A GNA feature by Nana Kodjo Jehu-Appiah
Accra, March 7, GNA - There is a gentleman in Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings Party- the National Democratic Party (NDP), whose impeccable grasp of the Queen’s language is beyond dispute.
However listening to him for a while would force you to visit the Oxford Dictionary to discern, which direction he is leading the dialogue. The big and superfluous words are nice to the ears but difficult to digest.
I am however not discussing the NDP or the mastery of the English Language. What is in focus is the nationalist fervour of this gentleman. The more you talk to him the more convinced you become about his love for God and country.
If I have the power to honour patriots who are working behind the scenes, I would surely confer on this personality ‘The Order of the Volta’. However this powers rest in the bosom of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
I am however of the opinion that the President exercised these powers very well by recalling the tiredless effort of personalities who can best be described as Ancestors, for helping to bring down the grips of British colonialism.
What makes it more interesting is that the honour was done to these heroes at a time when Ghana has activated the Diamond Jubilee mood.
In the words of the President: “We are met here, today, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of our nation’s independence, to celebrate our freedom from the clutches of British imperialism, to celebrate the final achievement of the struggle of successive generations of Ghanaian patriots to establish a free, sovereign Ghana.”
The President talked about the signing of the Bond of 1844, which marked the formal start of the Gold Coast colony, then the formation of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society on 4th August, 1897, in Cape Coast, symbolising the start of the struggle for political independence.
“It is worth mentioning some of the names of the members of the Society because, unfortunately, we do not often acknowledge their role – John Mensah Sarbah, Joseph Casely Hayford, J.W. Sey, J.P Brown, and their colleagues, who organised the chiefs and people against the Crown Lands Bill, and forced the colonial authorities to retreat. Sarbah began the tradition of the Ghanaian lawyer as a nationalist.
“This was probably one of the most dramatic interventions in the colonial history of our country. One hundred and twenty years after that event, its significance might be lost on us. But we would appreciate its importance if we consider that the very same objectives of the Crown Lands Bill were introduced at the same time, and became law, in countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia and other British colonies around Africa and changed the course of their history.”
The lands of the indigenous peoples in those countries were seized by the British Crown under that law, an event from which, a century later, they have still not recovered.
“In what was then the Gold Coast, we continued to possess our lands because of the bravery of the members of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society, and we must pay homage to these patriots every day, especially on this 60th anniversary. Even though we maintained, in 1897, the continuing and inalienable rights to our lands, we remained a colony and could not govern ourselves,” the President said.
President Akufo-Addo noted that a decade or so later, the British West African National Congress, under the joint leadership of Joseph Casely-Hayford and Thomas Hatton-Mills, was formed to carry on with the agitation against colonial rule.
The next significant event in the struggle occurred on 4th August, 1947, exactly 50 years later to the day of the formation of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society, when a group of nationalists gathered in Saltpond for the launch of the United Gold Coast Convention, the (UGCC), the first political party in our country.
The founders of the UGCC, then, met to demand independence from the British and 70 years after that event, one still marvels at the clarity of thought and the passion that they displayed. Some of the names of that momentous day have survived in the country’s written history and folk memory.
Five of them are on our Ghanaian currency: Joseph Boakye Danquah; Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey; William Ofori-Atta; Ebenezer Ako-Adjei; and Edward Akufo-Addo. Kwame Nkrumah, the sixth of the Big Six on the currency, was to join them later.
And there are others, equally important that should not be forgotten, George Paa Grant, R.S. Blay, Cobbina Kessie, J.W. de Graft Johnson and Francis Awoonor Williams, amongst others.
The UGCC leaders decided they needed a full time person to run the party’s affairs; they sent for the dynamic Kwame Nkrumah, who was in the United Kingdom at the time, and he came to join them in December 1947.
Soon thereafter, on 28th February, 1948, the notorious and senseless killings of three ex-servicemen, Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey occurred, and sparked a nationwide revulsion against the colonial power, which, undoubtedly, quickened the pace of the independence movement.
