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Nkrumah remembered
From Namibia's English-language New Era.

Quote:Kwame Nkrumah - the political legacy - by Bankie F. Bankie

KWAME Nkrumah was born in 1909, his mother’s only child. His father had several wives and Kwame’s playmates as a child were his numerous half-brothers and sisters.

His father made jewellery from gold. His mother worked in the fields and sold produce at the local market.

Kwame was born and raised on the South West Coast of the then Gold Coast, now Ghana. His early life in the village was like any other and he spent his days with other children. His main influence in his youth was his mother and he remained devoted to her in old age.

His mother was illiterate. It was she who insisted he should have an education. He attended a Catholic school and excelled in religious studies, being baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, receiving the name Francis. Nkrumah was later to contemplate a future in the Church.

Because he was a good student, Nkrumah became a pupil teacher and thereafter proceeded to the Accra Training College. In 1927 his father died.

Thereafter his family broke up, with his mother moving to live with the brother of her deceased husband, as tradition demanded. Kwame befriended a teacher called Aggrey, who had studied for many years in the United States, who became the principal of the first institution of higher learning in the Gold Coast colony.

Aggrey was an African Nationalist, opposed to the strong European bias in the educational system in the colony.

Aggrey believed in harmonious relations between the races, rather than a top-down approach. And so we note that from his youth, Nkrumah would not accept that Africans be treated as inferiors. This outlook was a central plank in his political life.

His relationship with Aggrey lasted one year, after which Aggrey travelled to the United States on holiday, where he passed away.

The Teacher Training College had students whose parents belonged to the small circle of privileged Africans. Its objective was to nurture a western orientated political elite. By the time Nkrumah left the college in 1930, he had decided to teach and study overseas.

He went on to teach five and six-year-olds in the area he originated from. He was keenly interested in the history of his roots.

Within a year he was nominated headmaster of a rural Catholic junior school. There he met Wood, a trade unionist, who became his mentor, introducing him to the political and cultural life of West Africans.

It was at this stage, in his early twenties, that Nkrumah became aware of West African scholars such as the Sierra Leonian A. B. Horton, J. Casely-Hayford from the Gold Coast and the Africanist W. Blyden.

Horton in the 1860s had been in favour of self-government for all of West Africa.

Casely-Hayford promoted the establishment of a West African federation.

It was Casely-Hayford who said, “We want thinkers, thinkers of great thoughts. We want leaders, born leaders of men”.

Blyden was one of the early Pan-Africanists ideologues, promoting the concept of an African Nation, of a people with a common destiny, talking of a distinct ‘African Personality’.

The views of the early African Nationalists had a great impact on the young Nkrumah, who had yet to form a world view.

Most likely it was this, the early exposure to African Nationalism before having travelled out of Africa, which made Nkrumah such a substantial figure later in Pan-African politics and African affairs in general.

Most of his contemporaries came across African Nationalism from an intellectual perspective when they sojourned out of Africa as students or workers. This was so with the likes of Sol Plaatje, Jomo Kenyatta and Naamdi Azikiwe.

Later revolutionaries who fought armed struggles in Southern, Central and East Africa benefitted from the enlightenment which the Nkrumahs and others cultivated as the political culture of liberation, which witnessed the decolonisation of the continent, leaving us today, with some outstanding pockets, such as those in Sudan, which require redress.

Nkrumah, even before he left Africa for North America, believed that political independence should be expedited. He was not for a lengthy period of peaceful co-operation with colonialists.

The world economic crisis of the 1930s led to a catastrophic drop in the global demand for cocoa beans, Ghana’s main source of revenue, adversely effecting the lives of people in countries such as the Gold Coast. This heightened political awareness in the Gold Coast.

Naamdi Azikiwe, who was later to become President of Nigeria, arrived in Ghana from the United States in 1934, becoming the Editor of the newspaper, The African Morning Post in Accra. He was critical of the African elites in the colonial society.

Nkrumah was later to admit that Azikiwe’s writings had influenced his national consciousness.

