On his 71st birthday, May 7, 2013, Captain Dr Nyaho Nyaho-Tamakloe [retd] launched his memoirs in Accra. It is an extremely interesting and revealing read about the personal life, the political beliefs and actions of a very outspoken and articulate leading light of the opposition New Patriotic Party.
Dr Nyaho-Tamakloe has a justifiable record and reputation of being frank in his public life, and this autobiography is testimony to that image.
Readers would find it a pleasant surprise that the book is extremely well-written, and his accounts of events in which he was involved are very comprehensive and well-argued.
Indeed, in the relevant parts, his accounts and argumentation are better than those in Mike Oquaye’s earlier work on the Acheampong regime in the 1970s, though Nyaho’s views are strung out on a thread of personal memoir.
This is the fourth book published by an NPP heavyweight since the party returned to opposition in January 2009.
Dr Kwame Donkor-Fordwor, Akenten Appiah-Menkah and Dr Arthur Kobina Kennedy, all founder members, have all written on aspects of the history of the NPP since its formation in 1992. Invariably, these works have all been NPP apologetics, awash in ideological claims of political superiority.
However, to a man, all three authors have attracted severe criticism from their own party members for their efforts. Nyaho has not been spared this unusual reaction from fellow members of a party laying claim to the liberal democratic heritage in Ghana.
This is a pity, taking into account the valid view of his co-author, Felix Odartey-Wellington, in his prefatory remarks that the ‘availability of political autobiographical accounts would go a long way in contributing to informed citizen participation in Ghana’s burgeoning democracy.’
As is wont in this unfortunate vandalism, his critics I am very sure, have not taken the trouble to read and digest this important addition to the literature by noted participants in our political process.
The book may be read in three parts; the first a narration of his ancestry, birth, education and medical career choices, the second as a sports administrator and the last an account of his forays into our politics. Because it is an autobiography, these parts sometimes overlap, a consequence of the fact that his political activities span the three periods of the Acheampong regime in the 1970s, the PNDC of the then Chairman Rawlings in the 1980s, and his activism since the return to democratic rule in 1992.
In all three phases of his life, he has plenty to tell us and the observant will note the extremely remarkable changes not only in the obvious ones of our tumultuous politics, but also in our changing educational systems, cultural transformations, and indeed in infrastructural changes in the capital city Accra where he was born.
Reading this work enables one to assess the dramatic physical changes in his childhood bailiwick Adabraka and Osu, and further beyond into other Accra suburbs such as Jamestown and Mataheko and other parts of Accra city and beyond onto the nation at large.
Dr Nyaho-Tamakloe is a proud member of probably the most important Anlo Ewe family in this country, a fact that must be kept in mind throughout any appreciation of this book, seeing that he is both Ewe and Ga, and therefore, a perfect example of the politico-ethnic caricatures in our Fourth Republican politics. Indeed, on the basis of his background alone, his detractors in his party would benefit greatly from his political insights, if they were reminded to pay attention to the meanings embedded in his account of events, as in, for instance, his painful rendition of the Kennedy Agyepong diatribe against Ewes and Gas in April 2012.
A good companion piece to this book would have been the story of the late Courage Emmanuel Quashigah. We are, thus, left with Nyaho’s narrative as the key to appreciating the problem of being a member of a family whose prominent political members, from President Rawlings to cousins Captain Kojo Tsikata and Tsatsu Tsikata, have all identified themselves with political groupings opposed by this scion who finds himself, unapologetically, in the NPP.
I can imagine the stomachs of intolerant NPP apparachikis turning at the picture in the book of a happy Nyaho with his cousin President Rawlings at the funeral of their uncle, Colonel Dr Nyaho-Tamakloe, founder of the famous Nyaho Hospital.
I make this observation because the temper of current NPP politics runs throughout the book, and one wonders if all national problems began with those who have opposed the UP/NPP tradition in Ghanaian politics. What strikes the reader about this miasma of acrid politics is the inner meaning of Nyaho’s own involvement in the Colonel Minyila coup plot in the Acheampong regime.
Here we have a medical doctor who was recruited to play a crucial role in a coup attempt in 1976, because he had rapport with rankers and junior officers in the military, just like Rawlings in 1979, but who believes that his coup would be restorative rather than destructive of the military ethos.
Why are Acheampong and Rawlings different from those soldiers who failed? In our current understanding, a coup is a standing violation of human and political rights because it perverts legitimacy.
Relative to civilian party politics, therefore, one political party cannot be the unreconstructed evil that it is painted in these pages, and the other saintly goodness, in spite of the rarefied and uppity rationalisations in this book.
Nyaho brand of politics
The beginning of the Nyaho brand of politics started, interestingly enough, in the yard of the Nsawam Medium Security Prisons where he was serving time in the aftermath of his trial and conviction in the surreal Heinel affair in which Heinel the complainant, eventually joined him in jail.
As he thanked a visiting delegation of Hearts of Oak players and officials, he found his métier, but it was veteran politician and fellow inmate Kwesi Armah, who predicted that he would be a formidable politician in the future.
This was in 1986. And so it turned out to be six years later when he became a founder member of the New Patriotic Party.
But to digress from the politics which would draw readers to this work, I was quite surprised to find that Nyaho’s administration of Accra Hearts of Oak was so short, and yet he made an impact that reverberates to this day in our sports administration. Indeed, the story of his involvement in club management at the highest levels of Hearts also testifies to the comprehensive changes which have taken place in this country.
Who will believe that at the time he took over club affairs in 1985, the team had only four footballs? Naturally, that is where he met another national politician who broke his political teeth in sports administration, the late President John Atta Mills.
But to conclude on the political life of Nyaho, there are many plums which can be harvested with profit by the reader. He is justifiably concerned by the pro-Akan bias of his beloved NPP, and even felt disquiet when the first two aides to running mate Dr Bawumia in 2008 turned out to be Akans. Yet, he finds no non-Akan worthy of his support in the NPP.
He defends the government of President Mahama on the Bawumia accident with passion and flare. He denounces those in his party who deliberately misrepresented his position on the Ibrahim Mahama/Merchant Bank affair. I note that here, he is diffident about the fact that Ibrahim is his nephew, his mother the late Joyce Tamakloe, being a cousin. This diffidence and ideological defence woven around how he got his first house is misplaced; blood is thicker than water, and principle is meaningless if it results in the wanton and careless disregard for family, especially for anybody in a conservative party.
All in all, you may agree or disagree wholeheartedly with Nyaho, but there is no doubt that this medical doctor, soldier and sports administrator is very passionately patriotic about Ghana and its place in the world.