Monday, September 21 2009. That date is important for two main reasons: Eid ul-Fitr and Kwame Nkrumah’s 100th anniversary. Going with that, I’m going to focus on what I think Kwame Nkrumah‘s most important legacy to Ghanaians and Africans is. I don’t idolize him, but I definitely do admire and applaud him. I strongly believe that the true mark of an individual’s success is in how (much) he or she is able to positively impact others. Nkrumah definitely did that. Heck, he is STILL doing it. With Ghana’s population quickly approaching 24million, it is a wonder that we’re not bursting at the seams.

 

Ghana's first president Osagyefo Dr.Kwame Nkrumah shares a moment with an African-American boy on his state visit to see American President John F. Kennedy.
 

Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nrkumah, Pan-Africanist

The fact that our economy is being sustained by infrastructure and systems put into place by an ordinary human being is mind-blowing! Sure, he had his issues, but that’s the beauty of it all! Despite all the criticisms against him, this man achieved what no Ghanaian man or woman has been able to parallel. Critics say he let the power get to his head (what do you think today’s politicians are doing?), and that he wanted to rule Africa, and this and that, but at the end of the day, he certainly had one thing that set him apart from all the others (past and present): Vision.

Let’s look at the European Union. This vessel of power, integration, and a definite symbol of what we humans can achieve if we’re willing to work together. Sure, there might still be some cracks here and there, but all in all, it’s an amazing thing. It’s pretty ironic to think that Nkrumah’s very own country (and continent) men swept his suggestion of a “United Africa” under the rug, while the Europeans paid heed to what could only have been the immense vision of this man. The man was simply phenomenal. He possessed the vision and foresight that is sorely lacking among our so-called leaders today.

Sure, I’ve listened to my dad and grandma talk about Nkrumah numerous times. I know the acclaimed “Ghana, your beloved country is free forever” speech all too well. And I’ve felt pride every time a foreigner recognizes Ghana as a result of Nkrumah. He put our country on the map, and indeed, brought a different light to the continent. However, it wasn’t until I was conducting my independent research on Ghana and Malaysia, that I fully appreciated what a visionary Kwame Nkrumah was.

 

Nkrumah’s Long-Sustaining Vision

Hidden in the depths of chapter four of Critical Perspectives in Politics and Socio-Economic Development in Ghana by Tettey et al. (2003) was a section on how social and ethnic unrest in Ghana influenced (or rather impeded) its development efforts. The author, Adjibolosoo, explored Kwame Nkrumah’s attempts at dealing with these tensions. The Ghana Young Pioneers movement of June 1960 which aimed at character building and citizen development among youth was one of the initiatives that led to the ideology of patriotic nationalism or “Nkrumanism”. Through the Ghana Young Pioneers initiative, educational programs were implemented to educate children in the concepts of social solidarity, political action, value stabilization, individual integration into changing social structures, the direction and meaning of life, and learning to think in terms of a nation rather than ethnic groups. I think Nkrumah’s target group alone (children) is indicative of how forward-thinking this man was.

And, he didn’t end there.  Ghanaians from different ethnic groups were offered civil service jobs in languages other than their own thanks to his professional initiatives. The current National Service Scheme is reminiscent of this initiative; although many Ghanaians today will move heaven and earth to ensure that they remain in Accra or large cities like Kumasi and Tema. Adjibolosoo acknowledges that although Nkrumah’s initiatives did not rid Ghana of ethnic rivalries, it did have a significant impact on ethnic dynamics in Ghana. And I concur with that observation.

We are still living off of his vision. But at some point, the roads, schools, bridges etc that Kwame Nkrumah set up will be in need of serious repair, or will have to be done over entirely. It’s time that we quit nit-picking, and go on a full-out campaign to work and make necessary changes.

I cannot imagine what it must have been like living in Ghana a couple of decades ago. Nkrumah knew that in order for Ghana (and Africa) to prosper, we would have to put our differences aside and work together. United we stand, divided we fall. And boy, are we racing each other to the depths of poverty, instability and all the other inefficiencies that plague our country and continent. All nations who have achieved some semblance of democracy and development, have had to let some sleeping dogs lie and work together. In Malaysia, the native Malays and the Chinese and Indian foreigners did this. America’s north and south divides came together. In Ghana…well, let’s look on the bright side, things are better. This example is just a case in point of how visionary Kwame Nkrumah was.

