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General News Wed, 31 Jan 2007

Ghana@50 Secretariat neglects birthplace of Nation`s founder

Chronicle -- As the nation prepares to celebrate its fiftieth Independence anniversary with over ¢180billion allocated for the event, reporters from the Headquarters of The Chronicle stormed Nkroful, the birthplace of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the man who led Ghana to Independence on March 6, 1957, to find out what was being done in the historical town in his honour.

The journey to the town over the weekend was tortuous due to its long distance from the nation’s capital; expectations were high because of the history behind the town and the preparations being made for the anniversary celebrations but, the scenery in the town was disheartening and sorrowful.

But for a ‘2 by 4’ signboard, erected at about 100 meters away from the Esiama entry point of the town, a visitor would not know he or she is anywhere near the town where Nkrumah, the man voted by BBC listeners as the African of the last Century, was born.

The signboard is absolutely incomparable with those mounted at roadsides right from the twin-regional capital, Takoradi, to Nkroful, announcing to people the names of hotels and guesthouses in the various towns in the area.

There is no magnificent billboard or signboard announcing to visitors that they are at Nkroful, no statue of Nkrumah on any part of the road and in town, no physical government or private monument named after him and the only thing he could be remembered with in the town – his burial grounds- is not in the best of shapes either.

“The founder of the nation and the man who defied all odds to fight for the attainment of Independence for this nation 50 years ago, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, would be turning in his grave at this time because of how we have failed to acknowledge what he has done for us,” were the words of Mr. Eduku Arizi, a nonagenarian cousin of Dr. Nkrumah.

Shocking revelation Interactions with the chiefs and people of Nkroful, the District Chief Executive for Nzema East District and the Chairman of the District @50 planning Committee, revealed that not a penny out of the $20million (over ¢180billion) allocated for the anniversary and the other several billions of cedis donated by corporate institutions so far had been made available for any new structure or refurbishment of any existing structure at Nkroful or the Nzema East District.

Nana Addo Nredoh, Chief of Azulenloanu and Chairman of the District @50 planning committee, told the paper at his palace that so far, nothing had been received from the national secretariat for works to be carried out at Nkroful or the district as a whole.

He said the District Committee proposed a number of projects for Nkroful because of the importance of the town in the context of Independence and again because a number of visitors who would be visiting the country during the anniversary would want to visit the birth place of the man who led Ghana to Independence.

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Nana Nredoh disclosed that out of the several projects proposed, the national secretariat approved only the construction of a Jubilee School complex at Nkroful.

The jubilee school however, cannot be said to be a special package for the town since more of such schools are to be built across the country, according to plans of the Ghana@50 Secretariat.

The Public Affairs Officer of the Ghana @50 Secretariat confirmed to the paper yesterday that the jubilee school projects would be carried out in all the 138 districts of the country, implying that each district would have one jubilee school. He could not however tell the state of the projects in the districts since according to him the projects were being handled by District Chief Executives (DCEs) “I am very shocked that as at now, nothing has been done at the birthplace of Osagyefo who got our Independence for us. Even the Jubilee school project that was approved, money has not been released for it. I am personally shocked about the way Nkroful has been neglected in this whole affair. I think Nkrumah and the people of Nzemaland deserve a better treatment,” Nana Nredoh lamented The chief said as far as the anniversary celebration was concerned, he did not know the direction the nation was heading, “and where we are going to end.”

Assemblyman for Elunlibo Electoral area in Nkroful, Nana Bulumia-Twum Kwesi, experienced a momentary loss of words when he was asked whether he was aware of any plans to carry out some activities in the town in commemoration of the contributions of Nkrumah.

“Nothing has been done and we are grieving over the way the great son is being treated.

This is happening because Nkrumah’s party is not in power. We are having the conviction that those in charge are not prepared to honour Nkrumah in anyway otherwise, something significant would have been going on here. At least, this is the town that gave birth to the man who got us the Independence we are going to celebrate,” the assemblyman lamented.

Secretary of the Nkroful Traditional Area who spoke to the paper on behalf of the Traditional Council said he could just not understand what was happening as he did not believe that the town could have been neglected in the anniversary celebrations the way it had been.

He said President Kufuor had, on several occasions, made several promises to the people of Nkroful but none had been fulfilled. “Subsequent to this, leaders of the traditional area made several efforts to meet the president but we could not meet him because we were frustrated by bureaucratic arrangements and postponements,” he said.

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“I believe the whole thing is because the NPP and the CPP are arch rivals when it comes to Ghanaian politics. I am strongly suspecting that the contention has been that it is useless to develop a place of my archrival. They are now in power so whatever they do to us we are ok,” the secretary to the traditional area, who is a retired officer of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) complained while emphasising that he was not doing politics over the situation.

