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Opinions of Friday, 24 July 2020

Columnist: Kordson Kwasi Ayrakwa

A politician who am I


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A politican is a representative of the people and carries across into parliament the ideas of his/her constituents. He/She is the embodiment of their aspirations and the hope of what is possible and what can be done to advance change and progress. In this regard, I would like to examine the lives of 3 world leaders to ascertain their standing as politicians and whether they fulfilled their roles.

In this short piece, my focus will be on (1) Angela Merkel, (2) Dwight D. Eisenhower and (3) Kwame Nkrumah.

Angela Merkel:

" You are stronger than you seem, braver than you believe and smarter than you think..."

This is why I call her " mother of the nation", "the mystical", " the determined", the " gouverne de la rosse", "la mere de la mere" and perhaps " the iron lady of the European Union" or simply " the unstoppable " or the "great one". Angela Dorethea Merkel was born as Angela Kasner on the 17th of July 1954 in Hamburg West Germany. Her father was a Lutheran Pastor, who moved the family to Templin, then part of East Germany in the service of the Lutheran Church.

Angela's early growing years were spent in East Germany. She was very bright at school and was the best student in Russian and Mathematics. At her Bachelors, she graduated with a first class in Russian and Physics from Karl Marx University. Her zest for further studies and research led her to work as a Research Fellow and also pursue, her PhD in Quantum Chemistry at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry at the Academy of Science in Berlin Adlershof. She was in Academia for about 12 years from 1978 to 1990, before falling in love with politics.

In 1990, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the unification of West and East Germany and the opportunities for new possibilities, Merkel stood for elections to the Bundestag in the parliamentary constituency of Stralsund-Nordvorpommern- Rugen and won.

She soon became a rising star in the CDU and a protege of Chancellor Helmut Kohl. This sweet relation did not last long as she had a falling with her boss, when some top executives of the CDU ( Christian Democratic Union) including Kohl were involved in a corruption scandal.

During this termoil, she stood for the Leadership of the CDU and won and also went on to help the party to win 4 elections with serious negotiations and coalitions with the SPD, the Green Party and other minority parties in the German Bundestag.

She was first women to be sworn in as Chancellor of Germany on the 22 of November 2005 under a grand coalition of mixed policies that involved (1) a cut in public spending while increasing VAT, (2) Increase Social Security Contributions and top rate Income Tax, and (3) Reduction in Unemployment.

She has been able to stir the Affairs of the country through many trying times. Of particular interest is (1) the Financial Crisis of 2008/2009, (2) Immigration and the Syrian Refugee Crisis, ( 3) The Role of Germany in Europe Transatlantic Relations, (4) The role of Muslims in German Society, ( 4) Russian evasion of Crimea, (5) Turkey joining the EU (6) Germany and Europe's role in global warming and climate change, (7) Germany's efforts to combat the Coronavirus, (8) Germany's role in Africa's development and world's stability, safety and security, etc.

Of the above mentioned challenges, Angela Merkel was very instrumental in helping the EU, draw up financial packages to support some of the weaker countries in the EU like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and even France. The economic bailouts helped rejuvenate many of these economies for which, if nothing had been done, would have led to serious weakening and collapse of some of these economies.

Another critical contribution is Angela Merkel's handling of Syrian Refugee Crisis and the saving of lives of many Syrians who were rejected by other countries in the EU. Although she was criticized by many pandits and opposition parties she stood firm by her decision. However, with some Syrians acting badly and killing innocent Germans, it threw a bad light on the kind gesture Merkel's government was showing the Syrians and questioned German immigration and refugee rules and humanitarian assistance.

In terms of Transatlantic relations between Germany, Europe and the Americas, there has been a high volume of trade and economic activity between the two continents. This has been made possible through the strong leadership of Angela Merkel and partnerships with US presidents George Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump and renewed ties and strong relations with Canada during Stephen Harper's reign and Justin Trudeau's government.

Angela Merkel has also been in the forefront of fighting climate change and is a signature to the Paris Accord which aims at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% of current levels by 2050.

On the current Coronavirus pandemic Angela Merkel has distinguished herself and handled the crisis with confidence, with one of the lowest Infection rates in Continental Europe and the first to reopen its economy and allow for organized sports like Soccer- Bundesliga to begin.

Angela Merkel has won many acolades such as 2015 Time Magazine's Person of the year award. Forbes list her as one of the World's Most Powerful People - the second most powerful person in 2012, the highest ranking achieved by a woman since the list began in 2009.

In 2006, Angela Merkel was honored with the Vision for Europe Award for her contribution toward greater European Integration.

