Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park must be more than a tourist attraction(Part III)

Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park
  • …adding a learning centre may not be a bad idea

The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on Sunday, 3rd April 2022, launched one of his government’s flagship projects in our tourism sector, dubbed “Destination Ghana”, in London, United Kingdom.

The “Destination Ghana” London event is the first in a series of activities of the “Destination Ghana” project, which has, at its core, the objective of inviting and welcoming the rest of the world to visit Ghana. The President continued by saying that, this year alone, some $25 million would be expended to upgrade some of our iconic sites, including, the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park.

This comes at the right time after the just ended Ghana month. I began a series highlighting the works and history of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and why our young tourists both domestic and international must learn this history. The current tour of the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park is too short a time and adding a learning centre must be highly considered as part of the renovation project.

Constantly plagued by financial worries whiles a student in the US, Nkrumah worked during vacations at sea on board the Shawnee, a ship of the Clyde Millory Line. However, he was fortunate that his studiousness earned him the support of individuals in prominent positions who assisted him financially.

His conscientiousness was noted in a letter from the Dean of Lincoln University to the Dean of Graduate School of Art and Science, at Howard University, recommending Nkrumah apply for a scholarship in the Graduate School of Art and Science. In 1939 Nkrumah enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, for the Master of Science degree in Education. Sherwood maintains: “He gained one credit, two A’s, seven B’s, one C and one D grade, and was awarded the degree in Feb 1941.

This is quite an achievement for someone ‘carrying’ 12 to 14 hours at the Lincoln Seminary and four hours at Pennsylvania in the first semester of 1940, and 10 in the second. One has also to bear in mind that he had to travel to Philadelphia from Lincoln until July 1941.” In January 1941 Nkrumah wrote to Dr. Thomas Jesse Jones, the director of the Phelps Stokes Fund, seeking sixty dollars towards his fees at the University of Pennsylvania.

He was successful in his application and in a letter of appreciation to Dr Jones wrote: “It is my pet ambition to carry on where my teacher and inspirer Dr Aggrey left off. My interest in you and Dr Aggrey is profound and immeasurable. Aggrey is dead and gone, but I am consoled in the fact that I can still have you as my guide in all things if you want to be so.”

Towards the end of his undergraduate studies, Nkrumah expressed an interest in pursuing an MA in journalism at the University of Pennsylvania, but lacked the financial means to do so. Sherwood suggests that he accepted a place at the Lincoln University Theology Seminary in September 1939 in order to help resolve his financial difficulties. Nkrumah’s choices were also limited as the University of Pennsylvania did not offer journalism. At some stage during Nkrumah’s seminary course, it appears he became alienated from religion.

Reverend Philip Miller who was at the time one of Nkrumah’s lecturers, commented on Nkrumah’s religious commitment: “…courteous, somewhat aloof …very religious: he led prayer services and tended other religious facets conscientiously … Over dogmatic on certain points of social anthropology … He became deeply imbittered by some indeterminate cause late in his seminary course.

The details and nature of this disillusionment remain unknown. Whilst Sherwood claims “one would not wish to query Nkrumah’s sincerity” in his motivations for taking up the licentiate, she hints that they were largely financial. He received a small fee from the Church collection and was also eligible for reduced bus fares as a minister.

It is indeed curious that whilst Nkrumah was brought up a Roman Catholic, he obtained his BA in Sacred Theology from a Presbyterian College and a licentiate from the Chester Presbytery. To add to this denominational confusion Nkrumah then went to preach at a Baptist Church in Washington. Interestingly, one congregation member interviewed by Sherwood recalls that much of what Nkrumah preached in his sermons focused on Africa.

A seminary classmate of Nkrumah’s, Everett A. Hewlett, confirmed that Nkrumah was a serious student who immersed himself in books and that “He was a good speaker and the congregation enjoyed his talks.”65 Nkrumah’s skills in public speaking had improved since his participation in the Aggrey Student’s Society and his earlier experience as a teacher in the Gold Coast.

Nkrumah stated in his Autobiography that his intellectual influences during this period included Karl Marx, Lenin and Mazzini. However, it was Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey published in 1923 that deeply impacted on him. At this particular juncture, Garvey’s discourse of racial self-assertion considerably influenced Nkrumah.

