We invite commentaries from writers all over. The subject is about Ghana and the world. We reserve the right to accept or reject submissions, but we are not necessarily responsible for the opinions expressed in articles we publish ......MORE

We invite responsible response to articles on our pages.  Response should not be less than 200 words. Write to: The Editor, editor@ghanadot.com

 Prof. Robert Tignor's lessons still leave us vulnerable

E. Ablorh-Odjidja

March 09, 2016

Those who read Prof. Robert Tignor' article "The lessons Ghana learned from Kwame Nkrumah’s fallout with his economic adviser," have to know that Dr. Arthur Lewis, the Nobel Prize Lauriat, served in Ghana from 1957 to 59.

They also have to know that before coming to Ghana Dr. Lewis was "advising the British Colonial Office about the ways Britain could alter its economic relations with colonial territories in preparation for their independence ..... "

Prof. Tignor's article is about Dr. Lewis' relationship with Nkrumah.

There is something unsurprisingly dishonest about such articles in that they always have revisionist intent.

No one doubts something went wrong in the Nkrumah/Lewis relationship, but that thing has nothing to do with what went wrong in Ghana.

Dr. Tignor writes, "Lewis saw Ghana as a proving ground for his ideas on economic development, later scholars have viewed the Kwame Nkrumah years (1951-66) as a case study of striking failure."

Of course, Prof. Tignor is not including Dr. Lewis in the 1951-66 "striking failure" time frame. He quickly extricates him from the Nkrumah years.

But must Dr. Lewis' few years experience in Ghana be where we start looking for "lessons"?

Check the dates again. Nkrumah was the Leader of Government Business, from 1951 to 1957, before he became the Prime Minister, after Ghana became independent. The obvious point about this period is that the British were still in charge. Nkrumah, therefore, had not much executive power.

In 1960 Ghana became a republic and Nkrumah assumed full executive power.

To arrive at "striking failure," Prof. Tignor must have been looking at;

(a) The Five Year development Plan (with Dr. Lewis' unhappy contributions)
(b) The Seven Year development Plan, which Nkrumah described as "an economy balanced between industry and agriculture, providing a sufficiency of food for the people, and supporting secondary industries based on the products of our agriculture."

Perhaps, he missed the key theme on Nkrumah's Seven Year Development Plan. It was based on a policy of import substitution. Some of us remember the "essential commodities like milk and sardines" lament that ignited the 1966 coup. And Nkrumah's response from exile that if he knew this requirement was all we needed he would have flooded our markets with the stuff.

How important was the import substitution policy under Nkrumah? Immediately after the 1966 coup it was reversed. Some fifty years later, we are now importing packaged toothpicks from China.

For those who think the February 24, 1966 coup was a benevolent act we have to ask why our economy is still in the doldrums?

Where are the options offered after 1966 to replace Nkrumah's "ruinous" policies and how well have these options worked? More important, no one thought to ask to bring  Dr. Lewis back.  So why this sudden nostalgia and does it now make sense to leapfrog the year 1966 to look for blames starting in 1951?

Dr. Tignor must be serious, if he wishes to help. We have a situation in Ghana now that the well intentioned would call worrisome.

Dr. Tignor writes, "Lewis saw Ghana as ...a country that seemed on the threshold of robust economic progress (that descended) into economic misery and political instability."

The impression then is that the benevolent Brits, by 1951, had set Ghana up for prosperity. But the bad policies of Nkrumah ruined that good intent; in spite of efforts to help by stalwart intellectuals like Dr. Lewis.

But where, in the sentiment expressed, were the markers for this "threshold of robust economic progress" ? Were there more schools, universities, hospitals and number of factories built by the British before they left?

The truth is, Nkrumah in six years built more in these sectors than the British did in hundred years.

Reasonable individuals will understand that Nkrumah never intended Ghana to end up like it is today - the loss of economic opportunities, the pervading sense of gloom and a posture of growing spiritual debasement in a country that once was the voice of Africa.

Nkrumah's experiment was aborted by people who thought they knew better and, therefore, could offer superior options. Instead, we had a coup, a singularly brutal, politically traumatic event, the first in our nation that also begot many more.

We have to delve into Prof. Stignor's "lessons" to find out whether any of Dr. Lewis' development ideas were erased by these coups. Or, should we assume that Nkrumah wiped away all that alone?

Cocoa has been central to Ghana's economy.  Any development plan, including Dr. Lewis', had to be sensitive to the price of the commodity. However, development enterprises during the period of 1959 through 1965 was undermined by a sharp drop in the price for cocoa on the commodity market.

By 1965, a year before the coup, the cocoa price had fallen to 33% of what it fetched in 1955. Somebody, somewhere outside the country, was squeezing Ghana and it was not Nkrumah.

Dr. Lewis left Ghana in 1959.

