There are kingmakers and they are not kings; why
we celebrate Nkrumah
E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Ghanadot
What we forget about Ghana we will remember in the
visions of the “Big Six,” Nkrumah included; but what
we forget about Africa, we will remember foremost in
the work and vision of one man: Kwame Nkrumah. This
makes Nkrumah an exceptional leader.
Celebrating a founder’s day for Nkrumah doesn’t mean
we hold J. B. Danquah and the rest of the “Big Six”
in derogatory esteem. In fact, we consider them as
great men to whom destiny failed to give the prize.
Hopefully, there are kingmakers, just as there are
One fact is constantly underplayed about the
"Big Six": That they brought Nkrumah to Ghana is the best
visionary statement we can make for them at this
time. It is through this vision that the history we
celebrate today was enabled.
But the relationship between them and Nkrumah, in
light of their own achievements, is often blurred
because of reluctance to ask some salient questions
that ought to be asked.
The first is what ability did they recognize in
Nkrumah, who was then living abroad, that they could
not find within their own ranks in the Gold Coast
prior to 1947?
By hindsight, we know they wanted something done,
namely for the Gold Coast to win its independence.
And they needed help in that direction.
Another question has to do with the requirements for
the job at hand: That the candidate had to have the
organizational skill and the political know-how to
stir up the masses. In this regard, the men of
the “Big Six” (Ako Adjei
for that matter) were very right with their choice
of Nkrumah, as already proven by history.
There is also the fact of their honesty. Regardless
of who and what they were at that time, they
recognized their own limitations. And true to their
public spiritedness, they brought Nkrumah home. They
also provided him the UGCC party as a platform; a
high national interest act that attests to the
largeness of their public spirit. Compare this act
with the struggles of the Nkrumahist party today.
They are yet to field one credible candidate, under
one party umbrella, for a successful run for the
But, whether Nkrumah came to the Gold Coast as a
hired help or not is immaterial. There was a job to
be done and he was deemed the man most capable at
the time to get it done.
The question is, did he do the job?
Nkrumah transformed politics in the Gold Coast. He
brought awareness, excitement and a strong sense of
nationalism and black pride. He brought color and he
brought a campaign style that was far removed from
the staid style of his mentors. There were
differences in his approach. And these attributes,
mostly ideology based, contributed to his success.
Understandably, when the final bell sounded on March
6, 1957, he was the man left to cross the finish
line - the majority of his erstwhile UGCC colleagues
were on the other side, in opposition. Need we deny
him the victory and the title of the “Founder” now?
To turn the words “Founders” or “Founder” into a
battle of wills at this date will diminish the
foresightedness, the poignancy and the public
spirited act that appointed Nkrumah for the task at
hand. In the pantheon of our heroes, the rest of the
“Big Six” are already known. Nkrumah, Danquah, and
the others were compatriots, except they had
differences in approach and Nkrumah won.
Yes, there are kingmakers just as there are kings.
Declaring one king should not obliterate the
importance of the role of the kingmaker.
Also, to recognize the greatness of one brother who was
assisted to the limelight by the other should not
diminish the achievement of the latter. It should be
a proud moment for both to rejoice and to silently
or openly take pride in the knowledge that this one
brother stood on the shoulder of the other to reach
the top. An honorable claim can, therefore, be made
for the latter, but that claim should honorably be
devoid of a demand for the share of the top prize.
Whether the capacity to accept the above existed
among the “Big Six” or not is a conjecture that we
as citizens of Ghana, still involved the process of
nation building, have to tackle. But it is very
doubtful if these heroes of the past could have
experienced together the extreme circumstances of
our violent history after 1966 - the destruction of
lives, ideas and infrastructures, and still not make
their peace with each other about
this issue and for the sake of Ghana. For
them to do the contrary would not be a tenable mark
of great leadership.
The continuation of the problem of the Nkrumah
versus the Danquah tradition, for instance, has been
perpetuated by our generation. We are the ones that
have grown partisan about the subject and have not
come to terms with our differences.
Admittedly, Nkrumah made some substantial mistakes.
We have had some 40 years
after Nkrumah to correct these mistakes.
But try as much as we may want to justify the
1966 coup or condemn it, we have, for most of the
time, repeated some of these mistakes over the
course of many administrations.
For instance, after 1966, the much detested
Preventive Detention Act (PDA) did not die. The
Nsawam prison became home to three times more
political prisoners than there was under Nkrumah.
The tradition of putting your political enemy in
prison has carried on since the British government,
through Nkrumah, the NLC and to the end of Rawlings’
PNDC regime. Note that former President Kufuor was
also in prison at Nsawam some years after Nkrumah
was gone, as were others in the 70s and 80s.
But again, these are the lessons of history. Do we
react to history with grace and carry on like we did
under Kufuor, when tolerance, civil discourse and
dissent were attempted and appreciated as attributes
of democratic governance, or do we resort to
pointing fingers at those we regard as
political enemies to
enable us to enact revenge?
In part, many of the mistakes in our governance
arose because we refuse to accommodate our former
political opponents. And if we
continue in the argument of the "Founder" and
"Founders," the selflessness of the initial act of
Nkrumah's appointment will be lost or grounded in
public acrimony. What a poor way to serve the
the 16th President of the United States of America,
from 1861 to 1865, had previous bitter
opponents as key members of his
cabinet. They came to be known as “Team
of Rivals.” Together, they helped give Lincoln an
effective administration and they won the Civil War
for America. Where is our “Team
Hopefully, after September 21, 2009, on Nkrumah’s
100th birthday, this argument of “Founder versus
Founders” will be fully resolved – and with it, at
least, the recognition that Nkrumah managed to pull
off a marvelous experiment in self-governance for
Ghana and the rest of the black world. The task now
is to constantly seek to improve on his efforts, not
fight to find who was on first.
The other “Big Six” members deserve a hefty praise
for their foresight in selecting Nkrumah, among the
other great and courageous things they did.
Regardless of the “buyer’s remorse,” some of them
had, the fact still remains that Nkrumah did the job
they brought him down to do; namely independence was
gained and a new nation founded. They, our “Big
five” esteemed, august leaders, pointed Nkrumah out
as “the one.” Who are we to disagree now?
They were the kingmakers.
E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Publisher
, Washington, DC,
September 20, 2009
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