Friday, September 7, 14 & 21, 2007
Heroes of Our Time
Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
· First Prime Minister and President of the Republic of Ghana
With: A.B. CHINBUAH
IN December 1947, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah arrived in the Gold Coast. Mr. Justice R.S. Blay was at the Takoradi Harbour to welcome the new General-Secretary and to host him.
Before moving to Saltpond to officially start his work Dr. Nkrumah continued to live in Mr. Justice Blay’s house in Sekondi where he used to interact a lot with his adult children, Adue, Aleyefe and others, and played games with the younger ones, Mokowa, Afo and Lulu Blay. They all admired him and enjoyed his company. Mr. Justice Blay used to transport him in his long grey American Ford saloon car for the united Gold-Coast Convention (UGCC) meetings at Saltpond.
It was the practice of Mr. Justice Blay to stop at our house (A.B. Chinbuah’s family house) at Aboom Wells’s road in Cape Coast to and from the meetings, to spend hours with my father, Alfred Ernest Chinbuah, to discuss affairs of the nation. Thus, my siblings and I got to know Dr. Nkrumah well in those days. He was then a very humble, quiet, down-to-earth ordinary person and very handsome with a long forehead and unparted hair which became the fashion of the day and even today. He looked forward to his new job as the General-Secretary of the UGCC.
He assumed duty as General-Secretary at Saltpond in January 1948. Shortly after assuming office, riots broke out in Accra and other parts of the country, following the shooting of ex-servicemen at the Christiansborg Castle cross roads by Supt. Imray on February 28, 1984. The leadership of the UGCC sent a cable to the secretary of state for the colonies, Sir Creech Jones, for a transfer of government to the UGCC. Governor Sir Gerald Creasy declared a state of emergency and had troops flown in from Nigeria to quell the riots in the country.
Dr. Nkrumah, Dr. J.B. Danquah, Lawyer Obetsebi-Lamptey, Lawyer Akuffo-Addo, Lawyer Ako Adjei and Mr. William Ofori Atta who became popularly known as the “Big Six” were arrested and detained on March 12, 1948.
The British Government appointed the Watson Commission in April 1948 to enquired into the circumstances that led to the riot. The “Big Six” were released on the orders of the Watson Commission in April 1948 to appear before it. On their release Dr. Kwame toured the whole country, riding on the waves of the popularity of the UGCC and the “Big Six” of which he was member. He opened new branches of the UGCC throughout the country and increased the membership immensely. He became exposed to the masses on a personal level and they looked to him. During this period he established the Ghana National College. At the same time he set up the Committee for Youth Organisation within the UGCC to involve the youth of the country in the struggle for independence. Within a year and a half of starting work as General–Secretary he had established himself as Mr. Convention and was the most popular among the UGCC leaders. He founded newspapers to propagate his political beliefs and philosophy and put his own men like Mr. K.A. Gbedemah, Mr. Botsio and Mr. Kofi Baako in charge of them. “By the time the other leading members of the UGCC realized it, the UGCC was Dr. Nkrumah and Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was the UGCC”. It was too late to stop him or sack him. The very day her was demoted from General-Secretary to Treasurer, the newspaper he founded, the Accra Evening News, appeared on the streets of Accra. On June 12, 1949 he resigned from the UGCC and went away with the masses to form the Convention People’s Party (CPP).
The rally held in Accra to announce the formation of the party attracted a huge crowd. Branches of the party were then opened all over the country and the UGCC was relegated to second place as a mass movement. He was the first to introduce open air rallies in the country. Before then, politicians used to hold their meetings in town halls, church halls and cinema halls. They used to speak in English and their speeches were interpreted in the local language and only a few people came to hear these politicians speak. The CPP open air rallies were very exciting. There was much singing and dancing with bands in attendance. It always began from one end of the town to the rally grounds. The whole town was attracted to the rally. It was joy and happiness to the people and everybody got involved. Slogans and simple catchy phrases were shouted to the hearing of everybody and the crowd enthusiastically responded. In the evening around 55 p.m. the leaders appeared with Dr. Nkrumah in their midst, standing in an open top propaganda van painted in CPP colours; red, while and green. He would wave his horse swish (Bodua) and a white handkerchief, the crowd went into a frenzy and pandemonium broke out. It was a new phenomenon in those days. He swept the whole country behind him.
