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On the legacy of Kwame Nkrumah

By Dr. Elijah Ngurare
It is pleasing that the Pan Afrikan Centre of Namibia (PACON) has deemed it fit to devote this month of February 2012 to remember the life and legacy of one of Africa's illustrious leader, the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, first President of Ghana.

Kwame Nkrumah was born on 21 September 1909, at Nkroful in what was then the British-ruled Gold Coast. Kwame's father was a goldsmith and his mother a retail trader. After graduation from Achimota College in 1930, he started his career as a teacher at Roman Catholic junior schools in Elmina and Axim and at a seminary.

Early years
Increasingly drawn to politics, Nkrumah decided to pursue further studies in the United States. He entered Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1935 and, after graduating in 1939, obtained master's degrees from Lincoln and from the University of Pennsylvania. He studied the literature of socialism, notably Karl Marx and Vladimir I. Lenin, and of nationalism, especially Marcus Garvey, the black American leader of the 1920s. Eventually, Nkrumah came to describe himself as a "nondenominational Christian and a Marxist socialist." He also immersed himself in political work, reorganizing and becoming president of the African Students' Organization of the United States and Canada. He left the United States in May 1945 and went to England, where he organized the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester.

He returned to Ghana in 1947 and became general secretary of the newly founded United Gold Coast Convention but split from it in 1949 to form the Convention People's party (CPP).((After his 'positive action' campaign created disturbances in 1950, Nkrumah was jailed, but when the CPP swept the 1951 elections, he was freed to form a government, and he led the colony to independence as Ghana in 1957. A firm believer in African liberation, Nkrumah pursued a radical pan-African policy, playing a key role in the formation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. His legacy and dream of a "United States of African" still remains a goal among many. In particular, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah selflessly dedicated his life to show how future sons and daughters of Africa should prepare themselves as well as strive to unify Africa and harness its wealth for the benefit of all descendants of the continent.

Today, the African continent is beset with poverty and misery even as it is endowed with abundance of natural, climatic, strategic and human wealth.

In Pursuit of African Unity

In 1960, Nkrumah announced plans for a new constitution which would make Ghana a republic and boldly included plans for an eventual surrender of Ghanaian sovereignty to a union of African states. Around this time, Nkrumah instilled inspiration and confidence in all Ghanaians by saying "no amount autonomy or self-rule could match the energy, commitment, and focus of a government and people in a truly independent country" such as Ghana. He further crafted a philosophy that later became a leading liberation ideological trade-mark which says "seek first the political independence and all else shall be added unto you". These words and works of Kwame Nkrumah, inspired many leaders ofAfrican liberation movements for decades and modelled their routes to independence on Ghana under the Presidency of Nkrumah.

Undoubtedly, it was Nkrumah's and other foresighted leaders' steadfastness and commitment towards the decolonialization process of Africa that gave birth to the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, which essentially set the sight on uniting Africa both politically and economically.

Nkrumah warned Africa to be vigilant against possible neo-colonialism, by predicting many features of the post-colonial system long before they were even in place. He opted to argue that imperialism is deeply rooted in capitalism and that "Neo-colonialism, like colonialism, is an attempt to export the social conflicts of the capitalist countries".

The temporary success of this policy can be seen in the everwidening gap between the richer and the poorer nations of the world. But the internal contradictions and conflicts of neocolonialism make it certain that it cannot endure as a permanent world policy.

While Nkrumah did not provide a solution to neo-colonialism, he made a number of tacit suggestions, including the need for pan-African unity, inorder to make the task more difficult for neo-colonialism. Ironically, he further argued that neo-colonialism is a potentially and effectively a self-defeating project because of postcolonial resistance and revolt when it reaches an extreme in the periphery, indirectly destabilizing the neo-colonial centre that practices it. All in all, while remaining an advocate of world of socialism, Nkrumah believed that the solution to the neo-colonialization lies in the continental unity and national sacrifices of individual states towards the collective wellbeing of Africa.

In laying the foundation of OAU, Nkrumah observed the following three conflicting conceptions of African unity which explain to a large extent, the present critical challenges to the Africa Unity:

1. The mutual protection theory:
The OAU serves as a kind of insurance against any change in the status quo, membership providing a protection for heads of state and government against all forms of political action aimed at their overthrow. Since most of the leaders who adhere to this idea owe their position to imperialists and their agents, it is not surprising that this is the viewpoint which really serves the interests of imperialism. For the puppet states are being used both for short-term purposes of exploitation and as springboards of subversion against progressive African states.

2. The functional conception:
That African unity should be purely a matter of economic cooperation. Those who hold this view overlook the vital fact that African regional economic organizations will remain weak and subject to the same neocolonialist pressures and domination, as long as they lack overall political cohesion. Without political unity, African states can never commit themselves to full economic integration, which is the only productive form of integration able to develop our great resources fully for the well-being of the African people as a whole. Furthermore, the lack of political unity places inter-African economic institutions at the mercy of powerful, foreign commercial interests, and sooner or later these will use such institutions as funnels through which to pour money for the continued exploitation of Africa.

