cameron-duodu
CAMERON DUODU

By CAMERON DUODU

cameron-duodu
CAMERON DUODU

At the time Mr Krobo Edusei became Minister of the Interior in Dr Kwame Nkrumah?s?Government in November 1957, the atmosphere in Ghana?s Parliament was one of the most
pleasant in the world.

Humour was the most appreciated contribution Members could make to debates, with the
result that sharp-witted people like Mr Kofi Baako, became ?pillars? of the House.

Whatever the chief humourist of the day, Joe Appiah, threw at the Government of Dr
KwameNkrumah, Kofi Baako would manage to find an answer to it.

As Parliamentary Reporter of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, I enjoyed the exchanges
between the MPs. I also found that they respected objectivity: I never once received a
complaint from an MP on either side of the House about how they had ? or had not ? been
reported.

Me and a guy called Sam Morris, originally from Trinidad, did our best to deserve the
respect of both sides of the House. And the country enjoyed our efforts ? even today,
old pals with whom I used to work in Broadcasting House, often yell
?TODAY IN PARLIAMENT!? when they see me.

One of the victims of Joe Appiah?s cutting wit was Mr Krobo Edusei, who became
Minister of theInterior in November 1957. Mr Edusei had once attempted to get the
Government of Ghana to commit itself to carrying out some joint enterprises with a
Ceylonese national, operating in Britain, who styled himself as ?Dr? Emile Savundra.

But Joe Appiah and others who had lived in the UK for a long time knew of Savundra’s?history as a swindler, who had collected huge amounts of money from customers who?sought life and motor-car insurance from his firm, but left them without insurance.
Joe Appiah and the others exposed ?Dr? Savundra, and he had to beat a hasty retreat?from the country before the CID ? which was then very independent and efficient ? hauled?him before Ghana?s courts for attempted fraud.

From then on, any time Mr Krobo Edusei made his entrance to Parliaement House,
Joe Appiah would yell across to him: ?SAVUUU!? And the Opposition MPs would chant
back like one man, ?SAVUNDRA!?

But Mr Krobo Edusei, who had started his working life as a debt collector for the
Ashanti Pioneer newspaper, had a thick skin and would feign deafness and take his seat on the Government front bench. But it was all bluff — Savundra, following upon the scandal of the “Golden Bed” his wife had purchased from Harrods in London, nearly ended his ministerial career.

When the Preventive Detention Act was passed, however, and he obtained power to detain people without trial for five years, he began to preface almost every statement he made with the words, ?As Minister of Interior (sic) responsible for internal security, I shall not tolerate?.? (He always managed to omit the ?the? before ?Interior? thus sending shivers down the spines of the officials who wrote his speeches for him!)

All these threats brought a huge laugh from the Opposition benches. They thought Mr Edusei was merely boasting, parrot-like, about his new-found power and that the Prime Minister, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, would respect the Constitution of the land and curb Krobo Edusei?s desire to ?show where power lies?.

But they calculated wrongly, for if they had but realised it, the ebullient Krobo Edusei knew that he was
but his ?Master?s Voice?. Although the ugly violence that had occurred in Ghanaian politics between 1954?and 1956 ? carried out, in the main, by the Action Troopers (on the side of the National Liberation?Movement, NLM) and the Action Groupers (of the governing Convention People?s Party, CPP) had died?down by 1957, Mr Edusei and some of his colleagues in the Government wanted to reap revenge.
They suspected that the smiling Opposition politicians were wedded to violence, and before long, all the Opposition front-benchers were in jail, accused of planning violent acts, but without ever having been tried: before the courts.

Joe Appiah, Victor Owusu, R.R Amponsah, S.D Dombo, Jato Kaleo, Kojo Ayeke and so on all were put in..
The result was that the House subsequently became extremely dull and tedious. I no longer enjoyed reporting the debates, because the wit and spontaneity had vanished from speeches and one could almost predict what everyone who stood up to speak would say. What was debate if it did not throw up ideas that had to be challenged with other ideas?

The sour atmosphere spread and eventually, even some CPP ministers who did not entirely toe the party line but exhibited an independence of mind (such as Patrick Quaidoo), found themselves being detained. Freedom of speech in the House reached rock bottom when K.A Gbedemah, former Minister of Finance and the man who, as deputy leader, had kept the CPP alive when Dr Kwame Nkrumah was in jail, had to flee the country in order to prevent himself being detained.

On the day Gbedemah fled, he made a fiery speech in the House, denouncing Dr Kwame Nkrumah for being drunk with power. and planning to establish secret courts to try politicians who did not agree with him. Everyone thought that was the end of Gbedemah. But he had made arrangements beforehand to drive to Togo, immediately after his speech, and whilst his car drove to his house and someone dressed like him got out of it and entered the house, he himself was driven across the border by Mark Cofie, one of the fastest drivers I have ever encountered. The police, if they went to his house, would have found that the nest was empty! Clever guy, that Komla Gbedemah.

When I hear that the current Minister of the Interior has stated that he wants to license some groups that
commit violence against others, such as was witnessed in the Talensi by-election, I shudder. My mind
flashes back to how we stepped on the slippery slope that took us from the ?violence? of the Action Troopers, to incarceration through Preventive Detention, all the way to the gun-violence that occurred with the coup of 24 February 1966. Once we had that, more was to follow, and it did — there were further violent overthrows of government, in January 1972, July l975, June l979 and December 1981.

In almost every one of these violent overthrows of government, completely innocent and apolitical people got killed or suffered from serious acts of violence of various types, because when violence breaks out, reason vanishes through the door. Many men, women and children, can testify to that. Who would have thought, for instannce, that Ghanaian soldiers would be so brutal as to shave the hair off a young lady student’s pudenda and give it to her to chew? Yet that happened, according to Mr Joe Appiah, at the Air Force station guardroom, while he was himself being detained there.

Even more important, more Ministers of the Interior have occupied prison cells than I care to name! Indeed, almost everyone who has held that office since independence — including Mr Krobo Edusei himself ? has seen prison from the inside. (Mr Edusei himself went in twice, each time after a change in government!) I am sure he would, if he were alive and were to be asked, asked, tell the current Minister of the Interior to be careful not to encourage the outbreak of violence in the service of politics, because no-one can tell where exactly such violence can lead. Krobo, a robust man, developed diabetes and died at the relatively young age of 67. It cannot be ruled out that his imprisonment without trial contributed to his demise.

If Krobo were to counsel against violence, he would be e quite right, for the 1966 violent overthrow of the government, bloody though it was, was as different in the scale of bloodshed and subsequent brutality from those of 1979 and 1981 as ?oranges and apples.? Yet even 1979 and 1981 could become like child?s play, compared to what we could, if we are stupid enough, unleash upon ourselves in a world that has since then experienced 9/11 and Boko Haram, for example. To say nothing of how nemesis caught up with Sani Abacha of Nigeria, Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire and and Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso ? all of them politicians who believed in the use of violence against their opponents, and whose suicidal idiocy occurred a mere one door away from us, so to speak!

By Cameron Duodu

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