The notion that historical event can best be told and judged by its participants or those who witnessed it with their own eyes, appears to be irrelevant after every change of government in Ghana
This lax approach to history and the traditional lack of expression of gratitude for our political leaders because of the bluff and arrogance they sometimes exhibit while in office seem to renew the strength and ammunitions armed with redeemers to embark on inconsistent policies only to be regretted later.
Admittedly national policies, like a constitution ought not to be static but be adaptable to changing circumstances. As Lord Delvin rightly points out: “I am not one of those who believe that the only function of law is to preserve the status quo, rather I should say that law is a gatekeeper of the status quo… In changing society, in the words of the former English Law Lord, law acts as a valve. New policies must gather strength before they can force entry… And when they are admitted and absorbed into the consensus, the legal system should expand to hold them… As also it should contrast to squeeze out old policies that have lost the consensus they once obtained (Delvin LJ, The Judge, 1981, p. 1).
But in Ghana our founding fathers wavered on this because of personal political goals. And it appears we are paying dearly for it. According to John Herz, a structural notion in which the self-help attempts of states [as in our case, individuals] to look after their security needs, tend regardless of intention to rising insecurity for others as each interprets its measures as defensive and others as potentially threatening (Herz, 1950: 157).
Today, under the principle of “better safe than sorry”, trade mark of previous regimes, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) [arguably], is right for what most readers might described as positive political manoeuvrings. Thus, for Ghana to be democratically and economically governable after Ex-President Jerry John Rawlings, the NPP swiftly sought for the institution of the Truth and National Reconciliation Commission (TNRC). Not forgetting the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, which among others, seem to have cast dark clouds on the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Undoubtedly, President John Agyekum Kufuor’s moves could be interpreted in the context of the ex-president’s failed attempt to instil public morality after years of purging the nation through decrees and sanctions. The Quality Grains trial, of which ex-Finance Minister Kwame Peprah and Ibrahim Adam, the former Food and Agriculture Minister and others, have had their fair share of the president’s ‘zero tolerance’ [drive] for corruption, needs to be cited. Probably, these could illustrate the gentle Giant’s motivation to succeed where his colleague, the “junior Jesus” appears to have stumbled woefully.
But Ghana blessed with many messiahs, and more often than not, the temptation to outwit political opponents irresistible, why could certain prophetic revelations not be misconstrued as alarm bells? Of course we cannot make omelette without breaking eggs. And equally true is that there could be no slap without pain. That is, whatever is noble and laudable has its trials and tribulations. But could mistrust and fear not breed further insecurity, with the potential for conflict? How, then, could we achieve lasting stability in this pervasive generation where ideological benefits come next to personal interests?
According to Booth and Wheeler stable security can only be achieved by people and groups if they do not deprived others of it and it is perceived as a process of emancipation (Baylis, J., & Smith, S., (edn) (2003), p. 255). No wonder mother Ghana is still infected with this chronic ailment that unfortunately, we have to strain every nerve to cure.
Thus it has been a distant hope for most Ghanaians, small or big, to live in peace, lasting stability and social equality. But besides all these known setbacks, it is tempting to perceive our insensitive of our immediate past, as a reflection on its broader failure. The effect of this unfortunate trauma, you might disagree, could be illuminated by the cycle of lawlessness, intimidation and discontentment among the vast majority of our poor people.
Though to eradicate these and forge our homeland to become an incorruptible and stable nation, new rules and guidelines similar to our current endeavours are always cried for. But little could we achieve because our hunt for perfection and prosperity more often than not, faded almost as fast as they appeared. Making mother Ghana endowed with such a wonderful human and natural resources, sick of this dependency culture. Or say, to disfigure like a vast empty desert dotted with only sand dunes and datepalms.
Yet still, little care do we give to Bingham Powell, G, Jr’s advice on contemporary democracy, participation, stability and violence. Thus a nation’s socio-economic environment, its political institutions and organisations, and beliefs and strategies of its political leaders, according to Bingham, help shape political performance. But the system of political parties also is likely to play a vital role (Bingham, P.G, Jr., (1982), p. 1).
In our generation, most of us assent to this philistinism politics as a cure for our socio-economic malaise. We clapped gleefully as Flt Lt. J.J. Rawlings unearthed the foundation concrete of Mukola Market [now Rawlings Park?]. You might have also for convenience, concurred to a draft constitution(s) with many ambiguous clauses that we knew might probably conflict our constitutional development. So in such a political and economic compromises who are we to blame for our Sikaman’s socio-economic stagnation?
Yes, Cold War and neo-colonialism share some responsibility. But what about supporting our pathfinders to change our vantage points at random to suit their rule? Had this not make the familiar revolutionary and the ignorant lawless? Ponder over the repressive laws, assassination attempts, coups, counter-coups, demolitions and re-constructions, and most unfortunately, the abductions and killings in the past. Could these tragic recurring episodes not have been avoided if our past were to be told in its entirety?
