Nkrumah’s celebration renews age-old debate
Story: Kofi Yeboah
The declaration of September 21as statutory public holiday in honour of Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, has renewed an age-old debate between adherents of the two dominant political traditions in the country regarding the appropriateness of celebrating Nkrumah as he sole founder of the nation.
The debate was carried to the campus of the University of Ghana, Legon, last week Thursday, during which faithful of the Danquah/Busia tradition argued that it was better to honour all those who contributed to the cause of independence than just one person, while advocates of the Nkrumaist tradition justified the honour bestowed on Nkrumah because he stood tallest amongst the rest in the struggle for independence.
The debate was organized by the Danquah Institute, a think tank, in collaboration with the Legon branch of the Graduate Students Association of Ghana (GRASAG), on the theme, “Has Ghana a founder or founders”?
A fellow of the Danquah Institute, Mr. Boakye Kyeremanteng–Agyarko, cited various authorities and instances to buttress his contention that it was not right to glorify one individual for the achievement of a cause whose struggle had been engineered by many people.
He mentioned a tall list of individuals and organizations that played vital roles towards the cause of independence, some of them as far back as the early 18th Century.
He said it was in recognision of such contributions that Americans, for instance, deemed it fit not to give the title of founder of the nation to one person.
Mr. Kyeremanteng-Agyarko said Ghana’s independence struggle was like a relay race involving many runners who passed the baton from one to another pointing out that finishing the race did not mean Nkrumah ran a one-man race.
He said just like a relay, rare when a team won gold, it was the whole quartet and not only the anchor person who were called to the podium to receive medals.
In the same vein, he added, if a member of the quartet was later cited for doping, all the members were stripped of their gold medial and not just the affected person.
Mr. Kyeremanteng-Agyarko said it was sad that the names of all those who fought for honours and, indeed, passed the test of greatness, could not be found on the honours roll.
In his opinion, honouring all those people as founders of the nation would serve a worthier cause and purpose than just honouring one person.
Mr. Kyeremanteng-Agyarko dismissed suggestions that the Bond of 1844 sought to establish British rule in the Gold Coast for 100 years, and promised to make the document available for publication in the media to enable Ghanaians to know what it contained.
Contributing to the debate on the side of the Busia/Danquah tradition, a private legal practitioner, Nana Asante Bediatuo, said the notion of a founder was dangerous for the psyche of the nation because developing a “Messianic cult figure” would create apathy among the people.
He underlined the need for the country’s education system to incorporate the learning of the country’s history to enable Ghanaians to learn about their past.
Representing the Nkrumaist tradition in the debate, a lecture at the Legon Centre for International Affairs (LECIA), Dr. Vladmir Antwi-Danso, admitted that many people contributed to the cause of Ghana’s independence, but he maintained that Nkrumah stood tallest amongst all of them.
He said it was not true that Dr. J.B. Danquah, for instance, did not want independence for Ghana, but instead that Nkrumah gave the struggle greater push.
Dr. Antwi-Danso said the object of the debate was misplaced because there was nothing like “a Founder’s Day” or “the Founder’s Day”, contending the nation should rather be celebrating “Founders Day”.
He said there was the need for the nation to celebrate all the past heroes with Nkrumah’s birthday only chosen as the date for celebrating the Founders Day.
Those comments were greeted with spontaneous applause from the packed audience.
According to Dr. Antwi-Danso, Founders Day was a time for stock-taking, building of unity, and not a time for bickering.
“We need to understand our past and create conditions for a better future”, he said.
Joining the debate, the National Youth Organiser of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), Mr. Kwabena Bonfeh, said although many individuals and groups contributed to the independence struggle, there was the need to differentiate between those who contributed to the cause and those who declared independence.
He said the attitude of the leadership of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) clearly indicated that the leaders did not want independence for Ghana, but only sought space within the colony.
For that reason, he concluded, Nkrumah and the five persons who stood on the podium at the Old Polo Ground on March 6, 1957, for the declaration of independence, “are the true ‘Big Six”.
The Executive Director of the Danquah Institute, Mr. Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, said the institute organized the programme because “it is important to have more comprehensive appreciation of how Ghana became Ghana”.
Daily Graphic - page: 14 Monday, September 21, 2009.