Art in the Open Kwame Nkrumah memorial Accra, Ghana

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HEN Ghana’s socialist president Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown on February 24 1966, while on a visit to North Vietnam, one of the many vengeful acts by the putschists was to tear down his modest statue and symbolically decapitate it.

Sculpted by Nicola Cataudella in classical Greco-Roman counterpoise, it had Nkrumah stepping forward wearing a fugu — the traditional worker’s smock — with his right hand raised in a salute while holding a traditional walking stick in his left.

Cataudella was inspired by a press photo of the moment when Nkrumah, in traditional dress, declared Ghana’s independence on March 6 1957. His modest statue was unveiled a year later at Parliament House in Accra.

The 1966 coup d’etat instigators, encouraged by the US and Britain, handed over the country to what Nkrumah described as “the neocolonialism of today [which] represents imperialism in its final and perhaps its most dangerous stage.”

All things Nkrumaist were banned from the public realm. In the poker game of Africa’s politics it was a royal flush for the International Monetary Fund and the like.

Yet the achievements of Nkrumah — without doubt one of the greatest African politicians of the last eight decades — cannot be easily erased, nor his supporters totally silenced. His political legacy still polarises Ghaneans to this very day.

In July 1992, in an attempt at national reconciliation, a mausoleum and sepulchre with a statue were unveiled at the erstwhile colonial Old Polo Ground where the former president had declared independence in 1957.

It was built by the administration of “Nkrumaist” Jerry John Rawlings, financed with a Chinese grant and grandiosely designed by Ghanaian architect Don Arthur.

“It represents the work that he never got to finish,” wrote one visitor, referencing the structure’s gigantic tree stump at the apex of which there is a black star symbolising the unity that has so far eluded Ghana’s people.

The statue has Nkrumah, in brisk marching step, sporting a royal kente cloths and wearing sandals. He points forward in a triumphant and determined mood, with a firmly clenched fist.

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