Touted as one of the best presidents Ghana has ever had, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah was the leading figure in the fight of the country's independence.
He led the country between 1957 and 1960 as a prime minister, and between 1960 and 1966 as president.
The leadership of Nkrumah was characterised by major events which are still remembered today, Ghanaweb brings you a chronology of some of the major events that occurred from the beginning to the end of Nkrumah’s reign.
First Prime Minister and President
Ghana formally gained independence from its British colonial master and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations on March 6, 1957. Kwame Nkrumah who had then formed the Conventions Peoples Party became the Prime Minister of Ghana.
On February 12, 1958, Municipal Elections was held in Kumasi where Nkrumah’s CPP won 17 out of the 24 seats on the Municipal Council. As part of efforts by Prime Minister Nkrumah to fight off opposition members including members of the National Liberation Movement, the National Assembly approved the Preventive Detention Act on July 18, 1958.
The act gave the Prime Minister power to detain certain individuals without trial for up to five years. The act according to the opposition NLM, was a means by the CPP to restrict individual freedom and human rights.
The government somehow used the act as a tool to silence its critics who were mainly members of the NLM. A leading member of the UGCC Dr J.B Danquah was detained until he died in prison in 1967. Other opponents of Nkrumah including Dr K.A Busia, leader of the UP party had to escape detention by going into exile in London.
On April 27, 1960, a plebiscite was held on whether Ghana should become a republic or not. Some 88 percent of the voters supported a republic. On the same April 27, 1960, Nkrumah obtained 89 percent votes to be elected president of the republic and was inaugurated on July 1, 1960.
Growing opposition and assassination attempts
Nkrumah who was very much interested in uniting Africa into a single state courted stiffer opposition in the country, some persons who were not satisfied with the leadership of Nkrumah made several attempts on his life.
On August 1, 1962, the president survived a bomb attack near the village of Kulungungu which resulted in the deaths or wounding of several school children.
On September 9, 1962, one individual was killed in a bombing near the Flagstaff House in Accra. Several individuals, including nine school children, were killed in a series of bombings in Accra on September 18-22, 1962. More than 20 persons were killed in a bombing at a CPP rally on January 11, 1963. Also on January 4, 1964, President Nkrumah survived an assassination attempt which resulted in the death of a security guard.
On January 31, 1964, a constitutional referendum was held in Ghana. The proposed amendments to the constitution would turn the country into a one-party state and increase the powers of President Kwame Nkrumah. Results showed that an implausible 99.91% of the voters were in favour of the amendment. With voter turnout being reported around the referendum was described as being “obviously rigged.”
The successful passage of the amendments made the country a one-party state with the Convention People's Party becoming the sole legal party even though the country had essentially been a one-party state since independence. Nkrumah who at this point become president for life for both nation and the party had his powers expanded significantly; he could now remove members of the Supreme Court at his discretion.
General elections were scheduled to be held under the new system but it was called off shortly beforehand with the president appointing MPs instead.
Between 1951 and 1966, Nkrumah and the CPP had grown unpopular overtime. This was as a result of a variety of popular economic projects sponsored by the CPP which had in the process created a large foreign debt. By 1963, Ghanaians were experiencing shortages of essential commodities and price hikes. Along the line, the party stepped up its repression of political opponents through the use of the Preventive Detention Act. Press freedom was also heavily curtailed by the Nkrumah government.
At dawn on February 4, 1966, some military officers aided by some police officers as well, who were all not satisfied with the government of Nkrumah, seized major institutions in the capital and announced a regime change via national radio, whiles the president was on a trip to China.
General kotoka who made the radio announcement said:
“Fellow citizens of Ghana, I have come to inform you that the military, in cooperation with the Ghana Police, have taken over the government of Ghana today. The myth surrounding Nkrumah has been broken. Parliament is dissolved and Kwame Nkrumah is dismissed from office. All ministers are also dismissed. The Convention People's Party is disbanded with effect from now. It will be illegal for any person to belong to it.”
It is alleged that, the plot to overthrow Nkrumah was orchestrated and executed with the aid of the United Kingdom and America, who felt Nkrumah’s disdain for neo-colonialism was a detriment to their course and interest across the African continent.
On the morning of the coup, the leadership at a meeting decided to form a council and called it the National Liberation Council, nominating General J.A Ankrah as leader of the council.