The best coup d’etat in Ghana. Part one


The result, according to the announcer, was “gross economic mismanagement” from which “all of us have suffered in one way or another”. Inflation and unemployment had taken hold of the economy – “the country is on the verge of national bankruptcy”. The broadcast ended with an appeal to the civil service: “All principal secretaries, heads of department and other members of the public service are asked to stay at their posts”.

The 1964 Constitution was abolished and the new Junta, as declared by Kotoka, was to “govern by decrees which shall have the force of law until a new constitution was promulgated”. Parliament, the CPP and all its, auxiliary structures – for instance, the Ghana Young Pioneers, the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute, Winneba, the Young Farmers’ League and the Market Women’s Union – were dissolved. There was spontaneous jubilation of the people around the country that showed their total support for the coup makers. Noisy demonstrations, throwing of white powder (the traditional sign of victory in battle) and huge placards with slogans such as ’No More Animal Farm’ ran through the streets of Accra, while the state-owned press came out with banner headlines like, “Tyranny is dead … democracy is reborn!”

The new regime was faced with a serious task as by the time of the take-over, the nation was bankrupt and the economy in a state of stagnation. Between 1960 and 1965 the nation’s foreign exchange reserves had declined from 424 million pounds to 37.4 million pounds. Government borrowing from the banking sector rose, within the same period, from a negative position to 191.8 million pounds. External debt, which stood at 20 million pounds at independence, rose to 400 million pounds in February 1966. Credit to the private sector and public institutions rose from 39.1 million pounds to 169.6 million. The impact of these developments was felt in the sharp rise in money supply of 79% between December 1960 and 1965.3 Commodities such as drugs, sugar and items of clothing were in short supply and the balance of trade deficit had reached 93.2 million or 41.1 percent of total government expenditure. Unemployment, corruption, nepotism, immorality and indiscipline were rife. Externally the NLC had to bring improvement and normalize the relations between Ghana and some Western and African states which had been strained as a result of Nkrumah’s reckless foreign policy. In trying to find solutions to these problems, various committees were set up to draw on the expertise of Ghanaians, some of whom had gone into exile in opposition to Nkrumah. The committees were: the Economic Committee headed by E.N. Omaboe, the Foreign Relations Committee under the chairmanship of H.R. Amonoo, the Administrative Committee under T. K. Impraim, the Publicity Committee chaired by C.C. Lokko and the National Relief Committee which had as the head, H.B. Asmah.
To save the economy from total collapse and the abyss of despair and the populace, the Omaboe Committee recommended the honoring of( country’s indebtedness (principal and interest) which stood at 889 million pounds at the time of the coup. This expression of commitment to pay these debts was enough indicator to her creditor nations to come in to help. Consequently, Western, and later Eastern, creditor nations allowed Ghana to reschedule foreign debt repayment. Next, an appeal went to friendly nations for assistance. This saw nations such as the USA, Britain, West Germany and Canada respond to the appeal. For instance, between March and May 1966: US Government presented 90,000 lbs. of powdered milk, 240 pieces of cutlasses for distribution to farmers and 100,000 bags of corn to the Government people of Ghana. The US also entered into an agreement with the NLC in which the former was to give Ghana nearly N£5.327,500 worth of food, other farm commodities. The British Government on her part presented consignments of drugs on April 13, 1966. The Government of West Germany also came in with some essential drugs whilst in September 1966, a consignment of 64,638 bags of flour was received from Canada distribution to the needy. Individuals, especially diplomats, also offered assistance.

Those who responded include H.E. M. Franklin Williams, US Ambassador to Ghana whose personal contribution was 833 pounds for the upkeep of ex-detainees, H.E. Mr. II. G. Steltzer. West German Ambassador to Ghana who gave 0600 (N05OO) and H. E. Mr. Khali Hani, Lebanese Ambassador to Ghana who made a presentation of a cheque for 10,000 (N08,333) on behalf of the Lebanese Community in Ghana. The appeal also yielded positive response from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. After a study of her problems by officials of the two institutions, in August 1966 the country was granted an IMF loan of N0 16.5 million which was to be channeled into the repayment of short-term trade bills incurred during the CPP administration. The IMF was again on hand to approve a currency credit to the tune of N012,000,000. The assistance from friendly countries and international organizations continued in 1968, and over N07O million was received. To still revamp the economy, Nkrumah’s Seven-Year Development Plan was re-appraised and projects which were considered prestigious were scrapped. An example of such projects was Nkrumah Tower with a revolving restaurant at the top which was to have been constructed by the Drevice Group of the former West Germany at the Trade Fair Site, Accra. The number of ministries was also reduced from thirty-two (32) to seventeen (17) whilst administrative districts were re-organized and the number slashed from one hundred and sixty-seven to forty-seven. A cut of forty percent was also made in the number of Ghana’s Missions abroad.

To ensure the efficient operation of state corporations and reduce government expenditure, redundant labour was not only flushed out, but new management, which it was believed, could stand up to the test was put in place. This exercise affected two state-owned hotels-Ambassador and Continental-which now came under the management of the Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation of the US. The nation’s airline-Ghana Airways, which had by 1965 incurred a loss of N04 million due to managerial incompetence, was made to cancel a number of flights. Moreover, the Soviet made llyushin planes which had been grounded at the airport in Accra were returned to their owners. The overall result of these austerity measures was that the country had a trade surplus of 28.5 million in the first half of 1966.
In order to assess the extent of damage done to the economy through corrupt practices by Nkrumah and his ministers, a number of commissions of enquiry were put in place to probe them. Among the Commissions were the Ollenu % Commission which probed alleged malpractices and irregularities in connection with the granting of import licences (March 1966); the Apaloo Commission into the properties of Dr. Nkrumah (1966); Effah Commission into the activities of the Ghana Housing Corporation; the Azu Crabbe Commissi^ into circumstances leading to the setting up the Nationai DeveiopmeM Corporation (NADECO): the Blay Commission into the conduct of the Timber! Marketing Co-operatives Union and the Jiagge, Manyo Plange and SowaB Commission into the assets of specified persons. The reports of the! Commissions brought to light cases of widespread corruption among CM ministers and party functionaries. 

The deposed President, Nkrumah, was himself not without blemish in the trail of corruption as the Apaloo Commission revealed that he had f assets worth over £2.3 million as at February 1966 though his total lawful earnings for 1961 to 1966 amounted to only about £134,000. As a measure of easing the ever increasing financial burden on Ghanaians , the NLC introduced new measures. First, the maiden budget of the regime abolished or reduced the duty on essential food items such as gari, rice, corn, salt, flour etc. which brought down their prices to meet the pockets of a sizeable proportion of Ghanaians. Prices of motor fuel, spirits and inland postage were all reduced. The budget also reviewed favorably the range of taxable income. All employees earning less than N04OO.OO per annum were given tax exemptions and regardless of the poor state of the economy, farmers’ morale was boosted with an upward adjustment in the producer price of cocoa from N04.OO to N04.8Oa per load with a further bonus of N03.OO paid on every ton of grade one cocoa produced. And to improve both the quality and quantity of cocoa, sufficient supplies of the Gamelin 20 insecticide were made available to cocoa fanners.

In mid-1968, the NLC inaugurated the Two Year Development Plan dubbed “ From Stabilization to Development”. The plan covered areas such as agriculture, mining and roads. The Ghanaian Enterprises Decree was also promulgated in December 1, 1968 to protect local businesses against undue foreign competition. Retail trade was to be handed over to Ghanaians within five years. In its third budget, the government set aside N0104.6m for development plan expenditure, N013.3 million for water and sewerage development and N06 million for rural water development. N04O million was also provided to meet overseas debt commitments. The cedi was devalued at 30 percent in 1967 to stimulate economic growth, attract foreign investors, stop smuggling and black market dealings (in I the cedi and other major foreign currencies) and make Ghana’s exports more competitive on the world market. And partly to reduce the fall-out from this policy, salaries and wages of workers in the public sector were increased by 5 percent and the Mills-Odoi Commission set up to re-organise the structure and remuneration of the Public Service. 
The J.H. Mensah Committee was made to review the salary aspect of the Mills-Odoi Report and new salary recommendations were implemented by the close of August 1969. Cocoa farmers were aiso taken care of as the producer price of a load of cocoa was again increased from N04.8O taN06.5O in July 1967 and to N08.OO in March 1969. A number of basic imported goods including chemicals, drugs and spare parts were put on an open general license.

Socially, a 22-man Committee was set up on April 18, 1966 to review the educational system and to come out with suggestions to improve the quality of education from the primary to the tertiary level. Consequently, inspection teams visited private educational institutions and those found to have fallen below the minimum acceptable standards were closed down. Moreover, fees charged in private institutions were standardized. Boarding fees were not to exceed N041 a term, while day students were to pay fees not exceeding N 10.00 a term. Scholarship awards were scrutinized to ensure that recipients genuinely merited the awards. This led to the withdrawal in October 1966, of the bursary awards for 877 Ghanaian students studying at various levels of institutions in Great Britain and the US because it was thought that the awards were given under suspicious circumstances, most probably, on political grounds. In October 1966, the National Courtesy Campaign Committee was inaugurated by the Department of Social Welfare and Community Development to deal with the unfortunate trend of deterioration in the standards of behavior in business and social life of the people. High-ranking public officials who got involved in bribery and corruption were sent to prison to serve as a deterrent for others. As a further step to make Ghanaians to understand and better appreciate their rights and responsibilities as patriotic citizens, the Centre for Civic Education was set up with Dr. K.A. Busia as National Chairman. A series of lectures were given throughout the country to inculcate in the populace the ideals of public service, probity, tolerance, forgiveness and the spirit of self-help.

In the political sphere, an immediate act of the NLC on assumption of power was not only to release the over 900 people detained under the Preventive Detention Act ( PDA), but to repeal the law itself. And to restore the dignity and self-confidence of the citizenry, the National Relief Committee distributed food and clothing to ex-detainees and measures were taken to rehabilitate them. The government made a firm promise not to exercise undue interference in the operations of the judiciary, the Public Service and the universities. The institution of chieftaincy was guaranteed and Chiefs who were destooled or removed from skins for not supporting the CPP were reinstated in the latter part of 1966. To prevent vengeance and ensure national reconciliation, the NLC warned all the heads of government departments, corporations, quasi-government departments, city or municipal/urban councils not to effect any dismissals without first seeking approval from the cental government. All politicians who fled Ghana in the wake of Nkrumah’s tyranny and dictatorship were encouraged to return home and assist in national reconstruction. The NLC also tried to improve its standing by deploying army units to help in community projects. One such exercise involved carting hundreds of bags of cocoa from remote rural area. Another was “Exercise Abongo Omo” in which Lt. Col. Hubert Twum-I Barimah’s Third Battalion performed useful works such as ditching, clearing and repairing tracks. 
On international relations, through the Foreign Relations Committee, the NLC normalized relations between Ghana and her neighboring states. Goodwill missions under Sir Arku Korsah, Justice Van Lare and Edward Akufo Addo visited various West and North African countries to ensure this. The Council also played host to the Supreme Military Council of Nigeria. Several important decisions were taken during the discussions between the two states. And as al proof of its commitment to improving relations, the NLC expelled from theI country, any citizens from independent African States who were being trained at the nation’s expense by Nkrumah for subversive activities in their respective countries. Genuine political refugees were, however, given refugee status provided they complied with OAU and UN resolutions on political refugees. Delegations also visited the USA and Europe to explain the government’s policy.
In Paris, Prof. Baeta led a delegation to meet with cabinet ministers and senior officials of the External Trade Division of the French Ministry of Finance to brief them on the situation in Ghana. The business community was particularly encouraged to take an interest in investment opportunities in Ghana. Ghana’s commitment to non-alignment and support for the OAU and the UN were re-affirmed. The NLC also ensured freedom of speech and of the press and independent papers such as the Legon Observer and the Evening Standard were allowed to operate freely. Seeing itself essentially as a provisional administration and, true to its promise, the NLC put in the necessary mechanism to return the country to a properly elected civilian government. To this end, on November 15, 1966 Baeta led a delegation to meet with cabinet minister™ senior officials of External Trade Division of the French Ministry of Finance leading bankers and industrialists and briefed them on the situation in Ghana. The business community was particularly encouraged to take an interest investment opportunities in Ghana. Ghana’s commitment to non-alignment and I support for the OAU and the UN was re-affirmed. The NLC also ensured) freedom of speech and of the press and independent papers such as the Legon Observer and the Evening Standard were allowed to operate freely. Seeing itself essentially as a provisional administration and, true to its promise, the NLC put in the necessary mechanism to return the country to a properly elected civilian government. To this end, on November 15, 1966, it appointed, by the promulgation of NLCD 102 Constitutional Commission Decree 1966, a sixteen member Constitutional Commission under the Chairmanship of Justice Akufo Addo, then Chief Justice, to draft a constitution for the country. The Commission held its inaugural meeting at Parliament House on December 2, 1966, and went round the country to receive memoranda, hear proposals and prepare a comprehensive draft constitution. The Commission on Electoral and Local Government Reform under the Chairmanship of J. B. Siriboe was also set up to recommend electoral procedures for the setting up of an independent electoral commission to be responsible for the conduct of elections. An Electoral Commission with Justice V.C.R.A.C. Crabbe as the Interim Electoral Commissioner was thus set up. The registration of eligible voters soon commenced. 

