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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 kings.

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 presidency.

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 mistakesBut 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 next generation!


Abraham Lincoln, 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 of Rivals”?

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

Permission to publish: Please feel free to publish or reproduce, with credits, unedited. If posted at a website, email a copy of the web page to . Or don't publish at all




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