Monday, May 21, 2007
GHANA AT 50: SIGNIFICANCE OF HISTORICAL EVENTS
By: DR. AKWASI OSEI
MARCH 6, 2007 was commemorated and celebrated in grand style. But the occasion also gave rise to various questions with various answers. One such questions bordered on who is a hero and who is a villain.
Some people asked satirically that is it not ironical that people who opposed ‘self-government now’ and rather argued for self-government in the shortest possible time should be those celebrating Ghana at 50 The questioners implied that if we had not had self-government now’ ( did we? Remember we had self-government after eight years of declaring positive action and self-government) would we have been celebrating Ghana at 50? Would it not probably be Ghana at 40 or 30? My counter question is: What is the meaning of history?
Furthermore, supposing we were celebrating Ghana at 30 and we were like Malaysia or Singapore of today, would that not be better than Ghana at 50 in our current situation that what is the guarantee that Ghana at 30 today would have been better than Ghana at 50 now? And I would answer you back, that you are now having the beginnings of understanding of the point I am going to discuss, the subject of this its article.
Anomabo recently celebrated its heroes and heroines, the three key personalities being Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey for his pioneering role in education in Ghana, George Ekem Fergusson for mapping out the boundaries of Ghana and dying as a martyr in the process, and king Kwabena Amonoo V for his role in the signing of the Bond of 1844.
The question that ran trough my mind was, for signing the Bond of 1844 was he a hero? Then why not Samori and Babatu, the slave raiders?
The Bond of 1844 was the covenant that virtually and literally sold us into colonial bondage (that probably was why it was called a bond) to the British. If we struggled to free ourselves 50years ago and we are celebrate the act that established the bondage to start with? But then I quickly ask the question, what is the meaning of history?
It may be rightly said that if we are celebrating Ghana at 50, then we are celebrating President. Nkrumah for his achievement of independence. Then it could be argued that since he was a hero, whoever opposed him, and worse still overthrew him, is a villain so the vilified. I ask: What is the meaning of history?
Others have asked, if Busia laid a solid foundation for the rural development and was overthrown for the rural development and was overthrown by Acheampong, then Acheampong was a villain. I ask, once again: What is the meaning of history? Yet others have said that coup makers generally are the bane of Ghana’s development. Therefore Akuffo, Rawlings I and II, just as earlier coup makers, are all villains. I ask: What is the meaning of history?
To date, we have been blaming the slave trade and colonialism for our woes. I ask: What is the meaning of history? Never mind the academic definitions they give to history.
History is but the record of events in the past that have shaped our lives right up to our present situation, or any other situation we are assessing. And by record we mean written account even if the writing is in any ancient characters like the cuneiform and hieroglyphs.
Now this definition is even not accurate, for we now know that there are crucial events that are not recorded in writing but are in archaeological deposits like fossils and others, and these are also today considered part of history.
Historical events have been seen as independent unrelated events in the past for which we sometimes need to blame our stars but we are becoming wiser: Arnold Toynbee showed the way when he saw a pattern in history related to the rise and fall of civilizations and religions.
History is actually like the stars in the sky at night, they seem independent and unrelated to the untrained eye, but for the initiate they are related, forming a pattern which the astronomer and astrologer can read.
History is but the account or pattern of those processes which have been shaping our lives as society into ‘an ever-advancing civilisation.’ Humanity is an organic whole and the processes that have been shaping this march towards advancement of civilization or development an organic process.
Organic process means that different parts may necessarily grow or advance at different rates, and some parts will have to retrace their paths at some point in time and shed excess load. There is mounding and remolding, as in building when you take a lot of mortar only to reshape and discard the excess.
Thus, like the baby that is growing, at birth the head is disproportionately bagger than the rest of the body, but with time other parts of the body catch up. There is the eye lash and no beard but, with time, the beard grows and surpasses the eye lash and brows. The hair and the nail grow, fall and pick up again while other parts grow and do not fall.
Humanity and history are like Ludwig Von Bertalanffy’s General System Theory where there is a super system with other systems within it and subsystems below: The subsystems develop apparently independently but really are interconnected to make a complete whole as they add up their developments with other systems to make up the super system.
The human being is such a system with other systems, organs, tissues and cells. The cells are apparently independent systems but they relate to other cells to form a tissue which also relates to other cells to form a tissue which also relates to other tissues to form an organ and many organs come together to form a system like the cardiovascular (or blood-pumping) system. This also adds up with the renal (urine) and other systems to make up the individuals to function well as a whole. And humanity is also such a complete system and we are all component systems in the composite whole.
Our point is that what has happened in the past has happened and we cannot change it. But we can look back with the wisdom of hindsight and see what positive there is in it and build on that positive. If we do not do that and we allow the negative to haunt us, which is our problem. As part of the process of developing there is always a nasty part in our history.
