The apostrophe catastrophe

Kwame Nkrumah Cry Founder's Day is national public holiday observed in Ghana to mark the birthday of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah

Tue, 26 Sep 2017 Source: Thaddeus Ulzen MD

With our last election behind us, we have new credible leadership or at least, that is the hope. In our country, what is the real role of leadership at this point in our history?

All our problems have a few root causes: Pervasive corruption, poor planning and the absence of political will to lead major transformation in the service of improving the living standards of the people to drive forward an equitable development agenda. In Ghana, we lose conservatively, $5bn / year to many forms of graft.

So, do ideologies like liberal free enterprise or a social democratic agenda really matter, when the size of theft and the scope of governmental ineffectiveness is so great?

There are various levels of leaders. Headteachers, heads of university departments, heads of government agencies, transport yard foremen, local chiefs, market queens are all examples of different categories of leaders. The culture of leadership though is set from the executive, judiciary, and parliament. At the local level, through municipal and traditional leaders, citizens actually feel the quality of leadership, as their children seek knowledge in dilapidated school blocks, on their underfunded small farms, in their fishing boats on plastic infested oceans and in hospitals with fake or no drugs.

In the midst of these daily realities, leaders of the current government spend valuable time that we the citizens pay for, trying to re-write and re-shape the past in a particular partisan image. They also run us off the roads daily because they are late for some really important event, where they will enjoy on our behalf. On one recent trip from Accra to Elmina, I was run off the road 8 times by single cars with flashing red and blue lights or motorcades of various sizes. I drifted a little but forgive me. Why are you late? You are late because you are not fit for your job if you cannot plan effectively to get to your destination without disrupting my simple life by running me off the road. Or maybe you aren't late after all. You do this just because you can. Well, that's not the type of leadership my single vote was hoping for.

So back to history. In our Eurocentric education, 1066 was a pivotal year. This is when William the Conqueror subdued the foggy wild lands that eventually morphed into Gt. Britain, which then colonized us by treachery and force. Colonialism was not as benevolent or romantic an experience as many ill-informed Ghanaians have neurotically compromised within their psyches.

I mention William the Conqueror because he was not alone in what he sought to achieve with his invasion of Anglia. He is however credited with it and many who helped him, are consigned to the sad amnesia of history. A few centuries closer is the undeclared neo-colonial American Empire. Here too, George Washington is singularly credited with the founding of this republic.

He was not alone in his vision and mission but many who were with him are now not as well remembered. Years later, those who for capital and slavery in the Southern states of the USA, fought to maintain a twisted tradition or heritage, are now having their memorial monuments removed. Schools, parks, and community centers are being re-named. Monuments to Gen. Francis Lee, Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson and others are disappearing, for what they represent is inconsistent with current American values.

So, for those who wish to deny the credit of the founding of our Republic to Kwame Nkrumah, I say it's a waste of time, because eventually the people assess their history correctly, no matter how painful or glorious it may be. They own the story and will write and tell it themselves.

The paradox is that he inspired and founded a free continent and the evidence is in every African republic today from Kwame Nkrumah Hall at the University of Dar es Salaam to Kwame Nkrumah Avenue in Ouagadougou. So if all of Africa's freedom is credited to him, in living terms, then what's the point of this discussion in Ghana about Founder's Day or Founders' Day? It will not stand the test of time. The Speaker of Parliament should commit himself to engaging fully in the fight against illiteracy, poverty, and disease, driven by a blatantly corrupt and heartless political class and one day, he may be well remembered.

From the foregoing, it is obvious that even allies of truly historical figures are sometimes forgotten. For those who at a critical point in our history, actively fought to delay the delivery of liberty, to want to share in the glory by diluting Nkrumah’s iconic achievement, is not only dishonest but disgraceful.

I hope the president will work on his own legacy rather than trying to do the impossible because truly, Nkrumah with all his faults was not violent, ethnocentric or narrow-minded. He sought to build an egalitarian society against the elitism he found in his country, which many now perpetuate through the theft of state assets, in the name of democratic governance. Indeed, the true meaning of "Nkrumah never dies" is around us everywhere in Ghana and Africa but most importantly in our minds. He never dies because his opponents have not halted their attempts to kill him which began in earnest on Thursday, November 10, 1955, when agents of the United Party/National Liberation Movement (UP/NLM) remnants of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) exploded two bombs at the home he shared with his mother in Accra New Town. At that time he was meeting with his cabinet at home because he was too sick to go to work. What dictatorial actions had he taken in 1955? They did not stop and continued to plot a coup in 1958 after which the Preventative Detention Act (PDA) was promulgated. The PDA is no different from the War Measures Act of Canada, activated against Quebec separatists or the Patriot Act of the USA, against present-day terrorism. It was inspired by the PDA enacted in India in 1950.

After the CPP electoral victories in the fifties, the UP which emerged from the mergers with ethno-secessionist groups and its operatives continued many acts of terrorism from the mid-fifties through the early sixties, leaving over 30 ordinary citizens dead and about 300 injured. Individuals like Emmanuel Obestebi-Lamptey actively acquired explosives to terrorize the legitimate government and people of the country. Any person or persons who engaged in or condoned treasonable acts against a legitimate government in this country, should not be memorialized in any way. If they are, the people will eventually take care of them as has happened to Southern racist heroes in cities like New Orleans and Baltimore in the USA.

The formation of the UGCC was an outgrowth of the foundation laid by the Aborigines Rights Protection Society (APRS) formed in 1897 and if we wish to honor our founders, that is the date that should be honored, not the date the UGCC was formed or for that matter, when the CPP was formed.

Happy Founder's Day! I know where my apostrophe rests.

We must learn to get the simple things right first before we build cities on the hilltops.

T. P. Manus Ulzen is Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at the University of Alabama and Author of Java Hill: An African Journey – A historiography of Ghana

Columnist: Thaddeus Ulzen MD
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