Who cares whether high school in Ghana goes for a term of three or four years? What, pray tell us, are students supposed to be studying over that period of time? That is what we are supposed to be focusing on, the curriculum, the essentials, the specifics! We need to have a vision and long term goals, and then, we strategize step-by-step and determine how we will achieve these goals. Enough, of the short-term planning already! If we don’t commemorate Nkrumah’s 100th birthday in any way, I hope we at least take a page from his book on leadership, and strive to be visionaries and work not just in the present, but also for the future. In his own words, “Forward ever, Backward never.” RIP Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972).

Author

Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.

4 Comments

  1. You have written well. Every man has his faults and weaknesses else he wouldn't be a man but a god. It is the greed and egotism of the African leaders that was why we never had an African Union (not the puppet we have today). Everybody knows that in unity lies strength yet no one wants to be united. When Nkrumah came to be the secretary of UGCC, the party was only in the South with no penetration in the North. When he asked for the part to penetrate the North the erudite in the party argued strongly against it including opening offices and having a flag to signify a presence. To me Ghana has had no leader since Nkrumah. All we have had are representatives of the country and not leaders. A leader without a vision is no leader. Which president has himself written a book about his vision (like Obama did in the Audacity of Hope, like Nkrumah did). They have no vision, besides which president past or present has a clear cut policy in every sector of our economy. The thing is we lack leaders. We don't have any…we only have greed-grown intellectual junkies.

  2. You've touched on a key term for anything in life: vision. For did not Jesus (as) himself say that without a vision the people will perish. It's vision and it's taking the means to implement this vision. Nkrumah had a vision and he had the support of people who wanted that vision to materialise.
    We blame leaders today but what about us citizens? Where are we going? Why are we accepting all these ills? What are our own visions?
    Temporal solutions, quick fixes, you're right, that's what governments do. Many of them are firefighters and others are just lax because they simply can get away with it.
    But all is not gloom. Yes, government and leaders play a very important part but if us citizens start creating our own visions then surely, leaders will behave differently, maybe?
    In African, we have very unique voting patterns and it would be interesting to investigate that but some countries have 'poor' leaders or poor visionaries yet citizens are making things happen on the ground. Uganda is a prime example. You ahve Museveni who create dhis own downfall and who is in lala land but Ugandans, despite their rceent turbulen past, are making things happen and are now cretaing pockets of society who are pushing for things to be better. Of course I have to mention my favourite African president, Paul Kagame, he has a vision and you must see rwanda to see how united they stand in making things happen.

  3. A friend of mine once said ' the greatest black man to walk this earth beside Jesus is…. you guessed it Osagyefo himself!' Your article outlines it vividly. On the issue of what are we(citizens) doing to ensure our visions materialize, well i am doing my part through music. Here are two tracks i've recorded already
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbczlcS-3KY : Odo(love) – talks about living in peace,love and harmony amongst ourselves.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNiR6yZ2vEI&feature=player_profilepage nothing last talks about issues with Africa

    So hopefully i get a broader platform to reach the majority of the people. Keep them coming, nice write up!

  4. Perfectly well written article. It is of course refleshing to remind us of the vision of this great African! For clearly what Africa so strongly lack since the generation of the Nkrumah and the Sankara were eliminated is leaders with vision. Defining some long term goals and mobilising local ressources and populations to acheive those. We see lots of vision 2020, 2016, 2030 etc… everywhere in the continent. But the very behaviour of the conceivers of those vision show they have no commitment at all to implementing them. Secondly vision premised on the fact that 'others', the so-called 'development partners will do it for Africa are clearly the very premise for maintaining the status quo.

    That Nkrumah developed a programme for properly educating and 'patriotising' the children is a claer indication of his profound belief in the future of the continent and Africans.

    Sadly there is so little self-confidence in most of us including our leaders today!

    but I guess we acheive nothing by playing the blaming game. For the key question we must ask ourselves is have we put in place those 'institutions' which others people have and in which dedication, love and sacrifice for one's country are nurtured among a critical portion of the population.

    Does our schools and universities, media, churches, etc create even the slightest sense of pride and commitment to our country?
    Clearly not! So where the hell are the good leaders we so much crave for supposed to come from? Heaven peharps! While we await for these angels to come, other peoples are busy creating institutions to develop and nurture these angels. Our biggest mistake is take we fold our hands and expect ours to fall from heaven.

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