Ghana’s independence from her colonial masters —can it be meaningless?

By G.D. Zaney


On March 6, 1957, Ghana became the first of Britain's African colonies to gain independence. Present at the event that marked the occasion in Accra included Richard Nixon, Vice President of the United States of America, the Duchess of Kent, representing the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth and the then Governor-General of the Gold Coast, Charles Noble Arden-Clarke.


The records indicate that Dr Kwame Nkrumah addressed the first session of Parliament on March 6, 1957 and resolved to prove to the world that Africans could employ the tenets of democracy to govern themselves while particularly tasking Ghana to set an example to all Africa.


According to the records, more than 600 reporters from across the globe covered the event,   making Ghana’s independence one of the most internationally-reported news events in modern African history.


Among the salient features associated with Ghana’s Independence were a new National Flag, a new Coat of Arms and a new National Anthem.


The new National Flag was designed by Theodosia Okoh, the colours of which are red symbolizing bloodshed; green standing for beauty, agriculture and abundance; yellow representing Ghana’s mineral wealth; and the Black Star symbolizing African freedom while the new Coat of Arms— made up of  the eagle, a lion, a St. George's Cross and a Black Star, with copious gold and gold trim — was designed by Amon Kotei.


Then was the new National Anthem composed by Philip Gbeho while a monument was erected at the Black Star Square as a national symbolic structure.


Among the several statements attributed to Dr Kwame Nkrumah who led the country to independence (indeed, Founder of the Ghanaian State, according to wilkipedia), one stands out distinctly and is often quoted by many. This statement is: “The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked-up with the total liberation of the African Continent.”


A search for the meaning of the word “meaningless” produced the following results— futile, pointless, aimless, empty, hollow, vain, purposeless, motiveless, valueless, useless, of no use, worthless, trivial, trifling, vacuous, unimportant, insignificant, inconsequential, insubstantial, nugatory, fruitless, profitless, barren, unproductive and unprofitable.


Without doubt, Dr Nkrumah was emphatic that it was pointless, futile, unproductive, worthless and inconsequential for Ghana to be free from colonial domination while the rest of Africa remained under the cloak of colonial oppression.


In other words, beyond Ghana’s independence was an agenda of freedom from colonial rule for all African countries and, indeed, continental unity and government, without which Ghana’s independence from Britain was empty, valueless and of no consequence.


First, Dr Nkrumah posits that Africa is one continent, one people, and one nation. He continues “The notion that in order to have a nation it is necessary for there to be a common language, a common territory and common culture has failed to stand the test of time or the scrutiny of scientific definition of objective reality... The community of economic life is the major feature within a nation, and it is the economy which holds together the people living in a territory. It is on this basis that the new Africans recognize themselves as potentially one nation, whose dominion is the entire African continent.”


Furthermore, he maintains that “All people of African descent whether they live in North or South America, the Caribbean, or in any part of the world are Africans and belong to the African nation.”


Dr Nkrumah was, therefore, of the strong and sincere conviction that “with the deep-rooted wisdom and dignity, the innate respect for human lives, the intense humanity that is our heritage, the African race, united under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.”


Dr Nkrumah’s intolerance for European attitude towards African peoples is depicted in another statement as follows: “For centuries, Europeans dominated the African continent. The white man arrogated to himself the right to rule and to be obeyed by the non-white; his mission, he claimed, was to "civilize" Africa. Under this cloak, the Europeans robbed the continent of vast riches and inflicted unimaginable suffering on the African people.”


He describes Africa as “…a paradox which illustrates and highlights neo-colonialism”, adding that “Her earth is rich, yet the products that come from above and below the soil continue to enrich, not Africans predominantly, but groups and individuals who operate to Africa’s impoverishment.”


And, the result of neo-colonialism, he says, “…is that foreign capital is used for the exploitation rather than for the development of the less developed parts of the world. Investment under neo-colonialism increases rather than decreases the gap between the rich and poor countries of the world.”


The idea of a continental government was, therefore, proclaimed and touted by Dr Nkrumah as the only remedy for or antidote to neo-colonialism.


Accordingly, the implementation of this agenda was set in motion when on March 6, 1960, Dr Nkrumah announced plans for a new Constitution which would make Ghana a Republic, headed by a president with broad executive and legislative powers—the draft of which included a provision to surrender Ghanaian sovereignty to a Union of African States.


Regrettably, Dr Nkrumah’s government was short-lived as he was overthrown in a coup d’états on February 24, 1966.

With his overthrow, the agenda of an African continental government crumbled carrying along with it the debris of political instability and the continued exploitation of the natural resources of Ghana and the continent as a whole.


The economic situation of Ghana, and Africa as a whole, have become so precarious that individual African countries had to require support from the International Monetary Fund while efforts at regional integration remain an uphill task.


From the developments since the removal of Dr Nkrumah from office, it is clear that African continental unity and government could have made Ghana’s independence from Britain more meaningful.


The failure of bringing into being an African continental government and unity, notwithstanding, it is reassuring that the nation’s founder has underscored the value and significance of being an independent sovereign state. For, according to him, “The best way of learning to be an independent sovereign state is to be an independent sovereign state.”

Furthermore, he says “No people without a government of their own can expect to be treated on the same level as people of independent sovereign states. It is far better to be free to govern or misgovern yourself than to be governed by anybody else.”


Thus even though the independence of Ghana might be meaningless in relation to the criteria of existing within an African continental government, the attainment of self-government in itself was a positive step.


Indeed, Dr Nkrumah must have foreseen that a continental Africa unity and government was a gargantuan initiative that might not be realized in his lifetime, hence he prophesies that “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.”


It is obvious that the torch has continued to burn. Colonel Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi carried the torch by championing the cause of African unity and a continental government.


Who, then, is the next African leader to carry the torch aloft — and, probably, successfully implement the agenda?

The writer is an officer of the Information Services Department.

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