“Defending the indefensible,” Really?
In the article “Defending the indefensible”, a writer points the
most outrageous, illogical accusations at Nkrumah and those who
Central to his accusations is the writer’s linking socialism and
one party system to the economic ills and the pogroms of the
world and his conclusion that Nkrumah, after 1964, was
ineluctably heading towards mass killings in Ghana had the 1966
coup not happened.
Ghana, we are to accept that if Nkrumah had not
been removed in 1966, would have ended up like Pol Pot’s
He says this with unabashed certainty, like a god talking,
forgetting that socialism does not necessarily lead to
destruction. Socialism comes in all shades (structures within
governance). The western
countries of Europe, for instance, are more socialist than the
“Ghana” this writer states, "did not experience anything
comparable to the killing field of Cambodia or events behind the
Iron Curtain, but ideas like the intolerable one party state is
a pointer to what could have happened if events had not
In other words, there would have been no cultural brakes in
Ghana. We would have gone straight to hell under Nkrumah had he
continued beyond 1966.
Curiously, the writer adds, as he writes about Nkrumah, " How
can anyone practice a system that requires the killing and
maiming of their own people in order to get to their promise
land?” Required killing and maiming? How did we get to this
point since no one was ever executed under Nkrumah as were in
the regimes that were to follow after 1966?
By inference, the writer has subliminally connected the killing
system to socialism under Nkrumah’s Ghana. Socialism, he seems
to say, ends in genocide. Granted Pol Pot was a socialist and a
communist but how socialist were the genocide perpetrators of
Rwanda? At this stage, I can only say that this writer has a
poor understanding of what genocide is and why it happens.
A Yale University program that studies genocide has this to say
about the subject: “As in the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian
genocide, in Nazi Germany, and more recently in East Timor,
Guatemala, Yugoslavia, and Rwanda, the Khmer Rouge regime headed
by Pol Pot combined extremist ideology with ethnic animosity and
a diabolical disregard for human life to produce repression,
misery, and murder on a massive scale.”
I invite the writer to disagree with the Yale University
understanding of the subject. Not only was Nkrumah’s socialist
agenda a mild one, but it was under his rule that Ghana
experienced the least drive for tribalism or the “ethnic
animosity” that could have led to genocide.
That there were other profound political acts that could have
led to genocide before independence in 1957 did not matter to
the writer. But, the two years Ghana was officially under one
party state (1964-1966) mattered.
For over 50 years Britain ruled Ghana without a
national opposition party; in essence, a one party rule.
That rule did not lead to genocide. Several years’ political
rivalries before independence, between the CPP and opposing
parties, also did not end in genocide as it did in Rwanda. But
two years of Nkrumah’s one party rule inevitably could,
therefore, the justification for the 1966 coup? Preposterous!
And as if this illogical reasoning was not enough, the writer
crowds his writing with names like Karl Max, Robespierre,
Rousseau, and others so as to point to failures within
socialism. What have these names got to do with Nkrumah other
than the fact that they form the base of our universal
understanding for humanism?
Socialism for me, will not be the preferred form
of governance for Ghana at this stage. But as an
experimental stage in arriving at effective governance for a new
nation, it was a process that should not have been avoided. We
have gone though this experiment. And seasoned socialist
have dismissed Nkrumah as a serious socialist; no matter,
because Nkrumah saw himself as a Pan-Africanist and
anti-imperialist; in a sense he rejected capitalism.
It should also be noted that Nkrumah stance on socialism as it
related to the economy of Ghana was not far from that of leading
development economists of his time.
Writing about the Nkrumah's era, Daniel Yergin
and Joseph Stanislaw state in “Commanding Heights” that
“pessimism about markets was even greater in Africa than
elsewhere. After all, the colonization of Africa had come with
little regard for local education, health, or infrastructure. It
was tainted with racism and contempt.”
Yuri Smertin, a confirmed socialist intellectual states in his
book, Kwame Nkrumah, that Nkrumah’s “rejection of capitalism did
not signify his adoption of scientific socialism.” This, Nkrumah
“considered unacceptable for Africa in its ‘pure form” and he
(Nkrumah) argued that it had to be adapted to specifically
We can argue about how much socialism impaired Ghana's economic
development. But to observe that two years of one party rule
under Nkrumah could have led to Cambodia style pogrom is crazy.
Eleven years of military dictatorship under
Rawlings did not. Also, to fail to note that the civil war and
genocide that engulfed the Ivory Coast recently were fruits of
Houpphet Boigny’s rule, a dictator our writer seems to prefer,
betrays his supreme bias against Nkrumah.
The bias, despite his rather heroic attempt at disguise, becomes
thin: “The cult of Nkrumah will forever remain as long as there
is a nation call Ghana. The position he occupies in Ghanaian
political history cannot be wrestled away from him. Nobody can
deny the fact that he had the interest of the nation at heart…
We have to celebrate him as a leader who selflessly fought for
our independence, and not retrogressively try to keep his name
alive by implementing his dead economic and social policies.”
The writer concludes.
The obvious truth is that we dismantled Nkrumah’s social and
economic policies immediately after the 1966 coup. What we have
not been able to do is the jealousy for the man’s success as a
liberator and a pathfinder.
E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Publisher www.ghanadot.com , Washington,
DC, January 19, 2012.
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