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14.06.2021 Press Release

Unfortunate Desecration Of The Memory Of Northern Founders Of The United Party

Unfortunate Desecration Of The Memory Of Northern Founders Of The United Party
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Our attention has been drawn to two articles authored by Haruna Nuako and Dr. Mumuni Adam, which are both responses to speeches delivered by H.E. Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice President of the Republic of Ghana and Hon. John Boadu, General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party at the launch of a book titled, J. A. Braimah: Biography of a Trailblazer, authored by Alhassan Ahmed.

The speeches highlighted and celebrated the legacy and memory of the founding fathers of the United Party from Northern Ghana, especially J. A. Braimah.

The book launch was held at the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences on Thursday 20th May 2021 and chaired by Hon. Yaw Osafo-Maafo. It was attended by high ranking members of the New Patriotic Party, Government Officials, Members of Parliament, MMDCEs, Prof. Joshua Alabi who represented former President John Dramani Mahama and many other dignitaries.

Reading the articles authored by Haruna Nuako and Dr. Mumuni Adam, one could easily tell they were motivated by their interest in the person who leads the New Patriotic Party going into the 2024 elections. And to them that person should not be Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia.

Both writers, therefore, felt that the book launch gave some political mileage to H.E. Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia. Hence, the only way to respond to that was to sadly desecrate the memory and legacy of the Northerners, especially J. A. Braimah who fought, in a perilous political environment, with very limited means to help the formation of the Danquah-Dombo-Busia tradition, by distorting history to water down their contribution.

By this, they have not only shown gross disrespect to the New Patriotic Party, which categorically stated in its manifestoes from 1992 to 2000 that: “The New Patriotic Party is the home of all those who believe in the living philosophy of Joseph Boakye Danquah… J. A. Braimah, Yakubu Tali (Tolon Na)… and others, all of blessed memory”, but have also insulted the intelligence of all the New Patriotic Party members who graced and/or supported the event; prominent among whom included President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, Hon John Boadu, Hon Hackman Owusu Agyemang, Hon. Yaw Osafo-Maafo, Hon Dan Botwe and many others.

While Haruna Nuako described the Northerners as “detractors in the UP tradition” who “betrayed and defected from the UP to the CPP”, Dr Mumuni Adam blamed them for “among other negative effects the huge dwindling of the strength” of the United Party. Such misguided and unwarranted attacks can only come from people who are blinded by their parochial political interests and hopeless lack of historical knowledge of the United Party and the political environment of Ghana in the mid-twentieth century.

The picture is painted to depict a deliberate attempt by the Northerners to weaken the strength of the United Party by crossing to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention Peoples Party (CPP). This is not just unfortunate but very disingenuous to say the least. The writers by this, attempted to mislead the unsuspecting reader, albeit subtly to also state that the United Party maintained its strength in all parts of the country, except the North.

It must be made clear that the “dwindling of the strength” of the United Party was never peculiar to the North, and indeed did not start with the defection of the Northern Members of the party.

It is very important to stress that; no member of the United Party at that time could withstand the combination of machinations, threats and persecution of the CPP government. Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s intense dislike for opposition is known to all. Indeed, Nkrumah redoubled his efforts at suppressing opposition after the formation of the United Party. The North and Ashante, which were the strongholds of the United Party, became obvious targets. There were rampant arrests and imprisonments of United Party Executives, Members and Sympathizers. Chiefs who were known to be members or sympathizers of the United Party were threatened with deskinment, and others were actually deposed. The effect of such intimidation and persecution on the strength of the United Party was immediate and widespread.

The United Party members were left with very few options: join the CPP, go into exile or be thrown into jail under the dreaded Preventive Detention Act. As a matter of fact, only the United Party members who posed no political threat to the survival of the CPP government were not faced with these unfortunate choices.

As noted by Denis Austin, “the drift was towards the CPP under steady pressure in the form of threats by the newly appointed Regional and District Commissioners. Thus in April 1959, the UP lost a Parliamentary by-election in Kumasi itself. In June it lost Sekyere West (R.R. Amponsah’s constituency in Ashanti); in October Wenchi West, Busia having gone into exile at the end of June.”

