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Founders' Day should be August 4

I'd intended to critique President Mills' 'State of the Nation Address' but was
not so sure which part of the bacon to slice so went for a spot of foreign mater
ial that was at the very top, which reads: Let me acknowledge our first President
, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, that illustrious Founder of our nation. His selfles
s leadership serves as a point of reference in our determination to build a bett
er Ghana. Incidentally, this year marks the 100th anniversary of Dr Nkrumah's bi
rth and a as country we should commemorate the event in an appropriate and befit
ting manner. Among others, we intend to honour Dr Nkrumah's memory with a nation
al holiday to be known as Founder's Day and we will be presenting legislation to
Parliament to this effect.
In so doing, Prof Mills has found a 'neat' way to reward his own Nkrumaism but s
hould this be done at the cost of a serious manipulation of history and disregar
d for Ghana's true story? Should we do so by ignoring the collective sacrifices
of the many who fought this fight before and then alongside Nkrumah?
In short my answer is no: Ghana should be focusing on Founders' Day rather than
a Founder's Day. Perhaps a minor change of syntax, but a major change to a day t
hat would mark the joint contribution of our many nationalists, especially durin
g the period when the fight for independence was most formalised, intense, colle
ctive and influential.
There is a date that can honour all, including the CPP founder. A date that stan
ds out in the history books as perhaps the real birth of the idea of an independ
ent Ghana: August 4 1947.
The people who gathered that day at Saltpond to inaugurate the United Gold Coast
Convention, the first true national nationalist party of the Gold Coast, includ
ed paramount chiefs, clergymen, lawyers, entrepreneurs, teachers, traders and men
and women from all walks of life in the Gold Coast , according to a witness.
In the words of the chronicler, L H Ofosu-Appiah, August 4, 1947 marked the begin
ning of a new era in the Gold Coast.
It is a date that had immense meaning for those who gathered that day to champio
n the rights of our people and our nation. It is the date of a major political e
vent, an event which shaped and determined the course of our collective history
rather than the personal birthday of one individual. In any case, Francis Kofi N
wiah Kwame Nkrumah did not even know his date of birth. To please form, Mr Nkrum
ah invented a birthday for himself: September 21, 1909.
On the other hand, 4 August 1947 was recognised by those present at the time as
a defining moment in our history, and so it deserves to be recognised and commem
orated by new generations of Ghanaians as the day their forebearers not just one
but many joined together to create a better, brighter, independent future for t
heir children and their children's children.
Indeed, the formation of a structured nationalist movement for independence is s
aid to have started when in February 1947, Dr Danquah paid a visit to George Alf
red Paa Grant in Sekondi, a rich ship merchant who served on the Legislative Counc
il under Governor Guggisberg. This led to a meeting with leading barristers F Aw
oonor-Wiliams, R S Blay and members of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society
Messrs W E G Sekyi, George Moore and R S Wood, and members of the Gold Coast Peo
ple's League, including its Chairman Akufo-Addo and Secretary J W de Graft Johns
on, who together joined hands with the chiefs to form a national movement.
What made this group national was that it was built to incorporate all the small
nationalist movements of the time, including Obetsebi-Lamptey's National League
of the Gold Coast and J B's Youth Conference. It was to be called the Gold Coas
t People's Party, but William Paa Wilie Ofori Atta and his uncle Dr Danquah had ot
her ideas, and went for the United Gold Coast Convention instead.
Saltpond was a significant choice for a location because it was the headquarters
of the Joint Provincial Council of chiefs and others. Paa Grant chaired the Aug
ust 4 occasion and Dr Danquah delivered the inaugural address, which is Ghana's
version of the Declaration of Independence. Although the Declaration of Independ
ence was made on July 4, 1776, it was not until 1787 that the American Constitut
ion came to being. Yet, July 4 holds the kind of significance to Americans which
August 4 should hold equally for Ghanaians.
J B began his Saltpond address, We have come from all the corners of this country
, come to Saltpond for a specific purpose: for a decision. We have come to take
a decision whether our country and people are any longer to tolerate a system of
government under which those who are in control of government are not under the
control of those who are governed We must have, here and now, if we are to be go
verned, a new kind of freedom, a Gold Coast freedom, a Gold Coast liberty. We le
ft our homes in Ghana and came down here to build for ourselves a new home. Ther
e is one thing we brought with us from ancient Ghana [870 years ago]. We brought
with us our ancient freedom. Today the safety of that freedom is threatened, ha
s been continuously threatened for a 100 years, since the Bond of 1844, and the
time has come for a decision.
The decision was dully taken on that date and that decision set in motion the tr
ain for independence until it came to a stop on March 6, 1957. Such a date, on w
hich so many men and groups committed to the idea of self-rule came together, sh
ould be better considered as Founders' Day rather than the fictional birthday of
a man who undoubtedly played a very significant role in the founding of Ghana b
ut who nevertheless cannot fairly be credited as the sole 'Founder' of Ghana.
