I want to start by saying facts do not change, but laws do; with time. Facts are the ingredients from which we generate issues which create the law. And for that, being a true follower of the law is not about knowing only the law. It is about knowing the facts too.
Recently, a Nigerian Professor was heard and seen on camera having a hole and corner meeting with a group of people, probably students, who the camera deliberately did not capture. He was arrested for his comments made at the meeting but was eventually granted bail. The purpose of this article is to highlight some comments he made about Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe funding Dr Kwame Nkrumah and stating that Nkrumah, Ghana’s First President, was Nnamdi Azikiwe’s ‘boy’. I will use three paragraphs to share what the facts truly are and finally conclude as to whether what the Professor said are facts or a mere smearing of falsehood, in other words, historical propaganda.
Did Nnamdi Azikiwe fund Nkrumah?
One of the alleged statements the professor is said to have made is in relation to Nnamdi Azikiwe funding Nkrumah. If I am to put it in a proper context, the professor must have been referring to Nkrumah’s education abroad, because with regards to Nkrumah’s political campaigns and trips, he was mostly funded by party supporters and market women who were well heeled. During his studies at Lincoln University, he was funded by Phelps Stokes Fund. Most African students in America benefited from it. In chapter 3 of President Nkrumah’s autobiography, page 24, he writes about his trip to Nigeria to visit a relative of his:
“To Lagos I went. Rather than dip into my precious savings to meet the cost of transport, I decided to stow away on a boat which was leaving Axim for Lagos……….. It was not until I arrived at my relative’s house, however that I was able to wash and shave……… I spent several days here, for my host had many questions to ask about our relations and friends. When the time came for me to leave, he kindly gave me money to supplement my savings, and also paid my passage back to Axim. I thanked him in high spirits; my trip to America was at last becoming a reality.”
President Nkrumah did not particularly mention the name of this relative. Nowhere does he say that Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was the one he visited in Lagos. In another paragraph of chapter 3, Nkrumah wrote:
“As there was no American consul in the Gold Coast at the time I should have to travel first to the United Kingdom to obtain a U.S visa. Thanks to my kinsman’s generosity I had one hundred pounds. To this the Chief of Nsauem, another relative added fifty pounds, out of which I paid for a third- class passage from Takoradi to Liverpool.”
It is obvious from Nkrumah’s narrative that the funds by which he was able to make the trip to Liverpool was his personal savings as well as the money given to him by his relative in Nigeria and the Chief of Nsauem.
In simple form: MONEY FROM RELATIVE IN NIGERIA + MONEY FROM NSAUEM CHIEF+ PEROSNAL SAVINGS= FUNDING A TRIP TO AMERICA.
There is absolutely no mention of money or funds given to him by Nnamdi Azikiwe. Nonetheless, Nkrumah talked about Azikiwe in his autobiography. In that same chapter, titled, “AMERICA”, Nkrumah gives a vivid narration:
“I boarded the motto vessel Apapa at Takoradi and was shown into a third- class cabin. In these strange surroundings I felt desperately alone and sat on my bunk close to tears. But as providence would have it, looking suddenly on the bed, I saw a telegram. When I opened the envelope I found it was Nnamdi Azikiwe and read: ‘Goodbye. Remember to trust in God and in yourself.’ These few words, so well timed at once cheered me.”
Certainly, Nkrumah had a good relationship with Azikiwe to the extent that when he was about to travel to America, Azikiwe sent him words of encouragement. In fact, when Nkrumah gained admission to Lincoln, Azikiwe was one of the people he happily informed. Nowhere did Nkrumah state in his own autobiography that Azikiwe sent him funds or gave him money for his trip or education abroad.
Nkurmah, Azikiwe’s ‘boy’?
