Kwame Nkrumah: Africa’s “Man of the Millenium”
First black African country to shake off the chains of colonial rule
Kwame Nkrumah became an international symbol of freedom, as the leader of the first black African country to shake off the chains of colonial rule.
As midnight struck on March 5, 1957 and the Gold Coast became Ghana, Nkrumah declared:
‘We are going to see that we create our own African personality and identity. We again rededicate ourselves in the struggle to emancipate other countries in Africa; for our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.’
Explaining his vision in his 1961 book, I Speak of Freedom, Nkrumah wrote:
‘Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world. I believe strongly and sincerely that with the deep-rooted wisdom and dignity, the innate respect for human lives, the intense humanity that is our heritage, the African race, united under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.’
However, few of the newly independent African countries were persuaded of the need to give up some of the power they had recently won, to a central parliament for the continent. Ghana was one of 30 nations that founded the Organisation of African Unity in 1963. But Nkrumah regarded it as inadequate as it was not the United States of Africa he longed for.
But over the next few years, Nkrumah was increasingly regarded as an authoritarian and remote leader. In 1964 he declared himself president for life and banned opposition parties. Justifying his actions he wrote:
‘Even a system based on a democratic constitution may need backing up in the period following independence by emergency measures of a totalitarian kind.’
Many Ghanaians celebrated when their former hero was overthrown by the police and military, while he was on a visit to China in 1966. There was little response to Nkrumah’s broadcasts calling for the nation to rise against the coup leaders. He died in exile in Romania in 1972.
Economic Philosophy: Industrialization.
Nkrumah believed that it was only through industrialization, not agriculture, that Ghana and the rest of independent Africa could catch up with the developed nations of the world. Rural development was thus neglected.
He began the move to dismantle colonial rule in Africa.
He advocated Pan-Africanism, to fight neo-colonialism on the continent.
He was the architect of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
He became a symbol of hope and emancipation for Blacks and all oppressed peoples everywhere in the world.
He built factories and industries in Ghana, the Tema City Harbor, new roads, and expanded the Civil Service.
He constructed the Akosombo Dam to provide electricity both for Ghana and the neighboring states.
He broke the monopoly of the multinational corporations in the Ghanaian economy, through nationalization policies. He created more jobs in the economy and increased wages. He set up the main Ghana Shipping Line – the Black Star Line.
He built new hospitals and pipe-borne water
He encouraged and financed sports to introduce Ghana to the world.
Africans took charge of their own affairs and reclaimed their dignity in the world. However, social inequalities persisted in Ghana.
He manitained the colonial educational structures geared towards European degrees and values.
He introduced free basic education for all children in Ghana by abolishing school fees at this level.
He expanded education by building more schools to increase enrollments.
He built teacher colleges to train teachers for the schools.
He built several secondary schools (high schools).
He built three universities: The University of Ghana, Cape Coast University, and the University of Science & Technology.
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