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RE: Doyen of Ghana Politics - J. B. Danquah, A Tribute Part 2

Mon, 23 Feb 2015 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

J.B. Danquah: His Ethnocentrism And Hatred For Party Politics

We shall begin by pointing out that Prof. Kwesi Atta Sakyi’s conciliatory suggestion that readers let sleeping dogs lie is unfortunate. History, as we know defines a people’s collective awareness of their total existence across time and space, in which case that collective consciousness looks upon the past for inspiration, models, and corrective purposes, as well as to the future from the standpoint of that corrective past through the anchorage of the present. Thus history is a living “organism” and in addition to that, it does not die. Furthermore, history, like a tree, is not exclusively defined by its rootage alone but also by its crowns, leaves, branches, trunk, and the like. The fact of the matter is that the moral, political, and spiritual maturity of nationhood lies in how best a society and its people strategically and tactically appropriate the best aspects of history as models for national development and growth.

In this regard, we point out that Ghana’s political history clearly shows J.B. Danquah was never a leader or founder of any known major political party and political movement with mass following in his entire life (We also do not whether Danquah was the founder of Akim Abuakwa Youth Association (AAYA), with which he has often been identified as its leader). Rather he stuck to his political calculations and political ambition, namely, to become the natural ruler and heir to his colonial masters of Ghana at all cost. Four examples are his co-founder status with the United Gold Coast Conversion (UGCC), his associations with Busia’s Ghana Congress Party, Okyeame Akoto Baffour’s/Busia’s ethnocentric, secessionist and terrorist National Liberation Movement (NLM), and the Gold Coast Youth Conference (GGYC), which Casely-Hayford, Ofori Atta I, Frederick Nanka-Bruce and others initiated (Of course Danquah was a member of the Central National Executive Council of the NLM). Also, the goal of the GGYC was to harmonize the relationship between the traditional rulers [the chiefs] and the intelligentsia. It must be emphasized that the GGYC was neither a national movement nor a mass movement, as the issue of independence from British colonial rule was never a part of its agenda.

That aside, it was when Danquah had assumed the Secretary-Generalship of the GGYC that he led a delegation to see the Asantehene and the Asante Confederacy Council to support the 400-page document that Prof. Sakyi referred to in his Danquah tribute, as well as the goals of the GGYC. Quite apart from what we said about the GGYC in the preceding paragraph, Prof. Sakyi’s Danquah tribute failed to acknowledge that the GGYC was neither a national movement nor a mass movement. For one thing, the Ashante Province came under the administration of the British Colonial Government after its annexation in January 1, 1902, the same day the British declared a protectorate over the Northern Territories. All these came about without contributions from Danquah. Writer F.M. Bourret, however, describes the delegation dispatched to England as “a committee of Accra citizens” made up of Nana Sir Ofori Atta, Dr. Frederick Nanka-Bruce, K.A. Korsah in the leadership position and five “outstanding men” from the Colony and the Ashanti Province. Chiefs from the Gold Coast gave their total political and financial support to the delegation. In England, the delegation petitioned for the withdrawal of the Sedition and Water Bills in addition to calling for “general constitutional reforms” (see “Ghana, the Road to Independence, 1919-1957”).

It must also be stressed that the UGCC passed a vote of no confidence in Danquah after Nkrumah had parted ways with the UGCC, thus bringing Danquah’s vice-presidency to an abrupt end. Finally, Ghana’s political history marks Danquah out as an elitist political character with a political ambition who identified himself with incendiary ethnocentric, secessionist and violent personalities and organizations as points of reference to realize his dream of becoming the natural and ordained-ruler of Ghana by any means necessary, including, but not limited to, coup plots, terrorism, assassination and/or to overthrow Nkrumah’s government in collaboration with foreign agents (the CIA), and sabotaging individuals and organizations to make way for his political ambition.

