Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Was Kwame Nkrumah A Young Criminal?

High-risk start, but it's out of the way. I've recently read a Malcom Gladwell book (again), and recently seen the murder-of-stowaways movie, Deadly Voyage. Both book and movie led me irresistibly to think about Kwame Nkrumah.

The book argues that high fliers owe their cachet to various elements: circumstances of birth; time and place of birth; a little ability; a little opportunity; a little luck; a lot social support.

The macabre movie re-enacts the true-life tale of Kingsley Ofosu, his brother and their more-than-a-handful colleagues who stowed away on a Russian or Ukrainian ship to France. Only Kingly made it (barely). His brother and fellow stowaways were bludgeoned, hacked and shot do death and fodder-flung to sharks or whatever lurks in the deep.

But I almost digress.

Nkrumah was born at a time when slavery had been abolished. Education in Gold-Coast-Ghana was possible to the level just before university. He had a reasonably rich uncle in Lagos, Nigeria. He obtained admission to an American university. He oozed oodles of ambition and whatever-it-takes.

Nkrumah saved some money; oh, just enough to buy him a few meals outside of home. He needed to get to America. What did he do? He stowed away on a boat. He was a risk-taker. But, he was not an non-calculated-risk junkie. He did not take the trans-Atlantic deadly voyage. The landlubber 'lotteried' his life only as far as Lagos. His uncle gave him loads of money. He returned to Gold-Coast-Ghana and paid for his passage to Britain, en route to America. He got his B.A., then M.A., the PhD.

Did Kwame Nkrumah commit peccadilloes (like travel without paying)? Yes. Was he jailed for any misdemeanour in America? Find out. Was his leadership of Ghana cruel at times? I think so.

But, in spite of everything, (or rather because of them, to think like Gladwell), Kwame Nkrumah was nothing short of an Outlier. A man with a lot of savoir faire and (to repeat) whatever-it-takes. Happy Birthday, Francis Nwia Kofi Nkrumah.

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  1. Thought provoking, once again I am reminded of how ordinary the people who do extraordinary things are...somehow some way the people who make it and are deemed successful have an"X" factor whatever that might be.

  2. I recently read a quote by Henrik Ibsen that says something like the rule of the majority is the rule of the folly for almost always the majority has been wrong. And history would bear this out. What I am saying is that, people who love their skins too much are not borne to be leaders. For instance, today, across Africa, I can't point of one president fit enough to rule his/her country. These are leaders who follow. Afraid of stepping on stones. Recently, AU vote to recognise the Libyan Interim govt. What a pity. These leaders are afraid to speak against the almighty.

    That's why I strongly support Founder's day and not Founders' Day. For some people declined to consider themselves great by opting to blame Kwame Nkrumah for their woes in prison.

    Yes, I also digressed. Nkrumah committed peccadilloes but so too did every great person (good or bad). Mandela acquired military training and ANC was still listed by the American govt as a Terrorist organisation, 15 years after Mandela's release from prison and a decade after his presidency. We need not afraid of what we are doing if it would lead to goodness. When it is done posterity would remember us. When we do nothing, we shall remain in darkness.

  3. @ Nana Fredua:

    Yes, we agree that Nkrumah was no Angel; only human. And no less fallible than each of us. But (and it's a complex debate) I do not agree that "some people declined to consider themselves great by opting to blame Kwame Nkrumah for their woes in prison".

  4. @ Baafoo:

    Yes, I agree that (even though he passed his prelim exam for to undertake the PhD) Nkrumah did not obtain a PhD FROM RESEARCHING AND STUDYING FOR IT.

  5. Kwame Mensa-Bonsu22 September, 2011

    One wonders whether he actually got any degree at all! The guy travelled alone and returned to tell tales. He had street doubt...but he set Africa on a very wrong path. Terribly so too, it was! If all thought like me,he would have been forgotten.

  6. @ Kwame Mensa-Bonsu. If all thought like you? That's really what you wanted to say?

    If those around him had the same goal, our continent would have been a highly developed one by now. If only they knew & understood the external threats & challenges Ghana was up against.

  7. Kwame Mensa-Bonsu29 September, 2011

    @ Think-About-It...Those "threats" are also faced by little Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea...etc. Or are they not? You see where those people are? They went in the right direction, while Nkrumah gleefully went in the very wrong direction.


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