Kwame Nkrumah: The ONE and ONLY Founding Father of Ghana - Part I
2014 Independence Day Special
That Kwame Nkrumah is the founder of modern Ghana is not debatable; yet, there are still some guilty and misguided individuals among us who would clothe themselves in an oblong missile and blast it from Mars into a fortified round hole. Since the late President Arthur Mills declared Kwame Nkrumah's birthday as a statutory Founder's Day in Ghana, certain resentful, misguided and ill-informed individuals have been blowing their shattered trumpets from Mars about their so-called “founding fathers” by way of distorting and turning Ghana's political history upside down. So far, they have failed to provide any cogent argument/s to underscore their hodgepodge position. By their imprudent logic, all leaders of the anti-European intruders, anti-Gold Coast Crown colony, pro-self-government Fante confederation, anti-AWAM (European merchants), anti-draconian indirect rule, cocoa hold-up, as well as ethnocentric, terrorist and secessionist crusaders, from 1482 to March 6, 1957, are “founding fathers.” But going by the American benchmark, “Founding Fathers,” refers to a group of individuals (men) with shared political philosophy and ideology, vision and socio-economic values, who struggle, revolt, and/or fight together to overthrow their foreign overlord to found a nation based on a constitution. In the case of Ghana, can the so-called “founders fathers” meet this criterion? Aside from their sabotaging and domestic terrorist tactics (including bombing, shooting, and hunting down supporters of the CPP), parochial objectives and secessionist goals, none of the names that often pop up played any role, identified or associated themselves with Kwame Nkrumah and his CPP's political ideology, Pan-African vision, strategy and tactics, which galvanized the common people and some “chiefs” to rally behind Kwame Nkrumah's struggle for a unified country from 1949 to the 1954 and 1956 general elections. It was consequent to the victory of Nkrumah and his CPP (the first and only political party in all the four independent territories under the British colonial administration) in the 1956 general election that modern Ghana was founded on March 6, 1957. As the subsequent discourse shows, not only did the champions of barefaced ethnocentrism, parochialism and secessionism ferociously try to sabotage Ghana's independence, but they also oppose the name, Ghana, when Kwame Nkrumah proposed it. So, why are they “Founding Fathers?”
Origin of the UGCC.
In the aftermath of the so-called World War II and the collapsed of the British economy, the British colonial government limited import and export licenses to the Association of West African (Europeans) Merchants (AWAM). Feeling marginalized, some of the African merchants led by George Paa Grant (a wealthy Sekondi merchant), Awoonor-Williams (a Sekondi-based lawyer) and others formed the Gold Coast League as a pressure group to advance their economic and political interest. Concurrently, the upshot of Dr. J. B. Danquah's connection with the ritual murder of Odikro of Akyea Mensah of Apedwa brought him (Danquah) into conflict with Governor Allen Burns. As a result, J. B. Danquah, Erick Akufo Addo, Ako Adjei and others in Accra formed the Gold Coast National Party to oppose the Burns Constitution. The irony here is that in Governor Burns' constitutional reform in the late 1930s, Dr. J. B. Danquah pressed for the creation of an Office of Minister of Home Affairs for himself. As well, Dr. Danquah had wholeheartedly embraced the Burns Constitution by representing the Joint Provincial Council of Chiefs in the Burns Legislative Council in 1946.
Dr. J. B. Danquah's personal contradictory positions notwithstanding, the economic and political interest of these two pressure groups resulted in a marriage of convenience and became the United Gold Coast Convention in Saltpond in August 1947, under the leadership of George Paa Grant. The main objective of this self-selected “Gentlemen's Club,” comprising lawyers, merchant, wealthy cocoa farmers, and other similar-minded individuals was to advance their economic and political interest through political power sharing with the Colonial Government. Most critical was their call for the replacement of Chiefs on the Legislative Council with educated persons. The important thing to note here is that the UGCC was a loose, [Gentlemen's Club] without program of action, funds and bank account.
Because of its self-appointed mandate, the UGCC avoided designating itself as a political party; thus, seeing themselves as “rightful rulers,” its original initiators detested the idea of political parties. Secondly, as bourgeoisies, they took politics to be a leisure activity. Their elitist outlook also prevented them from reconciling themselves with the people. Hence, they needed Nkrumah's kind of leadership and organizational skills to bring some of the “chiefs” and people into their fold, and turn the UGGC into a popular movement to oppose and upset the Burns Constitution. The big question, however, is, if the UGCC was truly a “movement struggling for independence (as some apologists have claimed), why did its initiators not give up their private business and professional endeavors as Vladimir Lenin, Nelson Mandela, Augustino Neto, Mahatma Gandhi and others did, rather than search for another citizen (Nkrumah) outside the territory with special leadership and organizational skills to become its general secretary?
Kwame Nkrumah as the Antidote to the UGCC Handicaps.
Ako Adjei, who recommended Kwame Nkrumah as the antidote to the UGCC's inadequacies, knew about Nkrumah's anti-colonial crusade and Union of West African States agitation in the US, as well as his unique organizational kills and leadership roles during and after the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester. To test the waters, Ako Adjei wrote to ask Nkrumah if he would consider returning to the country to become the General Secretary of a newly formed UGCC. Without waiting for his response, Awoonor-Williams wrote a letter, and signed by Paa Grant, to Nkrumah, offering him the job of General Secretary, a monthly salary of one hundred pounds and a car. Dr. J.B. Danquah followed it up his letter urging him to accept the position. So, who was the “opportunist” here, as some functional illiterates and boorish individuals try to impute in their hoaxed writings? Clearly, they wanted to use Nkrumah to attain their selfish goal, namely to replace the “Chiefs” on the Legislative Council with themselves, self-styled elites.
The fact is Nkrumah initially was reluctant to accept the offer as he perceived the UGCC members to be “bourgeois reactionaries” enamored in capitalist ideology and philosophy. Secondly, he, as the General-Secretary of West African National Secretariat, as well as Chairman of “The Circle,” was at the time busy working on a West African National Conference towards a Union of West African Socialist Republics, slated to be held in Lagos in October 1948. Nonetheless, after meeting with his comrades in the West African National Secretariat, it was decided that Nkrumah should accept the offer and return to operationalize the 1945 Manchester Pan-African Congress resolutions. Nkrumah assured them that he would not compromise with the reactionaries and reformists in the UGCC (Smertin) So, right from the beginning, Nkrumah understood his mission as returning to, inter-alia, liberate the Gold Coast from British colonialism, and make Ghana the liberated zone for the total liberation of the African continent.
Prior to Kwame Nkrumah's acceptance of the invitation to become the General Secretary of the yet-to-be christened UGCC, he had committed himself to serious revolutionary work, which entailed personal sacrifices. THE CIRCLE, under his Chairmanship, had as its motto, “The Three S's—Service, Sacrifice, Suffering,” to which each member pledged and swore. It was this commitment to “revolutionary suicide,” to borrow Che Guevara's lexis, that distinguished Kwame Nkrumah from the conformists in the Gentlemen's Club (UGCC).
The Return of Kwame Nkrumah and the Launching of The UGCC.
The main issues the UGCC had to resolve once Kwame Nkrumah arrived on December 8 1947, were confirmation of his appointment as general secretary, and affirmation of his salary and car, contained in Paa Grant's letter. But the one hundred pounds monthly salary promised him, Nkrumah soon found out, was a bait. Not perturbed by monetary compensation for revolutionary work, Nkrumah told them that he would work for free, if the compromised twenty five pounds was going to be difficult for the organization. Though the gentlemen looked at each other in astonishment, they prevailed on Nkrumah to accept the compromised monthly remuneration. Thereafter, under Kwame Nkrumah's capacity as General Secretary, the UGCC was formally launched in Saltpond on December 29, 1947. So, if everything was “cooked” before Kwame Nkrumah's arrival, as some shame-faced individuals have claimed, why did this self-appointed “gentlemen's club,” (UGCC) wait for Nkrumah to launch it in his capacity as General Secretary? In fact the idea that everything was “cooked” prior to the return of Nkrumah is totally false, if not hogwash.
The Objective of the UGCC.
