Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Subjugated people cannot evolve a constitution (1)

Mrs J. Maud Kordylas

"A constitution is not created, it is evolved, and people subjugated cannot evolve a constitution," Mrs J. Maud Kordylas of Arkloyd's Food Laboratory, Douala, Cameroon, presents her analysis and solution of Ghana's socio-economic problems in this two-part article.

The March To Our Present State: Pre-Independence

Prior to Ghana's independence and since her independence, various constitutions had been drawn up and attempts made at running them. It has now become clear that the nation for which the constitutions were drawn up lived mainly in the minds of the people who drew up the constitutions. The realities of the status of the people for whom the constitutions were written up were constantly ignored. A vague and hazy image of the dream nation was cloudily portrayed through the constitutions.

Thus, before independence and at the time of the setting up of the Justice Coussey's Committee, which drew up a new constitution to give the people of the Gold Coast a real say in the govern- ment, although Kwame Nkrumah was then the most popular nationalist leader in the country, he was not included in the committee, nor were his companions who shared his stand against the colonial system also included. The CPP later criticized the Coussey Committee as being an elitist group picked to sing the tune of the colonial masters.

The system of representation was also criticized as being too much in favour of the conservative traditional- ists and the elitist groups in the society. Absence of universal election of members; the presence in the legislature of three white men as ex-oficio members on the Executive Council; and the reserved powers of the then colonial governor over legislation as perpetuated by the constitution, were also later condemned.

Nkrumah's Regime

With such blatant discrepancies between the image of the portrayed nation in the constitution by the writers, and the real feelings and desires of the people, there was no wonder that the Nkrumah government later appointed by the people to run the 1951 constitution had difficulties in running it, because nobody else can capture the image of another person's dream. The constitution was thus modified by Nkrumah's government to suit the image of the nation that government hoped to build.

In the powerful position as Prime Minister, Nkrumah further introduced changes which coincided with his dreams into the constitution. This came into force in 1954. That constitution also excluded the real status and culture of the people and projected the dreams of the ruling government headed by Nkrumah.

The dream nation as described by Nkrumah: "I can already see in my mind's eye a picture of Ghana as it will be by the end of the plan period. I see a state with a strong and virile economy, its agriculture and industry buoyant and prosperous, an industrialised nation serving the needs of its people ... A modern port: a new aluminium dock; solid infrastructural base for the future industrial development; first class network of roads, ports and communication; power distribution unit for domestic and industrial use..

Our economic growth became more pathological rather than beneficial. The development attempted became a creation out of proportion to the actual status of the majority of the people and therefore the people were unable to be involved and to participate meaningfully in their own development.

With such an ambitious dream before him, Nkrumah set out to create his dream nation for Ghanaians. Industries like the oil refinery, the steel works and food manufacturing were set up; the Akosombo dam, Tema township, arteries or rail and trunk and feeder motor roads were built throughout the country; universities were built, free education was introduced; free medical and free other services were set up in addition to a progressive urban and rural housing scheme; all of which were started and implemented for the people but without the people. Ghana thus started an ambitious development trend which was beyond the actual status of the majority of the people, and which was aimed at modernising the nation within a fraction of the time it took the Western countries to achieve such modernisation.

Unfortunately, development is not a creation, it is an evolution, and evolutions take time. The type of modernisation practised and as spearheaded by Nkrumah's regime disregarded the status of the masses: their level of education or lack of it, their skills, their cultural practices, customs, religion and spiritual values. Development efforts were concentrated in the cities, where it was easiest to establish industries because facili- ties, such as: water, electricity, banks for financing, existed there.

Manpower needed to staff and man- age the new industries and market to keep the industries going were also pre- sent in the cities. Competition from such industries led to further disruption and destroyed non-agricultural pro- duction in the rest of the country. Since development of modern factory style manufacturing makes only a limited contribution to employment, this caused additional unemployment and further accelerated migration of destitute people into cities that couldn't absorb them. Our economic growth became more pathological rather than beneficial. The development attempted became a creation out of proportion to the actual status of the majority of the people and therefore, the people were unable to be involved and to participate mean- ingfully in their own development.

Disenchantment was felt by the people, but at the time this was not on account of the development trends as such, but as a result of the economic hardship the costly development pro- gramme was imposing on them, and the result of various policies enacted by the Nkrumah regime which stifled freedom and liberty. This culminated in the rise of the soldiers who overthrew the Nkrumah regime in the 1966 coup d'├ętat.

The NLC Regime

The NLC government formed after the overthrow of the Nkrumah regime gave top priority to the improvement of the country's economy which was then in a bad state. They appraised Nkrumah's last seven-year development plan and abandoned many of the ambitious large scale projects. Though this measure appeared necessary, it resulted not only in the retrenchment of workers and increased unemployment, but also in leaving many of the machinery and equipment in which the previous government had heavily in- vested to rust. The NLC government, recognising the urgency of a new drive to promote agriculture originated an 'Operation Feed Yourself' programme. Farmers responded well and fairly remarkable results were achieved.

