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Searching our soul- The NPP- Founding Fathers and Modern Leaders

Sun, 1 Mar 2009 Source: Hayford, Kwesi Atta-Krufi

Our Party’s history is replete with examples of men and women who have risen above personal interests and ambitions to ensure the unity of the entire organization. The fate of the likes of Obetsebi-Lamptey, Dombo, Danquah, Busia and others can be likened to these biblical figures many of whom perished in the cause of advancing the cause of our political tradition. One historical figure of the Party who always comes to mind as a classic example of subordinating individual ambition for the greater good is the late Chief Dombo. When it became clear that the only way the formidable CPP could be dislodged from power was through a coalition of the smaller opposition parties, Chief Dombo, who then controlled 13 Parliamentary seats and was the Official Opposition Leader, surrendered his leadership of the Opposition to Dr. Busia and accepted to become the latter’s deputy in the newly-formed United Party. In fact, it is against this background of the history of selflessness on the part of this founding member of the Party that I suggest that we call the tradition the Danquah Busia-Dombo tradition [credit – Dr. Obeng Busia]

Dr. JB Danquah one of the founding fathers of what has become the present day NPP famously wrote that our party’s effort will be to liberate the energies of the people for the growth of a property owning democracy in this land, with right to life, freedom and justice, as principles to which Government and laws of the land should be dedicated in order specifically to enrich life, property and liberty of each and every citizen”

Our political adversaries have used this expression of our faith to vilify the NPP and perhaps rightly so their equation of “property owning democracy” to acquisition of wealth. This is as misinformed as taken out of context. Dr. Danquah grew up under the context of Kobina Sekyi led Aborigines Rights Protection Society which fought for Gold Coasters’ rights to own their own lands and properties. Every patriotic Gold Coaster worth their sought lived on the ideals of the ARPS. Indeed owning our own lands and having rights to protest them as well as their own freedoms and justice was the foremost consideration for all because political independence at the time was either far fetched or unthinkable. When the UGCC was formed in 1947, it became foremost in their fight for the kind of democracy in which the people would own their own property, and which guarantees freedoms and justice. Self government was an ideal but realistically within a reasonable possible time. It was within this social, economic and political context that Dr. Danquah wrote what has become the philosophy of the now NPP

As a man Dr Danquah never owned any property. He neither owned a land nor built a house but he continued as a lawyer to defend, sometimes for free, causes of freedom, human rights and compulsory government acquisition of individuals’ lands. He lived his life on the principle that the fire of freedom is unquenchable in men’s hearts. Even in fruitless challenge to Dr. Nkrumah’s popularity and power, JB fought till the end in Nsawam Prisons.

A similar philosophy drove Dr. Busia. His principles to promote Ghana included that of basic human rights, democracy, civic education, good service to humanity and good governance. In the publication “Busia-a Symbol of Democracy”, L. H. Ofosu-Appiah wrote of Busia’s leadership: “He has the singular distinction of having left office without a single political prisoner in any jail in Ghana. He was deeply religious, loved humanity and could not tolerate the poverty and misery which he found surrounding him. His attempts to solve these problems were cut short by the military coup, but even during his ill-health and exile he was very concerned over the plight of the ordinary Ghanaian. Soberly and unrhetorically it can be said of him that he was one of those rare geniuses who put more into the world than they take out of it. Ghana is all the emptier for his leaving it.” The author could have written the same about Dr. Danquah, S.D. Dombo and many of our founding fathers. These people abhorred corruption, abuse of power, stood for individual liberties, spent most of their lives in jail or exile chasing of the ideals our Party stood for. They fought for justifiable rights and power for their people but were constantly denied their rights and justifiable power. These people earned meagre incomes and spent all on the fight for the ideals they stood for and for which they were prepared to die. They certainly did not throw money about or display affluence. They were academic giants and yet believed that education is worthless if it is not for the common good of mankind. They were humble and were prepared to serve not to be served. They believed in and understood social justice. Prof Busia was determined to make his world a better place, not just for the fortunate, but for the poor and disenfranchised, for that reason he spent his entire adult life to public service of Ghanaians.