At least we know of one particular case in 1934, when the Provincial Council of Chiefs dispatched Danquah to lead a delegation to London as the Secretary “to petition the Colonial Office against the introduction of the obnoxious Sedition Bill and the Water Bill” according to Prof. Sakyi. While in London, he [Danquah] used the occasion to undermine the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society (ARPS), since he did not want to see any encumbrance stand in his way, just as he saw Nkrumah as a potential threat to the realization of his political ambition. Yet it is Danquah’s ethnocentrism, anti-party politics, and terrorism that define his political profile. In his entire life, Danquah maintained close associations and collaborations with ethnocentric and secessionist personalities and organizations, like Obetsebi-Lamptey’s and S.G. Antor’s Ewe Unification Movement in Trans-Volta Togoland (under the UN Trusteeship) and Busia’s National Liberation Movement (NLM).

S.G. Antor, a close ally of Danquah, and his gangsters declared war on the eve of Ghana’s independence. Subsequently, the Governor-General authorized the commander of the armed forces of Ghana to quash the armed rebellion hatched in Alavanyo, leading to Antor’s and others’ involved in their war declaration on the nation their instant arrest. On the other hand, the strategic collaboration between Antor and Danquah paid off when the latter garnered more votes in the Volta Region during the 1960 presidential election.

That brings us to the close collaborations between Danquah and the brains behind Ghana’s infamous bomb-throwing machinery, Obetsebi-Lamptey. It may be recalled that Obetsebi-Lamptey rented a room in Belawashie. From here, he recruited individuals of northern extraction, men he would later deploy as his bomb-throwing terrorists. It should, however, be emphasized that though Danquah’s name was not specifically mentioned during Obetsebi-Lamptey’s high treason trial, it was known that Danquah met with Obetsebi-Lamptey during his recruitment activities. Similarly, barely three months after the S.G. Antor-led hatched armed rebellion had been quashed by the Ghanaian army, another group secretly masterminded by Obetsebi-Lamptey called the Ga-Shifimo Kpee, swore oaths “against ‘strangers,’ including Nkrumah who was accused of encumbering a Ga Constituency seat.’”

Thereafter, “Tokyo Joes,” the youth wing of Ga-Shifimo Kpee (Obetsebi-Lamptey’s secret youth thugs), began “hooting and jeering at Nkrumah and the CPP leaders” (See Dr. Botwe-Asamoah’s book “Kwame Nkrumah’s Politico-Cultural Thought and Policies”). Thus “Strangely enough, J.B. Danquah, who had lost his bid in the elections in Akyem Abuakwa Central Constituency, and S.G. Antor, another loser, were present for the inauguration of what Awoonor characterizes as ‘revanchist organization’” (See also Dennis Austin’s “Politics in Ghana: 1946-1960”). The highlight of Danquah’s close collaborations with Obetsebi-Lamptey came when Danquah, an Akyem, joined forces with Obetsebi-Lamptey’s ethnocentric and terrorist group to push for Nkrumah’s deportation from Accra.

Significantly, we must re-emphasize that the collusions between J.B. Danquah and the ethnocentric and terrorist Obetsebi-Lamptey, the mastermind behind the notorious bomb-throwing campaigns in Ghana, played a major role in undermining Nkrumah’s government, national security, development, and public peace, with Obetsebi-Lamptey’s terrorist campaigns taking away many lives including those of school children and of innocent men and women. The fact that Danquah’s ethnocentrism mattered most to the direction of his political vision and political associations and collaborations cannot be denied for political expedience. In other words, in the midst of the ideological labyrinth of his [Danquah’s] self-serving political calculations lurked streams of dangerous sentiments of politico-economic ethnocentrism. This is where we come to useful examples of Danquah’s entrenched ethnocentric nature. An expression of this was his and his brother Ofori Atta’s infamous mistreatment of Kwahu traders against the backdrop of Akyem ethnic supremacy and of Akyem Abuakwa greatness through the institutional channels of Ofori Atta’s controversial alloidal politics.

