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By Kwesi Atta Sakyi 14th February 2015
Since 4th February this year, ghanaweb and other media have been awash with numerous articles on the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr J.B. Danquah, who was incarcerated at the Nsawam Maximum Security Prison, and sadly passed on on 4th February 1965, under the regime of Dr Kwame Nkrumah. His offences bordered on sabotage and treason, which fell under the Preventive Detention Act (PDA) which was enacted in 1958.
Articles have been written for and against the Nkrumah regime, some praising the once-dubbed ‘The Doyen of Gold Coast/Ghana politics’, Dr Joseph Kwadwo Boakye Danquah, for his many unsung achievements, while others have lambasted Nkrumah for being a megalomaniac and brutal dictator during his reign from 1951 to 1966.
There is a wide spectrum of divergent opinion on the greatness or otherwise of Nkrumah. In sum, a man is deemed great if his positive contributions to the welfare of humanity outweigh his plausible misdeeds or inactions. A man must be weighed and judged roundly and holistically in the context of circumstances of his time, the national priorities set to be achieved within a time constraint, the exigencies, and the need for promoting and preserving the public interest.
Nkrumah might have achieved global greatness but like a prophet, he had no honour or acceptance in his own country. The whole Africa Union have found it fit to honour Nkrumah at Addis Ababa. Recently, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) honoured Nkrumah for his foresight and his promotion of football in Africa. The BBC voted Nkrumah the African of the 20th Century. Many scholars and great institutions outside Ghana have conferred honours on Nkrumah. Danquah did not become President of Ghana so he could not have been bestowed with such honours. All the same, he played his part in history, whether small or big.
Whether Nkrumah was a brutal or benign dictator, history will eventually be the judge, and whether Danquah did not deserve what he went through, it is not for us to judge because some of those engaged in vociferous altercation and imbroglio on ghanaweb were not born during the era, and were not privy to some classified information at the time, and the political nuances of that era.
Events of history are hard to evaluate, let alone assess, because historical facts are often embellished by historiographers who as men and women of flesh and blood, are fallible. They have their own opinions, favourites, and histrionic or theatrical biases. The only historical accounts which are incorruptible are the artefacts or ancient archaeological remains. Written history and oral history suffer from distortions, manipulations, revisionism, deliberate omission, and deliberate padding. So it is with the Danquah saga.
Some of those writers on ghanaweb on the topic of Danquah wrote out of passion and malice, forgetting the need for balance and restraint, need not to inflame national passions with their accounts based on hearsay, emotions, and what they had read, without experiencing those events. Some excellent accounts were factual, objective, and dispassionate, while the bad ones pitched camps and engaged in subjective polemics. All said and done, who are we mortals to judge our fellow mortals? No one is perfect.
Besides, what do we gain by dwelling so much on the negatives and ashes of the past? Such negativity bodes ill for our national integration and progress. All countries are marching forward, but some Ghanaians want us to march backwards into the remote recesses of history. Is it worth it? The English have idioms such as, ‘to smoke the peace pipe’, ‘to bury the hatchet’, ‘to let sleeping dogs lie’, ‘to let bygones be bygones’, ‘not to disturb the hornet’s nest’, among many others.
We have read history and come across sordid accounts such as the brutalities of the Reign of Terror in France following the rise of the peasants who beheaded many of the nobility at the guillotine, with Robespierre leading the charge in the 1789 French Revolution. We have read of the perpetrators of the obnoxious Apartheid regime in South Africa under Malan, Verwoed, Botha, inter alia.
We have read about the repugnant purge under Stalin in the former Soviet Union. We are cognisant of the horrendous Holocaust in Germany under the Nazis at the concentration camps, against millions of Jews; we are cognisant of Haile Mariam Mengistu’s Dirge and his purge in Ethiopia; Chairman Mao Tse Dung’s Red Revolution in China; we are aware of many unusual regimes in history such as Oliver Cromwell in Britain, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Ceausescu in Romania, Idi Amin in Uganda, Jean Bedel Bokassa in the Central African Republic, Mobutu Sese Seko in Congo DR, Foday Sanko in Sierra Leone, Charles Taylor in Liberia, J.J. Rawlings in Ghana, and many more aberrant regimes. Where are they now? History brings everybody and everything to an inexorable end.
Today, people in Germany, Rwanda, Russia, France, Britain, Italy, Germany, Ethiopia, inter alia, are going about their normal lives, not bogged down by the sordid negatives in their history. They are not brooding over the past and trying to rake up the sordid baggage and dirty linens of the past for public laundering. Why cannot we do the same in Ghana? It is a patent fact that many Ghanaians in Ghana today are too busy eking a living as to have the luxury of time to be writing inflammable articles on either Danquah or Nkrumah. It is rather a few troublemakers in the Diaspora, who want to poison the political chalice in Ghana by writing irresponsible articles to inflame passions and mislead Ghanaians. Ghanaians are more intelligent than to bite into such cheap baits.
Well, we are all entitled to our separate opinions. At the end of the day, it is the progress of Ghana which is at stake. Instead of writing in vitriolic effusions about the goings-on of the past, let us deploy our energies to proffer solutions to our numerous national challenges such as overcoming the irritating and incessant power shortages, overcoming poverty and corruption, improving the quality of education, solving the massive youth unemployment problem, among other pressing national issues.
At this time and age when many countries are progressing and making technological breakthroughs, we in Ghana are busy splitting hairs, and looking for needles in haystacks. To me, the past is gone and what took place took place. We cannot reverse or reinvent history. Every wise person learns lessons from the past to forge ahead. We can discern that some of those who have written for or against what happened in the past concerning Danquah, have written with some selfish and ill-motive of causing public disquiet, distorting history, and gaining some political mileage, and unqualified sympathy.
We are aware that under ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor, a national healing process was undertaken through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was ably chaired by former Chief Justice, K.E. Amuah-Sekyi. The Commission’s proceedings were broadcast live all over Ghana. That Commission put to rest the divide and schism between the so-called Dombo-Matemeho camp on the one hand, and the CPPs on the other hand.
I watched some of those moving and momentous TV coverage in Ghana whilst on vacation sometime in 2003/2004. Why now the resurrection of a matter long buried? It is only a child who after sowing a seed digs it up every now and then to see if it is germinating. By this article, let us call a truce, or cessation of hostilities as regards Danquah and Nkrumah. Enough is enough. Boys abr3!
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