Among her G7 colleagues, she is the longest serving member and therefore called by her colleagues as the "decider".

She has also been awarded a number of honorary doctorates from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Leipzig University and Harvard University just to name a few.

Indeed, she is a confident leader, full of hope, vision and accomplishments worthy of great admiration and a pantheon of what the highest level of the human spirit can be.

Eisenhower:

" I am as constant as the northern star of whose true fix and resting qualities there is no fellow in the firmament" Julius Caesar : Shakespeare.

These are the very qualities of a true gentleman, a soldier, a general and a leader for which encapsulates the life of President Eisenhower.

Eisenhower, was born David Dwight Eisenhower, and raised in Abilene, Kansas, in a large christian family of mostly Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry ( The Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum Homepage, 2013), (Barnett 1942),(Ambrose 1983, pp 14-19).

Eisenhower was not particularly religious (Study Guide of Eisenhower and Religion 2017). He graduated from West Point in 1915 and later married Mamie Doud, with whom he had two sons (Berger-Knorr, The Pennsylvania Relations of Dwight D Eisenhower, p8), (Ambrose 1983 pp 59-60). Eisenhower had a number of challenges in his early years as a soldier, but worked hard and got promoted to the rank of brigadier general in 1941(Korda, 2007 pp239- 243) (The Eisenhower: The General, 2010). After the United States entered World War II, Eisenhower oversaw " the invasions of North Africa and Sicily before supervising the invasions of France and Germany. After the war, he served as Army Chief of Staff (1945–1948), as president of Columbia University (1948–1953)(Bruce 1968), NATO (1951–1952)"( Ambrose 1983, pp 204- 298).

In 1952, Eisenhower entered the presidential race as a Republican to block the isolationist foreign policies of Senator Robert A. Taft; Taft opposed NATO and wanted no foreign entanglements. Eisenhower won that election and the 1956 election in landslides, both times defeating Adlai Stevenson II (Mayer 1989), (Nicol David 2007).

Eisenhower's main goals in office were to contain the spread of communism and reduce federal deficits. In 1953, he threatened to use nuclear weapons until China agreed to peace terms in the Korean War (Ambrose 1983). China did agree and an armistice resulted which remains in effect.

His New Look policy of nuclear deterrence prioritized inexpensive nuclear weapons while reducing funding for expensive Army divisions.

He continued Harry S. Truman's policy of recognizing Taiwan as the legitimate government of China, and he won congressional approval of the Formosa Resolution (Ambrose 1983).

His administration provided major aid to help the French fight off Vietnamese Communists in the First Indochina War. After the French left, he gave strong financial support to the new state of South Vietnam. He supported military coups in Iran and Guatemala
orchestrated by his own administration.

During the Suez Crisis of 1956, he condemned the Israeli, British, and French invasion of Egypt, and he forced them to withdraw. He also condemned the Soviet invasion during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 but took no action (Korda 2007).

After the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, Eisenhower authorized,
the establishment of NASA, which led to the Space Race. He deployed 15,000 soldiers during the 1958 Lebanon crisis. Near the end of his term, he failed to set up a summit meeting with the Soviets when a U.S. spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union. He approved the Bay of Pigs invasion, which was left to John F. Kennedy to carry out (Eisenhower: The General 2010).

Domestically, Eisenhower was a moderate conservative who continued New Deal agencies and expanded Social Security.

He covertly opposed Joseph McCarthy and contributed to the end of McCarthyism by openly invoking executive privilege. He signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and sent Army troops to enforce federal court orders which integrated schools in Little Rock, Arkansas (David Nicol 2007, Mayer 1989).

His largest program was the Interstate Highway System. He promoted the establishment of strong science education via the National Defense Education Act. His two terms saw widespread economic prosperity except for a minor recession in 1958 (Ambrose 1989).

In his farewell address to the nation, he expressed his concerns about the dangers of massive military spending, particularly deficit spending and government contracts to private military manufacturers, which he dubbed "the military–industrial complex". (Korda 2007), (The Eisenhower: The General 2010).

Historical evaluations of his presidency place him among the upper echelon of American presidents and a very strong leader worthy of our admiration and emulation. A soldier for the ages and indeed a perfect gentleman and a president second to none.

Kwame Nkrumah:

"In any given moment we have two options; to step forward into growth or to step back into safety" Abraham Maslow.

" There is the tide in the affairs of men, that taken at flood leads unto fortune.... " Julius Caesar: Shakespeare.

