The writer hails from Sierra Leone and had a career in journalism in several countries. In this book about the Ghanaian politican Nkrumah he wants to write about Kwame’s life and his achievements.
Kwame was born in 1909, his father is a goldsmith and his mother a petty trader. He has a Roman Catholic background, but he prefers a Christ without a church (sounds like a head without a body). After primary school he stays in education, as a student and a teacher. In 1935 he moves to the United States to further his education. In the years that follow he obtains a few Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees. In 1943 he is a lecturer at Lincoln University. In 1945 he moves to the United Kingdom with the intention of studying law, but he runs short of funds. He gets involved in politics and he shapes his desires for Africa and the Gold Coast: political freedom, democratic freedom and social reconstruction.
Twelve years after he left for the United States Kwame returns to the Gold Coast. Within a short time he is the General Secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC). He and his fellow politicans get a banning order from the colonial government. Nkrumah forms his own political party: Convention People’s Party (CPP) of which he becomes Life Chairman in 1949. We see here how his desire for the Gold Coast is clashing with his actions: Life Chairman and Democratic Freedom. At the elections of 1951 and 1954 the CCP is the overall winner, but in the process those who disagree with the Life Chairman are removed from the CCP.
In 1948 Nkrumah starts his own newspaper “Accra Evening News” that is clearly his mouthpiece. He also starts with his party’s own schools, because he wants schools that suit his own ends, while criticizing the churches and missionary organizations for their bad influence on education. You can wonder if the CCP schools were different from other schools.
Nkrumah has started Positive Action (strikes and other actions) to ask attention for his political demands. He and other CPP members are arrested. The Legislative Council denounces the Positive Action. There was a soaring difference between Nkumah and the old Gold Coast politicians who were more easygoing in their style and preferred discussions on a high level.
In between the two election victories of 1951 and 1954 Kwame spends a year in prison. In 1954, after the elections, he is released from prison and is asked to form a new Cabinet! He forms a new Cabinet, but his problem is that his party does not have enough qualified people to take on the job, there are enough yes-men around. There also seems to be the fear within Nkrumah to surround himself with capable people. This is another of the clashes with the desires for the Gold Caost that he formed in the United Kingdom in the mid fourties.
Nkrumah has an eye on wider action than just the Gold Coast. Now as a Prime Minister he has the opportunity to speak out on more democracy in other West African countries.
Nkrumah was a good organisor, right from the start when he returned from overseas studies he set up the parties with a structure that reached out throughout the Gold Coast. He was a good speaker for the masses, but also a populist, who sang a slightly different tune when he gained power.
Kwame was the Life Chairman and the Prime Minister. He was at the centre of power. He could not deal with people in his own party, who had ideas of their own. He was harsh against them.
According to Bankole he was influenced by Mahatma Ghandi and Marcus Garvey. Garvey was in favour of racial segregation. Nkrumah himself was not very clear about African racialism. He said that he was a friend of Britain, but at the same time he did not want fraternization of his party members in the Executive Council with the European officials.
What struck me in this book was the difficulty of sticking to your ideals (as he laid them down in the United Kingdom before returning to the Gold Coast in 1947). Nkrumah more and more becomes the Big Man, surrounded by people who follow him without questions asked. Unfortunately this did not only happen with Nkrumah, but also with other African leaders.
I thought of Jomo Kenyatta from Kenya, who spent many years abroad, became president of the republic and he surrouned himself with his own people, reaped the benefits of independence for himself and his family and the circle around him.
Bankole Timothy – Kwame Nkrumah – London 1955