Saturday, February 17, 2007
Lift High The Flag of Ghana
Story: THE EBO QUANSAH COLUMN
Someone in Government House should tell me some thing? Why on this earth should the nation not go back to the old national anthem? What is it that makes rallying around the flag in the National Anthem so offensive?
When some of us were in the primary and middle school, we were singing to the glory of the National Flag. ‘Lift High the Flag of Ghana’ was a clarion call to all Ghanaians to rally round the Flag. How we have an anthem that will do well for a religious organization. ‘God Bless Our Homeland Ghana’. The Almighty answers the call of all people in all nations, I will like to believe.
Before the Christian fundamentalists descend on me, let me emphasize straight away that am not an atheist. I believe and trust in God, creator of the universe and the protector of the vulnerable. But I believe there is something more to fight for in lifting the flag of a country that those doing the will of the Father who is in heaven.
If my memory serves me right, the old anthem was discarded after the overthrow on February 24, 1966 of the Convention People’s Party administration headed by Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
At that point in time, it was fashionable to discard anything and everything that the former President stood for. Remember even books written by the former President were set ablaze to show that the nation had taken a different route to the one Dr. Nkrumah pursued.
In our mad rush to rid ourselves of oppression which the Nkrumah regime was accused of after turning Ghana into a one-party state, the lyrics of the National Anthem, composed by Philip Gbeho was discarded. Instead of rallying round the Flag, a new anthem was hurriedly commissioned calling on God to help this nation resist oppressors rule. But how successful have we been in keeping oppressors at bay?
It did not take long after the new anthem came into being for the military led by Ignatius Kuku Acheampong to bring good tidings in a dawn broadcast. For well over six years – from January 13, 1972 to July 1978, when a palace coup dethroned the imposter, many who opposed the regime ended up in jail. During the period the military head of state took the salute anytime the new anthem was played.
Several decrees were passed making it an offence to speak up one’s mind. One of the most repressive was the Rumour mongering decree banning what the government described as rumour. The reason was not far to find. At the time the soldiers took over, most of straw were owners of big businesses and riding in vehicles they hardly dreamt of before making the dawn broadcast of January 13, 1972.
As tongues wagged about their wealth, Acheampong and his cohorts on the Supreme Military Council responded with the Newspapers were muzzled with the Newspaper Licensing decree under which publishers were required to be licensed by the Ministry of Information before publishing.
The irony of all this was that Acheampong brought in so-called prophets and men of God paid for at state expenses to justify his misrule. One of such persons – Clara Prophet even came out with a new version of the father, Son and Holy Ghost the masses. And since the Father and Son are one in the Bible, students of the universities grouped the military and police under the term “zombie’.
Acheampong, with the help of the heavy arms of the military and police pushed forward with his idea of Union Government in spite of all opposition to March 30, 1978, when he lost disastrously in the referendum, in one of the greatest comedies in Ghanaian political history, the results of the referendum were declared starting with Bawku East.
Accra results were among the last to be declared after which an official declaration gave the Yes Vote the nod by 54 percent. Another interesting twist in the saga was that the Electoral Commissioner at the time Mr. Justice Kobina Abban refused to declare the results. As a matter of fact, the Electoral Commissioner left his office quietly and escaped into exile.
The declaration of the result was followed by a spate of arrests when a number of professionals, intellectuals and many people described as politicians were thrown into the Nsawam Medium Security Prison.
The Akuffo regime which overthrew Acheampong fared no better in its dictatorial tendencies. Though Akuffo declared amnesty for all political landscape never really cooled down until Jerry Rawlings and his adventures answering the name Armed Forces Revolutionary council stages a bloody coup on June, 1979 and executed eight military officers including three former heads of state.
Ghana, by all indices is a secular state. That is why rallying
round the Flag would appeal to the patriotic sense of Ghanaians
that the lyrics in the National Anthem, As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the declaration of this nation independent of British colonial rule, let us reflect on the words composed by Philip Gbeho.
‘Lift High the Flag of Ghana’ will serve us better!
When the AFRC handed over power to the Limann Administration in September, 1979, it took barely two years and three months for the men on horseback to return. On December 31, 1981, just as the nation was preparing for the New Year, Rawlings struck and unleashed the kind of terror not previously known in the Ghanaian body politic.
According to Death and Destruction, a publication by the London-based Ghana Democratic Movement, at least 300 men and women either executed or were listed as missing in the terror that shook the very foundation of Ghanaian politics.
It is obvious that the nation’s resort to an anthem inviting citizens to resist oppressors’ rule has not done much to term the tide of human rights abuses that have characterized the seizure of power by the military especially.
The thesis here is that the words in the new national anthem have not succeeded in rally the nationals to the cause of the nation.
No one questions the wisdom in appealing to the Almighty for deliverance. The United States for instance, has ‘In God We Trust’ firmly inscribed on the currency. I have heard a number of Christians in this country insisting the appeal to God is one major reason the dollar is strong.
Not many such arguments take the economic might of the United States into consideration. For the fundamentalists God is in control and that is it. They do not reckon with the fact that Uncle Sam is ready to go to war to maintain the nation’s economic interest.
I am not privy to the circumstances leading to the inscription Gye Nyame on the five thousand cedis bill when it was introduced as the highest denomination of the Ghanaian currency in the Rawlings regime. One thing I know is that the economy did not fare that well. The sale of state assets and the poor returns they yielded did not indicate that the inscription of Gye Nyame did anything positive to salvage the economy.
I am aware that the British still appeal to God to bless the Queen in their National Anthem. Like the hypodermic needle theory in communications, the belief apparently, is that once the Queen receives Grace from Heaven, the blessing descends down to her subjects. But that is no reason for Ghanaians to discard an anthem that is a rallying call for dedication to the cause of the nation.
I am sorry if I have disappointed those who believe that by appealing to God every problem is solved without human efforts. This kind of thinking is behind the proliferation of churches and the institution of prayer meetings during working hours and all-night services.
At times when people should be at work, a number of citizens abandon the office and other work places to be in church and obscure worship centres. If you venture into the Achimota Forest in Accra, the forest cover has been removed at many places. In place of the bush that protects the environment for which the area is classified a protected area, churches have sprung up. These days, the fastest growing enterprise is the church. Men of questionable characters have turned to the bible as a source of trade.
Ghana, by all indices is a secular state. That is why rallying round the flag would appeal to the patriotic sense of Ghanaians than the lyrics in the National Anthem. As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the declaration of this nation independent of British Colonial rule, let us reflect on the words composed by Philip Gheho. “Lift High the Flag of Ghana”.
The Spectator - Saturday, February 17, 2007 Page: 20