Widespread agitations, rebellion, and general distaste for the despotic rulership of Ofori Atta, with Danquah as his Attorney General, accrued from the forced imposition of the Native Administration Ordinance (1927) regarding taxation and land rights affecting immigrant-subjects in Akyem Abuakwa. Consequently the Konor of Manya Krobo, the Amanhene of Akuapem, Kwahu, and New Juaben, together with the Tafohene, challenged Ofori Atta’s alien laws. In one case Ofori Atta cracked down on Tafohene, the original Omanhene of Akyem (see Simensen’s work on Akim Abuakwa, Vol. 1 and 11). The Colonial Government via District Commissioner W.J.A. Jones helped Ofori Atta and Danquah exert judicial and political authority over the Akyem state, during which period protestors were beaten and arrested, a timely intervention that saved Ofori Atta from his being forced to abdicate his throne by the commoners of Tafo, Asafo, Asamankese, and other localities per the institutional agency of the Amantoo-mmiensa (king/queen makers of Akyem Omanhene).

The despotic “iron hands” of Ofori Atta along with J.B. Danquah particularly dealt a serious blow to Kwahu traders. Ofori Atta even commanded his sun-kings “to evict from Akyem Abuakwa all Kwahu traders who did not own their houses in the country.” In no time Kwahu traders would be thrown out of their businesses. Still, Ofori Atta, with the backing of J. B. Danquah, would “turn down an appeal by a forty-member delegation of the Kwahu Traders.” Even so, Ofori Atta sanctioned those Akyem landlords who sympathized with the evicted Kwahu traders, saying: “we should not be blamed for selfishness if we try to see in the first instance to the substantial erection of our National Edifice.” This statement is ethnocentric at best and detrimental to the internal harmony of the state of Akyem Abuakwa and to national cohesion in the Colony.

In a sense the substance of Ofori Atta’s statement is not much different from Danquah when he [Danquah] said that “I am determined to have the Abuakwa name rehabilitated and to make Abuakwa lead the nation.” Surprisingly, Danquah went on to offer a supportive jeremiad in view of his brother’s misplaced ethnocentric chauvinism, thus writing: “Mother Akim Abuakwa is being dismembered slice by slice like bread on a basket table...and future generations might have to rent from strangers their own ancestral land” (see Danquah’s 1927 letter “An Epistle To the Educated Youngman”). Danquah’s characterization of Kwahus and other immigrant-subjects as “strangers” recalls Obetsebi-Lamptey’s characterization of Nkrumah and the core of the CPP as “strangers.”

Of course, Danquah in a 1952 letter to one Seth Appiah, of the Akim Abuakwa Youth Association, gloated over Akyem Abuakwa as: “the largest state in the Colony and so must also be the greatest in the land,” “feared and respected,” and “loved by all.” In this letter Danquah stated: “I [Danquah] am determined to have the Abuakwa name rehabilitated and to make Abuakwa lead the nation” (see Kwame A. Ninsin’s “The Nkrumah Government and the Opposition on the Nation State: Unity vs. Fragmentation” in Kwame Arhin’s edited volume “The Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah”). Did the various states and ethnicities in the Northern Territories, Trans-Volta Togoland, and Ashanti Province ever figure in the out-of-the-ordinary political matrix of Danquah’s ethnocentric chauvinism? “Danquah did,” Prof. Ninsin adds, “constantly return to the greatness, glory and power of the Akim Abuakwa state.” Did it matter to Danquah to consider the greatness, glory and power of the various states in the Northern Territories, Trans-Volta Togoland, and Ashanti Province? What could possibly have been the fate of Ghana, as far as her internal integrity went, if other leaders of the other territories had uncompromisingly appealed to similar sentimental arguments?

