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Opinions of Tuesday, 15 August 2006

Columnist: Atta-Boakye, Ken

Was Emmanuel K. Kotoka a Traitor?

“The Justification of the First Coup-detat in Ghana, February 24, 1966”

The above question has agitated my mind and bothered me for sometime now and I want to hear what others think. The age of a person may influence his/her answer and in this regard I will separate the readership into two groups under: The senior citizens over 60 years who saw and lived the Nkrumah regime and the younger Ghanaian generation who acquired their information about Ghana through text books and the print media. These two groups of Ghanaians see Ghana from different eye-lens and their judgments are likely to be clouded with prejudices and biases depending upon the circumstances and situations they acquired their knowledge and information about Ghana. In the case of senior citizens it would be eye-witness accounts while that of the younger generations would be the influence of the print media as well as other internal and external factors.

The political landscape of Ghana is the making of Dr J B. Dankwah and Dr Kwame Nkrumah. The former is indisputably said to be the doyen (founder) of Ghana politics while the latter is credited with being the leader of the freedom fighters. Ghanaians are as divided on the philosophical ideologies of these two leaders as the leaders were themselves sharply divided politically. CPP is dead and NDC is not CPP just as NPP is not UP. I know the younger generation is confused. All that I am trying to say is simple: NDC and NPP are following the footsteps of CPP and UP. They co-exist in present day Ghana in a relation like the cats and the mice. At the least provocation one would jump on the other. It is not healthy.

Honestly, Nkrumah had the opportunity to practice his ideologies in Ghana as a Prime Minster and subsequently as a President in a hostile environment orchestrated by the opposition. But then the onus was upon Nkrumah to prove his political might to calm the situation peacefully. Later events proved that Nkrumah was over-ambitious and had his personal agenda that betrayed all his good intentions. Since Dankwah suffered electoral defeats and did not have the chance to practice his ideologies I do not deem it important to hold him as much accountable to post-independence successes and failures as Nkrumah. Nkrumah had all the opportunities to turn Ghana into the heaven he envisioned but his success as a leader, to a larger extent, is reflected on his personal external agenda. His posthumous awards outside Ghana are not the pride of those Ghanaians who were terrorized under his regime in Ghana.

The background of my question: “Was Kotoka a traitor?”(if I should paraphrase) is from a point made by Professor Kwame Botwe-Asamoah that: Emmanuel K Kotoka was a traitor inspired by CIA to overthrow the Nkrumah regime from the Ghanaweb feature article in a discourse between himself and another Professor- Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe. I do not want to go into that intellectual argument but would want to discuss an aspect that bothers my mind. Each time I hear the Nkrumaists talking about the CIA and the overthrow of the Nkrumah dynasty it sends some shockwaves through me. I can tolerate it if it came from a younger generation who did not experience Nkrumah’s capricious regime. How long did the Nkrumaists want Ghanaians to live in a culture of silence under a tyrant? Even there could not have been any justification for a year’s torture let alone nine years of torture just because there was no constitutional means to remove Dr Nkrumah. Well, people are entitled to their own opinions! I want to address my question from two different perspectives: 1. How did Ghanaians react to the coup that toppled the Nkrumah totalitarian regime on February 24, 1966? 2. What did Nkrumah do or not do to warrant a coup to topple his administration?

It is important to note that at the time Nkrumah was deposed in 1966, I was a second year student in a 4-year Teacher Training College. I saw the best and worst parts of the Nkrumah administration. By this I find myself qualified enough to give an eye-witness account. My emphasis and focus would be the February 24, 1966 coup which the Nkrumaists believe was not justified and for that matter, refer to Kotoka and Afrifa, the brains behind the coup, as traitors.

1. How did Ghanaians react to the coup of February 24, 1966? I don’t think the Nkrumaists are a generation of forgetful people. Neither do I think they are people with short memories. The coup was a blessing to Ghana. I cannot ever dream of going to live in Ghana in a culture of silence under Nkrumah’s capricious, repressive, suppressive and vicious regime. The CIA was a life-saver and Kotoka and Afrifa were heroes for the oppressed and suppressed Ghanaians. Kotoka and Afrifa were not traitors and they should not be demonized. In the eyes of the Ghanaians who were looking for a messiah to deliver them from a tyrant, the two were divine rescuers. If Dr Botwe-Asamoah lived in Ghana and saw how the Nkrumah’s ruling party (CPP) fundamentalists and activists toyed with the opposition and the myth that surrounded the Nkrumah’s regime, I would not make any further comments.

