing the total number freed". However, even if figure of 1,100 detainees were accurate, does that make Nkrumah a "servile worshipper at the Third-Reichian" shrine of Germany's Chancellor Adolf Hitler's as one could say or Goebbels, Goering, Himmler or Eichmann?

When the National Liberation Council (which included many of the UP's leaders such as Victor Owusu who was its Attorney-General) overthrew the Nkrumah's government, it replaced the Preventive Detention Act and with the Preventive Custody Decree which differed in two respects from the PDA: detainees could make no appeal and there was no requirement to inform them as to why they were being arrested. According to the "authoritative" Bing, "[b]y September 1967 there were over twice as many political prisoners held in Preventive Custody Decree than had been in preventive detention". Not only were many of those arrested in Preventive Custody later debarred from contesting for high office as the Jews in Hilter's Germany were, they were also forbidden from using party name and symbol for two generations. Subsequently, Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe's new-found heroes made it a criminal offence to display any image of Nkrumah and they proceeded, as Hitler had done, to dissolve the Trades Unions. At this point, I can see the very people who enjoyed Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe's asinine likening of Hitler with Nkrumah foaming at their mouths with rage at me, for daring to suggest that, if one looks hard enough it is not difficult to come with comparisons that can be offensive to your political opponent.

Let's get serious. Nobody has suggested Nkrumah was beyond reproach and that he did no wrong. Indeed I have conceded just as much in respect of the Ako Adjei et al on Kulungugu. We can debate the justification or otherwise of the PDA as Dr. Gyamerah and I have sought to do over the years, but these hyperbolic comparisons do not advance our understanding or knowledge; they are outrageous and have no place in scholarship for serious-minded historians. But of course, when latter-day Danquah-cult worshipers and poseurs like Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr. play historians what else can we expect?

Ekow Nelson, London

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