President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo says the time has come for Ghanaians to stop giving excuses for the country’s economic misfortunes and use the occasion of the 60th Independence Day to reflect, mobilise, and work towards creating a dignified life for future generations.
“Sadly, the economic dividend that was meant to accompany our freedom has still not materialised. 60 years after those heady days, too many of our people continue to wallow in unacceptable poverty,” he stated.
“After sixty years, we have run out of excuses and it is time to set Ghana to rights and get our country to where it should be. The challenge before us is to build our economy and generate a prosperous, progressive and dignified life for the mass of our people,” he said.
Speaking at the 60th Independence Day parade at the Independence Square in Accra yesterday, President Akufo-Addo said the desired transformation would only be possible with hard work, enterprise, creativity and a consistent fight against corruption in public life.
He stressed the need for Ghanaians to take pride in their ethnic and cultural diversity and work together as a united people with a common destiny, saying, “We have a bright future and we must mobilise all our resources and all our strengths, here and in the Ghanaian Diaspora, to get to that promised land faster.”
The President touched on the deplorable state of the environment and entreated the public to dedicate the Diamond Jubilee anniversary to protecting the environment.
“There is nothing we can do better to pay homage to those who fought to free us from bondage than to dedicate this 60th independence anniversary to protecting our environment and regenerating the lands and water bodies,” he said.
The current generation, he said, were endangering the survival of the beautiful land that their forebears bequeathed to them, adding, “The dense forests, that were home to varied trees, plants and fauna, have largely disappeared.”
He said the description of Ghana as a tropical forest no longer fit into reality because the country was now importing timber for use, while bemoaning the rivers and lakes which were being polluted severely.
“It bears repeating that we do not own the land, but hold it in trust for generations yet unborn. We have a right to exploit the bounties of the earth and extract the minerals and even redirect the path of the rivers, but we do not have the right to denude the land of the plants and fauna nor poison the rivers and lakes.”
“I have confidence that we can and will achieve the dreams of our forebears. I am hopeful that we will continue to make ourselves worthy inheritors of this land. I know that we will wear the accolade of being a Ghanaian with pride,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo called on Ghanaians to mobilise for the happy and prosperous future where all Ghanaians, including the vulnerable in the society, would have equal opportunities to realise their potential, and build lives of dignity.
According to the President, the current generation would give true meaning to the independence of their forefathers if they mobilise and work towards a prosperous future.
“Two months ago at my inauguration on these grounds, I urged that we renew the sacred compact that comes with being able to call yourself a citizen. I am proud that I am able to say without equivocation, I am a Ghanaian citizen,” he said.
He commended the founding fathers of the nation for the struggle and hard work to secure the country’s independence, adding, “Our founders chose this day, March 6, as the date of our independence, in order to repudiate the Bond of March 6, 1844, which led to our land becoming a British colony”.
He said 53 years after signing the Bond of 1844, a group of our forebears was moved to start a campaign against the terms of the colonial relationship between what was then the Gold Coast and the United Kingdom.
“If the signing of the Bond of 1844 marks the formal start of the Gold Coast colony, then the formation of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society on 4th August, 1897, in Cape Coast, marks the start of the struggle for political independence”.
“It is worth mentioning some of the names of the members of the society because, unfortunately, we have not often acknowledged their role – John Mensah Sarbah, Joseph Casely Hayford, J.W. Sey, J.P Brown, and their colleagues, who mobilised the chiefs and people against the Crown Lands Bill and forced the colonial authorities to retreat,” he said.
President described the struggle by Mensah Sarbah and his compatriots as the most dramatic interventions in the colonial history of the country and added that 120 years after the event, its significance appeared missing.
“In what was then the Gold Coast, our lands remained ours because of the bravery of the members of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society, and we must pay homage to these patriots every day, especially on this 60th anniversary. Even though we established and secured, in 1897, the continuing and inalienable rights to our lands, we remained a colony and could not govern ourselves,” he said.
The President said the next significant event in the struggle occurred on August 4, 1947, exactly 50 years later to the day of the formation of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society, when a group of nationalists gathered in Saltpond for the launch of the United Gold Coast Convention, the UGCC, the first political party in the country.
“The UGCC leaders decided they needed a full time person to run the party’s affairs; they sent for the dynamic Kwame Nkrumah, and he came to join them in December 1947.”
“In 1949, on 12th June, Kwame Nkrumah broke away from the UGCC and formed his own party, the Convention People’s Party. Even as he broke away, Kwame Nkrumah remembered from whence he came and retained the word “convention” in the name of his new party, the CPP.”
“Eventually independence came and Ghana, under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah, became the first sub-Saharan country to gain its freedom on March 6 1957,” he said
President Akufo-Addo paid homage to Dr. J.B Danquah, who proposed the change of the name from Gold Coast to Ghana, Ephraim Amu, the composer of the country’s unofficial National Anthem, Yen Ara Asase Ne, Philip Gbeho, the composer of the National Anthem, and to Theodosia Okoh, the designer of our national flag.
“I pay homage to Kofi Antubam, the artist who first put Ghanaian art on the map. I pay homage to Saka Acquaye, the poet, writer, sculptor and musician, who wrote the first African folklore, The Lost Fisherman. I pay tribute to J.A. Braimah, the Gonja scholar and statesman who wrote insightful publications about the Gonja people.”
“I pay homage to Apaloo, the poet who immortalised the philosophy and music of the Ewe language. I pay homage to E.T. Mensah, King Bruce, Jerry Hansen and the others who popularised highlife, which has become an enduring identity of Ghanaian music. I pay tribute to the great musicologist, J.H. Nketia, who is the great authority on African music.”
“I pay homage to Otumfuo Prempeh I, who waged a heroic, even if unsuccessful, battle against the British and retained his dignity even in exile. I pay homage to Yaa Asantewa, that woman of valour, who led the Ashanti resistance to British imperialism. I pay homage to Nana Ofori-Atta I, who saw the wisdom in investing in the education of the young,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo went further to commend statesmen like Professor Alexander Adum Kwapong, the first Ghanaian Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, who became an icon in the development of our educational system, Oko Ampofo, sculptor and physician, who encouraged confidence in our traditional arts and medicine Dede Ashikisham and Akua Shorshorshor, famous market queens, who financed Kwame Nkrumah and the nationalist movement from their successful businesses.
He urged citizens to take inspiration from the people whose hard work and struggle had brought the country this far and wished Ghanaians a happy independence day.
By Yaw Kyei and Charles Amankwa