OSAGYEFO DR. KWAME NKRUMAH: The Flip side of the gilded coin
By: Nana Subin Kankam Amaado II Abesewahene
HE Africa Union day and the centenary celebration of the life of Osagyefo has died down. The academics and statesmen with their research findings neatly arranged and tucked in their folders have made their intellectual debates and presentations with aplomb and panache.
We the ordinary and unschooled have been mesmerized and cowed into silence even though the very import of their message has been lost to us as a result of our academic inadequacies that could not comprehend the very sophisticated queens English and their foreign accent in which they articulated their views and positions on Dr. Nkrumah; the man, his ideals and legacies.
Therefore, this piece is not an attempt to counter or debunk the well investigated presentation from academia, intellectual discourses and the round table fora. But a humble contribution from the perspective of a local village chief on the other side of the story in order to balance the equation and set the record straight for a more authentic and true picture on this enigma we all admire and respect so as to draw useful lessons from his legacies to help accelerate national development.
One of the things l find so beautiful about the good old book is the way evil is confronted and revealed in sometimes sacrosanct settings within very powerful corridors even to the detriment of lives and properties (David and Nathan, Solomon and Jeroboam, Elijah and Ahab, Peter and the Sanhedrin etc). The Bible never glosses over or embellishes any commission or omission of its characters regardless of how they even reflect and affect the very nature of God Yahweh himself in a negative light in the eyes of unbelievers and adherents. And this makes we fallible mortals relate easily to it and draw useful lesions which go a long way to inform the decisions we make to our betterment.
Looking at Ghana’s political history, right from the day Don Diego d’ Azambuija encountered king Kwamena Ansah on our shores, through the time of colonization to independence, one can say unequivocally that God Almighty has in his providence dictated and directed affairs in our polity, in respect of our movements and focuses to complement in no small degree the efforts from our fore bearers at emancipation.
It is of interest to note that apart from the Asante traditional area which offered quite some resistance to the Whiteman’s preponderance, our fore bearers somehow acquiesced and stayed peacefully, with their masters until after the second world was when the agitation for self-rule gathered momentum. No wonder the colonialist touted the Gold Coast as one of the most “well-behaved” colonies of theirs in Africa.
During the struggle for independence diplomacy, dialogue and rhetoric were much used than violence. Dr. J. B. Danquah, Obetsebi Lamptey, Casey Hayford and all those of blessed memory involved in the contemporaneous fight for freedom never resorted to the gun and he machete to press their claims home to the colonialists. Instead, the pen which has always been mightier than the sword with God’s providence did the “war”.
The British in their “right” could have refused to grant our request despite the Osu cross road incident and the subsequent skirmishes it developed. Yet the divine hand was clandestinely working out matters on our behalf until they had no option than to succumb to our wishes by granting us independence.
We, as a people, must count ourselves lucky that there was no point in time, circumstances and situations necessitated our retreat to the forest to fight any was of liberation like the “Maumau” of Kenya, the ANC of South, FNLA of Mosambique, SWAPO of Namibia etc. So while some of our sister Africa nations had to go through such painful vicissitudes, we were by providence spared the agonies and deprivations. Comparatively, therefore, our independence could be said to have been handed to us on a “silver platter” and at a “tea party”!
It is upon this premise that l have a problem with the statement that Nkrumah made on the eve of independence to the effect that the independence of Ghana was meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the whole African continent. Notwithstanding the need to use our experiences and resources as a platform for our sister countries to launch their bid for independence, l find the statement incorrect and unfortunate. For such statement to come out of a leader of an emerging African Country without first appreciating and giving God the glory and honour was a fundamental error that that hanged over us like the sword of Damocles in our march forward as a nation ever since.
How could Nkrumah describe our God sent independence as “meaningless” as if the Gold Coast was tied to the apron string of all African countries and could not appreciate that good thing without considering its effect on the bigger and wider continental body politic.
Nkrumah’s assertion could be likened to a scenario of a hungry and dying man who refuses to appreciate a benefactor’s help of feeding him because his colleagues somewhere are hungry.
What he failed to realise was that there is a time and spiritual dimension to all developments and that nothing occurs in a vacuum, and that the spiritual always informs the physical. So if one is grateful and appreciative to God for present gift bigger and larger ones awaits him. After all, he, like the biblical Joseph, by providence came straight from prison to assume the honoured responsibility of leadership of Government business in 1951.
Nkrumah again did not show gratitude to the benefactors who made it possible for him to arrive in the country to pursue his lofty agenda. Pa Grant, Ako Adjei, Dr. Danquah etc who held the fort and did the necessary ground work to the extent of even providing the ticket to come home to build the super structure of securing independence were disregarded in Nkrumah’s scheme of things.
