The day they bombed Kwame Showboy
When does history become the news, Jomo? Why, when say, long-held popular nothings and perceptions are suddenly turned upside down and Ghana’s First President sheds the heavy cloak of a despotic ideological maniac for that of a national hero and his opponents are left arguing about the meanings of words and phrases like “founder” and “founder of the nation”.
The atmosphere was one of loud monkey chatter and all wet activity in the school dormitory’s laundry bay as we washed our uniforms and cloths on a Saturday. Then the news came via radio: Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, had been overthrown!
The jubilation was somewhat spontaneous. A few stupefied expressions there were alright, otherwise wide, many students whose skulls had been stuffed to the roof by the political opposition the with word “dictator”, raced across the campus jumping over hedges, doing somersaults and screaming anti-Nkrumah slogans.
It did not occur to me at the time, that most of us did not understand the full implications of what had just happened and were only reacting with understandable naivety, to the sudden fall of a man who had been so demonized by his opponents, that many had actually come to believe Nkrumah was really Lucifer in kente and jumper.
Looking back, it is obvious that it had to come to THAT as a matter of course. There had been too many attempts to kill Nkrumah for something not to eventually give, if you see what I mean.
By the way, Jomo, you can bomb a city, a building or an installation, but how can you bomb a man? Yet so determined were his opponents to zap the Osagyefo, that they just kept bombing the man. He was shot at and bombs thrown at him on at least seven different occasions leading up to his overthrow.
One of the most deadly attacks on the man occurred in August 1962, a couple of hours after Nkrumah, dressed in a splendid jumper and kente, had waved at us from the backseat of a saloon car with a white handkerchief, as we welcomed him at the Bawku Oil Mills near Gingande, on his arrival from Accra. I recall nothing what a handsome man Nkrumah was.
After crossing the border and meeting with President Maurice Yameogo of Upper Volta (Burkina Faso) he stopped at Kulugungu on his way back. He had descended from his car to receive a bouquet from a school girl when a bomb was hurled at him. Hey, you know about all that of course…
We were still standing around at Gingande with our national flags waiting for his return when dispatch riders raced back shouting in Twi, that Nkrumah was dead:
I recall the lead rider standing straight up on the pedals and trying to scream the sky down in Twi, “Nkrumah ewu-oo!, Nkrumah ewu-oo! Womoa to bomb, Nkrumah ewu-oo”!, causing us to flee in a million directions. The casualty tally was actually one dead and 55 including Nkrumah injured.
The man is eventually driven to his wits end. He promulgates the infamous Preventive Detention Act and employs it to grab and throw dangerous opponents behind bars. The great idea being to “prevent” them from zapping him, see? That, and his declaration of a one party state have been two of the most criticized aspects of his rule.
As the centenary and inaugural Founder’s Day celebrations got underway this week and the eulogies began to flow, I determined to consider the other side of Nkrumah as espoused by his critics.
One of the most often cited works very critical of Nkrumah and his administration is Peter Omari’s “Kwame Nkrumah: The anatomy of an African dictatorship”. The book has been described as a well-researched and cogently reasoned treatise on the Osagyefo.
Many Ghanaian youth have probably never heard of Dr. Omari who obtained a PhD from the University of Wisconsin at the age of 24, becoming the youngest PhD graduate ever in the academic history of the university!
The literary quality of Dr. Omari’s book is near superb, the language easily accessible even to non-scholars and the attempts to scholarly objectivity quite commendable but in the end, the deep seated political biases seep through and copiously too:
You cannot attempt a review of an important work like this in a couple of paragraphs. What I may note though, is that not much about Nkrumah seems to have impressed Omari.
Dr. Omari’s book is replete with statements like: “Nkrumah was an intellectually frustrated man when he returned to Africa”, “He had achieved nothing in America”, “Many…ridiculed his verbose expressions and bombastic English”, “There were those who thought him downright illiterate”, “Nkrumah’s administration achieved the distinction of halting Ghana’s development”, etc.
According to Dr. Omari, Nkrumah while addressing a CPP rally at Cape Coast, asked his audience: “People talk a lot about Dr. Busia, Dr. Busia. Who is Dr. Busia? He is not even good enough to undo my shoes. They say Busia is a learned man. Am I not an MA”?
To this, Dr. Omari recounts, Nkrumah’s CPP audience responded, “You are”! whereupon, Dr. Nkrumah continued: “Am I not an MSC”? “You are” “People talk about Dr. Busia, Am not LL.D? “You are”!
A long list of Nkrumah’s books adorn library shelves across the world but Omari thinks “Nkrumah’s determination to write books on politics, economics and philosophy was desire to assert himself as an intellectual, as to explain himself and impress his views on African intellectuals and militants”.
Omari even suggests that Nkrumah did not write the books all by himself and that he may have received help in writing them!
Russell Warren Howe was a foreign journalist Nkrumah deported from Ghana, who then went on to write the book. “Black Star Rising”. Dr. Omari quotes Russel in an effort to contrast the quality of Nkrumah’s oratory and accent with of his political rival Dr. Busia:
“Dr. Busia, the Ghana opposition leader speaks the English language better that Sir Arden-Clarke. (Arden-Clarke was the last British colonial Governor General)!
Omari continues his quotation: “Dr. Nkrumah on the other hand, after twelve years in the United Stated and Britain, is clearly a different proposition…He has no gift for expressing himself, his vocabulary is incomplete, his grammer faulty, his style hesitant, confused and poor”.
Shortly after President Mill’s inaugural Founder’s Day address on Tuesday, someone who said he was setting the records posted an Internet blog describing Nkrumah as “as dazzling gem of a brain, a fierce orator, super genius and an extraordinary visionary” and his detractors as “jealous and petty minds who could not cope with Nkrumah’s popularity and dazzling, infectious personality” and persisted with practical attempts to eliminate him.
The chore of the infrastructure that has supported all key national sectors since independence-road and transport, railways, energy, water resources, manufacturing, hospitals schools and universities, shipping, housing etc. were all built by Nkrumah’s administration.
So a lot of that has been decaying, huh? That is the point of Founder’s Day, Jomo: To shock us into halting the decay and beginning to build on the foundation the founders laid.
Does the reference to a national Founder’s Day not deny Nkrumah’s comrades in the independence struggle deserving credit? Well, every epoch making film has room for only one protagonist but this does not take anything away from the rest of the starring cast, does it?
Daily Graphic - page: 7 Friday, September 25, 2009