H.E. Nana Akuffo Addo as president of the republic of Ghana has two major burdens he carries:
1) Showing that J. B. Danquah would have been a great leader, and
2) Building a legacy of his own that will outlive his predecessors
Big events must have big impacts. There is no doubt the election of President Akuffo-Addo was a big event and hence must have big impact. Indeed, political leadership is about legacy and historians are merciless when writing about it. In the next 20 years or more when his government is judged by historians, will President Akuffo-Addo be seen as a social and economic reformer or just one of the normal presidents of Ghana’s Fourth Republic with little to show for their time in office?
Recently, I met an old man in London precisely in Fulham near Chelsea Football Stadium. After striking a conversation with me, he told me he was from Sri Lanka. The following conversation ensued:
Old man: “What is your name?”
“Lord Adusei”, I replied.
Old man: “Where are you originally from?”
“Ghana”, I said
Old man: “Oh Nkrumah. He was a great man. We got to know Africa more through him. He marketed Africa to the outside world”.
In Europe, Asia, South and North America two Ghanaian names are always mentioned anytime I am asked of my country of origin. As soon I say Ghana, the young people who are enthusiastic about football will always exclaim ‘Abedi Pele’ and the old people will always say ‘Kwame Nkrumah’. Asamoah Gyan’s and Kofi Annan’s names have also come up but not as often as Pele and Nkrumah. Among Africans, Nkrumah’s name still resonates more powerfully than any other Ghanaian leader though he ruled Ghana for nine years after independence and died more than 40 years ago. Rawlings is also popular among Nigerians largely because they believe Rawlings came to eradicate corruption in Ghana. In fact, most Nigerians are yearning for their own Rawlings to come and clean their country of the cancer of corruption that they believe has destroyed their country.
In my conversation with non-Ghanaians outside Ghana, I hardly hear John Agyekum Kuffour, Evans Attah Mills, and John Mahama despite the fact that their rule coincided with the growth of satellite television connectivity, information technology, internet, and the social media revolution. However, the social media world went buzzing in December 2017, when President Akuffo-Addo held a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. The Ghanaian leader received praises from Africans in Africa and in the diaspora especially in Europe and North America because his statement was interpreted as trying to defend Africa’s interests. Apparently, Africans like leaders who are able to articulate the interests of their countries.
Nkrumah is particularly popular because of his socio-economic policies at home and his foreign policies especially his Africa Unity project as well as his role in ending colonialism and imperialism in Africa (two evils) that were rampant during his days. I must quickly point out that many ordinary people outside Ghana who know Nkrumah have very little knowledge about his other politics at home: one party rule, detention without trial and his authoritarian tendencies.
Outside Ghana I have not come across ordinary people mentioning the name of Dr. J. B. Danquah. However, he is well known among scholars who have researched and continue to study Ghanaian politics. Dr. Danquah is credited as one of the leading pillars of Ghana’s struggle for independence. He co-founded the United Gold Coast Convention in 1947 with Paa Grant and was instrumental in bringing Dr. Nkrumah from London to become the General Secretary of the UGCC. However, a disagreement ensued between the moderate, the more middle class members of UGCC such as Dr. Danquah and the radical members such as Nkrumah. That disagreement led to a split in which Nkrumah and his faction left the UGCC to form the Convention People’s Party in June 1949. Two years later, on February 8, 1951, the first general elections in the Gold Coast/Ghana were held in which both Danquah and Nkrumah were elected to the Legislative Assembly but the mass membership of the CPP ensured that it became the victorious party. The UGCC lost the 1951 election partly because of the involvement of its key members in the commission on constitutional reform set up by the British.
Nkrumah was in prison during the election because of his active organization of the January 1950 “Positive Action” in which he encouraged Ghanaians to embark on nonviolent strikes, protests, sit inns and noncooperation with colonial government. After winning his parliamentary seat, the colonial authorities released Nkrumah from prison to become the leader of Government Business. He later became Prime Minister in 1952. Dr. Danquah was unfortunate in that he did not win his reelection bid in 1954 and 1956. He contested against Nkrumah for the presidency during the 1960 presidential elections (Plebiscite) but managed to secure only about 10% of the votes. Nevertheless, he became Nkrumah’s chief critic and was elected president of Ghana Bar Association.
Both Danquah and Nkrumah shared different ideologies especially on economic policy. While J. B. Danquah believed in greater private sector involvement in the economy and limited role of government in the economy, Kwame Nkrumah was on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum. He believed that the state should play active role in the economy, for example as an investor. Dr. Danquah’s loss in the elections meant that he was unable to implement his vision for Ghana particularly his property owning democracy in which he intended to turn Ghanaians into a sea of entrepreneurs.
Nkrumah having secured the opportunity to become the leader of Ghana at independence wasted no time to implement his vision for the young independent country. He undertook massive public investment with much of the investment resources going into building basic infrastructure such as roads, hydroelectricity, oil refinery, education, health, ports and harbour. Among some of the legacies Nkrumah left behind are Tema city, Tema harbour, Tema motorway, Akosombo dam and the power it produces, Tema Oil Refinery, Black Star Line, Ghana Airways, GIHOC. Indeed, more than 300 companies are believed to have been established by Nkrumah’s government.
He established University of Cape Coast in 1962, and converted the Kumasi Technical College (now Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology) and University College of the Gold Coast (now University of Ghana) to fully fledged universities. Nkrumah’s legacy also included the establishment of the several secondary and technical schools and institutions of culture and arts. According to Vincent Dodoo by the time he was removed from power in February 1966, he had established virtually all the institutions of cultural development of Ghana: “the National Museum, the Arts Council of Ghana, the Research Library in African Affairs and the Ghana Film Corporation. There were also transformations in archival and library services, broadcasting, theatre and public entertainment, development of Ghana languages, development of publications on Ghanaian culture and cultural events and art and cultural education”. The Institute of African Studies was established by Nkrumah as an autonomous institution within University of Ghana with the mission to research, teach and promote African culture, religion and everything African.