3. The political union conception:
That a union government should be in charge of economic development, defence and foreign policy, while other government functions would continue to be discharged by the existing states grouped, in federal fashion, within a gigantic central political organization. Clearly, this is the strongest position Africa could adopt in its struggle against modern imperialism, which is most cultural and economical.

Beware of Imperialist Manoeuvres
Fiercely, in his book Class Struggle in Africa the great Pan- Africanist warned against dependence on capitalist global institutions such as the United Nations (UN) and the Bretton Woods institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. Nkrumah reminded us that the UN is the tool of the elite states which control the Security Council and that it was / is "just as reliable an instrument for world order and peace as the Great Powers are prepared to allow it to be". He stressed that the community of economic life is the major feature within a nation, and it is the economy which holds together the people living in a territory, thus new Africans should recognise themselves as potentially one nation, whose domination is the entire African continent, if they are to fight for the survival of independent Africa.

Pursuant to the foregoing discussion, it is now very lucid as it has been that Nkrumah; a great Pan-Africanist played a vital role in the decolonization and liberation process of Africa.

He is will remembered for his uncompromising stance against the injustices meted out by colonial and neo-colonial powers, and his sound and brilliant economic policies that benefited Ghana tremendously and had spill-over effect to the entire African continent. Indisputably, it was a difficult process to develop a country that had been run by foreign powers for so long.

Offcourse, it would take time and effort to improve the shortcomings of the previous system and even more time for the population to reap the benefits of the newly instituted programmes. But Nkrumah's steadfastness and visionary leadership made everything possible and within the shortest period, Ghana was gloried territory.

Fortunately, unlike during Nkrumah's life time, OAU and of course the AU, has todate gained momentum and is fully functional but seemsfinancially too reliant on the West and other donors, thus one would express hope that it would device wellrounded strategies inorder to give breath and life to the political unification of Africa.

The challenges that the continent faces today include inter alia, disunity, poverty, hanger and diseases. Furthermore, the consolidation of continental unity and socialism may be hampered by enemies within, whom maliciously day-in, dayout press for regime changes and ill-fated revolutions across the continent at the service and interest promotion of the imperialists and neo-colonialists.

What would Nkrumah say about how the West has shortchanged Africa? What would he have said about an International court that African government have willingly signed on to but it tries only African leaders in spite of Africa's stated position to police itself and its conflict resolution mechanism? This state of affairs calls for renewed multi-faceted continental strategies in response to neo-colonialists' aggression of the 21st century.

It is either we collectively concentrate our energies for a decisive economic struggle to achieve the continental-economic prosperity or we each fall one by one into the deepest sea of poverty in the lifetime of humankind. Nkrumah would have correctly said that what Africa need is not pity but fairness.

Fairness in how its resources are shared by others while Africans scramble for the leftovers.

Economic Independence of Africa
Thus, now that the dream of Kwame Nkrumah of political independence of entire Africa has been attained we must restlessly and vigorously embark on the economic struggle for the continent. Going by Nkrumah own words, African political independence will meaningless if it was not accompanied by the African economic independence. In order to do this successfully, an economic revolution is required and due.

All African states must mobilize their totalhumanpower for the industrial, economic, technological and scientific reconstruction of Africa, so that we can bring about the total and much needed economic independence of the content and its inhabitants. Mind you Africa, the best time is today and now.

We are blessed with the wealth of our vast resources, the power of our talents and the potentialities of our people, why not grasping the opportunities and meet the challenge to our present and future survival? Let us make the welfare and wellbeing of our people as our number one pride and save Africa from being a playground of capitalists.

It is the duty of every African country and every person of African descent to ensure that we unite as soldiers against hunger, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and underdevelopment. We must resolve collectively and individually to use our resources to develop our people and countries.

The legacy of Kwame Nkrumah must be measured in the education of our present and future generation. We must continue to train adequate doctors, engineers, marine biologists, geologists, ICT specialists, lawyers etc to ensure that we have an army of patriotic experts to guarantee Africa's self determination and prosperity.

The legacy of Kwame Nkrumah must also be realised in the creation of infrastructure for economic development in Africa. Let generations of Africa be able to drive on new highways; let them fly the skies of Africa just like Air Namibia has a direct flight to Ghana; let them connect through internet, through twitter, facebook and other innovative technological development that has the potential to unite our continent.

The African youth must also be at the forefront of fighting cultural imperialism, let them not use all the foreign technology to mentally enslave themselves but rather, let them use such technology to develop their potential and respective countries' ability to showcase pride of Africa.

The Future of Africa's economic development must be determined in Africa and not in Western capitals, thus to paraphrase the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, I would end by saying that Africa's Struggle for Economic Independence is our generation's Unfinished Agenda which we must bequeath to the younger generation and generations of Africans yet to be born; this Agenda we must actualise and implement, militantly and patriotically, without compromise.

Long Live the Legacy of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.


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