Saturday, October 27, 2007
The lady who refused to marry Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah
By: ENIMIL ASHON
A South African lady claims that Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, first President of the Republic of Ghana, Africa’s Man of the Millennium, proposed marriage to her. From all account if this lady had said yes, there would have been no Fathia in the official history of Ghana. She, however, turned down Nkrumah’s proposal. She claims that Kwame Nkrumah later disclosed this to three people closest to him, namely Ayeh Kumi, Prof. Dei Annang and (surprise-surprise) Fathia.
She seems to have been in Nkrumah’s life throughout his time as Prime Minister, later President of Ghana, and later visited him in Conakry, Guinea. Indeed, she further claims that the idea of writing a book about Nkrumah was instigated by Nkrumah himself. At the time of writing, she was in custody in Ghana, having been arrested and detained by the coup makers. On her way to Guinea to show the work to the then exiled Nkrumah, the manuscript got missing on the plane and it took the personal assistance of Miriam Makeba to get it back from the airlines.
The lady is Genoveva Kanu. This reviewer is not certain if she bore the same Nigerian-sounding surname at the time (she was married to a Victor at the time of writing the book – which was around the time Kwame Nkrumah died). Her first name however seems to be the same because from many conversations she cites in the book, she was known to Nkrumah as Genoveva. Enquires by this reviewer could not confirm if she is still alive.
The 143-page book, titled NKRUMAH THE MAN…A FRIEND’S TESTIMONY, was published in 1982 by Delta Publications (Nigeria) Limited and printed in the UK.
According to her she came to Ghana early in 1957, as Inspector of Schools, an expatriate appointment which she applied for while in New York and obtained (appointed by the Colonial Office) even before she met Nkrumah at the State Ball held for the dignitaries who had been invited to the independence celebrations, including world leaders. She became Nkrumah’s confidante.
Why did she turn down Nkrumah’s proposal to marry her? On page 9, she writes: “I think he was astonished at this refusal. He was by now so important that it seemed incredible that anyone could refuse to marry him. I knew I was good for him as a confidante and close friend. I felt that this in any, this closeness in which he could both trust me and confide in me, would vanish in . As his wife I could expect to stay at home and perhaps look at my wonderful was Inspector of Schools, a post gained through my own experience and education (A.D.A. and postgraduate degree in Education from the prestigious Rhodes University and a Masters degree from Columbia University, USA) I was independent; I could express myself to him candidly and without fear. He could discuss his ideas, his fears, his ambitions with me without distrust. This was, I felt, because we were bound to each by ties of affection, friendship rather than bye law”.
Later, on page 98, she further explains: “I was too independent…I liked his company and certainly it would have been wonderful to be his wife…But I was not ready and preferred instead to remain his friend. Moreover, I knew that to Kwame, a wife was a hindrance rather than an asset, a fact I could not accept”.
This was a woman who knew Nkrumah in and out; whom Nkrumah would wake up early morning for tennis, who fetched him the tailor who designed and sewed his famous Mao-like tunic. He told her everything, things he told no-one else.
She warmed in Nkrumah’s laughter and provided a shoulder for him to cry on, this book she paints a portrait of the great man, including his idealism – a man who said to her “I want my people to forget suffering…I am determined to have a classless society”.
She testifies that the man hated tribalism. “He never once gave a job to anyone primarily because of his or her tribal connections…He would rather create a post for a Nzema, his own tribe, than take away a job from another”.
If what she says is true, that to Nkrumah, a wife was a hindrance rather than an asset, why did he marry Fathia eventually? Even the fact Gonoveva knew. She reveals: “His political conferees began to worry that he might be declared more than human. The marriage was one way of revealing his humanity. Woman and children loved… Kwame Nkrumah almost to adoration – some perhaps to the verge of adulatory.
There was only one way in which this could be curbed: marriage. Besides a wife was essential for the many duties which the Head of State should not himself carry out.
“As his friends persisted in the idea of marriage for him, in the end he was content to leave the matter to them. They were to arrange the details for him…”So in the end, “just as Henry VIII made a decision to marry Anne of Cleves upon seeing her portrait, so Nkrumah agreed to marry Fathia after an exchange of photographs”!
Indeed, Genoveva further reveals: “To be truthful about the matter, he had thought of marrying her (Fathia’s) sister; but this girl was the younger of the two and, although Coptic Christians, the family appealed to have followed the Moslem custom, prevalent in Egypt, of not allowing the younger girl to marry before the older”.
More shocking revelation. Did anyone tell you this? Listen to Genoveva: “Fathia herself was so overawed by the whole affair that when W.B. Van Lare met her at the airport as Nkrumah’s representative, she believed he was the chosen husband”. According to the book, they were married by a Greek Orthodox Priest, a quiet ceremony.
From all accounts, Nkrumah enjoyed a lot of freedom outside of the home. According to the book, women like Mrs. Ruth Botiso and Mrs. Mary Edusei cooked for him. He had many women in his life. Genonena reveals that “He liked women…He revealed an innate charm and warmth which had nothing to do with the essence of physical sex alone”.
Apparently, he liked women for other reasons. According to the author, “He cared for the women of this country, respecting them, doing what he could for them generally…As he drew away from his male friends, his female entourage assumed an importance which sometimes verged on the fanatic. Where a woman could fill a post he would give her the job.
However, nothing and nobody mattered to Nkrumah more than his vision for African unity, not even his mother. Read a personal conversation between him and the author. Just after declaring that his mother (Nyaniba) “is a tower of strength to me”, that “I have never cared for any woman so much as I have cared for her”, the author asked him:
“Is she more than your ideal”?
“What do you mean by that”? (Nkrumah asked)
“Your ideal is African unity. Is your mother beyond that? Does she come first”?
He was adamant “No! African unity must always come first, If I have to sacrifice my own mother for that, I would, however much I love her”.
The author testifies that Nkrumah was a man of the people, someone who loved to be with them and in their midst. “People were accustomed to seeing him more freely. The humble folk could touch him…Anyone could chat freely with him, exchange views, and generally enjoy his company”.
So why did Nkrumah change? “The greater he became, the more schemes he initiated for the good of both his country and Africa, as a whole, the more intense became his distrust of people. The assassination attempts merely indicated to him that he could no longer have faith in any but a very few.
Unfortunately, even these very few were not always faithful to him…Someone was always working against him. Plots were constantly conceived to depose him. Too afraid to oppose him, people plotted to kill him”.
On page 124, the author makes a shocking revelation. “There was an abortive attempt at a coup scheduled for November 20, 1958”. The plotters (soldiers) were arrested. And guess who sat in judgement on the military court martial to try him? There were three. Among them were Kotoka and A.K. Ocran!!! – Prominent figures in the 1966 coup that topped Nkrumah. The author asks on page 125: “If Kwame Nkrumah could not trust his army, and could not trust his police, whom could he trust”.
The Spectator - Saturday, October 27, 2007 Page: 21