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Human Rights, Individual Freedoms and Democracy in Ghana- The Preventive Detention Act and After - Proclivity to Dictatorship

Nkrumah’s Preconceived Proclivity to Dictatorship

It is true that many adherents of Nkrumah’s repressive regime have contrived to find explanations for the dictatorship that he clamped on Ghana. In all these, they have sought to contend that Nkrumah was compelled by the atmosphere of violent opposition in the post-independence Ghana to have recourse to undemocratic, authoritarian and totalitarian measures to rule Ghana. They would blame everybody except Nkrumah himself for the tyranny he unleashed on Ghana. They would blame the moon and the stars, but never Kwame Nkrumah himself, for the ugly situation he designed and applied to Ghana. Therein lies the hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty of many of our compatriots, particularly those with respectable levels of education and sophistication.

It is submitted that no amount of sophistry, and no amount of calumny or distortion of history, can successfully controvert the truth that Nkrumah never intended that under his leadership Ghana would be allowed even the elementary principles of freedom which the people yearned for, and for which hey had fought for liberation from colonialism. To Nkrumah, the end of colonialism would only catapult him into the position of an absolute dictator who would rule with iron hand for life. He revealed this tendency in the list of persons whose lives and political philosophies he imbibed and sought to emulate. We have seen above the unenviable list as stated by Kwame Nkrumah himself.

Notwithstanding the revisionist theories of modern-day Nkrumaists, if there is a word like that, Kwame Nkrumah himself had outlined very clearly his vision of the Independent Ghana. It was not to be a Ghana with a free market economy and it would not be allowed a system that would countenance a liberal democratic rule. In his autobiography, which he presumptuously titled Ghana, and which was published in 1957 on the eve of Ghana’s Independence, Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah spelt out in plain language what was in store for Ghana. Wrote Kwame Nkrumah:

“Capitalism is too complicated a system for a newly independent nation. Hence the need for a socialist society. But even a system based on social justice and a democratic constitution may need backing up, during the period following independence, by emergency measures of a totalitarian kind. Without discipline true freedom cannot survive.”

Like many of Kwame Nkrumah’s categorical assertions, he needed no authority or data to support them. The atmosphere of political repression in which he operated at that time was such that every word falling from whim was to be accepted as categorical truth emanating ex cathedra from the authority of the “Osagyefo.” To have disputed them at that time would have been a quixotic flirtation with the prospect of imprisonment without trial.

Today we can controvert the self-styled “Osagyefo” Kwame Nkrumah’s assertion that “Capitalism is too complicated a system for a newly independent nation.” Kwame Nkrumah had no statistical, scientific or empirical evidence for that statement. It was a bald, unsupportable, egocentric and evidently self-serving statement by a nascent dictator to justify and lay the foundations for the denial of a free market economy in the newly independent Ghana. There was no evidence, not even anecdotal evidence, to support that statement. At the time of Ghana’s Independence, there were four other “newly independent” nations in Africa, in addition to the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia. These were Liberia, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. In all these independent African states, the economic system was “capitalist” with, of course, variations of detail to accommodate local conditions. There were also newly independent nations like India, Pakistan and Malaysia, none of which had rejected capitalism as too complex.

Characteristically, Nkrumah wrote that statement without an effort to explain the alleged complexity of capitalism for the new nation of Ghana. In a sense, any attempt by him to expatiate on this would have lent support to the imperialist arguments that such peoples of the world were not ready for self-determination but had to remain under colonial tutelage to prepare them for self-government. Nkrumah’s version of this neo-colonial argument is that Ghanaians were not ready to assume their own destiny as a free people to chart their nation’s destiny. They had to remain in the Nkrumaist chains to learn to understand the complexities of the “evil” system of capitalism as contrasted with the blessings of socialism. The way Nkrumah would teach the people of Ghana to be ready to take their destiny into their own hands was through their imprisonment without trial under a Preventive Detention Act. This was notwithstanding the fact that imprisonment without trial under Kwame Nkrumah was not conscription into the proverbial “re-education camps” of the type experienced in the communist countries. Re-education was to be later imposed on public and party officials at the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute where bogus theories of Nkrumaism were spewed.

Nkrumah’s castigation of capitalism as “too complicated,” not only for Ghana but for all newly independent nations, was a deliberate strategy to reverse the course of democracy which had been nurtured under British rule and which the good people of Ghana had evidently adopted. Such adoption was demonstrated in the protracted pre-independence constitutional conferences in which all segments of the Gold Coast society had insisted on democratic rule and a free market economy. By opting out of capitalism without articulating the difficulties inherently associated with it, Nkrumah was clearly advocating a leaning towards socialism. At that time the socialist countries were known. They included the communist countries of the Soviet Union, China and North Korea. Their economic systems were intertwined with communism, and they rejected the democratic system of government. In these counties there was no freedom of conscience; and imprisonment without trial was the norm. By peremptorily rejecting capitalism, whatever that meant to him, Nkrumah was directly advocating an economic and political system of communist rule.

The fact is that all countries which professed socialism were communist countries where personal liberty was set at naught and where the communist state was more important than the individual citizen. This system was perfectly consistent with and actually inherent in the system of democratic centralism that Nkrumah imposed on Ghana. The violent tool for such enforced conformity to non-democratic, semi-communist rule was the notorious Preventive Detention Act with which Nkrumah succeeded in reducing Ghana into a totalitarian state. Thus, although Nkrumah never really abandoned “capitalism,” and never seriously completed converting Ghana into a socialist economy, his socialist and communist rhetoric enabled him to whittle away the liberties of Ghanaians. We must all now be honest to admit that this was a tragic episode in our nation’s history. This permanent and indelible blotch on Nkrumah is not tantamount to a denial of his role in the attainment of Independence of Ghana.



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