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Danquah On Nkrumah’s Propaganda Climb To Greatness

Posted by Business in Ghana on October 18, 2010

By Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, www.danquahinstitute.org

In his maiden address to Parliament in January 2009, President JEA Mills, an avowed Nkrumaist, said, “We intend to honour Dr Kwamne Nkrumah’s memory with a national holiday to be known as Founder’s Day.”

Thus, September 21 is now one more of developing Ghana’s  numerous public holidays (17) to  force on the nation a break from our  usual ‘work and unhappiness’ routine.

Several articles were written and speeches made from the likes of political historian, Prof Mike Oquaye, a Danqua-Dombo-Busiast, and political scientist Dr Vladimer Antwi-Danso, an Nkrumaist, to the effect that “We cannot say that Nkrumah was the founder of the nation we call Ghana. Ghana does not have one founder.”

As our way of marking the day, the Danquah Institute has provided below an article wrote by Dr J B Danquah on October 2, 1961, where he traces Mr Nkrumah’s contribution to the independence struggle and the propaganda tactics he used to turn the ‘masses’ of Ghana against the other nationalist leaders. Please read below J B in his own words:

The world is full of curious, unrepentant, people. As far back as four years ago, I gave Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, an opportunity to correct or withdraw certain misleading defamatory and malicious statements made by him against me in his Autobiography published on Ghana’s Independence Day, March 6, 1957, by Thomas Nelson and Sons – a book discreditably entitled “Ghana.”

Up to now, apart from a formal acknowledgment signed by Dr Nkrumah”s Personal Secretary, no attempt of any kind has been made by him or his publishers to withdraw the statements, nor has any apology or expression of regret been tendered for painting me as a selfish sheep in Ghana’s struggle for independence.

And, judging from information to hand, the book has gone through several editions or impressions and has been translated into many languages, to the personal benefit of Dr Nkrumah and his publishers and to my discredit and damage, said the newly appointed British High Commissioner to Ghana, Mr A.W. Snelling, when first introduced to me at a party late in 1959: “Oh, Dr Danquah, I have read quite a lot about you in that famous book.”

And so it is that seeing how truth cannot be known unless people are made familiar with the facts, Mr H.K Akyeampong has thought of digging up my past to let the world see how I myself painted it in Ghana at a time no publisher, nor “a poet of Agamemnon,” was looking on, except a long line of imperial British Governors – Ransford Slater, Shenton Thomas, Arnold Hodson, Alan Burns and Gerald Creasy – or an occasional Biitish pro-consul, Lord Hailey or Mr Oliver Stanley, or an occasional British High Fabian, Mr Arthur Creech Jones on a visit to Ghana, the former Gold Coast.

There is nothing much I can add to this collection of my speeches and writings except to say that having survived the exciting events they portray, I am now more than ever convinced that I have never known myself as my Maker knows me inside out.

He fashioned me and has used me in His own fashion, and, as I see it, the reason why I still live and breathe and am able to exert myself in life must be the simple one that my Maker hasn’t quite finished with me yet. There are lots more He wants me to suffer for, and to use me for. I do not myself mind suffering so long as it is not suffering for myself. To suffer for oneself is the emptiest of all suffering; to suffer for others is the greatest spiritual elevation.

As to my 1957 letter to Dr Nkrumah, I have not yet got over the surprise of how the letter struck me when Mr Akyeampong asked me to approve the three-year old office copy for inclusion in this collection. I read it through in complete silence, except for occasional grunts, and when completed, I said, almost unconsciously, “How terribly mild! Is that what I am, mild to my great malefactors?” one may even ponder over the situation and ask: What kind of earth or heaven is promised for an inheritance in the Sermon on the Mount to those who are mild to their malefactors?

It is possible that Dr Kwame Nkrumah may one day write to express his regret for the offensive and libellous statements made by him against me in his book. Or perhaps Dr Nkrumah is waiting for a Court to call upon him to amends. But, on the other hand, it is possible not.

Slander

So far as I can personally see, my main fault with the man who is today Ghana’s President was to have taken him round in January and February 1948 to introduce him to Ghana audiences as the new general secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention named by me (through Mr Ako Adjei) for that appointment.

