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A Danquah Idea Whose Time Has Come

Sun, 15 Sep 2013 Source: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Former President John Agyekum-Kufuor's widely reported suggestion for the establishment of a second parliamentary chamber to serve as a check on the power of the present parliament, was originally proposed by Dr. J. B. Danquah some 60-odd years ago (See Danquah's The Voice of Prophecy). It was actually motioned and voted upon in the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly and overwhelmingly rejected by leading CPP-ites like Messrs. Kwame Nkrumah, Komla Agbeli Gbedemah and Nii Amaah-Ollennu.

At the time, his arch CPP political opponents and enemies imputed such proposal to Danquah's devious attempt at vitiating the power of the fast-creeping dictatorship of Africa's so-called Man-of-the Millennium. The foresighted Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics had, of course, espied the proverbial hand-writing on the wall. The tragic irony here is that nearly two decades later, an aging Justice Nii Amaah-Ollennu would be vacuously and gratuitously faulting all Ghanaians for weak-mindedly indulging the excesses of the Nkrumah regime (See the Foreword to T. Peter Omari's Kwame Nkrumah: The Anatomy of an African Dictatorship (1970).

The sharp distinction that ought to be made between Mr. Kufuor's proposal and Dr. Danquah's is the fact that Danquah was in search of an organically functional method of streamlining the Chieftaincy institution into a postcolonial and modern political force of relevance and productivity. Like President Kufuor, the foremost constitutional lawyer, philosopher, social anthropologist and scholar of his generation envisaged the upper-chamber of parliament - akin to the British House of Lords - as a check on the lower house. Where Danquah is the more foresighted leader-statesman inheres in the fact that more than anything else, the Doyen envisaged the institutional input of our traditional rulers to be indispensable to the preservation, modernization and development of our indigenous cultural values.

Then also, Danquah wanted a dignified political forum to be created for our Chiefs - whom he dubbed as "our natural leaders" - who needed to be appositely insulated from the rough-and-tumble discourse that is characteristic of the lower house of parliament, such as could be witnessed even in Great Britain, where the undisputed Architect of Modern Ghana had spent a remarkable span of his adult life studying and researching.

It must also be noted that except for his elder brother, Osagyefo Ofori-Atta I, Danquah was uniquely instrumental in the foundation and establishment of what is presently known as the Ghana National House of Chiefs. In fact, it was his concept of an upper-chamber of parliament that was plagiarized and corrupted into the veritable white-elephant that is our so-called Council-of-State. In the Danquah version of the Upper-House of Lords, distinguished Ghanaian non-chieftains were to be duly seated with the chiefs. It was in no way about the strategic stanching of the so-called winner-takes-all regime that currently prevails, but rather to ensure that democracy was efficiently practised to the maximum benefit of the Ghanaian people.

The preceding is what makes Danquah an erudite and pragmatic statesman in ways that cannot be said of any contemporary living legend, as it were. For Danquah's proposal was squarely predicated on an extensive study of the constitutional praxis of such advanced Commonwealth democracies as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Britain and, of course, the most powerful democracy in the world, the United States of America.

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*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Department of English

Nassau Community College of SUNY

Garden City, New York

Sept. 12, 2013

E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net

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Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame