HAPPY FOUNDERS DAY
The fact that a lively debate continues to rage on this subject, I suggest, is an indication of a national restlessness of its propriety. I suspect it is going to take the calming effect of time or the continuous chatter to attenuate the “noise” on this matter and bring us to some national equilibrium of acceptance or rejection. But while the matter is live and continues to be debated, I hope I can be permitted to put in my two pesewas worth of a contribution, however mundane or as some may think, deranged.
In so doing, permit me to juxtapose two statements to represent the canvass upon which I wish to paint my argument. The first is, “what is a great man who has made his mark upon history?” Every time, if we should think far enough, he is a man who had looked through the confusion of the moment and has seen the moral issues involved; he is a man who has refused to have his sense of justice distorted; he has listened to his conscience until conscience becomes a clarion call to like-minded men, so that they gather about him and together, with mutual purpose and mutual aid, make a new period in history.
My second is actually a re-statement of what Nikita Khruschev said in his speech to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the then Soviet Union in Moscow on 25th February, 1956. The title of that speech was "We must abolish the cult of the individual". This is what he had to say, "After Stalin's death the Central Committee of the Party began to implement a policy of explaining concisely and consistently that it is impermissible and foreign to the spirit of Marxism-Leninism to elevate one person, to transform him into a superhuman possessing supernatural characteristics akin to those of a god. Such a man supposedly knows everything, sees everything, thinks for everyone, can do anything, is infallible in his behaviour. Such a belief about a man, and specifically about Stalin, was cultivated among us for many years".
The continuing debate compels us to ponder upon the question whether Ghana has a Founder or Founders? To answer this question properly and fully, requires an accurate and factual statement of our historical evolution as a nation to our present form, and allow the facts only to speak for themselves. I will therefore not seek to pass any value judgement on any of the historical figures who were primarily involved in Ghana's struggle for independence.
That necessary discussion will have to wait for another day.
What is a Founder’s or Founders’ day and why do we need to celebrate it as such?
In essence, it is the setting aside of a particular day for the recognition and honouring of a person or persons who in very significant and diverse ways contributed to the founding of, for example, a nation, a state, a movement, etc. In our circumstance, we wish to set aside such a day when we will honour the achievements of a single founder or the collective toils of many. The question therefore is, which of the two should we be doing? Do we have a Founder or Founders?
The answer to this rather loaded question however belatedly, lies in setting out the milestone, factually, of our march towards independence and nationhood. As David Kimble notes in his book, "A Political History of Ghana - The Rise of Gold Coast Nationalism: 1850 – 1928”, the quest for self-determination has been manifest among the people of the Gold Coast right from the beginning of colonial rule. He notes, poignantly, that it was this sense of nationalism which led to the demand for representation. This demand for representation and self-determination was met half-way by the establishment of the Legislative Council from 1850 to 1928, and set the framework for the fuller agitation for independence in a latter period. It involved the full and tireless dedication of such men as; F.C. Grant, John Sarbah, James Sagoe, J.W Sey, W.E. Pietersen, T.F.E Jones, A.Q. Yarquah, Timothy Laign, J.F. Amissah, J.P. Brown, King Tackie of Ussher Town, King Dowuona of Christiansborg, Chief Ababio of James Town, Charles Bannerman, William Addo, Phillip Randolf, F.H. Fearson, E. Bannerman, T. Hutton Mills, J. Bright Davies and E. Quartey Papafio. When a partial victory was won with the establishment of the Legislative Council, the elected member were as follows: James Bannerman of Accra, George Blankson of Anomabo, Robert Hutchison of Cape Coast, F.C. Grant of Cape Coast, S.C. Brew of Anomabo, G.F. Cleland of Accra, John Sarbah of Cape Coast, J.H. Cheetham of Accra, J. Vanderpuiye of Accra, T. Hutton Mills of Accra, John Mensah Sarbah of Cape Coast, J.P. Brown of Cape Coast, Nene Azu Mate Korle of Manya Krobo, Nana Amonoo V of Anomabo, Togbui Sri II of Anloga, Nana Ofori-Atta of Akim Abuakwa, E.J.P Brown of Cape Coast, J.E. Casley Hayford of Sekondi, Dr. B.W. Quartey-Papafio of Accra, C.J. Bannerman of Accra, Nana Essandoh II of Nkusukum, J. Glover-Addo of Accra, H. Van Hien of Elmina and E.C. Quist of Accra
Dennis Austin in his seminal work, "Politics in Ghana, 1946 - 1960” comments that, "there was an air of unreality about many of the demands and pronouncements of the small group of municipal leaders, but the activities of the lawyers and businessmen in Accra, Cape Coast and Sekondi helped to create a tradition of political agitation hardly to be matched in Africa".
Martin Wight also concluded in his 1946 study of the Gold Coast Legislative Council that, "The Gold Coast people find themselves the pioneers of political advance and the touchstone of political competence in Africa".
The period from 1941 to 1946, in retrospect may be described as the period of quiet diplomacy. Governor Alan Burns is quoted as expressing, "great confidence in these extremely sensible people. They know their limitations and they are very keen to take advice provided they know the man giving them advice is really sincere".