Within the UGCC, you could connect every true nationalist of the period, from Nk
rumah to others such as Dr de Graft Johnson, Koi Larbi, E A Armah, R P Baafour,
R D Nelson, Laud Lartey, Quist-Therson, E O Lartsen, K Brakatu Ateko, Amabibie,
E Quarcoo Tagoe, Enoch Mensah, Asuana Quartey, Molade Akiwumi, W M Q Halm, Ohene
ba Sakyi Djan and V B Annan. Other nationalists who contributed at the time can
be added, including Nii Kwabena Bonner, and Osu Alata Mantse, who led the nation
wide boycott of foreign goods.
Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, Professor Samuel Kingsley Botw
e Asante, has argued that Dr Danquah and his colleague nationalists of the Gold
Coast employed Pan-Africanism and regionalism long before Kwame Nkrumah returned
to Ghana in December 1947.
Founders' Day should also acknowledge the ex-servicemen procession of 28th Febru
ary 1948 and the martyrdom of Sergeant Adjetey and Corporal Attipoe and Private
Odartei Lamptey.
The direct link of the leaders of the UGCC to the events of 28 February cannot b
e overlooked by Prof Mills.
It was in the House of Akufo-Addo, Betty House, at a meeting of the working comm
ittee of the UGCC, including Nkrumah and Ako Adjei, that Dr Danquah sent a cable
gram to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in the UK, calling for the recal
l of the Governor, the establishment of an interim government which the UGCC wou
ld run and a Constituent Assembly for new constitution for self-government, amon
g other demands.
J B fired another telegram to the chiefs and people, Ghana's version of the Gett
ysburg Address, declaring that The Hour of Liberation Has Struck , with the inspira
tional words, Inheritors of Ghana's ancient kingdom. My message as you see, is no
t moved by fear. Aggrey blotted fear from our dictionary. 'Eagle fly for thou ar
t not a chick!
This led to the arrest of the men to be later named the Big Six: Danquah, Nkruma
h, Ofori-Atta, Obetsebi-Lamptey, Akufo-Addo and Ako Adjei. It was their arrest a
fter the riots that ignited the fire of nationalism among the peoples of the Gol
d Coast nationwide. But history has been most unfair to R S Blay and James Quist
-Therson who were detained on 13 March 1948, two days later, and so missed by a
tiny margin their rightful inclusion in the group marked by history as the leade
rs of our liberation struggle.
The Watson Commission was then set up to enquire into and report on the recent di
sturbances in the Gold Coast and their underlying causes; and to make recommenda
tions on any matter arising from their enquiry. During its sittings, an unstoppab
le kind of nationalism gripped the nation. The Watson report led to the formatio
n of the Constitutional Committee under Mr Justice J Henley Coussey. Its mandate
was to To examine the proposals for constitutional and political reform in parag
raph 122 of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Disturbances on the Gol
d Coast, 1948, and due regard being paid to the views expressed on them by His M
ajesty's Government and to consider the extend to which they can be accepted and
the manner in which they can be implemented. The independence train was fast on
the move.
The Convention People's Party was launched in Accra on Sunday, 12th June, 1949 a
lmost two years after the UGCC. In the words of J B to Nkrumah, the very name 'Un
ited Gold Coast Convention' was devised by me and Willie, which you subsequently
filched for the name of your party, Convention People's Party. Thus, to adopt th
e day of the inauguration of the UGCC, August 4, as Founders' Day pays tribute t
o the CPP and its founder.
Mr Nkrumah himself admits in the first page of his book 'I Speak Freedom' that t
here was a considerable political awakening in the Gold Coast between 1919 and 19
47 before he returned to Ghana.
Yet, as a hint of his own issues with according due credit to others, Nkrumah tu
rned around to claim on page 53 of his other book 'Dark Days in Ghana', (1967) t
hat it was he who launched the nucleus of the UGCC in Saltpond but he shifts thi
s monumental event by more than four months to December 29, 1947 to fit with his
return to Ghana.
As Prof SKB Asante says: Osagyefo perhaps unconsciously, makes the date of confir
mation of his appointment as Secretary-General of the UGCC, which was December 2
9, 1947, appear to be the date on which the organization was actually launched.
In the words of Prof Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Dr Danquah emerged into national spotl
ight during the mid-1920s, there was no formidably organised, broad-based politi
cal apparatus clamouring for the imminent overthrow of the British colonial regi
me. There had largely been ethnic groupings such as existed in Fanteland, mainly
in the Cape Coast-Anomabu-Elmina district of the Gold Coast littoral, as well a
s several others in the central and northern halves of the country. It was Danqu
ah who was to lead the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) to pose a systematic
and formidable counter-force to British imperialism, from 1947 onwards.
This, of course, is not to disregard the work of men like Ephraim Casely-Hayford
or to dismiss the role of Nkrumah. But as we continue to consolidate our democr
acy and seek to empower our people, we should guard against elevating one indivi
dual above all others, and instead recognise that our independence was won by a
collective determination that brought together people across the Gold Coast.
So if we are to create a 'Founders' Day' to mark the work of those who brought t
his about, it should commemorate a date which marks the efforts of all our found
ing nationalists rather than the birthday of just one it should be a Founders' D
ay, not a Founder's Day.
Credit: . The author, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, is the Executive Director of th
e Danquah Institute. Asare Gabby Otchere-Darko

Source: Asare Gabby Otchere-Darko