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It is sheer impossibility and a humungous task to try to capture and encapsulate the works of Kwame Nkrumah (MHSRIP) in a single article like this one. That being the case, I shall not touch on his works as a Prime Minister or President of Ghana, but rather I will zero in on his person. Kwame Nkrumah was born Francis Kofi Nwiah at Nkroful, in Western Ghana on 21st September 1909 and he died on 27th April 1972 in Bucharest, Romania from cancer.
Before his death, he was living in exile in Conakry, Guinea, where President Sekou Toure had made him a symbolic co-President, following his overthrow in a coup d’état on 24th February 1966. Before then, Ghana, Guinea and Mali had formed a troika, perhaps a harbinger of things to come in 1975, when ECOWAS was established through the instrumentality of Generals Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo and General Yakubu Gown of Nigeria. Nkrumah suffered seven assassination attempts, including the botched shooting incident at Flagstaff House, where Sergeant Amatewee shot and killed Nkrumah’s bodyguard, Salifu Dagarti (MHSRIP).
That incident occurred in 1964. Before then, there was the Kulungugu grenade attack at the border between Ghana and Upper Volta, (now Burkina Faso), on 11 August 1962, for which some of Nkrumah’s close confidants and CPP stalwarts got implicated, namely Kofi Crabbe, Ako Adjei and Tawiah Adamafio. Hired accomplices were named as Asaba Quarcoo, Mama Tula, among others. All were arrested and charged as the culprits in a protracted treason trial, with Gyeke Darko being the DPP and Alhaji Kwaw Swanzy the Attorney General. Nkrumah departed the shores of the Gold Coast to go to the USA in 1935, after his teacher training education at Achimota College.
He went to Nigeria first to seek financial support from his prosperous business magnate and maternal uncle, Chief Biney. He went to America by ship via UK. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of Nigeria, wrote him a note before his departure from Takoradi Harbour, to encourage and motivate him. Nkrumah went to Lincoln University, the very one Azikiwe and Aggrey went to. Thereafter, he entered the University of Pennsylvania (www.biopgraphy.com). Nkrumah’s father was Kofi Ngonloma of the Asona Clan, a goldsmith. His mother was Elizabeth Nyanibah of the Anona Clan. Nkrumah was formerly known as Francis Nwiah Kofi. He changed his name in 1945 while in the UK.
Ostensibly, Nkrumah had been tagged a communist whilst in the USA, and the name change came as no surprise in those post-World War, Cold War blues era. Nkrumah attended elementary school at Half Assini, where a German Catholic Priest, George Fischer, was said to have significantly influenced Nkrumah’s elementary school education by paying his school fees. Before going to America in 1935, Nkrumah had obtained his teachers’ certificate in 1930 from the then Prince of Wales College, now Achimota College, later to be relocated and renamed as Government Teacher Training College in Accra. www.ghanaweb.com/home/country/people/Head
In 1931, he was posted to the Roman Catholic Junior School in Elmina, and later promoted as head teacher and posted to head the Roman Catholic Junior School in Axim. In 1932, Nkrumah entered the Catholic Seminary at Amisano, Cape Coast (www.biography.com). Nkrumah left for the USA in 1935, via Takoradi Harbour, and by 1939, he had obtained his BA degree from Lincoln University. In 1942, he obtained another BA in Sacred Theology. He obtained an MSc in Education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1942, and an MA Phil in Political Science in 1943. He lectured in Political Science at Lincoln, where he was elected President of African Students of America and Canada. He took to preaching at Presbyterian Churches in Philadelphia and New York.
From 1939 to 1945, Nkrumah lectured on Negro History. With two masters’ degrees and two bachelors’ degrees under his belt, Nkrumah directed his search for academic laurels to the UK, where he hoped he was going to take a degree in law. However, his deep involvement in many Pan-Africanist activities in the UK robbed him of that dream and passion. He had hopes of studying Law at the London School of Economics (LSE) and to also complete his doctorate. He became the undisputed leader of the circle in the UK for the decolonisation of Africa and the emancipation of the Black man.
