Dr Kwame Nkrumah
The first Royal visit to Ghana was by Queen Elizabeth II in 1960. It added to the stature of the newly independent country, but it did not come without troubles.
When President Kwame Nkrumah mooted the idea it was opposed vehemently by his right-hand man, Tawia Adamafio, who thought it was unnecessary, especially against the backdrop of the financial situation of the country at the time. For him the money going to be used to organize the visit could be used for more productive ventures.
Party operatives and big shots like Tawia Adamafio heard about Kwame Nkrumah’s invitation to the Queen and Prince Philip in London and he had this to say, “We received the news about the invitation in London and many of us, particularly the radical party boys, were angered by what we considered to be an imprudent act on the part of the Government. We surely did not see the necessity for the invitation nor the motive for it.”
Tawia Adamafio, then the Information and Broadcasting Minister and propaganda expert, was impressed upon by the ‘young boys’ to talk Kwame Nkrumah out of it but the president stayed his course, not letting to the project.
He too tried to get his minister to see with him but Tawia Adamafio also insisted on not having it come on.
There was a brief respite. The Queen could not make the journey at the time that she was expected in Ghana. She was pregnant but after delivery the trip was rescheduled and for those who opposed it, it was time to carry on with the resistance.
Kwame In Love
“In 1960 the matter was raised again. The Queen was now fit to fulfill the engagement and Kwame was so much in love with the Royal family of Britain that nothing I did to stop the visit could succeed,” Tawia Adamafio said in his publication.
In Cabinet when the subject was raised the president tried to persuade Tawia once more to support the programme, his portfolio being critical in its success or otherwise. “Tawia I know your feeling about this matter. You may be right in your views but we are already committed. Moreover, we have spent most of the money voted already,” Kwame Nkrumah told Tawia Adamafio who eventually succumbed and lent his support to the programme, the first to be hosted by the newly independent country.
What was followed turned out to be a vicious war of words between a section of the British press and the local Ghanaian media spearheaded by the Ghanaian Times.
The British press at the frontline was opposed to the visit and launched a campaign not against Ghana, but at the person of President Kwame Nkrumah.
“All sorts of insults were heaped on the head of the president. The Ghanaian papers hit back and a vicious press warfare ensued. Our enemies did their utmost to stop the visit. Attempts were made to scare the Queen with fabrications about dangerous insecurity inside Ghana,” Tawia recounted.
Kwame Nkrumah, distraught about the media war, asked Tawia Adamfio to get the local press to ignore the British attacks. “I agreed on one condition, namely, that if the British papers attacked Ghana as a country, the boys would not answer. If however, they attacked him personally, I could not ask our writers to ignore it. So the warfare continued because the British papers were attacking Kwame. Efforts were made by the British High Commission for a truce and the press fight ceased for a short time,” according to Tawia.
When it resumed however, it was with a vengeance but the local papers did not attack the Queen it was observed; but when their British counterparts did not spare Kwame Nkrumah, they redirected their fire at the Queen for the first time.
“I saw the attack by the Ghanaian Times one morning. I felt sorry for what the British papers had done. The day before a particularly vicious attack on Nkrumah had appeared in one British paper, I went to the Airport the next day to meet a friend. The British High Commissioner, with whom I was quite friendly, was also there to see a friend. He came to me and said jokingly, ‘Mr. Minister, what is the meaning of this?’ He was holding a copy of the Ghanaian Times. I feigned surprise and said, ‘ I don’t understand, your Excellency.’ The diplomat said, ‘Your papers are attacking the Queen’. ‘So?’ I said. He protested vigorously. I waited till he finished and I said ‘I am sorry. Your Excellency our pres is free.’ After this incident another truce was called and it held,” Tawia Adamafio maintained.
The British government following the allegation of insecurity in the country, sent Duncan Sandys, the British Foreign Secretary, to assess the situation. Nothing unusual happened except for a few explosions organized by some persons.
Kwame Nkrumah and the visitors moved around in an open car and upon reaching Kwame Nkrumah Circle, they were mobbed by a cheering crowd.
When the Queen eventually arrived not scared, her visit was regarded as highly successful. “When I was introduced to the Duke who accompanied his wife, he said to Nkrumah, ‘This is the propaganda man.’ Kwame replied, ‘Yes, he is keen.’ I smiled.”
The Queen reportedly traveled across the country as Kwame Nkrumah honoured her with durbars. Tawia Adamafio described the Prince as a humorous person saying, “I set him apart from the political and social system he represented. I assessed him a person and concluded that he was exemplarily human. On our way back from Takoradi and on reaching Cape Coast, thick crowds lined the streets. The Prince remarked: ‘Mr. Minister, your women are quite beautiful.’ ‘Thanks Prince,’ I replied. He said again, ‘I think they look better in Ghanaian attire.’ I said ‘I could not agree more. Then the Prince drove on awhile in silence as if lost in thought then he said, ‘These colonial governors, how they must have enjoyed themselves!’ We both burst into laughter,” Tawia Adamafio recalled.
Two explosions were recorded while the Queen was in Ghana, Tawia noted in his book, and two foreign journalists suspected of being behind it were arrested. A British newspaper reportedly had a banner headline about the visit thus, “The Queen got all the cheers and Nkrumah got all the jeers.” “Nkrumah,” according to Tawia Adamafio, “laughed so much tears ran down his cheeks.”
Tawia Adamafio had a quarrel with a section of the foreign journalists who called on him to press for the release of two of their colleagues. One of them heckled him when he appeared powerless in securing the freedom of their colleagues.
“A few of them rudely heckled me continuously and two of them were particularly boisterous and vulgar in the extreme,” Tawia recounted, adding that “At some point in their misbehavior, I got up and started insulting them in a shouting voice. I said, ‘I am ashamed of your stupidity. I thought you come from civilized countries and must know that the Minister of Information is not the Minister of Interior. I have no powers to direct the police and you keep on shouting that I am powerful and should act. What sort of powers do you know I possess?’”
“You are behaving like a bunch of idiotic teddy loyal boys!” he fired back.
By A.R. Gomda