Today marks the 103rd birthday of Ghana's first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah.
From humble beginnings in the village of Nkroful in the Western Region of the then Gold Coast through Achimota School in Accra to the Lincoln University in the USA, Nkrumah rose to become the founder of modern Ghana and the greatest African of the last millennium.
His charisma, vision and desire to see his country industrialise and prosper and to unite Africa into a strong, prosperous continent that could influence decisions in the international arena were unmatched.
Winner of the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963, Nkrumah enrolled in the Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, USA, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1939. He obtained another bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology in 1939.
In 1942, he was awarded a Master of Science in Education and a Master of Science in Philosophy. While lecturing in Political Science at the Lincoln University, he was elected President of the African Students Organisation of America.
His association with well-known Marxists, such as Raya Dunayevskaya and Grace Lee Boggs, brought him to the attention of the American Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and by early 1945 he was under FBI surveillance.
In that same year, he left the US with the intention of studying at the London School of Economics.
His meeting with George Padmore, a Trinidadian Pan-Africanist, in England got him involved in the organisation of the fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester.
He later founded the West African National Secretariat to fight for an end to colonialism in Africa and was later elected Vice-President of the West African Students Union (WASU).
Due to his strong radical and anti-colonial views, he never escaped the eyes of the British Special Branch.
In 1947, Nkrumah was invited by the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) to serve as its General Secretary but due to disagreements regarding the way forward in the fight for self-government, he broke away and formed the Convention People's Party (CPP) on June 12, 1949.
He involved the youth, women and ordinary people in his party and travelled the length and breadth of the country to spread his message. Within a short period, the CPP had become the biggest political party in the then Gold Coast.
In late 1949, he made some proposals for constitutional amendment which were rejected, and on January 1,1950 he called for "positive action". He was arrested and jailed for three years, but the peace and quiet the British colonial administration thought his incarceration would bring did not materialise.
Faced with local protests, the British organised elections in 1951, and although he was in prison, Nkrumah and his CPP won by a landslide, taking 34 out of the 38 seats. Consequently, the colonial administration had no choice but to release him. He was asked to form a government within a day of his release.
He formed a government and was given the title "Leader of Government Business".
In 1952, however, the Legislative Assembly elected him, by secret ballot, as Prime Minister, after the constitution had been amended.
As Prime Minister, Nkrumah continued to agitate for independence and, on March 6, 1957, the Gold Coast became independent with the new name "Ghana".
Nkrumah quickly launched into a massive industrialisation programme to bring Ghana at par with the developed world. He established factories all over the country and, to generate electric power for the smooth running of those factories, he built the Akosombo Dam, a massive electricity generating plant at the time.
To open the hinterlands to development, he built roads, hospitals and schools. Education in Ghana was free up to the university level. He built two more universities to add to the one established by the colonialists.
In 1960, a new constitution was drawn to make Ghana a Republic. The draft constitution included a clause to surrender the sovereignty of Ghana to a Union of African States.
A presidential election was held in 1960 and Nkrumah again won by a landslide, obtaining 1,016,076 votes as against Dr J.B. Danquah's 124,623 votes.
He organised Pan-African congresses in Ghana and supported freedom fighters all over Africa.
He was a founding father of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
Nkrumah took a non-aligned Marxist approach towards development. He was often quoted as saying, "We face neither East nor West; we face forward."
His government, however, had traces of socialism.
Due to subversive acts against his government, which included two assassination attempts against him, one at Kulungugu and the other at the Flagstaff House where he resided, he introduced the Preventive Detention Act (PDA) under which opponents were detained without trial.
In 1964, Ghana was proclaimed a one-party state and all political parties were banned, except the CPP. Nkrumah was proclaimed Life President, with some political opponents fleeing into exile.
While on his way to Hanoi to discuss moves to stop the Vietnam War in February 1966, Nkrumah was overthrown by some senior military officers, led by General Emmanuel K. Kotoka.
Forty years after his overthrow, Nkrumah's legacy lives on. The Accra-Tema Motorway, the Tema Harbour, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, the University of Cape Coast and many other development projects attest to his desire to raise Ghana onto a pedestal far higher than he had met it.
At the turn of the last century, listeners of BBC voted him the African of the Millennium, while the African Union (AU) erected a giant statue of him at the new AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
Source: Anthony Vinorkor/Daily Graphic/Ghana
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