Recollections of Ghana’s Independence Era by a Veteran Journalist.
On Ghana’s independence day, 6th March 1957, I was at school. However a few days later I went home on vacation to see the decorations in Accra. Accra was full of visitors. Since then I have seen that midnight declaration of independence several times on television, and it has always brought a surge of joy to my heart.
We were all full of hope. For generations past, our forefathers had fought for and died for our liberty. Our wealth now belonged to us. We would develop our infrastructure; there would be appropriate job openings for our educated folk and our children would not have to go through that long process of education, which took 17 years to enter the university. There would be skill training; our people would be prepared to adequately participate in the building of our nation.
The period 1947 to 1957 had been especially significant for the activities that had culminated in the attainment of our independence. The formation of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) by our eminent scholars and chiefs, headed by Dr. J. B. Danquah, the march of the ex-servicemen to the Christianburg Castle, the shooting of Sgt. Adjetey, Priv. Odartey Lamptey and Corp. Attipoe, the imprisonment of the Big Six, the founding of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, his imprisonment and subsequent release had steadily been building up our patriotism. Every child in Ghana knew Dr. Nkrumah was the President and Dr. Danquah the opposition leader. Supporters of both sides shouted their political slogans and hurled insults at each other.
By 1960, I had graduated from the Ghana Institute of Journalism. That same year, on 1st July, Dr. Nkrumah declared Ghana a republic and himself president. As a young female journalist, I got caught up in the excitement of the time. Three of us girls were the first to graduate among 26 men, so every eye was on us: Dorinda Bannerman-Bruce, Vivian Seshie and I, Patience Carboo-Sumney. I had done my practical work at both the Daily Graphic and the Ghanaian Times.
Upon graduation, I chose to work on the Daily Graphic as a reporter. I also contributed several articles as a columnist to its weekend paper, the Sunday Mirror, now the Mirror, and earned the nickname “the girl you cannot gag” although in the end, I did get gagged all right. Meanwhile, I contributed to the British magazine, the Flamingo and the South African magazine, the Drum.
After a year, I left for the Ghana News Agency (GNA) as a reporter and later became sub-editor. At the GNA, a male colleague and I were usually assigned to Flagstaff House where Dr. Nkrumah resided and had his offices, to cover press conferences, parties, etc. I got to interact with some of the ministers and study the whole political scene at close range.
It was a crucial period of ‘Ghananization’, a term coined by Dr. Nkrumah that referred to clean-sweeping the political scene of white bosses, especially from the Public Service, which included the Civil Service. By 1964, after Dr. Nkrumah declared himself ‘Life President’ of Ghana, the clean-sweep covered political opponents, people with so-called ‘neo-colonial tendencies’ and those who could not be gagged. The Young Pioneer Movement, the Workers’ Brigade, the CPP women in red and green scarves, the noisy accolades — “Osagyefo kantamanto”, “Nkrumah never dies!”– all smacked of communism or as he himself put it, ‘Nkrumaism’. Basic commodities like sugar, milk, corn and rice went missing from our markets. Our educated men started vanishing from home and appearing in the country of the same white man from whom we had gained our independence.
The press was gagged. There was no paper in Ghana brave enough to criticize the government. The few criticisms that seeped through the grapevine were from Nigerian papers. The Evening News, a special issue of the Ghanaian Times became a death knell for a lot of disgruntled people. It had a small column dubbed “Adanko Digs to Find Out” – the Hare Digs to Find Out. Each evening Adanko would dig up a name or some grievous misdeed, which usually resulted in somebody being detained without trial.
The National Prevention Detention Act became Ghana’s Gestapo. People vanished at night to be imprisoned either in the known prisons or special torture chambers created by the intelligence agencies of the period.
As a journalist, I felt very frustrated and disenchanted by the whole system. The untimely death of Dr. J.B. Danquah under very suspicious circumstances while on his third time in detention, and the kidnapping of Mr. Obetsibi-Lamptey stirred up angry emotions among the people. I wanted out.
I joined Ghana Television as a Script Writer in the Production Department. I was on the set of Woman’s Own at the Ghana Broadcasting House when the soldiers surrounded the building to stage the coup that overthrew Nkrumah’s regime. Since then there have been other coups and other despots.
We Ghanaians are nonetheless a fine people. We care for other human beings and we learn from our mistakes. We are also God-fearing and determined to build our nation on firm footing and upon the unity of our people. No matter where I am, Ghana will always be home.
(This piece was originally written in October 2006 at the request of the BBC. The BBC decided not to publish it after all.)