SANKOFA HARVESTING SOME ESSENTIAL LEGACIES OF OSAGYEFO KWAME NKRUMAH
1/24/2012 9:32:30 PM -
Essential Legacies of Kwame Nkrumah
In the history of societies, there comes a critical turning point when things fall apart at the center, so to speak. At such a historical period an individual emerges destined to lead the citizenry towards a path of deliverance, away from total catastrophe. The first President of Ghana, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, was such an individual who, at a critical political moment, emerged to rescue the people of the Gold Coast from British colonial bondage through a successful social revolution.
The social revolution in the Gold Coast led by Kwame Nkrumah started in 1949, culminating in political independence for the territory on March 6, 1957. The Nkrumah government changed the name of Gold Coast to Ghana in honor of the grat African empire that sprouted around Timbuktu. Independence for Ghana served as the lightning rod for firing up the struggle against European colonial rule on the rest of the African continent.
This essay discusses some of the essential legacies of Kwame Nkrumah as a political actor in Gold Coast/Ghana from 1947 to 1966.
Discussion in this essay shows two corroborative sides of the legacies of Kwame Nkrumah in Gold Coast/Ghana. The stronger side of Nkrumah's legacies shows his contribution to the struggle for freedom and political independence of the Gold Coast. The other side of Kwame Nkrumah's legacies shows the value and quality of his accomplishments as head of government and state of Ghana from March 1957 to Feb. 1966.
In the first instance, Nkrumah's legacies as head of government of independent Ghana show interconnection between social and economic programs. In addition, policies Nkrumah executed projected his political aspirations for Ghana, on one hand and the articulation of emancipation of the African continent from European subjugation, on the other hand.
In political terms, it is not significant to point to edifices and physical structures as indication of the worth and quality of legacies of a national leader such as Kwame Nkrumah. Provision of physical structures and social amenities is a normal duty expected of national governments.
On the contrary, for this book it is clear that the transmission of intangibles that facilitated manifestation of the important political actions of Nkrumah tended to matter more in accounting for his contribution to Ghana and Africa.
Nkrumah's presence on the Gold Coast political scene started in 1947 when he returned to serve as general secretary of an existing anti-colonial nationalist movement, the 'United Gold Coast Convention' (UGCC). Nkrumah returned to the Gold Coast after 10 years of university education in the United States.
While serving as general secretary of UGCC, Nkrumah experienced marked differences of political, ideological and even cultural attitudes and perspectives, between him and other executive members of the organization. Those differences forced Nkrumah to vacate his position as general secretary of UGCC in 1949. Subsequently, urged on and supported by members of the youth wing of UGCC, Nkrumah founded the Convention People's Party (CPP).
The CPP grew to become a strong political organization that served as the vanguard in the ensuing successful struggle for independence of the Gold Coast. Thus, by inference, it is fair to suggest that that the role Kwame Nkrumah played as the lead political actor in the Gold Coast revolution remains the core of his essential legacies.
By extension, the ideas that informed and instructed the leadership qualities and abilities of Kwame Nkrumah, collectively, constitute an important source of his essential legacies. The idea of self-determination of the African, as an African that Nkrumah instilled in his followers, remains a unique legacy. The Gold Coast independence revolution motivated and facilitated the birth of gradual dismantling of European colonization of Africa as an adjunct to world imperialism. For Nkrumah, the idea of self-determination inspired what he regarded as the re-awakening of the African.
In the beginning, Kwame Nkrumah learnt about the plight of Africans, in the context of global racial disharmony and inequality, from Mr. Kwegyir Aggrey, an Assistant Headmaster of Achimota College, the premier second cycle educational institution in the Gold Coast. Nkrumah distinguished himself as a student at Achimota. Europeans formed majority of the teaching staff at Achimota College. In that regard, as an African administrator, Mr. Aggrey enjoyed significant recognition in the eyes of Kwame Nkrumah and his contemporaries at Achimota.
Aggrey, a Gold Coast citizen who had studied in the United States, advocated racial harmony. Aggrey believed and lectured that greater access to formal education was the indisputable instrument by which Africans could emancipate themselves in a world characterized by economic and political discrimination and injustice.
Before setting sail to study in the United States in 1935, Kwame Nkrumah had been paying attention to the political writings of Mr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, a Nigerian journalist based in the Gold Coast. Azikiwe practiced his profession in the Gold Coast after studying in the United States at Howard University. Azikiwe had experienced conditions of racial discrimination while in the United States.
In 1933 the colonial British administration in the Gold Coast charged Azikiwe with seditious libel for an article he had written condemning European colonization in Africa. Azikiwe argued in favor of self-government for Africans. Eventually, Azikiwe emerged as the first president of independent Nigeria.
From the discussion, it is defensible to infer that Kwegyir Aggrey and Nnamdi Azikiwe's teachings sensitized Kwame Nkrumah about essence of the need to struggle for freedom, liberty and equality for the African. Subsequently, Nkrumah had personal experinces of racial discrimination in the United States. The manifestation of racial discrimination Nkrumah experienced in the United States reinforced his determination to fight European colonialism in Africa. Nkrumah expressed his anti-colonial attitude in a book, 'I Speak of Freedom' which he wrote while still a student in the United States.
Nevertheless, it is clear that Nkrumah's experiences in the United States instructed and reinforced one of his core legacies--- the linkage between negative plights of all people of African descent worldwide. Hence, his ardent believe in Pan-Africanism, the philosophy of which conjoined the struggle for economic, political, social and cultural emancipation of all people of African descent, starting especially at the end of World War II in 1945.