In Gerhard Shröder’s Germany [the country which recently cleansed us of our debts, and presumably advised us to go and borrow no more,] and the world at large, whenever Adolf Hitler’s name is mentioned, Holocaust comes to mind. Though the name Hitler is written off the books of Bundesrepublik Deutschland surnames, what he stood for looms big in the Weimar’s history books and film industry. Yes, despite European unification, United States and its War Allies continue to remind themselves of the rescue of Nazi victims in Auschwitz and Normandy. Probably, this is not to ridicule Germans. [But,] to borrow New African Magazine Editor Baffour Ankomah’s argument for the need for Africans and the Diaspora to have Slavery Memorial Day, it sharpens their state of alertness.
But in our homeland Ghana, it appears this wisdom is of a little value. It is difficult to judge the past from the present- rapes, armed robberies, lack of accountability, foreign debts, integrity and certain degree of honesty which had been the springboard for our yearn for change of government are still our worries. However, these have been some of our lost and cherished values since Adam which in no distance past, then Captain Boakye Djan [now, Osahene] and Flt-Lt. Jerry John Rawlings [the Boom?] identified, “risked” and sacrificed many lives for its restoration. Did we all felt dispossessed, sad, regretted and cleansed from “our sinful crucify him uproar” when President Kufuor and his NPP deemed it right to give these men back to their families for a befitting burial and funeral?</span>
Maybe yes. After all, this “triumphal” entry into the Synagogue and the overturning of tables and lashing of money launders and gamblers which we understood came in the midst of an economic depression while judges and prophets openly give their blessings, not surprisingly, now sparks haunting memories. That is if one considers the evidences given so far at NRC hearing of which the Ghanaian media have exhaustively covered.
Based on these synoptic accounts of the Johns, Mathews and, the Lukes and many told and untold stories, by now, some readers may be asking, was there anything glorious about this “Uprising and the Revolution”? Or better put, how long, could we perceive cronyism, cover-ups, change and rename of places, as a label of regimes born to bring about moral renewal in body politics? For example, did the demolition of that stores- now, Rawlings and the re-construction of the 31 December Market, wipe out the robbing Peter-to-Paul? You may opt to differ. But some of the consequences are clear.
Take the Operation Cool Chop- the military exercise that metastasised into a fury of national dimensions and led to the overthrow of the Convention Peoples Party in 1966, for instance. The fatal onslaught on the Presidential Guards at Shai Hills and at the Flagstaff House, did it not result in destruction, neglect and political polarisation of our people, especially, our armed and the police service? This “balkanisation” may probably be self-explanatory if we feature the ideological track of all our military juntas.
In our immediate past, for example, you might have once cried, I want to alight at Liberation Circle, later Redemption. What did the British call it? Broadcasting Junction? And now, you do not even know whether it is still fit to call it Captain Thomas Sankara Circle or Ako Adjei Circle. But we hope the dust has settled now. In your school days, you might have once asked yourself or your history master, why we never had Kwame Nkrumah or Busia’s statutes, while Major-General E.K. Kotoka’s statute stood for all those donkey years. Thank in part to the ongoing expansion and renovation work.
All these are some of the suppressed realities that could be equated to Archimedes principles of immersion- which states that when a body is totally or partially immersed in water, it receives an upturn, which is equal to the weight of the water displaced. The crux of the puzzle is political demon this appeasement statute had cast on our homeland.
Of course, Gen. E.K. Kotoka is [and was] a liberator, and for that matter, a hero on his own right depending on what premise the argument should proceed. Because we are told by some historians that in his effort to limit Western economic and political influences in Africa and Ghana, Dr Nkrumah [like any human] made a lot of errors and stepped on many toes. The rush to industrialisation, suppression of internal opposition and what are on the lips of his opponents- dictatorial approach brought him many foes.
The detention of Dr Joseph Boakye Dankwa (aka JB) and others and the dismissal in March 1964 of some Supreme Court and High Court judges for acquitting three of the five Ghanaians charged with and tried for treason conspiracy are some of much cited authorities to this argument. But could we sing with one voice that many great people are not controversial figures, if beamed from different angles by different class of people even after their death? Probably skilful biographers and historians might differ on this.
As it is always said if only those who were without any human weaknesses were to be considered great, the list of the world’s great men and women might soar to zero degree. And perhaps not even acknowledge saints and apostles would survive on this subject. So why should we be preoccupied with Ex-President Bill Clinton and his Monica Lewinsky’s affair and the bombs he dropped on impoverished Sudan during his reign? Consider, for example, his passionate concern for Africa’s debts and diseases, not forgetting his unconditional subscription to the International Criminal Court (ICC) that lies at heart of every human rights-centred government.
From this premise, Dr Nkrumah, like any other Ghanaian leader [or leaders in difficult times], had his shortcomings as this article attempts to portray. Of course, Article 1A of the First Republican Constitution as amended in 1964, which named the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) as unrivalled national political party, was not a favourable one. That could also be said of the CPP, which in the words of the Osagyefo ‘embodies the will of the people’. Equally true was the party’s ideology that wove through the entire economic and social nets of Ghana. Thus the Workers Brigade, Young Pioneer, Farmers Council and many more, which undoubtedly, eroded the political future of opposition parties.