The Paramount Chief of the Nkroful Traditional Area, Nana Bulumia-Twum IV, had travelled out of his traditional area at the time the news team went there.

The Nkrumah tomb At the moment, the only physical monument in honour of the nation’s first president is his sepulcher, found at the house in which Madam Elizabeth Nyaneba gave birth to him in 1909. But sadly, the tomb of the nation’s founder, though not desecrated, cannot be said to be in the best of shapes.

A Tourism Ministry contract, the first phase of which was executed in 2004 saw the renovation of certain parts of the building that used to house the embalmed mortal remains of the late leader.

Two small rooms - smaller than a normal bedroom size- have been put up at the entrance to the mausoleum.

One of the rooms is currently being used as an Information center and the other as a souvenir shop.

The souvenir shop had in stock, a few beads, cocoa products, five copies of a book on Nkrumah and about five small wooden carvings depicting him. Just that, and nothing else. There is no drinking spot or restaurant at the mausoleum. The washrooms have modern facilities, they are neatly kept but very small in size, in relation to the number of visitors who may want to know where Nkrumah was born and buried.

At the time the News Team got to the crypt, constructional works for the second phase of the Tourism Ministry’s project were ongoing. It involved the putting up of two buildings to signify the buildings that existed at the time Dr. Nkrumah was born, a library building and the refurbishment of pavements and grounds at the burial place.

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Workers at the site told the reporters that the project had nothing to do with the @50 Secretariat and indicated that a lot more outside their scope of work ought to be done at the place in order to make the place a real tourist centre befitting the status of an Nkrumah Mausoleum.

Right inside the house, is the grave which used to contain the body of the late leader until it was removed to Accra by the government of Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings in the early 1990s.

In front of the grave is a sculpture of Nkrumah’s hand, holding the brass-made Independence torch. Behind the grave is a bust of the great leader with a plaque on the wall.

The plaque bears one of the philosophical pronouncements of Dr. Nkrumah, which elicit his Independence ideals, love for Ghana and Africa as a whole and how his thoughts transcended his life on earth. He said, as contained on the commemorative inscription at his burial grounds: “As far as I am concerned, I am in the knowledge that death cannot extinguish the torch which I have lit in Ghana and Africa.

Long after I am dead and gone, the light will continue to burn and be borne aloft, giving light and guidance to all people.”

The crumbling house The state of the family house of Dr. Nkrumah perhaps, painted the most devastating picture of how the nation had been ungrateful to the founder. The walls are virtually down. The building has not seen any painting or renovations since it was put up in the mid 60s. There are cracks all over and nothing less than the phrase, ‘a total state of disrepair,’ can be used to describe the state of the house.

Several doors in the house have collapsed, scenes of falling windows abound and the walls are at the mercy of the weather. This is the building that houses Mr. Eduku Arizi, the most elderly person in the family of the late leader.

Mr. Arizi, who has lost his sight to age, was surprised when he was asked about the kinds of support he and the rest of the family had received from previous governments and what they were currently receiving from the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) Government. When the question was asked, he took a deep sigh, paused for almost a minute and then asked whether the reporters have been living in Ghana.

When the reporters said ‘Yes,’ to his question, the old Arizi said he was surprised to be asked that kind of question by people who were not just living in the country but also people with sight to see the state of the house he and the rest of the family members of Nkrumah were living in.

“If we have been receiving support from governments or the current one, do you think this would have been the state of this house? Look at where we are sitting. If we were to be many, there wouldn’t have been enough space for all of us, but this is the only place worth accommodating you,” the man who is almost hundred years old, bemoaned.

The cousin of the late leader regretted that not even a single person from the Ghana @50 Planning Committee or the District Planning Committee had found it prudent to meet with the family to hold any form of consultation or discussions.

When asked about the kind of assistance the family would have wished to receive from state authorities, he said in a passionate manner, “If it is money, we would take and spend it. What I want to be done for my people and the grandsons and daughters of Nkrumah is that a scholarship package should be given to the family so that people of this family can also climb the academic ladder and carry the name of the great man higher, for years to come.”

Within the compound of the family house lies the tomb of Kwame Nkrumah’s mother, Madam Elizabeth Nyaneba, who lived from 1872 to 1977. If the graveyard of Nkrumah could be described as awful, then his mother’s is worse. The floor, plastered with cement, has deep cracks and has not seen any painting or maintenance since the burial took place some 29 years ago.

Read Tomorrow’s Chronicle for the second part of this special report from Nkroful, which will reveal the unbelievable state of other facilities in the town itself, the horrific experiences of the people and all the exclusive pictures.

Source: Chronicle
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