lessons from Nkrumah’s fallout with his economic adviser
By: Prof Lungu
May 07, 2016
March 1, this year, on the occasion of the 59th
independence anniversary of Ghana from British colonial
rule, "The Conversation", a Commonwealth Bank of
Australia funded "global platform" supported by a
consortium of universities (among them Michigan, Boston
U, Ohio State, Case Western Reserve, Georgia State,
Rutgers Newark, Penn State, UT Austin, Tufts, U of
California, and Vanderbilt, etc.), published an essay
about Ghana. The essay came to our attention when
someone, without proper attribution, posted it on
Ghanaweb several weeks ago with the title "Would Arthur
Lewis recognize today’s Ghana?"
Conversation" actually credited the original essay,
titled,"Ghana: lessons from Nkrumah’s fallout with his
economic adviser", to Professor Robert Tignor, Professor
of Modern and Contemporary History, Emeritus, Princeton
University. "The Conversation" represented Professor
Tignor's essay as a "foundation essay" that takes "a
wider look at a key issue affecting society".
imagined that "key issue affecting society" to be the
role of the economist, (i.e. the technician), in a human
context that is by default characterized by politics at
Having read Prof Tignor's
"extract" more than once, it is clear to us the essay
does not quite do justice to that lofty goal given
actual historical records now available, from the World
Bank; International Monetary Fund (IMF); Office of the
Historian, US State Department; and so forth.
Simply, Sir Arthur Lewis, (i.e, the
economist/technician), who was acting within a complex
political, economic, and social context cannot be
represented as a neutral, objective actor. This is even
less so today, when we find, for the first time, that
our economist was actually funded by external entities
controlled by other countries. That seminal point has
been disproven (Rittel and Webber, 1973) since at least
the 1970s, when Mr. Lewis was awarded the Nobel Prize in
As such, in 2016, we are
not sure why Professor Tignor represents Mr. Arthur
Lewis as a rationalist, but Dr. Kwame Nkrumah isn't.
Kwame Nkrumah was as well an intellectual with an
acute sense of political-economy, history, and
sociology. Further, Nkrumah was the leader who led the
Gold Coast from 1951 to independence in 1957, then to
greater political, social, and economic strides by
Ghana, up to 24 February, 1966, when his government was
overthrown under the direction of the US Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA).
In fact, we will posit
that Kwame Nkrumah was a well-rounded critical
rationalist who was always ready to adjust to conditions
and demand signals, if usefully and effectively
communicated, except his beliefs in the independence of
Ghana and control of African resources by Africans.
Many times, Dr. Nkrumah offered several members of
the "...right wing...(Matemeho)... party, who believed
that Ghana continued to need support from the great
capitalist powers...", Dr. J. B. Danquah, for instance,
important positions in a Unitary Government of Ghana.
Every time, they declined, even as the same people
(among them Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia), were collecting
treasonous payments from handlers at the American
Embassy in Accra, Ghana, and from other clandestine
But, writing in 2016, we will not know
any of that from Professor Tignor's "extract."
On the contrary, according to Professor Tignor:
"...If, then, 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...From a country that seemed on the
threshold of robust economic progress, it descended into
economic misery and political instability..."
Here are at least four points for the record:
It is a historical fact that under Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana
won "political kingdom"ship in 1957, that Ghana was
stable even after many attempts on Nkrumah's life, until
the 1966 coup d'état. (It was that event, actually, that
ushered in periods of "political instability" for
2. It is a historical fact that in six
short years, between 1960 and 1966 (the year Nkrumah was
overthrown), Ghana's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per
capita jumped from $181.00 to $267.00, representing a
47% increase (or 7.83% each one of those 6 years).
However, thirty (30) long years after the overthrow of
Nkrumah, Ghana's GDP per capita was practically
stagnant, increasing just 2.7% each one of those 30
years (from a low $214.00 in 1967 to $386.00 in 1997).
