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Opinions of Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Columnist: Atta-Boakye, Ken

Of Nkrumah’s Political Ideologies: Communism, Socialism, Nkrumaism

Were these the right choices?

Typical politicians are identified by their political ideologies and Dr Kwame Nkrumah was no exception. Ideologies were Nkruma’s political weapon. He believed in political ideologies so much so that as the Prime Minister and later the President of Ghana, he transformed the political landscape of Ghana into ideological concepts. By the same token he established the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute to teach his ideologies of Communism, Socialism, and Nkrumaism. As a firebrand President and a transformational leader chances were he would lead Ghana to an untold and unimaginable success. He made his ideologies a blueprint in schools, colleges, market places, workplaces and everywhere two or three Ghanaians met.

On the platform of socialism he established many State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s). The state was made the legitimate owner and the distribution network of all goods and services. All these were in conformity with socialism. Also there was the feeling that Ghana was drifting to pure communism: state ownership of property. The traces of communism were everywhere on the walls. Private investments and ownership of property were discouraged and discarded. Those that were doing well were nationalized into state property. Nkrumah was set to forge ahead with his elaborate plans of communism, socialism, and Nkrumaism.

Communism is totalitarian so Nkrumah became a dictator and adopted repressive and suppressive tactics that were unacceptable to the opposition. Thus Ghana became politically unstable. These unacceptable ideologies to the opposition, laid a weak political and insecure economic foundation for Ghana. Communism did not help the Soviet Union, Russians, thus they have converted to privatization. Nations practicing pure communism haven’t demonstrated any phenomenal success, so were communism, socialism and Nkrumaism the right choices?

Nkrumaism: In this context, Nkrumaism is defined as the beliefs, practices, policies and ideologies of Nkrumah. For instance, the best Nkrumaism that comes to memory was the Town Development Committee (TDC) strategy that was employed under local government administration to develop the countryside in collaboration with the Odikro’s input. Nkrumah had direct impact on the people and in the community as the TDC was fully empowered to govern the villages through communal labor. Failure to attend communal labor was met with the full rigors of the law. Once a week the people attended communal labor to keep the village clean and made the people responsible for their own sanitation. It was well organized and at the district level the District Chief Executive (DCE) provided the people with materials for their development projects. I look back to those days and realize it could be re-visited by any successive government. But Communism and socialism, on the other hand, could not stand the test of time though.

Communist Nations. Currently some of the nations practicing communism include Cuba, North Korea, China, and other Asian countries. Gaddafi of Libya, saw the mess of communism and partially backed off. Castro continues to experiment with communism and the Cubans are migrating to other countries especially, the US where there is an alternative form of government that guarantees security and the success of the individual. North Korea has been listed as one of the Axis of Evil, a nation that challenges the collective decision of the United Nations Organization. The citizens of Asian nations experimenting with communism migrate to Western democracies to apply for political asylum. It implies communism might not be acceptable.

The only successful communist nation is China. But let’s be honest here: Hongkong was under British colony for more than a century. It was quite recently that they asserted their independence. Along their own political ideologies the British laid the right infrastructural takeoff for them. They did not RUSH for independence and their leaders did not have personal ambitions for their personal agenda. Though China has repressive leaders as a communist nation they still practice a kind of impressive democracy. They have the best judicial court system in the world. People in the communities are called upon to testify in a case before judgment is pronounced. They have useful and beneficial democracies that do not give upper hand to any individual leader. They are a rising star but not necessarily because they are a communist country. Their leaders are disciplined and committed to success.

Socialism in Ghana. Government or State Owned Enterprise (SOE) per se is not a bad economic policy. For administrative convenience the colonial masters created some important SOE’s to offer jobs directly to the people. For instance, the Cocoa Marketing Board and the Industrial Development Corporation provided jobs to the people. Even in the developed nations SOE’s exist in different forms as corporations. Private companies might not have huge capital to undertake infrastructural services. It is therefore appropriate for the state to get involved in the infrastructural projects to provide jobs for the people as well as develop the nation. Such is consistent with socialism. Nkrumah believed in it without question. He made that his economic ideology and plunged Ghana into it. Socialism became the engine of economic growth. Concepts like one man one house, one man one car and perhaps one man one wife became government slogans. It was very appealing to university students and they embraced it wholeheartedly not knowing they were the future leaders who would have to practice it to make it work.

