GHANA: “God Has Appointed Nkrumah Already” or “God Has Anointed Nana Addo”?
By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK
Until Wednesday October 26 2011, I assumed that I knew what the name Ghana meant and where it came from but what I heard on a London based Ghanaian Radio station (Radio Focus) baffled me. As I am weak in the Akan language, traditions and culture I was excited to come across the “Epone” programme on Radio Focus and do listen to it on Wednesdays and Fridays whenever I can, to try to improve my knowledge and understanding of Akan traditions and culture. I also find “Epone” presented by Opanin Asiama and Maame Pokuwaa (Mama Feli) very interesting, entertaining, educative and informative. As usual, on the day in question (26 October), among the questions Opanin Asiama put to listeners and callers to answer was, “what is the meaning of Ghana?” The answer given by one caller was such a shock to me that, I decided to share my astonishment with those who might have not heard it and also to find out how his answer is well known among Ghanaians.
A male caller who sounded matured claimed that GHANA meant, “God Has Appointed Nkrumah Already”. In other words, Ghana was an acronym for Nkrumah’s Presidency.
I was flabbergasted by this answer because I have never heard of this or read about it anywhere. My brain went into reversed mode to remember my secondary school History lessons. I recollected that in Form Three History, we were taught that Ghana was the first of three Great Ancient Empires (Ghana, Mali and Songhai) that existed in parts of West Africa. Names of their Kings such Sumanguru, Sundiata, Mansa Musa and Soni Ali came to my mind immediately. Ghana Empire was rich in gold and had very powerful army with well established administrative system at that time. Others claimed that Ghana was the title given to the Kings who ruled powerful kingdoms prior to the coming into existence of Ghana Empire. The title Ghana meant war chief. These were some of the information in my History lessons I could recollect.
I found this man’s answer so ridiculous that I began to remember some incidents from my secondary school days. There was one English Language Master we referred to as “Oflow” because he had excellent command of the Queen’s language (his real name was Mr Hooper). If a student gave an irrational answer to a question in his class, he went close to the student, looked straight at him in the face and said “my friend, my friend, you are getting mad with nonsense”. I felt like doing exactly the same to this caller but it dawned on me that I do not know Ghana’s history to the full. I therefore decided to try and find out more about this answer. My research did not come up with any answer remotely nearer what the caller said. According to F K Buah, and I quote, “the new nation previously known as Gold Coast adopted the name ‘Ghana’ after the first glorious empire in the Western Sudan in the early days, in the words of Kwame Nkrumah, ‘as an inspiration for the future’” (A History of Ghana by F K Buah). I suspect, the name Ghana was chosen because of the greatness of the empire as well as the link with gold (Ghana Empire was rich in gold) and the possibility that some ethnic groups in present day Ghana might have migrated from the land of Ancient Ghana Empire.
Before the programme ended, the presenter mentioned that, some NPP members and supporters also claim that “GHANA” is acronym for “God Has Anointed Nana Addo”. That was also a novelty to me, as well as its absurdity. Is Ghana really an acronym for Nana Akufo-Addo’s Flagbearership? I know that during the NDC Flagbearership contest, various acronyms sprang up in Ghana between supporters of the two candidates, including GAME and FONKAR but I have never heard or come across Ghana being used as a political acronym. I suppose Nkrumah or his supporters might have coined “Ghana Has Appointed Nkrumah Already”, as a slogan for the 1951 and 1956 elections to win votes. It is also possible that during his reign and when he became President for Life, either Nkrumah himself or his fanatical supporters might have justified his one man show by coining such deceptive phrase to try and convince Ghanaians to accept his dictatorship. What about the NPP Presidential candidate’s supporters, if it is true that they use Ghana as an acronym to justify Nana Addo’s candidacy and to persuade Ghanaians to vote for him?
I personally detest any form of personality cult as it existed in communist/socialist countries because of its damaging impact on the population. Such personality cult of raising the persona of often dictators into divine and semi god status, his/her word becoming edit and final is something we should strongly fight against. I know Ghanaians are very religious and it is often said by Ghanaians that “Only God crowns a King”. Therefore using God in an acronym that make the word GHANA to sell political leaders as being appointed or anointed by God may appear attractive to some voters but the reality is that we do not live in Biblical times. Elections are decided through the ballot box by the electorates and not God because God has no vote. I could envisage the CPP in the 1950s and early 60s using the acronym to silence any challenge to Nkrumah’s position in the party and his leadership of Ghana and to silence democratic debates since “God Had Appointed Nkrumah Already”. Today, Ghana is a fledgling democracy with better educated and politically matured electorates. So what political advantage would political parties in Ghana gain from using God in acronyms?
I know that the NDC often portrays the President as religious and God fearing but that should not be surprising to any Ghanaian because Ghanaians in general are very religious and God fearing. Again, leftist parties rarely use religion and God as a political tool, so, sometimes I wonder why the CPP in those days and NDC supporters currently use religion as the President’s asset. Right wing parties on the other hand, use religion and God as political capital, so perhaps NPP supporters are trying to reclaim what is their natural asset by coining the phrase, “God Has Anointed Nana Addo” to boost his chances at the 2012 Presidential Elections. What is obvious is that Ghanaians are religious and have a belief in God, whatever their political view.
Whether GHANA is an acronym meaning “God Has Appointed Nkrumah Already” or “God Has Anointed Nana Addo”, what we should remember is that, religion and politics can sometimes be a dangerous mixture that we should avoid. We should not denigrate Ghana by equating the name with the ambitions of individuals. I am sure both Ghanaians and Christians would not be amused by the association of God with individual personalities let alone political leaders. We should respect the name of Mother “Ghana”, revere her and not use it as acronyms that are senseless and hollow. Both acronyms are ludicrous and laughable that would make Ghana a laughing stock. Ghana has a rich history and we should be proud of the name, the origin and meaning but not devalue the name as an acroynm.
Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK