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Opinions of Saturday, 21 January 2017

Columnist: Daily Guide

Nkrumah’s Young Pioneers: Villains or Angels?

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah Dr. Kwame Nkrumah

One of the features of the newly independent Ghana was the Ghana Young Pioneers, a body of youth which connoted varying impressions among different strands of Ghanaians.

While some Ghanaians considered them as a bunch of godless youth President Kwame Nkrumah was using to entrench his position and to help in gathering intelligence information even from the bedrooms of parents, others thought otherwise.

The latter school of thought, the Nkrumahists and adherents of the ideals of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) thought the hatred for the Young Pioneers was derived from the disdain for President Kwame Nkrumah and his party.

The man who played a critical, if you like, a yeoman’s role in the nurturing of the Ghana Young Pioneers was the late Zuberu Baba Shaddow, an Accra Zongo person.

I do recall the smart turnout, grayish khaki and the red, white and green scarf used around their necks by members of the Ghana Young Pioneers. They were dreaded because not too long before the ousting of Kwame Nkrumah in the 24th February 1966 coup, many saw them as eavesdropping into conversations and relating same, should there be aspects which were unfavourable or uncharitable to the Nkrumah or CPP regime to the authorities. With the Prevention Detention Act in full swing, such a report could lead to indefinite incarceration without an option of a trial in a court of competent jurisdiction.

In my treatment of the Ghana Young Pioneers, I have found it valuable the publication of the late Tawia Adamafio, one of the confidantes of President Kwame Nkrumah, titled “By Nkrumah’s Side-The Labour and the Wounds”. I would quote copiously from this publication to buttress my points.

It is interesting to note that this man who was so close to the President, as aforementioned, was one of the persons ending up in prison having been accused of plotting to have Kwame Nkrumah assassinated; something he vehemently denied. Freedom dawned on him only after the 1966 putsch.

The idea of establishing a youth movement was borrowed from Europe – idea picked during the travels of Kwame Nkrumah to these parts of the world.

He decided subsequently to replicate this in the country with a view to inculcating through it a critical nationalistic spirit, discipline and those attributes needed in moving a nascent country towards prosperity.

Very soon, the Boys Scout Movement was overshadowed by the Young Pioneers in terms of leverage.

“During the President’s visit to Eastern Europe, one of the most impressive lessons we learnt was the organization of the youth. Everywhere we went, particularly in the Soviet Union, this was very much in evidence. The youth were so organized that at every function attended by us, they were present either as guards or servers” – Tawia Adamafio.

Mr. Zubeiru Baba Shardow who was trained in Europe and Israel in youth organization, according to Tawia Adamafio, was the man upon whom the task of establishing the youth movement fell as National Organiser. He was supported by B.A. Quarcoo as deputy national organiser.

Before long, the flame of the Young Pioneer Movement was all over the country as school children trooped to join. They drilled with military precision and imbibed the regimented discipline.

The membership swelled because the CPP demanded that all schools create branches: the members learnt politics, drama and culture. Some of them were sent abroad to learn important trades which they put to good use upon return.

Tawia Adamafio said “a keen sense of national pride and patriotism grew in the Ghana Young Pioneers and their loyalty to the Party was remarkable indeed. Soon our enemies were up in arms against the Ghana Young Pioneers who were castigated as godless and immoral and they were accused of spying on their parents for the CPP. These baseless accusations served to achieve one purpose: many persons became unreasonably afraid of the Ghana Young Pioneers and the Youth of the movement were unnecessarily feared as a result.”

Tawia Adamafio was the man who gave the full backing to the movement because according to him he saw in it great prospects for the country.

“I gave full support to the organization not only because their leader was my personal friend, but particularly because in the Ghana Young Pioneers, I saw a bright future for our country. The National Youth were learning discipline without which no nation in the world could make any meaningful progress,” said Adamafio.

The idea was to prepare the youth for among other assignments party work.

It is interesting that even in those days of our independence, corruption was an issue referred to in discourses as evidenced in the following from Tawia Adamafio “I had great hopes for the Ghana Young Pioneers as future leaders of our party. Stepping into our shoes and crushing successfully the bribery and corruption monster and ridding this country of the evils of nepotism, favouritism, tribalism and all other forms of vicious ‘isms’ plaguing this beautiful land of Ghana.”

It was clear that any open opposition or criticism of the Ghana Young Pioneers would be met with the wrath of the President or his assigns. This was manifested in what happened to an Anglican priest who criticized it. He was deported for his effrontery and only returned after the overthrow of the Nkrumah government.

Tawia Adamafio recalls in his book “An Anglican Bishop criticized us and called the Ghana Young Pioneers ‘godless’. We ordered his deportation immediately. His conduct, in my considered opinion, was outrageous and would start a dangerous trend in our relations with the church. In all our struggle, we had avoided any ill feeling for the Church and the relations between Church and the State had been quite cordial. Now this Bishop was setting a new pattern which, if we allowed, might bring serious conflict between the church and state. I thought that, that should be avoided at all costs and we ordered the man’s deportation.”

The Bishop was later allowed to return after the fall of Tawia Adamafio; something which hurt the latter who by this development was presented as being solely responsible for the deportation order. “This is not surprising seeing that when I was incarcerated, the order was given by the Party leadership to destroy me and all the evil deeds of the Convention People’s Party were heaped upon my head!”

The Ghana Young Pioneer, he nonetheless acknowledged, waxed stronger until the coup which ousted the Nkrumah regime led to its subsequent abolishment.