You are here: HomeNews2010 09 23Article 190937

General News of Thursday, 23 September 2010

Source: Danquah Institute

Gabby: Nkrumah Personified The Tragedy Of 20th Century Africa

In a provocative lecture delivered to Pennsylvania University students and professors last Monday (on the eve of Founder's Day in Ghana), Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko described Ghana's first President as the "personification of the African tragedy of the 20th century."

He said, it was ironic, but pregnant with subconscious meaning that BBC listeners voted Kwame Nkrumah as Africa's man of the Millennium in December 1999.

"Precisely because, in my view, Nkrumah's leadership epitomised the African dream that decayed, the political freedom that was won and lost, the promise that was missed, the economic experiments that led to our detriment, triggering a long, avoidable period of instability and mass poverty."

He said, Nkrumah used his charisma, energy and urgency to inspire his nation to the promise of greatness, beginning with a GDP growth of between 9.12%, rapid industrialisation and significant expansion of social programmes. However, within a decade there was decline on nearly every major front -- civil rights, democracy, and the economy suffered -- and he ended up offering to a hopeful continent a model of leadership and a paradigm of governance that left a 50-year legacy of 'Afropessimism'.

The head of the Accra-based governance think tank, who was in the United States for a month-long series of public engagements, stressed, "in fact, the Nkrumah failure was Africa's failure or vice versa," yet, "we are happy to hail him as Africa's Man of the Millennium."

With undisguised irony, he said the Nkrumah story captures all that was wrong with Africa in the 20th century and that was why the founder of the CPP best represents Africa's millennium -- one of avoidable failure which the leadership of this new century must fix.

"It was apt he got the vote - over Mandela and others -- even if not consciously intended for the reasons I suggest because Nkrumah's failure served not only as a microcosm of Africa's failure but as the pace-setter for that continental failure which today has the majority of our people still steep in poverty."

The Executive Director of the Danquah Institute said, Ghana, being the first Sub-Saharan nation to break away from colonial rule readily offered not only a model for independence but more importantly on how Africa's new-found self-governance and development status were to be moulded.

In his lecture, 'Challenges and Opportunities for Africa's Democracy and Development -- Ghana's Historical Pace-setter Burden', Mr. Otchere-Darko called on the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to reduce their activities in Africa and, instead, redirect much more of such financial resources through the African Development Bank, which he described as "probably the greatest legacy of the defunct OAU."

Mr. Otchere-Darko praised the urgency with which the AfDB is attempting to lead the charge for Africa's development but for which it has not been receiving the commensurate funding.

"The AfDB," he said, 'continues to show unsurpassed courage and native care and wisdom that given a greater fiscal space it can better support Africa's development, especially, through the funding of essential self-paying infrastructural projects for a sustained Pan-African development."

He said, "a recent Afrobarometer survey done in East Africa showed that a vast majority of African people simply want the freedom to move and trade freely with each other across states without borders. They are not interested in either a political or defence union but in economic integration."

He added, "We must, therefore, find a clever way to take the momentum (or lack of it) of that integration process away from the politicians so that the momentum from the people would then force the politicians to buckle up. Let us speak with a strong, united voice to our leaders that we want economic integration now -- and leave them to argue among themselves about political integration, if they so choose."

Mr Otchere-Darko lamented how, for ten years, since the process for a common West African currency, Eco, was started in 2000, the five member states continue to struggle to meet the convergence criteria -- with an embarrassment of serial postponements.

He also touched on the absence of a generally recognised supranational court or legal system to facilitate, enforce and enhance the harmonisation of laws, rules and regulations for integration.

Taking an interesting angle that seemed to have taken many of his knowledgeable audience by surprise, the Danquah Institute director questioned Nkrumah's sincerity to Pan-Africanism.

He queried the Pan-Africanist wisdom in dismantling institutions of integration that were already in place by 1957 only to turn around and preach unification.

"Today, the very same countries (plus Guinea which followed the Nkrumah way and stayed out of the CFA zone) which for over 50 years till 1957-68 shared the single currency called the West African Pound, are the same states forming the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ).

