‘In a dusty, browning album belonging to my late father, I found the above photograph of the first President of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The album, covered in red psychedelic flowers houses my father's pictures from the mid-1960s up to 1973. The photos follow a natural fashion time-line and show how extremely tight -fitting trousers, beehives and mini-skirts gave way to unkempt bushy hair, bell-bottoms, afros and platform shoes. It's like Austin Powers meets Shaft all in Ghana.’
Somewhere in the middle of the album is the mysterious photo of Nkrumah. For a few years I have looked at the picture and have wondered:
• Where did my father get the picture from?
• Where and when was it taken?
• Do the kente cloth in the background and the coat of arms on the front of the podium indicate that it was taken in Ghana?
What was the speech about and who were the audience?
For the generations of Ghanaians born after the death of Nkrumah, we have learnt that he was an extraordinary man of vision. VISION Not only did he possess great foresight but also charisma and intellect. He dream was not only for Ghana but extended to a Pan-African ideal of a united continent.
And she was certainly not alone in her thinking.
‘I don't think any African country has had as visionary a leader as my country has been so lucky to have. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah dreamed of a united, free Africa. I cringe to think what he would think of what we have become. Read his 1963 speech to the OAU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.’
wrote Orangebutterfly, reflecting the sentiments expressed by many bloggers internationally upon the centenary of Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday, September 21, 2009.
I shall quote Nkrumah’s Addis speech throughout this roundup of blogs to illusrate of his enduring vision:
‘Our continent certainly exceeds all the others in potential hydroelectric power, which some experts assess as 42% of the world's total. What need is there for us to remain hewers of wood and drawers of water for the industrialised areas of the world?
we shall link the various states of our continent with communications by land, sea and air. We shall cable from one place to another, phone from one place to the other and around the world with our hydroelectric power…
A decade ago, these would have been visionary words, the fantasies of an idle dreamer. But this is the age in which science has transcended the limits of the material world, and technology has invaded the silences of nature.’
‘My approach to remembering Dr. Kwame Nkrumah is to attempt to answer the question: “If Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was alive today, what would have been his aspiration for Ghana and Africa?”’
And imagined what Nkrumah might have envisioned for modern, internet-savvy Ghana and Africa, thus:
‘Kwame Nkrumah…would advocate for the Internet to be available in every Ghanaian, home, work place and school. After ensuring this he would then make a statement like: “Ghana's connectivity to the Internet would be meaningless unless it is linked up to the wiring up of the whole African continent.”’
And of energy they wrote that Nkrumah may have imagined cheap and affordable energy:
‘The fact that he constructed Ghana's sole hydroelectric power plant and proposed the one that is currently under construction is prove of the above claim. In the wake of the recent oil discovery in Ghana, our first president would ensure that there is more Ghanaian involvement in the actual drilling and refinement of the oil. He would lead the effort to build more oil refineries to process the crude oil locally, so as to increase the value of the oil exports.’
For those who do not know Nkrumhah, Laura Adibe wrote:
‘Was born Sept. 21, 1909 (although his autobiography states Sept. 18), in the former Gold Coast, now known as Ghana. From 1957 to 1966, Nkrumah served as president of Ghana until he was overthrown. Spending his final years in exile, Nkrumah died on April 27, 1972, in Bucharest, Romania. Hailed by many for being ahead of his time with his vision for a unified Africa, he is remembered for his dream of a “United States of Africa.”’
And she was fortunate to attend one of numerous events celebrating the life of Nkrumah which was held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture on the 20th of September in New York:
‘…the event was packed with speakers such as Amiri Baraka, Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Dr. Molefi Asante and Dr. Ama Mazama. New York State Sen. Bill Perkins was also in attendance, presenting a copy of New York State Resolution 3068 to recognize the 100th birthday of the late Nkrumah to Minister-Counselor Ebenezer Appreku and members of the National Council of Ghanaian Association.’
Of conflict and development, in his Addis speech Nkrumah said:
‘There is hardly any African state without a frontier problem with its adjacent neighbours. It would be futile for me to enumerate them because they are already so familiar to us all. But let me suggest that this fatal relic of colonialism will drive us to war against one another as our unplanned and uncoordinated industrial development expands, just as happened in Europe?’
Many bloggers cited Nkrumah’s efforts towards forging a united, peaceful Ghana as his greatest legacy and inspiration.
