Judge for Yourself

Kofi Abrefa Busia, 1956

The issues before the country

1. The issue of the Constitution

There are grave issues before our country and the eyes of the world are turned to the Gold Coast. The rest of Africa, much of it suffering under near-slavery, looks to us for constructive leadership.

Yet in a speech made on the last day of the last meeting of the Legislative Assembly the Prime Minister misjudged the issues to such an extent that I have been impelled to put the real picture before the public. His view of the matter completely ignores the serious and tragic events of the last eighteen months which have made a general election necessary and inescapable.

The speech is reported as follows:

"The Prime Minister: Mr Speaker, I only want to add a word or two to what my hon. Colleague, the Minister of Trade and Labour (Mr. Asafu-Adjaye) has just said. I think the issue before the country is obvious. The National Liberation Movement and its allies are saying that Kwame Nkrumah and the Convention Peoples' Party are unpopular in the country." Is that not the issue?

Hon. Members: That is so.

The Prime Minister: They say I am unpopular; they say I do not deserve to be Prime Minister. Let us go to the country and let the country decide for themselves. That is the issue."

(Legislative Assembly Debates. Official Report, Tuesday 22nd May, 1956. Page 191)

It will be recalled that the C.P.P. was built on the slogan "Self-government Now" which was interpreted to include the immediate attainment of independence, and the provision of immediate material benefits for all. Six years ago, this had a nation-wide appeal, and the C.P.P. was swept into power "to save the country."

Many who most sincerely believed in the C.P.P. and most devotedly supported the party or worked for it to have been disappointed. Some because the achievements of the party have not come up to their expectations, and others because they have seen threats of dictatorship or evidence of corruption in the party. High-ranking members who have resigned have published serious allegations against the party, some of which have been investigated by the C.P.C. Commission of enquiry. They have warned the country about the dangers they have seen. They have spoken with convincing sincerity and with the authority of those who really know what is happening, for they have been members of important committees of the party, even of the inner circle which plans its policy and knows its secrets.

Apart from the unfulfilled promises, there have been frequent allegations of corruption and abuse of power; of connivance at irregularities committed by party members; of discrimination against non-party members in the award of scholarships, loans, or jobs; of nepotism in the appointment of party members to public bodies; of intolerance of opposition, and of refusal to have flagrant abuses investigated. These have weighed heavily against the achievements on the credit side.

The passing of the Cocoa Duty and Development Act in August 1954, in the words of Bafuor Akoto, Chairman of the National Liberation Movement, "forced into the open feelings which have been pent up for a long time." This led to the founding of the National Liberation Movement. As everyone knows, the main demand of the N.L.M. is for a federal form of government for the Gold Coast in order to safeguard the country against dictatorship, provide constitutional checks against over-centralization of power, and do justice to the legitimate and manifest desire of each region for a large measure of autonomy. The N.L.M. has also maintained that our constitutional development should be based on our own traditions and culture, and that our history supports the demand for federation.

The Prime Minister denounced the N.L.M. as the work of an irresponsible minority "and all who supported a federal form of government" as "enemies of the country," and the C.P.P. used its familiar tactics of booing, intimidation, vilification and hooliganism in an effort to break up the movement, but failed. Such acts proved the insincerity of the claims of C.P.P. leaders that they desired a strong Opposition. Barely a month after the N.L.M. was formed, the C.P.P. Regional Propaganda Secretary of the N.L.M. Mr E.Y. Baffoe. He was condemned to death and hanged. That incident was the forerunner of what has developed into a serious and deplorable state of affairs in Ashanti. As a sequel to it, there have been riots, the blowing up of houses, arson, murders, and public disorder; there have been occasions, such as that following a clash between the C.P.P. and the N.L.M. at Ejisu on 15th May 1955, when the country was very near a breakdown of law and order, when the entire Police Force could only just contain the situation.

