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What Gabby did not say about Nkrumah in America By Nii Moi Thompson


A recent lecture purportedly given by the executive director of the Accra-based Danquah Institute, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, to “students and professors” at “Pennsylvania University” in the United States, and given wide publicity by the Ghanaian media and in cyberspace on the basis of a write-up by the institute, is remarkable not so much for what he said as what he didn’t say. (If you are wondering why I used so many quotation marks, it is because I couldn’t find “Pennsylvania University” on the internet).

Ethics and good conscience require that Gabby should have started his lecture with a full disclosure along the following lines: “Students and professors of Pennsylvania University, the institute that I head back in my country Ghana (not to be confused with Guyana in South America) is named after a great grand-uncle of mine, J. B. Danquah, who was also a political adversary, nay opponent, of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first prime minister-stroke-president. What you are about to hear therefore is a gutted and bastardized version of Ghanaian history. Take it or leave it.”


Such brutal honesty would have endeared Gabby to his audience and maybe – just maybe – preserved his reputation and that of his “policy institute”.

He then could have proceeded as follows, kind of:

Ladies and gentlemen, in this lecture about how Ghana and Africa came to be emblems of 20th century decay, I will make many claims, some of them false, but I will make them nonetheless. I will claim, for instance, that Nkrumah won the referendum for one-party state in 1964 by 99.91%. That’s a lie. I know it. As the executive director of a policy institute, I must. And I guess some of you do, too. But I can’t help it. All my life, that’s what I’ve been told, and as Hitler’s propaganda chief, Goebbels, once said, a lie repeated enough times eventually takes on a life of its own and becomes revealed truth. And since I am here to vilify Nkrumah, not to sanctify him, who better to inspire me than Goebbels?


In any case, 99.9% is a cute number that can be useful in many situations. If I were to ask how many of you had, before today, heard of J. B. Danquah, chances are 99.9% of you would say you hadn’t. But were I to ask a similar question about Nkrumah, I’m sure 99.9% of you would say you had.

Such is the beauty of 99.9%: It can be used to educate or obfuscate, depending on the motives of the user. You are free to speculate on my motives if you want, but frankly I don’t give a damn (pardon my feeble attempt at Americanism).

The correct figure for the referendum, if I may be truthful for a fleeting moment, is 86.8%. You see, in 1964, there were 3,000,000 registered voters, out of which 2,603,223 voted “yes” amidst intimidation and calls by the opposition for its supporters to boycott the referendum, which explains why there were “nil” votes in some opposition strongholds.

But even the 86.8% might be too high for some of you, especially Americans, who gave us the catchphrase “too close to call” in 2000 and then stood helplessly by as your supreme court brazenly robbed Al to pay George.

But in the case of Nkrumah, you have to understand that his Convention People’s Party (CPP) was no ordinary political party; it was a mass movement with a track record of clobbering the opposition at the polls even when the British were in charge and had an abiding dislike for Nkrumah and the CPP.


In the 1950 municipal elections, for example, the CPP won landslide victories in Accra, Cape Coast, and Kumasi, heartland of the opposition. But, as we say in Ghana, that was only the “comedies”. In the 1951 legislative assembly elections, the CPP again made mince meat of my people, winning 34 out of 38 seats and leaving the party of my ancestors, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), in the dust with only two seats. We swore back then that Nkrumah would pay for such humiliation, in life and in death, through fair or foul means; it’s a political blood feud we are determined to carry into eternity and I’m grateful that you have given me the platform today to do just that. I thank you in the name of my forebears.

But the story gets even more humiliating, you see. From behind bars, where the British had sent him before the elections for publishing seditious material against the colonial government of the Great Queen of England (may God the Merciful bless her and grant her eternal life), Nkrumah won a stunning 98.5% of the vote for the Accra Central seat (22,780 out of 23,122). And he wasn’t even from Accra! Nor did he campaign. The bloke sat on his backside in prison and with the sheer power of his reputation pulled an electoral stunner. To not hate such a person is to not be human. And I’m human (at least I think I am), so I’m here to hate Nkrumah with every fiber in my body. I thank you for giving me the platform to do that.


I must say, though, that Uncle J.B. also won his seat, if only barely – as did my other uncle, William Ofori-Atta: The former got 95 out of 180 votes (52.8%), while the latter managed an 87-83 win, or 51.2%. A third opposition member, K.A. Busia (thus the name Danquah-Busia Tradition, which my party in Ghana uses as a proxy for ideology), lost out completely but managed to worm his way into the assembly through one of the seats reserved for the Ashanti Confederacy Council.

