For Busia, Nkrumah possessed what clearly appeared to be a pathological habit and a knack for trumping up situations that falsely pointed to a nation on the brink of civic chaos, in order to deviously orchestrate his premeditated penchant for imposing his will on the people. Of the events leading up to President Nkrumah’s infamous declaration of Ghana as a one-party state, the future Prime Minister Busia writes:
“On New Year’s Eve, President Nkrumah announced that he would hold a referendum from January 24th to January 31st to ask the people of Ghana to endorse his plan to make Ghana a one-party state, and to give him powers to dismiss Supreme and High Court Judges as he likes. Two days later[,] an official Ghanaian statement alleged that a Police Constable had fired five shots at President Nkrumah, and the following day an incredibly placid photograph, purporting to show the President subduing his assailant, was published widely [sic] in the world press. ¶ This morning we are given the news of the second arrest and detention of Dr. J. B. Danquah, one of Ghana’s most distinguished citizens, and a leading member of the Opposition. We also hear news of the dismissal of the Chief of Police and nine other senior members of the police force, two of whom have also been detained. At the same time[,] there is news of mass rallies throughout the country by Nkrumah’s CPP to launch a campaign for the Referendum. The campaign has been appropriately called – ‘Operation Yes’; of course, no rallied will be allowed to launch ‘Operation No.’ Everything is being done to create an atmosphere of mass hysteria, fanaticism, fear and intimidation, and the object of the exercise is not to ascertain the wishes of the people, but merely to attain a managed, mechanical endorsement of the President’s express will. ¶ According to precedent in Ghana[,] the Referendum is likely to be interpreted to mean that it is unnecessary to hold the election promised for 1965. There has not been a General Election in Ghana since the one held in 1956, before independence”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 43).
It is also worth highlighting the last paragraph of the foregoing quote, because the pat and cavalier tendency has been for Nkrumah fanatics to vehemently and intransigently insist that the CPP regime that was auspiciously overthrown by the National Liberation Council (NLC) junta on February 24, 1966, had been freely and democratically elected by the citizens and people of Ghana. To-date, none of the staunch adherents of the foregoing argumentative tack, or stance, has bothered to explain to both their fellow citizens and the rest of the civilized world, at large, why a reasonably intelligent Ghanaian populace would so slavishly consent not to hold even a single general election for the 10-year period from 1956 to 1966, even as the very same people regularly suffered the abject ignobility of being forcibly herded into the polling booth to rubberstamp the neo-fascist dictatorship of President Nkrumah and his so-called Convention People’s Party. The answer, of course, is not far-fetched at all; and in the “eyewitness” and unassailably erudite opinion of the leader of the erstwhile United Party, it is tersely as follows:
“The widening circle of purges tells its own unmistakable story of the people’s opposition to the Nkrumah regime from which they suffer, not only political oppression, but widespread economic hardship. The standard of living of farmers and workers alike has been falling steadily. The economic situation was vividly summed up by a Ghanaian market woman, who said – ‘Ghana today is a country in which the situation of all who work may be likened to corn growing; we grow corn for the President and his few Party zealots, and we are paid with the husks, for which we are expected to be dutifully grateful.’ If votes could be free, the ‘No’ to the Referendum could not be in doubt, but detentions and organized intimidation will probably ensure the ‘yes’ that the President wants. Against his oppressive and managed measures[,] I have no ‘secret scheme,’ as has been reported; but I maintain my faith that the people of Ghana will, sooner or later, reject the servitude and indignity by which President Nkrumah dishonors our country. His imposition of one-party rule will not be permanently endured. Dictatorship is not an inevitable path for Ghana, or indeed for any [other] country. All peoples love freedom, and victory is eventually on the side of those who dare to try for it. The opposition in Ghana to Nkrumah’s dictatorship cannot be destroyed by the Referendum, or crushed by detentions and ruthless dictatorship”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 43-44).
Indeed, so morally bankrupt, intellectually vacuous and logically facile had the African Show Boy become, by the eve of his overthrow, that he would in March 1965 issue the most lame-brained of public challenges, daring a never-implicated Dr. Busia to forensically prove his innocence in the alleged assassination plot and attempt on the life of the then-Prime Minister Nkrumah in the 1958 Awhaitey Affair. The future Prime Minister Busia, ever the inimitable wit for which he was globally renowned and celebrated, riposted as follows (of course, clearly bearing in mind the fact that Nkrumah had summarily denied Dr. Danquah the same human right just the year before):
“I looked in vain [from a meticulous reading of his parliamentary address] for the specific charges of which evidence is to be presented against me. They are not stated. While I am extremely interested to note that at least in form President Nkrumah is prepared to allow some third party judgment in deciding the validity of the reckless but unspecified charges he has made against me, he must be aware of the preposterous suggestion he makes. It is unthinkable to be used to gratify the ends of another State, or put itself to the expense or undertake the extremely serious security risks involved. Can he point to any instance where this has been done before? Whether he can or not, is he himself prepared to submit to such procedure? Would he, for instance, submit himself to charges of complicity in the murder of Mr. Obetsebi-lamptey, and Dr. J. B. Danquah in his detention prisons, to mention but two? He[,] of course[,] has what[ever] is left of the wealth of Ghana behind him, and therefore it would be more reasonable for him to submit himself to trial in the way he proposes than it would be for me who have none of these resources. I challenge President Nkrumah to agree to submit himself to the same procedures”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 46; underscore appears in the original).
In his March 26 address to the Ghana National Assembly, an apparently morally shameless President Nkrumah had issued his challenge as follows: “I repeat again our offer to present further evidence against Busia, Kow Richardson, Taylor and their evil criminal [sic] associates, evidence which is conclusive against these traitors who spread lies about Ghana. ¶ Our offer to invite the United Nations to appoint a tribunal to try them faces them and their newspaper supporters with a test they must meet. ¶ If they are frightened to come to Accra, let the Tribunal hear our evidence in a sister African State. This challenge is directed as well to those in the world who malign us”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 45).
The received narrative and/or standard textbook presentation of postcolonial Ghanaian history almost invariably depicts the late and former Prime Minister K. A. Busia as a decided political exile who spent most of the late 1950s and early to mid-1960s abroad and far removed from the infernal frontlines of the righteous war against the neo-fascist regime of the Nkrumah-led Convention People’s Party. Needless to say, what such standard accounts casually ignore is the fact that the great statesman, politician, scholar, social scientist and thinker was as functionally active and potent in exile as he had earlier been at home, and perhaps even more puissant in terms of the necessary spotlight which Busia scorchingly focused on the repressive activities of Nkrumah’s CPP government. Thus in the wake of the Show Boy’s megalomaniacal declaration of Ghana as a one-party state in 1964, for instance, Busia released an extensive and trenchant message to both the people of Ghana and the international community at large, detailing the insufferably ill-advised nature of such policy and rallying all Ghanaian patriots and lovers of a democratic culture in the fierce fight against the new tyrannical regime. Titled “Ghana Will Be Truly Free And Happy: Message To The People Of Ghana – 21st December, 1964”(See The Courage And Foresight of Busia 49-59), among a host of other things, Nkrumah’s former political arch-rival and ideological nemesis made the following observations:
“The one-party regime has cast a shadow of fear and anxiety and sorrowful gloom over the whole country. It has made a hollow mockery of the country’s motto: Freedom and Justice.¶ Before independence[,] Nkrumah led men, women and children to shout ‘Freedom!’ – at party rallies, in the markets, in the streets, in all the towns and villages in the country. But today, anyone who shouts ‘Freedom!’ risks imprisonment without trial. Why? Because there is no freedom in Ghana and Nkrumah does not want to be reminded [of the fact] that he has betrayed his promises and deceived the people. His one-party regime has been accompanied by ruthlessness and cruelty and oppression – by unjust dismissals, house arrests, imprisonments without trial, mass poverty, unemployment, and all forms of economic hardship. I do not need to remind you of the large number of Brigaders and Young Pioneers, or the new Party Police, or the large number of paid secret informants in taxis, buses, public offices and private homes; nor do I need to remind you of the thousands of Ghanaians, young and old, men and women, who languish indefinitely in prison without trial, their families and the country deprived of their services. These arrests and detentions which started eight years ago[,] still continue. As you well know, nowadays[,] people are arrested in secret, sometimes at dead of night, and taken away to prisons. Their families do not know where they are detained or how they are being treated. No one is safe. Cabinet ministers and even security officers have themselves been arrested. Not even those who are thought to be close to Nkrumah or hold high posts in his party are safe. Everyone has heard of the detention of the former Minister of Information [Mr. Tawiah Adamafio], or the former Minister of Foreign Affairs [Mr. Ako-Adjei], or of Dr. Danquah; but few know that among the recent detainees were Chief S. D. Dombo, Leader of the ‘Minority Group’ in Parliament, or Mr. William Ofori-Atta, of the United Party, Dr. Kuta-Dankwa, known to be a close friend of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I could extend the list ad nauseam. Many of you know the new slogan: ‘One o’clock [fever].’ It refers to the 1pm news bulletin in Ghana for which everyone waits anxiously. Many people, including Cabinet Ministers and Regional Commissioners, heave sighs of relief if they do not hear, in the one o’clock news broadcast, that they or others for whom they care have been dismissed, or that orders for their detention have been signed. So people live from day to day in painful and anxious suspense.¶ ….¶….
“There are no free trade unions in Ghana. The trade unions have long been under control, and instead of protecting the interest and welfare of the worker, and helping him to get what he needs, the unions have been used to keep the worker down, and make him a slave to toil for Nkrumah and his henchmen. ¶ No aspect of social life is being left without control. It is now the turn of the Universities. Professors have been dismissed, and students have been arrested and sent to prison without trial. Everybody must conform or be crushed. As it has been made apparent in the party press, the guns will be trained against religion and beliefs, and that will give ground for more people to be thrown into prison without trial. ¶ The press, which in some countries champions the freedom of the people, is now an instrument of oppression in Ghana. It denounces civil servants, judges, even party members, and all who do not toe the party line, and the denunciation is usually a prelude to demotion, dismissal or detention. Far from defending the rights of the people, the Ghana press frequently urges the Government to mete out savage punishments and ruthless oppression. ¶ The press is also making enemies for Ghana by its irresponsible attacks on countries which it dubs as capitalist, such as Britain, France, the United States and West Germany. At the same time[,] the Government seeks investments from these very countries. A Ghanaian delegation recently visited the United States. At a press conference it held in New York, a Ghanaian journalist, who was a member of the delegation, when questioned about the attacks on the United States in the Ghanaian press[,] tried to justify them, and his futile performance wrecked any good [that] the delegation might have done to attract investment. But even more reprehensible and disgusting are the attacks on other African States, among them Nigeria, Congo (Leopoldville), Liberia, the Ivory Coast and Tanganyika. This makes Nkrumah’s avowed aspiration for African unity questionable. The much-advertised Ghana-Guinea-Mali Union came to nothing because Mali did not want Nkrumah’s dictatorship, and there have been subversive activities against other African governments, suspected or known to have been financed or directed from Ghana; such accusations have been made in respect of Togo, Liberia, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, the Cameroons and the Congo; and Ghana’s subversive attempts to prevent the creation of a union between Senegal and the Gambia, and also the Federation of the East African States of Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika and Zanzibar is now common knowledge throughout Africa. It is now generally accepted that Nkrumah is not really seeking unity, but only the domination of Africa; a dream which other African leaders regard as ridiculous and unreal. But Nkrumah continues to spend millions of pounds of much-needed public funds on his selfish schemes to spread dictatorial rule. Consequently, there are top-level talks for more practicable steps towards co-operation and eventual unions from which Ghana[,] for the time being[,] is excluded. In our own interest, and for the good of Africa, we must learn to live on better terms with our neighbors. We must win their respect and confidence again”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 49-51).
