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The Fate of Osu Castle is not Mahama's Call

Tue, 5 Mar 2013 Source: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

In the wake of the Feb. 7 decamping of President John Dramani Mahama from the old slave castle at Osu to the Flagstaff House, a mild debate ensued regarding the use to which the infamous Christiansborg Castle ought to be put. As usual, the sprightly Mr. K. B. Asante, the retired diplomat and journalist, was foremost among the ranks of those with other plans for the use of the old Danish castle, besides President Mahama's suggestion that the Osu Castle be converted into a museum and a fetching landmark of tourist attraction (See "Don't Turn Osu Castle Into A Museum - K. B. Asante" Joyonline.com/Ghanaweb.com 2/16/13).

Not surprisingly, I am perfectly in agreement with Mr. Mahama that the Castle be converted into a museum for the education of today's Ghanaian youths, and also for the benefit of scholars and other interested Ghanaian citizens and foreigners who care to know about the largely bloody and shameful activities to which the Castle has been put by its occupants, in both the colonial and the postcolonial eras. My only reservation is that the final say over the purpose to which the former seat of governance ought to be put rests squarely with Parliament.

Mr. Asante's quite well-meaning suggestion that the Castle continue to serve as some sort of an executive residential adjunct, for the hosting of presidential banquets and the entertainment of foreign dignitaries, seriously undermines the immitigable significance of this landmark as a painful reminder of the inglorious recent African past. Nonetheless, such suggestion is quite meaningful in terms of the generally unsavory official Ghanaian attitude towards the maintenance of public property.

But, ironically, it is also precisely because of this chronically unenlightened attitude that the Castle ought to be turned into a museum, if only because of the sober recognition of the imperative need for Ghanaians to start thinking seriously, progressively and nobly as a people with a keen sense of the need to preserving our collective national memory and political heritage.

Needless to say, too many Ghanaians, past and present, have suffered indescribable atrocities at the hands of the powerful and the irredeemably wicked for the veritable torture chamber that is the Osu Castle to be farcically reduced to an entertainment resort and wanton wassailing for the grossly out-of-touch, filthy rich and the powerful. In essence, about the last thing that any levelheaded Ghanaian ought to think about at the mention of the Osu Castle, is "Party Time in Hollywood" or even Gollywood. For that would be unpardonably tantamount to a desecration of the memory of those foremost among the ranks of our forefathers, and foremothers, who fiercely battled the Dantesque inferno that was European colonial imperialism on the African continent.

Of course, I have my own theory regarding the rather sheepish decision of President Mahama to finally move into the Kufuor-reconstructed Flagstaff House, not the least bit of which has something to do with the apocalyptic circumstances under which President John Evans Atta-Mills met his death. And I would be extremely surprised if the ghost of my good, old Uncle Tarkwa-Atta, and all the other military strongmen who had met their Maker, as it were, in the veritable haunted house that is Osu's Christiansborg Castle, had not suavely and strategically factored into the official decision to break ranks and ties with the country's painful past.

Contrary to what the Joyonline.com news reporter who composed the piece under discussion would have his/her readers believe, the business of governing the nation did not begin in 1957, but rather in 1896, the year that my maternal grandfather was born, when the old colonial capital was moved from Cape Coast to Accra, for reasons that yours truly has yet to fully explore.

At any rate, I would rather suggest the leasing of the Osu Castle to a private company to run as both a museum and an art gallery with restaurant facilities and maybe a research library for scholars, both renowned and local. Perhaps, it could even be operated under the direction of the History and Archeology Department of the University of Ghana, with heavy financial support from the government.

Anyway, this is my 10-pesewa contribution to the discourse on the fate of the Osu Castle.

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame