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Comment & analysis

Nkrumah and the one-party state

Nii Ardey Otoo

2007-03-07, Issue 294

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There are 2 comments on this article.

Nii Ardey Otoo defends Nkrumah and the CPP's declaration of a one-party state in Ghana.

It is often said that Kwame Nkrumah had his faults. This statement is used to provide grounds to criticise Kwame Nkrumah's policies, which his critics are not comfortable with.

Among the so-called mistakes attributed to Nkrumah was the declaration of Ghana as a one-party state. According to imperialist propaganda, Nkrumah declared Ghana a one-party state because he wanted to rule Ghana without opposition. This propaganda has gained credence through the pronouncements of some African intellectuals, such as Professor Ali Mazrui.

The truth is that from 1951 until Nkrumah was overthrown by the American CIA, Nkrumah and the CPP won every election with overwhelming majorities. Even when the British jailed Nkrumah for three years, for publishing a so-called seditious article in the Cape Coast Daily Mail, the CPP won an overwhelming majority of the votes. Nkrumah received the largest individual poll ever recorded in the history of Ghana: 22,780 votes out of a possible 23,122. This is because Nkrumah and the CPP chose the people first, while the opposition chose themselves first.

The declaration of a one-party state by Nkrumah was not for selfish reasons, as imperialist propaganda states. According to Nkrumah, the multi-party system is divisive, and a newly independent state needs the energy and enthusiasm of all the people to move forward. In a speech to the Indian Council on World Affairs, 26 December 1958, Nkrumah said 'We, in Africa, will evolve forms of government, rather different from the traditional Western pattern, but no less democratic in their protection of the individual and his inalienable rights'. In his book, Africa Must Unite, Nkrumah wrote: 'If the will of the people is democratically expressed in an overwhelming majority for the governing party, and thereby creates a weakening of the accepted two party system, the government is obliged to respect the will of the people so expressed. We have no right to divide our mandate in defiance of the popular will of the people.'

In a speech to the National Assembly on 1 February 1966, 23 days before he was overthrown, Nkrumah warned with great alarm, 'A one-party system of government is an effective and safe instrument only when it operates in a socialist society.'

In Class Struggle in Africa, Nkrumah wrote, 'Every form of political power, whether parliamentary, multi-party, one-party, or an open military dictatorship, reflects the interest of a certain class or classes in society. In a socialist state, the government represents the workers and peasants. In a capitalist state, the government represents the exploitative class. The state then, is the expression of the domination of one class over other classes'.

Yet through subversion, lies, corruption, the IMF, World Bank, and CIA pressures, the enemies of African progress and political unification have influenced most African politicians and intellectuals by prescribing the multi-party system as the only form of political governance. Even though the effects of multi-party system have been disastrous everywhere in the developing world, any leader with a vision of an alternative form of governance, would be overthrown by the CIA. And that is what happened to Nkrumah.

Presently it is happening to Presidents Chavez in Venezuela, and Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Proper scrutiny of world political history, will lead one to discover that in the 20th century, great political strides were achieved by one-party socialist systems.

The People's Republic of China also used a one-party socialist-system to build their country from a peasant economy, to a great regional super power. It is now challenging the world's only super power in all aspects of science, technology, and business - this came about in less than 60 years.

Vietnam also used a one-party socialist system to militarily defeat both French colonialism and USA neo-colonialism in the 20th century. Cuba used a one-party socialist system to build their nation despite the embargo imposed by USA and her allies.

Kwame Nkrumah used a one-party socialist system to lead the people of Ghana in nation building. In only nine years, Nkrumah and the CPP built the most modern road network in Ghana, including the Accra-Tema Motorway. Since his overthrow, other governments have not added a single kilometre. The Akosombo hydroelectric project was also constructed under Nkrumah and the CPP government. Dr. K.A. Busia, then leader of the opposition, described the hydroelectric project as a 'communist inspired prestige undertaking'. But this dam created the Volta Lake and it is the primary source of Ghana 's electricity forty years later. Other infrastructure built under Nkrumah and the CPP provided pipe-born water, housing, schools and hospitals.