‘So what is Nkrumah’s greatest legacy?’
asks Maya of Mayas Earth. Her thoughts, captured here, are representative of many in the blogosphere (and, on a personal note, of discussions I have had with many Ghanaians on Ghana’s peaceful status):
‘In my opinion it is breaking our tribal barriers. In his quest for panafricanism, he had to first break tribal barriers before breaking national distinctions. By transferring civil servants to places in the country that they had no tribal link to, e.g. sending an Ashanti to Accra, a Ga to Koforidua and a Fanti to Tamale, tribal interaction was forced on Ghanaians. A young Fanti who’d been stationed in Tamale for four years would sooner or later look for a spouse and marry out of his tribe.’
Also focusing on Nkrumah’s legacy, like Maya, Ghana Unites refered to Nkrumah’s impact on unity and his initiatives to promote understanding among Ghana’s numerous ethnic groups by implementing schemes that encouraged Ghanaians to work and live together:
‘He implemented similar initiatives at the professional level, where Ghanaians from different ethnic groups were offered civil service jobs in languages other than their own. The current National Service Scheme is remiscent of this initiative; although many Ghanaians today will move heaven and earth to ensure that they remain in Accra or large cities like Kumasi and Tema. Adjibolosoo acknowledges that although Nkrumah's initiatives did not rid Ghana of ethnic rivalries, it did have a significant impact on ethnic dynamics in Ghana. And I concur with that observation.’
Incidentally, it is rather serendipitous that September 21 is also the United Nations’ official Day of Peace and Ceasefire. That Ghana is officially the second most peaceful nation in Africa (after Botswana) and almost devoid of ethnic conflict is, in large part, thanks to Nkrumah.
As Maya wrote:
‘I am half Ga, half Akim. My husband is part Ga and part Akuapim. Among my friends and family, one is part Ewe, part Fanti and part Ga, one is part Akuapim and part Ga and another is part Akim and part Ashanti and there’s a whole mixture of Ga, Krobo, Fanti, Akim, Nzema and Hausa. Speaking to other African nationals I realize that this tribal mixing is very unusual outside Ghana.
Nkrumah espoused that unity, post independence, was fundamental to peaceful and prosperous development.
‘Is it not unity alone that can weld us into an effective force, capable of creating our own progress and making our valuable contribution to world peace?
Ghana Unites compares Ghana’s experience with Malyasia and the USA in unifying ethnically or geographically diverse segments of the population:
Nkrumah knew that in order for Ghana (and Africa) to prosper, we would have to put our differences aside and work together. United we stand, divided we fall. And boy, are we racing each other to the depths of poverty, instability and all the other inefficiencies that plague our country and continent. All nations who have achieved some semblance of democracy and development, have had to let some sleeping dogs lie and work together. In Malaysia, the native Malays and the Chinese and Indian foreigners did this. In the United States, the north and south divides came together. In Ghana…well, let's look on the bright side, things are better.
Of his extraordinary efforts to forge a united Ghana, Maya says:
In a time when Ghana stands happily among few of the African countries that has not experienced a civil war, as so many others have in the past and present, we must be eternally grateful to Osagyefo for this legacy.’
My African Diaspora says Nkrumah’s greatest gift to the world was:
‘…birthing the idea of Pan-Africanism, his early vision of a United States of Africa.
Nkrumah died in 1972, his vision unrealized and his rule ended in exile. It makes one wonder about the dream. Long after first reading about him in college, I developed my own vision of the dream. It’s an ambitious one – it expands on the original theory to encompass the entire African Diaspora. The same reasons, benefits and logic hold true, but the dream continues to be elusive.
The question is why. Why is it so difficult for Africa (and the diaspora) to see the benefits of unification? Would the model of the United States and the European Union not work in Africa?
While My African Diaspora asks why it is so difficult for Africa and the diaspora to see the benefits of unification, Ghana Unites illustrates that the reality of development today in Ghana—infrastructure maintenance, education curriculums—is brimming with challenges that require Nkrumah style vision and leadership to overcome:
But at some point, the roads, schools, bridges etc that Kwame Nkrumah set up will be in need of serious repair, or will have to be done over entirely. It's time that we quit nit-picking, and go on a full-out campaign to work and make necessary changes. Who cares whether high school in Ghana goes for a term of three or four years? What, pray tell us, are students supposed to be studying over that period of time? That is what we are supposed to be focusing on, the curriculum, the essentialities, the specifics! We need to have a vision and long term goals, and then, we strategize step-by-step and determine how we will achieve these goals. Enough, of the short-term planning already! If we don't commemorate Nkrumah's 100th birthday in any way, I hope we at least take a page from his book on leadership, and strive to be visionaries and work not just in the present, but also for the future. In his own words, “Forward ever, Backward never.”
Ghana Voices interviewed members of a new political party formed to honour Nkrumah’s vision.
