Monday, 22 September 2014

What Nkrumah's Detractors Fail To Recognise

On Founder's Day yesterday (21/9/2014),  it was to be expected that the achievements of Ghana's first prime minister and first president, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, whose birthday we were celebrating, would be denigrated by his detractors.

It seems to escape the Professor Mike Ocquayes in our midst that almost alone amongst the politicians in the vanguard of the movement of those who wanted the British colonial regime to transfer power to the indigenous people of the Gold Coast colony, Nkrumah wanted the new post-independence polity to be a unitary state - in which there would be universal adult suffrage and  the nation's leaders would be elected by ordinary people.

Almost to a man,  Nkrumah's political opponents wanted the British to grant independence  to an entity that would be a federal state - one made up of pre-colonial tribal entities and in which the vote would be restricted to property owners and salaried workers only (the so-called 'property-owning democracy').

Naturally, the bulk of those who qualified for the vote in that federation of tribal entities would be the so-called 'intelligenstia', comprised mainly of members of the professional classes - who could mostly be relied on to keep the descendants of the pre-colonial ruling elites in power permanently: which was the whole idea for an elite that for the most part despised ordinary people.

So although it is true that a number of politicians fought for Ghana's independence - a historical fact that Nkrumah acknowledged: listing some of their names in his autobiography, and mentioning the names of others in some of his speeches on the subject -  the unitary state that became Ghana after independence was the manisfestation  of the successor-state to the Gold Coast colony that Nkrumah had envisioned during the fight for independence.

Nkrumah also virtually stood alone in clearly understanding  that by definition decolonisation could never be an amicable process in which a benevolent colonial power willingly handed over a resource-rich colony to the hitherto colonised people whose destiny it once controlled to exploit its resources for their own benefit. Nkrumah was clear in his mind that in that sense no colonial power could share the same interests as those of the people it colonised: And that ultimately it could not be well-disposed towards the colonised people either.

Nkrumah knew that for that reason independence had to be snatched from the hands of the colonial power. Most of his political opponents on the other hand naively thought the British colonial power was well-disposed towards them and could be relied on to hand over power to them amicably - and  were thereforge  willing to accept that in the final analysis the transfer of power would be on Britain's  terms.

It was a grave error of judgement and a strategic mistake. Alas, it is that selfsame naivety amongst the present crop of the political progeny of Nkrumah's political opponents of yesteryear, which is responsible for the neocolonialism that enables our resources to be pillaged by foreign commercial interests (covered by opaque legal agreements sanctioned by our self-seeking ruling elites that are detrimental to our nation).

Perhaps it might come as a surprise to many younger generation Ghanaians to discover that some of Nkrumah's opponents actually travelled all the way to London to plead for independence to be delayed - because in their view we were not ready for it. Incredible, but true.

 (Incidentally, after Ghana gained its independence, they also tried to stop U.S. government and multilateral institutional funding for the Akosombo hydropower project.  Amazing. But I digress.)

And when the so-called 'Big Six' were arrested, five of them promptly denounced the sixth, Nkrumah, to the colonial authorities - accusing him of being a communist agent. Whiles they were freed, Nkrumah was kept incarcerated.

 Nkrumah was a genuine nationalist hero who towered above his contemporaries. That is why he is the only politician of his generation to be in the Pantheon of twentieth century greats.  With respect, the verdict of  history is not obtained by revisionism  - and neither is it secured by dissimulation.

 Nkrumah had his faults. He was not perfect. But he genuinely cared about ordinary people and sought their welfare always. And he acted to protect the national interest at all material times. For example, he would never have allowed those rip-off oil agreements with foreign oil companies, which we are now lumbered with, as a result of today's high-level corruption - something that Nkrumah would never have tolerated in such an important sector of the national economy.

The failure of Nkrumah's detractors to recognise the fact that Nkrumah and his opponents sought different successor-states to the Gold Coast colony,  during the fight for independence, is the main reason why they are against him being referred to as Ghana's founder. To the extent that Nkrumah fought for a unitary republic, whiles his opponents sought a federation made up of pre-colonial tribal entities, he is definitely the founder of Ghana.

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