I fail to understand all the buzz around Kwame Nkrumah. I know he led this country into independence. No doubt, he had a lot of vision. Fifty years ago, he foresaw some of the major problems we are facing today and tried to resolve them. He tried. He was a great visionary. But he was also despot – who passed off his parochial ambition to be the ruler of a united Africa as the solution to all the problems on the continent.
Kwame Nkrumah had his opponents caged and paraded on the streets. He had them imprisoned on trumped-up charges and he had kids spying on their parents. If he felt you were even thinking of insulting him, he’d have you thrown in a bunker under his Preventive Detention Act. It was like America’s much-derided Patriot’s Act of today.
I like to say that what Kwame Nkrumah gave with his right he took with his left. If after Kwame Nkrumah we have had leaders with half his vision and none of his despotic streak, he wouldn’t have seemed so great – and our country (and continent) would have been better off. On this continent we have had some very brutish, stupid and unthinking leaders who make Kwame Nkrumah seem like the best there ever was and the best there will ever be. Thus, there is a whole cult built around him. I don’t belong to that cult. President Atta Mills, obviously, is a staunch member of the Nkrumah cult. I have no problem with that. But I have every problem with his plan to introduce yet another public holiday to celebrate the life of his mentor.
When I first read about the president’s plans – in an advance copy of his sessional address – I asked myself, “Don’t we have enough holidays already?” Then I decided not to really get involved and to keep my thoughts to myself until a bill is sent to parliament.
But then, last week, Gabby Asare-Otchere Darko wrote in the ‘Statesman’ that the idea is good but the holiday should not just be in commemoration of Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday, of which no one is certain, by the way. He seems to have picked a date off the calendar and made it his birthday – September 21.
Anyway, alleging a “serious manipulation of history”, Otchere-Darko argues that all those who contributed to the independence struggle (including his uncles and grandfathers) should be celebrated on this day, which he suggests should be called Founders’ Day – not Founder’s Day. That is to say that it should be a day for the founders not a day for the founder.
Otchere-Darko’s attempt to get a piece of the action for his forebears has received a quick rebuttal from Prof. Agyeman Badu Akosah, the President of the Kwame Nkrumah Foundation. Prof. Akosah acknowledges that others contributed in diverse ways to the attainment of independence. But he insists that Kwame Nkrumah did the bulk of the work and he deserves more recognition than any of the others. He then proceeds to draw an analogy from the football pitch.
“Ghana went to (the) World Cup, Ghana played (the Czech Republic),” he says. “Who scored Ghana’s first goal? Most people will say it was Asamoah Gyan. Who passed the ball to him, most people don’t remember. Life is like that.”
When I heard Prof. Akosah’s argument, I decided that the debate was well underway and I had better get in the fray. So here is my take.
I think we don’t need another holiday. Whether it is Founder’s Day (for Nkrumah) or Founders’ Day (for him and all the others) I don’t give a damn! Kwame Nkrumah and all the others have had roads, hospitals, bridges, academic institutions and charitable foundations as well as mausoleums, flyovers, roundabouts, play grounds, dormitories, universities and children named after them.
I will not be surprised if in some areas in this country gutters, public toilets, landfill sites, cemeteries and even potholes have been christened after the likes of Nkrumah, Danquah, Busia etc. We speak glowingly about them and drum and dance all day in their honour on March 6 every year. On July 1, we do the same – albeit on a smaller scale. Their images are on each of our currency notes. I think we done enough for them already. How else do we want to “immortalise” them? Name the side of the moon facing Ghana after them?
This whole idea of a Founder’s (or Founders’) Day – whatever they choose to call it – is yet another exercise to whip up some sentimental nostalgia about a by-gone era to make us feel good about the hopelessness we find ourselves in. We don’t need that.
The so-called founders – or founder – have done their bit. They certainly weren’t the best things that ever happened to this country. Look at what we’ve done with our ‘independence’ over the past five decades and ask: if they had laid the right foundations will we be wallowing in cruel poverty, diseases, misery, ignorance, tribal bigotry and grand corruption? They sure didn’t and for the little that they did, I think we’ve honoured and “immortalised” them enough.
Let’s look into the future because the best is yet to come. Let’s leave some of the ‘immortalisation’ for those who will take us out of our wretched mess.