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Opinions of Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Columnist: Aggrey, Harry Jonson

The (P)NDC factor in the economic legacy of legacy of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

It is 100 years this year when Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was born and for and almost sixty years Dr. Nkrumah was to dedicate his life and energy to the cause of Ghana and Africa until his overthrow in 1966. Arguably the best statesman Africa has produced, Kwame Nkrumah did his best to create an economic legacy for Ghana. Recently when President Mills gave his address to Parliament he suggested the creation of a national holiday in hour of Dr. Nkrumah, to be called the Founders’ Day. When Rawlings was interviewed about it he said it was a good idea and that the past government (NPP) had tried to vilify him (Dr. Nkrumah) and Mills was right to put his name where it rightly belongs. Fantastic comment to come from a statesman like Ex-President Rawlings and as usual a platform to vilify the NPP when the opportunity arose. However we need to examine the facts about Nkrumah’s legacy in Ghana and begin to put it into political context vis-à-vis successive governments’ efforts to cement or destroy them. The brilliance of Dr. Nkrumah’s political efforts for Ghana emerged in 1949 and the momentum continued to 1960, with the landmark achievement of independence and republican status for Ghana. However like every man Kwame had his flaws and some of them were really massive. The imposition of one the party state in 1964 and the Preventive Detention Act of 1960 would be used by his political adversaries to undo him in a messy coup d’état in 1966.

The positives of Dr. Nkrumah included his attempt to create a social and economic system in Ghana in which no one controlled or owned the most. His vision for Ghana was to industrialize Ghana at the shortest possible time. In 1962, on a radio broadcast to the people titled “Work and Happiness: Ghana’s Seven-Year Development Plan” the President launched a massive industrialization project. This vision was founded on the Volta River Project; a massive and ambitious undertaking to explore Ghana’s vast bauxite stores to process it into aluminum. To do this we needed a smelter. A smelter can’t operate without cheap electricity, and at that time hydroelectric energy was the cheapest. So Nkrumah moved and managed to convince President John F. Kennedy to help us generate cheap electricity to supply the proposed Volta Aluminum Company (VALCO) to smelt our bauxite and process it into Aluminum by financing that project. So he got the Akosombo Dam to be built – a massive undertaking at the time. The availability of electricity meant that other industries could take off. So in effect, Nkrumah foresaw the positive trickle-down-effect that the construction of the Akosombo Dam and the Aluminum industry would have on the economy. His ultimate goal for VALCO was to supply aluminum to a plethora of Ghanaian companies who would then process this aluminum into other products like cooking utensils, roofing sheets, etc, etc. so that Ghana would be a net exporter of value-added Aluminum products.

Nkrumah also started the GIHOC industries (Ghana Industrial Holding Corporation). GIHOC had several subsidiaries. Nkrumah knew there could be no industrialization without steel. So he established the Tema Steel Factory. Steel and glass often go together; hence the Abosso Glass Factory was started. Cement is also an important ingredient in any nation-building project. GHACEM was established. Now he turned his attention to the agricultural sector. Cocoa was the mainstay of our economy. Yet we were importing sacks to package our cocoa beans in. So he started the Jute Factory in Kumasi to manufacture cocoa sacks for our farmers. He intended for us to eventually process our own cocoa beans and supply value-added products to the world market and not just be a supplier of the raw material. Hence, he established the West African Mills to process our cocoa beans.

Tomato is an important ingredient in any Ghanaian cooking but often went to waste in the tomato season. To curb this Dr Nkrumah started Tomato Factories: one at Pwalugu, and another at Wenchi. He also started a Meat Processing Factory at Bolgatanga. Nkrumah established the Continental Hotel (now Golden Tulip) and the City Hotel in Kumasi, Atlantic Hotel amongst others under the State Hotels Corporation.

Now one must begin to wonder what happened to this massive industrial vision of Dr Nkrumah. Many people before me have written extensively about this and so I will only be echoing what the great writers like Ato Kwamina Dadzie would have written about these. However we need to continue to examine the facts. Over sixty (60) of Ghana’s State-owned companies were placed on divestiture by Former President Rawlings and sold between 1989 and 1992. The Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC) was the body set up by the PNDC junta to oversee this process. The law which gave legal backing to the DIC was not passed until January 5th, 1993. So in effect, between 1989 to the passage of PNDC Law 326 Emmanuel Agbodo’s DIC was an illegality which was selling Kwame Nkrumah’s industries. However two clear days before the 1992 constitution became operational; the PNDC passed the Divestiture Law (PNDC Law 326) to cover their behind by retroactively taking effect from January 1st, 1988. Smart criminals!

In Section 15 of the same law they inserted another indemnity clause: “No action shall be brought and no court shall entertain any proceedings against the State, the committee or any member or officer of the committee in respect of any act or omission arising out of a disposal of any interest made or under consideration under this law.” The then PNDC Chairman Rawlings, also shut down the Tomato factory at Pwalugu and at Wenchi, and also the Meat Processing Factory at Bolgatanga. Continental Hotel now Golden Tulip Hotel was sold to a partnership between the Libyans and Rawlings’ cronies as the Ghana-Libyan Arab Holding Co Ltd. for $3,578,125. GHACEM was sold to SCANCEM of Norway for $3 million. GIHOC’s Abosso Glass Factory was sold to the Togolese Opposition Leader, Gilchrist Olympio. West African Mills and GIHOC Electronics were sold to Kofi Kludjeson, former President of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI). Prestea and Tarkwa Goldfields were each sold for $3 million – The Statesman (October 23, 2002). He sold Nsawam canary to Caridem and if you lift the veil of incorporation, you will see his wife Nana Konadu as the owner. She cried witch hunt when the NPP government arraigned her in the court for trial. In 1981, when Chairman Rawlings came to power, Ghana’s Shipping Line, the Black Star Line, had 14 vessels. These were ships that belonged to the Republic of Ghana. By the time Rawlings left power he had shut down the Black Star Line which Nkrumah had built, sold all of the 14 vessels, and rendered our fellow citizens who worked as seamen jobless!

The comments made by Ex-President Rawlings about the founder’s day smacks of political opportunism in its cheapest sense. A man who destroyed in one stroke the economic legacy of Nkrumah today says his name should be put rightly where it belongs. This is politics Rawlings way for you. Thanks for reading

Harry Jonson Aggrey harryjonaggrey@yahoo.com