Komla Agbeli Gbedemah
|Minister for Finance|
1954 – May 1961
|Succeeded by||Ferdinand Koblavi Dra Goka|
Founder and leader of the
National Alliance of Liberals
|Born||17 June 1913|
|Died||11 July 1998(aged 85)|
|Alma mater||Adisadel College, Achimota College|
Komla Agbeli Gbedemah (17 June 1913 – 11 July 1998) was a Ghanaian politician and Minister for Finance in Ghana's Nkrumah government between 1954 and 1961. Known popularly as "Afro Gbede", he was an indigene of Anyako in the Volta Region of Ghana.
Early life and career
Komla Gbedemah was born on 17 June 1913 in Warri, Nigeria, of Ewe parentage. He attended Adisadel College in Cape Coast for his secondary education from 1925 to 1929 and Achimota College from 1929 to 1933. He became employed as a teacher at a school in the Akuapem District in the Eastern Region of Ghana. In 1939, he became a Science Master at Accra Academy in Jamestown. Alongside teaching, he engaged in the timber and confectionery business. In 1943, he quit his teaching role at Accra Academy to engage in the timber trade full-time.
Gbedemah was originally a member of the United Gold Coast Convention. He left with Dr Kwame Nkrumah to form the Convention People's Party (CPP). Gbedemah was an important member of the CPP because of his organizational ability. He was influential in getting Nkrumah elected to the Legislative Council on 8 February 1951 at the Elections for the Legislative Assembly. He organized Nkrumah's entire campaign while Nkrumah was still in prison, detained by the colonial government. Nkrumah duly won the Accra Central Municipal seat. This led to Nkrumah being released on 12 February 1951 and his being invited to form a government. Gbedemah is in some reports named as being the first to welcome Nkrumah after his release from Fort James prison.
Gbedemah, who himself got elected into the Legislative Assembly, became the first Ghanaian Minister for Health and Labour in Nkrumah's government. In 1954, he became the Minister of Finance, a position he held for seven years. He was influential in getting an initially reluctant United States government to back the building of the Akosombo Dam. Later, as his relationship with Nkrumah deteriorated, Gbedemah was demoted by Nkrumah to the post of Minister of Health in May 1961. It is alleged by US sources that at a point, Gbedemah was considering the overthrow of Nkrumah. He is quoted as saying: "I would be sorry to have to do it but country has had enough of Nkrumah's arrogance, whims and madness." Nkrumah demanded Gbedemah's resignation in September 1961.
Gbedemah was forced into exile later the same year, after worsening relations between him and Nkrumah over what he perceived to be Nkrumah's financial indiscipline. He is alleged to have fled as there were plans to place him under preventive detention. While in exile, he is known to have continued to lobby the US over the Akosombo dam project.
Gbedemah formed and led the National Alliance of Liberals into the 1969 general election. His campaign slogan "Say it loud, I am black and proud!" was taken from the popular James Brown tune. After the election, Gbedemah was barred from taking his seat in parliament. This followed a Supreme Court ruling, upholding the NLC barring members of the CPP accused of financial crimes from holding public office for ten years. This decision led him to retire from active involvement in politics.
From 1957 to 1961, Gbedemah served as President of the World Federalist Movement, an international non-governmental organization promoting federal world government. He was one of the signatories of the agreement to convene a convention for drafting a world constitution. As a result, for the first time in human history, a World Constituent Assembly convened to draft and adopt the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.
Howard Johnson's restaurant incident
In the United States, Gbedemah is most widely known from an incident on 10 October 1957 when U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower apologized to him after he was refused service in a Howard Johnson's restaurant in Dover, Delaware. Gbedemah told the staff: "The people here are of a lower social status than I am, but they can drink here and we can't. You can keep the orange juice and the change, but this is not the last you have heard of this." The incident resulted in Gbedemah being invited to breakfast at the White House.
For ministerial positions, see succession box.
- Leader, People's Movement for Freedom and Justice (1991 – ?)
- Founder and Leader, National Alliance of Liberals (1969)
- Member, Legislative Assembly, Ghana (1951 – ?)
- Manager and Editor, Accra Evening News (1949 – ?)
- Vice Chairman, Convention People's Party (1949 – ?)
- Gbedemah, K. A. It will not be "work and happiness for all"; an open letter being also an appeal to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and comment on and criticism of the proposed new 7 year Ghana development plan. [n.p.], 1962. [32p].
- Amenumey, D. E. K. (2002). Outstanding Ewes of the 20th Century. Accra: Woeli Publishing Services. p. 176. ISBN 9964978839.
- Duodu, Cameron (27 December 2006). "Say it loud!". Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
- "K. A. Gbedemah - A Political Colossus". Graphic Online. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
- "K.A. Gbedemah - A political colossus". MyJoyonline. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
- Therson-Cofie, Martin (9 August 1952). "WHO'S WHO IN THE GOLD COAST". Daily Graphic. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
- Uwechue, Raph (1991). Africa's Who's Who. Africa Journal Ltd. p. 702. ISBN 9780903274173.
- "Professional Bodies (other than legal) and Civil Society groups" (PDF). October 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 October 2006. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
- "Profiles:Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (Founder and First Pres. of Ghana)". Official website of the Office of the President of Ghana. Ghana government. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 14 April 2007.
- Birmingham, David. Kwame Nkrumah: The Father of African Nationalism (revised edition), Ohio University Press, 1998.
- "Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, Africa". Released archive on Foreign Relations of the United States. United States Department of State. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
- "Friday's Child". Free Archive. 12 September 1969. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
- Thayer Watkins. "Political and Economic History of Ghana". San José State University. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
Komla Gbedemah was founder of the CPP and an able administrator. He objected Nkrumah's lack of financial discipline and soon found himself dismissed from the government by Nkrumah in a radio broadcast at dawn in April 1961.
- "The National Liberation Council and the Busia Years". GhanaWeb. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
- "Letters from Thane Read asking Helen Keller to sign the World Constitution for world peace. 1961". Helen Keller Archive. American Foundation for the Blind. Retrieved 2023-07-01.
- "Letter from World Constitution Coordinating Committee to Helen, enclosing current materials". Helen Keller Archive. American Foundation for the Blind. Retrieved 2023-07-03.
- "Preparing earth constitution | Global Strategies & Solutions | The Encyclopedia of World Problems". The Encyclopedia of World Problems | Union of International Associations (UIA). Retrieved 2023-07-15.
- "From Segregation to Breakfast". Time. 21 October 1957. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011. Retrieved 14 April 2007.
- Thayer Watkins. "The Volta River Project in Ghana, West Africa". San José State University. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
- Gbedemah relates this story in part 5 ("Black Power") of Adam Curtis's 1992 documentary series Pandora's Box.
- "Ivor Wilks-Phyllis Ferguson Collection of Material on Ghana". Cooperative Africana Microform Project (CAMP). Center for Research Libraries. Archived from the original on 7 June 2007. Retrieved 30 April 2007.