Perhaps Dr. Tignor raises a doubt about him by saying, "the British, the Americans, the international financial community, and representatives of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, wanted something quite different (from Nkrumah's). They looked to Lewis to be a moderating influence – procapitalist and pro-Western."

Are we supposed to think that Dr. Lewis was a tool of the West? Was he in Ghana to help Nkrumah or the West? Were Kotoka and Afrifa, the coup leaders of 1966, "moderating influences" too?

Nkrumah, Prof Tignor writes, wanted Lewis to make possible his famous slogan " Seek ye first the political kingdom and all things will be added to it."

The principle "Seek ye first " has been treated with derision by many. It was a simple invitation by Nkrumah to use the political legitimacy of the state to develop. What advanced nation on earth did not start with this principle; to built economic structures and empires that benefit solely that nation?

Britain was a nation that used this political formulation as a platform to build an empire and Ghana became an appendage of this empire.

France, the US and China took this route. China, the world's second largest economy, is now extending its influence. But Ghana is still floundering, (hooked to China loans anyway) without any organizing developmental principle of its own.

I share partial sentiment in Prof. Tignor's statement that "Perhaps no-one more troubled the Westerners than the Ghanaian prime minister himself (Nkrumah), whose political and economic preferences were far from clear at this time."

Nkrumah's ideas troubled the West. Try hearing these messages from the 60s when African nations were seeking to be free of colonialism.

1. Seek ye first the political kingdom
2. Neo-colonialism being defined as a trap for underdevelopment

And then think if the West would want these same messages multiplied within the vast colonial spaces they were exploiting and that were yet to be free. Of course, the West would be troubled.

The West has always been realistic, in so far as their interests are concerned. They are not as delusional as we were in Ghana in 1966.

We need to cure the delusion.

Did the World Bank, the IMF, the US, France, and Britain understand the economic power the Akosombo Dam could unleash when they agreed to partly fund its development and had this anything to do with how Nkrumah was quickly ousted soon after the project was completed?

The West was an avid participant and enabler in Nkrumah's overthrow, machinations to cover the intent notwithstanding.

Hopefully, Dr. Arthur Lewis' goodwill towards Ghana shall remain intact.

But, instead of looking back to blame Nkrumah, we should hold naive men like Kotoka and Afrifa accountable. Truth be told, the West enthusiastically supported Nkrumah's overthrow. But since, have never been in a hurry to save Ghana. They have always wanted us as a client state.


Lessons like Prof Tignor's can only leave us weak.

E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Publisher www.ghanadot.com, Washington, DC, March 09, 2016.
Permission to publish: Please feel free to publish or reproduce, with credits, unedited. If posted at a website, email a copy of the web page to publisher@ghanadot.com . Or don't publish at all.






Prof. Robert Tignor's lessons still leave us vulnerable
Commentary, March 09, Ghanadot - Those who read Prof. Robert Tignor' article "The lessons Ghana learned from Kwame Nkrumah’s fallout with his economic adviser," have to know that Dr. Arthur Lewis, the Nobel Prize Lauriat, served in Ghana from 1957 to 59...More


‘Spy Law’ could turn Ghana into police state – Kofi Bentil

Ghanaweb, March 03, Ghanadot - Opposition against government’s proposed law that will enable security agencies to manipulate telecommunication messages has intensified following suggestions that it could turn the country into a police state.....More



Nigeria, Switzerland Agree On Returning $321M In Stolen Abacha Funds
IBT, March 09, Ghanadot - Abacha has been accused of embezzling as much as $5 billion of public funds during his five-year reign of oil-rich Nigeria, from 1993 until his death in 1998....His son, Abba Abacha, was charged by a Swiss court with money laundering, fraud and forgery in 2005 ... The Nigerian government reached an agreement with the Abacha family to return the stolen funds in exchange for dropping a complaint against the son, according to Reuters.


Brochure Gaffe: Boamah Owes Us Explanation – Yankah

PeaceFM, March 10, Ghanadot - Mr Arthur, who took responsibility and apologised for the error-ridden brochures printed for Ghana’s 59th independence anniversary celebrations was fired from his post by government on Thursday March 10. ...More

  ABC, Australia
The EastAfrican, Kenya
African News Dimensions
Chicago Sun Times
The Economist
Reuters World
CNN.com - World News
All Africa Newswire
Google News
The Guardian, UK
Africa Daily
IRIN Africa
The UN News
Daily Telegraph, UK
Daily Nation, East Africa
BBC Africa News, UK
Legal Brief Africa
The Washington Post
Mail & Guardian, S. Africa
The Washington Times
Voice of America
New York Times
Vanguard, Nigeria
Christian Science Monitor
Yahoo/Agence France Presse

Ghanaian Papers
Market Place
Official Sites
Pan-African Page
Social Scene


Currency Converter
Educational Opportunities
Job Opening

Send This Page To A Friend: