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05.06.2007 Feature Article

Helena-Ritz Fathia-Nkrumah was a Victim of Nkrumaism

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The passing of Mrs. Helena-Ritz Fathia-Nkrumah on May 31, 2007, occasioned a great outpouring of expressions of condolences and sympathies. And it goes without saying that some of these expressions were genuine and indubitably heartfelt while, as had been expected all along, the bulk of them were purely cynical to the utmost degree of the patently revolting.

Thus it came as totally no surprise to read a report posted to in which a group purported to be representing the rump Convention People's Party (CPP) luridly claimed that Mrs. Nkrumah's death had come to them as “a great shock.”

Needless to say, no expression of politically minted condolence could have been more preposterous. Then again, this is Ghana where even ordinary funerals these days, particularly when it involves a Diaspora-resident Ghanaian, have become virtually indistinguishable from our traditional harvest festivals. And it is rather despicable to have to recall the fact that Mrs. Nkrumah had expired at the mature age of 75, an age that is far higher than Ghana's national life-expectancy rate of about 60 years, at the high-end, that is. Couple the preceding with the fact that the deceased woman's husband died, reportedly of natural causes, at the age of 63, on April 27, 1972, and the preposterousness of the whole matter becomes inescapable.

Interestingly, on the same date (i.e. April 27) in 1994, yours truly, then a staunch Nkrumaist, was fired from his job for supposedly attempting to “Africanize” his African-American students during the African-American History Month festivities. Back then, when yours truly had not as yet conducted extensive research into the unpardonably erratic activities of the man who singularly ensured that Ghana, ironically, would lapse into a perennial period of Neocolonialism, he found something akin to the mythically vicarious in the timing of his firing. Looking back, some thirteen years later, the embarrassingly quixotic notion of such cultish personal identification becomes all the more preposterous, in a quite unpardonable manner, of course.

Nonetheless, the preceding entails one great lesson – which is that so profound and well-orchestrated had been Nkrumaist propaganda as to make it almost verge on the outright religious. And so, in essence, when yours truly claims to fully appreciate exactly where the rump-CPP Nkrumaists are coming from, he can hardly be contradicted.

Recently, for example, somebody who goes by the name of Dr. M. N. Tetteh, and who claims to have been the protocol officer for the deposed and late President Nkrumah, published a book titled “The Anatomy of Rumor-Mongering in the Nkrumah Era.” One only hopes that Mr. Tetteh, who also cynically claimed in one of his books that the “African Show Boy” bitterly wept in the wake of the latter's own assassination of Dr. J. B. Danquah, and also that the “Show Boy” forewent his meals for nearly one week, or even a fortnight (we forget which), would be honest enough to also dispassionately document the historical fact of President Nkrumah having been Ghana's primal and most notorious manufacturer of vicious rumors and character assassination of his personal and political opponents. To be frank with readers, on the latter score, we are not holding our sacred breaths!

Indeed, when members of the so-called CPP-USA – one wonders why this group is not headquartered in Havana, Cuba; Beijing or even Moscow – describe Mrs. Fathia-Nkrumah as “the First Mother of Modern Ghana” ( 6/1/07), it is not quite clear (except, of course, to the claimers themselves) just what this means. For other than being a veritable pawn in the dubious chess-game between Mr. Kwame Nkrumah and Egypt's Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, it is not quite clear exactly what role it was that Mrs. Fathia-Nkrumah played in the development of Ghana, both officially and unofficially, other than making Ghanaian women feel blisteringly inferior and utterly unworthy of the affections of their first leader, who, by the way, was widely known to abuse his countrywomen almost in much the same manner as a certified pimp would abuse his vulnerable whores! In sum, for those of us who hold our racial-Africanity in high stead, or regard, or with inviolable dignity, nothing could have been more insulting than President Nkrumah's December 31, 1957 marriage to 25-year-old Ms. Helena Ritz Fathia, a woman who was barely half the age of the newly-elected Ghanaian Prime Minister.

In America, where he had undertaken his advanced collegiate studies, under the right circumstances, Nkrumah could either have been promptly charged with statutory rape or even incest [ for we don't even know whether Helena married the Ghanaian Prime Minster more in deference to President Nasser or out of love]. Interestingly, here we are a half-century after the fact, in Ghana, ululating over the natural demise of the woman who their supposedly paradigmatic – or model – premier married in order to spite their essential worth and value!

Indeed, so psychologically and morally stultifying it is that somebody who runs an organization (or is it an association?) going by the designation of Ghana Leadership Union has had the temerity to describe Mrs. Helena Ritz Fathia-Nkrumah, in a barely readable doggerel, as “Mother Africa,” which makes yours truly wonder, aside from patent stupidity on the part of the doggerel-writer, just exactly when and where did Mrs. Nkrumah presume ownership of Mrs. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's leadership mantle.

Also, the attempt by fanatical Cii-Pii-Pii-ites to sanitize Nkrumah's evidently cavalier attitude towards the institution of marriage is one that must not pass without comment. Needless to say, prior to his 1957 marriage to Ms. Fathia (some Ghanaians, of course, prefer the more neocolonialist honorific of “Madam”), then-Prime Minister Nkrumah was widely known to have fathered quite a number of children by Ghanaian women, Dr. Francis Nkrumah of whom is the best known. And to be certain, yours truly's own late mother knew of one such Nkrumah offspring, a daughter, who lived right here in New York City and was known to complain bitterly about her father's callous neglect of his “non-Fathia-mothered” children. But whether patent, or even pathological, inferiority complex, rather than sheer political expediency, underlay Nkrumah's erratic decision to marry an Arabo-Coptic-Egyptian woman, rather than one of his own “revolutionarily” devoted countrywomen, remains for future and, hopefully, better-equipped historians to dispassionately document.

And here, also, we must hasten to point out the fact that many politically and morally embarrassing attempts have been made to explain off the Nkrumah-Fathia “political romance,” if, indeed, there ever existed any such thing (see Kwame Arhin's The Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah). We, however, boldly and honestly prefer to envisage such a curious conjugal alliance in terms of coital incontinence, on the part of Ghana's first prime minister and president. For Nkrumah's much-touted “Pan-Africanist” proclivity did not prevent the “Show Boy” from summarily deporting such distinguished Ghanaian-born Muslim entrepreneurs as Alhaji Amadu Baba (see Austin's Politics in Ghana; also, Apter's Ghana in Transition) to Nigeria and elsewhere within the West African sub-region.

Ultimately, we have the deepest and unreserved sympathies for the Nkrumah clan. We even support President Kufuor's reported appeal to the Mubarak government to have the mortal remains of Mrs. Helena Ritz Fathia-Nkrumah returned to Ghana and interred alongside her husband's grave, regardless of the cynical capital which opportunistic – or summertime – Nkrumaists may attempt to clinch.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (, 2005). E-mail: [email protected]
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., © 2007

The author has 4881 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

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