This was indeed the life story of Kwame Nkrumah, the one who became the Osagyefo (the redeemer) and the first President of the Republic of Ghana. Kwame Nkrumah was born on 21st September 1909. His initial birth name was Francis Nwia- Kofi, but later his parents named him Francis Kwame Ngolomah (From Ngolomah to Nkrumah: Peacefmonline 2009) Studying in the United States he was known as Francis Nwia Kofi Nkrumah. In 1945 in the UK he changed his name officially to Kwame Nkrumah (Biography of Ghana's first President).

Kwame Nkrumah's father was Opanyi Kofi Nwiana Ngolomah who lived in Tarkwa-Nsuaem and worked as goldsmith but died in 1927. His mother was Elizabeth Nyanibah, a fishmonger and a petty trader. Kwame Nkrumah's father had a number of children but was the only child of his mother.

He began school at a Catholic Mission in Half Assini. He was a very bright student and his abilities were quickly noticed by his teachers.

After elementary school, he proceeded to Government Training College or Prince Wales College or Achimota School in the Gold Coast capital Accra. There, he became acquainted with Reverend Alec Garden Fraser, principal of the school who encouraged him to become a teacher at the school.

During that time, he met Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey who exposed him to the ideas of W.E.B Du Bois and Marcus Garvey. Marcus Garvey's ideas really caught his attention and believed that, the only way all races could live together fairly was when the Black man gouverned his own affairs and not the thoughts put forward by Fraser and Kwegyir Aggrey that, cooperation between the races in the Gold Coast would help in promoting effective governance ( Rooney, p 9 and Addo, pp 53-54).

His further acquaintances with future Nigerian President Nnamdi Azikiwe who had earlier on, attended Lincoln University attracted him there in October 1935 due to the university's interest in Black Nationalism.

Nkrumah graduated from Lincoln University in 1939 with a B.A. in Economics and Sociology. Lincoln University appointed him as an assistant lecturer in philosophy and began to receive invitations as a guest preacher to the Presbyterian Churches in Philadelphia and New York. In 1943 he earned his (lvy League) Master of Arts Degree from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania in Philosophy and Master of Science in Education ( Rooney, pp 13-14).

"Nkrumah spent his summers in Harlem, a center of Black Life, thought and culture. He found housing and employment in New York City with difficulty and involved himself in the community. He spent many evenings listening to and arguing with street orators, and according to Clarke ". " These evenings were a vital part of Kwame Nkrumah's American Education. He was going to a University- the University of the Harlem Streets. This was no ordinary time and these street speakers were no ordinary men...." (Clarke: pp9 -10).

Nkrumah organized the African Students Association of America and Canada and became its President. One of the primary aims of the organization was to encourage African colonies to become independent. In this regard, Nkrumah argued for a " Pan African strategy ".

After these exploits in America, Nkrumah moved to the UK in May 1945 to pursue his PhD in Anthropology at the London School of Economics. But as fate may have it, this cause of action was suspended and from the influence of George Padmore and W.E.B. Du Bois and organizing the 5th Pan- African Congress in Manchester ( Oct 1945) with other leaders like Jomo Kenyatta and Obafemi Awolowo, Nkrumah focused on activism (Birmingham 1989) and organized himself and the big Six to fight for Ghana's Independence. It began with the formation of the United Gold Coast Convention ( UGCC) in August 1947 (Birmingham 1998).

The United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) was the first political party to be formed in the Gold Coast. It's aim was to eventually gain the country's Independence. The Party needed a General Secretary to run the affairs of the party on a full time basis, but since the other members like J.B. Danquah, Ako Adjei, Obitsebi Lamptey, Akuffo Addo had successful businesses and fulltime jobs, Ako Adjei suggested Kwame Nkrumah to be the General Secretary.

Kwame Nkrumah took the job to heart, and organized the Party properly to gain prominence and popularity in the country. He used " The Accra Evening News" very effectively to put his message across to the masses. Nkrumah and the Committee on Youth Organization( CYO), that is, the youth wing of the party, ex-servicemen, students and the market women wanted "self government now" and "Freedom", whiles J.B. Danquah and others wanted a gradual approach to this process.

Also there were a lot of unemployed servicemen (63,000) who had fought for the British in the Second World War, but had been neglected. These servicemen on the 20th of February 1948 wanted to present a petition to the governor about their situation, but were short and killed.

This provoked the Accra Riots and the hitherto peaceful country, saw riots across the country. This led to the arrest and imprisonment of the big Six. This created a rift between leaders of the UGCC, as Nkrumah was blamed for the riots. Nkrumah unhappy with the situation, eventually broke away from the UGCC to form a new Party.