Dr. Nkrumah, like the legendary Nelson Mandela could have used his diplomacy, experience, tact, charm, charisma, magnanimity and power laced with love as the modus Vivendi to engage, cultivate and attract the compatriots in the opposition Rather, he employed his immense authority to demonise , incarcerate and chase them out of the country. Even chieftaincy as an institution which is apolitical was infiltrated and chiefs for perceived unsubstantiated allegations in children were driven out of their chiefdoms “barefooted”.
He tried to silence all opposition by introducing the Preventive Detention Act (PDA) which threw all manner of people with the flimsiest excuse into jail thereby depriving a lot of families of their breadwinners.
I remember in 1961, one Opanin Kwame Donkor of Nsuta village near Abesewa in the Ahafo Ano South District of Ashanti Region encountered the displeasure of the local CPP Chairman for demanding the payment of an amount of € 50 he owed him. The chairman reported the misconduct of Opanin Kwame Donkor to the then district commissioner of Tepa, the late Mr. Duncan Williams, who hurriedly organized to have him arraigned before court and without any proper investigation and due process sentenced him under the PDA to five years imprisonment for sedition. He remained in Ussher fort until the February 24, 1966 coup.
There are numerous cases of such unjustified incarcerations all in the name of the PDA. Party gurus and apparatchiks who had personal axes to grind with colleagues exacted their pounds of flesh by hiding behind this bad law to perpetrate untold hardships on many responsible people.
With a super human stance, Nkrumah was alienated from the ordinary person and depended on the few informants who always told him what his itching ears wanted to hear. The reality of the national situation was lost to him and had the proclivity to suspect we mortals and began to act on whims and caprices. Confidentiality was suspect and nobody could trust anybody. Parents were very wary of their
Children whose infantile minds were dangerously being seared through the hot embers of political indoctrination to activate their “patriotic” and “nationalistic” instincts for the perpetration of his political agenda Ignorantly, they never hesitated to report on the actions and inaction of their parents, with sometimes very uncomfortable consequences. He failed to realize that man cannot depart from the counsel of God and still retain that calmness and equanimity which will enable him to act with wisdom and justice!.
On the economic front, Nkrumah like any other human being made mistakes. His industrialization programme, for instance even to an ordinary person with no deep insight into economics, was a non-starter. It looks as if some basic factors of production were seriously disregarded in taking some major and far reaching decision. How could he build over 17 giant industries within a short period of time under the Ghana industrial holding corporation without factoring sources of raw materials as a major prerequisite?
Consequently, that putting the cart before the horse action rendered most of the industries unfeasible and were being sustained by government subvention and so never benefited the nation in its political economy. Rather, it plundered our resources to provide sumptuous food and entertainment to party faithful. No wonder the economic independence which was to follow the political one to consolidate and make meaningful our total and holistic independence was never realized.
So this Nkrumah’s Marxist-Leninist approach to our socio – politico-economic culture, though with all good intentions and purposes to move our nation forward, failed to meet the expected goals and at the time of his overthrow, the nation was far from anything better.
Some of Nkrumah’s major foreign policy decisions were quite controversial and ill-timed. He never took into consideration the effect it was going to have on his administration and the citizenry when he pitched camp with the socialist block at the height of the cold war. As a result, we incurred the displeasure of the West that we could easily identity with, to help in the growth of our young “democracy” in respect of our long association in terms of education, lingua franca, orientation and general demeanour.
His idea of a continental union of Africa though laudable, was too much ahead of time. Most of his colleague African heads of state “justifiably” could not understand him and so were not prepared at that early age to surrender their heard won independence to a collective continental bargain.
But Nkrumah never budged and continued to use quite substantial amount of our resources to pursue this course whose time had definitely not arrived.
So to the majority of those African leaders who constituted the Monrovia group, Nkrumah’s utterances were just rhetoric’s and his actions like beating a dead hose. Even nearly half a century after mooting the idea, regional integrations like ECOWAS SADEC etc, are just talk shops and mirages and are yet to see the light of the day.
No wonder since Nkrumah’s overthrow, there are very little concrete and palpable institutions in place to show in this Africanization policy to justify the huge sacrifices and investments we have made as a nation.
Interestingly the grim irony is that, sister African countries whom we supposedly helped to achieve independence are now paying us back with ingratitude by mistreating our nationals and even refusing us in their midst.
So though Nkrumah did a lot for the nation and Africa, the positive and negative sides must be assessed critically to sift the grains from the chaff so that the nation can make informed choices with regards to his legacies to help move our nation forward in the right direction.
Daily Graphic Page: 21 Monday, September 20, 2010