Nkrumah was honoured with many doctorate degrees from Lincoln University in the USA, his alma mater, Moscow State University, Krakow University in Poland, and Humboldt University in Germany. In 2000, BBC World Service listeners voted Nkrumah the Man of the Millennium. In 1945, whilst in London, he met James CRL who introduced him to how to organise underground movements. Nkrumah at the time was under heavy surveillance from the FBI, because he associated with radicals.
While in London, he met a West Indian academic, George Padmore, who helped him organise the 5th Pan African Congress in Manchester. Nkrumah founded the West African National Secretariat to help decolonise Africa. He was elected Vice President of the West African Students Union (WASU), which at an earlier date, was manned by J.B. Danquah, the Doyen of Ghana politics, and a bitter antagonist of Nkrumah.
Nkrumah was invited by Ako Adjei to Ghana to be the Secretary General of UGCC, and he arrived on the Gold Coast on 8th December 1947. The riots in the Gold Coast of 28 February 1948 caused the Watson Commission to be formed by the British Government, and it was Watson who had dubbed Danquah as the Doyen of Ghana (Gold Coast) politics. The Big Six which was arrested in March 1948, comprised Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Dr J.B. Danquah, Ebenezer Ako Adjei, William Ofori Atta, Edward Akuffo Addo, and Obetsebi Lamptey.
Nkrumah established the Accra Evening Newspaper in September 1948, and in December 1949; he formed the CPP at Saltpond with a CYD youth wing as a vanguard and bulwark of his slow revolution. In January 1950, Nkrumah was arrested for declaring Positive Action, taking a cue from Mahatma Gandhi’s Ahimsa or policy of non-violence and non-cooperation with the British colonialists in India.
Nkrumah was released from prison on 12 February 1951, after spending a little more than a year at Ussher Fort Prison. He did not serve his full sentence of 3 years. Whilst in prison, his able, astute and charismatic lieutenant, Komla Agbeli Gbedemah held the fort staunchly and organised the CPP vigorously on the ground. The Governor, Sir Charles Arden Clarke, on the following day, 13th February 1951, asked Nkrumah to form a government and be titled, Leader of Government Business. In 1952, the Constitution was amended to make Nkrumah Prime Minister.
Nkrumah was well qualified, with his chain of degrees and wide exposure in the USA and UK; he stood shoulder tall above all in terms of his charisma, critical analysis of issues, excellent organisational skills, and his captivating oratory which perhaps, he had honed by studying the styles of Marcus Garvey and Adolf Hitler. Nikita Kruschev, the PM of the then USSR and Comrade Fidel Castro of Cuba, were all cast in the mould of fiery firebrand marathon speakers, just like Nkrumah.
(Forumers on GhanaWeb become uncomfortable when I allude to Nkrumah’s rhetorical theatrics as being akin to that of Adolf Hitler. Both learnt how to reach the touch-points of their gullible audiences. Nkrumah was in the Catholic priesthood, so he was accomplished in homiletics, a veritable linguist and homilist. Nkrumah’s speech delivery was also like that of Marcus Garvey. I am sorry about the comparisons as they had different missions and agendas for their people.
While Nkrumah was projected as a Black Moses, leading his people to the promised land of independence and emancipation of the black race, Hitler was an ultra-Nazist, propagating the doctrines of Ubermensch or Superior Aryan race, Anschluss, Lebensraum and Blitzkrieg. Marcus Garvey was infatuated with his utopian ideal of the Zion Train and its exodus to the motherland in Africa, back to the African ancestral roots after the ignominious slave trade.)
On March 21st 1952, Nkrumah was elected by secret ballot to the Legislative Council after winning by 45 votes to 31 with 8 absentions. Nkrumah requested for independence within the Commonwealth. He went to Parliament to lay before it his Motion of Destiny. At the time, his challenges included holding together the fractious and incongruous 4 territories which were juxtaposed in proximity and propinquity, namely the Gold Coast Colony, Ashanti Colony, Trans-Volta Togoland and the Northern Territories.
At 12 a.m. on 6th March 1957, the Gold Coast became Ghana, exactly 113 years after the Bond of 1844 was signed by Commander Hill. Danquah had researched and proposed the name Ghana. Danquah had wanted independence to be granted in 1954, but it seemed to the British administrators that the Gold Coasters were not ready then. Nkrumah once said that the black man was capable of managing or mismanaging his own affairs and that he preferred self government with danger to servitude in tranquility.