I did not previously know the man nor was I at the time aware of what he now reveals about himself in his book, page 62 et passim. Namely, when in 1947 he responded to the call of the U.G.C.C to come to Ghana from England, and he asked us to send him a hundred pounds “to cover his passage and travelling expenses,” he actually planned on his arrival to undermine our personal positions at home and to climb to the top over our dead bodies.

And from 1948 to 1957, it actually did happen that while we, quite blindly, kept our eyes on the main chance, namely, our country’s liberation, others were busy creating a new “front” within our ranks.

The adversary in the struggle no longer was imperialism as such but the well-to-do African, the professional man and the business-man, who up to that time, had carried the struggle in their competent hands, without a division in the nation’s ranks. Out of that material was now created a new class, “the Masses” of “the Common people.” It was made to appear that those who, fortunately or unfortunately, did not look common, but were in any way distinguished, by wealth or learning or success in life, were enemies of the people and stooges of imperialism.

It was at about that time that it was maliciously published abroad, chiefly by means of a whispering campaign, the false story that members of the Working Committee of the Convention, of which Dr Nkrumah was general secretary, had been bribed by Imperial Britain to give up the struggle for independence, that the sum given to each of us was G25,000, by cheque, and that the only man who refused his share was Dr Nkrumah. (And, as I learned many years later at Kwabeng, in Akim Abuakwa, a slip of paper was fluttered in the face of the audience at Anyinam as the speaker wound up his speech on the crescendo of the refusal “to take his cheque”).

Sports

At that time, on my persuasion at the 1948 African Conference in Lancaster House, London, Sir Sydney Abrahams had visited Ghana again to re-organise our sports.

Sir Sydney had been previously Attorney General in Ghana, and, being of a literary turn of mind, had become a close friend by his contributions under a pen name in my newspaper, The Times of West Africa, published at Accra. Sir Sydney who belonged to a family of sportsmen, (a brother of his was Sports Editor on a London daily), had also organised the first Ghana Athletics Association of which he became President before he left for East Africa where he rose to the post of Chief Justice.

In 1948, Sir Sydney had retired and was serving in the Colonial Office as Assistant Legal Adviser. I met him at a tea party in Lancaster House at the African Conference, and enquired whether he could visit us in Ghana to re-organise our sports for us. He said if I could arrange it with the Colonial Office he would gladly come.

I saw Mr Leslie H. Gorsuch, then in charge of the West African Department, and also Sir Andrew Cohen, and eventually Mr Creech Jones, on the matter. It appeared that permission was likely to be given, and I left England highly optimistic of the outcome.

The point is that my political plan was for Ghana’s liberation and progress on all fronts. I therefore stretched out my hand to reach facets of the nation’s life, which had little to do directly with liberation from an imperial “oppressor.”

For economics and business, I sponsored the establishment of a National Bank and the Cocoa Marketing Board. For education, I sponsored the established of a University College, separate from that for West Africa at Ibadan. For general literature, I sponsored the first successful daily newspaper in Accra, which, with my editor, Mr MacNeill Stewart, the West Indian poet, co-operating, won fame at Achimota as reminiscent of the work and style of Steele and Addison in English literature of the 18th century.

In addition to these I tried to lead the way with books for an understanding and appreciation of Ghana’s institutions, religion, philosophy and art. Sports, too, could not reasonably be excluded from his plan, and I pushed the need for it in the same fashion as I pushed the other needs for the total progress of Ghana.

In April, 1949, in response to my invitation, Sir Sydney Abrahams came to Ghana on the subject of sports and I managed successfully to introduce him to an Accra audience at the Palladium. At first as a result of inflammatory articles in Dr Nkrumah’s newspaper, the Accra Evening News, the audience was hostile to the idea of sports being made a subject of public discussion but to everybody’s delight I carried the day at the Palladium. Others on the platform were Sir Patrick Branian, Attorney-General, and Sir Leslie M’Carthy, Puisne Judge, who later became President of Ghana’s Sports Council.

Eventually out of Sir Sydney Abraham’s visit the country obtained the enactment of the first Amateur Sports Council Ordinance, and the provision of public funds for the building of the Accra Sports Stadium of which most people, including even the protesting politicians, are now very proud.

But Sir Sydney’s presence in Accra together with his association with me, was enough to give colour to the campaign of Imperial bribery: “There is the man who brought that money, 25,000 each. Danquah has given up politics for sports!”