At a result, by the time the Coussey Report was published in October 1949, the CPP with its leader had become a formidable force to reckon with. The CPP and its leadership described the report as “bogus and fraudulent” because it did not recommend the granting of independence forthwith. Dr. Nkrumah and his CPP therefore rejected the report and when the Gold Coast Legislative Council accepted the report, they threatened a campaign of Positive Action.
The government did not heed to the CPP demand so the CPP declared Positive Action at a massive rally at Arena meant that all workers except the hospital staff and essential services staff were to lay down their tools until the demand by the CPP for immediate self-government with dominion status had been granted by the British Government.
The strike started slowly and then gathered momentum. When it became extremely serious and covered the whole country, the government acted swiftly by arresting Dr. Nkrumah, the staff the Accra Evening News and other sister papers in the regions, from January 17 to 22, 1950. Dr. Nkrumah and the entire leadership of the CPP, except Mr. Gbedemah who was in prison already for having been previously convicted for sedition, were tried, convicted and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. Dr. Nkrumah was sentenced to one-year imprisonment for each of the three charges leveled against him, two in Accra and one in Cape-Coast, to be served consecutively. As Dr. Nkrumah and his colleagues languished in jail, the new constitution based on the Coussey Committee was accepted and general elections were declared to be held on February 8, 1951.
Even though the CPP had rejected the Cousssey Constitution and condemned the elections. Under the acting chairmanship of Mr. Gbedemah, the CPP launched a fierce campaign throughout the country and won the election. Dr. Nkrumah won his seat in Accra Central.
As a result of the CPP victory in the general election, the Governor, Sir Charles Noble Arden-Clark, ordered the release of Dr. Nkrumah from prison. On February 12, 1951, he was released from the James Fort Prison. His supporters met him and sent him to Arena where a massive rally was held to welcome him. He met the Governor at Christiansborg Castle the following day. The Governor asked Dr. Nkrumah to form a government. This he did. However, the colonial government included three British ex-officio members and he himself was appointed leader of government business. Shortly after assuming office in 1951, an amendment to the constitution led to his appointment as Prime Minister on March 21, 1952.
As a result of a motion by Dr. Nkrumah on July 10, 1953, for constitutional reforms, there had to be an election in 1954. On the day of election on June 15, 1954 he was very apprehensive and lonely, so he accepted an invitation from a close friend, a white lady, to come to her flat to listen to the radio as the results were announced. He jumped at the invitation and went. They had supper together and listened to the radio for the results, but anxiety crept in and Dr. Nkrumah wanted to go to the Polo Grounds to see things for himself. So off they went and there he saw everything, but due to his disguise he was not recognized. When it appeared he had won the election, he went home highly elated. When the official results were announced, he had indeed won the elections.
Soon after the 1954 elections, there emerged a strong opposition movement known as the National Liberation Movement (N.L.M.) which demanded a federal form of government and was a strong challenge to the CPP. As each party was intransigent in its position and both parties had resorted to violence in pushing their political agenda with the result that the Prime Minister could not even visit Ashanti Region, the British government had to resolve the problem that had arisen. There was also the question of the British Togoland under United Nations Trusteeship. For all these reasons there had to be a plebiscite and a general election in May 1956 and July 1956 respectively. The CPP won the plebiscite and the general election.
On August 23, 1956, Dr. Nkrumah made a formal request to the Governor for onward transmission to the Secretary of State for the colonies, Rt. Hon. A.T. Lennox-Boyd, to give a firm date for independence. On September 17, 1956, Governor Sir Charles Arden-Clark called Dr. Nkrumah to the Castle and handed over to him a dispatch from Rt. Hon. Lennox-Boyd, Secretary of State for the colonies. It contained the date for independence, March 6, 1957.