Nkrumah shed tears when he stood at the Old Palladium/Polo Grounds to declare independence. A video of it entitled, “The End of an Empire “makes a moving impact on the beholder. Our pioneers fought really hard and made great sacrifices for our current freedom, which some people take for granted. Take for example, the toil and trouble the Big Six went through in 1948, after the disturbances and riots in the Gold Coast, the high point being the slaughter of some veteran World War 2 marchers on 28th February Road, when they were peacefully marching to the Christiansburg Castle to submit their petitions. They were led by the illustrious Sergeant Adjetey.
A trigger-happy British police officer, Imray, caused their sad demise. There were lootings, burnings and general mayhem on the Gold Coast, leading to expressions like AWAM. Shops of Syrians, Lebanese and other foreign entities were looted across the country. Civil servants, market women, Trade Unions and the rank and file of the citizenry vented their anger on the colonialists, and united to shed off the yoke of oppression, imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism.
At one time after his release from prison with the Big Six in 1948, Nkrumah undertook a tour of the whole country to apprise himself of the real situation on the ground. During the tour, he campaigned with the message of Self Government Now. Nkrumah and the other nationalists rejected some colonial policies such as the mass cutting down of cocoa trees because of mass outbreak of Swollen Shoot Disease and Black Pod. Nkrumah rejected also the British proposal to put the franchise on ownership of property rights. Nkrumah was an egalitarian, as he believed on one man, one vote.
Wealth, on no account, should be used to measure a man’s worth, for wealth is acquired due to some fortuitous circumstances and it is immaterial to the inalienable rights of man to life, liberty, property and other larger freedoms. From 5th to 10th February 1951, the first universal franchise or suffrage was exercised in Ghana. The CPP won 34 out of the 38 seats, and the results sent a crystal clear message that the CPP had overwhelming national presence and support across the length and breadth of the Gold Coast. That was even when Nkrumah was in jail. Did the incarceration add to his political stature and popularity?
Perhaps, it did. While in prison, Nkrumah organised clandestinely the CPP by remote control, as he smuggled instructions written on toilet roll and smuggled them through a prison cell underground postal network to reach his lieutenant, Gbedemah. In the 1956 Plebiscite and general elections, the Nkrumah-led CPP won again, paving the way for independence in 1957. Nkrumah called for the All Africa Conference of 8 independent African states in Accra in 1958, attended by Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Liberia, Morocco and Ghana, with observers from several non-independent African countries.
The Accra Conference of 1958 was a watershed and big landmark in the total liberation of Africa, led by Africa’s showboy, Osagyefo Kantamanto Oseeade3yo Kwame Atuapem Katawer Odumagya Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah was the 3rd Chairman of the OAU, after its formation in May 1963 in Addis Ababa, Nkrumah called for the formation of the African High Command as an intervention and peacekeeping force, aside from his megalomaniac idea of a United States of Africa. That led to a split between the hardliners Cassablanca Group, and the moderate conservatives of the Monrovia group who were for gradualism, loose federation, among others. However, latter events in Africa have proved Nkrumah right as a man of prevoyance and a savant.
He chaired the OAU from 21st October 1965 to 24th February 1966, when he was overthrown in a military coup d’état while he was on a peace mission to Hanoi via Peking, now Beijing. He was PM from 6th March 1957 to 1st July 1960. On Republic Day 1st July 1960, Lord Listowel, 5th Earl of Listowel and his wife represented the Queen, Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and the United Kingdom at Ghana’s attainment of the status of complete sovereignty as a republic. Nkrumah became President, and later, president for life, when he declared Ghana a one party state. Nkrumah’s wife was Fathia Ritz from Egypt. Nkrumah’s staunch allies in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) were Gamel Abdul Nasser of Egypt, Josef Bronz Tito of Yugoslavia, Jawarhalal Pandit Nehru of India and Sukarno of Indonesia. Nkrumah forged strong bonds through the Afro-Asian Conference, whose demise was caused by the end of the Cold War after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1990, under Gorbachev’s Perestroika and Glasnost.
