Feature: Ghana: lessons from Nkrumah’s fallout with his economic adviser – By Prof. N. Lungu

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Ghana's former President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah
Ghana’s former President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah
On March 1, this year, on the occasion of the 59th independence anniversary of Ghana from British colonial rule, “The Conversation”, a Commonwealth Bank of Australia funded “global platform” supported by a consortium of universities (among them Michigan, Boston U, Ohio State, Case Western Reserve, Georgia State, Rutgers Newark, Penn State, UT Austin, Tufts, U of California, and Vanderbilt, etc.), published an essay about Ghana. The essay came to our attention when someone, without proper attribution, posted it on Ghanaweb several weeks ago with the title “Would Arthur Lewis recognize today’s Ghana?”

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“The Conversation” actually credited the original essay, titled “Ghana: lessons from Nkrumah’s fallout with his economic adviser”, to Professor Robert Tignor, Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, Emeritus, Princeton University. “The Conversation” represented Professor Tignor’s essay as a “foundation essay” that takes “a wider look at a key issue affecting society”.

We imagined that “key issue affecting society” to be the role of the economist, (i.e. the technician), in a human context that is by default characterized by politics at multiple levels.

Having read Prof Tignor’s “extract” more than once, it is clear to us the essay does not quite do justice to that lofty goal given actual historical records now available, from the World Bank; International Monetary Fund (IMF); Office of the Historian, US State Department; and so forth.

Simply, Sir Arthur Lewis, (i.e, the economist/technician), who was acting within a complex political, economic, and social context cannot be represented as a neutral, objective actor. This is even less so today, when we find, for the first time, that our economist was actually funded by external entities controlled by other countries. That seminal point has been disproven (Rittel and Webber, 1973) since at least the 1970s, when Mr. Lewis was awarded the Nobel Prize in development economics.

As such, in 2016, we are not sure why Professor Tignor represents Mr. Arthur Lewis as a rationalist, but Dr. Kwame Nkrumah isn’t.

Kwame Nkrumah was as well an intellectual with an acute sense of political-economy, history, and sociology. Further, Nkrumah was the leader who led the Gold Coast from 1951 to independence in 1957, then to greater political, social, and economic strides by Ghana, up to 24 February, 1966, when his government was overthrown under the direction of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

In fact, we will posit that Kwame Nkrumah was a well-rounded critical rationalist who was always ready to adjust to conditions and demand signals, if usefully and effectively communicated, except his beliefs in the independence of Ghana and control of African resources by Africans.

Many times, Dr. Nkrumah offered several members of the “…right wing…(Matemeho)… party, who believed that Ghana continued to need support from the great capitalist powers…”, Dr. J. B. Danquah, for instance, important positions in a Unitary Government of Ghana. Every time, they declined, even as the same people (among them Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia), were collecting treasonous payments from handlers at the American Embassy in Accra, Ghana, and from other clandestine venues.

But, writing in 2016, we will not know any of that from Professor Tignor’s “extract.”

On the contrary, according to Professor Tignor:

“…If, then, Lewis saw Ghana as a proving ground for his ideas on economic development, later scholars have viewed the Kwame Nkrumah years (1951-66) as a case study of striking failure…From a country that seemed on the threshold of robust economic progress, it descended into economic misery and political instability…”

Here are at least four points for the record:

1. It is a historical fact that under Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana won “political kingdom”ship in 1957, that Ghana was stable even after many attempts on Nkrumah’s life, until the 1966 coup d’état. (It was that event, actually, that ushered in periods of “political instability” for Ghana).

2. It is a historical fact that in six short years, between 1960 and 1966 (the year Nkrumah was overthrown), Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita jumped from $181.00 to $267.00, representing a 47% increase (or 7.83% each one of those 6 years). However, thirty (30) long years after the overthrow of Nkrumah, Ghana’s GDP per capita was practically stagnant, increasing just 2.7% each one of those 30 years (from a low $214.00 in 1967 to $386.00 in 1997).

