Kwame Nkrumah and political marketing: locating campaign strategy in modern political campaigning.

Author:Mensah, Kobby


In forming the case on Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and political marketing, there are a number of randomly scattered insights in the literature that inform this research. In this research, it is observed that Osagyefo used imagery and ideas to organize and manage his campaign for the ascension of the Convention People's Party (CPP) to power- and in fact for the governance of Ghana--before, during and after independence. His approach is thus identified to share borders with modern day political organizational and campaigning strategies, i.e. political marketing which took place some fifty years ago. Although Nkrumah and the CPP party might not have intended their campaign to be a political marketing activity, nevertheless, some pronouncement by Nkrumah and his campaign themes suggest a parallel.

For its aims, this work sets out to identify the conceptual underpinnings that may have informed Nkrumah's campaign strategy using modern political organizational framework. And second, to demonstrate how political programs could be organized in a systematic way to achieve desired results using a comprehensive organizational strategy of modern political practices. Hence, this paper hopes to provoke fresh debate into other areas of Nkrumah's political life that are under researched, and prompting new areas of study within academia and among practitioners in the Ghanaian political market in its struggle to entrench Ghana's nascent democracy.

To achieve the aims above, the research analyses the political character and behavior of Nkrumah and the CPP party in the tradition of generic functions of political marketing management suggested by Hanneberg (2003), however with some modifications. The paper will consider only four--product function; cost function; communication function; and the distribution function--out of Hanneberg's eight generic political marketing functions. Another modification is the fusion of Lees-Marshment's (2001) political market orientation concept, with its emphasis on the identification of customer needs and competitors offering using market research, into the operationalisation of the marketing instruments to realize the desired results. Hence, the inclusion of the market research proposed by Lees-Marshment is crucial because it is only through this means that a competitive benchmark could be set against the actual performance of the party initiating the political marketing program. And although the functions, as Hanneberg explained, are requirements that performances of the instruments are supposed to meet--itself a benchmark--such requirements could only be competitive if they are set against customers' demands and competitors' offerings as the Lees-Marshment (2001) concept suggests.

Accordingly, in the next section, I present a brief background to establish the political history of the Gold Coast at a set time to establish a context and facilitate an understanding of the lessons to be drawn from this study.


In 1947, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), a political party made up of elites such as lawyers, doctors and chiefs with the aim of ending British rule--'in the shortest possible time' (Austin, 1961; Vieta, 1999)--invited Kwame Nkrumah into its institutions as an organizing secretary (Austin, 1961). By February 1948, Nkrumah through his organizational style was able to expand the convention to 209 branches across the length and breadth of Ghana, from 13 in 1947 (Vieta, 1999). And, he further encouraged the inclusion of ordinary citizens such as peasant farmers, unions, women's groups and the youth (Vieta, 1999). This approach was in contrast with the previous regime of UGCC's organization where the masses were ignored and held in contempt by the political elites (Vieta, 1999). This achievement confirmed Nkrumah's leadership skills, organizational competence and inclusive philosophy as an individual who saw the ordinary citizen as an important asset to nation building, contrary to the leadership styles of UGCC officials. And moreover, such characteristics won him the admiration of all and the call of the masses to form and lead the Convention People's party (CPP) in June 1949 when he was expelled from the UGCC (Austin, 1961).

The CPP, contrary to their opponent, the UGCC, had a different strategic approach to politics, campaigning with the ultimate goal of gaining the independence. Thus, the strategic approach that Nkrumah envisaged, formulated and implemented for his party was one that resonated well with the people, and in short, he identified that the needs of the people should be a central approach and should also reflect the political practices of the CPP ( Therefore, dialogue among the CPP leaders and the people was encouraged and expressed in a 'language' well understood by all, and basically, Nkrumah and the CPP spoke the 'language' of the people, not the people speaking the language of Nkrumah and the CPP. This is an era when the average Ghanaian had little knowledge about party politics, but was full of strong feelings towards independence. Therefore, Nkrumah and the CPP capitalized on this strong feeling to adopt the slogan of 'self government now' to serve as a guiding principle capable of keeping in focus the central objective; their mobilization for independence within a defined time scale as against the UGCC's unclear 'self government in the shortest possible time' (Austin, 1961; Vieta, 1999) slogan.

Furthermore, Nkrumah's political domination and insatiable quest for independence did not stop with Ghana. His message reached far and wide across Africa and so did his personality, ideas and organizational skills which led to him being referred to as the 'greatest African' by Sekou Toure, then president of Guinea (

The recognition of Osagyefo as 'Africa's greatest' reflects the opinion of, not only his followers and colleagues, but also by others as he stood to be counted in the struggle for Africa's liberation. And in fact such pronouncements have even been made by his critics no matter how twisted their views tend to be. Hence, I believe that by now we all know the popular phrase--'Kwame Nkrumah is one of Africa's greatest sons, but not one of Ghana's greatest servants' (Mazuri, 2002, cited in Otoo, 2006).

In fact, such manifestations was evident when at the turn of the century, African listeners of BBC voted Nkrumah as the 'African of the century' (BBC, 1999). Indeed, such an observation by Mazuri and many others, regardless of their opinions on 'the big Nkrumah debate' gave especially this writer, a course to study as to why Nkrumah is the 'greatest African'.

So why was Nkrumah referred to as 'the greatest African'? The answers, to me lie in the theories and concepts present in literature (Austin, 1961; Monfils, 1977; Vieta, 1999) that give accounts of the activities of Nkrumah. However, the research concludes that going by those accounts present in the literature, referring to Nkrumah as 'the greatest African' means that he conveyed images that were African-friendly; it means he lived and accented his 'African-ness' before, during and after his time in high public places although he schooled and trained in both the USA and Britain. Finally, it means Nkrumah made Africa and the African people his all important priority. But one would ask what has this got to do with political marketing? This research advances that behind Nkrumah's style of political organization and management which led to him being referred to as 'Africa's greatest', was his understanding of the fundamental principle of marketing: a 'market-driven organization stays close to the customer and well ahead of competition' (Hutt and Speh, 1998, p 226-7) that might have informed his and the party's political behavior, explicitly or otherwise. This is evident in most of his pronouncements and behavior, some of which were directly parallel:

'Go to the people, live among them, learn from them, love them, serve them, plan with them, start with what they know, and build on what they have ... for the masses of the people form the backbone of our Party. Their living conditions and their welfare must be paramount in everything we do. It is for them in particular and Africa in general, that our party exists'. (Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, 1949). Source:

The business of political organization is different from the business of politics and Nkrumah, clearly understanding this terrain of political organization much better than his lawyer and business colleagues at UGCC, and in the words of Austin 'much better equipped than his Working Committee at UGCC' (Austin, 1961). His knowledge of party organization--not politics, which they were all at par, it seems (Austin, 1961)--was much deeper and far sighted than the UGCC leadership thought, Austin observes. As, Nkrumah himself acknowledged, 'it is rather like the dawn of action at the end of a long intensive training--in America and in London, Pan-African meetings, Committee work, Party organization, and a great variety of political activities of one kind and another' (Nkrumah, cited in Austin, 1977 p295).

Based on these findings, and others not cited in this research, it could be argued that knowingly or otherwise, Nkrumah applied the concept and principles of modern campaign strategies of political marketing way beyond his time when the phenomenon had not even been discovered. If this position is true, as this research initiates Nkrumah could be a pioneer in political marketing's practice. In achieving this aim, this research combines the literature of political marketing and political science in tracing the confluence of Nkrumah's political behavior.

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