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Opinions of Thursday, 1 October 2015

Columnist: Forson, Prempeh

What is Nkrumaism?

I have tried many times to find out from the few ‘Nkrumaist’ I know what exactly the term means. In all occasions I received different interpretations. Some hold the view that Nkrumaism stands for the vision and the methods of governance held and displayed by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. Others see Nkrumaism as a fan club which therefore allows any member to assume the tag Nkrumaist.

Personally there is only one thing I can trace to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and that is the idea of uniting the entire African continent to form a United State of Africa. No one can take that away from Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. He conceived this idea and gave birth to it, albeit prematurely, when he lobbied all the powerful African leaders at the time to agree to form the OAU. Nkrumah of course wanted more than the OAU but that was all he could manage at the time – and it was still a great achievement.

Who is Dr. Kwame Nkrumah?
Born Francis Kofi Nwia at Nkroful in the Western region of Gold Coast, he left to study in America, made a brief stopover in Britain and returned to the Gold Coast again – this time as Kwame Nkrumah. His story is an inspiring one which goes to affirm that everyone has the right to decide his own destiny. Nkrumah had returned after the Second World War and there was a huge demand on the tattered and bruised European colonial masters to give up their colonies.

There were struggles for independence throughout the continent – from North to South and East to West. In Gold Coast the UGCC was leading the charge and Nkrumah was invited to become the party general secretary. He saw an opportunity to advance his ideas and pounced at it by breaking away from his friends to form the CPP in a move which was seen as betrayal of their trust. He took along a chunk of the masses.

Nkrumah had the experience which his colleagues did not have and this gave him the edge. Nkrumah knew how to mobilize people and how to tell them what they wanted to hear. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah introduced propaganda to Ghanaian politics. He told the people lies about his UGCC colleagues in an attempt to win them to CPP and it worked magic. Nkrumah and his CPP party eventually won a general election against the UGCC and the independence of Ghana was handed to him. Surely if J B Danquah had won that election with his UGCC the history of this country would have been written differently. In any case there was no way they were going to win – Nkrumah’s propaganda machine was too great. Afro Bede (as the ladies of Ashanti Region affectionately called their Mr. charming Gbedemah, in yesteryears when there was no tribalism) was a very skillful politician and Nkrumah owed his success largely to him.

Now, back to Nkrumah’s experience. Nkrumah found himself in America at the moment in time when the black man was baring the teeth like never before to say enough is enough. Marcus Garvey whose Blackstar line later became Nkrumah’s Blackstar line was a great influence on Nkrumah. Time would not permit me to list all the kingpins of black freedom struggles who had influenced Nkrumah’s thinking and shaped his ideas for Africa but in short he returned ready to prove a point.

Nkrumah admired the greatness of America, Great Britain and Russia and wanted to create something similar in Africa. The idea of Uniting Africa was not unique in any sense of it. There was a United State of America, and there was the Soviet Union. And in what people consider as the first step towards European Union, this is what Winston Churchill said in 1946:

"I wish to speak to you today about the tragedy of Europe. Yet all the while there is a remedy which, if it were generally and spontaneously adopted by the great majority of people in many lands, would as if by a miracle transform the whole scene, and would in a few years make all Europe, or the greater part of it, as free and as happy as Switzerland is today. What is this sovereign remedy? It is to recreate the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe. The first step in the recreation of the European Family must be a partnership between France and Germany." Winston Churchill- Speech at Zurich University, 19th September 1946. REF:

NATO was formed in 1949, nearly a decade before Nkrumah was proposing the African high Command force. The intention here is not to belittle Nkrumah in anyway but rather to point out that his ambition was born out of examples that were around him at the time. I certainly admire him for attempting to achieve for Ghana what others have done for their people. He was definitely ahead of his time as Ghanaian but not ahead of his time as a global leader. This is because everything he sought to do was already done elsewhere. Nevertheless, he deserves a lot of credit and the latter day saints can learn something from him. Today’s politicians travel around the world and see beautiful countries but do not attempt to help us achieve the same in Ghana as compared to Nkrumah wanting Ghana to become like those countries he had seen. For instance, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah said he was going to bring America to Ghana so that no Ghanaian will ever wish to migrate to America because they will only be used and disrespected. Two things here: (1) Nkrumah saw the conditions of black people in America and did not wish that upon any Ghanaian or African and, (2) Nkrumah undoubtedly must have liked the United States of America he saw in terms of development and technological advancement to have wished to reengineer the same in Africa.

He was a great man no doubt, and he meant well by wishing to build a great nation that will compete with the rest of the powers of this world – prove to the rest of the world that the black man can handle his own business. One thing we have to note here is that, not only was Nkrumah’s African Unity idea nonexclusive but also the method of achieving it. Nkrumah was Communist inclined and attempted to push his development plan through socialist economic principles. I do not blame Nkrumah knowing that if I was in his shoes, had experienced what he went through prior to becoming a prime minister, I would have in no doubt chosen the path of communism.

Here is why: Dr. Nkrumah admired America and Russia. They were both great nations on Earth and remain so today but one has been horrible to Black people and the other did not really have any bad history with black people. One followed free market economic principles whiles the other practiced controlled (interventionist) economic principles (the type that J M Keynes himself would have advised against on a hindsight). With the temptation of power in sight Nkrumah chose the Russian way, after all, if the two works then why not go for the one that not only works but also turns the leader into the Lord God Almighty on Earth. Knowing what communism has done to those that followed it and how China and Russia have made a dramatic U-turn, I am left without a doubt that Nkrumah would accept free market if alive today.

After the removal of Nkrumah, his harden supporters turned him into a saint. They ‘worship’ him and ‘cherish’ his ideas even though they never followed his economic development footsteps whenever they were in power. The evidence is seen from 1979 to 2000 and 2008 to date when the country has been in the hands of Nkrumaists. That is to be expected, after all Christians talk passionately about the righteousness of Christ and do not follow his examples. For Nkrumah a movement was created – an Nkrumah fan club with the tag Nkrumaist. They preached Nkrumaism as the way forward for this country and support their argument with the numerous factories Dr. Kwame Nkrumah built. They claim that if he was not overthrown Ghana would have been a paradise by now. This is not true because Ghana was in total mess by the time Nkrumah was overthrown. The nation was bankrupt and he was disillusioned and paranoid. He had entangled himself in the web of world politics and attempted to take on super powers. He had spent and over spent all of the country’s money and there was pressure from everywhere.

The truth hurt and I know Africans, especially Ghanaians, do not like to face the truth. I know this very well and do not expect anyone to agree with me. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s style of governance; the division, propaganda, indoctrination and political victimization can never be the way forward for this nation. His dream to industrialize this country is shared by all but not through socialism as he chose. Nkrumah’s vision is everyone’s vision but his approach was not and still not accepted by everyone. Nkrumaism can only stand for one thing and that is the belief that Africa must Unit. He is the person that came close to achieving it. Although it is now clear to me that Africa will never unite but for Nkrumah it would have remained one of the numerous rhetoric never to be attempted.


Prempeh Forson