6 Similarities Between Muammar Gaddafi and Kwame Nkrumah


Muammar Gaddafi and Kwame Nkrumah will continue to grace the annals of history as controversial political figures. These two influential political figures are the analogy of an iconic salamander — whose awe-inspiring initiation is characterized by complicacy.

When profiled individually or collectively, both Gaddafi and Nkrumah can instigate stiff debates among analysts and enthusiasts alike – especially when viewed from the scope of leadership and pan-Africanism. The famous submission that history is the dictator of legacy does not adequately imply to these great African unicorns. How their stories will be told solely depends on the talebearer – who being a prisoner of conscience, is likely to interpret the legacies with some level of bias.

 However, when in search of light, it is best to walk towards it. Hence, to adequately decipher the legacies and footprints of these powerful controversial figures, it is best to view them holistically. To lay side-by-side their good and questionable attributes, with the aim of critically authenticating them individually. 

It will be difficult to characterize such demi-gods under headings such as good or bad. Instead, it is best to study each event of their colourful legacy independently. The failure of critics – especially those of pan-African inclination to identify that neither Gaddafi nor Nkrumah needs to be classified with the singular verdicts of good or bad will deprive Africans the possibility of fully understanding their controversial legacies. 

This article highlights the similarities between Muammar Gaddafi and Kwame Nkrumah you may not have paid full attention to. For a fact, regardless of one’s inclination with respect to the legacies of these great men, it is hard to deny that they are not significant figures who will forever spark healthy debates among intellectuals – and rightly so. 

6 Similarities Between Muammar Gaddafi and Kwame Nkrumah You May Not Know

1.      Driven By Same Ideology

Both Gaddafi and Nkrumah were driven by the same ideology that was based on the adoption and creation of an independent African state free from western dominance. They believed that the growth of the African continent lies solely on the pan-African project characterized by absolute freedom from imperialism.  

2.      Influenced By Prominent Africans

Unlike many other African political revolutionaries and leaders, neither Gaddafi nor Nkrumah was influenced by foreigners. Instead, they were inspired by great African leaders before them who sowed the seed of a united Africa. 

For Nkrumah, an encounter with a Nigerian journalist named Nnamdi Azikiwe (who would go on to become a president) while a student at Achimota sparked the fire of leadership in him. In the same vein, the ideologies of the former Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, greatly inspired Gaddafi for his push for pan-Africanism – albeit after his push for the unity of Arab countries failed. 

3.      Built Sustainable Indigenous Wealth

Both men built their countries to become wealthy nations capable of self-sustainability and support for other African countries during their reigns. During Nkrumah’s reign as president of Ghana, the country was based on agriculture, and it became extremely wealthy. Apart from being capable of self-sustainability, the government gave out loans and aids to other African countries.

Also, the immense wealth of Libya during Gaddafi’s reign was evident, and critics claim was a threat to even the western superpowers. Until Gaddafi’s death, Libya was the only country in the African continent to be debt-free, and the government offered debt reliefs to both African and Arab countries. 

4.      Maintained Controversial Legacy

Both Gaddafi and Nkrumah personified the famous slogan that ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.’ They endured a controversial status even among citizens of their countries who were divided due to their policies and intentions. Gaddafi, for example, was greatly eulogized by African heroes such as Nelson Mandela but was hated by many locals and termed ‘the mad dog of the middle East’ by former Unites States president Ronald Regan. 

On his part, despite Nkrumah’s perception across Africa as the father of independence and his struggle for African unity, there were about six assassination attempts on his life. As a result, many Ghanaians still argue that Nkrumah is not worthy of being celebrated as an African hero. 

5.      Invested Massively in African Projects

Unlike what is evident in Africa today, where infrastructure investment has become a western (or China’s) responsibility – not African leaders, Gaddafi and Nkrumah invested massively in African projects. 

To date, Gaddafi is credited for the largest irrigation project in the world. He created what is today known as the ‘Great man-made river,’ which is the world’s largest reservoir of fossil freshwater project constructed to generate and transport water across a desert. The irrigation project was achieved through investments worth billions of U.S. dollars to build an extensive pipeline system and powerhouses. However, what makes the project – and many others like it unique- is that he executed them without borrowing a cent from the World Bank or International Monetary Fund.

On his part, Nkrumah is credited with having inspired the creation of the city of Tema, which he envisioned to become an industrial hub in 1962. During his reign, the Tema Harbor, Akosombo Dam, Adomi Bridge, Tema Motorway, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and many other capital intensive projects were constructed. 

6.      Handled Political Opponents with an Iron Fist

Blinded by the belief that their political opponents were against African unity and Comprador-bourgeoisies who executed the biddings of their western masters, both Gaddafi and Nkrumah handled opposition with an iron fist.

Despite his greatly publicized attributes, Nkrumah is reported to have had a stronghold on power – which many critics claim he had no intention of relishing. He also maintained a bitter rivalry with the Asante people and other indigenous groups over power. Also, there were numerous cases where he jailed political opponents. Although he was attributed with such great quotes as ‘Africa must unite or perish’, he is also credited with controversial statements such as ‘seek ye first the political kingdom, and every other thing shall be added.’ His overthrow while on a trip to Beijing was a reflection of a man who did not put his house in order.

Gaddafi was also hated as much as he was loved – especially by Libyans themselves. His 42 years reign is evident that he had no tolerance for opposition or democracy, and many critics say his government was characterized by human rights abuse, conspiracy, and assassinations. Yet, just as there are so many achievements for Gaddafi’s government, there exists a long list of shortcomings. 


As we continue to examine the legacies of these powerful men – without bias and prejudice, we will find out that they have a lot in common. 

From how they were dethroned to how they are gradually attaining cult status after their deaths, their push for a single African currency through an African Bank of Investment, to their strong personal orientations, and many more. You will find out these men had similar influences and mentality.

To fully appreciate their legacies and learn from them as a people, Africans and students of African history should try to judge each event and decision made by Gaddafi and Nkrumah independently. Indeed, we must accept that there exist some shortcomings – as no man is perfect. Nevertheless, we must understand that when we separate the shafts from the grains, we will be exposed to the truths and blueprint for pan-Africanism – one that is devoid of the mistakes of Gaddafi and Nkrumah.


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