Arguably, these questions and Danquah’s ethnocentric chauvinism clearly reinforce why he could not have been a nationalist, else why would he choose ethnocracy, ethno-regionalism, and political ethnocentrism as models for Ghana? Here, there is a clear philosophical divergence between Nkrumah and Danquah as regards political consolidation of Trans-Volta Togoland, Ashanti Province, and Northern Territories into the geopolitical monolith later called Ghana. Nkrumah’s nationalism and Pan-Africanism provided the answers, for, prior to their political consolidation into Ghana’s national wholeness, Nkrumah and the leadership of the CPP had opened chapters of the party in these regions. Moreover, he [Nkrumah] had previously travelled extensively throughout the regions during his UGCC days telling the people there that they and those in the Gold Coast Colony were the same people and that they should not allow artificial colonial boundaries to separate one from the other. Regrettably, in a letter he wrote to the Secretary of Colonial Affairs on November 20, 1956, Busia, a close political ally of Danquah, demanded the secession of the Ashanti Province and the Northern Territories from the would-be nation-state of Ghana (see Owusu-Ansah’s/McFarland’s “Historical Dictionary of Ghana”).

Nkrumah, on the other hand, looked beyond parochialism to embrace the total humanity of the people in the four territories without regard to their race, ethnicity, religion and class. As Prof. Kwame Ninsin noted: “The vision of society held by the CPP government was one that would be united, free from tribalism and all feudal remnants, strong and prosperous.” He further noted that: “The latter was necessary for forging national unity and making the nation strong. These collective social purposes were a value far greater than individual or private advantage. The CPP government therefore committed its energies to their realization. Hence in a White Paper issued in 1959 the government registered its unqualified commitment to ‘the very existence of the state of Ghana by (not) allowing to go unchecked plots and conspiracies which might result in the destruction of the state itself.’”

The above notwithstanding, what could have been the primary motivation for J.B. Danquah, S.G. Antor, Obetsebi-Lamptey, and their terrorist colleagues resorting to terrorism to achieve their political goals? To this Prof. Ninsin noted that the aim of the Opposition, including Danquah, was not “to liberate the country but themselves as a group from imminent political extinction.”

Undoubtedly, Dr. J.B. Danquah was a product of Edmund Burke’s political ideology regarding rulership of the ordained and/or aristocrats. This foreign political ideology explained Danquah’s distaste for the masses, multiparty politics, and popular mandate to represent the masses in parliament. In his interview with the African-American writer Richard Wright, Danquah said: “I don’t like this thing of the masses. There are only individuals for me” (see Richard Wright’s “Black Power: A Record of Reactions in a Land of Pathos”). According to Prof. Richard Yidana, Danquah’s revulsion for the masses primarily stemmed from his fears of the leadership of the UGCC tarnishing its liberal image before the Colonial Office in Britain on account of political acts in which the masses took part, regardless of whether or not the masses had legitimate grievances. Prof. Yidana writes: “The letters [Danquah’s] are especially revealing of its viewpoint that the critical masses are tumultuous irrespective of whether or not their actions are legitimate.”

Prof. Yidana further adds: “He [Danquah] therefore sought to dissociate the moderately liberal leaning UGCC and its leadership from any political act that could potentially send the wrong message to the Colonial Office in Britain” (see “Socionationalism in Ghana: History, Insights, and Lessons for Ghana,” Journal of Third World Studies, Spring 2012, Vol. 29, Issue 1). Nkrumah correctly understood that politics was not so much about the individual as about the masses! He also correctly appreciated the power of group dynamics and its transformative potential for development economics, nation-building, and attainment of social justice. Why then was Danquah gripped by fear, real and perceived, on account of his ties to colonialism and imperialism dissolving? Then again keeping the masses at arm’s length, what did he [Danquah] expect the leadership of the UGCC do to in order to break the monopoly of colonialism and imperialism without the masses’ full support for it?

Alas, Danquah again failed to see the relationship between “the masses” and the moral power of the ballot box. Thus, factoring the masses out of his elitist political calculations constituted one of Danquah’s major tactical failures as a politician. What happened to Danquah’s so-called political experience and “courage” after all? No wonder his “courage” openly dissolved into tears when he [Danquah] and his colleagues, led by Nkrumah, went to jail for daring to stand up to the very things he was in love with, colonialism and imperialism, even going to great lengths to blame Ako-Adjei for recommending Nkrumah! Did the more courageous, visionary, and politically mature Nkrumah cry when he spent time in prison for daring to stand up to colonial tyranny? And given that he cried at the sight of prison walls, did it ever cross Danquah’s mind before his going to jail that politics was not for the fainthearted and those infatuated with or in love with imperialism and colonialism?

