Perhaps we need to be fair to Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. And as such, we must lower the standards by which we have been judging him in relation to others. The kind of people he was dealing with must be taken into account too.
For instance, if we see the recent very blatant partisanship of our Supreme Court, even after about 60 years of experiments of rule of law, then we may well understand the kinds of courts Nkrumah was dealing with and why he treated them the way he did: dismissing judges with a wave of a hand.
Rule of law is a cultural rather than structural issue. It can only be achieved where people in authority come to develop a second nature which pledges allegiance to natural principles of fairness. The structures of rule of law (separation of powers etc) can only function effectively when they’re built on a culture of rule law, a firm commitment to a system of integrity, which cherishes natural justice.
In the absence of such a culture, the structures of rule of law become nothing more than mere instruments of partisan power. And they then lose their relevance, if they cannot achieve justice for all manner of persons.
Given that even today, we cannot see a culture of rule of law, we can safely assume that it was even more absent during the time of Nkrumah. On account of that, we can perhaps excuse some of his authoritarian excesses. Where institutions of the state are marshaled for raw partisan power, the one with the more power wins. In this case, it was Nkrumah who won. But not for too long.
The early post-independence days were very tragic, to put it mildly. Here was Nkrumah with a massive appeal from the people, and there was an elite class ( who comprised the bench as well) who saw him as a usurper, and he saw them as compradors. Naturally, there was mistrust on both ends, to begin with.
This mistrust would go to vitiate any sense of allowing the rule of law and natural principles of Justice to direct the affairs of the State and our society at large. While Nkrumah became more and more insular from the very principles that drove him to fight for freedom in its fundamental form; due to the naked hate, barbarism, and aggression staring him in the face, the opposition became more and more determined to oust him, by fair or foul means.
It was the most base clamoring for power that has ever unfolded itself in the annals of this country. It’s a period we must study dispassionately, if we will ever steer clear of its excesses, as a republic
The lesson for today’s generation, which I’ve been drumming home for some time is this. Let’s aspire to build a culture of rule of law, which would consistently deliver justice to all manner of persons. But if we put our trust in raw partisan power, let’s be reminded that power does change hands.