Ghanaians today Thursday September 21, 2020 marked Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day as a Statutory Public Holiday.
The day is set aside to remember and honour Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, who earlier was Prime Minister and Africa’s foremost champion of continental unity and liberation of the black race.
The day was marked with lectures and events to commemorate the achievements and legacy of Dr Nkrumah.
Among the activities for the celebration was a performance of the Change of Guard at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in Accra, a wreath laying ceremony by the Convention People’s Party and the launch of a pan Africanist museum by President Akufo-Addo.
The Government of former and late President John Evans Atta Mills initiated legislation in Parliament to declare September 21, a holiday in memory of Dr Nkrumah. In September 2009, President John Atta Mills declared September 21st (the centenary of Kwame Nkrumah’s birth in 1909) to be Founder’s Day, a statutory holiday in Ghana.
In the past, the celebration of the day had been marked with some controversy.
The Founder’s Day versus Founders Day debate has been a longstanding one, and was brought into the limelight in 2017, starting with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s speech delivered at Ghana’s 60th independence anniversary parade.
While some are of the view that Dr Nkrumah is the sole founder of Ghana, others think that there were many people who contributed to the founding of the modern state of Ghana, notably the other members of the Big Six, six leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), the leading political party in the British colony of the Gold Coast.
The other founding members of the UGCC, from which Nkrumah broke away to form the Convention People’s Party (CPP) were Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, Edward Akufo-Addo, Joseph Boakye Danquah, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey, William Ofori Atta.
It is argued that they also played pivotal roles in the independence struggle and ought to be celebrated alongside the first President
In 2017, after the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) had come to power, Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye, the current Speaker of Parliament, on August 4, in a public lecture, as part of Ghana’s 60th independence anniversary celebrations activities also challenged the position of Dr Kwame Nkrumah as the Founder of modern Ghana, stoking further controversies on the celebration of Nkrumah the sole founder of Ghana
Later, President Akufo-Addo proposed legislation to designate August 4 as Founders Day, and the birthday of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, on September 21, originally observed as Founder’s Day, to be observed as Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day.
The thinking informing this proposal, according to the President, was to acknowledge the “successive generations of Ghanaians who made vital contributions to the liberation of our country from imperialism and colonialism.”
President Akufo-Addo, in a statement said: “it is entirely appropriate that we commemorate him for that role, by designating his birthday as the permanent day of his remembrance.”
He issued an Executive Instrument to commemorate the celebration of Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day as a public holiday.
That position came under attack over what some said was a skewed account of Ghana’s history to suit his father, Edward Akufo-Addo and uncle, J.B. Danquah, who were critical components in Ghana’s fight for independence and the forebearers of the governing New Patriotic Party’s tradition.
Born Francis Nwia-Kofi Ngonloma, in Nkroful, a town in the then Gold Coast, the British colony that was to become Ghana to Kofi Ngonloma, a goldsmith, and Elizabeth Nyaniba, a trader, Nkrumah lived, and breathed his last on April 27, 1972, in Bucharest, Romania.
He attended Achimota School and also trained as a teacher. He went to the United States in 1935 for advanced studies, receiving a B.A. from Lincoln University in 1939.
He also received an STB (Bachelor of Sacred Theology) in 1942, a Master of Science in Education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1942 and a Master of Arts in Philosophy the following year.
While lecturing in Political Science at Lincoln, Dr Nkrumah was elected President of the African Students Organisation of America and Canada.
He continued his schooling in England, where he helped to organise the Fifth Pan-African Congress in 1945.
He then founded the West African National Secretariat to work for the decolonisation of Africa. Nkrumah also served as Vice-President of the West African Students’ Union (WASU).
After twelve years abroad pursuing higher education, developing his political philosophy and organizing with other diasporian Pan-Africanists, Nkrumah returned to the Gold Coast to begin his political career as an advocate of national independence.
During his lifetime, Nkrumah was awarded honorary doctorates by Moscow State University, Cairo University, Jagielloniaan University in Krakow, Poland and Humboldt University in former East Germany.
