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“Defending the indefensible,” Really?
E. Ablorh-Odjidja

In the article “Defending the indefensible”, a writer points the most outrageous, illogical accusations at Nkrumah and those who defend him.

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 Cambodia!

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 United States.

“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 changed.”

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 African conditions.”

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 , Washington, DC, January 19, 2012.

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 . Or don't publish at all.


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