In the early nineties, while contributing regularly to the features column of the Daily Graphic, in Accra, Ghana, as a freelance journalist, great articles from certain columnists caught my attention. Apart from columnists George Sydney Abugri and Frankie Asare-Donkoh, K. B Asante’s ‘Voice From Afar’ also played a significant role in my life, as an aspiring writer.
I’m very pleased to feature this great Ghanaian writer on my blog today. It is likely that the former Ghanaian diplomat, successfully published all his interesting articles as a book, giving it the same name as his column in the Daily Graphic.
One of his articles which appeared in the Daily Graphic, on October 20, 2014 was:
Voice from Afar: Was Nkrumah a dictator?
Those who do not wish to face facts or observe and think say that Nkrumah could have been the leader Ghana needed and needs but for his dictatorship. Others deplore his flouting of the laws and the Preventive Detention Act.
Few who believe in the rule of law will applaud the Preventive Detention Act, but it was passed by the people’s representatives in Parliament and its application by Nkrumah was lawful. Needless to state that many high personalities used it to settle old scores or put away the troublesome. But I defy anyone to point out any illegal Act by Nkrumah.
We are, therefore, left with the charge of dictatorship. With regard to this, the definition of dictator I like is “someone who tells people what to do and refuses to listen to their opinions.”
To me a leader should have the courage, for example, to tell the people to keep their surroundings clean to avoid cholera and other avoidable epidemics which are no respecter of persons.
He should see to it that rules are made to enforce what should be done. Those who flout the rules should be punished whether they threaten to vote against the leader or not.
The leader should listen to the views of the people but should have the courage of his convictions and persuade the people to do the right thing and to punish those who do not do so according to law.
Kwame Nkrumah went in for a one party state because he wanted to appoint the competent in the “opposition” to key positions in the interest of national progress. The party “big men” opposed this. He could have overruled them if he was a dictator but he wanted a way out which did not destroy party solidarity and hence his recourse to a one party state.
An interesting example of his desire to maintain consensus and not to resort to dictatorial rule was the surprise announcements at 1:00 p.m. It used to be said that many ministers did not take their lunch until after the 1:00 p.m. G.B.C. news. They would then know whether they were still ministers or not.
President Nkrumah had a strict regime of work. He was in the office at 7:30 a.m. He generally dealt with African Affairs from 7:30 a.m.–9:00 a.m. and went on with home or national affairs from 9:00 am. to 11:00 a.m. Foreign and International Affairs followed from 11:00 a.m.– 12:30 p.m.
Major decisions on the national scene were formulated at about 10: 00 am No sooner had the President suggested changes in ministerial appointments and administration than delegates of the party arrived to see Osagyefo urgently.
The delegation praised the work of the minister who was to be removed and suggested that because of his devotion to the President and his ideas he was constantly under attack by party men and women who really did not share Osagyefo’s vision.
As soon as they leave, another delegation arrives with a similar story. Nkrumah was forced to change his decision. Was this the mark of a dictator? Would a dictator listen to the views of his followers and change his decision? There are many similar examples. When, however, President Nkrumah’s decision was crucial to the realisation of his vision and national purpose, he boldly and even ruthlessly maintained his position. To me, that was not dictatorship but purposeful leadership.
We should know what happened in the past which reflects and reveals our character. What happened then happens now and our leaders should develop the appropriate approach.
President Nkrumah at first suspected his close officials of leakages of his intentions. But he later realised that he discussed matters with trusted collaborators. He therefore changed the time of major decisions to 11:00 a.m.
Appropriate letters and instruments were signed by 12:30 p.m. when the information officer carried the news to Broadcasting House. His colleagues and collaborators were taken by surprise.
To promote effective governance, access to the inner gate of the Flagstaff House was strictly restricted. Except in emergency, no visitor — not even a Minister — entered the “inner sanctorum” of the President’s office in the morning. Party matters were dealt with in the afternoon according to an agenda.
The President sometimes visited the party Headquarters late afternoon and did try to keep in touch with the rank and file without detriment to his national leadership role.
I believe that any President cannot discharge his duties and proper functions effectively when he sees so many people every day especially during office hours.
It is a 24-hour job for the President. The mornings and early afternoons should be restricted to national and related issues. The President should be free to work with his close officials in the mornings as Nkrumah did.
Too many people pack the corridors of our President’s office and those of other leaders. It is often said that the President needs advice.
For some time now, our Presidents have been suffocated by advice. What our Presidents, however, need is a concrete blueprint to realise specific aspects of their visions or aims without which the nation will float aimlessly on corridors darkened by hordes of people who want to see the President.
Who is K.B. Asante?