Another alleged statement made by the professor is that Nkrumah was Azikiwe’s boy. Often we make such expressions to communicate a relationship between a mentor and his mentee. It is expected that when I make a statement, “Kwame is my boy,” it means Kwame is a young fellow and he is being mentored by me. Or, I am an older person who Kwame is understudying or who Kwame finds as inspiring, and a role model. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was born in November 1904, on the 16th day to be precise. Dr Kwame Nkrumah was born in September 1909, on the 21st day. Mathematically, Azikiwe was five years older than Nkrumah. Also, Marika Sherwood, the Hungarian historian who has written extensively on Black History had this to say in her book titled “Kwame Nkrumah: the years abroad 1935- 1947”:
“West Africans’ attendance at Lincoln was initiated by Nnamdi Azikiwe, who received his Bachelor’s degree in 1930 and his Master’s degree in 1931. From 1931 to 1934, while he was working for his second degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Azikiwe lectured part- time in Political Science at Lincoln. Once he had obtained his Pennsylvania Master’s degree, Azikiwe was appointed a full- time lecturer at Lincoln; he introduced a course on African History to the chagrin of those faculty members who felt ‘the African had no history worthy of academic attention. Azikiwe invited Professor William Leo Hansberry then the foremost (African) American scholar in African History to address his class and convince the philistine ‘white’ staff of the existence and importance of ancient African History. Some years later, Nkrumah was to ‘sit in’ on Professor Hansberry’s class at Howard University in Washington.”
In terms of academic life, Azikiwe was years ahead of Nkrumah. Whilst Zik, as he was affectionately called, had graduated with his Master’s degree and was lecturing, Nkrumah was about to start his Bachelor’s degree in the same institution. It is for this reason Nkrumah looked up to Zik as a senior brother, colleague and mentor. Nkrumah himself wrote about Zik in his autobiography:
“My nationalism was also aroused about that time through articles written in The African Morning Post by Nnamdi Azikiwe, a Nigerian from Onitsha. Azikiwe was himself a graduate from an American University and when I had first met him, after he addressed a meeting of the Gold Coast Teachers’ Association some years earlier in Accra, I had been greatly impressed by him and had been more determined than ever to go to America.”
This is from the horse’s own mouth. Nrkumah did find Zik as a role model. He saw him as the African he aspired to be. Most young students from West Africa were inspired by Zik and they all saw him as a senior brother, a role model to look up to, albeit in the case of the Ghanaian students, Dr Aggrey had also been a role model.
Nigerians were showing the way?
The good old professor is said to have stated to his unseen audience that Nigerians have always been the ones showing the way and have rather allowed Ghana to be ahead of them. If a fellow West African Country is showing the way for greatness, for progress, I deem to say that there is nothing wrong with that. Of course, Nigerians are also great people and the Nigeria- Ghana relationship has come a long way. The unpublished memoir of Ako Adjei, who was once a student at Lincoln University and became a Minister in Nkrumah’s Government, documents the sundry meetings held between Ghanaian and Nigerian students as far back as 1937:
“It should be mentioned at this stage that about one week after I had arrived at Lincoln University and had met Mr Francis Nwia Kofi Nkrumah, about nine students also arrived at Lincoln University from Nigeria. They came to Lincoln University from Nigeria. They came on the inspiration of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. The names of these students were Mr Mbonu Ojike, Mr Kingsley Ozuomba Mbadiwe, Mr George Mbadiwe, Mr Okechukwu Ikejeani, Mr Okongwu, Mr Nwafor Orizu and Mr Chukuemeka. These were Ibo students, some of whom held scholarships awarded to them by Dr Azikiwe. The others were Mbanga Akpabio and Mr Idion who came to Lincoln on scholarship awarded to them by the Ibibio Union. Another student was Abdul Karismu Disu, a Yoruba from Western Nigeria, who was also on scholarship awarded to him by Dr Zikiwe.”
According to Dr Ako Adjei of blessed memory, both Ghanaian and Nigerian students in Lincoln University used to hold long discussions in Nkrumah’s room. Amongst these students, Nkrumah then was the oldest, perhaps, the one showing the way for his fellow young African students. It is a fact that both Nkrumah and the other students (Nigerians and Ghanaians) had been inspired by Dr Zik. However, in terms of independence, Nkrumah led the way. Ghana led the way for all Africans by becoming the first to gain independence in Sub – Saharan Africa. It is for this achievement that often, the platitude rolls on: “Ghana, the Gateway to Africa”.
I conclude by referring to the professor’s alleged comments and supplying a yes or no answer to them:
- Did Dr Azikiwe fund Nkrumah in anyway? NO
- Was Nkrumah Azikiwe’s ‘boy’? YES
- Historically were Nigerians showing the way? NO
In 1951, the First Black Government which was formed in Sub Saharan Africa was a Ghanaian Government, with Nkrumah as the Leader of Government Business. Possibly, the good professor should have stated that when a proposal was made to build a university in the Gold Coast Ghana or Ibadan, Nigeria, Ghana became the choice.