The adage is: “you cannot bite the finger that feeds you” but on the day the coup was announced, the students in Teacher Training colleges who benefited mostly from Nkrumah’s educational policies by receiving allowances from the government, were the first to take to the streets to demonstrate their joy. Even some months later when Afrifa said it was unwise to pay students in colleges and cancelled the allowances, the students preferred to live without allowances than to be in Nkrumah’s den with allowances. When the Nsawam Prison gate was opened, the number of people who forced themselves to get out of the place was incredible. Some had not seen the rays of the sun for years and could not open their eyes to face the scorching sun. Some had become blind, maimed and sickened as the TV screen depicted. They had been put into prison to protect the political interest of just one leader-President Nkrumah. Ghana did not want to live in a regime that did not respect human rights. It was a shame for Ghanaians to be dehumanized by their own son-Nkrumah.

All over the nation chiefs threw durbars to celebrate the glorious occasion and poured libation to thank their ancestors for coming back on earth to deliver them from the lion’s den. Congratulatory messages went into the dailies for Kotoka and Afrifa. The churches, supposed to be neutral, joined in the celebrations. They prayed in their churches to the Lord for a timely intervention. To the best of my knowledge, this was the only coup that enjoyed popular and better support from the people. Nkrumah believed in “if you are not with me, you are against me” and that doomed his administration.

In 1966, there was no democratic means to effect changes in the government, since the President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah had declared himself ‘life President’ on the support of his packed CPP majority in parliament. One can argue there was justification for the February 24, 1966 coup. Even the late Prof Adu Boahene, a renowned Ghanaian Historian at that time justified the coup in a speech he delivered at Cape Coast University. It was a big relief to the people. It was an irony for Nkrumah to drive the colonial masters away and instead put Ghanaians in a small box in a dungeon where they could not speak their minds freely.

2. What did Nkrumah do or not do to warrant a coup to overthrow his government? Ghanaweb feature article submitted on Wednesday, July 12, 2006 by Jeffery noted: “At the turn of the century Dr Nkrumah was recognized as the greatest African that ever graced the sub-Saharan African continent. Dr Nkrumah’s ideas and philosophy were well ahead of his time. In 2002, BBC listeners in Africa voted Dr Kwame Nkrumah as their Man of the Millennium. In 1978 the United Nations awarded Dr Kwame Nkrumah a posthumous gold medal during a session of the UN committee against the racist regime in South Africa.” It is believed or perceived that this was the concealed personal agenda of Dr Nkrumah that superseded all his other intentions and made him terrorize Ghanaians in order to cunningly achieve his goal. In a grand style he declared: “The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa.” Yes, Nkrumah was more interested in forging the African Union than the welfare of Ghanaians. Truth is repulsive. If Nkrumah believed in freedom and the dignity of humankind why did he torture innocent Ghanaians for his own political gains?

The positive side of Nkrumah’s government has been well documented and preserved. That is why the younger generation knows more about Nkrumah. No one can deny him of his heroic legacies. He was an individual of unique personality and highly regarded for the role he played to achieve independence for Ghana and for Africa Unity. His achievements were solid and outstanding. He was so important in the political history of Ghana that his name became a household vocabulary. He was an international figure whose ideas were respected and even continue to be respected today. He was great and sparkling but not without blemish in regards to his domestic agenda.

One thing that ought to be known to the younger Ghanaians is Nkrumah’s excellent education policy. With his socialist inclination, he made education from the elementary level to high school free and compulsory. Many 4-year Teacher Training colleges were built to train more teachers for the elementary school program. This turned out to be an outstanding project since this unique privilege was well received by brilliant students who otherwise could not have afforded further education because of financial constraints. Today most of the 4-year products have become doctors, accountants, lawyers, professors, engineers, reverends, etc in the Ghanaian communities and elsewhere. All these combined to make Nkrumah a national hero. But having said this, what is the other side of Nkrumah? Why did Ghanaians overwhelmingly support the coup that toppled his government? This is the crux of the matter.

