JB Danquah and the establishment of University of Ghana (UG)

University Of Ghana 2018 Aerial view of the University of Ghana

Thu, 10 May 2018 Source: Iddrisu Mubarik

Farther from JB Danquah, it is on record that some Ghanaians first mooted the idea of university education in Ghana and then agitated for it in the 1920s and 1940s. Ghana’s J. E Casely Hayford is credited with the pioneering vision for higher education in Ghana/Africa from the 1920s. Not JB Danquah.

The demand for a university education in the 1940s led to the British government establishment of the Elliot Commission in 1943. Remember that, the Elliot commission didn’t just come to being without reasons or need to respond to some colonial grievances and petitions. So who led the agitations and petitions which led to the establishment of the Elliot Commission that gave birth to University of Ghana? It was not JB Danquah.

Now, His Excellency, Nana Akufu Addo, want Ghanaians to be persuaded that, those who first advocated and demanded for the establishment of British African universities, which led to the establishment of the Elliot Commission to look into the idea of establishing universities in British West Africa, do not deserve to be described or credited with the history and foundation of one of the universities in Ghana, now called University of Ghana (UG).

But, just ONE particular individual out of the many Ghanaian people, clubs and associations who rather were opposed to a planned shift from the recommendation of the Majority of the Elliot Commission for separate universities for Ghana, Nigeria and Serra Leone, should rather be the ONE to be credited as the founder of that university which was eventually established in 1948. According to our President, the one to be credited as the founder of the University of Ghana (UG) is JB Danqua. Many in favour of JB Danquah as the founder of UG are persuaded by the claim that he “led” in the rejection of the recommendation for the establishment of a single university in Ibadan, Nigeria to be the only university to serve Ghana, Nigeria and Serra Leone altogether. This view is flawed.

The critical questions are: What are the facts that made JB Danquah outstanding among all the many prominent Ghanaian people, clubs, association who were opposed to the ‘rumour’ or fact of British government plan for the implementation of the Elliot Commission’s minority recommendation for a single university for all West African students? What arguments were made in opposition or rejection of the central or single university that you think were not already advanced by Mr. Justice Akorsah and colleagues on the Elliot majority side which recommended the establishment of separate universities for Ghana, Nigeria and Serra Leone? Particularly, what makes the Ghanaian, Mr. Justice Korsah who was one of the three African members of the Elliot Commission unfit to be described or credited as the founder or founding member of UG bug qualifies JB danquah for the honor?

Now, I am persuaded with the facts below that JB Danqua played NO distinguished or outstanding role that warrants he be credited as the founder of UG. First of all, it is informative to note that the very first university in Ghana established in 1948, now UG, didn’t start on the present UG campus called Legon. Its first campus was at the Achimota College, with Mr. David Mowbray Balme as the first principal. The first Hall (lecture hall, library and bed rooms, dining hall etc) for the present UG is the Legon Hall, built in 1951/2.

On the opening ceremony day of the university at Achimota on Monday 11th October, 1948, none of the speeches delivered and the major news bulleting or newspapers mentioned the name “JB Danquah” let alone commended him on any achievement with regard to the establishment of UG, then Gold Coast University College. Thus, how come the one who is claimed to have given birth to UG is not even mentioned by any of the speakers and not captured by any of the newspapers for delivery of the ‘baby’?

Those mentioned on the day of the opening ceremony with regard to the establishment of UG included Mr. Justice Korsah and Mr. G. E. Sinclair just to mention two notables. Before the opening ceremony, JB Danquah and the other members of the big six were already released from the prison detention as a result of the February 1948 riot. If JB Danquah had played some outstanding role, I think he would have even been invited to give a speech not even to be missed out in the names from the speeches delivered and from the stories of major newspapers in circulation then.

Well, front line politicians mostly get their names in history making when the true historiography cannot support them.

BY: Iddrisu Mubarik, Tamale



Archival Records/University of Ghana Archives: “Speech delivered by Justice L.E.V. Mcarthy At the Opening of the Gold Coast University College on Monday the 11th October, !948”

McWilliam, H. O. A., & Kwamena-Poh, M. A. (1975). The development of education in Ghana: An outline. Longman. etc

Columnist: Iddrisu Mubarik