Monday, March 5, 2007
Ceremonies of the first days of Independence
ON 6th March, when the Gold Coast because Ghana, the Legislative Assembly became the National Assembly. A Colonial Legislature had turned into a Dominion Parliament. The opening on that day of the first session of the first Parliament of Ghana was in accordance with traditional procedure.
We have maintained the ceremonies, which have marked the opening of this Parliament, the Prime Minister explained, because they are common to the countries of the Commonwealth and because they emphasize a common approach to the problems of democracy.
Sir Charles Nobel Arden-Clarke, who had ceased at midnight to be Governor of the Gold Coast, was sworn-in by the Chief Justice, as Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of Ghana. When the oath of allegiance had been sworn by Sir Charles, Mr. Speaker entered the Chamber and took the Chair. The Proclamation summoning Parliament was read.
Then were read the two traditional prayers, beginning, Oh Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the only ruler of Princess, who dost from Thy Throne behold all the dwellers upon earth . . . and, Almighty God, by Whom alone governments govern and courts decree justice, and from Whom alone cometh all counsel, wisdom, and understanding.
The Speaker then moved towards the main entrance, and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, proceeded by the Governor-General, entered the Chamber. As soon as she was seated, the Clerk of the Assembly read the Letters Patent under the Royal Sign Manual empowering her to open the first session of the First Parliament of Ghana.
Thereafter the Prime Minister handed to He Royal High the Speech from the Throne, thereby demonstrating that the contents of the Speech were the responsibility of the government of Ghana; whereas the contents of the personal message from Queen Elizabeth which was delivered immediately afterwards by Her Royal Highness, was not the responsibility of the Cabinet, as was demonstrated by the fact that the text was handed to the Duchess by her private secretary.
Then followed, in due order, the reading and presenting, by the Speaker, of an illuminated address to Her Royal Highness to the Government of the constitutional instruments establishing the Constitution of Ghana; and, finally, after Her Royal Highness’s withdrawal from the Chamber, the motion, moved by the Prime Minister and seconded by the Leader of the Opposition, requesting that an address-in-reply to the Speech from the Throne be sent to Her Majesty the Queen.
If the proceedings inside the Parliament building on this historic occasion were formal and measured, there was nothing forma or measured about the jubilation which greeted the Duchess on her State Drive, or which carried the Prime Minister through the city on a tidal wave of joy.
After the austere solemnity of the morning’s ceremony, the distinguished visitors from overseas and the representatives of the people from all over Ghana relaxed in the afternoon at the Governor-General’s garden party.
In the evening, there was to be the state reception and ball; and there was to be a slight technical problem for the Prime Minister. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah had mastered many techniques in his day; but he had scarcely ever had time to explore the technique of ballroom dancing. However, Mrs. Lucille Armstrong, wife of the American musician.
Louis Armstrong, came to the rescue, and gave the Prime Minister a half-hour lesson in the waltz and the quick-step. He learned quickly. And as John Redfern of the Daily Express (London) put it, ‘The Duchess and the Prime Minister made a striking couple in the ballroom’.
Next morning, the Duchess attended a grand-Durbar at Achimota – the great Gold Coast school of which the Manchester Guardian wrote in a leading article: Ghana was born and nurtured on the playing fields of Achimota more surely than Waterloo was won on those of Eton. No men have deserved better the gratitude of this week’s celebrants than Alexander Fraser and James Aggrey, respectively first Principal and Vice-Principal, at which Nkrumah himself and many more first drew the breath of finer air.
On this morning, the Symbolic dancing and drumming at the Durbar gathering also testified to the Duchess the continuing loyalty and respect that people, in the days of Ghana no less than in the old Gold Coast days, feel for their chiefs.
And now the time had come to say farewell. Six days earlier, Her Royal Highness had arrived in the Gold Coast. Today, she had lived through, and helped to make the headlines of History. And a candle had been lit in Africa that would never be put out.
Daily Graphic - Monday, March 5, 2007 Page: 36