Forward Ever, Walking Stick Never! The Significance & Symbolism of a National Monument

The famous and iconic Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s monument at his mausoleum standing erect, with his head up and forefinger pointing into the futuristic horizon, his left hand clenched in a promised fist by his side, signifying his famous dictum “Forward Ever, Backwards Never”, cautioning the newly created Ghana State of its place and direction in the geopolitical future to perpetually stay on path of scientific progress and unwavering vision, chartered for us during our momentous Independence.

The monumentalization of Osagyefo into his iconic statue didn’t start in 1992 when the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum was built, but rather from 1956 when the country, by virtue of the government of the day, decided to commemorate the nation’s founder, as every proud and well-meaning country or society would do to honor their political progenitor.

Thus, the first iconic statue was commissioned in 1956 when Osagyefo became the first Prime Minister and unveiled on March 6, 1958 during Ghana’s first independence anniversary to honor the great ancestor.

But the project came under a barrage of attacks and criticisms from the opponents of Osagyefo and his Convention People’s Party (CPP); not just only verbal attacks, but missile attacks too.

The commissioned Osagyefo statue by the Italian Professor Nicola Cataudella, came under spurious attacks, his opponents describing him as megalomaniac and self-seeking in that endeavor.

The iconic monument was bomb-attacked by militant opponents in 1961 in the lead-up to his banal overthrow on February 24, 1966. When Osagyefo was toppled in the abhorrent coup d’Etat, his iconic statues were toppled down with him and nearly buried in oblivion.

It was not until his death in Romania and his eventual interment in the Republic Of Guinea, that the African Students Union in London requested the Guinean government to return the remains of Osagyefo to his homeland Ghana to give him a proper burial in the country he loved so much, they reiterated that  “only if the military government of Ghana would denounce coups d’Etat and in so doing, re-erect the statue of Kwame Nkrumah and the democracy that was toppled down with it during the coup of 1966”.

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This was the impetus behind the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum Project (KNMP) and the subsequent return of the mortal remains of the great patriarch to be properly interred in the country he loved so much.

It was under this caveat that ex-president Rawlings was given the body of our illustrious patriarch for a proper state burial in Ghana. Thus, the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park (KNMP) was commissioned by the renowned architect Don Arthur and was unveiled to the public on Republic Day Of 1st July 1992 by ex-president Jerry John Rawlings, to house the remains and effects of Osagyefo and his beloved wife Fathia Nkrumah.

The architectural design of the mausoleum was one inspired by the ingenious understanding and reverence for our illustrious culture: its beauty, and the rightful recognition of its true heroes/heroines. In that, the KNMP was designed like an upside-down sword of a warrior king, akin to the Golden Sword Of Okomfo Anokye (GSOA) in the Ashanti Kingdom. The design is also of significance in the Adinkra Symbols of an upside-down sword which means “Eternal Peace”, which alternatively means “Courage” and also signifies an uprooted tree.

It was designed that way to signify to the younger generation of Ghanaians, that the vibrant intellectual sword of Osagyefo can be picked up anytime by anyone worthy enough to wield the practical and altruistic politics by the hilt.

It signifies “courage” to anyone courageous enough to step off the bandwagon even if it results in walking alone in the right path and also it signifies a big uprooted tree to all of us who are privileged to pluck the root of that great tree to clean our mouths and teeth to be able to speak the sharp truth.

This is the monument of a great leader, a larger-than-life figure who has inspired millions of generations around the world.

The significance of the statue

The significance and symbolism of the statue of Osagyefo are in commemoration of the Independence Declaration of March 6, 1957 at the Old Polo Grounds, the same spot his Mausoleum is situated, the place where he stood on the podium with his C.P.P. comrades to declare Independence to Ghanaians is exactly where the statue stands today.

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The presence of the 3.5-meter bronze statue is to re-emphasize the iconic proclamations made by Osagyefo on the fateful day of Independence, to wit, the Ghana machinery has been set in motion toward FORWARD EVER, BACKWARDS NEVER. This is a very significant and symbolic statue for a very significant country in Africa and the world. That the futuristic ideas and philosophies of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah for Ghana and Africa Unity never dies.

The adverse meaning and significance of the statue

On January 28, 2012, the Chinese Government completed the newly constructed $200million African Union (AU) edifice with the statue of Osagyefo as the new symbol, amid protests by Ethiopians, with the right hand pointing to the heavens and the left hand holding a walking stick.

It would have been a very laudable project and a gesture of goodwill to Africa, only that the Chinese twisted the imagery of the iconic statue and by so doing twisting the salient significance and symbolism of the original effigy. Instead of the Osagyefo pointing towards the futuristic horizon with the index finger, they made an adulterated one pointing to the heavens, as if to say that we should look up to the heavens for the solutions to our mortal problems.

In lieu of the clenched fist to signify the “Backwards Never” dictum, they gave the adulterated version a walking stick, as if to signify that the salient ideologies of Osagyefo are decrepit with old age and senility.

The travesty of changing a once significant and symbolic monument into a political Trojan Horse for an unsuspecting people. This is what happens when we let foreigners write and even sculpt our illustrious history for us. This is exactly what is doled to people who are comfortable surviving at the crumbling mercies of others.

The Ghanaian travesty

On November 14, 2016, ex-president John Dramani Mahama inaugurated the reconstructed Kwame Nkrumah interchange project, as a facelift to the erstwhile Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra. The GhC320million infrastructure was crowned with the iconic statue of Osagyefo which was standing tall at the center of the detour or the “Circle”, as it was popularly called, accompanied by the ever-flowing fountain at the old Kwame Nkrumah Circle. 

This would have been a very laudable project to have crowned the newly enhanced district with the iconic statue of Osagyefo, only that the Mahama administration obtusely committed the same willful blunder of erecting the adulterated version of Osagyefo’s original statue as the Chinese did with the AU monument in Ethiopia. This elicits the question: Was it a willful act of rewriting and reinterpreting our history according to the whims and caprices of the powers that be or is it just a lackadaisical way of not paying attention to detail when it comes to our identity and legacies?

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I ask this imperative question because the iconic statue that was standing tall at the business district before the construction of the “Dubai” interchange was that of the old and original one located at the KNMP.

All the leaders had to do was to replicate exactly what was there before they uprooted it to make way for the facelift of the Kwame Nkrumah Circle. This is where the exigencies of modernity are sacrificed for the significance and symbolism of a historical and cultural masterpiece. It seems to me the Ghanaian is quick to suspend reality for personal fabrications and narratives of the few, especially the ruling powers that be, in society. This trend is especially prevalent when it comes to the history and legacies of Osagyefo vis-à-vis our country Ghana.

But as we all know about the truth, “you can fool some people for some time, you cannot fool all the people all the time”. We must learn to have a common voice for our common history and guard against the willful adulteration and plagiarism of our sacred history, culture and monuments that expresses who we are as a great people.


By Barima Kwabena Yeboah||Ghana

The author is an intern with the Media General Group. Views expressed in this article are entirely the author’s and do not in any way represent the views of the Media General Group or any of its stations.