His plane was still in the sky over China when he was overthrown in a CIA backed coup. He therefore, knew nothing about it.
At the Beijing Airport, was the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, standing in the cold wind, waiting to receive the Ghanaian leader.
Enlai had already recieved the news, and was not only worried how to break it to his guest but also how to receive and handle this diplomatic problem.
When Nkrumah’s plane finally landed in Beijing, he was warmly received by Zhou Enlai who took him to state Guesthouse. After the guests and the host sat down in the reception room, the Chinese leader whispered to him that a coup had taken place in Ghana and showed him a message from the foreign news agency.
At first Nkrumah rejected this reality. But when he read the message, the reality slowly dawned on him. He bowed his head in his trembling hands but he was very calm.
As soon as the rumours were confirmed, the huge delegation made up of 90 Ghanaian officials, quickly disintegrated as they no longer wanted to be associated with a leader and a government that had been overthrown.
Even the Ghana embassy in Beijing also shifted it’s position and announced its allegiance to the new military government.
Also with Nkrumah in Beijing was the Minister for Foreign Affairs who was quickly sent to Ghana to assess the situation.
But he too shifted his allegiance and expressed his support for the coup leaders immediately he arrived in Accra.
Nkrumah left Beijing for Guinea and never
returned to Ghana.
In Guinea President Sekou Toure gave him political asylum and made him co-President of the Republic of Guinea.
On April 27, 1972, Nkrumah died of an unspecified but apparently incurable illness in Bucharest, Romania where he had gone for treatment. It was a lonely death, far from his green and lovely native land and from his own people.
Shortly after Nkrumah’s death some squabbles erupted between president Sekou Toure of Guinea and Colonel Ignatius Acheampong the leader of Ghana military government which had come to power in another coup in January 1972.
Touré who had granted Nkrumah political asylum in his country wanted to bury Nkrumah in Guinea, while Colonel Acheampong desired that Nkrumah’s body be returned to Ghana where he said, the former President would be given a dignified burial.
Nkrumah’s mother, Madam Elizabeth Nyaniba, made an impassioned plea to President Toure to allow the body to be returned to Ghana: “I want to touch the body of my son before he is buried, or I die.”
Sékou Touré refused to release the body until he had extracted from the Ghanaians important concessions. And since the Romanians had sent the body to Guinea, Toure was in a strong position to dictate his terms of releasing Nkrumah’s body.
They were as follows:
1.) NKRUMAH’S COMPLETE REHABILITATION IN THE EYES OF THE GHANAIAN PEOPLE (LIFTING ALL CHARGES THAT HAD BEEN PENDING AGAINST HIM).
2.) THE RELEASE OF ALL OF NKRUMAH’S ALLIES STILL HELD IN GHANAIAN JAILS.
REMOVAL OF THE THREAT OF ARREST WHICH HUNG OVER ALL OF NKRUMAH’S FOLLOWERS WHO HAD CHOSEN TO REMAIN WITH HIM IN EXILE
4.) AN OFFICIAL WELCOME BY THE GHANAIAN GOVERNMENT OF NKRUMAH’S REMAINS, WITH ALL THE HONORS DUE A DECEASED CHIEF OF STATE.
On May 20, 1972, it was revealed that Touré had imposed even further conditions on the Ghanaian government. He now insisted that Nkrumah’s tomb be placed in front of Ghana’s Parliament building, and that all of the men who had occupied ministerial appointments and high positions in his civil service be restored to their former posts.
Touré’s argument for holding the body was that he had granted Nkrumah asylum and made him co-President of Guinean Republic when he was “betrayed” by his own people who overthrew him.
With the quarrel, attracting attention from the non-African press, African leaders approached Toure to persuade him to release the body.
They were Presidents William Tolbert of Liberia, Siaka Stevens of Sierra Leone, and General Yakubu Gowon of Nigeria.
They argued that it was in the best interests of African dignity, and Africa’s image abroad, that the body be returned to Ghana.
Nkrumah’s body was eventually released by Toure and buried in Ghana.