History has ‘absolved me’

I had run into Mr Joe Appiah in Col Ache­ampong’s house shortly after the Colonel seized power from the Busia regime.

Joe Appiah greeted me hearti­ly. To my surprise, he said, “Cameron, it is ‘BACK TO BATAAN!’ right?” This was a politically-coded message and understood it. He was suggest­ing that I should go and take back my post as Editor of the Daily Graphic.

You see, ‘BACK TO BATA­AN’ was an expression I had popularised by using it as a ban­ner headline on the front page of the Graphic, to celebrate the outcome of a scandalous transaction between a British businessman and the Ghana Government. The businessman, one Victor Passer, Had “some­how” convinced the Busia Government to sell to him, at rock-bottom prices, a fleet of fishing trawlers that Ghana, un­der the Nkrumah regime, had bought from the Soviet Union.

The British businessman had, in turn, sold the trawlers to Bra­zil, for a Very good profit.

I was amazed that although Ghanaians needed cheap fish as much as Brazilians do, we should be selling our fishing trawlers to help Brazil obtain cheap cheap fish, while we paid high prices for the fish we consumed.

The matter was deliberate­ly pictured as an ideological issue: Nkrumah’s regime had favoured products from the communist countries; Ghana was pro-Western; so why was Ghana keeping stuff bought.

From the Communists? It was, of course, a laughable argument; a purely corrupt deal Between the then Minister of Agriculture, Dr Kwame Asafo Adu, and the British business­man. The baseless claim was that because the trawlers were Soviet-made, they were inferi­or in quality. But wasn’t that stupid propaganda? The Soviet Union could send astronauts into space but wasn’t capable of constructing efficient fishing trawlers?

I In the midst of the argu­mentation, the businessman tried to steal the boats away! I got tipped off about this and exposed it in the Graphic. A li­bel action was instituted against the Graphic. We said we would defend it!

But by now, the Prime Min­ister wasn’t having any of it. He ordered the Ghana Navy to bring the boats back from the high seas.

I went in a Ghana Navy dinghy boat to welcome the boats back to Ghana. The next day’s Graphic front-page banner headline was, “BACK TO BATAAN!” Joe Appiah, who was from the generation that had enjoyed the popular American World War Two film, “BACK TO BATAAN”, hadn’t forgotten it. He hailed me in Acheampong’s house: “Camer­on, it’s ‘Back to Bataan’, right?”

This was a coded message to me, inviting me to go back and resume my editorship of the Daily Graphic, under the Acheampong regime.

But I shook my head at Joe.

There were too many dirty insects under the rugs at the paper for me to enjoy editing it again. In my first stint as editor, I had been driven by adrenalin.

Going back would build up cynicism in me, and I didn’t want that to happen.

And now, over 20 years later, here was I being given a hint that I should read Joe Apiah’s autobiography, and learn some­thing that would be of interest to me, from it.

I suspected it would be about the acrimonious de­bate between me and Prime Minister Busia on “Dia­logue-with-South-Africa”, that had caused my dismissal from the Graphic in 1970. But what form would the disclosure take?

I got hold of “JOE APPIAH, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN AFRICAN PATRIOT” as soon as Practicable. It’s a very readable book, especially when it reveals aspects of Joe Ap­piah’s days in London, where he was Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s personal representative in the UK for a time. There, he also became a comrade of George Padmore, the greatest cam­paigner for African indepen­dence that ever lived.

But what had Joe Appiah written in his autobiography that I was being urged to read?

I did eventually get hold of Joe Appiah’s book: “THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN AFRICAN PATRIOT” [pub­lished by PRAEGER, (New York & London) ISBN-10 027464424X; ISBN-13-978 0275936723.]

The relevant, all-telling quo­tation is on pages 335-6 of the edition I got.

It reads: QUOTE [regarding Prof. K A Busia] “I was sorry when, on a matter of princi­ple, I was obliged to sever our political relationship of many years. He was a gentleman and a Christian and it was because he bore these trade-marks that I found it difficult to understand why he did some of the evil things that he did or allowed his government to do. “All these I have forgiven except one! It is the shocking revelation that “Prof ”, African politician and fighter for freedom in Ghana for years, was in direct touch with the murderer of Africans in South Africa and presiding arch-priest of the doomed temple of apartheid – Balthazar Johannes Vorster.

“One letter, dated April 2, 1971, marked “Secret and Confidential” to Dr Busia from ‘Kantoor van die Erste Minister (Prime Minister’s Office) Cape Town” and signed by Vorster is proof of this.

“The letter thanks Busia for his “aid”. On this letter hangs the tale of Prof ’s stubborn insistence on ‘dialogue’ with the cursed apartheid regime of South Africa.

This letter was left in his office after his successor, Ache­ampong, took over,

and it was he who gave me a copy…”END QUOTE]

In several editorials in the Graphic in 1970, I had warned Busia that the apartheid regime was wooing African leaders – some “with Pretoria cash” – to abandon their brothers in South Africa to apartheid and the slave labour it reserved for the blacks of the country.

I had quoted a report in one of the most authoritative pa­pers on monetary affairs in the world, The Financial Times, to make my case.

Instead of taking the warning seriously, Dr Busia had sacked me!

Joe Appiah’s revelation shows that Dr Busia and the likes of Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivo­ry Coast knew exactly what they were doing.

We have the word of Mr Vorster himself: what “aid” had Dr Busia given Vorster that had made Vorster write a ‘Secret and Confidential’ letter to “thank’’ Busia?

(To learn more about South Africa’s attempt to fool Black African countries with his “dia­logue” proposal, Google ‘MUL­DERGATE+APARTHEID’.

You will get the whole story of betrayal and mendacity.


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