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55 years on; Kwame Nkrumah celebrated in death than life

On February 24th, 1966, Ghana’s first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown by what many Nkrumah adherents believe, was a CIA inspired military coup.

55 years on-Wednesday February 24th, 2021, and the day went quiet without any form of remembrance. Except some of his ideologues who will often engage in some form of intellectual remembrance exercise through symposiums to reiterate their belief that Nkrumah still remains the best leader Ghana has ever had.

Nkrumah’s overthrow and some of the causes

Nkrumah was overthrown while in China attending a peace conference in Hanoi, Vietnam. Northern Vietnam which governance structure was fashioned on Communism was at war with Southern Vietnam, which had Capitalists orientation.

With the cold war between ideological giants— The United States and the Union of the Soviet Socialists Republic (USSR) at its zenith, Northern Vietnam was backed by the USSR and China; with the South being supported by America and her other western allies. Since 1976, the two supposed same countries with different ideologies have been merged into one country known as Vietnam.

Nkrumah heard of the news of his overthrow in China, on transit to Vietnam. The coup was a special joint military-police operation led by Lt. Col. Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka, Major Kwesi Amankwaah Afrifa and other top police officers led by J.S Harley, then Inspector General of Police and his deputy, Deku.

Some of them had their personal issues with their commands but linked the problems with the CPP administration. Harley and Deku had been dismissed from the Police Service for their involvement in diamond deal with foreigners.

Afrifa had been court marshalled and was awaiting judgement on 25th February 1966, and thus found the absence of Nkrumah more opportune to try his ouster. There were also acts that made the Nkrumah overthrow imminent.

The plotters allegedly had links to then British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson and American President, Lindon Johnson who were against Nkrumah’s alignment with then Communists bloc, led by the USSR.

The coup also assumed national popularity because it came at a time that Nkrumah’s popularity was waning at an alarming rate. It was even believed that some of Nkrumah’s trusted allies had become so frightened about Nkrumah’s imposing personality.

These Nkrumah associates were believed to have aided the coup plotters with some classified information that enabled Afrifa and Kotoka to beat the strong and fearful Russia and Chinese trained security detail of Ghana’s first President.

Some Nkrumah adherents believe A.B. Bentum, a staunch Nkrumah loyalist who was the Secretary General of the Agriculture Workers Union, released information to his military collaborators, the presence of Russian and Chinese security personnel.

The foreign security detail was not only guarding Nkrumah, but also created training camps where they trained revolutionaries from other African countries. A.B. Bentum was also Nkrumah’s Minister of Forestry in the 1st Republic.

Alleged ‘sins’ of Nkrumah and the CPP in the 1st Republic

Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party which was formed after breaking away from the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) in 1949, technically ruled Ghana from 51 to 1966.

Nkrumah started partial administration of the Gold Coast in 1951, when the CPP won a landslide victory in the first ever general elections in 1951. Nkrumah was named Prime Minister and leader of Government business after the ‘51 elections.

Nkrumah eventually became Executive President after attainment of independent on March 6th 1957 and immediately set out an ambitious economic growth agenda with industrialization and agriculture developments as major priorities. That led to a huge foreign debts in our books, right after independent.

In 1960, Nkrumah sought to nationalize Ghana’s economy by tightening its control on the Ghanaian currency-the Cedi and taxes. This affected many multi-national companies, which hitherto were the backbone of the Ghanaian economy.

The otherwise buoyant Ghanaian private sector economy virtually collapsed because most of the foreign companies who could not stand the tightened slant of the Ghanaian economy towards the centre had to either re-trace to their ancestral homes abroad, or relocate to other African countries.

By 1963, Ghanaians started feeling the heat of the nationalization of industries. This resulted in shortage of goods and increase in prices of foodstuffs. Very few people, allegedly, CPP members benefitted because they were licensed to take over businesses left behind by multi-national corporations.

Nkrumah was also accused of repression against political opponents. He passed the Preventive Detention Act in 1961, where political opponents were incarcerated without trial for five years.

In 1964, the CPP was accused of heavily rigging a referendum that made the CPP the sole legal party with Nkrumah being declared a life President for both Ghana and his political party.

Press freedom was not part of Nkrumah’s vocabulary, it was argued. In October 1965, the Ghanaian Times perhaps summed up the muscled press in Ghana at the time. The Ghanaian Times, then known as the Guinea press and owned by the State stated in one of its editorials thus:

“ The Socialist Society cannot and would not tolerate the publication of any newspaper in Ghana, which departs from the ideology and loyalties demanded from the press in socialists and Nkrumaist Ghana”.

In 1965, Nkrumah again passed the Police Service act that allowed him to hire and fire any police personnel at will. It was at the same period that the then Chief of Defence Staff, Air-Vice Marshal Otu and his deputy, Lt. Gen Ankrah were fired in August1965.

Nkrumah took this action after assassination attempt on his life at Kulungugu, in the Northern Region. The shooting led to the death of his body guard. Top police personnel who were dismissed by Nkrumah were replaced by officers considered loyal to Nkrumah and the cause of the CPP.

The establishment of the NLC & its Western agenda

The National Liberation Council (NLC) which was established after Nkrumah’s overthrow ruled Ghana from 24th February, 1966 to 1st October 1969. The NLC begun tilting and taking Ghana toward the West.

It was so sudden that many begun believing in the theory that the Nkrumah overthrow was masterminded by the powerful Western bloc, led by the United State and the United Kingdom.

They started off with the implementation of structural adjustments policies recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Resources, especially fiscal policies shifted from Agriculture and Industrialization to the Military.

Most of Nkrumah’s National Enterprises were either privatized or abandoned. They allowed Western multi-national companies to operate in Ghana under very favourable conditions, discriminating against local Ghanaian companies.

The Ghanaian currency was devalued 30 percent. The NRC which had initially won the support of some powerful and influential people in the country like chiefs, the elites and business groups as well as the security forces, begun to feel the economic austerity under the military junta.

The worst affected people within that short reign of the NLC were the masses or the regular Ghanaians. There was massive unemployment; the new administration covered up their inefficiency with repression of strikes. That notwithstanding, the masses carried out with their displeasure against the military.

Some openly declared their regret for supporting Nkrumah's overthrow and clamoured for the return of Ghana's 1st President. In 1969, Afrifa and his military regime could no longer withstand the heat of the masses and embarked on a carefully tele-guided transitional agenda where elections were held in 29th August 1969.

That 2nd Republic election was skewed to favour Busia’s Progress Party (PP). The CPP was barred from taking part in that elections. Gen Acheampong overthrew Busia's government with the main aim of bringing back Nkrumah; but that was too late because Nkrumah had been hospitalized in a Romanian Hospital, suffering from a terminal cancer.     



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