When the N.L.M. was inaugurated in Akim Abuakwa, Sowah, a C.P.P. man, stabbed Kwasi Ampofo, the N.L.M. Propaganda Secretary there to death, and was sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment for manslaughter. At the village of Dwumo, Kwame Nsiah of the N.L.M. was murdered by C.P.P. action trooper Kwame Poku who was sentenced to 8 years' imprisonment for manslaughter. There have been deplorable acts of violence all over the country perpetrated by both sides. No one in the N.L.M. desired that the path of freedom should lie through internecine strife.

The demand of the N.L.M. for a federal form of government became a national issue when it was supported by the Asanteman Council, the Northern People's Party, the Akim Abuakwa State, the Ghana Congress party, the Moslem Association Party, the Togoland Congress, the Aborigines Rights Protection Society, the Northern Territories Council, the Ghana Youth Federation, and the members of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly. These allies called for a Constituent Assembly representing all sections and interests in the country to consider all questions relating to the Constitution, and to draw up a Constitution for an independent Gold Coast in terms of such agreements as would be reached by the Constituent Assembly. This the Government refused to do. Instead they made abortive attempts -described by the Joint Provincial Council Standing Committee as "Wholly inadequate" — to solve the constitutional differences to their own party's advantage. These attempts culminated in the Achimota Conference where, in order to assure that their own views triumphed they invited organisations whose only qualification to be present was their support of the C.P.P. By the manner and content of their invitation they made it impossible for the Opposition to attend.

Against the background of incidents so grave that even foreign observers have recognised the situation to be a serious national constitutional crisis, it is astonishing that the Prime Minister should say that the issue before the country is merely that of the popularity or unpopularity of himself and his party.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies made the major issue quite clear in the statement he made before the House of Commons:

"I have made it clear to him (i.e. the Prime Minister of the Gold Coast) that because of the failure to resolve the constitutional dispute we can only achieve our common aim of early independence of that country within the Commonwealth in one way and in one way alone: that is to demonstrate to the world that the peoples of the Gold Coast have had a full and free opportunity to consider their constitution and to express their views on it in a general election."

Is this merely a question of deciding the popularity of the Prime Minister or his party?

Cabinet Ministers and other members of the C.P.P. have said in recent speeches that the issue before the country is that the C.P.P. wants self-government this year but that the N.L.M. and its allies do not, and therefore those who want self-government this year should vote for the C.P.P. and those who want self-government delayed should vote for the N.L.M. This is of course a deliberate misrepresentation. The N.L.M. and its allies have said repeatedly that we stand for the independence of the country.

What is in dispute, as the Secretary of State has made clear, is the form of the Constitution. The N.L.M. and its allies stand for a unity of equals in a federation. Federation is a unity of equals. We want the Northern Territories, Ashanti, the Colony and Togoland, each to be able to manage as much of its own affairs as possible, and at the same time walk arm in arm as equals, each helping the other, each contributing to the greatness and well-being of our country.

The C.P.P. Government stands in the way of this happy unity of equals. Instead, it proposes a Constitution in which it will be possible for a small coterie to dominate the country. The country has left the path of colonialism and will have no dictatorship, whether the British Civil Servants, or African-would-be tyrants, or a combination of the two. We do not want a Constitution that gives fee rein to would-be tyrants and dictators.

We want individual freedom and regional autonomy. Our independence would be a mockery unless it were firmly based on the freedom of the individual, and on autonomous regions freely united in brotherly equality. That is the only way in which to do justice to our history and cultural heritage. This is why the N.L.M. and its allies have proposed a Constitution in which the freedom of the individual is safeguarded by adequate checks and balances, and in which the unity of the country as well as regional autonomy are assured in a federation. It should also be emphasised that the N.L.M. and its allies have insisted all the time that the final form of the Constitution should be discussed and decided by the whole country; this is the reason for the demand for a Constituent Assembly. As against this democratic method, the C.P.P. Government is forcing a Constitution of its own making and liking on the country.

