Rise above partisanship - President Akufo-Addo
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has admonished Ghanaians to rise above partisan considerations and set the records straight by recognising the collective effort that gained us independence from colonial rule.
He said it was unfortunate that six decades after independence, the history of events, from the work of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society (ARPS) and the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) on August 4, 1897 and August 4, 1947, respectively, among other important events, continued to be embroiled in needless controversies due largely to partisan political .
The President, who made the call when he addressed the first Founders’ Day celebration and luncheon in honour of senior citizens of the country in Accra yesterday, urged Ghanaians to “reject the trivialisation of our past and do right by our history”.
He noted that the celebration was to acknowledge the role of successive Ghanaians towards the liberation of the country from colonialism and imperialism.
He pointed out that the government believed that the most appropriate way to honour the nation’s forebears was to commemorate August 4 on which the two most important events in our colonial history that led to freedom and independence occurred.
Some Ghanaian actors enacted the two events in a play that traced the work of the ARPS and the UGCC at the forecourt of the Accra International Conference Centre.
Among the gathering were the First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo; the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia; his spouse, Mrs Samira Bawumia, and former President Jerry John Rawlings and his spouse, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings.
Against a background depicting a house in Saltpond and at a point the colonial office in the United Kingdom, the actors and actresses mimicked the voices of the giants of the independence struggle, including Paa Grant, Edward Akufo-Addo, Kwame Nkrumah, J.B. Danquah and others.
President Akufo-Addo traced the history of the country to the 1884 Berlin Conference which divided Africa among some European countries, who later colonised African countries and siphoned their natural resources to build their nations.
He was elated that August 4 had found roots on Ghana’s calendar by an Act of Parliament.
He added that centuries preceding the Berlin Conference, over 20 million Africans had been taken as slaves to the New World in what was described as the most barbaric episode of human history.
Touching on the August 4, 1897 events, he explained that a group of Gold Coasters called the ARPS started a campaign against the terms of colonial relationship and the United Kingdom, saying that marked the first struggle for independence.
The society mobilised the chiefs and people of Cape Coast and even travelled to the UK to resist the application and implementation of the 1897 Crown Lands Bill which sought to expropriate all alleged public lands to the benefit of the Crown, leading to the cancellation of the bill.
President Akufo-Addo said it was the implementation of the same Crown Lands Bill in countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, among others, that led to the seizure of the lands of the indigenous people in those countries, while the choicest lands were settled upon by the same colonial masters.
He said those countries were still battling with land problems but Ghanaians possessed their lands freely because of the bravery and foresight of the members of the ARPS, for which reason its members needed to be celebrated.
He pointed out that Jacob Sey, who was the Founding President of the ARPS, and other members, including Casely Hayford, John Mensah Sarbah, Kwabena Sekyi, J. W. De-Graft Johnson and J.B. Prah, were the men who stood up to defend the heritage and established the platform for the future advance to freedom.
On the second significant event on August 4, 1947, the President said 50 years after the formation of the ARPS, a group of nationalists, led by Paa Grant, J.B.
Danquah, Francis Awornor Williams, R.S. Blay, George Moore, R.S. Woode, J. W. Degraft Johnson, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey, William Ofori-Atta, Edward Akufo-Addo, Ebenezer Ako Adjei, Kwabena Kesseh, V. B. Annan, some paramount chiefs and clergy, as well as lawyers, gathered at Saltpond to launch the UGCC.
President Akufo-Addo said the UGCC was the first political party to be formed in the Gold Coast and the first to make a formal demand for independence.
He said August 4, 1947 shaped and determined the collective history of the Gold Coast and set the stage for the organisation of Ghana’s independent struggle, which was followed by other events such as the Christianborg Castle shooting which led to countrywide riots that increased the demand for national independence.
He added that it was out of the struggle that the Big Six of the UGCC were arrested.
The Watson Commission was also established that designed the path for the attainment of independence, including the creation of the Coussey Constitution Committee which drew up the first self-governing constitution, he added.
The President said it was around that time that Nkrumah, who was a member of the Big Six, resigned from the UGCC and formed the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in 1949, which subsequently became the main vehicle for the prosecution of the nationalist struggle.
“He [Nkrumah] led with panache and verve and on March 6, 1957 led us to our Promised Land of independence on freedom and justice for which the Ghanaian people will always be grateful to him,” he said.
He said it was for the role that Nkrumah played in the independence struggle that his name was memorialised with the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day, the only Ghanaian to be honoured in that regard.
President Akufo-Addo said August 4 was the most appropriate day that signified the appreciation of the nation for the collective efforts of the forefathers towards the founding of Ghana.
Citing other examples elsewhere to back his argument, the President said the General of the American War of Independence from British colonial rule and first President of the USA, George Washington, was not held out as the founder of the American Republic.
Those who were called the founders of the USA, he noted, were those who signed the Declaration of Independence and promulgated the Constitution of the USA.
“It is this same respect for the collective work of our forebears in 1897 and 1947 that compels us to define August 4 as Founders’ Day and most sacred day in our nation’s history,” he posited.