The other side of Ladi Nylander

BY: Razak El-Alawa
 Ladi Nylander
Ladi Nylander

The mere mention of Ladi Nylander will connote a well-known character in Fourth Republican politics. Why not? In 2004 he was appointed Chairman of the Manifesto Committee of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) and was a member of the Central Committee of the party between 2004 and 2011. Between 2007 and 2011 he was the chairman of the CPP and, therefore, one of the most powerful people in the Nkrumaist family.

Unfortunately, because of internal wranglings in the CPP, he resigned from the CPP together with other members such as Papa Kwesi Nduom and Mike Eghan to found the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) where he is currently a member of the Advisory Committee of the party.

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Older Ghanaians will also remember Ladi’s father, the famous C.T. Nylander, as a leading member of Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s CPP where he served as a Minister of Education before being appointed Ghana’s first High Commissioner to Canada and later Yugoslavia in the closing years of Dr Nkrumah’s government.

To go back a little further in Ladi’s political career, he was a youth organiser for Komla Agbedi Gbedemah’s National Alliance of Liberals (NAL) in his final year at the University of Ghana, Legon, in 1969/70 while during that same time he was Chairman of the Nkrumaist Alliance.

It must be noted that the NAL was formed in 1969 to contest elections to the Second Republic following the lifting of the ban on party politics by the National Liberation Council (NLC).

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Mr Gbedemah, the founder of NAL, was Dr Nkrumah’s Finance Minister in the early years of independence but had fallen out with the Osagyefo before the coup of 1966, having gone into exile before the putsch.

Gbedemah was, therefore, not banned from participating in the politics of the Second Republic as was done to other CPP ministers. A number of CPP stalwarts, however, joined the NAL but the party was soundly defeated by Dr K.A. Busia’s Progress Party (PP) in the August 1969 elections.

Dr Busia’s PP won 95 seats in the 140-member Parliament of the Second Republic while the NAL won 30 seats. The leader of the PP won the Wenchi seat while Gbedemah, leader of NAL, won the Keta seat, with Ladi’s father C.T. Nylander winning in Ablekuma on the ticket of NAL.

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His business side

In spite of Ladi’s deep involvement in politics from 1969, when he was the youth organiser of NAL in his father’s constituency of Ablekuma during the 1969 general election in his final year at Legon, till today with his flirtation with CPP and PPP, Ladi regards politics as a hobby which does not bring him money.

What many don’t know about Ladi is that he has been a top notch businessman with over 40 years managerial experience in the consumer products industry. He has actually operated such companies in West, Central and East Africa, with additional work experiences in Europe and the USA.

This was what I found out about Ladi when I sat down with him for an interview last week during my first encounter with him.
We have been talking on phone for the past six months or more, though. I found out that he had been one of my many loyal readers. It came to a point when he was convinced that we might have been mates at the University of Ghana, Legon, but somehow, surprisingly, our paths never crossed.

Ladi made efforts to reach me by getting my phone number from Graphic. The first question he asked me when he got through to me was to find out if I entered Legon in October 1967. I answered in the affirmative and I realised his curiosity was satisfied.

At that time I couldn’t believe that we entered Legon together the same year, and left the same year, 1970 and yet we never met. This was a period when the total number of students at Legon was around 2000, almost everybody knew everybody.

In the course of our discussion last week I realised he was a mate, reading Economics with some of my Commonwealth Hall mates who were some of my great friends at the Vandal City. They included the late Gobind Nankani, also Kumasi born, but of Indian origin, whose family owned a chain of cinema houses in Kumasi. Nankani worked throughout his life at the World Bank where he rose to become Vice-President in charge of Africa.

Upon retirement he returned home to Ghana and was a member of Professor Atta Mills’ Economic Management Team before death snatched him from us.

Other students reading Economics from the Commonwealth Hall who were also our mates were Sam Appah, Frank Adu Sarkodie and the late former Deputy Minister for Finance under J.J. Rawlings, Victor Selormey.

My encounter with Ladi was a very interesting one as I realised that but for providence, he would not have attended University of Ghana and may never have established himself in Ghana, with strong political and business roots.

Educational background

Ladi attended Mfantsipim School briefly (1959-61) but when his father was appointed High Commissioner to Canada, he was enrolled at Kings College, Taunton, Sommerset in England, between 1961 and 1965.

However, his father wanted him to attend the University of Ghana and, therefore, after 1965 he was encouraged to return to Ghana and have a feel of the country. Upon a visit to Legon, he fell in love with the university and he gained admission in 1967.

While reading Economics in Legon, Ladi developed interest in History and Culture when he served as a guide for students from the American Forum for International Studies who came to Ghana to do summer courses at the Institute of African Studies at Legon.

Among the guides at the time were Dr Afari Djan, who was to become Electoral Commissioner and my own brother, Asman Garba Style, with whom I grew up at Allabar, our houses being adjacent.

It was this interest in History and Culture that led Ladi to later become the founding Treasurer/Trustee for the USAID funded Ghana Heritage Conservation Trust which is still active in the Cape Coast/Elmina (Castles) historic monuments, both of which are World Heritage Sites – and in the Kakum Nature Conservation Reserve in the Central Region.

After graduating with his Bachelor’s degree in Economics in 1970, he got a job with the Bank of Ghana. Nobody was comfortable with him because everybody saw him as a person with deep CPP roots even though his father had become a NAL MP in the Second Republic. He was asked to go to the Ministry of Finance but he faced the same problem. Ladi thought he was not wanted. As a result he left in 1971 for the United States to do a master’s programme in Business Economics at the Kellogg School of Business at the North Western University, Evanston, Illinois.

Ladi returned to Ghana in 1973 and joined Johnson Wax (producers of Raid, etc.). He worked there till he retired in 2009.
While still with Johnson Wax, he founded his own company, Getrade, in 1987, an export oriented and brand award-winning company, active in local raw material based personal hygiene products. For many years the company was the premier local export enterprise for Ghanaian and other African artisanal products.

At one time his company was the biggest exporter of handicraft and other artistic items in addition to exporting Alata Samina (Village Fresh) and shea butter.

Mr Nylander currently serves as Board Chairman of SC Johnson (Ghana) Ltd, as well as Board Member of several commercial establishments including GN Media and GN Electronics. He also served on the Board of Gold Coast Fund Management and was Chairman of Expendable Polysterer Products Ltd.

Ladi is a founding president of the American Chamber of Commerce, Ghana. It was under his tenure that the initial African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was ushered into the commercial space.

Mr Nylander is currently the president of the James Town Progress Society and Dampiahene of the AkuapemTraditional Area.