Thus, in one sense, Danquah may be right in decrying party politics before the 1956 general election. For example, Danquah and Ofori Atta 11 expressed their hatred for party politics during a visiting delegation of parliamentarians to Kyebi. According to them (Ofori Atta and Danquah), “Party politics is an alien political form which had created civil strife and violent dissension between father and son.” Thus, “if the British showed no understanding, Akyem Abuakwa would secede from the country as a sovereign and independent state with the only rival of the Ashanti country” (See the Introduction of Dr. Botwe-Asamoah’s “The Fallacies of J.B. Danquah Heroic Legacy”).

Danquah’s anti-democratic tendencies resulted from his unpreparedness to make the necessary sacrifices towards the attainment of independence (See “What was the Nationalism of the 1930s in Ghana?” in A.B. Holmes’ book “Akyem Abuakwa and the Politics of the Inter-War Period in Ghana”). Simply put, Danquah did not advance any agitations for independence for the Gold Coast. Against this background, Prof. Sakyi’s statement that “It was Danquah who vigorously canvassed the people of Asante and the then Northern Territories to join the Gold Coast Colony to become what we know today as modern Ghana” is misleading. Also considering Prof. Sakyi’s remarks, it becomes more complicated trying to reconcile Danquah’s purported intention to absorb the people of the Northern Territories into the would-be nation-state with his ethnocentric statement “now they are bringing ntafo to rule us,” following Nkrumah’s appointment of J.A. Braimah to his cabinet as the Minister of Works and Housing.

Lastly, there is also no mention by Prof. Sakyi anywhere in his tribute to Danquah, who told the African-American writer Richard Wright regarding his [Danquah’s] “distaste” for the masses as well as his outright dismissal of their “their aspirations as mere emotions.” Wright, in turn, said that Danquah would never be a politician since an aspiring politician could not do without popular sovereignty in multiparty democracy. Yet this was the same person, Danquah, that Prof. Sakyi had said “canvassed the people of Asante and then the Northern Territories” to join the Colony, a totally false supposition without verifiable historical justification. Once again, this is a clear demonstration of his intellectual dishonesty if not, in fact, a critical interrogation of the integrity of his academic standing. At least this was the view some of his readers expressed in regard to his Danquah tribute, with other readers also criticizing Prof. Sakyi for not basing his tribute on a more authoritative and respectable bibliography.

That notwithstanding, it was Kwame Nkrumah who travelled at great sacrifice to all the four territories, namely the Colony, the Ashante Province, the Northern Territories, and Trans-Volta Togoland, holding public rallies stressing the slogan “One Nation, One People, One Destiny.” Probably more significant than Prof. Sakyi’s commentary on Danquah’s alleged canvassing of the two territories was one of the six-point goals of the CPP, which was “to secure and maintain the complete unity of the people of the Colony, Ashanti Province, Northern Territories and Trans-Volta Togoland.” Nkrumah’s progressive nationalism and Pan-Africanism did the trick! It was also Nkrumah who wrote: “In the highest reaches of national life, there should be no reference to Fantes, Asantes, Ewes, Gas, Dagombas, ‘Srangers,’ and so forth...We should call ourselves Ghanaians, the brothers and sisters, members of the same community, the state of Ghana.” Where does Danquah’s and Obetsebi-Lamptey’s “strangers” fit into this geopolitical framework?

In fine, Prof. Sakyi failed to also point out that Danquah and his associates engaged in the most vicious ethnocentric, secessionist, and terrorist campaigns against Nkrumah’s CPP government, children, and innocent men and women before and after the independence of Ghana which resulted and, rightly so, in the enactment of the Preventive Detention Act (PDA), an Act of Parliament.

We shall return...

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis