A review of the arts and literature .....More
Dr. Arthur Kobina Kennedy
preacher of reconciliation between
political parties in the interest of
he contested for NPP flagbearership
Nkrumah In Retrospect
Arthur Kobina Kennedy
NEXT WEEK, it will be hundred years since Nkrumah
So many years after his birth, the Osagyefo excites
more passion and disagreement, by far, than any of
Some say he is the Greatest Ghanaian--- maybe
Others see him as a wicked tyrant who blew our
nation’s opportunity to be the first truly
successful African country and was therefore justly
Before looking at the great man and his legacy, let
me dispose of a few myths and inconsistencies out
First, it is ironic that some in our country condemn
in strong terms the overthrow of Nkrumah and the CPP
in 1966 while they staged and or support the 31st
December coup that overthrew the CPP’s successor,
the PNP. While people of goodwill may disagree on
whether the 1966 coup was justified or not, it
defies imagination for one to be against the 1966
coup while being for the 1981 coup.
Second, it is strange that the Party founded by the
leader of the 31st December coup now wants to honour
Nkrumah by declaring him the sole founder of Ghana.
In the next week or so, there will be a lot of
debate on whether he was the founder of Ghana or one
of many founders. The issue of how Ghana was
founded, truth be told, is a historical matter that
cannot be settled by spin. When in 1865, King John
Aggrey of Cape Coast asserted his right to rule Cape
Coast against the British imperialist and was exiled
to Sierra Leone, he was fighting for independence!
When in 1871, Fanti Chiefs joined together in the
Fanti Confederacy, under the leadership of Ghartey,
Horton and Blankson, they were fighting for
independence! When Yaa Asantewaa marched at the head
of the Asante army in 1900 to fight the British,
they were fighting for independence. When the
leaders of the U.G.C.C. met at Saltpond to form the
U.G.C.C. and to launch their enterprise, they were
fighting for independence.
The ridiculous claim that Nkrumah alone won
independence reminds me of a substitute in a hotly
contested Hearts-Kotoko epic match who got the
winning goal and afterwards went around shouting “I
won! I won!” His coach pulled him aside and asked
“Son, what do you think the other players were doing
for the sixty minutes you sat on the bench?”. The
effort to make Nkrumah our sole founder is
reminiscent of the sycophancy that made PDA and most
of his excesses possible.
Third, we must celebrate the attitude of Pa Grant,
Danquah and others who put ability ahead of age and
nepotism. These days, our politicians, upon hearing
Nkrumah’s name would have asked “Obaa daben?”(When
did he come?)
To return to Nkrumah’s legacy, here is where I
First, Nkrumah was a great and visionary leader who
may be the greatest African, not just of the last
century but maybe of all time.
Second, he was a tyrant who deserved to be removed
I hold both of these views firmly and comfortably.
Ghanaians who talk of Nkrumah’s greatness err when
they cite only the physical projects that he left—Tema
Harbour, Akosombo Dam, Tema Motorway, KNUST, etc.
His greatness lay far, far beyond those projects.
They lay in three other areas; his inspiring effect
on the black man, his singular contributions to the
liberation of our continent and his hold on the
masses stemming from his brand of retail politics.
It is indisputable that even people as respected as
Martin Luther King Junior felt inspired by Nkrumah.
That is why, while he held court, Accra became a
kind of Mecca where people came to be inspired.
One only has to listen to his speech in Addis Ababa
as the O.A.U. was formed and hear his exhortation to
his fellow leaders, not to “see themselves as
Ethiopians, Nigerians, Guineans, etc, but simply as
Africans” to feel the spirit at work in that room.
His contributions to the liberation of Africa are so
well-known that they do not require recounting.
On his effect on our politics, many saw or later
read of his hold on ordinary people without
understanding why but there was a reason. I remember
that growing up; there was an elderly man, Agya
Kwaku who just lighted up whenever Nkrumah’s name
was mentioned. When I asked him why he admired
Nkrumah so much, he told me a story.
He said sometime in 1949, Nkrumah had visited his
village on behalf of the U.G.C.C. to organize the
masses for independence. When Nkrumah walked into
his house, a group of boys had cooked cocoyam, in
the special way described in the local parlance as “akaw”.
When the boys invited Nkrumah to join them in their
meal, he did not even wait for a chair. He just sat
on the floor and started eating the food with them.
As he ate with them, according to the old man, he
went round the group asking them about their lives
and their dreams. After that, any of them would have
walked through fire for him.
