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Opinions of Friday, 20 February 2015

Columnist: Antobam, K. E.

What Happened to our Power of Critical Thinking?

By K E Antobam

I am going to wade into the Kwame Nkrumah-JB Danquah debate for two main reasons; firstly the constant cacophony is beginning to get sickening, it is getting very depressing. For a country that is sinking in hopelessness, the 5% or so educated citizens who have access to computers and know how to access the modern information highway are only employing this wonderful resource for “ghost bashing,” as a few slightly more focused dim-witted compatriots continue to rob the country blind! Secondly, it is very painful to me personally as I think of my family business taxes that are lost in a sink hole as well as the proceeds of my poor mother’s cocoa farms that go to produce generations of young people who do not seem to have any sense of critical thinking whatsoever.

Since the Daquah bashers especially, love to quote from the recollections of a ten year old American school boy who was shielded from the realities of everyday life in Ghana, I will like to crave their indulgence to quote William Mahoney. According to our wonder boy Mahoney, not only the Americans, but the British, French and the Germans all wanted Kwame Nkrumah removed from office because of his strident anti-western rhetoric at home and on the international scene. Kwame Nkrumah was obviously aware of and frustrated by this threat, as he demonstrated in his letter to Lyndon Johnson in February 1964.

The question is, if Nkrumah knew about the machinations of the west against his government, what exactly did he do about them? Until recently, the French embassy was located right next door to Flagstaff House. Just down the road in Cantonments was the British High Commission and not quite a kilometre away on Independence Avenue were the Canadian High Commission and the Dutch embassy. Right in the centre of the ‘’Ministries’ and almost next door to the powerful Ministry of Interior was the giant American ‘embassy on stilts’ (where I got my first ever visa to travel out of Ghana), with all its sophisticated communication systems. The American embassy was less than four kilometres away from the police headquarters, where the Special Branch maintained one of the best communication systems in Africa.

Up till about late 1965, telephones actually worked in Ghana. There were even coin booths, painted red like those in the UK to boot, where one could make telephone calls to most parts of Ghana for a minimum of five pesewas. In Sekondi-Takoradi, we used to call from those coin boxes just to listen to what seemed to us young boys the angelic voices of the telephonists. Under those circumstances, it would seem that not much official communication escaped the attention of the very countries that “were out to get” Kwame Nkrumah.

There was an even more interesting, perhaps even bizarre domestic/operational arrangement around Kwame Nkrumah’s person in those days:
Chief of Defence Staff General Henry Alexander, British World War II veteran (till September 1961), when Alexander and the entire British officer corps were replaced by inexperienced Ghanaian officers, assisted by “Canadian military training technicians”.)
Attorney-General Geoffrey Bing, British Lawyer
President’s Events and Private Secretary, June Milne, English spinster, presumably vetted by MI5/MI6.
President’s Personal Pilot and Head of Afienya Gliding School Flt. Capt. Hanna Reitsch, Nazi (Hitler’s Personal) Pilot, who had sought refuge in Ghana in 1963, and was a world class ace flying pilot.
Girlfriend/Concubine of President and GBC Newsreader Genevieve Marais (Boer/Afrikaans Black-hater)
Then there was Alan May the English Nuclear Physicist who had been released after serving a six-year sentence, for leaking British atomic secrets to the Soviets, top honcho at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission. Ben Gurion’s Israel had a presence in Ghana in those days, as well. “The Black Man is capable of handling his own affairs.” Really?

With such an impressive array of detractors that close to the seat of power, did the CIA really have to pay any Ghanaian for information about the workings of government?

The claim that JB Danquah was a CIA agent (CIA ‘assert’ by some people’s reckoning), would be laughable were it not so serious a charge. Kwame Nkrumah was hemmed in on all sides. He was being branded a communist despot who was fighting to spread his brand of radical ‘African communism’ throughout the rest of Africa. What wonderful opportunity to try a CIA agent before the court of public opinion. Even a trial before the puppet Sarkodie-Addo court with real evidence, before the world press, would have given a tremendous boost to Kwame Nkrumah’s image. Such a spectacle would have given the outside world some idea about why Nkrumah had to rush the PDA through parliament under a certificate of urgency and why he had to incarcerate so many of his compatriots without due process. Instead, JB Danquah was cowardly bundled into a Land Rover under cover of darkness and dumped in a condemned cell in what was touted to be one of the largest peace time maximum security prisons in the whole world.

The nearest JB Danquah ever got to holding a state job was serving in the Legislative Council from 1951 until he lost the council election of 1954.

In my working life, I have worked on Russian, Chinese, Ukranian and North Korean projects, in addition to many other parts of the world. I never travelled to Russia, China or any of the Eastern European countries, except on private vacations. Yet I can still remember the number of “very interesting” phone calls I received each time I made a public presentation on one of those countries. With those experiences in mind, and my reading of numerous books and articles on international espionage, I have always wondered what exactly JB Danquah had to offer the CIA in return for financial rewards.