Our learned brother Francis Adigwe might be right in saying that whatever may have been the grounds for introducing the one-party system in Ghana, by wilfully eliminating the opposition from the scene, the Government [CPP] did away with vital ingredient of parliamentary dictatorship which eventually degenerated to personality cult around Dr Kwame Nkrumah (Adigwe, F., 1975, p. 134-7). According to the former Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, CPP knew no barrier to the execution of its policies. A situation which in the words of the lawyer and writer, never changed even under Prime Minister Busia’s Progress Party (PP) administration in the Second Republic.
Dr Busia, according to our learned Adigwe, threatened the judiciary and actually deported alleged aliens in defiance of the ruling of the Court. This together with dismissal of 600 Civil Servants and harassment of opposition newspapers, Adigwe may be on target in arguing that Dr Busia’s regime started on a wrong foot. And never became established during its two years of existence (Adigwe, p.166).
It worth noting that Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah in a similar vein, under his prerogative orders “overruled” the court decision on the three acquitted accused who were detained, retried and convicted on the same facts. It is tempting but probably, a bad omen that might have inflicted psychological and deadly blow on the robustness and independent judgement of our judiciary.
Against this backdrop, it is easy for us to arrive at the conclusion that Dr Nkrumah and his CPP achievements were of no significance. In that he deprived Ghanaians of their fundamental human rights. But politically, as evident in Adigwe’s book, Dr Nkrumah reduced not only ethnicism to a minimum factor, but also infused the spirit of oneness into Ghanaians- a pride which in the words of the learned Advocate, brought about national unity which was to be the envy of most of other African states (Adigwe, p.44).
There could be more than this at least if we consider magnificent projects such as the Tema Township, Akosombo Dam and universities. Why then, should such a statesman be denied befitting recognition on his own land of birth even on his deathbed? Could we therefore, say with honesty that there were ever any genuine peace and reconciliation? Besides all these, most Ghanaians [arguably], find it hard to recognise his achievements.
In his presidential acceptance speech on January 7 2001, New African Magazine quoted President John Agyekum Kufuor as saying: “We face grave economic challenges that are likely to put severe strain on our people’s belief and enthusiasm for democratic methods. We have been down on this road before in the Second Republic and Third Republics, when Adventurers were able to exploit the temporary difficult by promising instant solutions-, and overthrowing our constitutionally elected government.” You may ask, and what of military-cum-police intervention in the First Republic? Was it justified?
For decades, various governments declined to sense Kotoka’s monument- the symbol of our continental disunity, as an obstacle to an honest reform to peace and stability. Thanks in part to the renovation works at the airport, which presumably, might nicodemusly, settle this controversial issue. But why did other structures and ideas that never appeal to new system saw no light but that particular image survived many self-cleansings?
We are told that the fate of ex-servicemen, Sergeant Adjety and Corporal Attipoe, at the Christianborg Crossroads, represent the turning point in Gold Coast’s road to self-determination. If so, then what historical awareness did the general’s statute depict? By steering its re-definition the Truth and National Reconciliation commission (TNRC) that finished work recently might have gained the credibility others lacked.
In that, until recently, our people never had the power or the chance to effect any democratic change. As we all know, attempts to uproot these economic and political malpractice’s encounter stiff opposition because some politicians, afraid of loosing power for good take delight in condoning and conniving with the security services to subvert the very values they claim to be protectors. Is it not sad and disappointing to see our Moseses and Aarons being bitter religious enemies as we fast and pray to get out of Egypt?
Ponder over these pairings, Dr Joseph Boakye Danquah against Dr Kwame Nkrumah, General(s) F.W.K. Akuffo v. I.K. Acheampong and many more. You may probably ask for some videocassettes from the Information Services Department, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation or endeavour to lay hands on some past newspapers of your choice if our past is not reviewed on television screens. Just to judge for how far we have journeyed.
In recent times as one Ghanaian newspaper puts it: “The questions that the Kufuor regime must be answering are how come more than two years after the Ya-Na was killed in broad daylight in front of his palace, a few metres from the Yendi Police Station, after three days of sustained “heavy artillery fire”, neither the killers nor their sponsors have been found, especially as the Minister of Interior has publicly admitted having seen the recording of the sordid affair?”
With some of these questions probably agitating the minds of most Ghanaians, it is unclear whether our homeland is really going to achieve the national reconciliation that we are all yearning and craving for. And whether or not Ya-Na and his massacred subjects do not deserve having statutes in front of the National House of Chiefs. Here, we are talking about a king and his 40 kinsmen. But not like Alibaba and the 40 thieves.
Yes, there may be some frustrations, now that we have all realised and opted for democracy as the only route to the Promised Land. But we need to remind ourselves never again to condone violence, intimidation and distortion of history for political gains. Parliament must therefore reconsider a National Reconciliation Bill that shall set aside to prompt and guide our leaders and our homeland so that we shall look before we leap.
This history was originally featured by Asante Fordjour in Ghanaweb.com, on Monday, 15 November 2004.