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Opinions of Friday, 26 November 2010

Columnist: Afful-Dadzie, Anthony

Building a Nation: Why I Miss Dr. Kwame Nkrumah

His critics referred to him as a dictator, autocratic, a murderer, and above all an attention seeker who will spend Ghana’s resources on any frivolous undertaking to promote his own hidden parochial agenda. I even heard of fairytales about Nkrumah pacifying his gods by sacrificing them a human each day. His critics weren’t only Ghanaians. Most of his own African colleagues Heads of States suspected him of promoting the idea of a United States of Africa to enable him become the president of the whole of Africa. At the same time, his admirers called him Osagyefo, the African show boy, the visionary, father of the nation, the black Messiah, and countless accolades too numerous to list. Yet, however true these tales may be, however befitting these damning and adoring qualifiers regarding the personality, character and nature of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah may be, no Ghanaian capable of reflection can deny the fact that more than 50 years since he burst onto the Ghana and African political scene, his powerful foresight, creativity, persuasiveness, charisma and can-do attitude is yet to be matched by any of the leaders we’ve had since his eventual overthrow. In sum, he is the dreamer, the thinker, the believer, the doer and the perfecter of all things development. He had no equal so to speak, and has had no equal since then.
Even right now off the top of my head, I can picture some of the monumental projects which if carried out would make a difference in our life as a nation that I believe Nkrumah would have joyfully undertaken long ago. For instance, more than 50 years since independence we are yet to even consider extending rail services to the north let alone cut a sod to begin construction. Do I hear the Atta-Mills government is still in search of a monumental project to cement his legacy? Let him cut the sod for the construction of rail lines to the north. This project is long overdue and I urge you Mr. President to cut the sod now! Again, we have a vast coastal land stretching from the very end of Western Region through Central to Greater Accra that is still begging to be put to good use. To what extent have we made use of this coastal gift to solve the transportation of essential goods that generally, and for economic reasons are best transported in large volumes? A serious country would have made possible at least two local cargo ships able to transport heavy duty equipment and goods to limit the number of large trucks on the nation’s coastal roads. Do we need to wait for foreigners to come and teach us how to make money at our own backyard?
Don’t get me wrong, it is true enough that development require money, but won’t you believe that Nkrumah would have led us to achieve all these by now: Linked almost every part of Ghana with asphalt roads; achieved hundred percent electrification in Ghana; led us to build our own stadia surpassing some of the great Olympic stadia in the world; proud to showcase to the world that we are capable of building our own homes and not by Koreans; made our universities centers of excellence and self-depended yet obligatory to the state; managed to construct hospitals on our own with little foreign aid; achieved the supply of portable water, gas and telephone services to every home in Ghana; increased the number of factories that would add value to our natural resources instead of exporting them in raw form? And most importantly, all these designed and built by Ghanaians and not by foreigners?
Oh, how Nkrumah hated the idea of jetting around the globe begging. If ever Nkrumah stepped foot outside Ghana for help it was a journey aimed at outwitting the foreigner to get what he wanted. For, really isn’t it a shame that in this modern times we still rush to call in foreigners to come and build for us basic stuffs, the foremost of which is the Korean housing deal that pains my heart so much so that I begin to wonder if we really as a nation understand what Nkrumah stood for. That we cannot build our own houses in this modern Ghana? God have mercy! What is more, we are not talking of any imposing buildings, just ordinary two and three bedroom houses. This is how low we have sunk from the height Nkrumah took us.
Indeed you’re entitled to judge me as someone living in a fool’s paradise; that the world today is not the same some thirty five years ago; that all these I am talking about are just utopia and delusions. But before issuing your judgment, don’t forget that I am talking of a man who for the short time he lived inspired the whole black race that we are capable of attaining at least some level of the advances made by the western world, that even if we don’t have the knowledge base we are capable of studying what has been invented by the West, improve upon, and reproduce it to showcase to the world that we can just as the Japanese did and now taken up by Chinese and Indians.
I am speaking of the man who made the British felt ashamed and stupid by embarking on a vast array of developments which they cared less to undertake for all the years they controlled us. Here is a man, from a small West African country, having nothing but only Gold and Cocoa, yet managed to elevate the image of his country to a pedestal level that, like King Solomon, many world leaders trooped to Ghana in numbers in hope of catching a glimpse at this rising star. Here is a man who had a vision of turning Tema into the New York of Africa, the economic hub of the sub Saharan Africa. And given the pace of the development of Tema at the time, I have no doubt in mind that somehow, this man would have achieved that feat. Just think about the numerous companies in Tema built by Nkrumah and ably supported by the Tema harbour and you will realize this was a man who believed the sky is only his limit. I am here speaking of the man whose existence provided an enormous inspiration to fellow African countries that the CIA and the (then group of people I choose to call) Organization of the Colonial Masters of Africa (OCMA), the colonialist led by Britain and France, had no choice but to do all within their power to get rid of him for fear of being driven out of Africa through the spread of his political and economic ambitions. In fact for a while, it was as if the black race had awaken to claim their portion of human development only for the nation wreckers to send the entire black generation back to the age of caves. For this I say Ghanaians owe the entire black race an explanation for the manner we treated Nkrumah. Today, we wished we had a United States of Africa something this man drummed into our ears some fifty years ago but because of envy and selfishness of some African leaders (who detested Nkrumah’s popularity around the world and as mentioned above thought his aim was to be the president of Africa) sabotaged this idea to the dustbin.
