After Nkrumah was overthrown, he lived in exile in Guinea and never returned to Ghana. He died of skin cancer in Bucharest, Romania in 1972. The period after Nkrumah’s overthrow saw the young nation plagued by a series of coup d'états and attempted coup d'états plunging it into sustained periods of instability interspersed with short-lived periods of uneasy calm.
In the 1979 uprising, there was the gruesome murder of three former heads of state—Acheampong, in secret, Afrifa, and Akuffo, in the public glare—all of these by firing squad and arguably with popular support. The pain and intrigue surrounding these bloody episodes is yet to be forgotten. The NPP government initiated a formal process of reconciliation in May 2002, but more time is needed to heal the deep wounds of the past.
It is against this backdrop that we have shied away from our history—it is too controversial, too bloody, and too many of the actors are still alive. This shunning of our bleak post-independence history has been totalising, leading to a complete forbiddance of all other histories, be they of the world, of Africa, or even of pre-colonial Ghana. We quickly brush over the major points of Ghana's never to return to them again. The history of the world (as relating to say, the slave trade) is completely shunned even though Ghana was a major transit point.
There may be those who will argue for the maintenance of the status quo since it does not appear to have any dire consequences. However, if we are to stop moving around in circles in our political debates, if we are to bring more depth to the discussion on current issues, if we are to move forward while avoiding past mistakes, we must confront our history head on. Every society with a history like ours will have kinks and disasters in it, but that should not deter us from studying it. If we discuss these issues candidly and avoid cheap and unwarranted rhetoric, a natural healing process will take place until we are at peace with ourselves as a nation. This is a crucial step we must take, for a nation that is going to pursue economic and social development, freedom, and justice cannot thrive in ignorance.
The constitution stipulates the formation of a National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) which should see to the education of the citizenry on their civic responsibilities as well as other matters of national interest such as these.12 However, the NCCE is consistently under-funded leaving it handicapped in the performance of its duties. If we are to better understand the trajectory of the nation with respect to the rest of the world, we cannot ignore the study of history—the history of the world, the history of Africa, and most importantly, that of Ghana. The study of history will help us understand our place in the world. It will also illuminate for us the reasons why the world is the way it is and patterns of thought that got us here. With this knowledge, we can better map out a way to a more productive and edifying social discourse. The earlier we woke up to this reality, the better.