The main purpose of the forthcoming election then is to enable us to decide whether on the attainment of independence we shall have a Constitution which provides adequate safeguards for our freedom as individuals, and for a unity of regions on the basis of equality and freely chosen co-operation; or whether we prefer a Constitution which concentrates power at the centre in a superficial unity which ignores our history and tradition, and gives easy opportunity for a small group to suppress individual freedom and regional autonomy.

2. The issue of Moral Standards

Besides federation, the N.L.M. and its allies demanded an enquiry into the Cocoa Marketing Board and the Cocoa Purchasing Company. This is because we are convinced that the achievement of self-government will be of little value without high standards of honesty and integrity in the management of our affairs.

The election therefore is an opportunity for us to decide, and to tell the world, what sort of standards we want to maintain in our public life; whether we desire and expect corruption and dishonesty or honesty and probity from our leaders.

During the last five years of C.P.P. rule, we have had an increase in bribery and corruption on an unprecedented scale. Many of our countrymen have been shocked by the scandalous abuse of responsibility, the shameless self-aggrandisement, or get-rich-quick policy, and the lying and deceit which members of the C.P.P., in spite of loud professions of patriotism, have encouraged or perpetrated.

There have been allegations that large sums of money entrusted to their care have been misused or taken for the benefit of C.P.P. members, or for furthering the interests of their party, instead of being properly used for the benefit of all, as was intended. Everyone now knows why the C.P.P. Government and Assemblymen resisted the appointment for a Commission of Enquiry into the C.P.C. so strong and so vehemently.

We believe that this country can be served by men and women who can be trusted; men and women who will not use power and responsibility for their own selfish ends. We believe we are capable of setting high standards of honesty an integrity, and we shall take steps to see that high standards are set and maintained.

We know that the democratic ship cannot stay long afloat in a sea of bribery and corruption. We can never achieve the good things we desire, nor win the respect and friendship of other countries unless we set better and more decent standards.

How can we expect foreign investors to entrust their money to us by investing it in our country unless we can assure them that our public corporations are above corruption? Or how can villagers get water, or houses or the health services they need if the money which should go to provide these things find its way into private pockets?

The election is not merely a matter of deciding the popularity or unpopularity of the C.P.P. and its leader, but of deciding whether we like the Constitution they are forcing on us, and the kind of public morality they appear to have accepted. The election is an opportunity for the country to express its faith in probity, honesty, integrity and decent standards.

The C.P.P. must be taught by being voted out of power that the people of the Gold Coast love honesty, truth, and decency, and intend that these qualities should be practised by their governments, and elected representatives, and by all who hold positions of responsibility in the Community. We intend to uphold our good name, and to win honour and respect at home and abroad.

3. The issue of Efficient and Wise Administration

There is another internal issue. The N.L.M. and its allies have criticised various aspects of the administration of the present Government. These are dealt with in our Manifesto, and only a few examples need be given here by way of illustration.

We have said that the ordinances dealing with local government and state councils have shown little appreciation of the role of chieftaincy in our community. We believe that our Constitution must be firmly rooted in the best in our past traditions and culture; that what we borrow must fit in with what we already possess; and the chief is the pivot of the cultural tradition and heritage that we possess. This is why the N.L.M. and its allies see the role of the chief in our community to be a far more important one than is apparent from the measures the C.P.P. Government has passed since it assumed office.

We have also criticized the C.P.P. Government's administration as being unwise and inefficient. There is ample proof of this. A few examples may be given. Everyone now knows that thousands of pounds have been fruitlessly spent on housing schemes such as the Schokbeton and Swedish schemes, but the promised houses have not been provided; and those who live in Government estates in the towns know that the low rents promised have not materialized either; everyone now knows that the much vaunted accelerated plan for education has failed to solve the problems of education; standards of education have been lowered; the service conditions of teachers still cry for improvement; there are not enough schools; parents pay more for a worse education in spite of fee-free primary schools; local and municipal councils have not been able to bear the burden of education thrust upon them; the need for an enlightened plan is obvious.

