Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Remembering the Doyen of Gold Coast politics
By: AKUA ADUTWUMWAA MROSA
EXACTLY 29 days from today, the February 6, 2007, Ghana will celebrate her Independence Golden Jubilee. On the February 4, 1965, the one who researched for the name “Ghana’ died in chains just for championing a cause. After 42, this nation is yet to give Dr. Joseph Boakye Danquah, the greatest patriot of all times, that recognition.
Indeed “The Big Six” namely, Dr. Danquah, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Messrs Edward Akuffo Addo, Obetsebi–Lamptey, William Ofori Atta and Ako Adjei are only mentioned in passing. I would even make it “The Big Seven” – include George Grant, who was then the backbone of the United Gold Coast Convention.
Three others – Sgt. Odartey Lamptey, Cpl. Attipoe and Adjetey lost their lives during the 1948 disturbances. I dare say that all the names mentioned above have not been adequately recognized. As a matter of fact, the history of our great nation had been greatly distorted. This nation did not begin from 1957. “We must retrieve the past in order to move Forward (SanKofa)”. Our Children must be told our history, and this is the right time, otherwise posterity will not pardon us.
Since February 4 marked the 42nd anniversary of the death of one of our patriots, Dr. Joseph Boakye Danquah, I wish to dedicate this article to his memory and recall some of the attributes credited to him.
Many of Dr. Danquah’s admirers wrote tributes to his memory and I quote a few of their captions as follows:
The Price of Leadership, – by Dr. Nnamdi Aziiwe, former President of the Republic of Nigeria.
The Goal you sought to Reach always eluded you, – by Prof. K.A. Busia, former Prime Minister of Ghana.
You were a great Nationalist, – by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, former leader of the Action Group in Nigeria.
A man of Great Principles, – by Bafour Osei Akoto, former Chairman of the National Liberation Movement.
Destined to be Ghana’s un-installed President, – by K.G. Konuah former Chairman of the Civil Service Commission.
You did not seek after personal fame or riches, – by Sir, Robert Armitage, former Governor, Nyasaland, and former Financial Secretary of the Gold Coast.
Champion of the People’s Rights, - by Nana Akyin I, former President of Central Region House of Chiefs.
You were the unquestioned leader, – by Dingle Foot Q.C. Solicitor-General of the United Kingdom.
An architect of the true Freedom and Justice, – by Nana Kwao Fraiku III, former President of the Western Region House of Chiefs
You laid down your life for Ghana, – by Archie Casely – Hayford.
Danquah: Akuafo Kanea, – by Koi Labie (Barrister-at-Law).
Men of your caliber are rare in Ghana, – by R.S. Blay.
You gave us the name Ghana, – by K. Brakatu Ateku, first Treasurer of the Gold Coast Youth Conference.
You died a martyr to the rule of the law, – by Prof. L.H. Ofosu-Appiah, Director, Encyclopaedia Africana.
Last but not the least, Lance Mallalieu Q.C. said, “It was you who led and achieved Ghana’s Independence for Ghana”.
Reflecting on the above attributes brings a better understanding of the man Dr. Joseph Kwame Kyeretwie Boakye Danquah. Since his death, one or two historians and writers have come out with some of his achievements. It seems, however, that Danquah’s achievements have either been taken for granted or due cognizance has not been given to them
JB indeed played an indefatigable role in building our nation. As we celebrate our Golden Jubilee, we must also remember that Ghana, formally the Gold Coast, did not start form 1957. Ghanaians must know where we really are coming from, in order to build upon it. In fact this nation is not 50 years old, it is the Independence which is 50. We must not distort our rich history. It was also time we gave credit where it was due.
Dr. Joseph Boakye Danquah was born on December 21, 1895. At age 20, JB was already a clerk of the Supreme Court, Accra. By the time he turned 32 in 1927, he had been awarded a PhD, probably the first in West Africa to achieve that feat.
A year earlier he had served as the Editor of the Magazine for the West Africa Students Union (WASU) and as President for the Gold Coast Student’s Association in the United Kingdom. Since then, he remained in the forefront of national affairs and in 1929 became a foundation officer of the Gold Coast Youth Conference (GCYC).
