African Unity Is Not A Statuary Art – Says Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Regular readers of my columns and write-ups on African politics and culture know quite well that I am a passionate partisan for all things Ghanaian and African. I am also an incurably proud Ghanaian who believes in the immutable principles of truth and fairness in the telling of our history as a people. I was thus amused in no small measure when recently a bronze statue of Ghana’s first president, Mr. Kwame Nkrumah, was unveiled on the forecourt of the new Chinese-built and donated edifice of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa (See “Kwame Nkrumah Statue Unveiled in Addis Ababa” 1/29/12).

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Anyway, before I proceed any further, suffice it to also emphatically observe, at least in passing, that Ghana’s enviable stature in the global community is not roundly or wholly defined by the, admittedly, remarkable achievements of former President Nkrumah, whatever such achievements may be. Rather, the global recognition and stature of Ghana are, properly speaking, the ineluctable making of the great builders of Akan Civilization and its cultural allies; and the latter, together, constitutes what may aptly be termed as the fabric of contemporary Ghanaian society and polity.

Consequently, it becomes imperative for Ghanaians and Africans, in general, to be unreservedly apprised of the fact that the stentorian proclamations and pontifications of no dictator, military or civilian, ever engendered the organic unification and/or the sustained prosperity of any polity worthy of such designation. And, indeed, as even Dr. J. B. Danquah, the putative doyen of modern Ghanaian and African politics and mentor of Mr. Nkrumah, once poignantly observed, the essential value of any great people – and nation, for that matter – is inextricably linked with the democratic and humanistic liberty of the individual.

In his exposition on and expatiation of the preceding, Dr. Danquah analogically evoked the following Akan maxim; a drum-script, to be certain: “When I call out the name of money, money does not respond; it is the human person that matters most.”

Indeed, Ghana’s President John Evans Atta-Mills and Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo may be forgiven for apparently and woefully failing to recognize the limpid fact that the, indeed, the unity of continental Africans does not inhere in the quite impressive edifice of the African Union in Addis Ababa. Rather, such organic continental unification as was at various times wistfully dreamed up by the likes of Henry Sylvester Williams, of Trinidad-and-Tobago, the dynamic and visionary organizer of the first Pan-African Conference in London in 1900; Dr. Edward Wilmot Blyden, of the Virgin Islands and Liberia; Ghana’s own Ephraim Casely-Hayford; Jamaica’s Marcus Garvey; Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, of the United States and yes, even Dr. Danquah, would only dawn when leaders like Messrs. Mills and Mbasogo psychologically and progressively migrate into the auspicious realm of democratic accountability and justice.

But that the Nkrumah statue on the forecourt of the African Union Building in Addis Ababa stands on the site of a demolished Ethiopian maximum-security prison, may well serve as a grim, albeit all-too-apposite, reminder of the untold atrocities and mayhem perpetrated by Mr. Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party government and the veritably anti-climactic tenor on which the latter regime was auspiciously removed from Ghana’s blighted political landscape. And while, indeed, the remarkable contribution of President Nkrumah cannot be either gainsaid or lightly glossed over, the verifiable fact remains that the erstwhile Organization of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU), was not the handiwork of any individual African leader. And it is squarely based on the foregoing fact that I would rather have the Nkrumah statue relocated into either the foyer or basement of the new AU building until a pantheon of continental African leaders and heroes is erected and the statues of the likes of Presidents Abdel Gamal Nasser, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela and Jomo Kenyatta and, of course, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba are fittingly and historically more accurately placed alongside that of Ghana’s first president.

Short of the preceding, Africans, as a people, will continue to be haunted and harried by our apparently abject lack of a progressive spirit of honesty which has most recently found expression in the extortionate travesty that is Nkrumah’s Addis Ababa statue.

Anyway, like the indescribably vain and pathologically self-glorifying personality that it represents, the Nkrumah statue reminds me of the globally celebrated poem by English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) titled “Ozymandias,” a poem which ought to be inscribed onto the plinth of the Addis Ababa travesty. And for those of our readers who may not be familiar with Mr. Shelley’s “Ozymandias,” here it comes with conveniently added line-breaks: “I met a traveler from an antique land/ Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone/ Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,/ Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,/ And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,/ Tell that its sculptor well those passions read/ Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,/ The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;/ And on the pedestal these words appear:/ ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:/ Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’/Nothing beside remains. Round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/ The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

The entire burlesque of Nkrumah’s statuary unveiling equally reminds me of the famous Ghanaian fable titled “Ananse and the Wisdom Pot,” in which the archetypal spider of Akan folktales presumed to gather all the knowledge and wisdom of global humanity into a gourd for his own personal use at the expense of all else. Need I regale the reader with the farcical outcome of such morbidly quixotic enterprise?

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Ghanaian Politics Today” (, 2008).


The opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views or have the endorsement of the Editorial Board of