Aside from the landmark year of 1951, when he was elected as a representative of the great Asante Federation to the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly, 1959 represents, arguably, the most significant landmark on the political résumé of Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia (1913-1978) prior to his equally auspicious election as Prime Minister of Ghana in August 1969. The former year, of course, was about the moment that Nkrumah’s CPP regime came closest to mortally endangering the life of Ghana’s main parliamentary opposition leader. Thus it is all the more to be expected that Dr. Busia would present a detailed account regarding why he had to, literally, flee Ghana into a Western-European exile in 1959. In the main, it involved the R. R. Amponsah-Apaloo-Awhaitey Affair (See Geoffrey Bing’s Reap The Whirlwind; see also my series of articles titled “When Dancers Play Historians And Thinkers”), in which some leading figures of the parliamentary opposition were alleged to have conspired to both cause the forcible overthrow and assassination of then-Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah. And though Busia had neither been directly nor personally implicated in the alleged conspiracy, at least as publicly disclosed by the Granville-Sharp Commission, nevertheless, an apparently intellectually challenged and morally concussed Convention People’s Party constabulary wanted the future Prime Minister Busia’s head to be carved off his neck and shoulders and immediately and summarily delivered on a gilded diamond platter. This is how H. K. Akyeampong, the compiler of The Courage And Foresight of Busia recounted the events precipitating the protagonist’s departure from Ghana in the same year:
“In August 1958, Professor Busia was offered professorships at the Institute of Social Studies at The Hague and at Leiden University. In February of the following year[,] he booked passages for himself and his family to leave Ghana on the 17th of June, 1959, in order to go to The Hague to discuss the offers. This date was known to all his colleagues[,] including even his bitterest friends. ¶ But when in May 1959[,] the Granville Sharp Commission[,] which was appointed to go into the arrest and detention of Messrs. R. R. Amponsah and Apaloo published its Report[,] the CPP newspapers daily called upon Nkrumah and his Government for the arrest and detention of Professor Busia. The Evening News wrote: ‘We are convinced beyond any shadow of doubt that the safest place for this unpatriotic African in the true public interest[,] is not a foreign asylum but the Preventive Detention University where he can learn to recover his political senses….¶ Professor Busia[,] sensing that there was danger ahead[,] had to take a quick decision to leave the country. Said he: ‘I knew they would either arrest me or try to stop me [from] leaving the country [in order] to carry out my academic engagements.’ ¶ And so on the 13th of June, 1959, to quote his own words, ‘without saying good-bye to my friends,’ Professor Busia left the country through the Ivory Coast to Freetown. ¶ On the 17th June, 1959, the actual date of his departure, the [sic] wife and four children boarded the M.V. Accra at Takoradi where he, as already pointed out, had accommodation reserved four months previously. The CPP Government sent policemen to Takoradi because they expected him to board the ship there. But when they waited until the last moment and realized that he had rather outwitted them, they opened up all his wife’s luggage and delayed the ship for an hour. But thank God[,] Professor Busia joined the ship when it called at Freetown. ¶ When he arrived in London, he told reporters: ‘In leaving Ghana, I was dealing with a situation which is part of the government’s persecution of the Opposition. The government is seriously trying to wipe out the Opposition. They do not want one. The position is the same as in some other independent African States[,] where they feel that an Opposition is unnecessary. I believe in parliamentary democracy[,] and I have tried to help establish one in Ghana.’ ¶ On the 30th June[,] 1959[,] Professor Busia arrived in The Hague to discuss the offers, and it was while there that he issued the following statement giving a fuller account of the circumstances in which he left Ghana. ¶ Today, some people are going about saying [that] Professor Busia had to run away from Ghana because he was afraid of detention. Such people saying such things must have lost their faith in God” (The Courage And Foresight of Busia 19).