When we eat and the food gets into the body and builds us to make us strong, you know what happens behind the scene? Look back at your vomit, do you like it? That is what happens to the food before it becomes energy to build you. That is the unpleasant part of your history but that is inevitable.
In the same way we can look back at slavery, colonialism, the numerous coups d’etat, the tyranny of some leaders, etc and see something positive in those things not the negatives. So let us go along and look at the positives.
Could there have been any good in the slave trade? I report: Was there any good in Joseph being sold into slavery? He eventually learnt the wisdom of the Egyptians became the mister of agriculture and saved his people, the Israelites, from hunger.
But that same positive brought them a negative as it sold them back into Egypt. But again, that enable them to learn from the ancient wisdom of the Egyptians from which eventually Israel is now the great nation that we know it.
The Nazi extermination effort was further to scatter the Israelis to America and elsewhere where they learnt further the wisdom of the modern age and now have returned to Israel to build a formidable nation.
The slave trade was an opportunity to get some Africans to Europe and Americas to learn of the prevailing social and scientific advancement and now is the time to repatriate that wisdom to help rebuild Africa.
If we cannot tap that potential, let us blame ourselves and not history. I am not saying the slave trade had to happen, but once it happened then we need to see some positive in it as we cannot change that fact of history. And can we blame our forefathers in the slave trade issue?
Are we not, in our own time, re-enacting the slave trade? Do we not willingly spend sleepless night s at the embassies for visas, pay our own way to go abroad and serve as virtual slaves, wash dishes and be their sexslaves, etc?
What did the Bond of 1844 do? The immediate reason was that the Fantes and other chiefs of the coat were offering themselves to the British for protection from the persistent onslaught by other ethnic groups and therefore from their potential annihilation.
The unseen agenda by providence, of which the signatories may have been unconscious, was to enable the Africans to share from the wisdom of the then advanced world.
The subsequent domination and subjugation was unfortunate but that was all part of the organic growth process. Who can today say that without the Europeans we would not have been left behind by civilisation like the Bushman of the Central and Southern Africa who resisted integration?
One could argue, and some people do argue, that we could have developed at our own pace and in our own way, and we may have been, but that bush or birds in the sky without development. Is that what we want? No.
And we could even to date be threatening ourselves with tribal wars. If we see the Bond of 1844 in that positive light, then king Kwabena Amonoo V was a hero to be celebrated, otherwise he was a villain.
What about those who wanted self-government in the shortest possible time? For all you care, but for their sobering influence we may have had independence in, say, 1949 or 1950. And there could have been chaos considering the fact that even in 1957 which enable us to understudy the British a little more, we are still struggling? (Maybe truly self-government in danger is preferable to servitude in tranquility) And, in any case, when they said self-government in the shortest possible time they obviously were not saying no self-government at all.
Furthermore, had Nkrumah not proclaimed positive action with self-government now, we may have had it in 2000 or even not yet. So both parties played a role and we must honour all. Never think you are wiser than your father, much less your grandfather for you cannot fully appreciate the conditions that influenced his decisions. And so never think if we were all alive at that time the argument would have been any different. It could have been worse.
What about the coup makers? Much as we may wish the coups never happened they did happen and so with hindsight what could be the positive? Nkrumah was not overthrown for achieving independence for Ghana, neither was he overthrown for the Akosombo dam or the Accra-Tema motorway.
He was overthrown for his negatives which included his alleged tyranny towards the end of his rule, the one-party state and self-proclamation of life president. If you vilify the coup makers look at the spontaneous jubilation that followed the announcement of the coup. No coup in Ghana had ever enjoyed that popular support and you cannot say Ghanaians were all fools at that time.
If the popularity of the coup was anything to go by, and if that justified the coup and the people felt they were, hitherto, powerless to stage the coup themselves and alone, then you cannot blame them if they fell on the assistance of foreign agencies, CIA agent before he took part in the coup for which even now he says he has no regrets.
Again, that coup becomes part of the organic process which you need to accept as part of history. Similar arguments would go for all the other coups we have had. They all could be seen to have had some positive for which they have a place in history as they did occur.
Acheampong is credited with the highly successful Operation Feed Yourself, the Dansoman Estate, etc. Akuffo at least prepared the way for the restoration of democracy, Rawlings cleansed the country, etc, etc.
What if the coups had not happened, what if the negatives had not happened, what if, what if? I do not have an answer and I do not know the ifs. What you and I know is what happened and what has resulted from it. Trust me, if we were to relive our lives, you have no guarantee that you would have lived any differently so stop thinking about the lifs.
That is the meaning of history: all that has happened is but providence’s process of getting us to move towards an ever-advancing civilization and development as a society. Humanity is interconnected as one whole, yet each part develops at its own pace towards a common destiny – an ever-advancing civilization. Everything that has happened has happened for the good, not for the bad, the apparent bad itself being a means for the good to manifest later.
May we all be guided by the past to move forward in unity and peace. Long live Ghana.
Daily Graphic - Monday, May 21, 2007 Page: 19