It was half a year ago when President Mills told parliament that his government will like to see Ghanaians celebrating what would have been Kwame Nkrumah’s one hundredth birthday in a grand style. The president also announced his intention to set aside a national day of remembrance for Ghana’s founding president. The president will just need to put ink to paper to declare a holiday for Nkrumah. But organising a befitting celebration in Nkrumah’s honour won’t be as easy.

Very little has been done by way of planning to ensure that the celebrations honour Nkrumah in a manner he deserves and benefits the country in the long run. In places where people have it ingrained in the genes that what is worth doing is worth doing well (where they don’t sing, “we are going… we don’t know where we are going) planning for the occasion would have started immediately after the President laid his plans for the commemorations before parliament. Not so here…

A committee (yes, another one) was set up to plan for the occasion well over three months after the President made his intentions known. That committee – made up of academic sorts of the ‘colo’ variety, who know little about event organisation and marketing – have been very busy doing all the things that will contribute very little towards making the celebrations an emphatic success.

Receiving the committee’s report on how the celebrations should go, vice president John Mahama, said last month that “There is no time to waste, we’ll move on with alacrity”.

But precious time had already been wasted and as things stand now, it seems the celebrations will pass off as yet another hastily-organised, confused and, sadly, forgettable event. Mark it on the wall.

With just a month to go, it is only now that the celebrations planning committee has started looking for funds. Government has pledged two million Ghana cedis towards the event but a lot more (about 10 million GHC) is needed – from the private sector. Unless government has a special taskforce which will be sent out to wring the money out of the pockets of individuals and companies, it’s hard to imagine how the Nkrumah Centenary Committee will, within a month, be able to raise the same amount as government has offered for the celebrations. It will take a miracle in a time of economic crisis and heavy taxation for such a feat to be achieved.

By now, adverts should have been rolling on the international media inviting the world to join in the celebration of the life (and works) of an African icon; Nkrumah’s memorial park should be squeaky clean and ready to receive tourists from the four corners of the globe and his birthplace should have been prepared for those who might want to make a pilgrimage there. With just a few months to go and very little money in hand, you can be sure that everything is going to be done in an embarrassingly haphazard manner.

The centenary committee chairman, Prof. Akilagkpa Sawyer, is confident that he and his group will “deliver a good programme even with six million Ghana cedis”. They just might be able to pull it off.

But a little forward-thinking would have changed the story completely. Even though I am not a great fan of Nkrumah’s I think he deserves better than this.

The guy could see 50 years into the future and he planned, seriously, for it. If he hadn’t been a forward-thinker, we wouldn’t have had the Akosombo Dam, we wouldn’t have had the Tema Motorway and all those factories successive governments have so gleefully sold off to raise money to prop the economy wouldn’t have been built.

In the hundredth year of his birth, the best tribute we could have given Nkrumah would have been to let him know that we picked a few forward-thinking lessons from him. Alas, decades after his death our leaders demonstrate (year in, year out) that they cannot even plan six months ahead. If Nkrumah can see us from wherever he is, he would weep as we ‘celebrate’ his birthday. What a shame.

Do we even need these celebrations at all? I wonder. For me, a better celebration will be to spend the money to build a modern, well-equipped school in Nkrumah’s impoverished hometown. That would make him happier than these celebrations we are groping in the dark to organise.

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