Nkrumah claimed he was a non-denominational Christian of the Roman Catholic faith, and a Freemason. Nkrumah was a strong advocate of Pan Africanism and the projection of the African personality. Nkrumah won the Lenin Peace Price in 1963. He had excellent working relations with leaders from the then Eastern bloc, such as Leonid Breshnev, Mikoyan, Nikita Kruschev, Chou en Lai (China), among others. Nkrumah never forgot his educational roots in the USA. In March, 1961, he met with President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in New York on an official visit to the USA, with the construction of the Akosombo Dam, Kaiser Aluminium Plant (VALCO) and the Congo Crisis high on his agenda.
From 19th to 27th April 1960, presidential elections and plebiscite were held with proposal to make Ghana a republic. Nkrumah established Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute (KNII) in Winneba in 1961 as a centre to train civil servants and future African leaders. The School became a Mecca and Oasis for exiled African intelligentsia such as the Nigerian, Ivan Ikoku. The Institute Director was Kojo Addison. In 1964, it became mandatory that all students entering college in Ghana were required to have a 2 week ideological orientation at the Institute. Nkrumah’s ideas were far ahead of his time as he launched a free education and free health care throughout Ghana.
He also embarked on aggressive industrialisation by building factories such as Asutuare and Komenda Sugar Factories, Bonsa Rubber Factory, among others. He established the Black Star Line, State Transport Corporation, State Construction Corporation, Ghana Airways, Bolgatanga, Beef Factory, Kumasi Jute and Shoe factories, Aboso Glass Factory, Kade Match Factory, Pokuase and Pomadzi Poultry Farms, Esiama Oil Mills, Tema Oil Refinery, Nsawam Cannery, GNTC, SIC, among others. He built the Tema Motorway and quality secondary schools under Ghana Education Trust (GET).
Nkrumah held Marxist-Leninist ideals of having command economy and state-owned enterprises, an eleemosynary economic paradigm, an admixture of a mixed economy, welfare state, and what was then termed democratic centralism and positive neutrality. Perhaps, those terminologies were too much for Ghanaians to embrace, hence when Nkrumah was overthrown in a coup d’etat by a combined operation of the Ghana military and police, we had people like Lt Gen Ankrah, Lt Col E.K Kotoka, IGP Harlley, Deku, Ocran, Lt Gen A.A Afrifa, among others forming the National Liberation Council.. Nkrumah was a prolific writer and critical thinker. Nkrumah was a strategist like Hannibal of old. Perhaps, in death, he won a pyrrhic victory for Ghana and we have inherited the winner’s curse. When Nkrumah was overthrown, it was alleged he was training African mercenaries at Achiase and Obenemase to go and overthrow their governments. How naïve that was, judging his zeal and fervor for Pan-Africanism.
His works include the following:-
1. Works: Negro History: European Government in Africa. The Lincolnman 12 April 1938p2 (Lincoln University, Pennsylvania)
2. Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah 1957 ISBN 0-901787-60-4
3. Africa Must Unite 1963 – ISBN 0-901787-132
4. African Personality 1963
5. Neo-Colonialism: the last stage of imperialism 1965 ISBN 0-901787-23-X
6. Axioms of Kwame Nkrumah 1967 ISBN 0-901787-54-X
7. African Socialism Revisited 1967
8. Voice from Conakry 1967 ISBN 901787027-3
9. Dark Days in Ghana 1968 ISBN 0-717800466
10. Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare 1968 – First introduction of Pan African pellet compass ISBN 0-717802264
11. Consciencism: Philosophy and ideology for De-Colonialism 1970 ISBN 0-901787-11-6
12. Class Struggle in Africa 1970 ISBN 0901787124
13. The Struggle Continues 1973 ISBN 0901787418
14. I speak of Freedom 1973 ISBN 0901787140
15. Revolutionary Path 1973 ISBN 0901787221
16. Davidson, Basil (2007) (1973) Black Star- A view of the life and times of Kwame Nkrumah Oxford NCR: James Carrey ISBN 9782184701-010-0
Compiled by Kwesi Atta Sakyi (Various sources)
www.ghanaweb.com/home/country/people/Head of State
Omari, P.T. 1970 Kwame Nkrumah: the anatomy of an African Dictatorship – African Publishing Corporation
21st September 2013 marked the 104 years anniversary of Nkrumah’s birth in 1909.
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