Dr. Nkrumah was so overwhelmed with the news that he asked the governor to keep the dispatch till the next day. On the following day September 18, 1956, he announced the contents of the dispatch to the Legislative Assembly. The House was at first stunned. They could not believe their ears, then all of a sudden they burst out in prolonged cheers and carried him shoulder high, singing and dancing to the CPP song: “There is victory for us”. The whole nation also joined in the jubilation when they heard it. Preparations began immediately for the celebration of Independence Day. On the eve of Independence, on March 5, 1957, Dr. Nkrumah, Mr. Gbedemah, Mr. Botsio, Mr. Archie Casely-Hayford, Mr. Krobo Edusei, as well as Mr. N.A. Wellbeck, mounted a podium at the old Polo Grounds opposite the Legislative Assembly Building, just before, midnight, to announce the attainment of independence to a vast crowd that had assembled at the place. At the same time the Union Jack came down as the Ghana flag went up as a symbol of Ghana’s Independence. The Ghana National anthem was played for the first time.
From 1951 up to 1966 when Nkrumah was the Leader of government Business, Prime Minister and President, his government carried out a lot of developments. The educational, social, economic, and health problems of the people were vigorously tackled to achieve social justice, economic programmes, health solutions and educational expansion.
Primary schools became fee-free and there was a tremendous increase in the number of primary, secondary, agricultural and trading schools, as well as technical and teacher training colleges. Three universities were established; University of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and University of Cape Coast.
The housing problems were also dealt with through the development of estates in almost all the regional capitals and Accra. It was the same in the field of communication, where several roads were built in most parts of the country. Accra-Winneba-Cape Coast road and Tema motorway were just two of the many roads built. Takoradi-Accra railway line through Kotoku was built. So were the Accra-Tema railway line, Adomi and lower Volta Bridges over the Volta river were built. Tema Harbour and township and Akosombo Dam and township were also built. For transportation, the State Shipping Corporation (Black Star Line), Ghana Airways, State Transport Corporation and Omnibus Services Authority were also established.
Health facilities were provided throughout the country, a new Kumasi Central Hospital was built or expanded. Korle-Bu was expanded and turned into a teaching hospital for the newly established medical school. On the industrial front many industries were established throughout the country most of them being in the Greater Accra Region. At the agricultural front, a fishing corporation equipped with trawlers, cold stores and fishing harbours, palm oil, coconut, rubber plantains and state farms were established. The cocoa industry was also tremendously improved and expanded. The Ghana Army, navy and Air-force for the defence of the country were also established and expanded. The courts were also expanded and new courts built, a law school was established and a new law faculty came into existence at the University of Ghana, Legon. In short, the strong foundation underpinning Ghana’s development is a product of Nkrumah’s government’s vision and commitment.
In 1958 Dr. Kwame Nkrumah tied the knot with Madam Helen Ritz Fathia of Egypt at the Osu Castle. Fathia, thus became the First Lady of Ghana in 1960, when Dr. Nkrumah was sworn in as the First President of Ghana.
Dr. Nkrumah was also the African leader who spearheaded the liberation of almost all the colonial African countries, and by the end of his rule in Ghana, most African nations had obtained Independence or were on the verge of shedding off the shackles of imperialism. He sent troops to Congo to aid Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, and was prepared to go to all the hot sports of Africa to aid the masses suffering at the hands of their racial segregationists and colonial master. He saw to the demise of the white ruled Rhodesia Federation, out of which came Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe all of which are now ruled by Africans.
The cornerstone of his African policy was African Liberation from colonization and African Unity. In April 1958, he held a meeting of Independent African States in Accra for a discussion on matters of mutual interest. The success of this conference was followed by the All African People Conference in December 1958. This attracted leaders from both independent and dependent African nations. In 1959 he and President Sekou Toure formed the Ghana-Guinea-Mali Union when President Modibo Keita of Mali made Mali part of the union.
