KWAME NKRUMAH’S CENTENARY
GHANA: THE FOUNDING FATHERS
By: Prof Mike Oquaye
IN his maiden address to Parliament, President John Evans Atta Mills made a speech, which was useful in many respects. He spoke against our pulling down what has been built and then trying to rebuild the edifices of our nation (Paragraph 5 column 473, Hansard). I beg to reecho our President in the light of the Ghanaian penchant for contorting our own history and being misdirected in the process.
And I do this with regard to the President’s call captured in part 2 column of 474 of the Hansard. “We intend to honor Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s Memory with a national holiday to be known as Founder’s Day...”
Every award has a basis. The President gave the basis as follows: First, Nkrumah was the “first President of the Republic”. Second, his “selfless leadership still remains a point of reference in desire to build a better Ghana.
What His Excellency said about Nkrumah was true. In fact, I will proceed to pay him further accolades as follows: Kwame Nkrumah pioneered the Ghana Educational Trust schools. This deepened access to secondary education and subsequently higher education generally. It cannot be forgotten, however, that this was part of the national development plan of the UGCC before Nkrumah arrived.
Indeed, it was on this basis that Danquah called for a separate University College for the Gold Coast at a time when the British proposed one University for the whole of West Africa to be located in Nigeria. We should know that the University of Ghana came out of the UGCC demand, led by J.B Danquah. Kwame Nkrumah did very well with the University expansion to Kumasi and Cape Coast. Other notable achievements under the great Nkrumah included the Tema Motorway, Akosombo Dam, Medical School, Korle- Bu Teaching Hospital and the Okomfo Anokye Hospital.
Nkrumah fostered Africa Unity to dizzy heights. While we gained global stature, Ghana was revered in Africa - even if it also meant doling out US$ l0million to Guinea and to Mali, etc. the Africa Liberation struggle was a principal item on our national budget. All these happened while charity was lacking at home, while we queued up for soap, milk etc, and while the Accra Sports Stadium had by 1964 become a ration point for the so- called “essential commodities”- milk, sardine, sugar etc.
Yes Nkrumah did a great job in nation building as our first President. Yes we may want to conveniently forget all the failings of Nkrumah and project his achievements to dizzy heights. We may recount the teachings to the young pioneers and say that like God, Nkrumah never erred. Yes we may even say that vengeance belongs to God and forgive is divine and thereby forgive Nkrumah for the Preventive Detention Act, by which anyone could be imprisoned without trial, first for five years and then renewable for further five years and five years again and forever. Yes, lets give the Osagyefo everything. After all, a nation must have heroes and the more we raise our “angels” on a dizzy - like heavenly pedestal, the better our heroic cravings may be satisfied.
We cannot pretend; we cannot do the ostrich beyond a certain degree. We have a number of noble founding fathers, including Kwame Nkrumah, first Prime Minister and first President of the Republic of Ghana.
Indeed, to attribute to Nkrumah what belongs uncontrovertibly to others would reopen old wounds and inflame lovers of the truth in Ghana’s political history. This is exactly what President Mills said does not help nation building.
If we were to call Nkrumah the one founder, we will be revisiting an unfortunate fallacy which prevailed in Ghana from about 1961- 1966. It will revive an old unnecessary controversy that will divide rather than build. During the 1960’s,Kwame Nkrumah put on Ghanaian coins his image and certain words which generated controversy — “Conditor Ghanainses civitas” Founder of the Ghana Nation. This divided the nation as several thousands of people, historians, chiefs and ordinary people, who simply followed contemporary events, cautioned against this. Protest went on till Nkrumah was overthrown in 1966.
A recap of the chronology of events shows that before the arrival of Nkrumah, some gallant men were taking steps to lead Ghana to independence and, in fact, a number of political parties were formed soon after the World War II in 1945. Kwame Nkrumah left for the US in 1935. He studied and worked in US and England. He later returned to Ghana in December 1947 at the invitation of UGCC leaders who paid Nkrumah’s fare, expenses etc. He was the only person on salary in the UGCC. If something had not been founded, what was Nkrumah brought down for? If there was nothing, what was he to come and help to consolidate?
The cry for independence reached full blast after 1948 riots. On February 28, 1948 when the ex-service men marched to the Castle and shooting took place, there was enough political consciousness in Ghana! The cry for independence had been resonating from 1945 to 1948. What magic could Nkrumah alone have done from December 1947 (when he arrived in Ghana) to February 1948(when agitation reached its apogee) if there was nothing worthwhile on the ground?
Nkrumah did not alone compose the Classical Sonata and constitute the orchestra which sang Ghana’s clarion call to independence in sweet melody, all in two months! The fathers of the nation were there already they included Paa Grant, J.B Danquah, Akoffo — Addo, Ako Adjei, Obetsebi Lamptey and William Ofori Atta. It needs to be emphasized — something existed before Nkrumah was invited to come and help. How can the helper alone become the founder (sole founder)? Nkrumah was great. He played a big part in the struggle for independence. He may be honored with a holiday. But it cannot be Founder’s Day. Why? Because he was not the founder of our dear nation.
