JB’s Missive To Nkrumah (2)

We are continuing our series on the late Dr. JB Danquah and what he went through in a regime in which he found many shortcomings. He sought to send correspondences to the President with a view to triggering changes. Little did he know at the time that he was courting trouble. He was misconstrued and considered someone seeking to bring down the government.

Certain facts of history which he felt Kwame Nkrumah falsified, for him, needed to be corrected hence these letters.

These correspondences well crafted were commenced last week. I intend continuing them in subsequent editions; their importance being the driving factor. I find them worth sharing for the education of those who cherish history especially early post-independence accounts of our country’s journey but do not have these segments.

She says:  “This boycott, or ‘cocoa hold-up’ as it was popularly termed, was the direct result of an agreement on the part of European companies to control the cocoa market in both the Gold Coast and Nigeria. As has been seen, the economic life of the Colony depends to a very large extent on cocoa because in some years as much as two-thirds of the entire revenue has come from the tax levied on its export. The world price fluctuated severely during the period 1918-38, going as high as £122 a ton in 1920 and dropping to £18 in 1930. This unfortunate dependence on a one crop economy caused much distress and uncertainty in the Colony and led the peasant farmer, in his ignorance of the forces of world economics, to suspect that alien capitalists were to blame for the situation. In actual fact, the trouble was due in part to a faulty organization of the cocoa industry within the Colony itself, in part to the situation resulting from the intense competition among the cocoa-buying firms of West Africa, and to some extent also to the unsatisfactory state of the world market for primary produce.


“In the mid-thirties, the price per ton averaged about £21, but in 1936 various local and foreign influences combined to send it up to £44. The following year the fourteen major firms dealing in Gold Coast and Nigeria cocoa made a secret buying agreement whose purpose was to control the price and prevent the ruinous inter company rivalry. Several of these firms, especially the United Africa Company, also controlled the bulk of imports into the Gold Coast and had established merchandise stores throughout the Dependency. If the agreement had succeeded, the African would probably have found that both the buying of his products and the sale of European imports would have been in the hands of a single combine.


“In the fall of 1937, rumor of the pending agreement began to leak out among the Africans. Seven years earlier,they had suffered in a similar situation and the price of their cocoa had been greatly lowered. This time they decided to reject it (Italics mine). By October the farmers of the Gold Coast Colony, of Togoland, and of Ashanti had united under the guidance of their chiefs or of farmers’ unions in a solid determination to resist to the bitter end. (Italics mine). Not only did they refuse to sell any cocoa, whatsoever, but they boycotted the retail stores of the firms connected with the pool. The holdup lasted from October until the end of April and involved an almost complete stoppage of the economic life of the Dependency. The great personal suffering it entailed, was borne bravely, in the hope that once and for all the threat of a monopoly might be removed.


“Governor Hodson believed that he should maintain a strictly neutral policy throughout the crisis.That he endeavored to do so can perhaps be concluded from the fact that both the European firms and the African accused him of favouring the opposite side, (footnote 28; J.B
Danquah, Liberty of the Subject, pages 9-24. This pamphlet gives an
interesting account of the holdup by an African writer)”.

It is commonplace knowledge to any assiduous student of Ghanaian
history (at least I thought so) that this great incident of the third decade of the century led eventually to the appointment of the Nowell Commission, and the Commission’s Report led to the establishment of the Cocoa Marketing Board in its original form, namely, with a right in the farmers to appoint their own representatives on the Board and to help fix the buying price.

The establishment of the Board led to a steady improvement in the methods of marketing cocoa and it led also to a rise in the price from what it was in 1937 (£44 a ton) to what it became in 1951-52, namely £4 per head-load of 60 lb. or £149 6s. 8d. per ton “the highest paid since the institution of the Gold Coast Marketing Board in 1947″. (My italics: ECONOMIC SURVEY 1952, page 15 paragraph 52).

I do not dwell at length on the other political consequences of the decision
taken by the farmers at that important meeting which was held at Suhum to
“reject” the Pool Agreement, but it is a fact that but for the revolutionary
action of the farmers in 1937, backed by the Chiefs and the intelligentsia,
there would not have been nearly enough money saved in Ghana’s national
finances at home and abroad for the independence of the country to have
been launched on a buoyant financial basis 20 years later in 1957, or on the
assumption of self-government in 1951.

