Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Nation Must Secure Nkrumah’s Diary

Regicide is the act of killing a king or ruler and in all ancient cultures regicide carried a curse, especially if the ruler was unjustly sent to the other world. Ghana, more or less, committed regicide on February 24, 1966 when the President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown. The issue here is not whether he deserved to be overthrown, but six years later he died in a hospital in Bucharest of what Amilcar Cabral called the “cancer of betrayal”. Between 1966 and his death in 1972, Nkrumah expressed his political views publicly in a number of books, notably Dark Days in Ghana, Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare, The Struggle Continues and Voices from Conakry.

In none of these books did Nkrumah reveal his inner personal self and his thoughts on the fate that befallen him, his party and his family. It is known, for example, that the late President did not see his children again after his overthrow and subsequent exile in Guinea, and apart from a few letters he hardly mentioned his private thoughts and how they impacted on his very transparent political worldview. He probably went to his grave with those thoughts; or maybe not. If this determined writer was as faithful to his diary as he was to his publisher, the world should get a view of Kwame Nkrumah as he knew himself, for his diary which was stolen some forty years ago has been found and set to return to Ghana.

The story of the diary reads like a whodunit bestseller. According to media reports, the diary had been at the centre of a long legal battle between an American businessman, Robert Shulman and an African scholar from Kenya called Vincent Mbirika. Mr. Mbirika, who describes himself as “Africa’s Indiana Jones” is said to have succeeded in retrieving the diary from the American who has had it for many years. A judge in a Pennsylvania court has ruled that the diary should be returned to Ghana. Mr. Mbirika has reportedly contacted some Ghanaians to inform Nkrumah’s family to help him to retrieve the diary.

In most countries in the world, this news would be front-page stuff that would lead to rejoicing, at least in the world of scholarship and politics. In Ghana, it was tucked into the middle pages and largely ignored. We cannot afford to ignore this diary because its value is immense. Dr. Nkrumah died as not just the first president of Ghana but the Co-President of Guinea, a unique historical situation about which we would probably learn a lot from the diary. And, of course, Nkrumah was not only the leading proponent of Pan-Africanism but was voted the African of the last one thousand years by BBC listeners. Even his shopping list written on a scrap of paper would cause considerable stir, not to speak of his diary.

This is what I think we should do. The Nkrumah diary is a national asset, and by an interesting twist, one of Nkrumah’s brightest creations, the Institute of African Studies last Monday launched its 50th anniversary celebration programme. We should secure the diary to make it the centerpiece of the celebration. A conference and an exhibition can be developed around the diary which will attract thousands of scholars and pan-Africanists to Ghana. The diary can travel to other African countries and world capitals. Some countries have prospered on less.

The diary will also enable us to do some serious re-evaluation, not least because Nkrumah probably had some new thinking after his overthrow or even some unexpressed insights while he was in office. As for the curse of regicide, we know that the diary entry after his overthrow was that “…things will not go well for Ghana" and his "vision" for Ghana would now be "lost". Sadly, how true!

Marching us to war…

Arrests of politicians and the reactions that follow now go according to a pattern that has assumed the status of a film script. The dramatis personae and locale may change but the essentials of the script remain firmly in place. Scene one is often a TV or radio studio and the activity is a talk show. The main character (villain or hero, depending on one’s politics) is shouting loud imprecations against somebody, or even declaring war).

Scene two is a marvelous dramatic device which is the equivalent of the loud whisper; we should hear it although we know it is not meant for the public ear. This scene, which is the arrest is often like that – meant to be private but played out in the open. Scene three shifts back to the studio where presenters and serial callers loyal to the main character, by now behind bars at either the police headquarters or the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), are calling out the party faithful. Scene four is often the front of the police headquarters on the ring Road in Accra where the mass ranks of the party faithful in response to the studio call gather to insist on the release of the incarcerated hero.

The latest enactment of this time-honoured drama was the arrest on Monday of the MP for Assin North, Mr. Kennedy Agyapong. The script was followed beyond the letter because in this particular case, the MP also owns the radio station on which he allegedly committed whatever offense took him into custody. Thus the commitment of his station to commit troops to the cause knew no bounds.

We have been here before. During the tense moments that followed the second round of voting in 2008, two radio stations which are vocally aligned to the two main political parties engaged in such abuse of their media license that the result could have been disastrous for Ghana. By a stroke of luck or genius, the Electoral Commission diffused the tension with the Tain tie-up; disaster was averted, but just. Is it the case that the armchair generals calling out the troops have no idea of real war and its consequences? I am reminded of the 1970 song/poem by Gil Scott-Heron:: The Revolution will not be televised/it will be live/there will be no replay.

I went to Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet Mujahedeen uprising in the 1980s and saw every other man without an arm or leg; I went to Liberia at the very end of the war in an uninsured airplane because no one was crazy to insure a plane going into a warzone; when we got to the bombed out airport outside Monrovia they collected our passports in a basket because there was no office to perform that role. I went to Rwanda and saw the church where hundreds were gunned down by the Interahamwe; their bloodstains were still on the wall; later, I reported the proceedings of the Rwanda Court in Arusha, Tanzania where I wept everyday listening to the testimony of those who lived to tell the tale; the judges wept, even the battle-hardened prosecutors wept listening to the horrors of the genocide. 

A real war is nothing like it says in the NDC-NPP radio script. It will not be like foot soldiers standing across the road in front of the Electoral Commission trading insults; it will not be like radio stations calling the troops out from the comfort of their studios. A shooting war, when it comes, if it comes to that, will not be like that. It will be live, in colour – the colour of blood, and there will be no replay.

No comments:

Post a Comment