Born into a polygamous family,late Kwame Nkrumah was the only child of his mother who often engaged in petty trading and fish mongering. He was the 9th child of his father, a goldsmith. Nkrumah spent his childhood in a small village surrounded by bushes, poverty and illiterate family members.
He found favour in the sight of a Catholic priest who influenced his elementary school education. Subsequently he became a student- teacher due to his brilliant performances in his 10 year elementary programme.
In 1935, Nkrumah traveled to Pennsylvania, USA in pursuit of his educational passion. Although he lacked funds, he paid his tuition fee through proceeds from menial jobs like dishwashing.
During his stay in the US, he furthered his higher education, involved himself in politics by being a President of the African Students’ Organization of the United States and Canada, and also organized the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England.
Nkrumah believed he could make African nations gain independence through his active involvement in Politics. He was bold and confident regardless of his indigent background. Nkrumah was determined to be part of history by taking bold steps to make his vision come to reality.
His words- “As far as I am concerned, I am in the knowledge that death can never extinguish the torch which I have lit in Ghana and Africa. Long after I am dead and gone, the light will continue to burn and be borne aloft, giving light and guidance to all people.”
“The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked-up with the total liberation of the African Continent”.
After spending 12 years abroad, he returned to his hometown, Gold Coast (now Ghana) to continue in his political career. He founded the Convention People’s Party.
Despite his arrest and imprisonment, Nkrumah’s dream became a reality when the Gold Coast (now known as Ghana) gained independence from Britain on 6th March, 1957 and Kwame Nkrumah was emerged the first Prime Minister of Ghana. When the country transformed into a republic in 1960, Kwame was declared the first President of Ghana.
The African leader used this opportunity to continuously instill unity among African nations because he strongly believed that when Africans work together they become a force to reckon with in the world.
“It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world.”
Under his administration, Ghanaians had great opportunities because of development of structures like establishment of schools, construction of new roads, provision of health facilities and creation of community programs.
President Nkrumah’s economic legacies include the Tema township, the Accra-Tema Motorway, Komfo Anokye Hospital in Kumasi, Akosombo Dam, building tertiary institutions like University of Science and Technology, University of Cape Coast, and Polytechnics around the country. He also constructed the famous Adome bridge, Akosombo Dam and other massive infrastructures.
It is said that no other President has provided such enormous infrastructure after Nkrumah’s administration and these structures are still relevant in some parts of Ghana.
In spite of his immense contribution to the development of Ghana, the African leader also made some controversial decisions, including: Making a law that declared Ghana a one party state while making himself a life President; and Treating opposition members harshly through detention until their last breathe. Also Ghana’s economy deteriorated following alleged misappropriation of funds, nepotism and corruption in his government.
His visit to North Vietnam and China marked the end of his government in Ghana as national military and police forces plotted a violent coup d’état in February 1966 which gained the support of the civil service.
Nkrumah did not return to Ghana, he took refuge in a nearby country, Guinea. Ahmed Sékou Touré, the President of Guinea made Nkrumah feel at home by making him a Co- President in the country. However, Nkrumah was still scared of his life because he felt he was seen as a threat to other power blocs especially foreign agents.
In April, 1972 , the African hero flew to Romania to treat prostate cancer, but died there at age 62.
In Nkrumah’s lifetime, he was arrested and imprisoned but he still had the zeal to lead his country and remained determined to set Africans free from colonization by ensuring that African countries gained independence.
Kwame Nkrumah has been described as a “Hero of Independence”, an “International symbol of freedom “, and “Leader of the first black African country to shake off the chains of colonial rule.”
21st September has been set apart in Ghana to honour Kwame Nkrumah’s Legacy.