For his part, Busia expansively highlights the fact that his avid interest in Ghanaian politics stems largely from his ingrained desire to see the country function as a robust and an exemplary constitutional democracy, rather than merely pursuing politics as a career in of itself, or as the most fetching means of making a living, as clearly seems to be the overriding motive of many a Convention People’s Party operative. He consequently details his incontrovertibly prestigious and hectic academic schedule, one that literally spans the proverbial four corners of the globe. Needless to say, the following fascinating and enviable account of his academic puissance puts paid to the snide remarks of those cynics, primarily Nkrumah fanatics, who would have Busia’s genius and professional cynosure cavalierly envisaged in the context of the general dearth of Ghanaian and African scholars at the height of the career of the Oxbridge-educated future prime minister:
“The academic engagements which I left Ghana last month to fulfill were fixed over one year ago. The engagements are in different countries: Switzerland, Austria, Greece, Sweden, Italy and Holland, and extend from July to October. ¶ The passages for my wife, my children and myself were booked over four months in advance for the 17th June. This is not the first time [that] my family has traveled with me when I have visited Europe to fulfill academic engagements. ¶ They were with me when I went to Oxford in 1952, and also when I went to Holland in 1956 as Guest Professor. My children spent a term at a school in Holland that year. ¶ My wife was again with me in Holland last year when I went to fulfill another academic engagement. So their traveling with me in 1959 is neither unusual nor exceptional. ¶ It was not difficult for me to find out that the Ghana Government had decided that my passport should be seized to prevent me from traveling abroad to fulfill my engagements. The police were sent to my house at Accra on the 11th June, and also to my home in Wenchi and my residence in Kumasi. ¶ When they failed, police officers were sent in large numbers to Takoradi on the 17th June, the date of my departure. But the plans of the government were foiled, and I traveled on the M.V. Accra as arranged four months previously, in spite of their efforts. ¶ Within the last fifteen months, I have been invited as Guest Professor to two universities in the United States and to one in Switzerland for periods varying from one to three years. I have also been offered professorships at two universities in Switzerland, and two in Holland, and I have been approached about taking up a professorship at a famous British university. I have nevertheless remained in politics. ¶ It was as far back as August last year that I was offered the professorship in Sociology at the Institute of Social Studies at The Hague[,] to be held jointly with another professorship at the University of Leiden. I agreed to discuss the matter when I visited Europe this summer, because I had enjoyed my work in Holland on the two previous occasions [that] I had been a Guest Professor there. ¶ But the publication which reached Ghana was sent before I myself arrived at The Hague, and before I had discussed the matter with the authorities concerned. The publication was not sent out by the Institute of Social Studies, nor by the Africa Study Center at Leiden, and that was why it contained a number of inaccuracies. ¶ The official release sent on behalf of the authorities and myself after our meeting on the 1st July read as follows: ¶ ‘Dr. Busia arrived at The Hague this morning. He met the Deputy Rector of the Institute of Social Studies and the Director of the Africa Study Center at Leiden. It was agreed that the matter will be further discussed after Dr. Busia returns from a three month’s visit to Switzerland, Austria, Greece, Sweden and Italy where he is to fulfill previous academic engagements.’ ¶ I have not yet received the Speaker’s reply to my application for [a] leave of absence to enable me to fulfill these engagements, but I have learnt from the British Press that the application has been refused. If so, my seat in parliament will probably be declared vacant in accordance with a recent law. ¶ I shall not be unprepared for such a step. I would still have ways of helping the United Party to victory”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 19-20).