3. It is also a historical fact that the
comprehensive, integrated Akosombo Hydro Electric
Power-Volta Lake-VALCO" project was a planned,
industrial, agricultural, service industry, and economic
"take-off" initiative for the fast-track development of
Ghana in accordance with the vision of Dr. Kwame
Nkrumah. As approved by his government, proceeds from
sales of some of the electricity to industry and Togo
would pay off all elements of the $324 million loan
within 30 years, well before the end of the useful life
of Akosombo Dam, the anchor asset.
later, the Akosombo Hydro-Electric Dam still remains the
most important factor in the Ghana energy mix.
And Kwame Nkrumah had a mandate for universities and
research centers to begin vigorous studies in Solar
Energy in the 1960s!
4. The historical record
shows that in 1966, just thirty-three (33) days after
Nkrumah commissioned the Akosombo Dam, he was overthrown
by the Kotoka-Ankrah-Harlley military-police junta with
the knowledge and support of Western powers, among them
the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.
The big idea is, if Ghanaians had known the true
history surrounding the actions and overthrow of Kwame
Nkrumah and his Convention Peoples Party (CPP) in 1966,
Ghanaians, Africans, and "Afrophiles", as Professor
Tignor prefers to call some people, would have wailed
and moaned for their "Lost Star of Africa".
Critically, it is as well the idea about the absence of
a discussion of that international, activist usurpation
of the power of the Government of Ghana under Dr. Kwame
Nkrumah, that is another regrettable aspect of Professor
And, it is an important one,
It is one that students and scholars will do
well to address when analyzing and discussing the
President Johnson record and the record of Kwame Nkrumah
in the development of Ghana, and Africa, and other
states especially those traditionally in the
"non-aligned" sphere, versus say the Singapore
Truth be told!
Even today, Dr.
Kwame Nkrumah's "Unitary" vision still holds Ghana
together even though the "right wing" wanted a
confederation, what they call in Ghana, a "matemeho
To the point, Kwame
Nkrumah achieved his vision for Ghana working with all
manner of economists, technicians, and even right
wingers, exactly to the extent the US and other more
powerful western governments would allow. As such, the
only significant fallout Nkrumah had was actually with
the western powers who were instrumental in his
overthrow, oddly, as Nkrumah was on an aircraft headed
to Hanoi, to help negotiate an end to Jimmy Cliff's War
Professor Tignor and others of similar mind will now
take time and revisit the Johnson-Vietnam history and
the record, then learn a little more about the Ghana
record even as represented by notes from "technicians".
Maybe, going forward, Professor Tignor and others of
similar mind will inform their students and the American
public how many Americans and Vietnamese lost their
lives, how much more property were destroyed, after Dr.
Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was forced to abort his Vietnam
mission on that aircraft 24 February, 1966, directly as
a result of his overthrow by the United States' CIA (and
other western powers), while Nkrumah was outside Ghana
on that "Johnson-blessed mission".
1. The Conversation. Ghana: lessons from Nkrumah’s
fallout with his economic adviser, 1 Mar 16,
2. Horst W. J. Rittel and Melvin M. Webber. 1973.
Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning. Policy
Sciences 4, 155-169, ©Elsevier Scientific Publishing
3. Historian, US State Department.
On 12 March, 1966, Robert Komer, Deputy Special
Assistant to President Johnson for National Security
Affairs wrote a congratulatory assessment to Johnson:
“...The coup in Ghana is another example of a
fortuitous windfall. Nkrumah was doing more to undermine
our interests than any other black African. In reaction
to his strongly pro-Communist leanings, the new military
regime is almost pathetically pro-Western...The point of
this memo is that we ought to follow through skillfully
and consolidate such successes. A few thousand tons of
surplus wheat or rice, given now when the new regimes
are quite uncertain as to their future relations with
us, could have a psychological significance out of all
proportion to the cost of the gesture. I am not arguing
for lavish gifts to these regimes—indeed, giving them a
little only whets their appetites, and enables us to use
the prospect of more as leverage." (Source:
4. Prof Lungu. There Was No "Dum-Sor" Under Kwame
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Robert Tignor's lessons still leave us vulnerable