3. It is also a historical fact that the comprehensive, integrated Akosombo Hydro Electric Power-Volta Lake-VALCO” project was a planned, industrial, agricultural, service industry, and economic “take-off” initiative for the fast-track development of Ghana in accordance with the vision of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. As approved by his government, proceeds from sales of some of the electricity to industry and Togo would pay off all elements of the $324 million loan within 30 years, well before the end of the useful life of Akosombo Dam, the anchor asset.

Fifty years later, the Akosombo Hydro-Electric Dam still remains the most important factor in the Ghana energy mix.

And Kwame Nkrumah had a mandate for universities and research centers to begin vigorous studies in Solar Energy in the 1960s!

4. The historical record shows that in 1966, just thirty-three (33) days after Nkrumah commissioned the Akosombo Dam, he was overthrown by the Kotoka-Ankrah-Harlley military-police junta with the knowledge and support of Western powers, among them the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.

The big idea is, if Ghanaians had known the true history surrounding the actions and overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah and his Convention Peoples Party (CPP) in 1966, Ghanaians, Africans, and “Afrophiles”, as Professor Tignor prefers to call some people, would have wailed and moaned for their “Lost Star of Africa”.

Critically, it is as well the idea about the absence of a discussion of that international, activist usurpation of the power of the Government of Ghana under Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, that is another regrettable aspect of Professor Tignor’s “extract”.

And, it is an important one, too!

It is one that students and scholars will do well to address when analyzing and discussing the President Johnson record and the record of Kwame Nkrumah in the development of Ghana, and Africa, and other states especially those traditionally in the “non-aligned” sphere, versus say the Singapore experience.

Truth be told!

Even today, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s “Unitary” vision still holds Ghana together even though the “right wing” wanted a confederation, what they call in Ghana, a “matemeho confederate” government.

To the point, Kwame Nkrumah achieved his vision for Ghana working with all manner of economists, technicians, and even right wingers, exactly to the extent the US and other more powerful western governments would allow. As such, the only significant fallout Nkrumah had was actually with the western powers who were instrumental in his overthrow, oddly, as Nkrumah was on an aircraft headed to Hanoi, to help negotiate an end to Jimmy Cliff’s War in:

Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam

Maybe, Professor Tignor and others of similar mind will now take time and revisit the Johnson-Vietnam history and the record, then learn a little more about the Ghana record even as represented by notes from “technicians”.

Maybe, going forward, Professor Tignor and others of similar mind will inform their students and the American public how many Americans and Vietnamese lost their lives, how much more property were destroyed, after Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was forced to abort his Vietnam mission on that aircraft 24 February, 1966, directly as a result of his overthrow by the United States’ CIA (and other western powers), while Nkrumah was outside Ghana on that “Johnson-blessed mission”.

SOURCES:
1. The Conversation. Ghana: lessons from Nkrumah’s fallout with his economic adviser, 1 Mar 16, (https://theconversation.com/ghana-lessons-from-nkrumahs-fallout-with-his-economic-adviser-53233/).

2. Horst W. J. Rittel and Melvin M. Webber. 1973. Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning. Policy Sciences 4, 155-169, ©Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company.

3. Historian, US State Department.
On 12 March, 1966, Robert Komer, Deputy Special Assistant to President Johnson for National Security Affairs wrote a congratulatory assessment to Johnson:

“…The coup in Ghana is another example of a fortuitous windfall. Nkrumah was doing more to undermine our interests than any other black African. In reaction to his strongly pro-Communist leanings, the new military regime is almost pathetically pro-Western…The point of this memo is that we ought to follow through skillfully and consolidate such successes. A few thousand tons of surplus wheat or rice, given now when the new regimes are quite uncertain as to their future relations with us, could have a psychological significance out of all proportion to the cost of the gesture. I am not arguing for lavish gifts to these regimes—indeed, giving them a little only whets their appetites, and enables us to use the prospect of more as leverage.” (Source: https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1964-68v26/d201/).

4. Prof Lungu. There Was No “Dum-Sor” Under Kwame Nkrumah!, (http://www.ghanahero.com/Visions/Nkrumah_Legacy_Project/Prof_Lungu/There_Was_No_Dum-Sor_Under_Kwame_Nkrumah-v2.pdf/).