For the leader of the erstwhile Ghana Congress Party (GCP), the direct and legitimate spawn of the Danquah-led and seminal United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), and shortly thereafter the United Party (UP), while there was no question about the fact of Mr. Nkrumah having led a geopolitical Ghana into a nominal state of sovereignty, nonetheless, it was veritably the “soul” of the nation that was in dire need of total emancipation. In other words, his highfalutin and pontifical rhetoric and all, Nkrumah had merely taken Ghana from out of the clutches of British colonial rule, only to plunge the country into a state of indigenous tyranny. The new political dispensation, Busia intimated, necessitated the collaborative efforts of all humanists and ardent advocates of a healthy democratic African culture, in order to vigorously fight and decisively defeat the same:
“The revelation by Mr. Aaron Ofori-Atta, Minister of Local Government[,] that the Government had issued an order for the seizure of my passport on the 12th June must have come to the world as a surprise. In fact, the secret was revealed to me by a high-ranking member of the CPP [Mr. Krobo-Edusei?] and that was why I left the country without saying good-bye to my friends. ¶ If my passport had been seized[,] nobody can tell what the amount of public resentment would have led to. I thought it better to leave the [troubled] peace of Ghana undisturbed than be the cause of any commotion; nor did I wish to disappoint my international audience abroad. ¶ Ghana has won independence from British rule; but the torch of freedom is being smothered. Today, Ghana is fighting for her soul, her soul of true freedom, enlightenment and mobility. The United Party is fighting valiantly and with determination towards this goal. ¶ But the fight for Ghana’s soul, her total emancipation, has to be carried on not only within, but also outside Ghana; in Africa, since Ghana’s future is bound up with the future of our Continent, and [that of] the world at large, because today all men’s lives are interdependent and intertwined, on whichever Continent they live. This is why it is so tragic that the hopes centered on Ghana are being disappointed. It affects the hopes and lives of many who live outside Ghana”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 23).
But that it was a key operative inside Nkrumah’s own government and cabinet who alerted the main parliamentary opposition leader to the great danger that confronted him, should Dr. Busia either refuse or fail to immediately flee into exile, amply demonstrated the fact that at least there existed a critical mass of the Show Boy’s own lieutenants who did not approve of the direction in which the nation was being piloted. In the wake of his overthrow, Mr. Krobo Edusei, for example, would be widely quoted to have described his former boss as a veritable monstrosity that needed to be excised, if Ghana and Ghanaians, at large, were to breathe more healthily (See Okoampa-Ahoofe’s Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana).
Then also, for Busia, the increasingly rapid “global villagization” of contemporary political culture necessitated the unreserved exposure of CPP atrocities in Ghana for international scrutiny, if the country were to have a fighting chance at building a salutary, productive and enviable democratic culture: “I have long felt that I could help through personal contacts, through study, and through writing, to make the real Ghana known to our brothers in Africa and the rest of the world. I have also felt that the time has come for us in Ghana to look at Ghana’s problems in a world context. That is why, whenever I could, I accepted invitations to international meetings and conferences”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 23).
Busia also takes a brief moment to heartily congratulate the man whose name has lately come to represent the third factor of the quintessential Ghanaian democratic tradition: “At this juncture, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Mr. S. D. Dombo on his appointment as Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition. I have no doubt that our Parliamentary Group, under his leadership[,] will continue to champion, relentlessly, the cause for which the United Party stands”(24).
And if any keen observer of the Ghanaian political scene has any doubts about the veritably neo-fascist and communist tendencies of Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party, Busia pointedly assures that proverbial Doubting Thomas that he has absolutely nothing to lose by boldly confronting the unalloyed truth as it ought to: “I know, as you all do, that the powers of the present government of Ghana will continue to be used by the leaders of the Convention People’s Party to destroy any real opposition, and to curtail freedom and civil liberties. These leaders have learnt much from the methods both of Communist and Fascist dictators. They are there using various Communist and Fascist techniques which[,] as you all know, include the Hungarian Communist tactics so strikingly illustrated by Rakosi in his ‘Salami’ tactics of liquidating one opposition group or leader after another until the whole opposition is whittled away, and also the imitation of the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) now being introduced – the ‘Nkrumah’ Youth. ¶ I have complete confidence in the basic sanity of our fellow countrymen, and I know that the CPP leaders will soon be made to understand that they have misjudged the people of Ghana. Ghana will find her soul, and the flickering flames of freedom and justice will be set ablaze, afresh. This is the goal which inspires and beckons us. We shall win! I hope to join you again soon. Till then, everyone to the faithful discharge of his or her task; it is your contribution to VICTORY” (Capital letters appear in the original quote; The Courage And Foresight of Busia 25).