An establishment of other African groups led to the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (O.A.U.) on 25th May 1963 at Addis Ababa, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was a great crusader of the African Union and at the 1963 – 1964 conference in Addis Ababa and Cairo, he spoke so fervently and zealously to convince the other leaders of Africa that the union must be established as soon as possible. At the Accra conference in 1965 he wanted the union there and then, but unfortunately for him, commitment to the union did not exist among his fellow African leaders.
At the end of the conference one Head of State was so happy and relieved that he was returning home still as Head of State of his country, and to make sure that this was so, he sent a message ahead to his Ministers, police and force commanders to line up at the foot of the plane when he arrived. They were also to make sure that his motorcade and sirens were ready to whisk him away to the comfort of his home. Dr. Nkrumah had scared him by his vigorous speech of African Unity now! Which if pursued to its logical conclusion, would have meant that he would cease to be Head of State of his country and lose all the privileges that went with it.
On the world stage, he was the single African leader well known everywhere and he made a very great impact on the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Countries and the United Nations, as well as the Western and the Eastern Bloc countries.
But not all was rosy in Nkrumah’s Ghana. From 1957–1966 he had a number of repressive laws enacted by Parliament, one of which was the Preventive Detention Act of 1958. This law empowered the government to detain any body for not more than five years without trial. It was subsequently amended in 1962 which extended the detention period indefinitely. This law was abused and many of Kwame Nkrumah’s perceived detractors suffered under his obnoxious law, and some like Dr. J.B. Danquah and Mr. Obetsebi Lamptey two of the “Big Six”, died in detention under this law. He also brought into being a one-party sate through a referendum in 1964. He founded an ideological institute in Winneba, where his brand of socialism named Nkrumaism was taught and studied as a social philosophy. He also set up the young pioneers movement which was perceived as the same as the one in the U.S.S.R. to brainwash and indoctrinate the youth in Nkrumaism.
There were several assassination attempts on his life but Nkrumah survived them all. The worst of it all was the Kulungugu attempt in 1962 in which he sustained deep wounds at his back. He therefore avoided open air rallies and rarely made public appearances. In the end he fortified his office and residence with special presidential guards. On 24th February, 1966, whilst he was on a mission to Nanoi, the Military overthrew him by a coup de’etat.
He went into exile in Guinea but fought for his return to Ghana by daily radio broadcasts for Ghanaians to rise up against the military regime. He also wrote a number of books to discredit the coup makers all in an attempt for an uprising in Ghana against the military junta and pave the way for his return but nothing came out of all these attempts.
In his lifetime he authored a number of books. Among them are:
1. Towards Colonial Freedom, 1946
2. Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah, 1957
3. I Speak of Freedom: A Statement of African Ideology 1961.
4. Africa Must Unite, 1963
5. Consciencism – Last State if Imperialism, 1965.
6. Neocolonialism – Last State of Imperialism, 1965.
7. Challenge of the Congo: A Case Study of Foreign Pressures in an Independent State, 1967.
8. Dark Days in Ghana, 1968.
9. Handbook of revolutionary Warfare, 1968.
On 27th April 1972, he died in Bucharest, Romania. He was given a state funeral-service in Conakry, Guinea by President Sekou Toure of Guinea. His body was brought home after many negotiations with the Guinean President, who initially refused to release the body to Ghana. In Ghana, he was given a state funeral-service and buried at Nkroful his hometown. His body is now reburied at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in Accra.
There is no doubt that in spite of his shortcomings in the realm of human rights, he is an icon and a hero whose name has been written in letters of gold and will forever be remembered in this country, Africa and the world. His legacy is gigantic and has left his footprints in the sands of time. He would be counted among the great leaders of the 20th Century like Mahatma Ghandi of India and Mao Tse-Tung of China.
Daily Graphic - Friday, September 7, 14 & 21, 2007 Pages: 11,11 & 11