Dr Nkrumah placed Ghana in a small box where Ghanaians survived only by kowtowing to his whims and caprices in a culture of silence. Home Security inside Ghana was only to ensure security for Nkrumah and his CPP government. Our own sons and daughters were turned into spies trained to spy on families, relatives and friends. One had to be a stooge to the Nkrumah regime to be employed under corrupt practices. A graphic account of Nkrumah’s Ghana was like living in a terrorist country not knowing when and where the next suicide bombers would strike. The nation was sitting on a time-bomb with three dirty operations that ensured Nkrumah’s supremacy. Of course, they were also the very reasons for his overthrow: Preventive Detention Act (PDA), Young Pioneer Movement (YPM) and the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute, Winneba.

Three Dirty Operations: Nkrumah was over-ambitious and dealt mercilessly with his opponents through these nefarious actions.

1. Prevention Detention Act of 1958 (PDA): I have already mentioned PDA as an inhuman institution and would not want to bore readers with the details. However, suffice it to say that the principle was wrong, totally wrong. All the Big Six who paid for his ticket to come to help in the liberation struggles were at one time or another imprisoned at Nsawam. He did not show mercy on anybody who opposed him. Dankwah died a political prisoner on Nkrumah’s watch and supervision. It is amazing when the Nkrumaists refer to Adamafio-Konlolugu bomb threat of President Nkrumah and opposition treasonable acts. Had Nkrumah refrained from despotic, totalitarian, and oppressive rule and embarked upon open and transparent administration things would have been different. It is common sense to find other means to achieve a right. Tyranny is worse than any political crime.

2. Young Pioneer Movement:(YPM) It was an infamous organization that had dubious objectives. Nkrumah wanted to inculcate his ideologies (Nkrumaism) into the youth. He wasted a lot of state resources on this movement. Almost every village school had a YPM. Each pioneer had a special uniform, scarf, hand gloves, beret, and Nkrumah sandals all paid for with tax-payer’s money. Special activists were recruited to organize and manage this movement with specified perks that made them lords in the communities. Now, the black side of it all, besides the teaching of Nkrumah’s ideologies they acted as secret informants for the government. They were spies in disguise. It tore families apart. Parents were afraid to criticize Nkrumah before their own children. Parents who had the misfortune to be reported by their own children were arrested late in the night and sent into jail without trials. The Nsawam prison was built purposely for this inhuman practice. The whole country was in a state of panic and insecurity.

3. Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute at Winneba: It was this institution that exemplified his over-ambition. Brilliant students were picked up from colleges to be indoctrinated with Nkrumah’s ideologies. Also CPP activists were sent there to be trained. Most of the people who were trained there did not prove themselves useful in the society later. Col Achampong who toppled the fledgling second republic, was a student of the institute. It was even alleged that the institute recruited and trained nationals from other African countries to go and topple leaders in other African nations who did not believe in Nkrumah. He wanted to be number one in Africa and made Ghana a ‘donor-nation’ to some African countries. He played Santa for Africa with Ghana’s resources to look good.

That was the Nkrumah so much has been politicized about. This is not to mention his failed economic policies that the Nkrumaists brag about. The nation was rich and he made a mess with the money just like any pampered child will do. One has to look deep before making conclusions about Nkrumah and his regime.

It is my considered opinion that the democratic wave of freedom blowing all over the nation for all and sundry to enjoy dates far back to the coup that was staged by Kotoka and Afrifa. They led the way by over-throwing a dictator who imposed himself on Ghana as a life President and messed things up. Ghana never lacked adequate resources to support its developments. The good old days under the colonial regime had disappeared. School children could no longer spend pennies for their pocket money. All the supermarkets (UTC, SAT, KINGSWAY) had become 9-day wonders. At Kumasi UTC, the escalators used to be the fun of the village folks and on a return from Kumasi friends curiously asked if one had the chance to take some rides on the escalators. The nation was in economic bankruptcy before the coup. Ghanaians had started to queue up in long lines to buy essential commodities and life was unreasonably miserable. Ironically, Dr Nkrumah was reported to have said in Hanoi where he was attending international conference that if he knew milk was important in the life of the Ghanaian, he would have built pipes of milk for the whole nation. He admitted his fault and insensitivity.

“Thumps up for Kotoka and Afrifa.” Kotoka deserved his honor- Kotoka International Airport. Afrifa had the misfortune to be abducted by the Nkrumaists elements in the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in June 1979 and murdered by firing squad. Some day he too, would be honored. CPP is dead forever! They should not try!!

Long live President Kufuor! Long live democracy in Ghana.

Ken Atta-Boakye
(Resident Relations Concierge)
Woodbridge, Virginia-USA

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