He broke away from the United Gold Coast Convention, and on June 12, 1949 to form the Convention People’s Party (CPP).
The CPP achieved rapid success through its unprecedented appeal to the common voter.
He was made Chairman, with Komla Agbeli Gbedemah as Vice Chairman and Kojo Botsio as Secretary. Other members of the Central Committee included N.A. Welbeck, Kwesi Plange, Krobo Edusei, Dzenkle Dzewu and Ashie Nikoi.
Dr Nkrumah declared “positive action” on January 8, 1950 in front of a large CPP crowd at a public meeting in Accra. He travelled to Sekondi, Cape Coast and Takoradi to repeat it.
The colonial government declared a state of emergency which took effect from January 12, 1950 and prohibited the holding of processions, imposed curfews and disconnected public services in certain areas.
Dr Nkrumah was arrested on January 21, 1950, tried for inciting an illegal strike and sedition for an article in the Cape Coast Daily Mail and sentenced to three years imprisonment.
Mr Gbedemah kept the party running and was in constant touch with Dr Nkrumah who was held at the James Fort Prison from where messages were smuggled out on toilet paper to the party headquarters.
While in prison, Dr Nkrumah led the CPP to achieve a stunning victory in the February 1951 election.
He was freed to form a government, and he led the colony to independence in 1957.
A firm believer in African liberation, Nkrumah pursued a radical pan-African policy, playing a key role in the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, now African Union, in 1963.
At home, he led a massive socio-economic development that saw the springing up of infrastructure across the country.
As time passed, he was accused of being a dictator and also of forming a one-party state in 1964, with himself as President for life, as well as actively promoting a cult of his own personality.
Overthrown by the military in 1966 with the help of the West, he spent his last years in exile, dying in Bucharest, Romania, on April 27, 1972. His legacy and dream of a “United States of Africa” still remains a goal among many.
Nkrumah imagined a united Africa. On March 6, 1957, after ten years of campaigning for Ghanaian independence, Nkrumah was elected President and Ghana gained independence from British rule.
An influential advocate of pan-Africanism, Nkrumah was a founding member of the Organization of African Unity, now African Union, and was its third Chairman; and winner of the Lenin Peace Prize, a prize was mainly awarded to prominent Communists and supporters of the then Soviet Union who were not Soviet citizens from the Soviet Union, in 1962.
He became Prime Minister in 1952 and retained the position when Ghana declared independence from Britain in 1957. In 1960, Ghanaians approved a republican.constitution and elected Nkrumah as President.
In 1960, Prime Minister Osagyefo Dr. Kwame was sworn into office as the first President of Ghana, and on July 1, 1960, the country was proclaimed a republic.
The Administration of Kwame, as he was affectionately called, was primarily socialist as well as nationalist. It funded national industrial and energy projects, developed a strong national education system and promoted a pan-Africanist culture. Under Nkrumah, Ghana played a leading role in African international relations during the decolonization period.
In 1964, a constitutional amendment made Ghana a one-party state, with Nkrumah as president for life of both the nation and its party.
Nkrumah will always be remembered for the powerful speech he delivered on the day Ghana gained independence, March 6th 1957, proclaiming “Ghana will be free for eve” from British rule, to millions of Ghanaian gathered at the old polo grounds now hosting a mausoleum to his memory. The speech was significant as it relinquished the British control over the Gold coast.
In February 1966, while Nkrumah on a state visit to Vietnam and China, his government was overthrown in a military coup which brought the National Liberation Council, to power. Under the supervision of international financial institutions, the military Junta privatized many of the country’s state corporations.
Nkrumah lived the rest of his life in Guinea, where he was named honorary co-president by President Sekou Toure.
Nkrumah was heavily influenced by African history, pan Africanist like Jamaican born Marcus Garvey, Dr Dubois and George Padmore as well as socialism. He was not materialistic and a firm believer in the ability of the African to contribute meaningfully to human civilization.