For me here are the differences I see in the philosophy of Nkrumah and our leaders of today. That while Nkrumah believed we are the best people to solve our own problems, Ghanaian leaders of today thinks the solution is out there, somewhere across the Atlantic. While Nkrumah took delight in putting on his thinking cap and think deeply for things we needed both now and tomorrow, most Ghanaian leaders of today are either so lazy or too afraid to think, much more to take an initiative. Above all, while Nkrumah preferred to have almost all things done by Ghanaians so he could walk in swagger showcasing “Made in Ghana” or to put it in a way he would have preferred, “Made by Ghanaians” products, our leaders of today prefer all things foreign.
Is it not glaring to you then the difference between the ambition and creativity of Nkrumah and that of our leaders of today? To be specific, while Nkrumah believed in adding value to our resources by initiating gold and oil refinery projects so that we won’t sell our resources for cheap, all that our leaders of today can boast of is exporting raw materials. While he preferred to have cocoa processing factories so that real Ghana Chocolates could be on display on the shelves of every supermarket in the world, our leaders of today prefer exporting raw cocoa beans and adore Belgium and Swiss chocolates.
Let me give you a different economic interpretation of the Akosombo project which some of his unreflecting and jealous critics continue to trumpet today (despite all the benefits this country has enjoyed and continue to enjoy) as the dumbest deal of his presidency. In doing so I hope to reveal to you the superior mindset, creativity and imagination of Nkrumah that made him stand tall above his peers and why we need to make Nkrumah’s ideology the centerpiece of our march towards making Ghana a truly developed nation. The economic thinking that energized Nkrumah to push from the drawing board into reality the Akosombo project which the British dread carrying out is unbelievable and ought to be made known to any Ghanaian who aspires to the nation’s highest office.
Here is how I understood him. Nkrumah had one overarching project in mind, one that he would die to achieve; that of cheap and constant supply of electricity for his people which he believed would be the catalyst for the transformation of Ghana. But there was not enough money, and quite frankly no country was willing to give Ghana that amount of money. As he kept pondering over this issue day after day he at last came up with an innovative idea, a win-win strategy that would allow him get what he wanted. As said earlier, Nkrumah believed in adding value to our raw materials, and he chanced upon Bauxite. He thus envisaged a two-in-one project that would entice the owners of Valco and the American and British governments to (1) build the Akosombo dam to a capacity that exceeded more than twenty times the electricity demand at the time, (2) build an aluminum factory to produce aluminum and aluminum products using Ghana’s bauxite as raw materials, and (3) for the meantime, sell the excess electricity to Valco even if it is pretty much below the market price. I urge anyone reading this short article to deeply ponder over and learn from the manner at which Nkrumah managed to secure funding for the construction of the Akosombo dam. This was a masterful negotiation, one that increased the wealth of Ghana in the long run and not debt as was perceived by those envious critics who understands only short-run economics. And so it was that through this superior thinking Nkrumah gave many Ghanaians the opportunity to enjoy cheap electricity, making Ghana the envy of West Africa.
Given the benefits we’ve derived from the Akosombo dam, I dare say his critics are damn wrong, and that anybody in his rightful mind who thinks this was an unprofitable deal should be considered an “economic illiterate”. This man was so desperate to get electricity for the people of Ghana, and he found a way unimaginable, tied to our wellbeing to do that. And although it later turned out that Valco were paying less for their use of the electricity there is no doubt the Akosombo dam project given the colossal amount of money needed at the time would still have been on the drawing board had it not been for his ingenuity. If you don’t believe me ask the Burkinabes how long it took them to secure funding for their first dam, the Kompienga Dam. As said earlier, it is this two-in-one project Nkrumah initiated that Ghana still has the highest electricity consumption per capita in the West African sub region.
I venture to affirm that had we the need for the extra electricity from Akosombo at the time, Nkrumah as smart as the fox would have found a way to outwit Valco to pay the right price for the electricity it consumed, not least buying out Valco and raising the price of aluminum products, or worse still decommission Valco. Yes, the deal surrounding the Akosombo dam project that allowed Valco to enjoy virtually free electricity for almost fifty years must have been a truly dumbest deal to Nkrumah’s critics, nevertheless how do you compare this to say Kuffour’s liquidation of Ghana Airways and his handling of the Vodafone deal?
How on earth then can any patriotic citizen convince us that we should idolize those who supervised the overthrow of such an important person and in turn sweep the unshakable legacy of Nkrumah under the carpet? If we were to do serious soul searching and be truthful to ourselves as a nation I have no doubt the general conclusion will be that none of our former leaders be it Busia, Rawlings, Kuffour can be compared to Nkrumah. That would be comparing the economic size of the U.S to Ghana. Let’s acknowledge this fact and encourage the youth of today to aspire to be more of Nkrumah for the building of a prosperous nation.

By Anthony Afful-Dadzie (ato.kwamena@yahoo.com)