Ghanaians and many around the world yesterday marked the 111th birthday of the first President of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, with series of activities in Accra.
The day, September 21, has been set aside by the government as Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day and declared a statutory public holiday to celebrate and honour the memory of the man who led Ghana to independence as well as for his role as Africa’s foremost champion of continental unity.
Besides being remembered for his unrepentant anti-colonial stance and strident Pan-Africanism, he is regarded as one of Africa’s ablest statesmen of the 20th century.
In fact, President Nkrumah contributed significantly to shaping the course of history during the last century for the black race across the world.
In addition to being a staunch advocate of a united African state and the total liberation of the African continent from imperialism and Western dependency, Dr Nkrumah was also one of the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now Africa Union (AU).
It is, therefore, wholly appropriate that a day is set aside to reflect on the life and times of one of the continent’s great and inspiring leaders.
Over the past few years, the day to celebrate the man popularly known to have led Ghana to independence has generated political debates and controversies, here in the country.
While some are of the view that Dr Nkrumah is the sole founder of Ghana, others think that there were many people who contributed to the founding of the modern state of Ghana, notably the other members of ‘The Big Six’, the six leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), the leading political party in the British colony of the Gold Coast.
They comprised Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, Edward Akufo-Addo, Joseph Boakye Danquah, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey, William Ofori Atta and Dr Kwame Nkrumah, who himself broke away to form the Convention People’s Party (CPP).
It is argued that the other five also played pivotal roles in the independence struggle and ought to be celebrated alongside the first President.
This formed the basis of the longstanding Founder’s Day versus Founders Day debate which was boosted by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in 2017 in his speech delivered at Ghana’s 60th independence anniversary parade.
It is well documented that successive governments have taken decisions on how and when to mark the celebration of Ghana’s first president, depending on the side of the debate they profess.
The former and late President John Evans Atta Mills initiated legislation in Parliament to declare September 21 a holiday in memory of Dr Nkrumah. In September 2009, President John Atta Mills declared September 21 (the centenary of Kwame Nkrumah’s birth in 1909 to be Founder’s Day, a statutory holiday in Ghana.
Later in 2016, President Akufo-Addo proposed legislation to designate August 4 as Founders Day, and the birthday of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, on September 21, originally observed as Founder’s Day, to be observed as Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day.
The thinking informing this proposal, according to the President, was to acknowledge the “successive generations of Ghanaians who made vital contributions to the liberation of our country from imperialism and colonialism.”
The Ghanaian Times finds it satisfying that the country, despite obvious disagreement, makes conscious effort to celebrate and honour those who toiled for her good, especially a global icon like Dr Nkrumah.
It is our hope that the celebration of the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day would be a wake-up call to all of us to commit to leaving behind legacies and actions that would ultimately propel the growth and development of our dear nation.
Long may the spirit of Dr Kwame Nkrumah live on!