THE UNSUNG HEROES (1)
Nana Kobina Nketsia IV, The Spirit behind Positive Action
But for this man, Nkrumah might not have had the total support he needed to break away form the United Gold Cost Convention (UGCC) to form the Convention People’s Party (CPP).
The story of the struggle for Ghana’s independence and the role played by Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah would be incomplete without mentioning the roles played by other freedom fighters, without whom Nkrumah’s own story could not be complete. One such person was the late chief of the Essikado Traditional Area, Nana Kobina Nketsia IV, known in private life as Ekow Budu Arthur (Christened Samuel Evans Budu – Arthur).
But for this man, Nkrumah might not have had the total support he needed to break away from the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) to form the Convention People’s Party (CPP).
In a tribute at Nana’s funeral in 1995, Mr. K.A. Gbedemah, a right-hand man of Nkrumah, had this to say: “During Easter 1949 at Saltpond he was there when the conflict which led to the breakup of the elders and the youths occurred. He (Nana) took an active part in the decision to break away form the elders and threw his weight behind the Nkrumah faction. At that meeting he had already been nicknamed “Batakari Chief” because he wore nothing else but that outfit. He was also present at the all-night Conference of June 11, 1949 when the final decision was made to break with the UGCC. The next day, Sunday, June 12 the Convention People’s Party (CPP) was founded. By the example of his actions Nana Nketsia proved how intrepid and though he was founded”.
By the example of his actions Nana Nketsia proved how intrepid and tough he was.” Kojo Botsio also affirmed in this tribute,’ ‘Nana was at every meeting".
Nana was prepared to go to any length to prove this toughness. Despite being traditional ruler, the nationalist in him was the overriding drive. He had already cut his teeth by being one of the main propagandists in the Sekondi Takoradi effort to free the ‘Big Six’ from detention in 1948. Nana’s activities earned him the nickname Goebells.
On January 8, 1950, the political situation had reached such a crescendo that Positive Action had to be declared at Arena in Accra. A day before that declaration a long nigh meeting was held at Nana’s residence and under his supervision the Trades Union Congress decided to embark on the strike was which the necessary catalyst for the declaration of Positive Action.
Incidentally, positive action as the only mass action undertaken by Ghanaians in demand of freedom. On January 11, it was also declared in Sekondi-Takoradi. On the 13th, a major curfew (ko Dane” literally meaning “go home”) confronting between the Colonial Police and Essikado residents took place which led to the vandalizing and destruction of Nana’s residence, a brutal assault on his mother and Nana himself was battered into unconsciousness and bundled off to prison to undergo a period of torture. Nana’s aged Queen-mother died of shock. On March 14 a highly prejudiced Colonial court found him guilty on three counts:
i. Provocation of riot;
ii. Taking part in a riot;
iii. Doing and act likely to be prejudicial to the maintenance of public order.
He was sentenced to three years imprisonment with hard labour and a fine of 200 pounds or one year in default. Incarcerated initially at the Sekondi Prisons he was subsequently whisked to the Ankaful prison following the leaking of a plot to free him by his Asafo.
When the CPP won the elections of 1951, the Governor was impressed upon to release Nana. He was released in May 1951. A mammoth rally was held to confer on him the “Prison Graduate” accolade. In that month, according to the West African Monitor of 28th May, 1951, Nana ‘paid his first visit to the capital of Ashanti … He was shown round in an open car … He spoke to a gathering of over 10,000 at the Rex Cinema Hall under the auspices of Ashanti Youth Association … The words always on his lips to the Youth were “united! For the fight has not yet ended”. He was cheered wherever he went and was described in many quarters as the” King of the Gold Coast”.
He left for the University of Oxford in 1952 and obtained a Bachelors degree in Literature and Doctor of Philosophy in Social Anthropology form Oxford University in 1959. In 1960 he was appointed as the Secretary to the International Commission to advice on the development of Higher Education in Ghana. On the basis of the recommendation of this International Commission, the University of Ghana was in 1961 established as the sovereign University of Ghana with the powers to grant its own degrees. Significantly, it fell to Nana as the Interim Vice-chancellor (1961-62) to supervise the transition form a University College to the sovereign University of Ghana.
Carrying obvious imprints of Nana’s royal bearing and understanding of Ghana’s culture culminated in the establishment of the Institute of African Studies at the University. When a substantive VICE-Chancellor took over in 1962, Nana was still available for counseling the new institution as Chairman of the University Council (1962-64).
As Malcolm X recollected: “When I was in Ghana… Nana Nketsia…said that as an African his concept of freedom is a situation or condition in which he, as an African, feels completely free to give vent to his own likes and dislikes and thereby develop his own African personality. Not a condition in which he is copying some European cultural pattern… if given the intellectual independence, (the African) can come up with a new philosophy … a social system, and economic system, a political system … different from anything … on this earth”.