Nkrumah’s foreign policy also put Ghana firmly on the international map. In fact, under Nkrumah, Ghana did not only punch above her waist but was considered the official mouthpiece of Africa on the international stage. One commentator P. Kiven Tunteng observed that, “Kwame Nkrumah is Africa and Africa is Kwame Nkrumah” . Another observer L. Winston Cone noted, “As Nehru became a symbol of Asian leadership, so did Nkrumah become a symbol of African leadership. As India during its early independence represented Asia to many peoples of the world, Ghana represented Africa to many people outside Africa” .
These acknowledgements are in recognition of Nkrumah’s practical contribution to Africa. Nkrumah played critical role in decolonizing Africa, and getting independence for several African countries. He was influential in the formation of the Organization of Africa Unity, now African Union. He organized and hosted the first conference of Independent African States on 19th April, 1958. The conference was attended by all the eight independent countries in Africa including Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia. Kwame Nkrumah energetically supported the liberation struggle in several parts of Africa and made Ghana the home of those who were persecuted for fighting for independence in their respective countries. In December 1958, he hosted the All-African People’s Conference which was attended by 62 delegates from Africa’s liberation and nationalist movements. Today Nkrumah’s legacy remains the benchmark by which Ghanaian leaders continue to be judged by the people of Ghana.
The questions that have been on the minds of many observers of Ghana are that: would Dr. Danquah had been a different leader if he had become Ghana’s president in 1960? For instance, would he had built Akosombo Dam or built a city like Tema with the harbour? What would have become his property owning democracy philosophy? Would Ghana had been better managed under his leadership? Given that President Akuffo Addo’s own father was just a ceremonial president with very limited powers to initiate crucial development programmes of his own, and since the Second Republic ended prematurely, it is difficult to state how Ghana would have become under the leadership of Busia and Edward Akuffo-Addo Sr. And this is why President Akuffo-Addo’s presidency is crucial. And this is also the double burden he is shouldering. He must demonstrate that Danquah, his uncle, would have been a better leader (in view of Nkrumah’s landmark socio-economic programmes) and that Ghana would have prospered under his uncle’s property owning democracy.
According to President Akuffo-Addo, his government “is instinctively to look for private sector solutions to the economic issues in our country. We are unashamedly the party of the private sector”, implying that he subscribes to the ideology of Dr. Danquah. Since becoming president, Akuffo-Addo has implemented several social programmes including free tuition for SHS students, restoration of allowances paid to trainee teachers and nurses, national ID card project but these initiatives will not establish him as the most important president in the history of Ghana because they are not major accomplishments or signature projects. The President has announced several programmes he would like to implement in Ghana including building railways, dams and factories across the length and breadth of Ghana. So far none of them has seen the light of the day. If he is able to successfully implement them, he will be regarded as one of Ghana’s dynamic leaders of all time. However, if he is unable to achieve them, he will not only jeopardize his own reputation but that of his uncle and the philosophy of property owning democracy.
To succeed, President Akuffo-Addo must govern from the centre. He must implement policies that are broad-based, inclusive and nationalistic in focus that in the long term will have positive implications for the health, development, security and stability of Ghana. In other words, he must build public support for a strategy that will structurally transform Ghana’s economy and shape the entire Ghanaian society. To shape Ghana for the next 50 years, the President must build a bipartisan support for his policies and programmes. That is the President must involve the NDC, the private sector, academia, and all the stakeholders in Ghana to build the country.
On the economic front, Akuffo-Addo’s government must adopt some of the state capitalism policies that have worked so well in China, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. The “East Asian developmental state model,” or more generally, “State Capitalism” involves the government getting actively involved in the economy and working hard with the private sector. The state takes the lead in policy formulation, building basic infrastructure (railways, roads, power, health, education, and telecommunication) and initiating entrance into new manufacturing branches, including transforming light industries to heavy ones. In other words, the state becomes very active in promoting industrialization by investing in sectors that the private sector is unwilling to venture while at the same time actively supporting the private sector with the needed financial and technological support.
Akuffo-Addo’s government must implement aggressive import-substitution projects in cement, fertilizers, oil refinery, synthetic fibres, automobile, electronics, textiles, paper, housing, mining, food, flour, glass, pottery, livestock, construction, and warehousing. These are considered the building blocks upon which nations industrialize. In other words, he must take steps to transform the structure of the economy by moving Ghana away from the heavy reliance on mining and focusing heavily on manufacturing tangible commodities to serve the huge Ghanaian, West African, African and the global markets. President Akuffo-Addo must also make export promotion a cornerstone of his economic policies. South Korea, China and Taiwan would not have succeeded without an aggressive push by the state to export their goods overseas. In this way he will put Ghana back on the frontline of political and economic development in Africa and hence enshrine his name and that of Dr. Danquah in the psyche of Ghanaians and Africans for decades to come.
 Dodoo, V. (2012) ‘Kwame Nkrumah’s Mission and Vision for Africa and the World’ The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.4, no.10, p.84
 Tunteng, K. P. (1973) ‘Kwame Nkrumah and the African Revolution’, Civilizations, Vol. 23–24, no 3–4, pp. 233-247
 Cone, L. W. (1961) ‘Ghana’s African and World Relations’, India Quarterly, Volume 17, Issue 3, p.259
By Lord Aikins Adusei, Centre for Better Society Advocacy and Research-Africa (CEBSAR-AFRICA)