It is also significant to highlight the fact that twentieth-century Africa’s foremost sociologist envisaged his academic and scholarly endeavors squarely within the context of postcolonial Africa’s socioeconomic and political development. The rather facile criticism by his most ardent detractors, to the effect that Busia was more of a genius scholar than a remarkable politician, therefore, may be plausibly envisaged to woefully lack the requisite objective organicity: “At the international Institute of Social Studies at The Hague, established under the auspices of the Netherlands Universities Foundation for International Co-operation, I shall join in working in an international, interdisciplinary context on the problems of areas of rapid social change of which Ghana is one, and at the ancient and world-famous University of Leiden[,] I shall share in working specifically on problems of the Continent of Africa of which[,] again[,] Ghana is a part. I shall therefore have opportunities through personal contact, through travel and study, and through lecturing and writing to make some contributions towards international co-operation and understanding. ¶ I have accepted the offers from Holland in preference to others, because Holland, like Ghana, is a small country, but a country in which there is a long tradition full of personal liberty, a high level of culture and civilization, and a proud history of the conquest of nature by the joint efforts of a hard-working and determined people, for the enrichment of their lives; and therefore a country which I believe to be one of the models to which Ghana should look for inspiration”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 24).
Of course, Nkrumah’s direct and central role in the assassination of Togo’s President Sylvanus Olympio ought to have become widely known by now (See Richard Mahoney’s JFK: Ordeal in Africa. Oxford UP, 1983). What is not very well known and one of the best-kept secrets of Nkrumaist ideologues, is the unprecedented waves of colonies of Ghanaian refugees created by the government of the Convention People’s Party in neighboring countries like Togo, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. By 1961, for example, an estimated 5,000 Ghanaians had been rendered homeless and/or refugees by the CPP. These citizens were largely staunch supporters of the main opposition United Party. And when he passionately took up the latter’s cause at the United Nations and elsewhere in the international community, President Nkrumah caustically accused Dr. Busia of collaborating with elements of foreign governments to destabilize the “constitutionally elected” government of Ghana: “It is asserted in the White Paper that I was at a meeting which was also attended by the president of the Republic of Togo on the night of the 14th October, 1961, and at a second meeting on the night of Sunday, the 15th October, 1961, at which the President Mr. S. Olympio, and members of his Cabinet and others were present. My tickets and flights provide evidence of the fact that I arrived in Lome on the 13th October, 1961, and left on the 14th October, 1961, so I could not have been present at meetings in Lome on those nights, let alone issue a cheque for £ 5,000 to be used by the Togo Government for the purposes stated in the White Paper. I have not received a penny from any ‘commercial interests in Ghana’ or from ‘business and governmental agencies,’ and I challenge the Ghana Government to produce evidence of these allegations. My presence at the alleged meetings, and all that I am supposed to have said and done are fabrications. I was not in Lome. ¶ I [now] proceed to [addressing] the other accusations in this section. I arrived in New York on the 11th November. I gave an interview to Mr. Kenneth Love of the New York Times on the 12th November, and the New York Times of the 13th November, carried a report of the interview stating, among other things that I had gone to the United States to seek aid for the refugees who had fled from Ghana to the Republics of Togo, Ivory Coast, and neighboring territories, and also to see certain international agencies about the arrest and detentions in Ghana, and the possible trials before the special court. I repeated this on several sound and television programs, and also at a Press Conference I held in the House of Commons in London on the 21st November, 1961. Lacking evidence of the alleged plot, the Ghana Government has seized upon these widely publicized activities of mine, undertaken after the arrests and detentions the White Paper has to justify, and woven them to constitute part of a [grand] conspiracy to kill the President and overthrow the government. ¶ As a matter of fact, the delegation of the Togo Government to the United Nations, and the United Nations Refugee Organization are not among the bodies I saw during my visit to the United States. There again is another instance where the Ghana Government has based accusations on spurious evidence. ¶ On page 24 [of the White Paper], it is stated that ‘the group which had assembled in Lome, of whom the most prominent were Dr. K. A. Busia, G. Ashie Nikoi, Ekow Richardson, E. C. Obetsebi-Lamptey and J. R. Baiden agreed that planned terrorist campaign based on the type of dynamiting previously practiced by the National Liberation Movement in Kumasi should be started immediately.