It was expressed in a sense of racial pride in the young Nkrumah and optimism for the future of the African continent. Nkrumah was later to prove himself to be diametrically opposed to Garvey on the ideological question of European involvement in the development of Africa.

Nkrumah’s early political outlook was also reflected in his involvement with the Association of African Students (AAS) in the USA and Canada in 1943.68 The AAS came into existence in January 1941 when a few students at Ohio State University devised a constitution. Founding members were Nigerians Ozuomba Mbadiwe, Nwafor Orizu, and the Sierra Leonean John Karefa-Smart.

The organisation had 28 members. Its aims were to “interpret Africa to America;” “to acquaint our people at home with the facts of the rapidly changing international scene” and to liaise with other bodies, such as the West African Student Union (WASU) in England in the struggle for freedom for colonial subjects.

Between September 14 to December 31, 2000, the British Broadcasting Corporation listeners in Africa voted Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the “Man of the Millennium” beating another great man, Nelson Mandela.

I visited the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park a week before our Independence Day with a high-powered delegation of Nigerian business men. They were very excited to be in Ghana and would have loved to be part of our celebration however their tight schedule did not allow them. I was very excited to see many school children who were on excursions at the park, learning about the great works of Dr. Nkrumah.

It brought me great hope knowing that our kids and future leaders are on the right path to learning about him. One big question still remains unanswered; ‘How many schools often take their pupils to visit this memorial park? How often do they visit this attraction?

I have interviewed many Ghanaians who live in Accra and pass by the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park on a daily bases yet have never thought it wise and prudent to take an excursion to learn about Dr. Nkrumah and his role in helping us enjoy independence today. Through his efforts and that of many other great ones, today we can be proud of our freedom.

Never again will a foreigner rule us on our soil and dictate to us how our affaires should be run. One favourite quote of Dr. Nkrumah was that “the independence of Ghana will be meaningless unless it is linked to the liberation of the whole African continent. Today Africa is independent and we are running our own affairs.

The sad state of Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park

In my bid to promote domestic tourism, I do encourage young men and women to visit the park. I have made it a point to also encourage  students to visit the attraction. Unfortunately, I nearly wept upon my last visit to the park. I was taken aback when the Nigerians were commenting on the current poor state of the park.

What were some of the reasons for their complaints?

  1. The toilet facilities were in bad shape.
  2. The air conditioners in the museum were not working. I was told this problem has been on and off for some time now.
  3. The water meant to signify spring of life was not flowing through the bare chested squatting statuettes flute blowers.
  4. The gentlemen at the gate were shabbily dressed.
  5. The air conditioned in the only shop that sells souvenirs and other books of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah were not working.
  6. The memorial park was opens for business at 10 am. On many occasions, I got there with tourists and I had to wait because the one on duty was late.

Former President Rawlings whose vision led to the establishment of the park will be disappointed to see the park in its current state however hope has finally arrived. The Museum was created in his honor after which his body was exhumed from his original burial grounds at his home town-Nkroful.

Features of the mausoleum itself are an attractive masterpiece and a futuristic creation. Welcoming a visitor into the park are two springs of water on either side of the pavement/walkway. The springs have 7 bare chest squatting statuettes flute blowers, literally blowing springs out.

In Ghanaian culture, flutes are blown to welcome very important dignitaries and on special occasions. Therefore, by this symbolism, it can be concluded that all visitors to the park as seen as very important people and there are no second-class citizens of Ghana and for that matter Africa.

The two main features of Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum are the museum and the mausoleum. The mausoleum is the actual place that the mortal remains of this true son of Africa have been interred for the third time in the past 40 years if one looks at the fact that the body was first buried in Guinea before being brought to Nkroful and later the Mausoleum for a final resting place. The edifice resembles swords that have been turn upside which many say signifies peace.

Others also see it as an uprooted tree signifying the unfinished work of Nkrumah. The mausoleum itself is built on a beautiful man-made island. The island is connected to the mainland by two bridges. Turning the memorial park into a world class tourist attraction will mean that more tourists will be attracted to visit the park.

They will come to the centre and listen to lectures and conduct researches. This will lead to an increase in tourist arrivals. There’s more to unravel from the history of Kwame Nkrumah. I will leave the rest for a visit to the attraction upon completion of renovation works and hopefully research centre.

Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer/Trainer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to [email protected] / [email protected]. Visit our website at or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901.Visit our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations

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