WHO IS THE FOUNDER OF MODERN GHANA? THE DEBATE SO FAR

Ghanaians were expected to mark 4th August as Founders’ Day. But the day was like a chicken that has fallen into water, very pathetic. Nobody came out to celebrate. Nobody seemed to notice the day, let alone, observe or mark it. In fact, many were not even aware of its existence. Interestingly, those who declared the day a holiday did not make any public statement(s) on it. At least, I did not hear or see any. Why? It is because many Ghanaians looked at the holiday with suspicion and declared it to be unilateral and self-serving. It was not a consensus universally accepted holiday.

Let us start from the beginning. Ghana, as we call and know it today, is the translation of the vision of Nkrumah and the CPP into reality. This claim is conclusive and no amount of mischief and distortion could change this fact.

Let us look at the facts:

In 1844 the British signed an agreement with some Fante Chiefs which was later called the Bond of 1844. The actual name of the agreement should have been the Bond of Fomena-Adansi because the agreement was signed there. This Bond was given different interpretations and perceived differently. The Fante Chiefs thought they had signed an agreement for military protection and defense but the British perceived it as a judicial agreement to allow the British to take part in the administration of justice and enforcement of their laws. Somehow, the Bond came to be considered as British authority over what was called the Gold Coast Colony. The jurisdiction of the Bond did not extend to Ashanti and the areas later to be known as Northern Territories. Definitely, this Bond did not extend to the UN Trust Territory of Togoland (British Togoland) because there was no British Togoland by then. As a matter of fact, German Togoland was established in 1884/5 after the Berlin Conference of 1884, that is, forty clear years after the Bond of 1844 was signed. In 1874, even before German Togoland was established, the British had extended their jurisdiction over Keta areas.

Gradually, the jurisdiction of the Bond was extended to cover what became known as the Gold Coast Colony. For the sake of emphasis and for the purpose of dispelling any doubts, Ashanti, Northern Territories and the British Togoland were not part, and have never been part, of the Gold Coast Colony. It could, therefore, be realized that the Aborigines Right Protection Society (ARPS) founded by Mensah Sarbah and the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) were absolutely Gold Coast Colony movements. Those who want to distort history and claim that founders of modern Ghana, as we know and call it today, include the leaders and members of the ARPS and the UGCC are completely misinformed and out of order. They, in turn, are misleading all of us.

Leaders of ARPS and UGCC did not have the foresight, the capacity and the vision to look beyond the Gold Coast Colony. Look at the UGCC, for instance, its leaders were Ahantas, Fantis, Akims, Gas and Anlos. For the avoidance of doubt let us check the names of key leaders of the UGCC: Paa Grant conceived, funded and formed the UGCC. He brought on board Dr. J.B. Danquah, Ako Adjei (who discovered Nkrumah for the UGCC), Ofori Atta, Obitsebi Lamptey, Akufo Addo, etc. Nkrumah was an Nzima. They were all, without exception, Gold Coast Colony people. There was no Ashanti, Northern Territories and British Togoland people among them.

Dr. J. B. Danquah (some of the colonial officers called him “terrible Dr. Danquah”) became prominent because he was the legal and intellectual pillar of the UGCC and its unofficial spokesperson. Incidentally, as history and fate destined it, Paa Grant was not a member of the Big Six so his head or image does not appear on our currency. It is undisputed fact that Paa Grant was the moving spirit, founder and principal funder of the UGCC. Why should some people be so mean to deprive him of this credit and give it to Dr. Danquah? The point I want to establish here is that the UGCC and the ARPS were fighting only for the people of the Gold Coast Colony and not for the whole of the Gold Coast (Gold Coast Colony, Ashanti and Northern Territories starting from 1902).Why should they be considered founders of Ghana, as we know it today? They were not even the founders of the Gold Coast Colony. That honour belongs to some Fante Chiefs.

So who is the rightful founder of modern Ghana? Dr. Nkrumah and the CPP, of course, not to mention Britain for obvious reasons! It is as simple as that.

One of the reasons why Nkrumah broke away from the UGCC was that he considered the UGCC an elitist, conservative and shortsighted movement. To him members of the UGCC could not think far. UGCC was made up of big, rich and influential people who were preparing and positioning themselves to inherit or take over the British authority. It is very clear that the UGCC was not a national movement and did not have a place or sympathy for the common man, in fact, it looked down on him. The leaders of the UGCC referred to Nkrumah and his followers as “Veranda boys” and their activities did not go beyond the Gold Coast Colony. This can easily be verified.