Through a dangerous and unwise policy of seeking to bring trade unions and all such organisations under party and government control, the C.P.P. has split the trade unions, as indeed it has done all other organisations of workers, ex-servicemen, farmers, or teachers, and so has discouraged instead of encouraging them. Party interests have been placed above national interests. This is very dangerous for democracy. It is well known that the Co-operative Societies have received inadequate help because their leading officers have resisted government and party control.

In the White Paper on the Achimota Conference, the C.P.P. Government shows its desire to interfere with the judiciary also by making it possible to remove a Judge so easily. The Joint Provincial Council Standing Committee has rightly described as "very dangerous" the Government's proposal that judges could be removed, or the constitution amended on the consent of two-thirds of the members of Assembly present and voting. This would make it possible for a political party to impose its will on the people.

Our country is one of the richest in Africa. Nevertheless, in spite of the large revenues we have had since the C.P.P. came into power, thanks to the unprecedented prices of cocoa, we are far behind other African countries in health, in schooling, in agriculture, trade and industry, due to the Government's bad planning. The Government has been ominously silent nowadays about the Volta River Project which was given high priority above essential needs like food and water, and on which so much money has already been spent.

All over the country, women and children still walk miles to fetch water. In much poorer countries of East Africa, in Tanganyika and Nyasaland, thousands of villages now have each its concrete well of good, clean water. Although we are richer, many people in towns and villages have been drinking dirty water, full of hookworm and guineaworm and disease. Little wonder that there is so much debility and sickness and death.

These things are so, because the C.P.P. Government did not know how to plan. It did not know how to put first things first or even which were the first things. Lack of planning led to the expenditure of vast sums of money with little benefit to the people of the country. Money was misused not only in ways since investigated by the various Commissions referred to, but in such things as the fantastically expensive Winneba road which cost us over £30,000 a mile, or in the extravagant use of Industrial Development Corporation funds in the purchase of the Accra cinemas, at the colossal price of £275,000. Far too much has been spent on Government buildings, luxurious ministerial offices, the super-luxury Accra Hotel, and in funds to titivate Accra for independence. The C.P.P. intended to deceive the people by arranging a glamorous "Shop-window" but the goods were absent.

The wealth of this country is in agriculture, yet apart from the cocoa cutting-out campaign, the C.P.P. has spent little on agriculture, and food is still far too dear. Money spent on luxuries or frittered away could have been used for such things as preventing the disastrous floods of the last years, in removing slums or on malaria prevention. Two pounds per head would have got rid of malaria throughout the country; it would have meant fewer fevers, healthier children and many more of them; for it is well known that malaria not only kills children but leads to a much lower birthrate.

So we have good reasons for saying the C.P.P. Government has been unwise and inefficient and did not put first things first. In our view, the quality and welfare of the citizen must come first. Everyone needs a healthy body, a cultivated mind, a disciplined spirit, and an opportunity to develop his talents for citizenship and service. It is these which should dictate what a government does for the people with the people's money. These also dictate what the ultimate aim of democratic government should be.

Six years ago, when the C.P.P. was swept into power on the emotive slogan "Self-government Now" — wrongly represented as the immediate attainment of every material benefit anyone could wish — I wrote:

From the political philosophy and practice of Ancient Greece and also of Britain, we have learnt that the aim of democratic government is to help everyone to as full and free a development of his personality as is possible; or more simply, to give every person the best chance of becoming as first-rate as he can be. It is out of this aim that the many responsibilities and functions of government arise: the safeguarding of the freedoms of thought, worship, expression and association; the provision of educational facilities, of health and social services, of opportunities for work and leisure, adequate living standards and social security; the care and development of the community's resources and culture.


