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February 24, the Day Progress Died in Ghana

E. Ablorh-Odjidja

February 24, 2017


On this day February 24, 1966, Lt. Colonel Kotoka, Major Akwasi Afrifa and the Armed Forces of Ghana, at the instigation and with copious help from Western interests, took upon themselves a mandate for the forceful removal from office the constitutionally elected president of the Republic of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

And thus began the tailspin in the affairs of Ghana

As one writer was to describe it later, it was also the beginning of the “celebration of traitors.” 


The soldiers, now the National Liberation Council (NLC) became instant heroes and Accra International Airport was named after Kotoka.


Western interests were delirious with the outcome.  Even Canada, as one writer, Yves Angler described it:


 "During the three years between 1966 and 1969 the National Liberation Council military regime, received as much Canadian aid as during Nkrumah’s ten years in office with $22 million in grants and loans. Ottawa was the fourth major donor after the US, UK and UN."

Some Ghanaians were absolute in their beliefs that the coup was good. The soldiers had saved Ghana from Nkrumah, the dictator.


The soldiers and their enablers naively named the coup a “Glorious Revolution.” To no one surprise, at least not Dr. Kwame Nkrumah's, this coup was to bring in many ills in its train; some wickedly consequential and others devastatingly worst.

It has been some fifty year since this coup. You would today think that some of our fellow citizens would know better to show a hint of remorse; not quite.

Overall, there has never been an open regret: A staging of a national day of soul searching from any of the succeeding regimes since 1966 - for a coup that went so wrong.


Instead, there have been many attempts to justify this coup, even in the face of contradicting historical events, namely, the fact that the 1966 coup was not the direct product of Ghanaian discontent, but that of external forces intent on keeping Ghana and Africa under the yoke of colonialism.


In short, the coup was an effort to force us back to their way of thinking, prior to the independent era, in order for the exploitation and rape of Africa to continue.


Thus a catastrophic force was released that would rage for years.  And would continue on a path of destruction of new ideas, the national character and the novel political culture that was forming.  The destruction would continue throughout the 70s into the 90s and beyond.. 


The consequences now weigh heavily on our progress today.


President Limann was the last to suffer the terrible fate of a coup on December 31, 1981.  After two years in office and half way through his first term, he was toppled.

Many presidents and leaders of institutions before him had gone down the same way. 


Busia was blown away after a couple of years as Prime Minister. Next to go were Generals Akyeampong and Akufo who were part of the successive military regimes after the NLC of 1966.


And then came Rawlings and his regime.  He was to rule for 19 long years over chaotic scenes of several attempted coups and bloodsheddings.

“Reap the Whirlwind.,” Geoffrey Bing, the British expatriate Attorney General under Nkrumah, was to famously state in the iconoclastic title of the book by that same name.  In the process, he produced one of the most gripping accounts of the period before and after 1966..

Precious revolutionary ideas born during the Nkrumah period were seriously damaged and buried with the advent of the February 24, 1966 coup.


Yet, that day of infamy continues to be celebrated in the presence of the memorial called Kotoka International Airport, named after the general who in a saner society would have been called a traitor.

This memorial is mind shattering.  It begs the question for the kind of people we are today and also serves as a reminder of how oblivious we have become of our collective fortunes or destiny.

The damage in 1966 did not end with the killings of office holders in the institution of the presidency. It extended to the killings of other personalities, some judges and to continue in the wreckage of ideas that had existed under Nkrumah.

Kwame Nkrumah was the founder of modern Ghana and one of the best, if not the most prominent African leader of the 20th century.


After his removal from office, he was to die in exile in Guinea in 1972.


He left in books and in examples of political activism ideas that could help salvage the situation in Ghana even today.

But there have been many attempts to tarnish Nkrumah's legacy and the attempts are still ongoing. Fortunately, many who lived in that era know now that “What Went Wrong in Ghana” was not of Nkrumah's creation. 


And the man in that mirror was definitely not Nkrumah.


Those imagined “wrongs” were made very real by the very people who staged the coup.  And the ills were then magnified under various and corrupt regimes that came after.

But to say the least, it is a lasting testament to observe now that the soldiers who staged the first coup were very, very naive.  And to add that there is no need for the current generation in Ghana to be complicit in the naiveté of these soldiers today.


Ghana, as a result of 1966, has retrogressed in many and several ways.  Primary among these was the culture of "policy reversal"  of preceding regimes. No idea or project of an old regime was good enough for the new one to continue.


The only bright time along this messy period was when President John Kufuor came into office in 2001. 


From 2001 to 2008, we had a good glimpse of what things could have been, the glory that would have been Ghana, the forward-ever movement, had Nkrumah's ideas, at least some, continued after 1966.

It remains to be seen if the same spark under President Kufuor can be achieved under the current administration of President Nana Akufo-Addo.


Check The Rise and Fall of Nkrumah.


E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Publisher, Washington, DC, February 24, 2017.

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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