Some people have regrettably asked: How can we have more than one founder? To such compatriots, I humbly lend this advice. Foundership needs to be perceived in monoistic terms. Every year, Achimotans celebrate founding fathers — Aggrey, Fraser, Guggisberg. In Ashanti, we have Osei Tutu and Okomfo Anokye. In the USA, Washington is not the founder. They have founding fathers.
And you do not have to be a founder for your greatness to be recognized or given a holiday. Martin Luther King (USA) is an example.
Some have said Nkrumah was the founder because of the declaration he made on the Old Polo Grounds- Ghana, your beloved country is free forever.
So assuming that before that Old Polo Ground rally, Nkrumah was indisposed and Mr. K.A. Gbedemah had made that statement, would Gbedemah have become the founder of Ghana? This argument is, to say least, unfortunate. I feel sad that our history is sometimes toyed with.
Ghanaians must know exactly where we are coming from, so that the past should be a guide to the present and the future. We should give credit to our forebears who signed the Bond of 1844 on March 6, 1844, for example. They established a contractual relationship between the Gold Coast and the British. Soon after 1944, our leaders could demand; “white man time is up. Go home!” this is what Paa Grant, Danquah and others did.
We should recognise August 4, 1947 as the founding of the ultimate independence movement. That day, the UGCC was inaugurated in Saltpond, It was a Broad Movement of Chiefs, clergymen lawyers, professionals, businessmen, teachers etc. “it marked the beginning of a new era in the Gold Coast”, said one historian. Saltpond was the headquarters of the Joint Provincial Council of Chiefs, and that is why the meeting took place there. It was a unity movement which incorporated all existing groups e.g. Obetsebi Lamptey’s League of the Gold Coast, Danquah Youth Conference, etc. Paa Grant was chairman and Danquah was the Political Leader.
Danquah made the Declaration of Self- Emancipation. This became the cornerstone of the New Ghana. Something happened in Ghana, akin what to take place in the USA. People should know that even though Americans declared independence on July 4, 1776, it was until 1787 that the
US Constitution came into force. Those who made that Declaration of Independence are all founding fathers in America.
Ghana’s Famous Declaration was made in 1947 by Danquah (who the British came to declare as the Doyen of Gold Coast politicians). Nkrumah was not in the country at all. The great leader said: “we have come from all corners of this country... (to decide) how we are to be governed, a new kind of freedom, a Gold Coast Liberty. We left our homes in Ghana and come down here to build for ourselves a new home. There is one thing we brought with us from ancient Ghana (870 years ago). We brought with us our ancient freedom. Today, the safety of that freedom is threatened; it has been continuously threatened for 100 years, since the Bond of 1844 and the time has come for a decision”.
The decision was taken that day. The Gold Coast should be free and translated into the modern Ghana. The seed was duly sown. And Nkrumah was not only physically in UK, but he made no input whatsoever.
Nkrumah came and added bountifully to it. And Nkrumah was a great man. But he was not in Ghana when it all started. Nkrumah was not the founder! Danquah conceived the idea of calling the independent Gold Coast, Ghana. This was formally adopted in Saltpond. It became known to every schoolchild then that our nation would soon become independent; that our leaders were fighting for this, and the name of the new nation would be Ghana. And all this happened before Nkrumah arrived. And not even Nkrumah could have resiled from this when independence arrived.
Ghana is known in our history. Danquah gave it the nationalistic interpretation — hence our name.
When Nkrumah said on the eve of independence that our beloved country, Ghana, was free for ever, he was only putting the icing on the cake. But there were other bakers of the cake. Can you forget them? No. our independence was gained with brain than with brawn. This must be acknowledged. Tetteh Quashie’s cocoa had made the economy strong. The Gold Coasters were far more educated than other any part in Black Africa. The economy was booming with gold, diamond, manganese, bauxite, timber etc. Escott Reid Observed Ghana had the highest per capital income in Africa South of the Sahara (white South Africans apart).
A whole host of heroes contributed to what culminated in independence in 1957. After the 1948 Riots, it was J.B Danquah who sent that famous Cable to the Secretary of State for the colonies, saying the colonial administration had collapsed. He made specific demands as leader of the independence movement. He asked for the recall of the Governor. Danquah called for an interim government run by the UGCC. He proclaimed a Constituent Assembly to draw a new constitution for self- government
All these teach us to stop the mischief which President Mills spoke about. We cannot keep going forward and backwards all the time. Ghana must learn to give everyone their due. For example, you should not take other people’s titles away from them and ascribe them to yourself because you are great. For example, the title “Osagyefo” in Ghana belongs to Okyenhene as “Otumfuo” is for the Asantehene. Under Nkrumah, Osagyefo Ofori Atta II was banished from Kibi and his title taken by Nkrumah, who became “Osagyefo the President”. This brought resentment and protestation, division and rancour till Nkrumah was overthrown. These are the inhibitions in nation building which learned the professor, also President, spoke about.
A great man does not need to take away, what belongs to others in order to be great. Nkrumah himself unfortunately did some of these in his lifetime and it lowered his integrity. We should let those unfortunate parts of a great man be interred with his bones.
Nkrumah was a great leader. He was one of the founding fathers, but never the founder of our nation. No matter how great Paul was, he cannot be the founder of Christianity, to the exclusion of Peter and others.
DAILY GRAPHIC PAGE 5 FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2009.