In education, Nkrumah and the CPP achieved more in nine years, than the British did in 100 years of colonial rule; and more than all the successive governments after Nkrumah and CPP. There was free and compulsory education. Free education was provided from primary to university level. Textbooks were supplied free to all pupils in primary, middle, and secondary schools. Night schools for adults, males and females, were created as part of a mass literacy campaign. The state farm corporation developed a 20 square mile rubber plantation. Soon after Nkrumah's overthrow, this valuable plantation was given to the Firestone Rubber Company of the USA . Even the prison system was improved under Nkrumah and the CPP government. Nkrumah and the CPP built the most humane prison in Ghana, Nsawam Prison, the only prison in Ghana that had recreational facilities, a church, a mosque, and a library. Today, it is overcrowded and antiquated, as all successive governments after Nkrumah have turned a blind eye to the prison situation in the country. In short, Kwame Nkrumah laid the foundations for Ghana's development in every sector of the country.

The time has come for African intellectuals, and politicians, to stop analyzing Nkrumah through the eyes of the neo-colonialists. They must assess him on his political and developmental programmes, and on his contributions to the political and economic advancement of Africa. Professor Ali Mazrui, a leading neo-colonial intellectuals, still analyzes Nkrumah through CIA propaganda. Ali Mazuri said that 'Kwame Nkrumah was one of Africa's greatest sons, but he was not one of Ghana's greatest servants'. On the contrary Kwame Nkrumah was so busy serving Ghana, he did not so much as get time to build a one-bedroom house for himself.

On the one-party system, Ali Mazrui said, 'Nkrumah's policy of trying to create one Ghana by abolishing separate parties was usurpation'. However the introduction of one-party state in Ghana was an act of Parliament. It was not a decision implemented by Nkrumah alone.

One imperialist strategy in African politics is to brainwash us into believing that unless our constitution is based on an imitation of the Western Parliamentary system, we can't engage in politics and democracy. This notion must be overturned. Our intellectuals must rid themselves of this colonial mentality. Kwame Nkrumah devoted his life's energy to Africa's political freedom and unification. His achievements are there for all to see. Militants the world over admire how he set colonialism ablaze in Africa. Nkrumah has shown us the way, and we must walk it with confidence.

Colonial powers never educate their victims (those they called subjects) in how to win freedom. But Kwame Nkrumah taught us how to do it. 'Free market', 'privatisation', 'NEPAD', 'Structural Adjustment Programme', 'Highly Indebted Poor Country', 'globalisation' are all imperialist attempts to deceive Africans to participate in our own exploitation. In Nkrumah's words: 'There are only two ways of development open to an independent African state. Either it must remain under imperialist domination via capitalism and neo-colonialism, or it must pursue a socialist path by adopting the principles of scientific socialism.'

The choice is for us. Either we chose the path of the freedom fighters, or we follow the CIA gospel preached by the neo-colonialists.

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

Readers' Comments

Let your voice be heard. Comment on this article.

For Nkrumah to have used anact of parliament to police all opposition,through the One party,knowing such serious opposition existed,was tantamount to declaring himself as a despot.In one stroke Ghana had become a police state.Its a question of Choice;Did Ghana want rapid(contentious) development at the cost of personal freedoms or gradual progress with personal freedoms.I chose the latter


Much as I agree with a lot of Nii Ardey's assessment, life was not a hundred percent rosy for everybody. The party principles were one thing, but the reality on the ground after a few years were something else.
The freedom we won at independence began to slip through our fingers with the formation of groups like the Young Pioneer Movement spying on everybodyS!
That said, I strongly believe that the only way for Africans to experience real freedom is to pool resources and seek each other's welfare. Let's take our traditional political systems and build on them. Surely they held our states together and took good care of us until we sold our birth rights to the whites, and in that way enabled them to come in and divide our continent up according to their pleasure.
As long as we refuse or fail to pool resources, the outsiders will continue 'ruling' us economically. We need to let go of selfishness, pool resources and be creative.
We still have enough to build on if we want to. If all the skilled and unskilled sons and daughters of Africa in
the diaspora returned home and put their acquired knowledge at the service of Mother Africa, alot of good will come put of it. We need more selfless Nkrumahs and Senghors to move Africa forward. God bless Africa!

Abena Dede

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