Prince Mensah was born in August 1977 in Accra, Ghana. He attended Adisadel College, Extra Mural Academy, African-American HIV University and Mediation Training Institute. His works have been published in One Ghana, One Voice, Munyori Journal, UNESCO's Other Voices International Project, and the Dublin Writer's Workshop. He lives in Maryland, USA with his wife, Charisse. Prince is open to visiting colleges and universities in the USA to promote Ghanaian poetry and culture. Feel free to contact him about opportunities to market African poetry.
Prince is the head of North American promotions for One Ghana, One Voice.
Five questions with Prince Mensah:
1. What inspired you to write about Nkrumah? What about Nkrumah makes him an interesting subject for poetic study?
I had the honor to study Kwame Nkrumah from two perspectives. The first was as a school boy learning history and the second as a man who appreciates true greatness.
Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah's story is one of personal determination. You cannot help but to notice the distinctiveness of such a great African. He was a noble man who believed in the quintessential value of independence from all things foreign. Nkrumah believed in the equality and respect that was due to all men and disdained the hypocrisy of a racist world. He was not afraid to state the truth for the record. He was black and proud of it. He saw it as no shame to stand before the world and speak about his convictions. He saw the British as co-equals, not colonists. He realized that we did not have to kowtow to imperialist agendas.
His thinking was way outside the box for the average Ghanaian at the time and was fundamental to the brisk pace at which we attained independence. I think Nkrumah was misunderstood by his own people and misrepresented by those who disliked his style. It is barely said but Kwame Nkrumah was one of the galvanizing forces for the Civil Rights Movement in the USA. He made Ghana a hub of black intellectualism, mooting the idea of a United States of Africa. This was his romantic side, the dreamer within. He was one who did not see problems but possibilities.
I think he was way beyond his time in vision. He is like a tragic hero in a Shakespearean play. A Julius Caesar in a world of Brutuses. A Macbeth with the best of intentions. You cannot help but to love a man with such drive and determination to do what had never been attempted before. In many ways, Nkrumah gives you the sense of a Toussaint L’Overture: black, proud and ready to fight for his honor. His life calls for poetry of beautiful words and analysis by minds. He was the epitome of wisdom, wit and work, unrelenting in the pursuit of his dreams.
2. How do you think Nkrumah has been, and will be, remembered by history? How do you think he should be remembered?
Kwame Nkrumah has been remembered for his charm and charisma. He has also been accused of great brutality. In varying analysis of his life and work, there has been the tendency to cast him as an over-ambitious politician. He was larger-than-life and every attempt was made to cut him to size. He made enemies on his path to power, as every great person did. He made mistakes, as every great person did. He was an original thinker, as every great person was. I think Nkrumah’s plight in Ghanaian history can be equated to a great prophet who has no honor in his own land.
While other leaders have been sanitized by sympathetic historians, Nkrumah’s legacy is rendered in half-truths and exaggerations. I hope Ghanaians realize the global impact of Nkrumah’s legacy, because he inspired a lot of people worldwide. As our nation’s first president, his birthday should be a national holiday. Libraries should be named after him. He deserves more than a passing mention.
It is sad to note how Africa treats her intelligent children who want to overhaul old, decaying systems. It chews them and spits them out. You have a lot of African intellectuals living outside their countries of origin because they have not been allowed to apply what they know. The brain drain is caused not only by economic and geo-political reasons but also from a cultural redundancy that is averse to anything dynamic change. Kwame Nkrumah and Kofi Abrefa Busia are examples of that sad trend in Ghana. Great men, badly treated by the countries they loved.