Busia's Regime

To enable the country to return to a civilian government, another constitution was promulgated in 1969. Dr Busia having won the election, formed a government comprising not only leading academics but also distinguished persons belonging to his party. As a leading sociologist, Dr Busia identified rightly the need to develop the rural community where the majority of the people live as a top priority. A separate ministry for rural development was established for the first time.

During the brief period of his administration, the ministry achieved remarkable results in the fields of rural health service: the supply of electricity; bore-hole water supply and the improvement and construction of rural feeder roads. He restored freedom of the press and freedom of speech. All healthy policies which would have led to an actual development of the people and development by the people.

Unfortunately, the people had tasted grandeur and became disillusioned with Busia's administration. They were disenchanted over his termination of appointment of about 568 public ser- vants. They begun to revive the memory of Kwame Nkrumah, whose image at the time had been so blown up as to dwarf that of Busia.

Towards the end of Busia's administration, the government faced grave difficulties. The country's economy was in such a state that Busia had no option but to devalue the currency by as low as 44%. A decision which precipitated his overthrow on 13th January 1972, with the formation of a new military-police government (NRC) headed by Col. I. K. Acheampong.

Acheampong's Regime

On assumption of office, Acheampong's regime, like the first military government, with immediate effect, set about to correct the evils which they considered beset the nation. With firm military discipline, they controlled the affairs of the state at the beginning. Things moved fast and seemingly well, and there were visible signs of development.

Among other development programmes: sound agricultural development was given fresh drive and motivation under the 'Operation Feed Yourself' and 'Feed Your Industries' programmes. Owing largely, however, to unfavourable weather, punctuated by drought which lasted more than two years, the new agricultural orientation and programmes which were on the right road did not achieve much success.

Acheampong's regime began to waver, apart from the bad effects of the drought, Acheampong began to refuse to welcome sound professional advice on economic and fiscal policies. He misguidedly ignored the need to maintain sound budgetary control. Instead, he dissipated recklessly the country's revenue and foreign reserves.

This brought about unprecedented high annual inflation and a resulting degree of hardship to the people. Hardship, hitherto unknown at the time in the country's history. Measures taken by him to remedy the astronomical inflation, which were meant to relieve the plight of the people, only worsened the situation. Basic wages and salaries were increased in the midst of acute scarcity of imported essentials: prices soared at a much higher rate than the wage increases and the people became worse off.

While Acheampong officially maintained a policy of rigid exchange control, he privately authorised the issue of huge amounts of import licences, regardless of the increasing adverse state of the nation's balance of payments and foreign exchange reserves. The state of the country's economy encouraged black- marketeering, foreign exchange deals, high prices, hoarding, kalabule and hardship for the people.

When Acheampong was removed from office in 1978, he had brought the nation's economy to a total collapse. As subsequent reports of his steward- ship revealed, he became extremely corrupt; authorised payments and import licences worth millions of cedis to be issued to his most undeserving favourites, without regard to the state of the nation's finances.

Thus the disproportionate trend of development initiated during the Nkrumah regime which released a corresponding wave of desire for wealth, greed and extravagant life-style mushroomed and bloomed during the Acheampong era. As a result, a fortunate minority had their fortunes greatly increased and those who really needed help were left more helpless than ever before. The rural economy collapsed. There was a rising tide of unemployment in towns and country and there was a growth of a city pro- letariat without nourishment for body or for soul. An unhealthy and disruptive form of a dual economy emerged. Two different patterns of living as widely separate from each other as two different worlds were evolved.

Analysis Of The Present Ghana and Its People: Our Dual Economies

To put into perspective where we have come from, where we are and where we are going, it is important to take an analytical view of our present Ghana, the people who make up the country and who are expected to evolve a constitution, and bring about a development and evolve a nation.

As our historic march portrayed, our past economic policies and develop- ment trends have brought us to a state of a dual economy within a single country. About 20% of the people live in affluence in an economic state which can only be described as a floating 'modern bubble world,' with modern facilities and a modern mode of life- style.

The vast majority, of about 80%, live in a rural set up with very little or no proper facilities. The economy, lifestyle and consumption patterns of the 'modern bubble world' are the same as what prevail in the industrialized countries. The people living there run large- scale capital intensive industries with modern imported machinery which need high level personnel. They depend on imported manufactured goods for their survival.

Crops produced by the rural sector are exported for foreign exchange needed to support their affluent life- style. Their own productivity is not sufficient enough to sustain the high cost of living, neither can they maintain their high standard of living without the rural set up. Unfortunately, things that make life pleasant always come from another man's labour.

(To be continued)

talking drums 1985-10-14 Azumah's World Crown at stake