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Free education idea was originally mooted by Paa Willie

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 Source: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

I have written about this several times before, and so I find it absolutely needless to reprise the same here; and it is that the earliest evidence we have of the necessity for an indigenous Gold Coast/Ghanaian government to provide a fee-free education for all the country’s eligible citizens, especially our youths, occurs in the Working Papers of the J. B. Danquah-led Gold Coast Youth Conference (GCYC). And this was as far back as the 1930s, long before President Kwame Nkrumah appeared as a major player on the national political scene. And that idea was mooted by the young Mr. William “Paa Willie” Ofori-Atta, who envisaged the same as the most rapid and radical means of developing and modernizing a postcolonial Ghana.

Fate, however, gave this idea an unexpected twist when Mr. Nkrumah, the suspended General-Secretary of the Grant- and Danquah-founded United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), split from this seminal modern political organization to found his nominally tautological and half-plagiarized Convention People’s Party (CPP).

As Mr. George Alfred “Paa” Grant bitterly lamented at the time (See Dennis Austin’s Politics in Ghana: 1946-1960), Mr. Nkrumah also absconded with the grand development agenda of the movers-and-shakers of the UGCC. It is therefore grossly inaccurate for Mr. Abdul Malik Kweku Baako, the editor-publisher of the New Crusading Guide, to ahistorically make President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, somehow, the emulative avatar of President Nkrumah vis-à-vis the inescapably laudable implementation of a fee-free Senior High School (SHS) system in the country.

In sum, Nana Akufo-Addo’s electioneering campaign policy agenda has pedigree in the annals of postcolonial Ghanaian political culture. But that pedigree incontrovertibly comes from President Akufo-Addo’s own eldest maternal uncle, namely, Mr. William “Paa Wille” Ofori-Atta, the man whom authoritative and erudite American scholar-historian of Ghana’s transitional and immediate postcolonial era, Prof. David Apter (author of Ghana In Transition) wistfully described as easily the most formidable political opponent of the fast-rising future President Nkrumah, had Mr. Ofori-Atta been serious and ambitious enough to vie for the presidency or the leadership of Ghana in the period under discussion.

We must also quickly and poignantly underscore the fact that Nkrumah’s fee-free education policy only covered the 10-year British-inherited erstwhile elementary and middle school system. It did not cover the traditional secondary school system, although quite a cogent case could be made for the fee-free Teacher-Training College system. Nana Akufo-Addo will never become an Nkrumah or a Bokassa, as one cynical newspaper editorial recently predicted. He will not become a Bokassa, because Akufo-Addo is incurably democratic and republican in demeanor and ways in which neither of these two infamous African dictators were. Neither would he become a Mobutu, an Eyadema or a Kabila.

And he will not become an Nkrumah because Ghanaians presently live in a far more enlightened political dispensation, with a remarkable appreciation for the democratic rule of law and order and accountability. If anything at all, it is the bizarre and checkered political culture of the Ghana Supreme Court that we need to be very concerned about.

Columnist: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

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