Do Not Emulate Nkrumah’s Dubious Character | Opinions 2015-02-26
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Opinions of Thursday, 26 February 2015

Columnist: Sarfo, Samuel Adjei

Do Not Emulate Nkrumah’s Dubious Character

By Dr. Samuel Adjei Sarfo
Today, as we celebrate the 49th anniversary of the glorious 24th February, 1966 coup d’etat that toppled Kwame Nkrumah, we ought to throw a proper searchlight on the character of the man himself, and to examine him at close range in order to find out whether he is a man for all seasons as is often claimed, or whether he engaged in so many tyrannical acts and bad behaviors that we can characterize him as a dictator and justify and celebrate the coup that overthrew him.
Nkrumah had been outside of the Gold Coast for over a decade, but had not been able to save money for his fare back into the country Gold Coast. On the recommendation of Ako Adjei, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) under the leadership of Dr. J. B. Danquah sent him money in order for him to return to the country, and to become a general secretary of a party which had already been formed to struggle for the attainment of Ghana’s independence. How does Nkrumah repay this glowing benevolence? Firstly, he cultivated the allegiances of the people as he traveled up and down the country ostensibly to campaign for the UGCC, and when a problem arose within the UGCC as to how to proceed on the course of independence, he abandoned the party and formed his own Conventional People’s Party. He was later to ban the UGCC, imprison his benefactors J.B. Danquah and Ako Adjei, and persecute Gbedemah, through whose unflinching effort Nkrumah gained his freedom from jail to accede to the position of Prime Minister. J.B. Danquah, Ako Adjei and Gbedemah were all great politicians who helped create a Frankenstein monster that later turned around to devour them.
I dare to speculate here that the shrewd and politically savvy Nkrumah arrived from overseas with a secret plan to usurp the role of the independence fighters and to appropriate their goodwill and resources to further his own ambition. And as later events showed, by sequestering himself from the UGCC, Nkrumah created a division in Ghana’s politics that persists to this day. It is possible to speculate again that if he had worked together with the UGCC to arrive at a consensus, there could have been a less acrimonious pre and post-independence politics. By failing to accommodate the differences of opinion found within the UGCC and severing ties with the UGCC to form the CPP, Nkrumah ignored the fiduciary trust placed upon him as a worker for the UGCC, and betrayed a non-compete clause embodied in modern day contractual relations. This aside, he could still have been magnanimous in victory and brought the UGCC to the table after independence; but this conciliatory move was untypical of Nkrumah’s character, and so he chose to ban the party and to imprison its leadership.
Later, politicians in Ghana and Africa were all to take a page from Nkrumah’s Machiavellian tactics, sacrificing the most sacred friendships and alliances for political expediency. In this, as in other examples, Nkrumah became a shining example of the cut-throat politics prevailing in Ghana and Africa to this day.
Nkrumah was also megalomaniacal, conceiving of himself as more god than man. This is evidenced in the number of titles he gave himself: Osagyefo, Show Boy, Fountain of Honor, etc. He had a national praise singer in, who before every speech, reeled off a litany of bestial albeit fantastical metaphor to ascribe a litany of superhuman acts to him in order to massage his personal ego. Recounting the shining example of the achievements of Kwegyir Aggrey in a famous speech, Nkrumah once declared: “One greater than Kwegyir Aggrey is here!” thereby mimicking the words of the Christ when he said, “The one greater than Elijah is here!” He arrived in Ghana professing to have a doctoral degree although at that time, he had studied for none and had no honoris causa degree conferred on him by any university which entitled him to the honorific title of “Doctor”.
Nkrumah banned books, songs and any dramatic or creative art form which bore any insinuating characteristics against his rule, or questioned his untrammeled authority or cast any doubt on his manner of leadership. Among the books he banned from the country was George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” whose character Snowball bore an uncanny semblance to Nkrumah’s gradual metamorphosis into a veritable autocrat. Because of his paranoia and phantasmagoric posturing, Wole Soyinka wrote his “Kongi’s Harvest” to parody him while Ayi Kwei Armah wrote “The Beutyful Ones Are Not Yet Born” to portray the endemic corruption then prevailing in Ghana’s body politic under the watchful eyes of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
One irony of Nkrumah’s doctrines is inherent in his so-called African personality. This stark contradiction is thrown into sharp relief when juxtaposed to the man’s own mean-spiritedness. Here is a veritable ingrate who had abused the benevolence of his benefactors, usurped their authority and incarcerated them to rot in jail. Here is a person who had banned the democratic dispensation, declared himself life president and the country one-party state. One would have expected such a person to recognize his villainy and to stop preaching on African personality since he was no good model for that personality. Instead, he was so clueless about his own evil character that he wrote a treatise on African personality! One may justly ask whether he was projecting ingratitude, autocracy, usurpation and fraudulence as being embodied in the African personality. If he did, he was successful as evidenced in the general characteristics of the African leadership personality!
Because Nkrumah was a pioneer in the new nation Ghana, and one who sought to spread his influence across the continent, he should have lived by example and become a good role model, but in this he failed miserably. Unlike Nelson Mandela who was forever grateful to those who were his benefactors and who worked to free him from incarceration, Nkrumah imprisoned those who helped him to become the leader of the nation. Unlike Nelson Mandela who united his country, Nkrumah divided Ghana. Unlike Nelson Mandela who relinquished power after serving one term, Nkrumah wanted to be life President. Unlike Nelson Mandela who promoted democracy, Nkrumah banished democracy. He forever contaminated the landscape of politics in both Ghana and Africa, leaving in his trail autocratic regimes which African peoples are still trying to overthrow. The present day heirs to Nkrumah’s political chicanery are Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and His Excellency Professor, Doctor, Alhaji Yahya Jammeh of Gambia. The rest have become fodder to the great fires of history, and their memories spurned by all civilized people…….
Today, as we celebrate the forty-ninth anniversary of the glorious coup d’etat that overthrew Nkrumah, let us honor the men and women who truly lay down their lives so that this country will emerge a proud nation and a true republic in which her citizens live free and in dignity. Kotoka and Afrifa, together with the honorable men and women who saw tyranny and overthrew its scourge must be properly honored within the annals of our history, for without these gallant heroes, this country would have gone the way of Egypt, Libya or Zimbabwe, all places of darkness where tyranny overstayed its welcome and left in its wake the detritus of war. Kotoka, the master-mind of that coup had no intention to become Head of State. He was a fine soldier who liberated his country from the claws of dictatorship and receded to the background, paving the way for others to lead. He, an Ewe, together with Afrifa an Asante, had an enduring friendship which should reflect well on our ethnic unity and common humanity. Those men did whatever they had to do and returned the country to democratic rule within a matter of three years, unlike those who used every possible means to perpetuate their hold on power to the very end. Therefore in celebrating their achievements, we must not be bashful; we should not be cowered by the cacophony of those who seek to dissemble history and reinvent facts to create false national heroes before whom we must all genuflect. Our national heroes must be those who freed us from the yoke of oppression, not those who imposed it on us in guise of independence. We must also pledge that never again will we sit unconcerned for a person or a party to take away our rights and freedoms, to make us mere underlings, or to create a police state in which brave men and women live in total fear of their government. God bless our homeland Ghana….and help us to resist the oppressor’s rule with all our will and might forever more!

Samuel Adjei Sarfo, Doctor of Laws, is a general legal practitioner resident in the city of Austin, Texas. You can email him at