He lived by the very tenets of his words “let me say that if you are going out and have not the compelling urge inside you to make something better to improve some situation or condition then you really are not living and will not make such a mark in this world and you will not be missed when you leave it” (1968) Adversaries of the Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition often accuse the tradition of being elitist or book long people. Yes some of these founding fathers may have had good education but what purpose did they use their knowledge for other than service to the people of Ghana? Dr. Busia in a letter to SK Num in 1939 wrote “My great purpose is to study all I can and then when the time comes for me I will pour out my life in the service of God and country. Learning without God is empty and knowledge is useless unless it makes us better servants of humanity. Dr. Danquah went the length and died pursuing the dream of a truly free Ghana. Prof. Busia on his dying bed in Oxford never gave up hope for the poor and the afflicted in Ghana. Dombo grew up in the North and saw the poverty and destitution around him and aspired to make the world a better place than he came to meet it. In Africa in Search of Democracy Dr. Busia wrote “I discern the search for a free world in which the relations of men to one another will be brotherly and helpful rather than suspicious and savage” (1967).

Chief Dombo not only sacrificed political ambition for the evolution of the UP [as the majority partner in the merger of parties, he could have come to the table with pre-conditions to be the leader of the UP rather than deputy-leader] he also sacrificed family life, as well as personal freedom, and even threats of death, to defy President Nkrumah even with the passage of the PDA. He was jailed twice by Nkrumah for his 'activism', the second, in 'condemned cells'. But for the 1966 coup, Dombo, like his compatriot, Danquah, would have died in prison. Chief Dombo eschewed power for the sake of it, in favour of honour, justice, fairness and servitude. Otherwise, he could easily have done one of two things: run off into exile and be safe, or taken the bribe President Nkrumah offered, of a ministerial position, if he would 'cross carpet' on to the opposition side like a host of others did. Dombo believed in principles, and was willing to die defending them. Arguably, it can be surmised that Dombo's strident opposition to a power-drunk President Nkrumah's crusade to form a one-party State, helped preserve Ghana's current multi-party democracy!   Against a background of such, the NPP would indeed smack of elitism, if a distinguished par-excellence man like Dombo was not a founding father. He had no books and quotes and doctoral letters ascribed to him! When the UP 'Tradition' is talked about it should not be the misguided and misinterpreted '...property owing...' and elitism that should take sway, but the humanity, service above self, humility, self-sacrifice and honourable traits that mould and build societies, that matter. Dombo's kind of traits. Traits that connect with the broad masses of our people, and set good examples for aspiring leaders to emulate.

It is based on the ideals and traits of these men that the New Patriotic Party stands and for 8years the NPP service in the areas of social justice in education, health, employment, economic empowerment, public transportation, the NPP surely has put Ghana on a good political pedestal. Never mind the loss of power in December 2008, Ghana's priority of human resource development, private sector competitiveness, and good governance under NPP will take a lot from NDC to match. Surely however the NPP government had its weaknesses may have its bad nuts and like one bad apple that contaminates a basket full of good ones, many of the members of NPP have become unjustifiably attacked as greedy. In government some of our leaders and members were accused of being arrogant. Out of government the NPP are still a source of disgraceful press bashing. Take the recent ex-gratia award. Dr Danquah for all his service to Gold Coast and Ghana never received any gratuity. Chief Dombo never heard of an expression like word like end-of-service let alone benefit. Busia for finally becoming a prime minister was chased out of Ghana. The examples of these selfless leaders should have been able to drive our 2004-2008 MPs and Former President Kufuor to say to Ghanaians that the service to Ghana was a privilege and not a contract so we do not want any ex-gratia awards. Sometimes in politics when you cling on to constitutional reasoning to justify certain actions you can incur the wrath of the people. How many Ghanaians have read about the Constitution or even care about it? After all democracy as a form of government should be based on ethics and the ethics of the ordinary voter which may not always be the logical one but rather a powerful one. .Dr Busia said “real democracy can flourish only in an atmosphere of kindness and affection, benevolence and sympathy.

Perhaps the loss of the recent election will give the NPP time to reflect soberly and put their house and institutions right as Dr. Busia wrote in 1967 “a basic tenet of democracy is that all men including party bosses and rulers are fallible and consequently that there should be effective institution for the expression of criticism and for constitutional change of rulers”.

Long live the Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition; Long live the NPP; Long live Ghana

Kwesi Atta-Krufi Hayford

hattakrufi@yahoo.co.uk

Columnist: Hayford, Kwesi Atta-Krufi