Monday, March 5, 2007.
Fingerposts of Freedom
HISTORY had been made last night; but History does not halt in the morning.
These are some of the words that were spoken on Independence Day, during the First Session of the First Parliament of Ghana; words that could stand for ever as fingerposts pointing the way to Freedom.
These were the historic words spoken by Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Kent, on behalf of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth:
On this day, one hundred and thirteen years ago a number of Chiefs in the Gold Coast entered into an Agreement to acknowledge the power and Jurisdiction of my predecessor, Her Late Majesty, Queen Victoria, Despite the fact that since the seventeenth century British power had been exercised in parts of the costal area, this Agreement, known as the Bond of 1844, is usually regarded as the occasion when the formal relationship between the United Kingdom and the Gold Coast was first established.
Now, one hundred and thirteen years later, on the anniversary of the signing of the Bond, the Gold Coast, under the name of Ghana, takes her place as a free, sovereign and independent country within the Commonwealth of Nations, recognized at the same time by all other member countries as herself a member of the Commonwealth.
Less than a month ago, I gave my Assent to the Ghana Independence Act, enacted by my Parliament in the United Kingdom. In consequence of this Act, my Government in the United Kingdom has ceased from today to have any authority in Ghana. Henceforward all powers previously exercised by my Government in the United Kingdom will be exercised by my Ministers in Ghana who will be responsible to the National Assembly of Ghana.
The transfer of power had been accomplished. The Representative of the Queen who had ceded the power had now spoken. What of the representatives of those to whom the power had been transferred?
These were the words of the Prime Minister of Ghana:
The achievement of freedom, sovereignty and independence is the product of the matter and spirit of our people. In the last resort we have only been able to become independent because we were economically, socially and politically able to create the conditions which made independence possible and any other status impossible.
We part from the former Imperial Power, Great Britain, with the warmest feelings of friendship and good will. This is because successive Governments in the United Kingdom recognized the realities of the situation in the Gold Coast, and adopted their policy accordingly. Thus, instead of that feeling of bitterness, which is often born of a colonial struggle, we enter on our independence in association with Great Britain and with good relations unimpaired.
Independence is, however, only a milestone on our march to progress. Independence by itself would be useless if it did not lead to great material and cultural advances by our people.
In pressing on with these advances we shall be doing more than merely benefiting Ghana. If we in Ghana can work out solutions to the problems which beset the tropics, we shall be making a contribution to Africa and to the world as a whole. By the knowledge and methods, which we must develop, if we are ourselves to succeed, we shall aid very materially other territories and enable them sooner to reach conditions under which they may become independent. …
In striving to create a modern State dedicated to Freedom and Justice, we shall have many enemies to fight against. Our first task must, therefore, be to make certain that there is a strong and resolute public opinion which condemns, as anti-social, idleness and neglect; carelessness which destroys valuable crops or machinery, and corruption, which undermines the basis of a sound commercial life.
By our actions the whole future of Africa must be affected. When I spoke in this House in regard to the Constitution, I began by quoting the words of a great English politician of the 18the century, Edmund Burke. He once said in another connection: ‘We are on a conscious stage and the world marks our demeanour’.
These words are very true of Ghana today, I believe that this House and this country will be worthy of the responsibility History had entrusted to us, and that we will not disappoint those millions of people to whom our success or failure will mean so much.
The words of the Prime Minister were followed by the words of the Leader of the Opposite, Professor K.A. Busia:
We may be permitted to observe that our admission to membership within the Commonwealth drives another nail into the coffin of the crude biological theories of racial superiority by which many have striven to justify the domination of one race by another. We become members of the international fraternity of the British Commonwealth on the basis of our common humanity.
We are aware that we own this achievement to the Britain and other foreign countries, as well as to our own countrymen. We owe it to many Britain and other foreign countries who, ever the years, as civil servants, service men, missionaries, teachers, traders, and business men, served and taught us; as well as to many of our own countrymen, political leaders, chiefs, farmers, workers and citizens in all walks of life who by what they learnt, and what they did, helped to lay our foundations, and give evidence of our fitness to govern ourselves. It is by the devoted day-to-day service of many ordinary and unnoticed citizens that a nation achieves greatness ..
To the people of Britain, and to Her Gracious Majesty, The Queen, we would say again, simply but with heartfelt sincerity, than you; we are glad that our ties are to continue in the domain where human ties are most enduring: In the devotion and goodwill of the human heart freely given and reciprocated.
Then, there were the words spoken on the same day a few minutes before the Opening of Parliament by Sir Charles Noble Arden Clarke on the occasion of his swearing in as Governor-General. Words that light up the fingerposts to freedom as they appear to one who has spent 37 years in the British Colonial Service:
I have faith in the future of Ghana.
…broadly based on the character of her people.
The Colonial policy of He Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, so far as the man serving in the Colonies is concerned, has not only been constant through the years: It has been quite simple and straightforward. These were the instructions I received when I arrived in Northern Nigeria as a young Administrative Officer:
Your job is to teach the people committed to your care to stand on their own feet and to run their own show within the rule of law …
I will not pretend that when I first joined the Colonial Service the achievement of this aim of Britain policy seemed likely to be realized during my term of service, or even during my term of service, or even during my life-time, but the world, particularly the colonial world, has moved far and fast since the first world war. Of the many forces that have been at work in this world, nationalism has been one of the most potent, though not always as happy in its effect on the contemporary scene as the outcome which we witness today.
Here, thanks to the statesmanship of the political leaders, particularly of the Prime Minister, the good sense and good will of the chiefs and people, nationalism and colonialism have worked in partnership, a genuine partnership, animated by forbearance and mutual understanding, towards a common objective. Of her own free will, this country has chosen to remain with the British Commonwealth of Nations, and she has been welcome as a member by all the other members. Insofar as the birth of Ghana today is the natural outcome of British Colonialism, I am proud to be a British Colonialist.
I have faith in the future of Ghana. It is a faith broadly based on the character of her people. For nearly eight years I have lived in this country in day-to-day contact with the leaders of the people and with their representatives in all walks of life, and I have been deeply impressed by their qualities: Their vitality, their independence of mind, their tolerance – perhaps above all the fundamental commonness of the man of the farm and the man in the street.
And finally, there were the words of a man in the street, overheard in the crowd on the old Accra polo ground, just after midnight on the night of 5th – 6th March:
We’ve been free for the past 20 minutes, and I’m telling you it’s a wonderful feeling. We’ve just got to go right forward now!
Daily Graphic - Monday, March 5, 2007 Pages: 34 & 35