Years later, when Dr Nkrumah and his CPP were in power and I was leader of the U.G.C.C Opposition in the Legislative Assembly, I urged them in speech after speech in the House that now that they were in power and had access to the imperial papers and the Imperial ear, would they kindly let the world have any evidence they could lay hands on that we who had been in the vanguard of the struggle for at least a generation, did succumb towards the end, when victory was actually in hand, to taking corrupt or any kind of money from the Imperial Power!

No one from the Government benches ever answered the challenge. Obviously the effect they desired had been achieved, the evil had been done. My group and I had become discredited, perhaps forever, perhaps…

Blood and sweat

In June 1959, I came across an extremely nasty bit of legislation proposed by Dr Nkrumah’s Government for passage into law by Parliament. It was the Protected Timber Lands Bill (now the Protected Timber Lands Act, No. 34 of 1959). The Act takes power for any area in Ghana outside a forest area to be declared a “protected area.” Under the Act it becomes an offence punishable with a fine of 50 or six months imprisonment, or to both such fine and imprisonment, if any person including the owner of the land in question, is seen on the “declared area” felling a tree, or making a fire, or making a farm, or residing in any building, or erecting any building in the area. Such a person, unless he is exercising rights under the Concessions Ordinance, or holds a license from the Minister to do any such act, is liable to instant arrest, “without warrant,” by any Forest Officer.

Since under the Concessions Ordnance an owner of land is not bound to apply for a “Concession” to himself, the injustice of the Act becomes apparent to any one who has ever owned anything!

As I often do in regard to such matters of public interest, I wrote personally to Dr Nkrumah to say that in view of the fact that it was the abortive Lands Bill of 1897 which made the British name stink most in these parts as an imperialist people, it was rather surprising to see his government, the first African government, proposing a law worse in many respects than the old imperialist Bill.

The 1887 Bill never became.  A delegation of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society was sent from Cape Coast to the Colonial office against it, and because Joseph Chamberlain, the Colonial Secretary, explained to the Queen that the delegation had come from the Gold Coast in West Africa notorious as the land of the mosquito and the White Man’s Grave. Said Queen Victoria to Joseph Chamberlain: “Tell my people of the Gold Coast, what I want is their loyalty, not their lands.” It was this answer which saved Ghana from becoming a second Kenya and which also made it easy for Ghana to lead successfully in the liberation of Africa and to become the first free Colonial country in Africa, (apart from South Africa) – By Dr Danquah.

In the surprising reply received by me from Miss Erica Powell, the personal secretary, Dr Kwame Nkrumah urged vigorously that it was because of me that he and his government had been passing certain repressive laws in the country, (scil. The Preventive Detention Act, the Avoidance of Discrimination Act, the Deportation Act, etc). Dr Nkrumah’s letter dated 19th June 1959, reads:

“Dear Sir,

I have been requested by the Prime Minister to acknowledge your letter No. 284/P/59 of the 16th June, 1959.

“The Prime Minister has asked me to say with regard to the second paragraph of your letter, that he is at a loss to understand your claim to have worked for Ghana’s “liberation from oppression for the best part of your life.” He has asked me to point out that, on the contrary, it has been on account of your repeated and determined efforts to hamper the forward march of those who, after much blood and sweat, succeeded in liberating Ghana from her oppressors, that it has been found necessary to introduce certain legislation and to the other protective measures in order to ensure that the freedom which has been won by the personal sacrifices of the common people is secured forever.

Yours faithfully,

E. Powell, Personal Secretary.”

Naturally I sent a rejoinder, and it was in the best of terms reminding Nkrumah of the true history of the country’s liberation. In the penultimate paragraph, I said to Dr Kwame Nkrumah.

“Let me say finally that while I have much sympathy for you in the great task before you as Prime Minister, I think you have made great mistakes which have increased your own difficulties, and diminished your chances for greatness. Such mistakes have made this country a very unhappy one to live in, a country full of bitterness and hostility between groups and a kind never known before. The bitterness is so intense that unarmed men passing through a village in a lorry in Ashanti were fallen upon and murdered by others; Baffoe was murdered in Kumasi, and Oheneba Ampofo murdered at Old Tafo, all from political motives – a thing which was foreign to the nature of the true born Ghanaian, and of which one never heard even during the worst days of imperialism – except the killing of Sergeant Adjetey and others – but which has happened frequently under your regime.”