There were many politicians then, and they are many
more now who would never have put their hands in the
same bowl as those unemployed and unlettered youth
but Nkrumah did, happily. Long before Bill Clinton,
there walked in the villages of Africa a politician
who truly felt the pain of the masses. And by God,
when he had a chance, he did a lot about those
But despite these accomplishments and qualities, in
the end, he was a tyrant who harmed Ghana and gave
Africa a very bad example.
He introduced the Preventive Detention Act shortly
after independence and proceeded to impose
limitations on the freedom of Ghanaians, unknown
even during the colonial era.
He declared Ghana a one-party state. That was one of
the cruelest things he did. The man who introduced
multi-partyism to Ghana by breaking off from the
UGCC to form the CPP decided to make Ghana a
He declared himself President-for-life. The man who
had been educated in the West and knew or should
have known better committed this travesty.
Then he capped it all by giving himself the power to
remove judges of the Supreme Court for “reasons he
Regardless of a leader’s accomplishments, when he
makes it impossible for people to change him
peacefully, he makes his violent overthrow
inevitable. As a friend of New York city’s greatest
mayor, Fiorella La Guardia once wrote to him “Good
men in good times must not set bad examples for bad
men in bad times”. Nkrumah was a good man who set
some terrible examples for Ghana and Africa.
I know there are many who blame Nkrumah alone for
his failings but I do not.
Politics is a team sport. Just as Nkrumah alone did
not win independence for us, he did not commit these
errors alone. He did it with a team. The tragedy for
our nation and Africa is that those who could have
stood up to him and set him straight chose to be
sycophants at the decisive moments.
Imagine when he was contemplating the introduction
of the Preventive Detention Act. What might have
been if Gbedema, Botsio and Arko Adjei had walked to
his house one morning and one of them had said
“Kwame, you are our brother. We love you. We fought
for you when you were in prison. We have served you
loyally every step of the way but you shall not
impose Preventive Detention on this country.
Not today, not tomorrow and not ever!” What if, in
Parliament, the CPP members had led in defeating
PDA? Nkrumah’s success between 1951 and 1957 when he
was leader of government business was because he did
not have absolute power. Unfortunately, those who
could have saved him from his excesses refused to
stand up and he became a tyrant and in the process,
destroyed his country and himself.
While I believe that his overthrow was justified, I
wish a chastened and wiser Nkrumah had lived long
enough to return to power, to give us more of his
visionary leadership short of his tyrannical
As we celebrate the centenary of his birthday, I
believe his life should unite us.
His vision and commitment to our country and our
continent should inspire us, to greater leadership
and greater exertion in the service of our people.
But his large faults and failings should stand as
sentinels in the night, warning us of the evil that
lurks in the best amongst us so that we can say, in
response to those tragic failings--- never again,
We should also learn from the sycophancy that made
his failings possible because those who could have
stood up to him and set him straight failed to do
so. That sycophancy, writ large still thrives
amongst our ruling classes and it is harming our
It is time for UP traditionalists to accept
Nkrumah’s unique place in our history and join in
celebrating his greatness so that our nation can
And it is time for CPP loyalists and the
opportunists who have joined their ranks to stop
their indefensible defense of his excesses. The
death of Danquah and Obetsebi in prison while in
Preventive Detention was the moral equivalent of
Kolungugu, up to a point. What made it bad was that
the death of Danquah and Obetsebi were purely and
simply murders by the state. It is against the laws
of natural justice to make oneself
President-for-life in a Republic. It is subversive
of a nation under the rule of law to arrogate to one
person such unchecked power.
I know, from very reliable sources that as he lay
dying in far-away Romania, Nkrumah regretted the
most egregious of those excesses. Those who loved
him can demonstrate their commitment best, by
dedicating themselves to the masses he loved so
much. Those who detest him so much can serve our
nation best by dedicating themselves to the ideals
that he betrayed so tragically. Let them lead the
effort to build the strong institutions that will
defy the tyrants of the future.
Therefore, let us all come together, to build a
nation worthy of his lofty vision but free of his
tragic failings. Let us by building the nation he
helped to found demonstrate truly that even though
dead in the flesh, Nkrumah’s spirit and his spirit
of service to Ghana and Africa will never die.
Nkrumah never dies!!
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Attorney-General receives prestigious award
Accra, Sept 17, Ghanadot - The Minister of Justice
and Attorney-General, Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrissu has received
a prestigious award from the Ghana Institute of Advanced
Legal Studies at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and
Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi.....
Nkrumah In Retrospect
Review, Sept 17, Ghanadot - Next week, it will be
hundred years since Nkrumah was born. So many years after
his birth, the Osagyefo excites more passion and
disagreement, by far, than any of his contemporaries
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($58.19million) for the same period in 2008...More
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