I think, Sir, that we in this country often neglected to count our blessings and we abuse our ex-oppressors, the imperialists, much more than we praise our own ancestors for the good they did for us.

I personally do not think we do ourselves any good to let our young
people believe that for centuries our own people were incapable of helping
themselves in any way, while the so-called imperialists were capable of “fooling” or “cheating” them all the time.

The painful thing is that these facts about the cocoa hold-up must be
known to the Editor of the Ghanaian Times and his intelligent and able
staff, some of whom, such as Mr. R. B. WutaOfei, played a worthy part
with the newspaper campaign of the time for the farmers and against the
Pool. It seems to me that with such staff and advisers available, the nation
ought to be spared these grating upsets of the country’s mile-posts in history
by writers who would not care to verify their facts.

However, the reason by which I write to you about Mr. Willie Donkor’s
article is not to pray that Your Excellency may take any particular step in the matter. I mention it here to fortify my hands in bringing Mr. Cecil Forde’s article in an earlier issue of the same paper to your Excellency’s particular notice, because, in regard to that, I believe that really effective action can only be taken at the highest national level, namely, by the President of Ghana calling upon Mr Forde, his employee, to apologise to the nation for the insults he offers to our country and to the builders of our nation’s history.

In another part of the same issue of the Ghanaian Times, actually in the
editorial of September 21, 1962, a similar false picture is given of our nation’s history to the effect that “In the mining areas andin other trading stores, offices and establishments throughout the country, wages were as low as 9d.,Is. 3d. and Is. 6d. a day, for the toiling and intimidated masses who suffered a ruthless exploitation from the colonialist vampires”.

The Editor suggests that this was the position when you, Sir, came to
power as the government of the land. The same tale is given classic statement at page 11, paragraph 40 of Work and Happiness, a document issued under the signature of the Party in power, the Convention People’s Party, but printed by the Government’s Press. It is stated categorically in the Party’s Draft Programmethat “When the Party (i.e. the Convention People’s Party) came into power (in February 1951) wages were as low as 9d. per day”.

The truth, of course, is that quite apart from the general rise in salary
brought about by the Revised Conditions of Service for the Civil Service, (Sessional Paper No. 1 of 1947), the Korsah Committee, composed of Mr. Justice (now Sir) K. A. Korsah, Mr. L. A. Northcroft and Nana Kwame ForiII, did in Sessional Paper No.5 of 1947, raised wages generally from Is. 4d. to2s. 9d. in Accra, Sekondi-Takoradi, Kumasi and Railway centres; and from Is. to 2s. 6d. in the Southern Section, and from 6d. to 2s. inthe Northern Section.

In the same year, by reason of claims by the Trade Union for higher
wages in the mines, the William Gorman Arbitration was appointed on which men like G. E. Moore and W. E. G. Sekyi and O’Neil Cromwell served.

The Gorman Award, issued in 1947, was very nearly in accord with the demands made by Mr. J. N. Same, General President of the Gold Coast

Mines Employees Union.                                                                                   .

The wages awarded ranged from 2s. minimum, 2s. 6d. maximum for miscellaneous surface labourers, 2s. 6d. minimum and 3s. maximumfor mines labourers; for carpenters, masons, painters and blacksmiths 4s. minimum’! and 6s. 6d. maximum; and for stenographers 6s. 6d. minimum, 10s. maximum- per day.

I am not saying that these wages were high. They may have been adequate. in relation to the cost of living at the time. What Iam saying is that it is historically inaccurate and misleading for the Editor of a newspaper, or the writer of a responsible or serious Party publication, to state that wages in force in 1951 were 9d.,or Is. 3d. or Is. 6d. aday, when the public evidence of the actual position in the matter is something quite the contrary. .

Ithink, Sir, that we in Ghana have a big job of work to do, and that if we build our foundations on the basis of facts or truth we are likely to go far, but we will encounter enormous difficulties and misplaced repercussions if the new generation of young and adolescent people are not led to see matters in their true colours.

With this said, I stop here, to direct your specific attention to my letter.
written early this month, and which I now have the honour to submit to you
for most serious consideration to save the nation’s name and our ancestors’
record from undue blemishes.”

With my warm regard and best wishes for your safety.


Yours very sincerely,

By A.R. Gomda