Today, September 21, 2010, marks another day in the commemoration of Founder’s Day. Founder’s Day highlights the achievements of Ghana’s illustrious son and Africa’s man of the millennium, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The day is observed by all African Union (AU) member countries. There are many controversies surrounding the term “Founder’s Day” as some Ghanaians think it should be renamed “Founders’ Day” to acknowledge the roles played by other figures, such as J.B Danquah, in the emancipation struggle of Ghana. This article skips that particular controversy to address some misunderstandings of Nkrumah by critics. These misunderstandings are often rooted in petty politicking, and try to downplay his achievements and vision for Ghana, Africa, and black people everywhere. It is imperative to make clear that Ghana/Africa celebrates not Nkrumah per se, but his selfless and timeless vision he left not only for Ghanaians or Africans but also for the entire black African people. Another point worth clarifying is that Nkrumah was not an infallible demigod, and therefore not beyond objective criticisms.
Just like every major leader, Nkrumah had his flaws, but it will amount to gross imprudence on our part, and disservice to posterity to continue to feed on his flaws, leave his strengths to rot on the table, and inter his vision with his corpse. There comes a time when people must challenge themselves by rising beyond their selfish inclinations and begin to gravitate toward a bigger stream of consciousness—one that is clean of petty party politics, pull-him-down mentality, and personal whims. That time could be now!
Nkrumah lived in the United States for 10 years (1935-1945), and witnessed remarkable racial atrocities – hangings, rape, abuse, torture—all meted out to African-Americans based on their skin colour. At the same time, his homeland, Africa, was in total colonial shackles where oppression and undue exploitation was the status quo. These experiences sowed the revolutionary seed of black political and economic liberation in Nkrumah. He returned to Ghana, not only to pursue a narrow and shortsighted liberation struggle for its people, but to use his country as a means to usher the rest of Africa to freedom under a united Africa.
History is replete with selfless leaders who held on to larger visions and were prepared to fight their way through thick and thin to reach them. Such a moment dawned on Abraham Lincoln when he had to fight a civil war against his fellow Americans in order to save the union. Similarly, Martin Luther King had to work against some of his fellow black citizens in order to liberate them. Not surprisingly, Nkrumah had to fight fellow Ghanaians (local political opponents) in order to push for the emancipation of Ghana, and by extension, Africa.
Let us pause for a moment to reflect: Was Lincoln a dictator/terrorist for using the Union Forces of the American North to fight the American South in the name of a Union with whom Southerners did not identify? Was Churchill a terrorist/dictator for mobilizing Britain against Germany during WWII? In the same vein of thought, let us ask ourselves, was Nkrumah a dictator for fighting neo-colonial sympathizers—local disgruntled politicians who were suppressing the Pan-African revolutionary wave of freedom that was sweeping the breadth and length of the continent?
Was he overreacting when, after seven assassination attempts, once again by local politicians under the direction of outside forces, he introduced the Detention Act of 1958? Was he being unpatriotic or overambitious when he used part of Ghana’s resources to help in the liberation struggle of his fellow African countries? Let us ponder over these questions. It is most unfortunate that many contemporary Ghanaians view Nkrumah’s foreign policy on Africa through a selfish and myopic lens that cannot see beyond the so-called national borders of Ghana.
Nkrumah's vision went far beyond the senseless boundaries that departing colonialists created at the Berlin Conference of 1884/5. While these boundaries certainly made it easier for imperial exploitation, he did not believe in the divide-and-rule tactic of politicking. He foresaw what eluded many of his contemporaries: that the independence of Ghana had no meaning unless it was linked with the total liberation of Africa. That Ghana, with a population of just over 6 million, was not viable economically and politically in the long term, and that its destiny was intrinsically tied to all of Africa’s.
He learned from the example of disunity in South America. Although this continent boasts numerous natural resources, it still remains dependent and vulnerable to exploitation by outside forces. Currently, most of Africa’s natural resources—gold, diamond, oil, bauxite, zinc, etc—are under the control of foreign corporations, and close to 75% of its total dividends are repatriated to enrich outsiders at the expense of the starving masses. This is but one of the repercussions of ignoring Nkrumh’s vision.
Every great visionary has their foes in the same way that every great vision has its own set of enemies. Nevertheless, it is sometimes prudent for us, as a people, to rise beyond partisan party politics so that we may recognize and acknowledge our own leaders. Nkrumah remains a symbol of freedom and emancipation of Africa and the black race. His vision for the long-term good of Africa still stands as the most comprehensive attempt any singular individual has ever made to Africa!
It will amount to sheer hypocrisy on our parts as Ghanaians to recognize leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr., but throw away our own Nkrumah and his vision. If we do not celebrate our own heroes, no one else will celebrate them for us. The good news is that no machinations, internal or external, has so far succeeded in writing Nkrumah and his legacy off the minds and souls of Ghanaians, Africans, and Diasporans. His own words are boldly encrypted on his epitaph, "As far as I am concerned, I am in the knowledge that death can never extinguish the torch which I have lit in Ghana and Africa. Long after I am dead and gone, the light will continue to burn and be borne aloft, giving light and guidance to all people.”
Yes, Nkrumah never dies, indeed. May his vision and his selfless dedication to Africa inspire all of us, especially the youth, to action.