In the wake of that crushing defeat, the UGCC, drawing upon all its intellectual and financial capital, embarked on a kind of restructuring, including change of name to Ghana Congress Party (which soon morphed into the National Liberation Movement (NLM), which later became part of the United Party).

In the agony of defeat and confusion of reorganization, the British, against the selfless opposition of my ancestors, released Nkrumah, then only 42 years old, and made him leader of government business and later prime minister of the first African-led government of the Gold Coast. I don’t know what the British were drinking or smoking back then but to put a whole country in the hands of rabble-rouser of lowly birth like Nkrumah was, in my view, the height of folly.

In his book, Dark Days in Ghana, Nkrumah, boastful as usual, suggests that in five years he did more for the Gold Coast than the British did in over a hundred years. He claims, for example, that he spent £117.6 million mostly on infrastructure development, compared to the £75 million that the British half-heartedly planned to spend over 10 years. I have no proof to the contrary, but as a policy I don’t believe anything Nkrumah says. I insist that you do same.


Then came 1954, when the British, bowing to opposition pressure, organized another election to give my ancestors a chance to redeem themselves at the polls. However, fate was not on their side and both of my uncles lost their seats. The good news is that Busia won his. Our detractors say he did so by only 11 votes, but who cares? A win is a win is a win. Period.

It wasn’t my intention to share details of the results of that election with you, but in the interest of academic fairness, I will. And so here we go – by the number of seat won per party: CPP: 71; Northern People’s Party: 12; Togoland Congress: 2; Ghana Congress Party: 1; Muslim Association Party: 1; Anlo Youth Association: 1; and Independents: 16.

When Nkrumah tried to cash in the results of the elections for independence, we were quick to put up another stumbling block: A demand for another election in 1956. He opposed it but we insisted and eventually convinced the British to organize the election. We had done our homework (or so we thought) and were sure that this time around we would trounce that rascal and his verandah boys. But once again, we fell short and the CPP won an impressive two-thirds of the vote. The fact that Uncle J.B. lost yet again is irrelevant to this lecture, and so I won’t mention it. Nkrumah must remain our focus.

After the 1956 electoral massacre, my people abandoned the idea of independence altogether and instead began agitating for the country to be carved up into tiny unsustainable federal fiefdoms – just to spite and frustrate Nkrumah. The CPP again resisted and again we persisted until they eventually settled for “regional assemblies” to placate us. That’s how Ghana eventually won its independence in 1957 – March 6th, to be precise.


At this point, you are probably wondering how an opposition party headed by blue-bloods of the highest academic and financial pedigree would implode so dramatically at every election to the point of legislative irrelevance.

I will let Joe Appiah, a most implacable foe of Nkrumah’s, tell you in his own words: The CPP, Uncle Joe once told a journalist in the 1980s, “were prepared to sleep on verandahs with the boys, popularly called Verandah Boys because most of them were sleeping on verandahs at the time. And when they went down to the villages, they went down with them together…sang their songs…drank palm wine at the street bars, street corners, with them and generally threw their lot with them at all times and at all places. Now, this Danquah and others were not prepared to do. Nor indeed would they have been proved honest if they had attempted to do it because it just didn’t suit them, it wasn’t in their character, it wasn’t in their make-up, and they could not pretend to be with them in those directions without exposing their own hypocrisy.”

I’d rather not comment on Uncle Joe’s treasonous assessment of my uncle and his hard-working colleagues. I just thought you should know that we had our fair share of traitors in the opposition.


Some Marxists in my country have cast our holy crusades against Nkrumah as some sort of a class war between plebeians and patricians. Whatever it was, my people decided that if we could not govern Ghana, we would make Ghana ungovernable. Back home, we call that “Konongo kaya”. Here you call it “dog in a manger”. Well, we were rabid dogs in a manger!

We adopted several strategies to attain our aim. First, my people spread rumors that Nkrumah was in fact a Liberian, not qualified to be in the Gold Coast much less govern anybody. When that didn’t fly, we turned to violence. But our bomb throwers were a lousy bunch who couldn’t even piss straight, much less kill Nkrumah. Instead, they were killing and maiming little school children around him. Of course, I blame Nkrumah for such tragedies; he had no business allowing little children around him. He should have been alone at all times.

In the 1960 presidential elections, Uncle J. B. made one more desperate attempt at electoral redemption but, as in the two previous attempts, he fell woefully short of his objective, gathering only 10% of the vote. But, again, I am here to demonize Nkrumah not to point up the shortcomings of my relatives, so let’s stay on course, shall we.


Finally, the CIA – your CIA – heard our cries and came to our aid. On February 24, 1966, with their financial and intelligence assistance, we managed to overthrow Nkrumah while he was away from the country. The National Liberation Council (NLC) (does that name sound familiar?) finally liberated the people of Ghana from the suffocating tentacles of the dictator Nkrumah.

One of the first acts of the NLC was to scrap Nkrumah’s obnoxious Preventive Detention Act (PDA) (under which Uncle J.B. was jailed as part of a broader crackdown on what Nkrumah called opposition subversives) and replace it with the Preventive Custody Decree (PCD), which we implemented with military efficiency. In a matter of months, we had imprisoned more Ghanaians without trial than Nkrumah did under the eight-year run of the PDA. We figured that to liberate, we had to incarcerate. And incarcerate we did! It’s a tribute to the efficiency of our propaganda machine that today almost nobody remembers the PCD but everybody, especially our lazy and gullible journalists, knows about the PDA. They bring it up any time Nkrumah is mentioned. God bless Goebbels.

Where we took pity on saboteurs, real or imagined, we simply put them in cages and paraded them through the streets of Accra to remind the public who was in charge and what can befall them if they dared say anything unkind about the new and improved Ghana. When Nkrumah’s agents tried to liberate Ghanaians from our “liberators”, we lined them up at the beach and blew their brains out. Sometimes you need elimination in order to preserve liberation. We introduced the virus of firing squad into Ghanaian politics, so don’t believe J.J. Rawlings when lays claim to that. He’s a liar – like Nkrumah.


But there was one last Nkrumah problem that we had to deal with before we felt a full sense of accomplishment, which was to destroy his efficient organizational machine, which remained in the hearts and minds of Ghanaians, and pave the way for the federalist Busia to lead a unified and unitary Ghana – the very thing he had spent his adult life opposing. We devised a clever scheme, which was to ban anything Nkrumah – his name, his picture, his books, his party, and then seize the party’s properties across the country. We gave the terms “democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression” a new meaning to suit our agenda. Predictably, Busia “won” the 1969 elections. What we couldn’t achieve through honest means, we finally did through subterfuge.

We had hoped that with Nkrumah gone, we would be able to give Ghanaians the paradise that he had so cruelly denied them. Our detractors say we failed and they use all sorts of dubious methods to prove their case. In 1962, for example, they say, Ghana’s per capita income was 64.0% higher than South Korea’s. By 1966, when we struck, that had gone up to about 80.0%. In 1967 the figure fell to 64.3%, roughly what it was five years earlier. By 1969, when Busia become prime minister, Ghana’s per capita income had actually fallen below that of South Korea’s, where it has remained ever since with the gap between the two growing ever wider.

As of 2008, Ghana’s per capita income was a measly 3.1% of South Korea’s. Or, stated differently, South Korea’s per capita income was 3,113.4% (three thousand one-hundred and thirteen point four percent) higher than Ghana’s. Hard to believe but painfully true.

And whom do we blame for this messy state of affairs? Nkrumah, of course. If he had not impoverished Ghanaians, we would not have overthrown him, and if we had not overthrown him, Ghana’s economy would not have gone to the dogs the way it has since 1966. Indeed, in all likelihood, Ghana today would have been way ahead of South Korea. But such is life: You take risks and when you mess up, you blame your “enemies”. It’s convenient.

So no matter how you slice or dice it, we blame Nkrumah for Ghana’s woes, and I hail my ancestors as heroes. No intellectual worth his salt would reach any other conclusion.

Time will not allow me to extend my thesis to the African continent, as I had promised to, but rest-assured that on the eve of the next so-called founder’s day, I will be back here to the great Pennsylvania University (or whatever you call yourselves) and continue the political blood feud that my ancestors started decades ago. As in life, so shall it be in death: We will never let Nkrumah have his peace of mind.


So no matter how you slice or dice it, we blame Nkrumah for Ghana’s woes, and I hail my ancestors as heroes. No intellectual worth his salt would reach any other conclusion.

Time will not allow me to extend my thesis to the African continent, as I had promised to, but rest-assured that on the eve of the next so-called founder’s day, I will be back here to the great Pennsylvania University (or whatever you call yourselves) and continue the political blood feud that my ancestors started decades ago. As in life, so shall it be in death: We will never let Nkrumah have his peace of mind.

In the name of the Great J.B. Danquah – even if only two people, including myself, had heard of him before today’s lecture – I wish you all God’s speed and a safe trip back to your dorms and homes. (Yes, I believe in God, which is why I never tell lies or contradict myself. Ever!) But watch out for so-called Nkrumahists, those fanatical followers of a dead man, who would come telling you that they have a better history of Ghana than I do. Like their icon, they too are liars. Ignore them.

Thank you for your attention and understanding.

Nii Moi Thompson (
Posted October 2, 2010







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