There is something eerily familiar about the rather cynical manner in which the Nkrumah-led CPP, purporting to be fighting rank corruption, facilely scapegoated the very weak and the abjectly deprived and destitute in society. On this nauseating aspect of CPP political culture, this is what Busia had to say: “There is also the make-believe about cleaning up corruption, given publicity in the CPP press, whilst the ‘Adankos’ [rabbits] and ‘Patakus’ [wolves] and the favored few carry on extorting bribes. It is widely known that it is those who shout the loudest about being apostles of socialism who have amassed huge fortunes which they have stored abroad or used in buying palatial mansions in foreign countries. They are the ones who have drained the country of its wealth, and brought suffering to the masses. For the good of the country, and the happiness of the masses who suffer most under a corrupt government, Ghana must be saved from corruption. But the truth is that the corruption which has been allowed to grow to such menacing proportions cannot be effectively dealt with unless the cleaning starts from the top and moves downwards. It is not dealt with by exposing the weak at the bottom and protecting the strong at the top. Corruption still continues and causes injustice, inefficiency, and waste of public funds. The Government should not pretend to be stopping bribery and corruption while it passes iniquitous laws to deprive the people of their right to question its actions. ¶ It has been blatantly announced to the whole world by the dismissal of the Chief Justice, Sir Arku Korsah, the subsequent dismissals of Justice Akufo-Addo, Blay, Bossman and Prempeh, and by the law which empowers the President to appoint and dismiss Judges as he likes, and even review court decisions he disapproves, that justice and the rule of law are extinguished in Ghana in Nkrumah’s one-party regime. No citizen has protection in law against the whims of the President, however capricious and unreasonable these may be. It is not surprising that Mr. Koi Larbi, the Senior Defense Counsel in the recent treason trials, has been thrown into prison without trial. The ‘justice’ in the motto is a hollow mockery. Ghana has enthroned tyranny”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 51-52).
On the intellectually vacuous argument of those who, like Nkrumah, have sought to justify the morally untenable one-party state and system of governance in the name of a purportedly “monolithic” organic unity of continental African history and culture, Busia has the following to say: “What the one-party has done in Ghana is to empower one man to rule absolutely, without anyone having the right to disagree with him, and without giving the people any real opportunity to change him. It has been claimed that the one-party state accords with the traditions of Ghana and that the President must be seen as a Big Chief. This is false. I challenge anyone to produce evidence from the country’s traditional institutions to substantiate the claim. Those who seek to justify tyrannical and despotic rule on the basis of our tradition do us injury, as well as insult us. Wherever you look at our traditional political institutions, whether of Ga, or Adangbe, or Krobo, or Ewe, or Akwamu, or Asante, or Fante or any of the Akan tribes; or Mamprusi, or Dagomba, or any Northern tribe; all of them, despite their diversities, had one thing in common. Each political organization brought together heads representing the interests of various groups and communities who at the Central Council protected the interests of the respective groups and communities they represented, whilst at the same time they sought agreements on the matters which concerned them as a whole. The wisdom of our ancestors lay in their ability to devise political institutions which reconciled sectional interests, multi-interest representation was a fundamental principle of our traditional political institutions. The case for monolithic one-party rule cannot be based on our tradition. It should also be noted that the traditional systems provided alternatives from which to choose; and heads, whether of families, or tribes, or chiefdoms, could be changed by those whom they represented. If we care to learn from our past, we shall find pointers to the solution of our contemporary problems of government, central as well as local. We had foundations for a democratic system of government. ¶ Everyone knows that the referendum which was supposed to have given the people’s approval to the one-party state was a fraud. Ballot papers were marked and thrown into the voting boxes for people who never voted; the ‘No’ boxes were sealed so that ballot papers could not be placed in them; the declared figures were much larger than the numbers that actually voted. The referendum was a gigantic fake. These facts were reported in the world press, and could not be challenged by the Ghana Government. It is known both outside and within Ghana that the referendum was an outrageous fraud. We of the United Party outside Ghana do not accept the results as a genuine reflection of the will of the people; they represent a fraudulent abuse of power. This is not the first time [that] elections have been rigged in Ghana; rigging elections is in accordance with the teachings of Lenin, whose avowed disciple Nkrumah is, and he has used it to keep himself in power”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 52-55).
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (iUniverse.com, 2005).
The opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views or have the endorsement of the Editorial Board of www.africanewsanalysis.com and www.africa-forum.net