The Political Parties Decree of April 1969 announced the lifting of the ban on the formation of political parties from May 1, 1969. August 29, 1969 was fixed as the date for general elections and September 30, 1969 as the date by which power would be transferred to an elected government. Before the lifting of the ban on political party activities however, the NLC promulgated the Elections and Public Officers Disqualification (Amendment) (No. 3) Decree 1968 (NLCD 272) by which 152 persons were disqualified for a period of ten years from election to or appointment, or the holding of any public office. As a final step towards the return of the country to constitutional rule, a 150 – member Constituent Assembly (made up of individuals and representatives of identifiable bodies) was tasked to discuss the draft constitution and to prepare a final constitution for the Second Republic of Ghana. R. S. Blay, a retired Supreme Court Judge, became the Speaker with Nene Azu Mate Kole, Konor of Manya Krobo, as his Deputy. After nearly seven months of sitting, the Assembly came out with a new constitution which was promulgated on August 22, 1969.
With the ban on political party activities lifted, a number of political parties emerged. They included the Progress Party (PP) led by K. A. Busia, the National Alliance of Liberals (NAL) led by K. A. Gbedemah, the All Peoples’ Republican Party (APRP) with P.K..K. Quaidoo as its leader, the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) led by Imoru Ayarna and the United Nationalist Party (UNP) led by H.S. Bannerman. Four hundred and seventy-nine (479) candidates contested the one-hundred and forty (140) Parliamentary seats. About 63.5% (1,493,371) of registered voters (2,351,658) exercised their franchise. Elections took place on August 29, 1969 and by the count of the last ballot on September 1, 1969, the PP had won a landslide victory of 105 seats. NAL won 29 seats; UNP 2 seats; PAP 2 seats; APRP 1 seat and independent, 1 seat.

Source:, a public – private partnership program between Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and Maks Publications & Media Services.

Compiled and edited by Dr. Samuel Adjei Sarfo, a general legal practitioner resident in Austin, Texas. You can email him at

Follow and like us:

Related posts

Follow by Email