Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Vanguards of the revolution - can the centre not hold?

Poku Adaa

Lt Col J. Y. Assasie's decision to create a special training school for revolutionary cadres and Committees for the Defence of the Revolution appears to be a blind imitation of Kwame Nkrumah's Winneba Ideological Institute. Our correspondent, POKU ADAA explains why.
The Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) grew out of the crumbling structures of the erstwhile Workers and Peoples Defence Committees. They are being designed to form the nucleus of a central political organisation from which the PNDC (or its future successor) might derive power ultimately. The CDR concept appears to be a carbon-copy of Thomas Sankara's CDR organisations in Burkina Faso.

The problem is that it has been for the Chief architect of this project, Lt- Col J. Y. Assasie, a retired Army Officer, quite an arduous task to establish the roots of the organisation firmly within the whole community. Officially known as the Political Counsellor for the economic development of the CDR's, Lt-Col J. Y. Assasie is assisted by Yieleh Chireh, a former deputy Regional Secretary for the Northern region and Dan Abodakpi, former PDC chairman for the Tema District.

They have had to face a wall of apathy even from workers themselves and a covert animosity from sections of the rural community. Only a few days ago, the chairman of a village CDR, ex-Army Sergeant, K. Frimpong was gunned down by a local farmer at Kensere village in the Brong Ahafo region over the CDR chairman's insistence on confiscating the farmer's free roaming livestock. And in another village near Enchi, another CDR chairman was shot dead in cold blood. Still, Lt-Col Assasie and his aides remain undaunted.

They have been holding seminars up and down the country trying to sound the message of political consciousness. The boss himself has been travelling abroad to socialist countries probably to learn how to organise political cadres. He has been to Cuba, Nicaragua and recently to the German Democratic Republic to learn about "rural development in socialist East Germany".

The Parliament House, has been converted into the CDR National secretariat and an emblem and a patriotic song have been chosen to herald the new order. Reliable sources of information indicate a CDR newspaper might be launched before the end of the year. CDR elections have started in many places. Committee members wherever they are, are supposed to elect their officers and supervise the elections themselves. In many places, reports indicate that existing officers are merely rubber stamped. In fact, those who were in the forefront of the "Peoples shop" concept were being called upon to render their financial accounts and only those found to have submitted satisfactory reports were to be eligible for participating in the elections.

The failure of the Peoples shop concept is a clear manifestation of the greed, avarice and graft which pervaded the body fabric of the revolutionary organs. It was the days of shortages of goods. Distribution of commodities were channelled through the so-called Peoples shops. It turned out that only relatives and intimate associates and cronies of the Supervisors obtained items from the shops. In fact in most cases, goods meant for the shops were diverted and sold at exorbitant prices. Most of them never operated balance sheets.

Lt-Col Assasie is a one man bricklayer laying the concrete foundation of a national edifice without a site plan or surveyor's drawings in a swampy landscape

That is the reason why the political counsellor is using full page newspaper adverts calling on CDRS to return accounts of Peoples' shops. Designed and intentioned to be co-operative outfits, their operations were far from business-like. Collapse of this shop idea now in the face of a market flooded with unsaleable goods and commodities, appears to be total and irreversible.

Now the latest proclamation is that a new Training school will be set up to teach, educate and shape the minds of the cadres of Defence Committees and other revolutionary organs of the erstwhile Winneba Ideological Institute. Whether this new load on Lt- Col Assasie should be worth its effort is doubtful. Already there are so many of these so-called "Progressive Movements", splinter groups of assorted aims and political stances, all of them waiting on the balcony of power, constantly squabbling acrimoniously, always deeply divided and all uncertain what Rawlings and his aides will formulate for the country with the rise of each new day.

The June 4th Movement, the Democratic Youth League of Ghana, the New Democratic Movement, the December 31st Women's Movement, the Kwame Nkrumah Revolutionary Guards, the Catholic Graduates for Action, just to mention a few, are all sitting on the fringes of power. Even within each group, there is no cohesion as to direction of thought and policy.

Memberships are few and scattered and those in remote virtually no areas have contact with their leadership or very unsure what their role should actually be in the scheme of things. They all constitute a broad sprinkling of groupings without any organisational structure or clear-cut direction.

Lt-Col Assasie has tried so hard to establish the CDR's at the centre to be able to pull these movements on the fringes into it, so there will be a closely knit kind of structure but it seems fairly visibly clear that the centre cannot hold, the periphery is breaking apart.

What is happening should be a lesson to anyone within or outside the country who decides to form a mass movement. Communication, transport and telecommunication, are a vital necessity without which total failure is inevitable. The deputy CDR Political Counsellor, Yieleh Chireh has learnt that to his chagrin recently when after driving along an almost impassable road

CDR leaders, he said: "It's always difficult for me in Accra to know your progress over here and you know I can't come here every week. Obviously referring to his car bumper and tyres invisible from the mud and red clay".

There are several reported cases, where there have been open hostility between the June Fourth Movement and CDR's and between the other progressive movements, each organisaton trying to prove to the other who is more 'progressive' or 'revolutionary'. In point of fact these organisations do nothing except to issue statements here and there. Mass mobilization is not part of their programme. That according to a 'radical' official of the JFM "is the work of Steve Obimpeh's National Mobilisation Committee. They are supposed to mobilise people for food production".

"But you are supposed to have a function of political education and mobilization " to which proposition he replied: "That is the work for the CDR's" So what is the purpose of the JFM? "We stand for justice and equality," he replied. Nearly all of them issued statements to support the Dutch missionaries who were sacked by the Kumasi diocese of the Catholic church. For what reasons, no-one can figure except perhaps as a show of solidarity. But that is just irrelevant, really. Herein lies the reason why Lt-Col Assasie cannot, by any stretch of imagination, wear the shoes of Kwame Nkrumah. The Winneba Ideological Institute was a different ball game. It had a clear-cut and unambiguous aim - to train personnel to carry a thought-out definite message to the whole continent.

Their students were not meant to be used, as novices, for the nucleus of a political party. They were destined to fill the ranks of the existing political party. They were destined to fill the ranks of the existing political organisations. They were already committed party men, vetted and selected for training with unquestionable, unalloyed loyalty to their Party.

Lt-Col Assasie is a one-man bricklayer laying the concrete foundation of a national edifice without a site plan or surveyor's drawings in a swampy landscape. God bless him. It is an arduous task but short of financial motives, it is admirable to see men facing quixotic challenges to beat the odds.

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