Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was the one who led Ghana to independence from Britain in 1957 and served as the first prime minister and president. He was born in Nkrokul, Gold Coast on the 21st September, 1909. He was raised by his mother after the death of his father and spent his life in the village, in the bush and on the nearby sea. His mother sent him to an elementary school at Half Assini, where he proved an adept student. By 1925,he was a student teacher in the school. While in the school, he was noticed by Alec Garden Fraser (principal of the Government Training college, now Achimota school). There, a Columbia-educated deputy Headmaster Kwegyir Aggrey exposed Nkrumah to the ideas of Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Du Bois. Aggrey, Fraser and others thought that there should be close co-operation between the races in governing the Gold Coast, but Nkrumah echoing Garvey soon came to believe that only when the black race governed itself could there be harmony between races. As he continued and was made Headmaster of a school in Axim, he involved in politics and founded the Nzima Literary Society. After hearing of a journalist and future Nigerian president Nnamdi Azikiwe, they met and Azikiwe influence increased Nkrumah’s interest in black nationalism. This gave birth to his advocacy for Pan-Africanism.
Haven’t failed the entrance examination for Lincoln University, he gained funds for the trip and his education from relatives. He traveled to Britain where he learned his outrage of Italy’s invasion to Ethiopia. In 1935,Nkrumah travelled to the United States. He had sought entry into the Lincoln University sometime ago. He wrote a letter to the school noting that his application had been pending for more than a year. He enrolled in Pennsylvania despite lacking the funds for the full semester. However, he soon got scholarship into the Lincoln University. Nevertheless, he remained short on money through his time in the states. He worked in menial jobs including as a dishwasher. He gained a Bachelor of Arts in economics and sociology in 1939. He was promoted as a teaching assistant and gained more degrees in 1942 where he was the top student in Lincoln University. He gained two masters degree from Pennsylvania.
As an activist student, he organized a group of expatriate African students of Pennsylvania and built it into the African students Association of America and Canada. He urged for a Pan-African strategy by the association. He read books on politics, divinity and philosophy. After the second world War, Marxist C.L.R James wrote a letter to George Padmore that “This young man is coming to you. He’s not very bright, but nevertheless do what you can for him, because he’s determined to throw the Europeans out of Africa”. Nkrumah went to Padmore in London where he got enrolled in many schools.
Haven’t studied in many fields such as economics, philosophy and Science in London, he received a home call letter from the United Gold Coast Convention(UGCC) in 1947. Nkrumah responded to the call and Came back to the Gold Coast to run the party. This stage saw Nkrumah’s visions come to broad daylight. He later realized the slow pace of the party in moving towards independence and other misunderstanding strategies. He later founded his own party after he and some of the spearheads of the party were arrested in separate prisons due to the 1948 riots. The leadership of the UGCC blamed Nkrumah for that matter
The arrest of Nkrumah rather gave him more popularity. He founded the Committee on Youth Organization(CYO) under the motto: “self-Government now”. They sung and yearned for freedom. This gave birth to the Convention people’s party-CPP. The British convened a select commission of middle-class Africans including the big six, except Nkrumah to draft a new constitution that would give Gold Coast more self government. Nkrumah saw even before the commission reported that its recommendations would fall short of dominion status and begun to organize a positive Action Campaign. He demanded a constituent assembly to write a constitution. When the governor, Charles Arden-Clark refused to commit to it, Nkrumah called for positive action with unions beginning a general strike in 1950. The strike led to violence which again saw Nkrumah in prison and other leaders of the CPP. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment and was incarcerated with common criminals in Accra’s Fort James.
Nkrumah’s assistant ran the party in his absence. The imprisoned leader was able to influence events through smuggled noted written on toilet paper. The British prepared for an election for the Gold Coast under the new constitution. Nkrumah made the CPP contest all the seats. He stood from prison for a directly-elected Accra seat. His assistant worked to set up a nationwide campaign organization using vans with loudspeakers to blare the party’s message. The UGCC failed to set up a nationwide strength and proved unable to take advantage of the fact that many of its opponents were in prison. In February 1951,the first general election was held and the CPP secured 34 out of the 38 seats contested on party basis.
Nkrumah was elected for the Accra constituency. The UGCC won 3 seats and one by an independent candidate. Nkrumah was released from prison on 12th February. He faced many challenges as he assumed office. He had never served in government and needed to learn that art. Nkrumah fought to unite the citizens under one nationality and bring the coming independence. The British gave Nkrumah full support and brought many infrastructural development such modern trunk roads, railway systems, modern water and sewer systems. The Takoradi harbor was expanded and many primary schools were established. Through these years, Nkrumah was promoted as a prime minister and many Ghanaians were given portfolios. He sought constitutional reform that led to independence. The assembly was now headed by Ghanaians. In June 1956,the colonial secretary announced that 6th March would be independence day.
Behold, the Gold Coast became independent on the said date and was named Ghana. Nkrumah stood before thousands and proclaim “Ghana is free forever”. He made it clear that Africans can conduct their own affairs with efficiency and tolerance and through the exercise of democracy. He later became president in 1960. Nkrumah worked tirelessly for the people and increased the number of infrastructure. He also made education compulsory on the citizens.
Job opportunities were created as he established lot public industries and vocational institutions. A lot more was done ranging form the media, electricity, domestic industries, agriculture and many more. In early 1966 while on a state visit to North Vietnam,and China, his government was overthrown in a military coup led by Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka and the National Liberation Council. Nkrumah never returned to Ghana, but continued to push for his vision of African unity. He lived in exile in Conakry, Guinea as the guest of President Ahmed Sekou Toure who made him honorary co-president of the country. He read, wrote, corresponded, gardened and entertained guests.
Despite retirement from public office, he felt that he was still threatened by Western intelligence agencies. When his cook died mysteriously, he feared that someone would poison him and begun hoarding food in his room. He suspected that foreign agents were going through his mail and lived in constant fear of abduction and assassination. In failing health, he flew to Bucharest, Romania for medical treatment in August 1971. He died of prostate cancer in April 1972 at the age of 62.
Over Nkrumah’s life, he was awarded; honorary doctorate by Lincoln University, Moscow state University, Cairo University, Jagiellonian University on East Berlin and many other universities.
From the above life adventure of the founding father of the Republic of Ghana, despite the fact that only few were educated in Gold Coast, he got educated and furthered more just to have his dreams become a reality. All he focused on was where he was heading for and never gave up. He still arrived to making his dreams come true despite lack of funds.
Another inspiring thing is that after twenty five(25) years of his death, he was voted Africa’s man of the Millennium by listeners of the BBC world service. He was described by the BBC as “A hero of independence” and an “International symbol of freedom as the leader of the first black African country to shake off the chains of colonial rule”. According to intelligence document by the American office of the historian “Nkrumah was doing more to undermine the US government interest than any other black African”.
This tells us that “even if one does not see the tree he’s been nurturing bear fruit while alive, some will see it bear fruits someday after he’s gone”. (Zakaria Abdul Hakim Genius)