Even though Ashanti and the Northern Territories had become part of the Gold Coast by 1902, through conquest and treaties respectively, the UGCC did not extend its activities to these areas. People in these areas were regarded by UGCC elite as “bush people and herdsmen.”  It was only concerned with the Gold Coast Colony. The UGCC was, to all intends and purposes, a Gold Coast Colony movement. Dr, Nkrumah’s Convention Peoples Party(CPP) was the first and only party that operated and extended its activities to cover what we now call Ghana. The National Liberation Movement (NLM) and the Northern Peoples Party(NPP) were sectional, regional or tribal parties whose activities did not go beyond their narrow confines. So how can one say that the leaders of these sectional parties and movements, ARS, UGCC, NLM, NPP, were the founders of modern united Ghana? They might have contributed something but their contribution was insignificant, in fact, sometimes obstructive.

Even after the final pre-independence elections of July 1956, meant to decide the political fate of the Gold Coast, the UGCC, the NLM and the NPP were still not willing to be part of independent Gold Coast. At first, the alliance of NLM and UGCC sent a powerful delegation to Britain to denounce Nkrumah’s leadership and to reject independence with the Gold Coast. They were followed suit by an equally powerful delegation of the NPP to reject independence with the Gold Coast because according to them they were not ready for independence. But the British rejected their petitions.  They were not demoralized by their failure to derail the independence of the Gold Coast but were rather bent of spoiling the independence agenda by requesting for a federal system of government which Nkrumah and the CPP vehemently opposed. The British compromised their stand and gave in to their federal request but not completely. The compromise was the 1957 Constitution of Ghana that provided for a pseudo-federal system of government. Ghana became a unitary state/government only in 1960 when it became a republic under President Nkrumah. So let us repeat the question: when did the leaders of ARPS, UGCC, NLM, Togoland Congress and NPP become founders of modern Ghana?

The case of British Togoland was a different issue altogether; very interesting, fluid and intriguing. It bore the mark of British betrayal, manipulation, machinations, treachery, duplicity and “Might is Right.” Britain conceived of the Volta River Project (VRP) and sold the idea to Dr. Nkrumah who bought into it and later fanatically owned it. The snag was that the Volta River was also, for the most parts, the international boundary between the Gold Coast and the UN Trust Territory of Togoland (British Togoland). Everybody knew that British Togoland was not part of the Gold Coast; that it was a UN Trust Territory. So to allow the British Togoland to attain independence separately from the Gold Coast would have seriously hampered and created insurmountable international obstacles for the execution of the Volta River Project. The British came out with a sinister solution which was to annex or re-colonize British Togoland to the Gold Coast. The British and the CPP government conspired to effect the annexation. It is quite clear that the annexation was occasioned by the desire or intent to execute the VRP without any hindrance or international haggling or negotiations. The forcible integration of British Togoland with independent Gold Coast (Ghana) was planned and executed by Nkrumah and the British. In fact, the leaders of the NLM, UGCC and NPP were strongly opposed to the integration of Togoland with the Gold Coast. In a correspondence a colonial officer accused Dr. Danquah of trying to do the British “harm over Togoland… He (Danquah) contends that the people of the Gold Coast have not been consulted, and do not infact want to join with Togoland” (B.O.B. Gidden)

If we consider modern Ghana to consist of Ashanti, the Gold Coast Colony, Northern Territories and occupied British Togoland, would the UGCC, NLM, NPP and the Togoland Congress truly and honestly say or claim that they were instrumental in creating modern Ghana? If not why should their leaders be considered founders of that geo-political entity called Ghana?

Now, the verdict: In all honesty it could be said that the founders of the modern state of Ghana were the British (unintended or by default) and the CPP. The British were colonialists so let us leave them out. It is left with the CPP. Since the founder, leader and the pillar of the CPP was Dr. Nkrumah; since he was the “first among equal” and since he was the one around whom the independence movement revolved, we can safely and authoritatively say that Nkrumah was the founder of the modern day Ghana. It is, therefore, more than appropriate to celebrate the FOUNDER’S DAY and not Founders’ Day. Many instances could be cited in history to support this claim.

It is said that Mustafa Ataturk was the founder of modern Turkey; Ghandi of independent India; Mandela of liberated South Africa; Nyerere of Tanzania; Ben Bella of Algeria, etc. Did these people achieve these feats alone and single-handedly? Definitely not; indeed, others helped them but history has the tendency to identify someone as the symbol of the nation and around whom the history of a nation is woven and then project him above others. In the case of modern Ghana it is, without a doubt, Dr, Nkrumah! The NLM, UGCC and NPP were too busy trying to derail the independence of Ghana and they cannot claim, as they are doing now, to be founders of modern Ghana. Why are they now behaving as if they have always loved Ghana more than others? Ghanaians must be bold enough to recognize and show gratitude to the CPP and its leader, Dr. Nkrumah, for founding modern Ghana. Yes, Ghanaians must learn to give credit to whom credit is due. Look, I was not a Gold Coaster. I was born in the UN Trust Territory of Togoland or British Togoland, but I also acknowledge the fact that the FOUNDER of modern Ghana was/is Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of blessed memory.

By KOSI KEDEM (Former MP for Hohoe South)

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