The objective of the UGCC was “to ensure by all legitimate and constitutional means the direction and control of government should pass into the hands of the people and chiefs in the shortest possible time.” This is delusional. First of all, who begged the British and other European monarchies to send their coach-managers to nurture the pre-colonial Africans to maturity before allowing them to rule themselves? Second, saying that “by all 'legitimate' and 'constitutional' means” not only legitimized the evil British colonization of the Gold Coast, but it also gave credence to the so-called “white man's burden.” In effect, “by all 'legitimate' and 'constitutional' means” meant that any forceful demand, demonstrations, boycotts, strikes, uprising, rebellions or positive action confrontation with the British colonial government were illegal and illegitimate, as Dr. Danquah would later characterize the Positive Action. Did the subjugated Irish people “ensure by all legitimate and constitutional means” so that “the direction and control of government” be passed on from the Anglo-Norman rulers into their (Celtics') hands “in the shortest possible time?” If the Irish people would wage a war against the Anglo-Norman occupation of Ireland from 1177 to 1921 (especially the IRA-led 'Irish War of Independence' from 1916 to 1921 for a Home Rule), what about a little over 100 year- old British Gold Coast [Black African] colony?
The request for self-government “in the shortest possible time” is connotative and laughable. Colonialists and imperialists are sly, vicious, always buying time and waiting for opportune moments to disintegrate opponents in the colonies. Historical evidence proves that colonial government or foreign settler regimes never “PASS” on the control of government into the hands of the colonized and/or occupied people, “by all legitimate and constitutional means…in the possible shortest time?” Rather European colonial governments employed deliberate policy of brute violence to suppress legitimate protests, uprisings, rebellions in India, Kenya, South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and other places. In the Gold Coast, the Fante Confederacy's demand for self-government from the British colonial rule led to the arrest of its leaders. Likewise, the peaceful protest march by the Ex-servicemen to the seat of the colonial government in 1948 was met with violence. In the case of the planned CPP-GCTUC's Positive Action in 1950, the same British colonial government flew war planes into the country with the intention of crushing the non-violent Positive Action. As this paper shows, it was the POSITIVE ACTION, and NOT the feet-dragging strategy, which set in motion the Kwame Nkrumah CPP's forceful and immediate demand for independence from the illegal British colonial rule in the Gold Coast (e. i. the four territories).
Kwame Nkrumah's Plan of Action.
After searching and organizing an office, Nkrumah drew up far-reaching plans and placed it before the UGCC Working Committee on January 20, 1948. First among the plans were “Shadow Cabinet” and “Organizational Work.” The latter included direct confrontation with the colonial government through organizing strikes, demonstrations and boycotts, contained in one of the resolutions adopted at the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester. Also because the scope of the UGCC was limited to the Colony proper, and to a lesser degree with Ashanti, Nkrumah proposed recommendations for the UGCC to embrace the entire Ashanti Province, the Northern Territories and Trans-Volta/Togoland.
The Kwame Nkrumah Countrywide Tour.
While the other members of the Executive/Working Committee of the UGCC were busy attending to their private endeavors, Kwame Nkrumah decided to travel throughout the four territories—the Colony, Ashanti Province, Northern Territories, and Trans/Volta Togoland—under the British colonial government. Notwithstanding the appalling states of roads in many areas, as well as the poor condition of the old car with which he was traveling, Nkrumah was determined to meet, hear, see and rally the people for the anti-colonial struggle. In doing so, he sometimes walked or got a lift with a passing “mammy” lorry when the car broke down, leaving the car with the driver; sometimes, he either walked to the next village or town and on some occasions slept on the roadside in the bush. The most intriguing phenomenon was that Nkrumah, in many instances, carried his suitcase containing his personal belongings on his head. The question is, which of the so-called “founding fathers” were prepared to undergo these hardships, aside from pleasing their colonial masters by “drinking tea, dining and playing tennis with them?” to borrow Sannie Awudu's words.
Nonetheless, Nkrumah held endless meetings and rallies, delivering hundreds of speeches while organizing branches of the UGCC by himself. Prior to his arrival, there were thirteen (13) non-functioning branches in the Colony. But within six months, Nkrumah had established over five hundred (500) branches in the Colony alone, issuing membership cards with dues paying. Along side these, he established youth organizations, and later placed them under the umbrella of Council of Youth Organization (CYO). During the tours, Nkrumah found feeling of discontent and unrest among the people. It was by no accident, therefore, that Kwame Nkrumah would soon become the face of the UGCC and, by extension, the icon of the anti-colonial struggle in the four territories.
To Be Continued!
By Kwame Botwe-Asamoah, Ph.D.
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Kwame Botwe-Asamoah, Dr. and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana.