As we approach Ghana’s 50th Independence anniversary on March 6, 2007; an occasion which 50 years ago catapulted an avalanche emancipation of the black African nations from colonial domination to self rule, it is necessary to sit back, and take a hypothetical reflection, or recollection of our history (the truth was never written, but what we now know is based on narrative recollections passed on by our ancestors generation to generation). This story being told will therefore give us an insight into our history – a rendition of the past, from the time the Whiteman first set foot on the West African soil, the setbacks it caused to our own progressive form of civilization, as a result of the imposition of a foreign culture with the supposedly inherent intent of civilizing the Blackman’s primitive culture. Let us now therefore take a hypothetical reflection or recollection of life as it would be before the arrival of the Whiteman to the Guinea Coast of West Africa and the true situation after his departure.
Once upon a time, after the demise of the great Ghana Empire, our forefathers migrated south of the Sahara towards the guinea coast. Some settled in the northern savannah belts stretching from the west Gambian coastline to the west Sudan sahelian territories. Most migrated to the forest and mountainous regions of the present day rain forest belts, stretching from Gambia to Cameroon and further south to the guinea coastal areas.
Our forefathers led simple lives—we had those who were farmers, and dwelled in the mainland, and the fishermen, who lived on the coastal areas. Their daily routines were very similar, it comprised waking up early at the crack of dawn, or at the crow of the cock, and would trek about four to fives miles to their farms. They would work all day until sunset, tilling the land and tending to their crops. The women and children would prepare the land for sowing of the crops, while the men took care of the heavier chores-- hunting, clearing and burning the land to get it ready to be tilled. In the evening, before returning to their villages, the women would harvest a few crops--the women would carry the harvested crops and the children the fire-woods. The head of the households, the men would walk the rear, with their guns and machetes strung unto their backs or carrying their pride of the day, a catch from their traps. The fishermen on the other hand would go to the sea fishing on days that local taboos allowed fishing, also at the crack of dawn. They would haul their fishing nets into their canoes and would go fishing—staying on the ocean for about two to three days, depending on the season. Upon their return, the women and children would meet them at the beach. They would help haul in the catch and would also help with the distribution to other women, who would prepare them for the lean season. Most of the catch would be smoked or dried for preservation.
Life in the farming communities was so mundane; upon their return from the farms, the women would immediately setout to the kitchen to prepare the evening meal. The children would play in the yard with anxious anticipation for the call that food was ready. The men however, after washing, would tend to their passion—the noble and the elders of the community would trot to the chief’s courtyard to adjudicate local disputes under the superintendence of the local chief. Others would adjourn under a popular tree, playing games carves out of tree trunks and drinking local alcoholic beverages. After dinner, the young ones would test their masculinity and feminine prowess, by playing drums and dancing under the moonlight.
Some days of the week were reserved for other chores—the fishing community along the coastal areas would take these days to mend their fishing nets and boats to get them ready for the sea; the craft-men and women would tend to their crafts—cloth weaving, pottery and others. In the mainland, the cloth weavers would spurn their yarns, the blacksmiths would build guns, machetes and other tools, the goldsmiths would be turning gold, which was in abundance into ornaments, and regalia for kings, queen-mothers and the women. Some of the women would be making pottery; the wood craft-men would be making African artifact, stools and others. The palm-wine tapers would be taping local wines “the palm-wine” and distilling local alcoholic beverages, the “Akpeteshie”.
So was life, so peaceful and serene. The tribes had their own forms of diplomacy. Diplomatic missions were sent out to other allied tribes inviting them to durbars and festivals. Occasionally, there would be outbreak of wars between the tribes as a result of one tribe breaking the code of diplomacy, because a smaller kingdom had refused to pay homage to a mightier kingdom—the men would go to war leaving the women to cater for the young and the incapacitated elderly folks.
Before the first Europeans set foot on the West Coast of Africa in the 13th century, there was active trading between our forefathers and our northern Arabs neighbors in guns, gunpowder, gold dust and salt. History has it that, there were lots of cultural exchanges—residents of one village would visit the other, paying homage to a superior chief or attending tribal festivals and funeral of the deceased. I remember as a child, my father on a good day, when he was in a very good mood, would assembly us in his living quarters and narrate to us the history of our ancestors. These stories have been passed down generations. One that comes to my mind vividly was about how the mighty Ashanti king; the “Ashantihene” would invite our paramount chief, “Togbe Kwadzo Dei”, the head-chief of the Peki traditional area, to all Ashanti festivals. Our paramount chief if he could not make the journey himself would have to be represented by a divisional chief of very important stature—such was the level of diplomacy. Even those captured at wars were assimilated into local cultures. Land would be provided for them to settle. The vanquished would adopt the cultures of the conqueror. For example, there is a village in the Ashanti kingdom called Peki, which is the name of my village. Our ancestors were captured at war, land was provided for them to settle, they were eventually assimilated into the Ashanti kingdom. Legend has it that, the close inter exchange of cultures between the Gas and the Ewes of the south, led to a local Ga-chief called Ayie in an instance of a local Ga dispute running off to live with their friendly Ewe neighbors, carrying with him the local stool of sovereignty and the regalia of state. When an emissary was sent to Ayie to return the items, the emissaries returned to say that “Ayie Gbe”, meaning in ewe, Ayie has refused. This has led to the present day nickname of “Ayigbe” for all Ewes in the present day Ghana.
Such was life, so mundane, so peaceful, until one day in the 13th century, over the horizon, a mile out into the sea, appeared some ships—they were docked, because they appeared stationery. Then in smaller boats, the occupants, some dressed in steel plaited armors, most in ordinary clothes came ashore. Our forefathers’ predilection for, or purism to hospitality, eventually spelled their doom. They received the visitors with open arm—they escorted them to the chief’s palace, where after the usual customary African greetings, with water, food and the local wine, the chief linguist would on behalf of the chief ask the “Amanie”, meaning our home is peaceful, what is your mission? The visitors would respond usually in sign language indicating that they “came in peace”, that, they were on a sea voyage, passing through, and that they had run out of water and supplies, and that they would be obliged if these could be made available to them. Food and drinks would be made available to them, and gifts would be exchanged. Libation would be poured, asking the guidance of the almighty and the departed ancestors to lead them (the visitors) peacefully in their journey back home. They would depart, only to return a year or two later with the same story.
In their other quests, they would come with the missionaries, the Bible in their hands, preaching peace, and the words of God, according to the western civilization’s way of understanding the deity; thus leading the way to the slave trade and the colonialism of West Africa. As a start-of to the Whiteman’s trickeries, which paved the way to the slave trade, the visitors would persuade a few Africans to go away with them, and to return with these Africans speaking the Whiteman’s language; having the ability to read the Whiteman’s book, and dressed beautifully like the Whiteman. This ultimately became the envy of all, with most ignoring the inherent dangers imbedded in traveling to an unknown destination, and making every effort to go away with the Whiteman. Eventually, those who left voluntarily never came back - one can only guess what happened to them. Later, under the canopy of trade, they began trading in slaves. Some Africans were bought, and others were captured as prisoners of war between the Europeans and the local tribe-men, while others resulting from the intertribal wars among the locals, leading to the prisoners of war being forcefully taken away in masses, and in chains.
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to venture onto the Guinea coast of West Africa- they came in search of gold, which they found in abundance adorning the powerful Ashanti kings. They soon began the construction of several forts along what came to be known as the Gold Coast, a name given by the British as a result of the abundance of the mineral called “Gold”, which was found in unbelievable quantities. Their plundered gold was shipped back to Europe as ingots. The Portuguese initiated the slave trade, and to be joined later by other Europeans. Additionally, the Portuguese fortunes attracted other Europeans--the Dutch, British, and Danes. For the next 250 years, all four nations competed fiercely to control the trade, building forts or capturing those of rival.
From the time the Portuguese discovered gold in 1471 to independence in 1957, the monarch of several European kingdoms, notably Denmark, England, Holland, Prussia and Sweden, sent hordes of explorers and merchants to the country for its abundant wealth, both natural and human. They battled for supremacy and control over land, and built forts and castles which also served as trading posts. Vestiges of the extent of European colonial presence and concentration are evidenced by the fact that 29 of the 32 European colonial forts and castles, which dotted the coast of West Africa, are in Ghana.
In 1821, the British took over the forts to use as customs posts, after the demise of slavery by signing treaties with many local chiefs, especially those in the coastal areas. These arrangements handsomely profited many of the chiefs --the wealth and influence of the chiefs made the British increasingly uneasy. From 1826 to 1900, the British fought series of campaigns against the Ashantis, whose kingdom was located inland. Then in 1873, when the Ashantis (the only powerful local empire the British could not conquer) refused to give up Kumasi (the capital of the Ashanti empire) the British besieged the city and declared the Gold Coast a crown colony. Ashanti resistance continued until 1900, when the Ashantis attacked the British fort in Kumasi. The fierce battle that ensued almost destroyed Kumasi. In the end, the Ashantis having lost the battle to the British paved the way for the total British domination and colonialism of the Gold Coast.
In the late 1920s, under the leadership of a number of political power brokers, among whom were Dr. J.B Danquah, Dr. K A Busia, Obetsebi Lamptey, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, K.A Gbedemah, and a cadre of others who were dedicated to regaining African independence, freedom was finally achieved on March 6, 1957, the United Kingdom relinquished its control over the Colony of the Gold Coast. The colonial name the Gold Coast was changed to Ghana, a name adopted from the old Ghana Empire, the supposed place of origin of our ancestors. Ghana was still treated as part of the British Empire, a member of the British Commonwealth of nations. Then, on July 1, 1960, Ghana became a full Republic, severing its final colonial linkage with its colonial masters, the Great Britain.
From March 6, 1957 to 1992, Ghana went through many rough political and social changes. There was the need to catch up with the developed world and to stop the over dependence on the developed world for the supply of finished goods. Ghanaians under the leadership of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah wanted to eliminate the code name “Heavers of raw-goods” to “Producers of finished goods”. A whole new industrial city—Tema was built, sufficient with a modern port and manufacturing plants. A hydroelectric dam was built at Akosombo to feed the industries with the much-needed energy. Ghana dug deep into the earth in the search for the “black gold” –oil but to no avail. Ghanaians were trying hard to play catch-ups with the Industrial world. Obviously, those moves were too fast; the bold economic ventures led to the depletion of the much-cherished stockpile of foreign reserves left by the legacy colonial masters. These bold economic moves, even though in the right direction, nevertheless, led to problems-- there were shortages of goods and supplies in the economic system, there was total economic destabilization.
Part of the problem was, Ghanaians abandoned the cultural and economic development traits of their ancestors. They did not tow the ways of their forefathers; they did not build on what was bequeathed to them by the ancestors. Instead, they copied the European cultures and developments. As a result of the economic destabilization and shortages in the economic system, there were several military coups that toppled democratically elected governments between 1966 and 1992, all with savoir-faire to Ghanaians that such attempts were aimed at bringing about democracy, economic, demographic and political stabilization. One very important natural resources, which is in abundant supply, but which had however been ignored by governments beside the administration of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, is its “Water Resources”. The abundant water resources should be looked upon as “white gold”, and harnessed not only for its hydroelectric potentials, but in providing irrigation for the vast stretches of the Accra, the Northern and the other plains presently lying fallow. Ghanaians should also have the resources to harness, capture, and process the perennial heavy rainfall water, which have been causing annual flooding and structural devastations by building both ground level and underground storage reservoirs at strategic locations to be used in irrigating the land during the dry seasons. For some unknown reasons, this was never done. Hopefully, a future government would take this into advisement, and consideration for development.
In 1992, after 11 years of military rule, the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), handed over the administration of the country to an elected government with constitutional rule and a multi-party parliamentary system. This has developed and also revealed a broad support by political parties for continuing economic reforms, placing greater emphasis on commitment to private sector development. To this present day, Ghana is recapturing its leadership role in the African world, and its candor for providing economic emancipation for its people by engaging in prudent economic developments is in the right direction. If this trend continues, Ghana should in the very near future assume, and play its role by adapting the leadership benchmark of its forbearers as one of the leaders, and bearers of the flame of emancipation that will lead to the total political, economic, demographic salvation, emancipation, and the decolonization of the entire African and people of African descent.
Long Live the 50th Anniversary! Long Live Ghana!