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Founders Day conversations: History, culture and circumstance

Paul Adom Otchere 62 Paul Adom-Otchere, Host of Good Evening Ghana

Wed, 4 Oct 2017 Source: Paul Adom Otchere

Since President Akufo Addo’s 60th Independence Day address which highlighted the historical events and actors of our independence and heritage struggle, there has been sufficient public discourse about the pros and cons of the speech. Then in August this year, the Ghana 60 years on national committee put up a public lecture themed ‘Ghana’s day of destiny”. The right honourable speaker of parliament Prof Mike Oquaye expertly delivered it.

Then last week, the President boldly invited parliament to consider the installation of the date of 4th August as founders day and retain the day of 21st September as Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day with both events to be marked as statutory public holidays.

The two arguments

There have be two sides to this discourse, (a) those who think that Nkrumah did enough to warrant the title of sole founder of modern Ghana and

(b) Those who believe that many more people contributed significantly to the struggle and should thus be part of a collective founders of modern Ghana.

I belong to the second group but I want to share the basis for the two outcomes as expressed by the principal proponents

The 1948 riots, The Watson Commission And The Formation of the CPP in 1949

Both sides of the debate to support their various outcomes have applied these events. That the riots occurred following a meeting between the UGCC represented by Dr Danquah and Nkrumah and the ex service men on Monday the 20th of Feb 1948 at which the UGCC offered 100 percent support to the ex service men is not in doubt.

The story is that, when the riots occurred, both Danquah and Nkrumah were in Saltpond. Akufo Addo telephoned to inform them of the events upon which they promptly headed for Accra. A meeting was convened in Betty House to take action. A telegram of 1000 words was sent to London by the UGCC in which they claimed that “civil government broken down, working committee prepared to take over interim government etc .

Then significantly, Danquah published a manifesto in the local press address to the chiefs entitled ” The hour of liberation has struck “.

So this was Dr Danquah and the UGCC’s first reaction to the riots of 1948. It was pursuant the telegram that the colonial authority accepted to form the Watson Commission to enquirer into the riots and make recommendations towards a new constitution.

One side of the debate has said that the leaders of UGCC had blamed Nkrumah for the riots and had extricated themselves from taking responsibility for the event. The account does not bore out such conclusions. However, during the hearings of the Watson Commission, the UGCC leases resisted accusations that they had been responsible for the disturbances including the looting and burning of shops as well as gross civil disobedience. Pleading guilty to such a charge could have occasions a treason trial against all 6 of them as occurred in say in South Africa. Their resistance to the charges was thus only a formal plea of “not guilty ” as opposed to a real opposition to the riots. The evidence bears out this conclusion.

The formation of the CPP

One side of the debate suggests that the CPP was formed to occasion a clean break from the UGCC, and thus, from then on, a certain concept of a modern Ghana was underway, thus its formation should be attributed to Nkrumah only.

Here again the account does not bear out this evidence. The account suggests that whilst Gbedemah , Botsio, Dzenke Dzewu and Krobo Edusei has stressed the need to effect a clean break from the UGCC, Kofi Baako, Kwesi Plange and Saki Scheck, evidently believed that the UGCC popularly known as the CONVENTION, carried wide support and thus they should insist on Nkrumah’s reinstatement as general secretary of UGCC . The compromise was that a new party should be formed but should be one that maintains the name the CONVENTION in order to stay within the popularity platforms if the UGCC. Thus on Sunday June 13th, the CPP was formed at Accra Arena with the word CONVENTION as its first name.

So here again, the account suggest that the CPP was formed upon the strength and caliber of the UGCC leaders but taking a big advantage of the fact that Nkrumah had been the one who went round to engage the people as general secretary, and thus, was the most known . Within this context, the new CONVENTION was bound to succeed over the old CONVENTION.

Independence now vrs independence in the shortest possible time

One side of the debate has suggested that Dr Danquah and the opposition had wanted independence in the shortest possible time (connoting a time in the distant future) whilst the CPP had campaigned for independence now (connoting immediacy).

Here again the account has obscured the truth. In addition to the fact that Nkrumah had himself campaigned with Danquah on the self-government in the shortest possible time, it is evident that independence in that shortest possible would have been earlier than 1957 when independence now arrived.

Dr Danquah had moved a motion for an amendment (in parliament) for “declaration of independence” as a substitute for Nkrumah’s “motion of destiny” by which the leader of government business first asked the British to grant self-government. Danquah’s motion for a declaration of independence would have brought independence and a republican status to Ghana in 1954, 110 years after the bond of 1844, that was the shortest possible time from 1947. But Dr Nkrumah and the CPP opposed the amendment because to them, Ghana would have “forfeited British goodwill” if that kind of approach had been adopted. Instead, they wanted the motion of destiny in which we were asking the British to Grant us self-government as opposed to proceeding to declaring independence ourselves by our own parliament under a “motion for the declaration of independence”.

This is the true and correct account of the distinction between independence now and independence in the shortest possible time.

UGCC/UP/NLM opposed to independence

Another argument has also be made by one side of the debate that the opposition elements who today want to be considered “co-founders” to the great Nkrumah were actually opposed to the independence event that occurred in 1957 . Parliamentary documents have been applied to evidence this outcome. Here again the whole story has not been told.

After the 1951 elections that was prescribed by the Coussey committee and won by Nkrumah, JB Danquah was the first person to write to congratulate Nkrumah. The 6-line letter praised Nkrumah for going through a baptism of fire and urged him to now lead Ghana to full independence.

The opposition to Nkrumah as a leader began with the first defections from the CPP which was attributed by the defectors to what they described as Nkrumah’s dictatorial tendencies, they, the defectors, including Joe Appiah (who lived with Nkrumah in London and saw him off at they train station on his way to Ghana to take up the post) Victor Owusu who was an ardent Nkrumaist, said that if we achieved independence with Nkrumah as leader of a unitary state, his tendencies will take us down the path of dictatorship and eventually our country will go down in flames . History did prove them right, dictatorship became the single enemy of the great CPP and Ghana as a country, In the end, even the finance minster KA Gbedemah had to leave his seat in parliament and run away for his dear life. And on 24th February 1966, we went down in flames. So the account has obscured some of the underlying reasons for this so called opposition to independence and a spirited claim for federalism.


Thus the evidence suggests clearly that Ghana has founders and in any case, in our culture all over this country, it is the man who fathers a child that names the child. How is one the sole founder of Ghana if he did not name the child? That’s contrary to our cultures and traditions

Rest in peace JM Sarba, GA Grant, Carley Hayford, JB Dankwa, Nii Kwabena Bonnie, E Akufo Addo, Ako Adjei, RS Blay, Kwame Nkrumah and all who sacrificed to build and achieve independent Ghana. You inspire us.

Columnist: Paul Adom Otchere
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