JB started his fight against the British very early. In 1930, he published essays in the Gold Coast Spectator to oppose the reduction of African Civil Servants salaries by Sir Ransford Slater’s government. At the request of the Hon. J.E. Casely Hayford MBE, JB drafted a petition of unofficial members of the Legislature Council to the Secretary of State on the subject of reduction of African Civil Servants initial salary from £60 to £48 pounds (Sixty pounds to Forty-eight pounds) per annum.
Dr. Danquah played many pioneering roles towards our nation building. He was the first to establish the first daily newspaper, West African Times and later named, The Times of West Africa (1930 – 1935). Through the medium of that paper he pioneered the battle for freedom. The Times of West Africa denounced the imperialist rule of one race by another and read into the Bond of 1844, the right of the Gold Coast people to freedom for which he fought all his life.
As a political crusader, her assumed the name “Zidig” in the Times column to expose and criticize the hypocritical deeds of the day. In 1934, JB was the secretary for the delegation which went to Britain to protest against the Gold Coast sedition ordinance passed in that year.
With the insatiable desire to continue to serve the country in diverse ways, Dr. Danquah entered the Legislative Council in 1946. During his term as a legislator (1946 – 1950), he was said to have asked an average of 99 questions per session on a variety of issues of public interest; 119 questions in 1947, 86 in 1948, 92 in 1949 and 102 in 1950. They were not just questions but meaningful, constructive, and valuable contributions were also made.
There was no doubt how concerned he was about his country. Among his invaluable contributions was his initiative to tabling a motion in the legislative council that the government should establish a national bank for the Gold Coast. This motion was tabled on December 9, 1949. At the time, Barclays Bank DCO (Dominion Colonial Overseas) was performing all the higher banking operations that a nation might be expected to undertake. For this reason, the British Colonial Government felt that there was no need to establish a national bank.
Dr. Danquah, however, contended that there must be some generation of revenue in the higher system of banking, “if it had not been the case, Barclays would not have come here to operate at that level. Therefore, in view of the fact that it is better for the Gold Coast to retain these profits in this country, it must be better for us to establish a national bank to do that work for us which Barclays are now being invited to do”, Dr. Danquah concluded. Hence, the establishment of the Bank of the Gold Coast now Bank of Ghana, and the Ghana Commercial Bank.
From his resources and his own initiative, Dr. Danquah researched into the history and traditions of the Gold Coast in 1928 and asserted that there was a link between the ancient Sudanese empire of Ghana and the Gold Coast. Pursuant to his writing and presentations, our country the “Gold Coast” was renamed “Ghana” after Independence in 1957. He was instrumental in bringing about the union between Ashanti and the southern parts of the country in the Burns Constitution of 1946.
Ghana’s foremost universities
Dr. Danquah was a member of the Elliot Commission formed in 1944 to advise the British Government on the establishment of a university for British West Africa. A majority of the members recommended Ibadan, Nigeria, as the site of the University for West Africa. Dr. J.B. Danquah wrote a minority report advocating a separate university for the Gold Coast. It was, therefore, on the recommendation of Dr. Danquah that the University College of the Gold Coast was founded in 1948.
After Legon, the British did not intend to build any more universities in the country, but Dr. Danquah challenged the British that we did not need only a university for the humanities but also another for science and technology. When the British asked him where the money for such a project could come from, Danquah retorted, “Where is our cocoa money that you stack up in your country”?
Eventually, the British had to agree, and this gave way to the birth of the Kumasi College of Technology (KCT). Indeed, Dr. Danquah himself played a leading role in the selection of site etc. He took the then Secretary for Education, Mr. Tom Barton, to Otumfuo Osei Agyeman Prempeh II to inform him about the government’s intention to start a University of Science and Technology. Otumfuo with joy immediately offered to give them his assistance, by offering three sites to choose from.
These were the present Yaa Asantewaa Campus, a second at Fumesua and the present site. Otumfuo asked no other person to take them round than the late Otumfuo Opoku Ware II who had then just completed Adisadel College and was working as a clerk in the Asantehene Lands Office. The young Opoku Ware took Danquah and Barton to the three sites and Danquah personally chose the present site. He even went further and took part in the surveying of the land. This gesture earned him a membership to the College Council.
Work started immediately and in January 1951, the Kumasi College of Technology was opened. One must note that Mr. Kwame Nkrumah became Head of Government in 1952, over a year after KCT had been established.
Dr. Danquah was not only into politics and education; he also had passion for sports, games and recreation. He, therefore, showed his foresight in promoting sports in this country, even before independence. He was at the forefront of the establishment of the Accra Sports Stadium.
In 1948, Dr. J.B. Danquah and Mr. George Grant established the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC). In fact, JB was its creator and the driving force behind it.
Throughout the early days of the UGCC, he exhibited his vision for the Gold Coast as the Alan Burns Constitution indicated. He was a liberal democrat and was of the view that the form of government for the individual must be paramount. He sought ways of uniting the youth, by forming the Gold Coast Youth League. He also found it necessary to bond the chiefs and the intelligentsia by seeking their views on important issues.
Throughout his campaign to the Legislative Assembly, his symbol was the elephant and in 1951 he was elected in the Legislative Assembly as first rural member of Akyem Abuakwa on the ticket of the UGCC under the new constitution of first elected African Government. He was awarded First Bryant Munford Fellowship of the United Nations.
J.B. Danquah never forget his roots and on January 11, 1955 he was raised to the status of Twafohene or Chief of the Vanguard of Akyem Abuakwa by the State Council and given the title Barima Kyeretwie Boakye Danquah. The same year, he was appointed member of The College Council of the Kumasi College of Technology.
During the campaign towards Independence, the CPP’s slogan became “Self-Government now” (around 1948) and that of the United Party was “Self-Government within the shortest possible time”. One would realize that after all it took the country eight years (1949 – 1957) before we gained Independence. After all it was not “Self-Government. now”.
At Independence when his dearest ambition in life – Self-Government for Ghana – was realized, he was among nine of 20 hand-picked foundation members of the Ghana Academy of Science.
When Kwame Nkrumah virtually introduced one–party state in the country, Dr. Danquah was the only one who stood against him and in 1960 was nominated by the United Party and stood against Kwame Nkrumah for the first Presidency of the Republic of Ghana. Even though he lost, he won a number of unexpected votes.
The Times of London described Dr. Danquah as the “fearless Critic for Dr. Nkrumah” and this earned JB the detentions without trial, first in 1961. His alleged crime was that he had conspired with some capitalist traders to induce the workers at Sekondi – Takoradi to go on strike against the government. He was released on June 20, 1962. On January 8, 1964 he was arrested and detained again without trial at the Nsawam Prisons. He was put in cell No.9.
The condemned cell itself had a very high wall and a very strong iron gate within the Nsawam Maximum Security Prison. From the high Iron Gate, you are led to another iron door which leads to the cells. Each cell had its own iron door with a small pinhole. It was about 3ft. by 6ft. thick. In the cement floor of the cell No. 9 where J.B. Danquah lodged, was fixed a chain which was used to chain him. One would wonder why the chain if there were all these iron gates and doors.
Dr. Danquah got the wind of his arrest earlier and his admirers advised him to escape but this is what he said, “If I run away, my family and children would not know my whereabouts but if I am in the country they would know my whereabouts”. This was the man JB, very brave and courageous, but above all a family man, a father.
On February 4, 1965 he died in the cells. Indeed, he died a martyr. He did not seek personal fame or riches.
Interestingly, Dr. Danquah died 42 years ago and there have been a few governments but none of them have thought it wise to have a fitting memorial for this man. His final funeral rites have not even been held. When Danquah wanted to introduce democracy into the country, he was mocked at and given all kinds of names and slogans example, “Danquah Domo domo socks”.
As we celebrate the country’s Jubilee, it is the opportune time to remember our heroes, namely Odartey Lamptey, Adjetey, and Attipoe, as well as those I wish to refer to as the Big Seven, not the Big Six. Ghana did not start from 1957; many fought and laid down their lives for Ghana. Their efforts must not be in vain.
I call on the Ghana at 50 Secretariat to re-examine their programme for the celebration and make some provision for our heroes. I call on the New Patriotic Party to find out about the family members of the heroes on whose wings they are flying now.
One may say that names like Hon. Nana Addo Dankwa, Akuffo-Addo and Obetsebi-Lamptey are included but they are with the government on their own merit. Families of these heroes went through an ordeal. We did not see them making their case at the National Reconciliation Commission because they knew there was no need.
- The writer is a retired Educationist based in Accra.
Daily Graphic - Tuesday, February 6, 2007 Page: 9