The Gold Coast became Ghana from March 6, 1957 not because you could actually pick up gold bars there at sunset as speculated about the Old Mali Empire. That was an ordinary idiomatic expression that means that the Old Mali Empire that incorporated the Empire of Ghana after its conquest in the 14th Century was a vibrant and prosperous place that was very well known in the whole of the Middle East and Europe. The one ruler that made it popular in terms of its endowment of gold was Mansa Musa. There was one particular pilgrimage he undertook to Mecca: he went there with so much gold that it lost its value, only for that value to be restored about twelve years later. And the one man that made nearly every black man want to stand up to be reckoned as a Ghanaian anywhere in the world was Kwame Nkrumah. As the modern state of Ghana celebrates her golden jubilee in existence as a modern state, we may want to find out what went wrong with a country that was a shinning star in the African firmament to become a lone star in the penumbra of World affairs, and her gradual rise once more to international respect.
Any mention of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Ghana without a long paragraph devoted to the contributions of her founding father Kwame Nkrumah would be an exercise in futility. Ghana did exert considerable greatness and influence in Africa and world affairs only during the Nkrumah and Annan years. Nkrumah’s Ghana formed the nucleus of the Casablanca militant Bloc as against the Monrovia group that pressed for a United States of Africa. It was Ghana under Nkrumah that began the propaganda warfare against the Apartheid regime of South Africa when he attended the attended the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in 1961. As a consequence of Nkrumah’s outspokenness, Dr. Verwoerd withdrew South Africa’s application for readmission just after Ghana became a republic. In 1958, Ghana was the Nigeria to Guinea when she advanced Guinea the sum of ten million pounds. Guinea had begun to suffer as a result of choosing to opt out of the economic apron strings of France when she was given the choice to do so.Nkrumah contributed his quota to the development of Pan-Africanism with more than the Ghana-Guinea then the Ghana-Soudan Unions which collapsed eventually. During the Congo Crisis of 1960-1, Ghana consistently championed the case for Patrice Lumumba as the democratically elected Premier of the Congo. We don’t want to participate in the calamity that ensued when President Kasavubu went against this counsel from Nkrumah and invited a Colonel Mobutu to arrest Lumumba.
But if Nkrumah did well with the pursuit of Pan-Africanism, he did not quite achieve the same measure of success with his domestic policies and relations with the West. At home, he became somewhat a marked man after the promulgation of the Preventive Detention Act: mercenaries chucked grenades at him at most of his public functions and some have speculated that these terrorist attempts at the life of one of Africa’s greatest sons were sponsored by Western anti-communist elements who were hardly comfortable with his overt relationship with the former USSR and China.
While March 6, 1957 established Ghana as a leading African light and a resounding voice in the articulation of the position of the black race in world affairs, the coup that toppled Nkrumah cannot be said to be a blessing in disguise. Even though it was true that Nkrumah began to be a semi-despot, military putsch after military putsch prosecuted by those who had no leadership charisma and who hardly had any idea what to do sunk the once virile nation deeper and deeper in a mire: price of cocoa and all other agricultural produce that were the mainstay of the Ghanaian economy fell drastically. The result of this was that the IMF began to use Ghana, in the early 80s as a guinea pig to test her monetary policies. I remember then as a boy when hordes and hordes of Ghanaians fled their country to Nigeria to escape the harsh realities of that economic recession and how Nigeria expelled them twice.
Today, however the story is very, very different. Nigerians in droves go to Ghana either as tourists or as students and mostly as entrepreneurs. The student cum entrepreneurial drift from Nigeria to Ghana instead of the other way is one I thought our government should investigate but sadly, they have refused to be embarrassed by all of this. What Nnamdi Azikiwe did with his African Morning Post between the years 1934 to 1937 is what certain editors are doing in Ghana today, effectively affirming that the business climate in Ghana is more conducive. But what then suddenly transformed Ghana from a crawling toddler yesterday to respectable manhood today? For me, the answer lies in the quality of leadership that Rawlings provided Ghana at that point that certain hard decisions had to be taken. Like Nkrumah, Rawlings had the intellectual and political sagacity to pull Ghana out of the mire of economic despondency. And before anyone knew what was happening, Ghana celebrated a full year of uninterrupted power supply. A full year. Before our very eyes, one of their sons clinched the top job of the United Nations and just recently, they trampled and rode roughshod over us in a game we foolishly call our own.
For me, I think that Ghana’s abracadabra lies in the commitment, and of the quality of leaders they have been blessed with. When our Babangida and Abacha were here plundering our resources, Ghana under Rawlings was consolidating very quietly and getting the attention of the international community. I have never been to Ghana but those of my acquaintances who have, summarize their experience in a sentence made up of only two words: GHANA WORKS. I have had cause to tell them that that country has a population just that of Lagos and these worthies have fired back at me that that country too does not have the kind of fantastic wealth that we wantonly fritter away. Ghana depends on agricultural produce and that priceless commodity that the Nigerian government does not care to invest: her people.
As Ghana turns fifty on the 6th day of March 2006, I want to on behalf of myself and family wish her many more years of peace, prosperity and steady development. These are the kind of things we pray that our country Nigeria should experience when she turns fifty. Alas, this may be wishful thinking if the present crop of leaders who think more of the monies they would steal from the PTDF still abound. Our country at forty-seven cannot boast of a single day’s constant supply of electricity. We are still chasing corrupt leaders around when all other serious nations focus their energies on the millennium development goals that the Kofi-Annan years at the UN set as benchmarks for nations and how they could attain them. One cannot hope that as our leaders go grace the jubilee celebrations in Ghana that they would learn any lessons.