Monday, October 5, 2009

Maybe Nkrumah Was Right

I had wanted to post this on Nigeria's independence day but somehow work got in the way and I could not.

Monday 21st September 2009 marked the centenary of the birth of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah and the government of the Republic of Ghana actually declared a year-long celebration culminating on the anniversary of the birthday of its first Prime Minister and President.

The more I read about this remarkable African, the more I appreciated why Ghanaians celebrated him thus.

I got an audio copy of Nkrumah's 'Africa Must Unite' speech at the founding of the Organization of African Unity in Addis Ababa 1963 and I could not but marvel at the profundity of his vision. His vision, as expounded at the summit was obviously very far ahead of his time. Also, his speech at the United Nations in 1960 was a masterpiece in all respects and must have been seen as a sort of 'bring-it-on' by the Western powers at that time.

As a Pan Africanist and leader of an independent Ghana - Africa's first independent nation - Nkrumah's major preoccupation was to encourage the other African countries to continue to demand for independence and he did this with a swagger that was infuriating to the colonial powers, particularly France which did not seem to have had any plans to leave its African colonies - even till today.

Nkrumah looked to Nigeria even at that time to become an African regional power given its sheer size and resource wealth but the Nigerian leaders at that time were very suspicious of his intentions and also of themselves.

Zik, his fellow Lincoln University alumnus and Pan-Africanist, had found himself in the position of a ceremonial President that was powerless and limiting while Awolowo appeared content just playing his politics locally.

As far as the pan-africanist agenda was concerned, Nigeria was of no use. Of all his seminal speeches however, the singular statement that Nkrumah made that was of significance to the Nigerian government of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and most Nigerians of that time was the one about Nigeria being ' ... big for nothing ..'

Domestically, Nkrumah ran a unitary government in Ghana in spite of it being composed of up to fifty different ethnic nationalities. He believed more in a federal Africa with the countries as the federating units than in a country with federating units. He practically forced Ghanaians to inter-marry and live outside their native environments.

Achievements were purely on merit. The whole of Ghana competed with itself. No 'local champions'. No 'catchment area'. No 'quota system'. His style of government is credited in part for the unity among Ghanaians till today.

Comparing all these with Nigeria, I just could not help but wonder where we got it wrong.

I could not help but think; Maybe this federalism is just over-hyped after all.

Maybe Nkrumah was right after all.

Maybe Nigeria is just big for nothing.

7 comments:

Myne Whitman said...

No I don't think so. Nigeria is a sleeping giant for sure but I still see us as a regional power when the right forces coincide. Fantasy? Maybe. Maybe Nkrumah was right. Sigh.

N.I.M.M.O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
N.I.M.M.O said...

@Myne: Sleeping Giant? But fro how long doth this giant slumber?

Right forces? What forces? The Force had been with us from Day One. (No pun intended LOL!)

You see, we end up with more questions than answers still.

Many thanx for your comments.

aeedeeaee said...

I say to myself, against my better judgement "Nkrumah can't be right, we shouldn't let him be right.." ...I'm a sucker for hope...i hope that this sleeping giant will arise and bestride like a colossus...i hope that it happens in my time...

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

I see where you are coming from but on this day, I disagree. Nigeria was integral in getting Zimbabwe's Blacks some parity, and of course played a large role in assisting the ANC. It's people and soldiers has also done good work in other parts of the continent and around the world.

However, as your sentiment suggests, it has failed repeatedly to do what it needs to do at home and regime/administration after the other has "passed the buck".

But, I am like aeedeeaee, I can't give up hope. Because, once hope is lost, there is no reason to go on. And if we all take that position, or agree with the notion that our nation is "big for nothing" then we, not Nigeria, not those who have squandered her riches, we who own and truly love Nigeria will become just as bad as those who raped her and welcomed others to do the same.

So, yes, Nigeria's leaders and her people have failed to rise to the occasion, but, I believe that in due time, we will. Like Myne said, "Nigeria is a sleeping giant" with dreams yet to be realized. We, you and I, simply have to make it happen, no? One step at a time my brother.

Thanks for sharing this though. Off to listen to Nkrumah's speech.

How body?

fengfk2008 said...
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N.I.M.M.O said...

@aeedeeaee: 'Hope' is the middle name of every Nigerian without it, only GOD knows where we would be. Thanx for your comments.

@Solomonsydelle: M'sis, you will recall that Nigeria's foreign and domestic policies of the period were defined and articulated under the rule of the late Gen. Murtala Mohamed.

Murtala was an Nkrumaist; he propounded and actually attempted to revive Nkrumah's Pan-African agenda and with its oil-wealth, Nigeria was at the height of its power at that time.

He it was, who actually gave impetus (and funding) to all the African liberation groups -the ANC, SWAPO, ZANU, ZAPU, MLA etc - and his goal was to ensure the freedom of every inch of African land but of course, that was why he attracted the attention of the CIA and the manner of his assassination.

If you can get a copy of his 'Africa Has Come of Age' speech (1975) online, please read it and compare with Nkrumah's 'Africa Must Be Free' speech (1963). It was like a 'Mission Accomplished' statement, albeit premature.

As we know, it is not yet Uhuru.

In 20 months, Murtala showed that Nigeria was 'big-for-something'. He showed the world what was possible, what Nigeria could do, what it could be but unfortunately, after his assassination all that was reversed by his immediate successor - He That We All Know.

This was why the hypocrisy of Obama's visit to Ghana and his extolling Nkrumah while there was not lost on some of us. I know when he comes to Nigeria, he will be extolling Murtala too.

Hope still dey sha, abi?

Many thanx for your comments.

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