Bossism: Kwame Nkrumah’s Style

Bossism: Kwame Nkrumah’s Style

The destiny of Ghana has been a paradoxical one. The country the British have praised for having produced capable, honest administrators and technicians was suffering from mismanagement, corruption, and plain and obvious administrative malfunctioning on the eve of the February coup d’etat. The country that had the potential for an effectively functioning democracy—Western style—was, in Conor Cruise O’Brien’s terminology, in the hands of “party demagogues” and “yes-men,” “often with socialist slogans in their mouths and contractors’ money in their pockets.” The most capable and most honest civil servants and technicians fled the country to avoid succumbing to Nkrumahist policies and tactics. In the jargon of the Osagyefo (the Liberator, Redeemer), Ghana continued to experience “negative development,” because of the prevalence and predominance of “negative action” over “positive action.” What accounted for these developments in Ghana, a country possessing such resources on the eve of its independence?

Henry L. Bretton, professor of political science at the University of Michigan, attributes the Ghanaian fiasco to the political machine and political style of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s deposed President. Bretton, who once was “admonished” by Kwame Nkrumah to be “intellectually honest” in his writing about Ghana, tells us that under the cover of a one-party state, a political machine dominated by Kwame Nkrumah ruled Ghana. Bretton reports that Nkrumah utilized the prerogatives of all bosses of political machines: economic blackmail, extortion, and bribery in order to sustain his personal political machine. The party’s hand-picked leaders, according to Bretton, were watchdogs and messengers for the “Redeemer.” Nkrumah, rather than the party or its representatives in Parliament, made those decisions that gravely affected the lives of Ghanaians. In fact, a number of decisions went unmade because the “Supreme One” never got around to making them.


Wurgraft | University of California Press Lima