“We celebrate the three as martyrs in the cause of Ghanaian freedom. The Watson Commission followed, which mapped out the steps towards our eventual attainment of independence.
“In 1949, on 12th June, Kwame Nkrumah broke away from the UGCC and formed his own party, the Convention People’s Party. Even as he broke away, Kwame Nkrumah remembered from whence he came and retained the word ‘convention’ in the name of his new party, the CPP,” said the President.
President Akufo- Addo added: “We must remember, on a day like this, some others who are not listed among the forefront fighters for political freedom, but who fought equally hard for our cultural integrity and the identification of who we are as Ghanaians.
“I pay homage to Ephraim Amu, Tata Amu as he was fondly called. He was the composer of what easily passes as our unofficial National Anthem, Yen Ara Asase Ne. Is there a Ghanaian among us, today, who can sing or hear that song, in whichever language, without being moved?
“Ephraim Amu stood alone, most of the time, against what he saw as cultural domination. You did not have to wear a European-cut suit to be a scholar, you could wear a fugu, kente and above all, a locally woven fabric, and still be an educated person, he argued. He insisted you did not have to eat foreign foods because you were a scholar, and he insisted our music was as interesting and sophisticated as any around the world. Those were radical ideas for the time.
“I pay homage to Kwegyir Aggrey, he reminded us we were eagles that should soar, and not be timid, domesticated birds.
“I pay homage to Philip Gbeho, the composer of our National Anthem, Theodosia Okoh, the designer of our national flag, and Amon Kotei, the designer of our coat of arms.
“I pay homage to Kofi Antubam, the artist who first put Ghanaian art on the map. I pay homage to Saka Acquaye, the poet, writer, sculptor and musician, who wrote the first African folklore, The Lost Fisherman. I pay homage to J.A. Braimah, the Gonja scholar and statesman who wrote insightful publications about the Gonja people.
“I pay homage to the poet Apaloo, who immortalised the philosophy and music of the Ewe language. I pay homage to E.T. Mensah, King Bruce, Jerry Hansen and the others who popularised highlife, which has become an enduring identity of Ghanaian music. I pay tribute to the great musicologist, J.H. Nketia, who is the unrivalled authority on African music.
“I pay homage to Otumfuo Prempeh I, who waged a heroic, if unsuccessful, battle against the British, and retained his dignity even in exile. I pay homage to Yaa Asantewa, that woman of valour, who led the Ashanti resistance to British imperialism. I pay homage to Nana Ofori Atta I, who saw the wisdom in investing in the education of the young. I pay homage to Nii Kwabena Bonne III, Osu Alata Mantse, (Boycotthene), who organised the boycott of goods of the European traders and triggered the mass resistance that led to the 1948 riots.”
President Akufo- Addo paid homage to Professor Alexander Adum Kwapong, the first Ghanaian Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, who became an icon in the development of the country’s educational system and Dr Oku Ampofo, sculptor and physician, who encouraged confidence in traditional arts and medicine.
“It is thanks to him that herbal medicine became a respectable subject of study and research in our country.
“I pay homage to Akua Asabea, political activist; and I pay homage to Evelyn Amarteifio, social welfare pioneer. I pay homage to Esther Ocloo, pioneer industrialist and entrepreneur, whose food processing enterprises under the Nkulenu label changed our habits of food preparation forever.”
He also paid homage to Dede Ashikisham and Akua Shorshorshor, famous market queens, who helped finance Kwame Nkrumah and the nationalist movement from their successful businesses.
“They and many others, like them, contributed to the fight for independence, and in moulding the Ghanaian that emerged on March 6, 1957,” he said.
The President made my day on March 6, for all the good things he said about fellow Ghanaians. I know in the next few years more heroes of our time and beyond will come on board. It is good after all to be nationalistic.
But Nana Akufo-Addo let me remind that you per my research that my late Grandfather was the General Secretary to the Aborigines Rights Protection Society, so please remember and do him the honour next year.