In as much as quiet diplomacy was being pursued, there were imminent dangers which lay beneath the surface fuelled by the needling activities of the Anti-Inflation and Boycott Committee of Nii Bonney and the Ex- Servicemen Union under the leadership of B.E.A. Tamakloe. When the eruption came, it was violent. Between 28th February, 1948 when the disturbances in Accra began, and 16th March, 1948 when they were finally brought under control, 29 people lay dead with over 200 injured -notable among them were Sgt. Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartei Lamptey. The country was put under a state of emergency. Indeed Gerald Creasy, successor to Governor Burns confessed to the Legislative Council that they had been "overtaken by events".
Why was there this sudden, violent transformation of the political scene? The reasons are many, but the more proximate causes lay in the quickening of discontent among the colonial intelligentsia led by Dr. J.B. Danquah. By 1947, he had gathered round him a group of companions who were dissatisfied with the reforms they had applauded the previous year - Paa Grant, R.S. Blay, R.A. Awoonor Williams, W.E. Ofori Atta, E.A. Akufo Addo, J.W. de Graft Johnson, Obetsebi-Lamptey, John Tsibo, Cobinna Kesse. Their primary objective was to push still further the movement of reform already started.
What began in the Poassie Road offices of Paa Grant in Sekondi ended with the full blown launching of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) on 4th August, 1947 at Canaan Lodge, Saltpond.
In December 1947, a new and vibrant political actor was invited by the leaders of UGCC to join the on-going struggle. The introduction came through Ako Adjei who had known Nkrumah as a student at Lincoln College, Pennsylvania.
Right from the beginning, Nkrumah and the UGCC were on a collision course. It therefore should not have come as a surprise when he finally broke off and launched the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) on 12th June, 1949. From thereon, events got into the saddle and rode mankind.
The Second World War wrought very significant changes to the balance of global power. By the close of that war, the imperial might of Britain had been broken and was now in full retreat. Britannia no longer ruled the waves, and the hitherto sweet taste of imperial power had now turned sour. A new kid, the United States of America, had emerged on the block. One sour note that strained the otherwise harmonious relationship between Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the question of self-determination for the people of the colonies. America insisted upon it. Britain, now significantly weakened could no longer resist as it had hitherto done.
All these factors conspired the overthrow of Britain as an imperial power by 1945, and led to the period now referred to as the Decolonization period. In large blocks, the British Empire, upon which it was said the sun would never set, began to wane.
Unto this parapet stepped the modern forces of decolonization to renew and intensify their final assault on the colonial power in the Gold Coast.
From this short chronology of events, it is clear that the independence struggle of Ghana was more of a relay race involving many runners, each passing the baton to the other, rather than a one man marathon from start to finish.
If indeed Ghana’s long march to independence which showed its contours from 1850 was a relay race involving many significant runners, will it be out of place to give due recognition to all the runners of the various legs? Is it not out of place to heap the praise and glory only on the runner of that last leg? My answer to the first is NO and YES to the second.
Nkrumah had the good luck, zeal, tenacity and energy to run the anchor leg of that long relay to its finish. No one must or can take away that significant contribution, but our elders say, “s3 wo tia obi so hwe hw3 wo de3 a, worennhu” – to wit, “If you trample upon what belongs to others in search of what is legitimately yours, you will never find it.”
It is a sad curiosity that the names of vast majority of our national heros who risked life, liberty and limb and who valiantly fought for our independence can no longer be found on any Honours' Roll. Many of my generation, not to mention younger generations will find many of these names alien. But they all deserve a place of pride in our minds and hearts - Danquah, Nkrumah, Paa Grant, R.S. Blay, R.A. Awoonor Williams, W.E. Ofori-Atta, E.A. Akufo Addo, J.W. de Graft Johnson, Obetsebi-Lamptey, John Tsibo, Cobinna Kesse, Koi Larbi, R.P. Baafour, E.A. Armah, R.D. Nelson, Laud Lartey, Quist-Therson, E.O. Lartsen, K. Brakatu Ateko, Amabibie, E. Quarcoo Tagoe, Enoch Mensah, Asuana Quartey, Molade Akiwuni, W.M.Q. Halm, Oheneba Sakyi Djan, V.B. Annan, B.E.A. Tamakloe, Nii Kwabena Boney and all those mentioned above. Can we leave out Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartei Lamptey?
I began by setting out the qualities of a great man - one who has looked through the confusion of the moment and has seen the moral issues involved; a man who has refused to have his sense of justice distorted; listened to his conscience until conscience becomes a clarion call to like-mined men so that they gather about him and TOGETHER, with mutual purpose and mutual aid, make a new period in history. All these men adequately meet the test.
My second restatement of Nikita Khruschev reads in part, "...it is impermissible and foreign to the spirit of Marxism-Leninism to elevate one person, to transform him into a superman possessing supernatural characteristics akin to those of a god. Such a man supposedly knows everything, sees everything, thinks for everyone, can do anything, is infallible in his behaviour..." Are we who are here today and beyond prepared to pass this test?
A Founders' Day to honour all who so valiantly fought and gave of themselves to the service and foundation of this nation serves a worthier cause and purpose than a Founder's Day in honour of a single participant of those momentous events, however momentous his contribution may be.
Long Live Ghana 🇬🇭