Something could have happened, for instance a denial that the excruciatingly bad letter of June 19, was written by Erica Powell with Dr Nkrumah’s authority. But nothing happened. Four or five months later, I received another letter from Dr Nkrumah’s Office, this time from his African Secretary to the Cabinet, Mr E.K. Okoh, inviting me to accept nomination as one of 20 handpicked foundation members of the Ghana Academy of Learning, of which he Dr Nkrumah was to be Chairman and his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh was to be President. When the election for the governing Council of the Academy was made at Flagstaff House, the President’s resident, I duly attended the meetings with Dr Nkrumah in the Chair, and I duly witnessed myself elected a member of the Council of Nine. At one of these meetings, it was intriguing to hear Dr Nkrumah refer to me affectionately as “J.B.”

Since then I have been asking myself: Does Nkrumah honestly believe that I am what he tars me to be in his book and before Miss Erica Powell, his Personal Secretary, or was it not really a prophetic sign that my letter to him was as mild as it was? Who knows but that many of these unfathomable pains and sufferings this man has consciously inflicted upon me are merely a means of justifying “the ways of God to Men?” Talk of “blood and sweat” or “personal sacrifices!”

How much “blood and sweat” or “personal sacrifices” did Dr Nkrumah expend in liberating Ghana “From the oppressors” when, indeed for the 13 years that the intensive intellectual battle for liberation of Ghana was joined between us and Ghana’s “Oppressors,” from the 1934 Colonial Office Delegation of the Colony and Ashanti, to the legislative union of the Colony and Ashanti in 1946 and the subsequent formation of the United Gold Coast Convention in August, 1947, Dr Nkrumah was a student in Lincoln University, USA, or at Gray’s Inn Road, London, and was not even known in Ghana’s politics?

A Game of Chess

Or, coming to recent events, was not the specific intellectual act of February 1948, which declared to the Imperial Power our readiness to govern ourselves, and the specific publication of March 1948 (“The Hour of Liberation has Struck”), which sounded the death knell of imperialism in Ghana, my own decision and my own act?

True enough, compared to what others suffered elsewhere before their country could be liberated from oppression, what happened in Ghana was but a pleasant song – due entirely to the patience and tolerance of the Ghanaian. He was confident that where others would use demonstrative emotional acts, his leaders would play an intellectual game of chess with the Powers that Be, until one wrong move on the part of the Powers that Be sent the entire works wobbling to the ground. In such an atmosphere to talk of “blood and sweat” and “personal sacrifices” is mere bombast or a calculated exaggeration.

True enough the decisions and acts of 1948 led to my arrest and detention and the arrest and detention of five of my colleagues in the United Gold Coast Convention. Those acts and decisions led also to the subsequent test of our integrity at a public inquisition by the Watson Commission in 1948. But it should be recalled that Kwame Nkrumah had not been with us for more than six weeks (January 16 to February 28) before these great decisions became ripe for action.

It was as an outcome of those decisions that the Watson Commission, upon enquiry, found that our nationalist cause and course were right and that we were ripe for self-government “within ten years.”

And it was as an outcome of the same decisions that His Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom accepted the Watson recommendation and pledged themselves to speed up the machinery for the attainment of independence by Ghana.

Dr Nkrumah’s own exclusive “contribution,” such as it is, was to come much later, after the battle had been won. His own Party, the Convention People’s Party, was formed in June, 1949, long after the Imperial Power had conceded independence and had pledged themselves to speed up the exercise towards it. Dr Nkrumah’s own act, perhaps the “blood and sweat” act, namely, the abortive “Positive Action,” staged for a Constituent Assembly, and which sent him to prison in 1950, actually came two years after the pledge for independence had been given by Mr A Creech Jones, Secretary of State, in the White Paper, Colonial No. 232 of 1948.

The question may be asked: How much of these “blood and sweat” and “personal sacrifices” of 1950 went into the foundation of Ghana’s achievement of independence? True enough Dr Nkrumah has actually got himself cognised on Ghana’s coins as “The Founder of Ghana,” and he has had a monument built to himself from public funds in Parliament Square to the same effect. But which Ghana does Nkrumah have in mind, ancient or modern? In his Autobiography, Dr Nkrumah places his ancient Ghana at Kanem, near Lake Chad, far away, by over a thousand miles, from the actual position of the real Ghana, south-west of Timbuktoo. But if ancient Ghana had been a part of the Kanuri country in and around Lake Chad we might long ago have become a patrillineal Moslem and French and not possessed of any of the particular values which make today’s Ghana on the West Coast what she is – a matrilineal, pagan, Christian, Akan, British product. The true Ghana of today was founded by those who were aware of these facts and being conscious of that faith, worked for its realisation, not otherwise. One can only say here that tropical illusions of greatness are permissible but history as a fact takes little account of the cold greatness of such illusions.

Africa’s new Mission – Ikhnaton

As for the rest of Mr Akyeampong’s book, I think it best to let each speech or article speak for itself. One of the most interesting facts about each of these speeches and articles is its date, namely at a time when no one or only few were saying that kind of thing, such as “Africa for the Africans,” or “the Gold Coast is Ghana.”

Today, those phrases are the most commonplace and are no longer original. Some even are hackneyed or are actually getting out of date. Such, for instance, is this huge idea of a Continental Tribalism, (African Trade Union, African Farmers Union, Union of African States,) which really in these days of atomic, trans-continental weapons, is as out of date as the old group morality – the tribal primitive system between village and village – got out of date just about the close of the feudal period and the invention of gunpowder.

And with the United Nations here today, what need is there for a single Union of African States with only one vote at the General Assembly of the United Nations and at its Councils and Committees.

Few are those who have been ready to see and to acknowledge the very simple fact that more than anything else it was the very fortunate World Wars I and II which widely opened the great doors of Africa’s liberation from imperialism and foreign domination to true freedom. It s equally true that the two World Wars have effectively closed the great door, (I hope for ever), to Africa’s isolation or possible relapse into a peculiar co-efficient of her own, whether it be self-imposed, or it be the physically imposed by the Sahara and the Kalahari deserts, and the Rift Valleys, or whether it be the result of a colonialist insulation by imperialist powers at a Berlin Conference of the nineteenth century!

Africa, the mother of cultures, is also the mother of inventions, religions and measures. She invented bronze, for instance, and discovered iron. She invented monotheism as well as the calendar. Today there is hardly awake in Africa a continental consciousness for any particular culture, such, for instance, as a continental African language. The great desire today is for us Africans to master French and English languages in our bid to make a mark with Negritude and the African Personality.

But what really arrests the greatest attention in the world today is the human being seen as an image of God. It is not an image of a native of Europe, or of America, or of Africa, or even of vast Asia with its millions of Chinese, Indians, and Japanese, all of whom are at the height of their intellectual power. It is the human being as such. In his recent visit to Africa what attracted the greatest attention of Mr. Harold Macmillan, head of the most stable imperial power of the 20th century, was the fact that whether black, brown, olive or white, we are all human beings, all equal, and could really have it good if properly led.

In my view the African’s great mission in the future lies not in racial politics perpetually reminding the world of the Africa’s colour – black, brown or olive – but in national or cultural politics, in the duty of each nation and culture making a supreme contribution to the achievement and happiness and survival of mankind.

If when the world needed monotheism, Africa discovered its sign and produced its system, today when the world needs humanism or human equality, it could fall again to an African Ikhnaton to discover the sign for it and produce its system.

The selection of speeches and writings in this book shows how leadership in this field of an effort to secure human equality started for us in Ghana many more years ago than I care to remember. As for those whose alpha and omega of Ghana’s modern history is Kwame Nkrumah’s Autobiography one can only repeat here what Horace in a similar situation said of Agamemnon’s predecessors: Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona.

J.B.D

Yiadom Chambers,

Accra, Ghana

October 2, 1961

Culled from Historic Speeches and Writings on Ghana by Dr J B Danquah, compiled by H K Akyeampong, and published by George Boakie Publishing Company, Accra.

For more details contact: info@danquahinstitute.org

 

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One Response to “Danquah On Nkrumah’s Propaganda Climb To Greatness”

  1. Nicholas Amoah said

    A truly inspiring narrative,.a defensible one a that.Indeed as a reader to have chanced myself on this article,
    I draw parallels from the narrative of the Bible writer Luke, who went the extra mile to give a credible literary account of Jesus’ life, what i call a true perspective.Luke was there, was a part of Jesus’ history,so he was uniquely placed to give a sterling account of the facts and this is what J .B Danquah elucidates.

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