Amongst the small group of intellectuals in places such as Ghana, the views of Casely-Hayford and Azikiwe were common currency and Nkrumah was not unusual in his interest in such matters. At this stage he was anti-imperialist.

In the past, Africans had sought inspiration from the ideals of liberty and equality coming from the United States (US). Those to whom Nkrumah was drawn were products of US exposure.

It was therefore foreseen that Nkrumah would ultimately make the journey to the US.

Nkrumah rather chose the US rather than Britain, where most British colonial subjects went to further their education.

He chose Lincoln University, the first institution in the US to admit African descendants for higher learning.

Already in the Gold Coast, Nkrumah had reached heights, by becoming a headmaster at a prestigious primary educational institution in his area of origin. He could have expected to become a Chief through his mother’s line.

Azikiwe sent Nkrumah a telegram to encourage him to undertake the journey, to go to the United States and thereafter to return to Africa. Nkrumah travelled via London.

Whilst in London, Italy invaded Ethiopia. These events shocked Nkrumah – Europe invading Africa.

For Nkrumah’s 12 years abroad – 1935 to 1947 – this paper has drawn on Marika Sherwood’s book, Kwame Nkrumah – the years abroad, published by Freedom Publications, Legon, Ghana in 1996.

During this period he had no public profile and was an unremarked student. It is in this period that he matured politically and took on a world view, drinking deeply from all the fountains of knowledge that came his way.

It was this curiosity and insatiable appetite for more knowledge from other cultures, grounded as it was in his early African Nationalist awakening on the soil of the African mainland, plus his personality, which was engaging and easy to get along with, that made him the important figure to Africans and people of African descent.

He was the right man, at the right time, in the right place, with the right ideas, to lead the 20th century phase of decolonisation in Africa and the emancipation of Africans globally, because Ghana’s self-government in 1957 had resonance in the North American civil rights movement, and for those of African descent everywhere.

The years 1935 to 1947 saw the strengthening and broadening of the anti-imperialist movement in the USA and United Kingdom, the hey-day of communist activity amongst African-Americans and amongst Africans in Britain, as well as the growth of the self-government movement amongst Caribbeaners living in the US. This then is the context of Nkrumah’s politicisation.

The Pan-African networks played a major role in the shaping of ideas, which drove the decolonisation process. From a study of the period it is clear that a small group of Pan-African Nationalists drove the liberation idea.

In this circle were people like Du Bois, Padmore and Nkrumah. The activists in West Africa knew those in North America and Europe.

Communications were not instant, as they are today by e-mail, but they were reliable enough to change the thinking of Africans in general.

What this teaches us today, is the importance of networking, sharing and agreeing on a minimum programme of action.

There are enough Pan-African centres today in Africa and its Diasporas, East and West, to make a difference, whatever the opposition might want to do.

Nkrumah interconnected Africa, America and Europe in the period 1935-1947. He had an authoritative voice in the African overseas student movement. So by the time he arrived back in the Gold Coast in 1947, he had an international support base. He was armed with a set of political ideas which placed him in a position far ahead of those who might seek to marginalise him.

The period Nkrumah spent out of Ghana was an epoch when Communism was synonymous with anti-imperialism. It has been said of the rise of communism in South East Asia in those times, that persons such as Ho Chi Minh were first and foremost Nationalists. In the West they were labelled Communists. They were rather struggling for national sovereignty.

People such as Nkrumah were under a high degree of surveillance in the US and the UK. We now know that Nkrumah’s administration was overthrown by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He must have been well known by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)/CIA and MI5 as a student.

After graduating from Lincoln University in 1939 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics, Nkrumah became a philosophy assistant at Columbia University. This was the period he became conversant with abstract ideas, logical categories and laws. He immersed himself, even in his free time, in philosophy.

In the same year he was accepted by Lincoln Theological Seminary. On Sundays he frequently delivered sermons in churches. He went on to study philosophy and education at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1942, he was awarded two degrees – a Bachelors in Theology and a Masters in Education. The following year Nkrumah obtained a Masters in Philosophy. These studies were combined with manual work, to make ends meet. He had to put aside the preparation of his doctoral thesis, when he contracted pneumonia.

Whilst pursuing his intellectual curiosity, Nkrumah was deeply involved in African studies. He established the African Studies Section at the University of Pennsylvania. He was in favour of the maintenance of African traditions.

It was in this period that Nkrumah developed his interest in Diasporans, in particular in Marcus Garvey and W. E. B. Du Bois, representing two historical trends in Pan-African Nationalism.

Whereas Du Bois died a Ghanaian citizen and a confessed Communist, Garvey was a capitalist. He had sought to run a shipping line. Both were committed Pan-Africanists, meaning they were committed to the unity of the African people.

Du Bois convened a number of Pan-African congresses in different countries, whereas Garvey built a global movement of conscientised Africans.

It was Garvey’s writings more than anyone else’s that left the strongest impressions on Kwame Nkrumah. Like Nkrumah later, Garvey called for a United States of Africa.

Nkrumah rejected Garvey’s theories on racial purity.

By 1942, Nkrumah was increasingly thinking about a lifetime devoted to politics back home in the Gold Coast.

In the meantime, he studied the political processes at play in the US. He came to believe that it was the task of Pan-Africanists to liberate Africa.

His Pan-Africanism was indistinguishable from African Nationalism. There is a strong emerging School of Thought that Africans should mould and embrace Pan-Africanism as a conceptual framework for meaningful development. Such thinking goes along well with the earlier thinking of Kwame Nkrumah.

Persons leading Pan-African thought amongst African Americans in the USA in that period were people like Paul Robeson, persons on the far left of the political equation.

It was at this time that the beginnings of the East/West conflict were emerging in relations between those interested in decolonisation and those otherwise disposed.

The influence of the Communists in the anti-imperialist movement was unavoidable. It was in this period Nkrumah became a vocal supporter of Marxism/Leninism and an admirer of the then Soviet Union.

Without the support of international proliterianism, decolonisation would have taken much longer. Many were labelled Communists who were, in fact, African Nationalists, allied, often as a matter of convenience, with the Socialist states.

Nkrumah knew Paul Robeson well. Robeson assisted Nkrumah’s understanding of the race issue in the USA. Through Robeson, Nkrumah got to know many black artists, writers, composers and entertainers.

He was particularly close to the writer Richard Wright, who at that time was a member of the US Communist Party. He came to believe that capitalism was incapable of securing equality and freedom. He maintained this thinking up to his death in Bucharest, Roumania, on April 27, 1972.

It is important to understand that Nkrumah was a product of his times and is revered as such. He was not a magician, able to see into the future and predict.

Essentially, he was a product of that period of conflict between capitalism and socialism, known as the Cold War.

He was fearless in immersing himself deeply in other philosophies. In this he was remarkable. The African abroad who enters as deeply as Nkrumah did in the US, another culture, is unusual and extraordinary.

We owe Nkrumah the emerging political philosophy of Pan-African Nationalism. The fact that he became Head of State of Ghana meant that he implemented his political vision of Africanism combined with socialism.

He made Pan-Africanism the practical, living, central plank of African liberation ideology. He rooted it in the soil of Africa, such that it cannot be removed, as it is intertwined with African Nationalism. That is Nkrumah’s political legacy and nobody can take that away from him.

No situation is static and there will be adaptations in Pan-African politics, but it was his strength of vision and character that implanted this progressive tree in the African soil.

The independence of Ghana was meaningless without the total freedom of the African people. With projects such as the construction of Tema harbour, the building of the Akosombo Dam, the building of the nuclear reactor at Kwabenya and a host of others, Nkrumah built the foundations of modern Ghana.

Later Nkrumah was criticised in Ghana. It was said he put Africa before his country.

He was not tied to the colonial arrangements of the neo-colonial state. Those who level this criticism of Nkrumah need to reflect on how long we are to retain these states as our central focus and building blocks.

