“At long last, the battle has ended! And thus Ghana, your beloved country is free forever…. Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.”
Those were the words of not a god, but a man; a great man who invested his whole being to the project of freeing his people from the shackles of colonialism and the iron hands of imperial rule. “From now on we are no longer a colony but free and independent people”.
Born in 1909 at Nkroful in the Western Region of Ghana, Osagyfo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, became the first Prime Minister on the attainment of independence in 1957 and later President in 1960. Breaking ranks with the UGCC party, Nkrumah founded and lead the CPP to demand and press home for self government and independence now for the then Gold coast colony.
His words echoed throughout the principal streets of the capital, provoking tears of joy and pride for a battle well fought and won. Victory has finally being declared after several years of struggle, independence has been granted to the young African country. The charismatic Nkrumah knew that the task ahead was weighty and great, yet the journey had to be embarked on, the African man must take his destiny into his own hands; he must be an active participant in reshaping the destiny of the African and his own existence. “We are going to create our own Africa personality and identity”.
Ghana turned 60 this year, the debates throughout the anniversary celebrations have largely centred around the question of whether or not Kwame Nkrumah can historically be said to be the founder of Ghana. I am uninterested in delving into this debate because, I think that, the man, Dr Kwame Nkrumah goes beyond that. He is an idea; one that requires much studying to understand. So 60 years on, where are we; what do the ideas, schemes, intentions, motivations and actions of Kwame Nkrumah stand for or mean to us as a country and continent.
Nkrumah was very passionate about African unity, It was as though his own life depended on it, he was overly passionate about the immediate unification of the continent. Nkrumah held that the unification of Africa was fundamental to its progress. In 1965, Nkrumah organized a conference of the Organization of African Unity in Accra to try and persuade his colleagues on the need for rapid steps at unification of the continent. In the same spirit in the fight for independence for Ghana, Nkrumah believed and espoused a position of rapid and immediate African unity as opposed to others such as Julius Nyerere of Tanzania who advocated for a step by step approach to the unification of the continent. Africa cannot develop and progress if the continent does not stand together, a divided Africa in his view was dangerous to Africa and its people it their quest for total political and economic emancipation. Those who want to see Africa down for their own gain will stop at nothing to forestall efforts towards African unification, this accounted for the urgency with which Nkrumah thought the project of African unity be carried out quickly. Kwame Nkrumah was fearful that if things were not hurried, unification will not be achieved; the forces against a project of African unity were numerous and mighty. He was in a mighty hurry to unify the continent.
Today, the project of African unity has been cast aside. At best, political leaders and actors have only largely and continuously paid lip service to this endeavor. Intra African trade is on the low. Recent statistics indicates that intra African trade is only 12% of the total trade in Africa. Also, an examination of the travel policies among African countries only confirms the fact that, African leaders have only engaged in mere rhetoric in their declarations of the need for African unity. A recent report by African development bank shows that, “to travel to other countries in Africa, Africans need visas to enter 55 percent of states on the continent. Only 20 percent of nations allow Africans to enter without visas, with 25 percent offering visas on arrival. In fact, North Americans have an easier time traveling to and within the continent than Africans. They need a visa to travel to just 45 percent of African countries, can get a visa on arrival in 35 percent of countries, and can enter without a visa in 20 percent”.( http://www.borgenmagazine.com/intra-african-trade/ ). Troubling and frightening as this maybe, it only reveals the sad reality of the non commitment to this project of African unity that Nkrumah so passionately and hurriedly pursued to the very point of death. Indeed, Kwame Nkrumah was a great son of Africa and a good son of Ghana. Individual African countries cannot stand developed in isolation, we need each other. ” I am because you are and since you are, then I am” , that is the attitude we require. A common people without regard to the pseudo artificial boundaries that currently exist amongst us. Africa must unite!
Nkrumah was very much interested in an Africa that creates her own experience, “our own African persona” in the words of Nkrumah himself. Creating our own African personality and identity. We need to revisit this to identify and make clear that unique identity and personality. The “Encyclopedia Africana” which was inaugurated by Nkrumah in September 24 , 1964 at the University of Ghana, the idea of an encyclopedia that explored the black experience must I think serve as inspiration and a guide to rethink and reexamine our lived experiences including the western thoughts and inclinations that have taken roots in us to sieve the good from the bad and the rational from the irrational for the African.
An accusation that has often always been levelled against Nkrumah is that, “Nkrumah was a great son of Africa but not a very good servant of Ghana”. This accusation cannot be true. Nkrumah viewed Ghana’s development within the broader picture of Africa. Ghana’s independence(economic and political) is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the entire continent, this point cannot be overemphasized enough. Besides, Kwame Nkrumah planned and envisaged factories, roads schools, hospitals, industries etc for Ghana. Today, the Volta river project established by Nkrumah still serves a major source of power. Nkrumah was both a great son of Africa and Ghana.
May we all develop the same spirit of devotion with which Osagyfo Kwame Nkrumah had for his country and continent.