Thursday, June 14, 2007

RIP Fatiha Nkrumah

Source: the East African Standard.

First Ghana President Kwame Nkrumah's widow, Fatiha, passed away last week in Cairo, her home town, where she has lived for most of the years since her husband was overthrown in February 1966.

As to be expected, all kinds of tributes have poured in from all corners, including people and institutions that have never cared what became of her and her three children since Nkrumah died. Many conspicuous mourners did not even realise that Fatiha was alive all these years.

The worst of the hypocrites is Government. Those in power had the power, if the will was there, to have honoured Fatiha, recognised and provided for her and her family. But successive Ghanaian governments pursued a policy of benign neglect, outright hostility or opportunistic association and gestures towards the family.

This is not because Fatiha has lived outside Ghana. The same treatment was experienced by the oldest of Nkrumah's children, Dr Francis, the first son of Nkrumah with his Ghanaian first wife, or Sekou (Fatiha's second son) who live in Accra. The government announced that it would give Fatiha a State funeral befitting a former First Lady. But of what benefit is this posthumous honour when she was neglected while alive?

African hypocrisy transforms a dead person into a friend of everyone, with nobody saying anything negative about the departed. Some of this is due to guilt. We tend to over compensate by making all kinds of commitments and gestures after death. However, the guilt soon subsides and life continues as before.

The loved ones are left behind to pick up the pieces, as they must. Tears of some of the politically correct mourners go dry as soon as the TV cameras are turned off.

The way we treat the families of national and Pan-Africanist heroes does not inspire confidence that devotion to Africa means anything. Their families suffer: Absent fathers and husbands. The children grow up feeling victimised by the 'struggle' and after the hero has gone or is no longer in power, the family might as well have been dead.

Fatiha was much younger than the Osagyefo when he married her in a union that typified Nkrumah's refusal to accept the Saharan African divide. The three children they had together were all toddlers when Nkrumah was overthrown, and only teenagers when he died in 1972. Fatiha was barely in her mid 30s.

With no husband, father or State provisions, the family survived on goodwill, sometimes from strangers who never met Nkrumah, but treasured his contribution. The family could not live in Ghana, but thanks to President Gamal Abdul Nasser (after whom Fatiha's first son, Gamal Gorkeh, was named) of Egypt, the family got a befitting home on the banks of the Nile.

That house progressively became damaged for lack of maintenance since the family could not afford to maintain a modest but stately building. The Ghana for which Nkrumah laboured and the Africa he toiled for ignored his family. It is an insult to shed crocodile tears at the passing of his widow. It is an insult to the family for Ghana to offer a State funeral to a person largely ignored in life.

The State showed similar hypocrisy when Nkrumah died in exile in Conakry, Guinea, and later brought his remains to Ghana for State reburial! The embalmed body was for many years left to deteriorate in his home village before shame, political expediency and influence of Nkrumahists forced former President Jerry Rawlings to accept a mausoleum for Nkrumah in central Accra. Even then, most of the money came from Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi!

The spirit of Nkrumah continues to haunt opportunists and ideological parasites who use his name in vain. It should shame us into honouring heroes and heroines in life and death, especially the widow and children they leave behind.


Oyibo! 10:32 am  

So what you're saying is that state money should have been spent on feeding clothing and maintaining a single family in a foreign country, and then for a public monument for a leader that, ultimately, had been rejected?

Anonymous,  12:47 pm  

Nkrumah is undeniably one of Ghana's greatest heros. Instead of it's leaders pocketing the money they would do well to give honour where it is due. Newsflash Nkrumah wasn't rejected through a democracy vote but a military kuw headed by the head of the CIA- President Bush at the time. Ghana should never forget the shame it did to Nkrumah by sitting silent.
Ghana celebrated 50 years of independance the 1st sub sahara African country to do this. Nkrumah did this yet where was his widow in the procession? I like other Ghanians didn't even realise she was still alive.I'd rather we had honoured the family rather than had our money in swiss accounts put aside by the government members of Ghana once they hit retirement.

Anonymous,  7:21 pm  

I agree with Oyinbo...not to take away from Nkrumah's great achievement, but he was at the end of his regime and life, greatly rejected by the people of Ghana.

In addition, how and what did his widow do to keep his memory and vision alive since his death? Her husband did not die in the line of duty or the struggle and was in fact a private citizen in exile at the time of his death! Should her care have fallen to the people of Ghana simply because she had been married to Nkrumah? Her contemporaries - Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz - continued the struggle their husbands' began and in most cases fiercely protected the use of their husbands' work and images. (Granted none of these people were civil servants at any point in time).

The bottomline really is that Mrs. Nkrumah was financially entitled to her husband's pension (and i hope she received it) as any other former civil servant's spouse would have received.

I agree with you that she should have been honored in life but in reality i am not sure that the government should bear the financial costs - it should have come from private sources.

I also do not agree that it was an insult to honor her in death - maybe we should all just ignore her passing?

Anonymous,  7:37 pm  

Jeremy, this is not a balanced report. The government honoured the family everytime the opportunity arose. The only government that antagonized them was the one which took over after Nkrumah. They even invited Fatiha to the 50th anniversary but she was recovering from the stroke. Her daughter came and maybe you should nterview them before saying matter of facts that you know nothing about.

Wordsbody 5:16 pm  


I was talking to the poet - OO - recently. Before and after Mrs Nkrumah died, the poet's views were the same, and ever so painfully expressed - concerning the way Nkrumah's legacy is being deliberately eroded and undermined in Ghana.

For those who may be interested, James Curry is reissuing Basil Davidson's book on the life of Kwame Nkrumah, "Black Star". The book had been out of print for some time. The reprint is out this month. I'm getting me a copy.

catwalq 6:51 am  

I was not even aware of the circumstances surrounding Nkurumah's reign and death. I had always thought that he was a great mans that had been loved by his people because he did alot for them.

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