continued from 17 th November, 2010 Edition
Kofi Dankyi Beeko, MD
The “revolution” which broiled in Ghana so hot in 1979, and then again, in 1981, must have simmered for many years, thereafter. What people might hear, usually from what might have been only rumours was often passed on as “first-hand-information.” Any attempt to trail such purported “first-hand infos” led frequently into cul-de-sacs. In effect, they must have been rumors then, and many have stayed as such, until today.
But, an awful lot must have happened, and like in all revolutions, there must have been loss of lives. It would lose meaning, when quantified.
An example: A young man returning from Ghana to his base in Frankfurt/Main, in what used then to be West Germany, narrated to his enthusiastic compatriots listening to him in the cab from the airport, “I saw the skeleton of a man washed to the road-side at Dzorwulu, (a district in Accra). His pair of jeans-trousers was almost intact,” he said interestedly. When asked how he knew it was a man, his answer was, “Men usually wear jeans-trousers.” He was happy to leave it a “satisfying answer.”
I heard the same version from a couple of young men, and all came from the same source. Revolutions always have casualties, you heard repeatedly. The Iranian revolution of Mid-winter 1979 was the one event I managed to follow live, if you will. I was in a country with a free press, and not too far away from where the action was.
The tumbling down of the Kingdom of the self-crowned “King Shah Reza Pahlevi I” of Iran, was such a dramatic turn of events. The generals of his army, who, for many reasons could not run fast enough for their lives at crucial moments, were arraigned before the foreign press in Teheran, with Ayatola Khomeini, the leader of the revolution, one evening.
By the next morning, the main West German television stations showed the naked bodies of the “tall, handsome former generals” robbed of nobility, you would say, resting stiff on mortuary slabs. Much as Europe saw it as a “chilly scenario”, it was the reality, and journalists like Peter Scholatur of ZDF (one of the German television stations), had read about the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, as a young journalist. This time, he was experiencing it, and reporting it as a journalist par excellence.
Altogether, thirty thousand Iranians, many of whom had been supporters of the Shah-regime, but also many who might have been victims of the circumstances, paid with their lives. What price? Nationhood cannot be defined by many people. It is said that you need to absolve a university study, and not alone in Chemistry, Medicine, Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology, and a lot more, but knowledge in all should be necessary, before one might understand what nationhood should be all about. What is more important is, today, there has been an addition dubbed “human rights,” and that is universal. All men and women are entitled to the same privileges. Is that possible?
When there is poverty, not everybody feels it the same way, because, some would be buffered away from its shackles of want, need, or hunger. “Your Majesty, the people cannot find bread to eat.” Her solution, was, “so let them eat cake!” Her statement is said to have caused her and her husband their monarchy.
Most college students in good schools are conversant with the saga of Marie Antoinette, and Louis XVI. It was the French Revolution, in 1789. They were in deposed in 1789, and guillotined in 1793. In all revolutions the theme has been the “masses having no access to what is basic, to life.” The disenchantment spews out like a giant bacillus, but also chronically. In most instances when it may succeed, “someone did not pay attention, and it (the error) may have lasted many generations.
Even so, there subsequently was a Louis XVIII, whose reign was terminated by Napoleon, in 1824. In Russia, obscurity was a problem, and a Monk seemed in charge, not His Majesty Nicholas II. He, and his entire sibship, paid the ultimate price. The Shah is said to have been “negligent.” How negligent?
In Ghana, we were made to ride at a tempo post-independence by a man, who through no fault of his, failed to foresee some force, or any forces, could ever derail him and his ideals, evolving from his ideas. For sure, those taking over in 1966 were too short a period in power, and enmeshed mainly in plans to re-establish “some democracy,” which they thought Nkrumah had stolen away from us, and hence could not “design” any useful manifesto.
Prof. Busia is talked of by many intellectuals as “a Gentle Scholar,” who might have been better placed “teaching.” His admirers disagree. Col/Gen. Acheampong enjoys an admiration as having done better “to feed the nation.” General Akuffo is difficult to place, since many seem not to know exactly what he was up to. Did he just supervise an impending electioneering? “The gentlemen” since then have tried “something”, each and every one of them.
For the sake of avoiding a vacuum, the two former heads of state in our midst may do the “Paternity” the favour for saying what they know, or how they knew it. The incumbent should be spared commenting on, because, up-coming elections should put him on a Gold-Scale. Recently, the questions have been answered by two men, whom people thought had an awful lot of questions to answer to their nations first, but to the rest of the world too.
They are Mr. G.W. Bush, Jr., former United States President, and Mr. Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Great Britain. Mr. G. W. Bush found himself in a situation, in which, after his country had been attacked on September 11th, 2001, he saw “a tit-for-tat” as the most appropriate response. Mr. Tony Blair saw a good reason, as America’s best European ally (World War I/World War II), to stand by America through thick and thin.
There have been critics, as well as those who saw justification in what some intellectuals go as far as dubbing “Clash of Civilisations.” Luckily, the two men have served the world well, many would like to say, by each writing a memoir in which in detail they talk about the war in Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq. First, Mr. Tony Blair (dubbed at the time by many in Britain as a POODLE), followed by Mr. Bush Jr. whom his compatriots (and many of them want to call him “Mr. War monger numero uno.”
For the next hundred years, ordinary citizens of America, and England, as well as in the rest of the world, intellectuals, and above all, historians, would digest the material, and digest it for the world to draw lessons out of it. Was it worth it? Could there have been another solution? Without doubt, one is always wiser after the events. Did history contribute any teaching in the scenario? Was Saddam Hussein in any way comparable to Adolf Hitler?
What if he had been left alone? Studying world scenarios is more difficult than solving mathematical formulas such as Einstein’s enigma, E=MC (squared), which still pre-occupies many brilliant physicists, and mathematicians. Well, people were hungry in Ghana in the years which saw so much trouble. In those periods lives were lost, people got subjected to torture and suffering, apparently, like in the French revolution, like in the Bolshevik revolution, the Cuban Revolution, 1959, or the Islamic Revolution in Iran, 1979. The intentions in all the examples have been to create a better society.
The world, as we have it today, has an awful lot of examples in which better societies have been created, albeit without so much unpleasantness in the process. The examples have been Singapore, Malaysia and Dubai. Many questions are posed. What good does it do anybody to write books about anything, including our past history, or whatever, if nobody would read them?
There is always the danger of being branded the man/woman who cannot be pleased, and is always grumbling and finding faults. All the same, there should be the need to write down for posterity, what has happened in our surroundings historically, and what has changed our world. Europe will teach you their history since four thousand years, America keeps what has been written since the Summer of 1492, the time the three ships under the command of Christopher Columbus landed on the South Eastern coast of what became the USA.