3. What do you think Nkrumah would say of the state of Ghana today?
He will be glad to know that Ghana now owns 100% of Valco: that our country is serious about becoming a main stakeholder in the technology business. I think his biggest regret will be the inability of respective governments to close the gap between the rich and poor Ghanaian. Another aspect that will sadden Nkrumah will be the misplaced priorities of the average African. Instead of putting education as the number one personal priority, folks are opting for short-cuts such as drug dealing and thievery. Nkrumah will lament the blind imitation of all things Western. He will be disgusted to hear that black people call themselves ‘nigger’ and laugh about it. He will be disappointed to realize that we have failed to utilize our independence by retaining our dependence on those who colonized and enslaved us.
4. Do you think that it's possible for someone like Nkrumah to rise to a position of leadership in Ghana today?
Nkrumah, from all accounts, was an electrifying orator. He knew how to represent his country to the fullest. I think such a politician is a rare gift to any generation. In Ghana, the highly educated politicians do not exude the oratorical skills of Nkrumah. The populist politicians in Ghana do not have the finesse that Nkrumah had. In short, Nkrumah was the best of both worlds. He could speak on everybody’s level. Nkrumah was the sixties version of Barack Obama. For such a politician to emerge in Ghana will take an electorate that appreciates the golden qualities of a unique leader.
I think it is possible for someone of Nkrumah’s caliber to emerge. My fear is that he or she might be too threatening to the status quo and you know what happens afterwards - coup d’états. But the thought of that should not stop a man or woman of destiny to arise. Ghana needs a leader that will stir her to long term changes.
5. I was struck by the line "Cold War blues" - a song many in Africa , and around the world, are still singing. That being said, many Westerners aren't aware of the geo-politics involved in Nkrumah's ousting. What do you think can be done to better inform Westerners, especially those of your adopted country, the United States, of the historical legacy their foreign policies have produced in Ghana and elsewhere?
Nkrumah was overthrown in a CIA plot. You can read the book, "In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story", by John Stockwell. Similar tactics were used in the brutal assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of Congo.
Even though he was American-educated, Nkrumah’s politics were not good news to the United States. His preparedness to defy colonialism and imperialism made him an enemy with capitalism. The Cold War was fought in many African nations that had nothing to do with the power struggles between USA and USSR. Nations such as Ghana, Angola and Zimbabwe lost some of their best sons to the international chess games of power. The US government has permanent interests, not permanent friends. If the interests change, their friendships change as well. The USA’s interests in Ghana, at the time, were more commercial than political. To consolidate their hold in the West African region, they collaborated with the Ghana Armed Forces and Police to overthrow Nkrumah while he was away on peace-keeping in Hanoi. Nkrumah never returned to his homeland and died in exile in Conakry, Mali.
"Cold war blues" is simply a state of socio-political malady in a country, caused by lasting effects of the ideological struggle between the Western world and the Communist nations. Many countries in the emerging world are still suffering from Cold War blues because Western countries supported dictators that subscribed to capitalism. The West aided and abetted miscreants in power to ravish their nations. Most civil wars in Africa are national catharsis from Cold War blues. Many African countries are poor because the super powers sabotaged every attempt by their founding fathers to find practical solutions to their countries’ problem.
It must be stated that not all nations can thrive on capitalism. There has to be a balance. African countries, especially, are built on communal, close-knit cultures when both individual effort and collective responsibility go hand-in-hand. To prescribe capitalism to such a backdrop is unpractical and forced. Over and over again, capitalism has been represented by its great ambassador, Greed. Greed is not really welcomed in many African cultures.
Africa was, and is, a laboratory for world politics and ideologies. Its people were, and are, guinea pigs for the Western world. It is disheartening because every decision made about Africa has never involved Africans. From slavery to the partitioning of Africa and colonialism, everything has been done by the imperialist.
There was, and is, no respect for what the native people wanted. Westerners have to understand this when talking about Africa because we have been dealt with a cocktail of intrigue, infamy and intolerance. Some of the problems are self-wrought. Others were orchestrated by the symphonies of racist arrogance. With this information age, there is no excuse to live in ignorance about these facts. A lot of evil has been done but a lot more good can come out of it.