This makes it possible to express our aspirations in a brief form that should be generally acceptable. we are seeking self-government in order to have a full and unhindered opportunity to provide, as far as our resources will allow, the economic, social, political, and cultural conditions indispensable for the dignity and free development of every citizen, man or woman.

We also want self-government in order that collectively as a nation, on the basis of equality and co-operation with other nations, we may make our contribution to the common life and heritage of mankind.

We may observe that it follows from our answer that self-government is not an end, but a means whereby we hope to attain certain ends. We want self-government so that we may exercise responsibility for our own country.

These ideas still have to be applied to our planning. They will dictate our priorities. The fundamental idea is that people matter. All planning must be related to that fundamental idea.

4. Our Future is at stake

Normally, these domestic issues would be important enough in a general election. But what is at stake at the forthcoming elections is even bigger. we are going to the polls to decide the future of the nation, and not merely whether the Prime Minister and his party are still popular or not. It is sad to discover that this is how the Prime Minister has understood the most solemn constitutional crisis in our country's history. Now wonder he has not been able to resolve the crisis. This explains why he resisted the appointment of a Commission of Enquiry into the C.M.B. and the C.P.C., refused to have the Constitution for an independent Gold Coast democratically discussed in a Constituent Assembly, and also why he could see no need for a general election until the Secretary of State for the Colonies gave him the very sound advice which his party has described as a "challenge", thus betraying its grudging acceptance of a course of action which the Prime Minister should have taken long ago. Left to themselves, the C.P.P. Cabinet and Assemblymen would have continued in office, completely out of touch with the country and indifferent to the grave national situation.

It is those who have a real concern for the quality of life of every citizen, and for the welfare of us all, and have take the trouble to think through our complex national problems who can help us at this critical hour of our country's history. In the N.L.M. and its allies, we have men and women who are fully conscious of the issues at stake. They have seen the red light. They have seen attempts made to tamper with justice; they have seen danger signals in the efforts that have been made by the C.P.P. to bring public bodies and corporations under party control; they have observed C.P.P. ministers behaving like masters instead of public servants, threatening to "show the people where the power lies"; they have learnt how public funds have been used to further the interests of the C.P.P. or its party officials; they have seen their very freedom threatened. This is why the people of the Northern Territories have grown distrustful; they have seen dictatorship rearing its ugly head, and they have seen the fear of those who are too timid to stand against it, for what they know is right. They have been appalled by the evidence of dishonesty and they realise their future is unsafe unless these things are checked.

Many in Ashanti, mindful of their past, have felt a call to duty to save their nation. Their ancestors put all in the fight for freedom against the British. Now, as then, Ashantis are fighting to ensure freedom for themselves and their children; that is why they are sacrificing money, houses, lands, and are ready if need by to offer dear life itself. They want not only self-government but also good government for the Gold Coast. That is why their allies in Togoland have stood so valiantly, and why Cape Coast and the veteran Aborigines Rights Protection Society, stalwart champions of rights in times past, have joined the alliance. They all see in the unity and equality and the checks that a federation offers, the surest way to secure freedom and sound development.

The general election is not merely to decide the popularity or unpopularity of the C.P.P. and its leader, but to decide whether we prefer individual freedom to oppression under a dictatorship; whether we prefer a unity of equals in a federation to domination by a coterie in a unitary system that ignores our history as well as present realities; whether we prefer the security of high standards of honesty and probity in the management of our affairs to the insecurity and menace of corruption and love of power; whether we prefer efficiency to inefficiency, whether we prefer truth to lies and deceit.

These are the things which are at stake. The eyes of the world are upon us; the rest of suffering Africa looks to us for an inspired leadership and we dare not let them down. We must be prepared to give everything, life itself, to ensure that we lay sound foundations for the future happiness, greatness and prosperity of our country. Our independence must have moral foundations on which we can build our heritage of the future. We believe in our cause, and we are confident we shall win.

Busia 1964