Nkrumah established an enormous number of SOE’s ranging from Timber, Food, and Diamond Boards to the Black Star Shipping Line and Ghana Sanyo Electrical Manufacturing. His ambition was state industrialization so he built the Akosombo Project to power his industries. All these were good economic policies. Ghana had the resources to support them unlike today where Ghana has to go begging. It should also be stated and emphasized that Governor Guggisberg in the 1920’s, amazed at the richness of the Gold Coast (Ghana), planned the development strategy ahead of time. However, Nkrumah got so immersed in political ideologies that he did not look for the modalities to make them productive. Everything became Nkrumaism- Nkrumah is our Messiah, Nkrumah is our Leader, Nkrumah does no wrong while opposition members were languishing in prison without trial. Where enterprises are set up by the government, there should be special management fixtures and structures to make them work efficiently under strict regulations. That didn’t happen in Ghana.

After independence the boom in SOE’s really took off. Before Nkruma’s government was overthrown in 1966 it was estimated that the country had about 64 state enterprises. Honestly most of these were for political convenience but not for economic expedience, so they produced at a loss. And they were haphazardly set up. Though the beef industry was appropriately set up in the north, where cattle was grazed the tanning industry was wrongly set up at Avatime in the Volta region. This incurred transportation costs for the hides and skin (raw material) from the north. Most of the factories were run by party functionaries who used the enterprise to employ their relatives, tribesmen, friends, etc, etc, under the ideological slogans of Socialism and Nkrumaism: “Di bi na me nso ndi bi”

No doubt when the SOE’s folded they were a big time money-grabbing success for the CPP functionaries who were in management positions. It is not second-guessing that most Ghanaians today are rich as a result of the advantages their grand-parents enjoyed from these state organizations.

SOE’s were poorly organized and caused more financial losses to the nation. It was unimaginable Nkrumah was so hooked to it that he wouldn’t look for other alternative. People were placed in positions for which they were not qualified- square pegs in round holes. Employees falsified accounts to get rich overnight. Company vehicles were used for private purposes or used as commercial vehicles for drivers and their bosses. There was no internal discipline and employees behaved anyhow. They attended work with attitude and took the job for granted. As long as workers were loyal to CPP that was enough to guarantee them their job security. By and large, the economy was grinding to a halt. Concerned Ghanaians questioned the basis for socialism that turned into active partisan politics.

Traces of communism were also common with the establishment of state farms. In almost every region there was a state farm that produced a staple crop typical of the region. In Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Eastern, and Central regions, there were the Workers Brigade farms that produced cassava and corn on large scale. Most youth were employed on these farms and they were provided with uniforms, boots, radios, and accommodations for camping. Nkrumah offered these jobs to the youth without relating them to productivity. The workers brigade was the outward sign that the nation was drifting to communism. Without proper supervision, the workers were lazy and corrupt. Employees did not have a stake in the job they did. They did it anyhow and didn’t suffer any consequences. They vandalized company property and treated the property as though the property did not belong to anybody. The failure of the company was not the end of one’s job. These took place under Nkruma’s watch. The repressive political situation coupled with the bad economic policies justified the coup that toppled his administration on February 24, 1966.

Continuity of Nkruma’s Ideologies. After the 1966 coup, Ghana went through a short military regime that handed over to the Dr K A Busia constitutional government in 1969. The Busia administration was the direct opposite of the Nkrumah ideologies so the Nkrumaists did not want this regime to thrive. Thus a former student of the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute, Col Kutu Achampong, who was a high-ranking military officer, staged another coup to take over the nation to re-introduce Nkruma’s ideologies. In the first two years he did well pursuing Nkruma’s ideologies with slogans like ‘One Nation, one people, One people, one destiny’ Forward ever, Backwards never. He followed Nkruma’s education policy and improved education tremendously. Mushroom Teacher Training Colleges were converted into secondary schools to admit more secondary students. Teacher Training colleges with well equipped facilities were made to increase their intake. When he diverted his attention to socialism and established more SOE’s and gave more preferences to women that demonstrated his doom for failure.

From the Achampong’s era through to 1980 Ghana had a total of 235 state enterprises of which the government had a majority holding in 181. Let me paraphrase Herbst: ‘as commercial enterprises, most of them performed poorly all due to inefficiencies and incompetent management’ Statistics are available that between 1980 and 1982 Ghanaian public enterprises had deficits which totaled between 0.2% and 3.3% of Gross Domestic Product. In 1982 alone SOE’s received approximately 13% of total government expenditure in the form of subsidies, equity contributions and capital grants. By 1984 this figure had almost doubled to 25%. The point here is simple. During all these periods the leaders were Nkruma’s apostles: Achampong, Boakye Gyan and JJ Rawlings of AFRC, 1979, Dr Hilla Limann, 1979-81, and JJ Rawlings again, 1982. Socialism as was practiced in Ghana by the ‘Oga himself-Nkrumah’ and later by his admirers, did not help Ghana. It created confusion and greed on the part of those in position.

When JJ Rawlings assumed office again in 1982 and Castro suggested to him not to handover power, he surrounded himself with socialist-inclined leaders. Just to refresh memories these included Kwamena Ahwoi, Ato Austin, the Chikatas, P V Obeng (Obiara ba a saa) and Dr Kwesi Botchwey. Their socialism could not do the magic! They mellowed and Dr Kwesi Botchwey turned around to embraze Western concept of privatization. The nation then took a turn towards economic prosperity. Truck loads of praises were heaped on Kwesi and he became the economic guru of Ghana. Today these socialist leaders have become ‘Mercedes Benz’ driving socialists as Professor Ayittey, a prolific writer terms it. Visit East Legon and they are now ‘Property-Acquiring’ socialists with stretches of land and magnificent houses. Double standard is pervasive in Ghana politics.

Communism did not work even in the Bible. Recall how the early Christians decided to owe properties together and appointed deacons to help with the distribution to avoid murmuring amongst the disciples. Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a property that belonged to them and conspired to keep part of the sale for their own use. When Ananias came to Peter with the rest of the sale, Peter told him “You have not lied unto man but unto God” Ananias dropped dead. The wife also showed up and Peter told her those who carried your husband are yet to come in, you too will follow your husband. Sapphira dropped dead. (Acts 5:1-10) I hope readers can read between the lines. Can communism be an economic model for Ghanaians? Or do we have leaders who are clean and ready to cast the first stone?

The headaches of SOE’s State enterprises have let Ghana down. The nation has to grapple with those that have become white elephant and those that have been cheaply sold to people with party links. Typically almost all the international hotels put up by Nkrumah have vanished in the system: Accra Ambasordar Hotel, Takoradi Continental, etc. The Kumasi City Hotel is an eye-sore. It is infested with poisonous insects and has become a place of abode for the homeless. It continues to incur costs in electricity and water with fixed charges for the nation. All these hotels were limited liabilities and the government bears the full burden. They have become economic waste.

The SOE’s that had the potential to do well were cheaply sold without right appraisal because of mismanagement as in the case of Ghana Airways. Perhaps those government officials who did the sale indirectly had interest. Other properties were sold to prominent people who had links with the government. These unwholesome developments have caused financial losses to the nation. People who were involved had to face trials and some are still facing trials. They have been accused of: “causing financial losses to the state” Besides the cost of lawsuits and the time wasted, was SOE worth the troubles? Some prominent Ghanaians have already been put behind bars and there are still others whose fates are yet to be decided. It is an unfortunate situation.

Conclusion Knowing what we know now, that the nation has leadership crisis it was not a prudent choice to trust the leadership to do a good job by pursuing ideological policies that depended very much on trust. Dr Nkrumah should have paused for a moment to reflect on progress made thus far. Ideologies and political dogmas- Nkrumaism, Life Presidency, One party State and the likes were not going to perform the miracle.

In the past, management was accused of placing square pegs in round holes. Managers were unqualified. That constituted the greatest cause of failure because managers were inefficient and incompetent. They were also corrupt and worked in the culture of corruption. Today, the situation is different. There are round pegs in round holes. People in high-ranking positions are highly qualified graduates. They are competent and efficient. The competency of President Kufour’s working team is justified by the progress they have made thus far in their short period of about 7 years in office as compared to the 19 years President Rawlings was in office. The team has attracted several foreign nations giving grants to Ghana as well as investing in the nation. The latest is the Millennium Challenge Accounts ($547m) from President Bush. But allegations of corruption are rampant. Thus they haven’t accomplished their full potential. When they are asked to declare their assets before taking up public service, for one reason or the other, they refuse. But when they start grabbing money and the people lament and despise them they turn round to justify their previous wealth: “I was this, I was that before.” Again, leadership, leadership,…..!!!

With these scenarios it can be safely concluded that Ghana has leadership crisis. This then should be the major concern of anybody who becomes the President. Therefore, Dr Nkrumah made the wrong choices when he was shouting communism, socialism and Nkrumaism instead of looking at the ethical character of leadership. Perhaps, the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute should have been Ghana College for Civic Education.

Ken Atta-Boakye
Woodbridge, Virginia, USA


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