When the smock cladded and hairline receding Nkrumah mounted that podium about 58 years ago, he did so without the men who indirectly gave him a launching pad to political prominence. That image has been deeply seared onto our grey matter and for the most part, dictated our conversations on who gave his or her all to Ghana’s independence struggle. But not present on that stage were a number of men who initiated the whole struggle. Men whose name some revere and others abhor, associating them with the most abhorrent of adjectives.
The age old banter over whether the 5 other faces imprinted on every single Ghanaian note deserve to be celebrated or worst, called founding fathers is as old as the Akosombo Dam. It probably pre-dates the day the streets of Accra were illuminated by power from that magnificent creation of man for the first time. It might have started the day euphoric Ghanaians could not spot the (in)famous 5 at the old Polo grounds when the Union Jack bowed to the Black Star. Or maybe when the first shots were fired by the trigger happy British cop, Imray on 28th February. Nonetheless, it has always shown its ugly head whenever September 21st comes around.
What this hullabaloo betrays is our inherent resolve to arrogate and appropriate success. On one side of the divide of this issue is a group which wants to take all the glory from our emancipation from the British and attribute it to only one individual. Yes this person was phenomenal. By most estimations, the country is still driven by the designs he engineered. Akosombo remains our number source of electricity, no affordable township like Tema has been put in place since the dark day of 24th February, 1966 and do not even get me started on the schools, roads and healthcare delivery systems he left behind. But what this group ignores is the fact that had a certain Ako Adjei not invited Nkrumah, that is the person I have been talking about all along if you have still not figured, he might have not been instrumental in the independence process after all. Nkrumah was ensconced in London at the time, dabbling in student politics and sharpening his rhetorical skills. He was broke too. Yes Nkrumah was planning on returning to Ghana but there is no doubt that the “Other 5” of the Big 6 facilitated this return. The platform they gave him undoubtedly made it easier for him to endear himself with the people. They paid for his travels and gave him a good working ambience in their political party. But most importantly, they were also part of the chorus actively calling for independence, albeit in a less radical approach.
If this does not grant them the right to be called FOUNDING FATHERS, then ours must really be a culture which does not appreciate effort. For across the Atlantic, we find a more accommodating situation when it comes to recognizing the efforts of those who founded the USA. The term Founding Father(s) is not limited to George Washington but to a plethora of individuals who believed in the right of the 13 colonies to be free from the King and also worked towards that belief in diverse ways like fighting at the frontlines, codifying documents and signing declarations.
On the other end of this spectrum is a group which lays claim to too much than the persons they advocate for actually gave to the independence movement. The fact remains that Nkrumah was the most prominent member of the independence campaign and any attempt to equate him with other characters of the struggle will fail woefully. For it was Nkrumah who injected the folks of Gold Coast with a “NOW and not LATER” fervor when it came to independence. It was Nkrumah who brought the fight to the doorsteps of the baker in Takoradi, the fisherman in Jamestown and the Cocoa farmer in Konongo. Nkrumah was the George Washington of our story. He was the fire which led to the sparks of firecrackers on that night of 6TH March, 1957 and no other person in our history can take his place.
However, that does not mean we celebrate only Nkrumah on 21st September. It also does not make him the FOUNDING FATHER of our nation. It makes him the Washington amongst a pool of Benjamin Franklins, Alexander Hamiltons, and Thomas Jeffersons.
But 21st September remains the best day to celebrate all these gallant men who ensured that we steered our own affairs (at least perfunctorily)!!!