‘The party, christened Nkrumah Never Dies Party (NNDP) is formed to honour Nkrumah, through whose exploits the nation was formed and founded. The part is also to usher in a new political paradigm where tribalism, poverty, hunger and diseases do not exist.
‘”Today, Ghana is far from what it ought to have been. We have become more or less (adikan abedie akyire),” Mr Amusu stressed. Mr Amusu regretted that after 50 years of independence, the country was wallowing in poverty, squalor and disease. He said Nkrumah left so many legacies that successive government could have built on to relieve the country from its economic doldrums.’
nd others look to a new generation for change and leadership, remembering Nkrumah’s own initiatives. In his research, Ghana Unites discovered just how advanced Nkrumah was for his time:
Hidden in the depths of chapter four of Critical Perspectives in Politics and Socio-Economic Development in Ghana by Tettey et al. (2003) was a section on how social and ethnic unrest in Ghana influenced (or rather impeded) its development efforts. The author, Adjibolosoo, explored Kwame Nkrumah's attempts at dealing with these tensions. The Ghana Young Pioneers movement of June 1960 which aimed at character building and citizen development amongst youth was one of the initiatives that led to the ideology of patriotic nationalism or “Nkrumanism.” Through the Ghana Young Pioneers initiative, educational programs were implemented to educate children in the concepts of social solidarity, political action, value stabilization, individual integration into changing social structures, the direction and meaning of life, and learning to think in terms of a nation rather than ethnic groups. I think Nkrumah's target group alone (children) is indicative of how forward-thinking this man was.
Continuing this theme, Gafaru of Wake Up Ghana said:
‘Kwame Nkrumah’s human story must serve to inspire another generation in many ways, and above all, to believe in themselves. Even more importantly, it must inspire the older generation to believe in and trust the youth because Nkrumah’s story is one of youthful optimism in the face of traditional resistance to new ideas.’
As September 21 was celebrated by Ghanaians as a national holiday, the JJ Rawlings blog, quoted a statement issued by former President Jerry John Rawlings:
‘”As we celebrate Nkrumah today let us have unity of purpose as far as the socio-economic and socio-political development of Ghana is concerned.
Concluding, former President Rawlings said Nkrumah’s ideals of unity for Africa had proven to be more relevant than before with the creation of powerful economic blocks in Europe, the Americas and Asia and called on African leaders to work seriously to give true meaning to the aspirations of Africans.”’
On the whole, Nkrumah’s legacy is largely undisputed. As Kofi Yeboah wrote:
In spite of all his foibles, as human as he is, his admirers, critics and enemies alike unanimously acknowledge him as the greatest African of the second millennium.
Others, including Edward of Path Ghana, were inspired to write poetry in his memory:
The Immortality of Nkrumah
In the beginning there was nothing
And out of nothing Yahweh called everything
First the angels and demons to keep the mortals busy
Then the women of the earth to remind man of his existence
After all was set and after all had been written
Yahweh called Nkrumah to stay in between the mortals and the immortal
To call for war at a time everything seemed peaceful
A mission to save the lost from its leash and its destiny
And begin a new path into a different generation
After that mission was done and all covered,
Nkrumah crossed the line
The line that separated mortals from those who never saw death
And built a home amongst the living and shared in their greater pain
From far up in the skies Yahweh unchained the punisher
The hibernating demons that lay in wait and smelled the blood of heroes
This time to spark a begging of the end of immortality among men
And so history was ordered to record it, Nkrumah the last immortal man
And yet others recounted intimate family stories. Emmanuel Bensah wrote of his family’s connection with Nkrumah and his father’s reaction on September 21:
‘It's a story about how their [Bensah’s] father–then 32 years young–imbued by the pride of being an Nkrumahist wept on the morning of Monday 21st September 2009 as then-President Professor John Evans Attah-Mills delivered a dawn broadcast to honour the great Osagyefo Dr.Kwame Nkrumah–academic; theologian; pioneering Pan-African; and Founder of Ghana.
In his hand was a copy of the now-defunct “Evening News” of January 1964, which their father found online, recounting how their great grandfather Hon E.K.Bensah, Minister of Works and Communications, had laid a wreath on the grave of a security officer killed by the bomb attempt on the life of the Osagyefo.’
And so I couldn’t help but end this round up where we began.
As we celebrate 100 years of the birth of Nkrumah next Monday, I have made a pledge to myself to find out as much as possible about the man.
Maya had also discovered a photo of Nkrumah hidden away and asked:
‘Like Abena, I have so many questions to ask about it, but now I can't stop wondering, is there a picture of Kwame Nkurmah in every family album?’