"So, why was Nkrumah, the Pan-Africanist, the first to pull Ghana out of a single regional currency in 1957, when a common currency is one of the major achievements for integration?'

Mr Otchere-Darko also questioned why Ghana's first President took Ghana out of the West African Court of Appeal, causing the collapse of a critical institution for integration. He also cited Nkrumah's decision to take Ghana out of the West African Airways Corporation, forcing countries like Nigeria, the Gambia and Sierra Leone to form their own airlines, none of which is around today.

Still exposing the contradictions of Nkrumah, Mr Otchere-Darko referred to Sekou Toure, the Guinean leader and close ally of Nkrumah blaming the Ghanaian leader then for allegedly causing the overthrow of Togo's first leader, Sylvanus Olympio in January 1963.

"Four months later on 25 May, 1963, the OAU was established with Nkrumah making a strong case against imperialism and calling for solidarity among Africans and on other African leaders to support his zealous push for unity."

He continued, "Unlike Ali Mazrui, I do not think that Nkrumah was just a bad leader for Ghana, but also a bad example for the very Pan-Africanism that he preached all so well, to which we are all committed today."

Mr Otchere-Darko looked at the culture of vote-rigging in Africa today and traced its roots to the first Sub-Saharan nation to gain independence. He cited the 1964 referendum on one party state -- where over 99.91% of Ghanaians were said to have voted 'yes' for a one party state, with a shocking series of zero 'no' votes being registered even in opposition strongholds.

Again, he cited the state negligence of private enterprise for state enterprise, while the money to sponsor the parastatals was provided by private cocoa farmers.

He mentioned the 'obnoxious' 1960 constitution which effectively created a republic dictatorship -- the provisions of which have been avoided by all subsequent constitution in Ghana and other African democracies.

While praising Nkrumah for adding high-octane fuel to the freedom movement in Africa, Mr Otchere-Darko said there was already an inevitability about decolonisation at the time, the very tide that swept Ghana.

He said, World War II weakened European colonial powers, both morally and financially, and this helped the liberation movements in Africa to gain an unstoppable momentum.

He explained it as telling that in African countries where there were European settlers the African had to fight brutal conflicts for independence, including Algeria, Kenya, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and South Africa.

In the lecture, Mr Otchere-Darko pointed out that Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia's first leader, for instance, did more logistically and politically for the independence struggle in African than probably any other first generation African leader, supporting ANC, UNITA, SWAPO and ZAPU.

He described 2010 as the "golden jubilee of Africa's independence because in 1960 as many as 17 African countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso (Upper Volta), Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, La Cote d'Ivoire, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia and Togo won their national independence. Ghana, also, the leader, became a Republic that year."

He posed the question, "How far have we travelled in 50 years? Has political 'freedom' translated into economic freedom? If not so, why?"

Mr Otchere-Darko said the size of world population stands at some 6.768 billion people, with a GDP of $58.15 trillion. "Yet, Africa, which contains 14% of world population, 922 million people, controls only 2% ($1.184 trillion) of the global economy. We may be doing better than India, with its 1.157 billion population or 17% of the world total and controlling also a mere $1.235 trillion (2%) of global GDP but growing rapidly. What this tells me is that with the right leadership, motivation, discipline, innovation and economic empowerment, Africa would have no reason to remain poor."

Nkrumah in his book 'Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism', published in 1965, stated: "The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside."

However, the head of the Danquah Institute, who described himself as 'no apologist for Africa', said, Africa has no one to blame but its history of bad, sometimes naive leadership.

He said, "America will look out for America's interest. Should that stop Africa from looking out for its interest, as well? There is a new scramble for African resources, led by China. As I speak, the Ghanaian leader is in China negotiating multi-billion dollar deals. The Chinese philosophy is simple: I have something you want, you've something I need, let's deal. No questions asked. But, are we going in blindly and weakling-like just like before or recognising our bargaining power and proceeding from that resource-inherent position of strength?'

On Monday, Mr Otchere-Darko spoke at the auditorium of East Stroudsburg University, Pennsylvania.