From his experiences, Nkrumah viewed demand for self-government by the Gold Coast people as a birthright. Consequently, he pushed the British government to consider granting independence to the Gold Coast as a political duty. Hence, Nkrumah's teaching to his followers during the formative years of the CPP was to invoke the need for self-determination through identity with Africa and things African. He emphasized also the necessity of unity of purpose of colonized people with one destiny in the struggle for freedom from a common oppressor.
Nkrumah, as leader of the CPP, stretched the idea of unity both for the people of the Gold Coast and among all African societies, leading to emergence of Ghana with a unitary structure of government. Some of Nkrumah's colleagues in the struggle for Gold Coast independence preferred a government based on regionalism or federalism.
The difference between choosing a unitary over federalist form of government for independent Ghana separated Nkrumah from the other Gold Coast nationalists. That was why independent Ghana, as a social formation, had a unitary form of governance. Unitary form of governance bringing together four different ethnic-based administrative regions (the Gold Coast Colony, Ashanti, Northern Territories and Trans-Volta Togoland) under one central authority. That approach to uniting the people of Ghana remains another essential legacy of Kwame Nkrumah.
Nkrumah's penchant for unity did not stop at the level of government; it became a national people-to-people phenomenon with unique benefits for Ghana. For example, Ghana has remained free from the violent political upheavals and civil wars in other post-colonial African societies. Yet, it has become commonplace for some observers of Ghana to credit perceived peace-loving nature of the people for national peace of the country. However, it is important to recognize contribution of deliberate public policies executed by Nkrumah's government that obliterated physical ethnic differentiations among the people in independent Ghana. Thus, national peace and unity in post-independent Ghana have to be other essential legacies of Kwame Nkrumah.
Nkrumah had the foresight that once the Gold Coast won independence the people had to protect the freedom and liberty in order not to lose them again.
Falling back on his mentor Kwegyir Aggrey, Nkrumah had been aware that in the second half of the 20th century, it would take an educated African population to provide the best protection of freedom in Ghana and other societies dominated by foreign rule. In that regard, Nkrumah's government introduced an accelerated education program immediately the colonial power granted the Gold Coast self-government status. Therefore, accelerated education program was one of the first significant public policy Bills that Nkrumah managed to pass through the Gold Coast Legislature in 1951 in his capacity as Leader of Government Business.
At independence, Nkrumah's government supported the accelerated education program of Ghana with an enforceable policy of 'Fee-free Compulsory Education' that mandated and governed provision of public education at all levels. The 'Ghana Education Trust' engaged in providing school facilities for all communities where there had been none in the pre-independence period. Nkrumah's government established several institutions for training teachers to fulfill the needs of basic education. Provision of technical education in Ghana was a priority for the government of Kwame Nkrumah.
During nine years as head of government of Ghana (from 1957 to 1966), Nkrumah added two public universities to the only one that had existed in the country since 1948. In addition, Nkrumah's government provided public 'adult mass education' that facilitated tutoring basic reading and writing for adults in the evenings and at nights as a means of curbing widespread illiteracy.
Formal education program in society requires sound bodies and sound minds to be successful, hence, the need for adequate public healthcare delivery in independent Ghana. The records indicate that during its tenure Nkrumah's government introduced a comprehensive healthcare delivery system covering most parts of the country.
Nkrumah's government also left a legacy of efficient public health program that witnessed eradication of several endemic infectious and communicable diseases that were prevalent in colonial Gold Coast. The educational and public healthcare programs constituted essential social safety net in Ghana.
In most instances, Nkrumah's regime provided infrastructure designed to facilitate eventual industrial production takeoff in post-colonial Ghana. Therefore, preparing the groundwork for takeoff of industrial mass production in Ghana must be one of the essential legacies of Kwame Nkrumah.
In the context of independence, freedom and liberty, outcomes of policies executed by Kwame Nkrumah towards the rest of Africa remain part of his essential legacies. For Nkrumah, the political independence for Ghana could not be safe 'until the last vestiges of colonialism had been swept from Africa,' as he wrote in his autobiography. He rationalized that as a lone independent society in colonized Africa, Ghana would have faced political hazards such as would confront a lone ship in a stormy uncharted high seas. Consequently, Nkrumah saw it as a duty of the newly independent Ghana to serve as 'the vanguard force to offer what assistance we can to those now engaged in the battles that we ourselves have fought and won,' he wrote in his autobiography.
Nkrumah anticipated that emancipation of all of Africa would not only be in the interest of Ghana but serve also as a buffer for the protection of freedom and liberty for every African. He developed a concept of African personality as a mechanism for self-determination of all people of African descent. On that strength, Nkrumah encouraged colonized African societies that would listen not to wait for Europeans to decide when they should be free. Nkrumah utilized resources of Ghana to support and sponsor freedom fighters in colonized African societies to enable them to take their affairs into their own hands and wrestle independence from European colonialists.
By 1960, that is three years after Ghana's independence, 17 other colonized African societies gained political freedom. Nevertheless, in the context of world imperialism, Nkrumah understood that the new freedom and liberty won by African societies through bitter struggles were too fragile to survive on their own, hence the need for continental unity.
Thus, for Nkrumah, the political interest of Ghana, regarding protection of its hard-won independence, had to merge with that of other independent African societies for common survival. Consequently, he worked almost tirelessly in attempt to unite all of Africa under one government.
Therefore, formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963 remains another essential legacy of Kwame Nkrumah.