Nkrumah and his supporters formed the Convention Peoples Party. It began its operations on 12th of June 1949. The main aim of the CPP was to win the 1952 legislative elections. This was the first general election to be held under universal franchise in colonial Africa.

CCP won 34 out of the 38 seats contested. Nkrumah won his seat, while the UGCC won only three seats and one independent candidate.

Eventually, the Governor General, Sir Arden-Clarke, had no choice but to invite Kwame Nkrumah to form a New Government. Nkrumah then became the leader of Government Business and Prime Minister. Nkrumah who lacked previous political/government experience worked hand in hand with Arden- Clarke to stir the affairs of the country.

Nkrumah embarked on a number of infrastructure projects like the construction of the Motor Way, Tema Harbour, Ghana Water and Sewage Company, Schools, Expansion of the Railways into the hinterlands, etc.
In 1952 the governor took a back seat and allowed Nkrumah to consult nation wide with input from the opposition and the masses and chiefs for a suitable constitution to be enacted and to pave the way for Independence on 6th March 1957.

After Independence, Nkrumah continued with his infrastructure development efforts. Among the projects he undertook were the construction of the Akomsobo Dam to generate hydo electric power that, the country needed to facilitate it's industrial take off, the building of factories such as Nsawam Canaries, Polugu Tomato Canaries, the State Housing Corporation, State Transport Corporation, Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, State Fishing Corporation, Ghana Textile Manufacturing Company and many more.

Although, Nkrumah was trying to hasten the pace of industrial development of the country, his government was becoming more repressive of the people. His " Young Pioneers" was a propaganda tool used to sabotage and silent the opposition and any body in descent of his ideas. His policies were becoming too communist in orientation and he formed alliances with a number communist countries like Russia, China, Romania, Yugoslavia, Cuba, etc.

On the African front, he was very instrumental in formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which aimed at building a United Africa - where there will be strong collaboration between African states, in terms of their military, trade, industry, monetary institutions, governance and ideological alignment.

Nkrumah's idea of Pan-Africanism and the Nonaligned movement was seen as a counter force to Western Imperialism and for Africans to take charge of their own affairs.

Whether this was true or not, Nkrumah's own actions, nepotism, corruption and tribalism in his government and the silencing of the opposition and the dissatisfaction among the Military ranks, led to his overthrow in a bloody coup d' etat led by General Ankrah and General E.K Kotoka in Accra in Febuary 1966. There were some undertones or indications that, the coup was supported by the CIA, but there is no clear evidence that, this was the case.
Nkrumah heard the news of his overthrow on his way to (Hanoi) North Vietnam and China. Nkrumah did not return to Ghana. He spent his remaining life in exile in Guinea and President Sekou Toure named him honorary co- president. Nkrumah continued his Pan African ideas and wrote a number of books like "Axioms of Kwame Nkrumah "( 1967), " African Socialism Revisted ", "Voice From Conakry ", "Dark Days in Ghana" (1968), "Class Struggle in Africa" (1973), "I Speak of Freedom " (1973), etc.

He was awarded honorary doctorates by many universities including Lincoln University (Pennsylvania), Moscow State University (USSR), Cairo University, Humboldt University ( East Germany)(Arhin 1992). Nkrumah died of prostate cancer in April 1972 at age 62 while on treatment in Bucharest- Romania. He was initially buried in his hometown - Nkroful Ghana. Later, his remains were transferred to a Memorial Tomb built to honour him in the capital Accra (Arhin 1992).

Nrumah was married to Madam Fatia Nkrumah and had three children - Garmel, Sarmia and Sekou. He had another child named Dr. Francis Nkrumah's who is a pediatrician.

Many Ghanaian leaders have tried to honour Kwame Nkrumah. Of particular importance is the declaration in September 2009 by the late President, Prof. John Evans Attah- Mills, that,
21th September is founders day, celebrating Kwame Nkrumah's 100th birthday and his legacy ( Nkrumah's Birthday declared a holiday 2009). In April 2019, the current Ghanaian president, President Akufo Addo changed the Founder's Day to Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day (President Akufo-Addo assents to Public Holidays Amendment Act 2019 ). Indeed, Nkrumah never dies. My mother, calls him Kwame Nkrumah the show boy.

In conclusion, Angela Merkel, Dwight David Eisenhower and Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah represent some of the profound leaders of our time. Through adversity, share will and determination, they were able to change the course of history. They toiled, they led, they fought and conquered. They are a reflection of what one's belief in one's abilities can propel a people to a higher glory and achievement.

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