It does not get us very far for anybody to make a comparative analysis of the Ghana of 50 years ago and draw a balance sheet with today’s Ghana and conclude that the Nkrumah-led tenure of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) government was far better and more comfortable to live in, as Mr. K. B. Asante is reported to have observed in a Joy-Fm-produced documentary recently (See “Ghana Was Better 50 Years Ago – K. B. Asante” MyJoyOnline.com /Ghanaweb.com 2/24/16). It is all a matter of relativity or where one stood vis-à-vis the center of State power and governance a half-century ago.
For the nonagenarian Mr. Asante, a former private secretary to President Kwame Nkrumah, life could not have been much better and sweeter under the CPP regime. The problem with this sort of comparison is that even from 2000 to 2009, when the Kufuor-led government of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) held the reins of governance, Ghana was much and far better than it had been under 20 years of the Rawlings dictatorship. Under President Kufuor, the country’s economy had expanded at least four-fold; Ghana had also healthily transitioned from the intellectually stultifying culture of silence to an unprecedented era of free speech that had not even existed under the Nkrumah regime.
Of course, the country’s population had also increased exponentially, which means that Mr. Kufuor had a much more complex problem to deal with. Indeed, contrary to what the former Presiding Officer of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) would have his audiences believe, life in Ghana could not have been much happier if you found yourself on the wrong side of the political divide, which simply means that you were not a card carrying member of the so-called Convention People’s Party. And if you were a formidable political force to reckon with, such as Dr. J. B. Danquah, you would have been deemed a national security threat because you had dared to question a policy initiative or an edict issued from either the Osu Castle or the Flagstaff House by the proverbial African Show Boy.
I also don’t know that the sort of media censorship that prevailed under most of Nkrumah’s tenure fostered the requisite intellectual and cultural ferment necessary for the healthy and rapid development of the country. For example, by 1963, not a single privately owned newspaper was published anywhere in the country, with the last of such healthy alternative media outlet, The Ashanti Pioneer, having been summarily shuttered by the issuance of an edict from the Flagstaff House. Indeed, at least during the next two decades subsequent to his landmark and auspicious overthrow, the extent of the deleterious impact of censorship under the CPP regime on the creative production of the Ghanaian writer was still a major discursive subject at major regional and international conferences. This was because a diddly little had been written and published in Ghana that favorably compared with the literary output of other writers on the continent.
To-date, Ghana has not produced any literary artists of global heft and stature like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiong’O, for some ready examples, with the possible exception of Ayi Kwei Armah. For the average teenager in the countryside or the rural community, other than the enforced indoctrination of the Cult of Nkrumah Worship, there was not much to talk about in terms of a healthy moral and psychological development. Nkrumah was Der Fuhrer, the heroic political equivalent of Adolf Hitler; and, indeed, the entire establishment of the Young Pioneer Movement (YPM) was modeled after a youth movement of the same name that had existed under Hitler’s Third Reich.
And so it is not clear precisely what Mr. Asante means by the prevalence of a comfortable existence under Kwame Nkrumah. Indeed, by the beginning of 1961, the cost living for the average Ghanaian worker which had already become insufferably prohibitive would be further aggravated when unionized government employees suffered a 10-percent deduction of their salaries and wages at source. This politically extortionate measure was aimed at underwriting the obscenely profligate lifestyle of CPP movers and shakers.
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