Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago
By D. Napal
That we have marched forward in our constitutional struggle, no one can deny. But the ultimate end is yet to come. The ministerial system is only the prelude to complete autonomy. For the furtherance of that goal, however, much depends on the ministers themselves. They must show their mettle and convince the Secretary of State for the colonies that the colony is ripe for self-government. Any weakness on their part, any mistake or lack of firmness and foresight while dealing with thorny problems will have deep repercussions on our future Constitution for all is not settled yet. The pot is still boiling.
1957 – Ghana Celebrates Independence. Photo – Pinterest
Our ministers of today throughout their political life until yesterday have had but an experience of opposition to government. Today their role is suddenly reversed – they are saddled with power. In their turn they will have to face opposition which is bound to come from the Council, from the people at large and even from their own party, if ever they waver or show any sign of failure to be able to meet difficult situations which will crop up. These are not mere surmises. These are hard facts which our ministers will have to face sooner or later. On how they will do it much depends. If they fail, and we fervently hope they will not, the rosy picture of self-government on the horizon will be blurred. And we can say with much truth that their responsibilities are greater than many imagine. Acceptance of the ministry is not merely a taste of power. It will not be plain sailing.
We have reached a point in our public affairs when the recent history of the Gold Coast, at present re-christened Ghana may serve as an eye-opener. The old oft-quoted saying, history repeats itself is as true of politics as of history. And, after all, what is politics if not tomorrow’s history? The recent history of Ghana is repeating itself here.
Even before Kwame Nkrumah had founded the Convention People’s Party (CPP), when he was still Secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention with which he had to break because it was a party of armchair politicians who did not keep contact with the masses, he had outlined a programme in which mention was made of a shadow cabinet in the following words: “The formation of a shadow Cabinet should engage the serious attention of the Working Committee as early as possible. Membership to be composed of individuals selected ad hoc to study the jobs of the various ministers that would be decided upon in advance for the country when we achieve independence. This Cabinet will forestall any unpreparedness on our part in the exigency of self-government being thrust upon us before the expected time.”
He also advocated the coordination of all various organisations under the G.Y.C.C., constant demonstration throughout the country to test their organisational strength, making use of political crisis and organised demonstration, boycott and strike as weapons to support their pressure for self-government.
When Nkrumah formed the C.P.P., he set before him the objective of complete autonomy embodied in his slogan “Self-Government now”. He knew that the source of power was the masses and he took pains not to lose touch with them.
As a result of the determination, single-minded purpose and sincerity of its leaders, foremost among whom undoubtedly was Nkrumah himself, the C.P.P. returned a majority of thirty four out of thirty-eight elected seats in the legislative elections held in February 1951. Kwame Nkruma, then in prison, stood as candidate as the Gold Coast laws had no provision to bar him from doing so. He was returned polling 22,780 votes out of a total of 23,122. The colonial government of the Gold Coast could do no better than release him from prison and according to the Constitution, which came into being as a result of the Coussey Commission to ask Nkrumah leader of the C.P.P. to suggest the names of the ministers on whom power was to be conferred for the first time. We are not, however, concerned either with the different phases which led to this momentous event or with the names and functions of the different ministers.
What is of valuable importance in the present context is how Nkrumah faced the novel situation – the sudden coming into power. He knew that ahead lay “dangers and difficulties” against which the would-be ministers were to be put on guard. He therefore held a meeting of the “C.P.P. Assemblymen” and delivered them an address copies of which were printed and circulated. His design was that the ministers should ever have before them the policy they were to follow.
He told them that the ministerial system was not an end in itself but a step forward towards self-government. He warned them that “coalition with the other political groups in the country would be dangerous”. He put them on their guard “against the great risks attached to accepting office under the present Constitution; the temptation to identify oneself with such a constitution and to be swayed by considerations of temporary personal advantage instead of seeking the interests of the people”.
There was one danger constantly present before Nkrumah’s mind – the African ministers “could easily become tools and puppets in the hands of British colonial administrators.” Therefore “fraternisation” between Assemblymen and European officials were to be avoided apart from strictly official relations “for what imperialists failed to achieve by strong army methods, they might hope to bring off with cocktail parties.” Moreover, he was strongly of opinion that “all party members of the Assembly, as well as ministers, should surrender their salaries to the Party and draw instead agreed remuneration from party funds.” The reason for this was to “prevent careerism and induce those in high office to live simply and modestly and so maintain contact with the common people.”
Contact with the common people – in these words lie the secret of Nkrumah’s power and the emergence of Ghana as a sovereign state. The ministers were not to forget that they “were leaders of the mass of the people outside the Assembly,” and they had to explain the policy of the party to the people “whenever a new situation arose.”
That was in 1951. Only a year after there was again constitutional reform and Nkrumah became Prime Minister. Since then the Gold Coast marched forward until it stood before the wondering world as the Sovereign State of Ghana.
In our colony today is happening what happened in the Gold Coast six years ago. Full of hopes we are looking up to our ministers. How they will shape things, how they will mould our destiny, it is for them to see.
Editor’s Note: The information contained in this article is obtained from the ‘Autobiography of Nkrumah’, published by Messrs Nelson to whom we are highly indebted.
4th Year – No 152
Friday 5th July 1957
* Published in print edition on 24 November 2020