¶….¶ On the same page , it is stated ‘Dr. K. A. Busia set up an organization in Lome, with the knowledge and approval of Mr. Sylvanus Olympio, the President of the Republic of Togo, called ‘The Ghana Patriots.’ This is stated without evidence. I know nothing of the alleged Organization called ‘Ghana Patriots,’ and have certainly not set up any such organization. Characteristic of the White Paper, not a shred of evidence is provided to support the allegations. ¶ I have shown how false and baseless are the accusations against me in the White Paper. Nevertheless, if I had been in Ghana, I would, like my other colleagues, have been arrested and imprisoned without trial under the Preventive Detention Act, without being given any opportunity to answer the false charges brought against me. ¶ Because it has no convincing case, the Government seeks to avoid the procedures before the normal courts, and has passed a law to set up a special court with power to pass the death sentence, and has provided that there shall be no appeal from its judgments. ¶ …. ¶ The United Party of the ‘elite,’ or Dr. Busia or the British Press, or ‘business and governmental agencies’ or British Officers or ‘commercial interests in Ghana’ – all these are conveniently available scapegoats for the inevitable consequences the situation thus created by the Ghana Government itself invites. The White Paper[,] far from justifying, shows up a government that can publish such an unconvincing document, full of so many fabrications and false statements, to hide the unpalatable truth it refuses to face”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 36-38).
Earlier, in its largely fabricated White paper published in defense of its patently untenable mass incarceration of opposition leaders under the Preventive Detention Act (PDA), the CPP had falsely accused Dr. Busia of having received £ 50,000 sterling from unspecified ‘Ghanaian commercial interests’ for purposes of destabilizing the Nkrumah regime: “On the night on which he arrived, Dr. Busia had the first of his meetings with his supporters and at which the president of the Republic of Togo, Mr. Sylvanus Olympio[,] was present. At this meeting[,] Dr. Busia disclosed that he had been offered initially the sum of £ 50,000 sterling to fight the Ghanaian Government, which he said had come from commercial interests in Ghana, and he offered to bear the expense of the Ghanaians who came to Lome for the purpose of organizing action against the Government of Ghana. ¶ ‘The next day, Sunday, a second meeting was held in Mr. Olympio’s home. There were present, among others, Mr. Olympio and members of his Cabinet, Dr. Busia and those members of the United Party Executive who were in Lome, Ahie Nikoi, one of those who had been detained in connection with the first of the conspiracies and subsequently released, J. R. Baiden, one of the strike leaders from Takoradi[,] and Togbe Gabusu, the former Chief of Hohoe, and one of the organizers of the 1957 armed uprising. At this meeting[,] a plan of action was determined [deliberated?] upon. Dr. Busia provided as a first installment a cheque for £ 5,000 to be used by the Government of the Republic of Togo for the organization of personnel from Ghana, and he promised that further regular sums would be paid to the Togo Government. It was further arranged that Dr. Busia should work jointly with the delegation of the Republic of Togo at the United Nations where they should appeal for moral and financial support. In order to meet the cost of [hosting] the Ghanaians, who, it was hoped might be persuaded to come to Togoland for the purpose of fomenting conspiratorial activity, it was decided to appeal to the United Nations Refugee Organization and to estimate for this purpose the number of Ghanaian ‘refugees’ at three thousand, a figure it was subsequently agreed to raise to five thousand. Dr. Busia agreed to carry out a campaign in the United States against their participation in the Volta Scheme. It was further agreed that the United Party Organization in Lome should not take any action against the Ghana Government without the permission of Mr. Olympio and his Government. Dr. Busia promised to support a campaign at the United Nations for a plebiscite to be held in the Volta Region of Ghana”(The Courage And Foresight of Busia 34-35).
Of course, in all the foregoing, what is most peculiarly fascinating is the Ghanaian government’s adamant refusal to accept responsibility for the fact of its having created a pathologically undemocratic socioeconomic and political climate, which made it next to the clearly impossible for free-thinking and vocal opponents of the Convention People’s Party to live in the country without risking the grim and certain possibility of imprisonment without trial and/or even death.
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 “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Lulu.com, 2008).
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