If you are West African or are just someone who loves to read the political history of certain W.A countries, this extract might interest you...
Chapter 22 (page 351-357)
Inside the Commonwealth Club
…Soon after we joined, the prime minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, called a conference of Commonwealth prime ministers for 11 January 1966 in Lagos, to discuss Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). Rhodesia was then a self-governing colony with a white minority of 225,000 in control of 4 million black Africans. I decided to go.
On the BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) plane making the seven-hour flight from London to Lagos were several other prime ministers and presidents of the smaller commonwealth countries. We made conversation. A memorable fellow passenger was Archbishop Makarios, president of Cyprus. He wore silken black robes with a tall black hat as archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church. Once on board, he removed his robes and hat and looked a totally different person, a smallish bald man with a moustache and a mass of beard. He sat across the aisle form me, so I had a good view of him. I watched, fascinated, as he dressed and tidied up when the plane taxied to the terminal. He diligently and carefully combed his moustache and beard. He stood up to put on his black robes over his white clothes, then his gold chain with a big medallion, and then carefully placed his hat on his head. An aide brushed him down to remove any white flecks from his flowing black robes, and handed him his archbishop’s staff; only then was His Beatitude Archbishop Makarios finally ready to descend the steps in proper style for the waiting cameras. No politician could have been more PR-conscious. The other prime ministers held back and allowed him to take precedence- he was not only president, he was also archbishop.
We were greeted, inspected a guard of honour in turn, and then whisked into Lagos. It looked lie a city under siege. Police and soldiers lined the route to the Federal Palace Hotel. Barbed wire and troops surrounded it. No leader left the hotel throughout the two-day conference.
The night before the meeting, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, whom I had visited two years before, gave us a banquet in the hotel. Raja and I were seated opposite a hefty Nigerian, Chief Festus, their finance minister. The conversation is still fresh in my mind. He was going to retire soon, he said. He had done enough for his country and now had to look after his business, a shoe factory. As finance minister, he had imposed a tax on imported shoes so that Nigeria could make shoes. Raja and I were incredulous. Chief Festus had a good appetite that showed in his rotund figure, elegantly camouflaged in colorful Nigerian robes with gold ornamentation and a splendid cap. I went to bed that night convinced that they were a different people playing to a different set of rules.
…My attendance at Lagos consolidated my friendship with Harold Wilson. I had been helpful to the Africans and not unhelpful to the British. Wilson congratulated me outside the conference room and said he hoped I would attend other Commonwealth conferences. He needed a foil for difficult leaders who made long and biting speeches. The conference ended two days later after appointing two committees to review the effects of sanctions and the special needs of Zambia that required Commonwealth support.
When we left for our next stop, Accra, the capital of Ghana, there was more security along the route to the airport as tension had increased in Lagos in the four days since we arrived.
Three days after we arrived in Accra, we were told by our hosts that there had been a bloody coup in Lagos. Prime Minster Abubakar had been assassinated and so had Chief Festus. An Ibo army major from eastern Nigeria, where oil was being discovered, led the coup, which killed many Hausa Muslims form northern Nigeria. The major said “he wanted to get rid of rotten and corrupt ministers and political parties.” This coup put Major-General Aguiyi-Irons into power, but it was to be followed by many other coups.
Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s president did not rejoice at the news. He himself had had a narrow escape about two years before, just before I visited him in January 1964. By 1966, “Osagyefo” (Redeemer), as Nkrumah was called, had recovered enough of his bounce to give me dinner with some of his senior ministers and a bright young vice-chancellor of his university. This man, Abraham, was only about 30 years old, had taken a First in Classics at Oxford and was a fellow of All Souls’ College. Nkrumah was very proud of him. I was impressed, but wondered why a country so dependent on agriculture should have its brightest and best do Classics- Latin and Greek.
On our arrival at Accra, the person who came up to the aircraft to greet me was Krobo Edusei, the minister for presidential affairs. He had gained notoriety as a corrupt minister who had bought himself a golden bedstead, a story much publicized in the world press. Nkrumah defused the scandal by restricting Krobo’s portfolio to looking after government hospitality. On my second night in Accra, he took me to a nightclub in Accra. He proudly announced that he was the owner and that all VIPs would enjoy their evenings there.
We traveled by car to the High Volta dam, some three hours of travel. On the road to the dam, our convoy was led by a car with loud speakers playing music with an African beat; the lyrics had the refrain, in English, “work is beautiful.” Little toddlers would appear from their huts off the road, swaying naturally to the rhythm as they made their way to the roadside to wave to us. I was fascinated to see how lithe and double-jointed they were.
I was the second guest to be entertained on a beautiful yacht that had been imported fully assembled form Miami. They told me it had been transported by rail and floated on the lake. Accompanying us on board were Krobo Edusei and Ghana’s minister for foreign affairs, Alex Quaison Sackey, a well-educated and well-spoken man. When we were cruising on the lake, having cocktails and canapés on deck, Raja asked Krobo who had made his beautiful safari suit. Krobo replied, “My tailor shop in Kumasi. You must visit it one day and I will make a suit for you like mine.” He then spoke of his other activities. He used to be a 30 bob (US$4) a week postal clerk; now he had two sons educated in Geneva Switzerland. A man, he said, must have ambition. Quaison Sackey, a sophisticate who had been president of the UN General Assembly, looked most unhappy and uncomfortable, He valiantly tried to steer the conversation away from Krobo, but Krobo was not to be deterred and we were regaled with one hilarious tale after another. I wondered what would happen to these two countries. They were then the brightest hopes of Africa, the first two to get their independence, Ghana in 1957, followed shortly by Nigeria.
One month later on 24 February, as Nkrumah was being welcomed with a 21-gun salute in Beijing, China, an army coup took place in Accra. People danced in the streets as the army leaders arrested leading members of Nkrumah’s government. Alex Quaison Sackey and Krobo Edusei were with Nkrumah in Beijing. When they returned to Accra, they were placed under protective custody. My fears for the people of Ghana were not misplaced. Notwithstanding their rich cocoa plantations, gold mines, and High Volta dam, which could generate enormous amounts of power, Ghana’s economy sank into disrepair and has not recovered the early promise it held out at independence in 1957.
The news I read saddened me. I never visited Ghana again. Two decades later, in the 1980s, Quaison Sackey saw me in Singapore. He had been arrested and released in one of the innumerable coups. He wanted to purchase palm oil on credit from Singapore, on behalf of the Nigerian government, which promised to pay after they had held their elections. I said that was a private business deal he had to strike. He picked up a living by using his contacts with African leaders of neighboring states. Ghana, he said, was in a mess. I asked after the bright young vice-chancellor, Abraham. Quaison Sackey reported that he had entered a monastery in California. I felt sad. If their brightest and best gave up the fight and sought refuge in a monastery, not in Africa but in California, the road to recovery would belong and difficult.
I was not optimistic about Africa. In less than 10 years after independence in 1957, Nigeria had had a coup and Ghana a failed coup. I thought their tribal loyalties were stronger than their sense of common nationhood. This was especially so in Nigeria, where there was a deep cleavage between the Muslim Hausa northerners and the Christian and pagan southerners. As in Malaysia, the British had handed power, especially the army and the police, to the Muslim. In Ghana, without this north-south divide, the problem was less acute, but there were still clear tribal divisions. Unlike India, Ghana did not have long years of training and tutelage in the methods and discipline of modern government…
Lee Kuan Yew
Third world to First
The Singapore story 1965- 2000