By 1960, the core of Kwame Nkrumah’s security was built around his tribesmen from Essiama. Axim, Boka Kore, Nkroful, Tekinta, Ebwazo, Half Assini, Kikam, and other places. That is what gave Ambrosie Yankey had the audacity to draw pistols on non-Indece supporters at Gyandu Park in the 1960s. Those security people were mostly housed around the Flagstaff House in the Kanda Estates. The protestants among worshipped at Calvary Methodist Church, Adabraka, while the Catholics went to Christ the King, across the road from the Flagstaff House. A very simple check at Lands Department or the parish records at the two churches will establish the names and origins of the people to whom those houses were sold or assigned when they were first completed. Many of them fled to England after the 1966 coup and congregated in London, around Hammersmith and Ealing, the cleverer thieves among them to Fulham. Their children and grandchildren can still be found in those areas.

With respect to the assassination attempts on Kwame Nkrumah’s person, do we take it that a tight family security system like that simply planned Kwame Nkrumah’s itinerary and then sold it to his perceived enemies?

Or do we take it that the JB bashers also believe that JB Danquah was gifted with supernatural powers, as some of their ilk believe that some people send dwarfs to Bank of Ghana to steal money to make the cedi fall - some kind of “ayera edur,” that made JB vanish in and out of the walls of the Flagstaff House? Habah! Come on, guys, this is the twenty-first century. Even if you do not think much of the rest of us ordinary mortals, can’t you credit your own selves with some modicum of intelligence? It is demeaning, it is unintelligent, and it is embarrassing.

Granted that the CIA did some really dumb things between the 1950s and ‘70s (ala Bay of Pigs, Iranian prisoners rescue, Juan Peron, etc.), but would even the CIA of the 1960s just hand over Uncle Sam’s hard green bucks to JB Danquah in return for “Akan Customary Rites and Traditional Laws, huh? ”

Another of the bizarre cases against JB Danquah is the credit given to the CIA for its part in the coup d’état of 1966. Yes, there had been rumours of coups from about 1960, and in fact, a very close call in March 1965, which reportedly led to the sacking of Generals Ankrah and SJA Otu as Chief of Defence Staff and deputy, respectively. Yes, the CIA had probably been in constant touch with senior officers of the Ghana Armed Forces, but for obvious reasons, it had all centred on the central command in Accra. And that also shows how porous government security was, even with the virtual take-over of our national security by the Russians and Chinese after 1960. The question once again, is why were Ankrah and Otu never court-martialled, and if indeed there were civilian accomplices, why were they not tried in open court and shown to be traitors? Why was the CIA not exposed for its apparent interference in Ghana’s internal affairs? Was it because there was no smoking gun, after all?

Mahoney left Ghana at the end of 1965 and was replaced by Kwame Nkrumah’s 1941 Lincoln University classmate, Franklin H Williams after the New Year.

A cousin of mine who saw his first real action as a soldier on that fateful day, told me in later conversations that the whole thing was so spontaneous that if there had been any prior planning, then the only two people who would have known about it were Colonel Kotoka and Assistant Commissioner JWK Harley. The Third Brigade was involved in an exercise in the Ashanti Region. Without warning, they were told late 23rd February that they were moving to Accra, for another exercise. It was at the Shai Hills that the soldiers were told that they were going to stage a coup d’etat in Accra. Apparently, Colonel Kotoka had sprung it on his Adjunct Major Afrifa, who had earlier refused to get involved even with an offer of a huge sum of money. This time around, Afrifa agreed to join on the spot because of the excitement of “freeing my townsman”, RR Amponsah, who had been imprisoned without charge for eight years.

Almost certainly the 24th February date caught everyone, including the CIA and KGB by surprise. The CIA only put a brave face on it. Ambassador Williams became a broken man because he did not seem to have got any idea about an act for which his old friend called him “Uncle Tom. “ Certainly there had been plans for nearly one year, but it beggars belief that the ubiquitous security apparatus of 1966 which sent people to Nsawam for destroying Kwame Nkrumah’s portrait in their bedrooms would not have got wind of the movement of numbers of army vehicles from the Ashanti Region, through Shai Hills, to Accra.

Harley had been involved in the original plan of a 1965 coup. The immediate question is why was he not arrested and charged, or even sacked as had happened to Ankrah and Otu?

Folks, the purpose of this article is to show how ridiculous this whole Kwame Nkrumah-JB Danquah debate has been. After nearly sixty years of independence, our education system is in tatters, the medical service is worse than it was seventy years ago, corruption is a thousand times worse than it has ever been at any time in our history. The state seems to have ceded large tracts of rural Ghana to the Chinese who are destroying farmlands, water bodies and everything in sight, state revenues and foreign loans seem to be simply poured into a bottomless hole. Ghana must be the only country in the world whose capital cannot enjoy uninterrupted water and electricity supply for ten days in a month. Meanwhile, all that our elected and appointed officials seem able to do is to go on radio and television to heap insults on the very people whose taxes fund their extravagant lifestyles.

This has to change. Let us give some respite to our illustrious dead. Let them have some peaceful rest. Yes, there were mistakes and terrible injustices as well. But most people have found it in themselves to forgive. Let us try and learn lessons from them and move on.
From today, let us begin with a discussion on this forum on “Dum so” until we have found a solution. We will then move on to education, the judiciary, the environment, garbage collection, and see if we would not have found solutions to Ghana’s problems by the end of the year.

I rest my case, for now!