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Yeah, Yeah, Mr. President, More of Such Public Declarations

Sat, 19 Sep 2009 Source: Damptey, Daniel Danquah

In those days when succession to the throne could be very acrimonious, there existed a tacit understanding among all the contestants and their supporters anytime the throne became vacant. This unwritten law or convention was strictly adhered to because as soon as a new occupant to the throne emerges, all dissension ceased and every unsuccessful claimant pledged his unalloyed loyalty to the new ruler.

Declaration of Dr Nkrumah’s Birthday as a Public Holiday: My write-up today has to do with the intention of President Mills’ administration to declare Dr Nkrumah’s birthday a public holiday. This issue needs to be looked at critically. Though people hold divergent views on the role played by Dr Nkrumah towards the granting of independence to mother Ghana, we all are agreed on one thing. Nkrumah deserves to be honoured for the yeoman role he played in the struggle towards Ghana’s independence and the emancipation of the black man in Africa and the rest of the world.

But the question agitating my mind and that of generality of Ghanaian is: “Is a declaration of his birthday as a public holiday the best way to honour and reward this great son of Ghana and Africa as a whole?”

Controversy Surrounding His Actual Date of Birth: What is the actual date of birth of Dr Nkrumah? In other words, when was he born? Available evidence indicates that the 21st September 1909 fell on a Tuesday. Was Nkrumah born on Tuesday? Again, another school of thought believes that Dr Nkrumah was born on a Friday because his other names were Francis Kofi Nwiah. This draws us into a dilemma. We have a Friday, a Saturday and a Tuesday and any of such days could have been born the day on which Dr Kwame Nkrumah was born. But the question is which of those days?

Official Personal Records as against one’s actual records:

If we should use 21st September, 2009 as Dr Nkrumah’s date of birth, and declare it a public holiday, are we not giving tacit endorsement to an act which we all know is wrong? Are we not endorsing and encouraging others to engage in falsehood or falsification of records? We have a situation in the country today whereby individuals, in order to prolong their stay in both the Civil and Public Service reduce their ages at the point of employment so that on attainment of the compulsory retirement age, their official ages allows them to still remain at their duty posts.

We all know the effects of such people staying at post, while young and vibrant ones are denied employment opportunities.

Falsification of Records: We all frown at falsification of one’s personal records which in itself is an act of dishonesty. Churches, Mosques and every genuine institution speak out against such practice. In Sports, particularly Football, African countries, Ghana and Nigeria inclusive have used Papa’s squads masquerading as under 17 players to win age group competitions and we applaud such Sports federations for having achieved the “unachievable” in the history of sports.

There is the need to do things the right way. Declaring 21st September a public holiday will be the greatest disservice we could ever do to Dr Nkrumah and Ghana. What message will we be sending to our people and the international community? What moral lesson do we expect our children to learn from such practice? That the country endorses falsification of records, dishonesty and under-current dealings? Please, don’t get me wrong. Read on. In the case of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, we all are aware that the act was not deliberately done. He was given wrong information pertaining to his date of birth and that information has stuck till date. In those days, records were not accurately kept. It might be that a member of the family came up with his date of birth and since no attempts were made to challenge the information, the date has stuck till now.

It is also pertinent to state that, people in those days were not as inquisitive as we are at present. If they were, relevant questions and arguments like the ones being raised might have been asked and we would not have put ourselves in the quagmire we now find ourselves. And by the way, who were you to have questioned the birthdates of reigning Heads of State in those days? Even now, what will make you dispute the date of birth of another person? If the person says he was born on such and such a date, on what grounds can you question the authenticity of that date? Unless someone draws your attention to it, you might not think it is a subject worth venturing into. And so, such records have remained in our archives and history books till date.

Has anyone bothered to check whether the date given as the birth dates of Pa Grant, Dr Aggrey, George Ekem Furgesson, Dr Busia, Dr Ephraim Amu and many other nationalist of repute were the actual days on which they were born? In the cases of Dr Liman, Ex-Presidents Kufuor and Rawlings and President Mills, we would not have much of a problem because things had moved into their proper perspective and record keeping had become a sine qua nom practice.

Declaring 21st September a Public Holiday will be tantamount to burying another person else’s corpse: I was once a participant at a funeral where on close examination of the dead body after its arrival from the morgue, it was discovered that the body was not that of the deceased. Blame game was suspended for a while. Quickly, the body was dispatched back to the hospital where after relevant documentation and the necessary purification rites had been performed the body of the “true son of the soil” was released to the family and the other body returned to the morgue.

Why did the family not bury the other body? They were meant to bury the dead. Weren’t they? Yes! Was the body brought not a dead body? It was, but what? One might ask. They did not because it wasn’t their own. Period!

Thus, if it was discovered that Dr Kwame Nkrumah was not born on the 21st September, wouldn’t it be dishonest and improper on the part of the State to declare the day a Public Holiday? If this has not been detected and brought into the public domain and that of the Government, it would have been a different thing. But since there is controversy surrounding the exact date of birth, and the alarum bell has been rung, it behooves on the Mills administration to thread cautiously on the issue. Let us not take an irreversible position on the issue. Let us not set a very bad precedent.

What Must Be Done? Let the powers that be do the right thing. Let Government not rush into declaring the day a public Holiday until all the contentious issues are dealt with. Let us carry out a research into the background of the late President with a view to arriving at his actual date of birth. There are some aged members of his family who are alive and can be of help in this regard. Holidays are Just too Many. For once, let us put aside our emotions and think rationally. There is a saying that “the black man spends for pleasure and begs for necessities”. I am one of those who take strong exception to that for I have unflinching faith in the abilities of our God-given leaders to take firm and wise decisions at the right moment.

But the question we should ask ourselves is, are the public holidays not becoming superfluous?. We have the Christian and Muslim Holidays, Boxing Day, New Year Day, Independence Day, May Day, AU Day, Republic Day, Farmers Day and what have you. In addition, once in every four years, December 8 is declared a public Holiday for the conduct of both Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. Have we ever sat down to count the number of working hours lost as a result of such public holidays.

In the early days of our nationhood when Chiefs and rulers were masters of all that they surveyed, they enacted many edicts and designated some days as ‘da bone’ (evil days) - days on which people within the community were not allowed to perform certain tasks. Examples, go fishing, go to their farms, or go to certain rivers or streams. Failure to adhere to these traditional edicts would invite on the offender severe sanctions which at times included a fatwa like banishment. But over the years, people have come to realize the effects such “prohibitions” have on free movement and the economy. As a result, these traditional edicts, prohibitions or injunctions have been reduced to the barest minimum

¬But what is there in a holiday after all? Not much! Even Giant United States which is often touted as God’s Own Country and got her independence as early as 1776 doesn’t have as many holidays as we have in Ghana. And the rate at which that we are going, it wouldn’t be a surprise that in ten or more years’ time the numbers of holidays we have might have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled. Caution is the word: In taking decisions which will affect the generality of Ghanaians, Government must take so many things into consideration. The Apostle Paul said in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 10, Verse 23: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful, all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify”. The things which should agitate the minds of policy makers should be questions like, what are the likely negative and positive effects of another public holiday on the economy and public image of the country? Is there no alternative to another public holiday which Ghanaians will spend carousing and making merry and ‘painting the streets of our towns and villages red’? What potential benefits will Ghanaians derive from another public holiday in Nkrumah’s name? Is there going to be series of lectures, symposia and other activities to commemorate the day? Couldn’t such public lectures take place in the evenings?

When Kufuor started putting up the Presidential Palace, many were those who criticized the project even though there were some advantages to be derived from it. The criticisms cut across both sides of the political divide. One of such arguments put up was that it was a misplaced priority, for there were many urgent matters to be attended to than a mansion for one person.

Some people might argue that declaring a public holiday might not entail any spending and so why the fuss. But I say tell that story to the marines. I have already stated that we should take into consideration the amount of man hours that would be lost on the day in question. When this is computed in monetary terms, one would arrive at a colossal amount of money which would go down the drain. One should also not overlook the fact that a national holiday will not go just like that. Elaborate preparations would have to be made towards making the occasion a grand one. Banquets will have to be organized at Diplomatic Missions both within and outside the country, including the various District Capitals. There is also the main State Banquet. This will have to be repeated every year. How long can a developing country like Ghana sustain such pressure? The Day calls for Sober Reflection: Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday should not be used for merry making only. It should as well be a solemn occasion for Ghanaians to delve into our history and analyze the positive and negative things our independence has brought to us. Our Independence has not been rosy throughout. There have at the same time been some negative traits that have attended the granting of independence at the time it came. Has independence, over the years brought us together as one people or put a wedge amongst various people constituting the Ghanaian nationhood? What can we do to make the day a memorable one? How can we ensure that the vision Dr Nkrumah had for the country is realized? What can we learn as citizens of Ghana, if we were to juxtapose the virtues with the vices of Dr Nkrumah?

Obviously, Dr Nkrumah was not a saint. He was human and was bound to make mistakes and indeed made mistakes. In the same way, the New Patriotic Party, which is an offshoot of the United Party, realized that the country ought to move forward and that antagonism that existed between the party and CPP would not help in reconciling the nation. And that was why President Kufuor initiated moves to give Dr Nkrumah his due by giving credit for the good things he did for the country.

Recommendation: Plans for the centenary celebration of Dr Nkrumah’s birthday are laudable. The occasion should be celebrated with pomp and pageantry. But when it comes to making the date a public holiday, I am vehemently opposed to the idea. We need to do something that will forever make us aware of the laudable role he played towards the granting of independence to the country, but I don’t think a holiday is the answer. Holidays are mere noises which repel.

Let us establish a Memorial Institute which will house all that Dr Nkrumah stood for. This will include a Library and a Research Centre. His vehicle which we learn is in good condition should be sent to the place. The Peduase Lodge is a suitable place to host such a Memorial. Let us gather all his writings including the original manuscripts. Where are his walking sticks, his handkerchiefs and a host of relics associated with his person and works? These and many others which remind us of what the man stood for are expected to be housed in the Memorial Institute.

If we want another holiday, we could have it but it will be detrimental to the pivot and engine room of our economy. What is the purpose of the African Union Holiday? Can’t we use the occasion to commemorate the life and achievements of Dr Nkrumah? We should remember that it was the inspirational leadership Dr Nkrumah gave to national of other countries which served as a catalyst to the granting of independence to most countries within the continent. Remember the slogan “our independence will be meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of the African continent”? Yes, that was what did it!

The State of the Nation Today as compared with other African Countries: I have traveled across the length and breadth of some countries within the ECOWAS sub region and what I see in these countries baffles me a lot. I have come to the realization that in most cases the average Ghanaian wants to reap where he has not sown. Ghanaians go to work at times suitable to them. The situation gets worse whenever it rains especially in the morning. On such days, they just don’t go to work at all. But I have come across workers in countries other than Ghana going to work in their raincoats and their umbrellas. I have seen Ministers and top government functionaries making periodic checks on staff attendance in their respective ministries and interacting with them. I have personally seen officials from the Education Ministry and the Minister moving from school to school and asking teachers to recite the national pledge and sing the anthems of their respective countries. Nice job, one might say. After all doesn’t charity begin at home? Teachers must be made to have a taste of their own dosage.

I have analyzed the situation and come to the conclusion that unless we change our attitude towards duty, the future doesn’t portend anything good. Ironically, we rely on our workforce to propel our national engine. No impartial commentator on national issues would disagree with the fact that the holidays are just too many and that a declaration of Nkrumah’s birthday as a national holiday would be detrimental to the economy of the country.

But others Ghanaians would say, more of such public holidays. Let them flow. This is similar to students who have not prepared adequately for their examination and so would do everything possible to ensure that such examinations do not take place. This is particularly so in tertiary institutions where some student union leaders take advantage of their positions to foment trouble by embarking on demonstrations and strikes just to ensure that their semester examinations do not take place. Why? Because they have not studied for the examination and anything contrary to strikes and demonstrations would be detrimental to their overall academic performance. And so it is with some of the proponents of many more holidays in the system.

Conclusion: In short, Ghanaians are eternally grateful to Dr Kwame Nkrumah for his visionary dream of giving the black race a new lease of life. Ghanaians will forever remain grateful to him for accepting the invitation of other members of like minds to come down to Ghana to give a new impetus to the liberation flame which had then began to burn the toga of colonialism and imperialism. But is the introduction of extra time holiday the best way to remunerate Dr Nkrumah? How will Dr Kwame Nkrumah be feeling in his grave if he is told that Ghanaians are going to enjoy another work free holiday once every year at a time the economy is facing severe challenges?

Would you prefer Ghanaians put the national interest first by saying no to advocates of an extra national holiday or add a further burden on our over-stressed economy by choking off one extra day from the national working grid every year?

How would you react if you were Dr Kwame Nkrumah? In other words, if Dr Nkrumah were to be alive today, what decision would he make?

I pause for your urgent response!

Daniel Danquah Damptey

E-mail Address: danieldanquah_damptey@yahoo.com

Columnist: Damptey, Daniel Danquah