Some great men, we are told, never write history. Instead, they make history for others to write. So it is with Nana Kobina Nketsia IV.
Nana was born on February 17, 1916. In September, 1933 he entered Mfantsipim School, an institution dedicated to nurturing students into selfless service, leadership and moral probity. Nana lost his father before he could finishes first year at Mfantsipim and thus became a day student.
In yet another tribute to Nana on his involvement in the politics of the time and his involvement with Dr. Nkrumah, ‘Abongo’ Duncan who referred to Nana Nketsia as “one of the Greatest of the Greats” wrote: “At Nana’s residence at Essikadu, several meeting were held. The last and most important was on the night and eve … for the planning of the ‘Positive Action Strike 1950’ …. Upon secret information received by the police that Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was at Nana’s house, the police went there and questioned him, beat him up and took him into police cells, but the decision had already been taken and Positive Action went on as planned at Sekondi and Tarkwa. But the police had arrived late, for Nkrumah had left for Tarkwa”. Nana Nketsia was one of those who ensures the establishment of Fijai Secondary School and was also instrumental in convincing government to upgrade the school and St. John’s – which initially private – to the status of governmental assisted secondary school.
Nana Nketsia always maintained that chiefs have a great role to play in the development of the country. He was self-effacing and self-abnegating but he took his traditional duties seriously, respected himself and revered the trapping of a chief. However, the consuming passion of his adult life was politics, governance and education rather than chieftaincy. When he put on his apparel as chief, it was to remind him of the values it represented and in that framework he had tried to bridge the Kwame Nkrumah and J. B. Danquah divide.
In the Struggle for Ghana’s independence he was always in search of consensus. And as Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for Africa he was one of those who did the yeoman’s job for Kwame Nkrumah in bringing about the historic 1963 meeting at Addis Ababa to mark the beginning of the Organization of African Unity. Nana held the view that our indigenous polity has an inherent sovereignty which in the ultimate analysis should be vested in the people, and that the pyramid of parliament or a people’s assembly must hold sway.
In the Commemoration of his arrest of and imprisonment by Nana Nketsia IV Trust and the Essikado Traditional Council as a part of the Ghana @ 50 celebration, Kwame Pianim stated simply: “I am here because I have always been intrigued as to what combination of nature and nurture produced such selfless men at he beginnings of this nation and why there is such a dearth of such men and women of courage in our midst today? What in the process of political emancipation and evolution led to a weeding out of the Klobina Nketsias and Pobee Bineys and left us with self serving and self enriching politicians who have no sense of shame in stealing from the people they swear a sacred oath to serve and for whom they claim to be ready to die? What alchemy has over the past 50 years transformed us as a people into leaders who seek only to be served and are insensitive to the plight of the common man?
I am amused when I am told that Nana was a politician. The Nana I knew could never have been part of any partisan politics. We in the developing countries such as Ghana have been at war with poverty, disease and ignorance since attaining political independence.
With Nana’s hallmark characteristics of candour, forthrightness, courage and commitment to and passion for the welfare of the common person, he could never have been part of partisan politics. No political party could have accommodated such a big soul. His presence would have made most politicians very uncomfortable.
We have enough people, in Ghana to undertake partisan politics. What we lack are men and women of integrity to stand above the fray of politics to protect the national interest.
Nana Kobina Nketsia IV was in the thick of politics but was not part of partisan politics. He was friend to those who he saw were for the people and enemy to those he felt were betraying the Spirit of Positive Action. Such selfless devotion to the people!
We salute Nana and those who fought at his side! We salute the spirit of commitment and passion for the national interest and the welfare of the people! Let those who want to be leaders emulate the life of those patriots of yore!
And let our traditional leaders born as royal protect the integrity of their position as owners of this land and caretakers of the people’s interest and become the guardians of the national interest, free to rise above partisan politics to be the moral voice of the voiceless in the spirit of Nana Kobina Nketsia IV.
“Let this commemoration be the beginning of educating the nation of our past. Once we know where we have come form we can articulate where we want to go and then we will know where we have come from we can articulate where we want to go and then we will know when we are losing our way. Our new chiefs of courage and fearlessness will tell us when we are going astray and betraying the people!.
Nana Kobina Nketsia IV, “the King of the Gold Coast” joined his ancestors in 1995.
He has left indelible footprints on the sands of time. In the sunset years of his life, he spoke passionately about Ghana’s intellectual traditions and emotionally about the unsung heroes of Ghana’s independence struggle, most especially about Alfred Pobee Biney among others, he was in the trenches with.
To celebrate Nana Nketsia is to celebrate the Spirit of Positive Action. To celebrate Nana Nketsia himself is to celebrate an unsung hero – one who was not only a traditional ruler, a father, an intellectual and educationist, but a person, a fierce nationalist and, above all, a humanist.
The Ghanaian Times - Pages: 9-23 Monday, September 21, 2009