It was said that Nkrumah ended up a dictator. This should be matched with the fact that his administration was overthrown by the CIA. Significantly, it was whilst in the United States that Kwame Nkrumah wrote his first theoretical work on colonial problems. He left America committed to the liberation of Africa. There was no doubt in his mind that this was the task he would undertake.

Before leaving the US, Nkrumah wrote to Padmore in the UK, that he was coming.

Padmore, originally from the Carribbean, was a member of the small Pan-African network. Padmore met Nkrumah’s train on its arrival in London in 1945.

Later he invited Padmore to settle in Ghana, and he became an advisor on African affairs.

In Britain, Nkrumah failed to complete his legal studies as his time was taken up in student politics and preparing to return to the Gold Coast. He was appointed Secretary of the Organizing Committee for the Fifth Pan-African Congress convened by Padmore and Du Bois, which took place in Manchester in October 1945.

This was essentially a grounding meeting of those who would return home to participate in the decolonization of Africa.

It was a generation with a different outlook from those they would meet on their return to Africa.

For instance, Nkrumah was in a different league from the politicians in the Gold Coast (i.e. the ‘Big Six’), who invited him to return home.

In a short time he outmanoeuvred them and formed his own party, the Convention People’s Party (CPP), which ultimately led Gold Coast to self-government in 1957, the second country in Africa to obtain self-rule, as Sudan had hoisted the flag of self-government one year earlier in 1956.

Coming at the time it did, at the end of the Second World War, the Fifth Congress sign-posted the move to self-government in Africa. What it produced, as Nkrumah later wrote, was a host of neo-colonial, not sovereign, states in Africa, which thereafter would have to struggle further for integration and control over their land and economies.

During his time in Britain, Nkrumah visited Paris, where his views received a warm reception from Africans living there as students or as workers.

Whilst in Europe, he became involved with a number of publications, an interest which remained with him for the rest of his life. He was to publish many newspapers and to write many books, which form part of his legacy, available under the PANAF Books in print.

Just before Nkrumah left Liverpool, in the UK, by boat to return to the Gold Coast on November 14, 1947, he was placed under lengthy interrogation by the British Police. He then became aware of the extent his presence in that country had been a matter of interest to its authorities.

Herewith follow some benchmarks in the life of Nkrumah on his return to Africa:

1947 returns to Gold Coast at the invitation of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC).

1949 splits with UGCC and founds The Convention People’s Party.

1950 ‘Positive Action’, civil disobedience campaign, leads to imprisonment.

1951 Elected to Legislative Assembly, whilst still in prison. Victory of CPP.
Released from prison and appointed as Leader of Government Business. Formation of his first ‘Cabinet’.

1952 Becomes Prime Minister.

1954 Elections. Defections from CPP. Others form National Liberation Movement.

1956 ‘Independence election’. Internal strife. Jibowu inquiry.

1957 Independence on 6th March. Disturbances among the Ga-Adangbe. Restrictins on Opposition.

1958 First Conference of Independent African States in Accra. Preventive Detention Act (PDA). Ghana-Guinea Union. Arrest of 38 members of the Opposition. Visit to US. Volta River Project revived.

1959 George Padmore dies. ‘Second Revolution’ proclaimed.

1960 Plebiscite and republic constitution inacted, 1st July. President with official title Osagyefo 1961 Economy not performing. ‘Dawn Broadcast’. Secretary General of CPP. Visit to USSR, China, Eastern Europe. Takoradi strike. Purge of conservatives (Gbedemah, Botsio, Edusei etc). Censorship.

1962 Kulungugu attempt on his life. Welbeck, Botsio, Edusei reinstated. Adamafio and others purged. PDA extended. Bomb outrages
1963 Acquittal of Kulungugu group. Dismissal of Chief Justice. Stepped-up internal security measures.

1964 Attempt on his life at his residence, Flagstaff House. One-party referendum. Po

(breaks off thus in original posting on webpage)

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