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Opinions of Saturday, 21 November 2015

Columnist: Nyamekye, Kwabena

The Danquah-Busia Version Of The Preventive Detention Act

Kwabena Nyamekye

Moderate CPP members and those in the army and police who overthrew the CPP in 1966 will tell you that the most unpopular piece of legislation in the Nkrumah era was the Preventive Detention Act (PDA). Passed in 1958 (long before there was a single attempt on Nkrumah’s life) and amended twice afterwards it was abused to the extent that it made Nkrumah so unpopular from the 1960s onwards. While all and sundry appreciated the need for security legislation, the open-ended nature of the PDA and the fact that there need not be a scintilla of evidence against you to be detained indefinitely, made it an excellent tool to suppress dissenting views in Ghana. First it was used to hammer opposition members and then after they had been detained it was turned on the CPP members themselves and the wider public. After CPP members had turned on themselves the PDA then became an instrument for general use. Family disputes, petty squabbles and chieftaincy contests were resolved by a simple report to the District Commissioner that Asumasi has said something bad about Nkrumah. With sucha report your rival was conveniently locked up fra couple of years giving you room to carry out whatever plans you had. So badly was this law used that Krobo Edusei of old, one of Nkrumah’s trusted lieutenants was tipping people off when he knew they were to be arrested and detained as he knew there was no grounds whatsoever for this. With the coup and the opening of Ussher Fort prison and Nsawam prison there was a stream of people coming out who insisted that they never knew why there were detained. Estimates based on prison records are that about 3000 Ghanaians were detained at one time or the other between 1958 and 1966, while according to the security services after the coup they suspected just 8 Ghanaians to be plotting some harm against Nkrumah and that anyway they were based in Togo. Of all the detainees, not a soul had any links whatsoever with any of these 8.

Sadly, in recent times the NPP has managed to create its own neo-PDA and is using it in a manner that is just as brutal and as vindictive as was the case in the 1960s. Anyone who does not worship Nana Addo in the NPP today is the target of false allegations and suspension. This is designed to create conditions whereby you are not supposed to have a different view about how the NPP should be run. Everyone is facing suspension. The position now in any NPP primaries is that even if you lose tag the person whose position you covet with an allegation that “He is on the NDC payroll” (this claim is evidence of crass stupidity in a party with a strong intellectual tradition); “or He supports Agenda 2020” (this phantom Agenda exists only in the twisted, sick, and perverted minds of those who have no plan to bring us to power in 2016). Of course there need not be evidence of anything. If you ask those dimwits who are claiming Agenda 2020 or that the soon to be ex-Bantama MP Henry Kokofu, or current General Secretary Kwabena Agyapong are on the NDC payroll you will not be shown evidence on used toilet paper. But like the PDA of old who needs evidence? All you have to do is make the allegation, keep repeating the allegation and then petition the party to have someone suspended.

Now in the early days of the PDA CPP members were glad that it was being used against leading lights from the Danquah-Busia tradition. They were being jailed or they fled Ghana for fear of being jailed. However when the guns were turned on the CPP members themselves they began to see their folly. So today while it is ok for sycophants and hero-worshippers to accuse some of being “NDC moles” the stage has been set for the use of this wonderful tool to deal with your rivals in the future. Whether you want to be constituency chairman, parliamentary candidate or even presidential candidate, your rivals will tag you as a NDC mole as soon as you declare your intention and they will petition for your suspension from the party. Even if you are not suspended, the damage will be done. With your reputation now in question, your rival will secure victory. The lesson then is to open fire with your allegation first before you are accused. I therefor foresee a spate of allegations left, right and centre with the party drowning in a sea of fake accusations that will only intensify the culture of divisiveness that haunts us today. With this division, we face defeat, upon defeat upon defeat in the years to come and it will be traced back to our own PDA of 2015.

How sad. How very sad.