By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
On the 49th anniversary commemoration of the brutal prison assassination of Dr. J. B. Danquah by then-President Kwame Nkrumah, Ghanaian parliamentarians took turns on the floor of the House to contribute to emotionally charged discussions on unarguably the most erudite Ghanaian scholar and legal light of his generation. The de facto founder of the country's flagship academy, the University of Ghana, Dr. Danquah also played a vanguard and pivotal role in the renaming of the erstwhile British colony of the Gold Coast.
It was also very refreshing to hear ardent leftists and iron-clad Nkrumaists like Mr. Alban Bagbin aptly and honestly observe that the putative Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics was the veritable victim of ideological intolerance. As usual, though, one or two political novices and intellectual sophomores used this solemn occasion to luridly and heretically defend the patently untenable. For instance, we had the facially mutilated National Democratic Congress (NDC)-MP for Nanton, Mr. Murtala Muhammed, who also doubles as a deputy information cabinet operative for President John Dramani Mahama, make the characteristically farcical claim that Dr. Danquah had died of wholly natural causes, rather than the callously and systematically orchestrated machinations of Mr. Kwame Nkrumah (See "Prison Didn't Kill J. B. Danquah; He Died Naturally -Murtala" Vibeghana.com 2/5/14).
Rather farcical, because the foregoing apocryphal myth presupposes President Nkrumah to have converted the Condemned Cell Block at the Nsawam Medium-Security Prison into a state-of-the-art five-star hotel, like the New York Hilton, to accommodate his most hated political and ideological opponent. Nothing could be more insolent and blasphemous. Mr. Muhammed also falsely claims that an inquest by the Busia-led Progress Party (PP) government into the death of Dr. Danquah came up to naught on any incriminating evidence.
If, indeed, the renegade rump-CPP operative is really interested in the objective facts surrounding the assassination of Dr. Danquah, then he had better read the report of the Asafu-Adjei Commission that conducted the most thorough and authoritative inquest into the prison murder of Dr. Danquah by President Nkrumah to-date.
There is, indeed, absolutely nothing wrong with holding up the iconic personality of Ghana's foremost constitutional lawyer of his generation as a sobering symbol of the imperative need for tolerance in postcolonial Ghanaian political culture, though that would be tantamount to woefully downplaying the immense significance of the man in twentieth-century Ghanaian history and culture. That Danquah did more than nearly every one of his political associates and contemporaries to profoundly advance the cause of Ghanaian democracy is beyond moot.
At any rate, it was the New Patriotic Party's Member of Parliament for Subin, in the Asante Region, who offered the most compelling testimony and pointed riposte to Mr. Muhammed, when the former diplomat and COCOBOD chief executive officer painfully recalled how Dr. Danquah was callously and criminally "denied his medication [for hypertension and diabetes] and he died in prison and had to suffer the [gross] indignity of [having to be buried] within 48 hours, contrary to the traditions and culture of his own [Akan] ethnic group."
I suppose this is what Mr. Muhammed and his fellow political truckers mean, when they talk of President Nkrumah as a unifying and conciliatory pan-Africanist spearhead.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of English
Nassau Community College of SUNY
Garden City, New York
Feb. 5, 2014
Okoampa-Ahoofe is also the author of "Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana" (iUniverse, 2005).