However, the Northern Members of the United Party, whose situation was made worse by their close attach to chiefs, had no option of going into exile or being imprisoned. Dr Nkrumah and the CPP understood the political dynamics of the North. He was well aware of the intricate relationship between the United Party Members of Parliament and their chiefs. He knew the role chiefs in the North played in the success of the Northern politician; and what the withdrawal of this support meant for the political future of the politician and his party. Hence, apart from directly threatening and intimidating the Northern Members of the United Party, the CPP targeted the chiefs who supported them.

I will at this point explain the painful circumstances that led to the defection of some Northern Members of the United Party, including Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia and J. A. Braimah, whose names were directly mentioned by Dr. Mumuni Adam and Haruna Nuako.

I will start with Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia who defected to the CPP on the 17th June 1958.

The King of the Mamprugu Kingdom, Nayiri Abdulai Sheriga under whom Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia served as State Secretary, wielded enormous powers and resources. He was a staunch supporter and financier of the Northern Peoples Party and later the United Party. He used his powers and resources to further the cause of the United Party. For this he was enemy number one to Dr. Nkrumah and the CPP. As a result, the Nayiri became a target of deliberate negative government policies and laws.

Nayiri Abdulai Sheriga used to be the head of the Mamprusi District Council, which included both Bolgatanga and Bawku areas, which were inhabited by the Frafras and Kusasis respectively. The Nayiri was also the Paramount chief over the Frafras and Kusasis. However, these two tribes fought so hard to break loose from the Nayiri hegemony. The CPP, therefore, capitalized on the internal differences between the Nayiri on the one hand and the Frafras and Kusasis on the other. Through promises to offer help to the Frafras and Kusasis in their long fought battle for independence, the CPP won the support of both tribes.

Series of actions were carried out to weaken the Nayiri’s influence. The final move that sounded the death knell for Nayiri Abdulai Sheriga was the passage of the Local Government (Amendment) Act in the Northern Region on the 18th January, 1958. Aaron Ofori Atta, the Minister for Local Government on the 5th December, 1957, made it clear in Parliament that the Mamprusi District Council, is one of the main targets of the Act. The Act ultimately led to the split of the Mamprusi District Council into three local councils; Frafra, Kusasi, and South Mamprusi. That is not all; in April 1958 the CPP government went further to recognize the Frafra and Kusasi State Councils as the highest traditional bodies in their respective areas, breaking them from the control of the Nayiri. Through this, the Nayiri, lost a great deal of both his secular and traditional powers. To make matters worse, Paul Andre Ladouceur stated that: “CPP leaders now threatened that the Nayiri, along with other important chiefs who supported the opposition, might be destooled if they did not change their allegiance to the government party.” Indeed, in May 1958, the Nayiri got wind of Cabinet discussions to this effect.

By these radical steps, coupled with CPP’s reputation of deskinment of chiefs who are opposed to the party, Nayiri Abdulai Sheriga wrote a letter to the Northern Regional Commissioner, L. R. Abavanah declaring his support for the CPP. The Nayiri also instructed Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia, then MP for South Mamprusi East and Mahama Tampurie, MP for South Mamprusi West to also join the CPP. This they did in June 1958. Although, statements were made in the National Legislature, “behind these statements” according to Paul Andre Ladouceur “lay a radical change in the political configuration of Mamprusi.”

Next to defect to the CPP was T. K. Yentu, United Party MP for Frafra East. He was a brother to the Nangodinaba, who was also strongly opposed to the CPP. T. K. Yentu explained why he crossed to the CPP: “I changed my mind to the CPP because the party threatened to arrest my brother the chief. Some of my own brothers were arrested and beaten. In these circumstances, one has to follow the government. So I became a member of the CPP to protect my people.”

Following closely was F. R. A. Adongo, United Party MP for Frafra West. On the 23rd of June 1958, he rose on the floor of Parliament to declare that: “Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have resigned from the United Party and I wish to sit as an independent Member of Parliament for the Bolga constituency.” After a year as an independent MP, Adongo joined the CPP in July 1959. On behalf of the United Party, J. E. Appiah said: “We on this side of the House would wish him well.”

On the 24th June, 1958, C. K. Tedam, United Party MP for Kasena-Nankani North, who until his demise on the 25th April, 2019 was the Chairman of the Council of Elders of the New Patriotic Party, crossed to the CPP. Following the same trend as the others, C. K. Tedam’s brother the Pagapio (Chief of Paga) was under constant threat of deskinment. The district Commissioner and CPP executives wrote series of petitions against the Pagapio, labeling him as imperialist and an enemy of the state for supporting the United Party. C. K. Tedam and his supporters too were not spared; they too were hounded and threatened with arrest. He had no option but to cross to the CPP.

Tolon Naa Yakubu Tali followed with his defection to the CPP on the 19th December, 1958. He was the United Party MP for Dagomba South. There were four constituencies within the Dagomba area; the other three constituencies were all occupied by CPP: J. H. Allassani, Dagomba East, S. I. Iddrissu, Dagomba North, and R. S. Iddrisu, Gulkpegu-Nanton.

As at the time of the Tolon Naa’s defection to the CPP, Ya Naa Abdulai III (King and overlord of Dagbon) was the only high ranking chief in the entire Northern Ghana who still supported the United Party. To top it up, almost all Dagomba divisional chiefs were CPP. For this, there were a lot schemes by the political opponents of the Ya Na to get him out of his skin. His main challenger to the skin, Mion Lana Andani (father to the murdered Ya Na Yakubu Andani) was a strong CPP supporter. In fact, Ya Na Abdulai III did not only support the United Party but actively campaigned against the CPP and its candidates, especially J. H. Allassani who, but for the support of the Konkombas would have lost the Dagomba East seat.

Therefore, the Ya Na became a target of smear campaign and calculated but sustained attempts to deskin him. J. H. Allassani, who was appointed the Minister of Health after the 1956 elections, was in the tick of this campaign. In fact, drastic steps were taken towards the Ya Na’s deskinment. According to Martin Staniland: “A petition demanding the deskinment of the Ya Na was organised and signed by fifty-two local notables. The majority of the signatories were C.P.P. activists and local government councilors (including four members of Tamale Urban Council and ten members of the new Western Dagomba Local Council). Heading the list were three M.P.s (Allassani; R. S. Iddrissu; and Salifu Yakubu…) and four chiefs (those of Bamvim, Nyankpala, Lamashegu, and Kudani).” The CPP government responded by forming the S. D. Opoku-Afari Committee. Although the Report of the Committee was not made public, the Committee had concluded that the Ya Na be removed. Thankfully, the Ya Na got wind of the verdict.

Hence, to save his skin, Ya Na Abdulai III decided swiftly together with some trusted sub-chiefs to join the CPP. Consequently, the Secretary to the Dagomba State Council was instructed by the Ya Na to write to Tolon Naa Yakubu Tali, the only United Party MP in the Dagomba area, directing him to cross to the CPP. The letter, which was actually read out in Parliament by Victor Owusu on the 18th December, 1958 stated:

“I am directed by all the sub-divisional chiefs and the Ya Na Abdulai III, to inform you officially from the State Council Office that you should resign from the United Party and cross the carpet to the government side which is the Convention People’s Party. You are expected to do so within this session of the National Assembly. It is a fervent desire by all the chiefs to you to do this, for you are representing the Chiefs and people of the Dagomba State… They have all stressed that since they support the C.P.P. Government without you in the C.P.P. Party, it means they are nowhere, since you are a prominent figure in the Dagomba State.” As a result, Tolon Naa Yakubu Tali who had been informed of the verdict of the Afari Committee had no option than to cross to the CPP the next day.

Remarkably, after the defection of Ya Na Abdulai III and Tolon Naa Yakubu Tali, Dr. Nkrumah personally reversed the verdict of the S. D. Opoku-Afari Committee. Martin Staniland quoted J. H. Allassani, who described what transpired when the verdict of the committee was presented to the Cabinet: 'the Prime Minister [Nkrumah], without allowing anyone else to speak said… “I declare the verdict reversed. And I take responsibility for this upon myself."

The last United Party MP from the North to cross to the CPP was J. A. Braimah. He was the MP for East Gonja, Yeji and Prang constituency. According to Alhassan Ahmed: “At this point it would, perhaps, be pertinent to say that almost everybody who was anybody except odd-men out like Mr. Braimah in the Gonja Traditional Area was exclusively C.P.P., if not overtly but secretly.”

He continued: “J. A. Braimah proved to be a political juggernaut for the CPP. He gave the party no breathing space. In spite of the massive financial and logistical support it received from the central government, the CPP in the East Gonja, Yeji and Prang Constituency proved to be no match for him. J. A. Braimah defeated the party in two successive elections… All schemes possible were, therefore, hatched to make life a tough row for J. A. Braimah to hoe. And they found in the chieftaincy institution a fertile ground to execute their plot. Unfortunately for J. A. Braimah, the CPP found in Yagbonwura Awusi Ewuntoma, the King of Gonjas a convergence of interest.” The Yagbonwura was a diehard CPP supporter, who did all within his power to get J. A. Braimah to cross to the CPP but found no success.

And so, when the question of whether the country was to be a federal or unitary State at independence became heated, as well as the issue of the establishment of a special development scheme for Northern Ghana, the opposition (NLM and NPP) selected a delegation, headed by K. A. Busia to travel to London to meet the Colonial Secretary to discuss these issues. Other members of the delegation included J. A. Braimah, R. R. Amponsah, William Ofori-Atta, Yakubu Tali among others.

Following this journey the Yagbonwura with the support of CPP members in East Gonja removed J. A. Braimah as the Kanyasewura in September 1956 on the frivolous accusation of joining the opposition delegation to London without his permission. Still, J. A. Braimah refused to join the CPP. Alhassan Ahmed wrote that after his deskinment, “J. A. Braimah faced unimaginable injustice and maltreatment. His supporters too, were not spared; their lot was to be hounded and arrested like common criminals. To say J. A. Braimah’s resolve was tested will be an understatement.” This notwithstanding J. A. Braimah will not cross to the CPP.

However, in 1959, R.R. Amponsah and Modesto K. Apaloo were arrested and detained on the charges of plotting a coup d’état. The United Party decided to protest by boycotting Parliamentary proceedings until the duo were put to a fair trial in a Court of Justice. This decision occasioned disagreements within the party, with some including J. A. Braimah kicking against the decision. According to J. A. Braimah, as captured by Alhassan Ahmed:

“I must say that I have made my views on the question of boycott of Parliament known to my colleagues from the first time that I had the opportunity of meeting them, after the decision had been taken, and I am one of those who feel that we should take our places in this House where we can be of some service to our country, constituents and party. I consider this a major point of principle, on which we may agree to disagree but I can see no reason why we cannot solve some of our difficult problems by compromises.

I also consider that continued persistence of the Opposition in refusing to make use of the parliamentary means to express ourselves, even if we will not be listened to, will be interpreted as a sure threat to the security of the State, knowing the Government’s mentality, and may considerably strengthen the Government’s suspicion, possibly Government being more ruthless in penalizing and oppressing hundreds of innocent non-Government party members in this country. We have 38 other detainees to think about and the interest of many more people should be safeguarded.

No one has been a more consistent opponent of the totalitarian tendency of the Government party, and no one has been a more consistent advocate of the liberty of the individual than I. I will unsay no words that I have spoken about them.

Since the opposition made its statement, a new situation has arisen. There is the Constitution (Amendment) Bill and the Second Development Plan which vitally affects the whole nation and both will come for debate during the week, our protest against the first, and our criticism of the second, must go on record.

With regard to the Prime Minister’s statement in Kumasi on the 1st of March, 1959, that legislation would be introduced to prevent the boycott of the National Assembly by Members of Parliament, and that the seat of any member of Parliament who boycotted the sittings would become vacant and a by-election would be held in the constituency of the member under the proposed legislation I considered this to be undemocratic… It is my view that it is better for one to hold what one already holds and contest for what the opponent holds instead of resigning the seat one holds only to contest for it again. That makes no sense.”

Unfortunately, in a letter signed by the National Chairman, J. A. Braimah was expelled from the United Party on the 17th March 1959. For three months, J. A. Braimah sat in Parliament as an independent MP, waiting to be recalled back into the United Party but that was not to be. Curiously, no other member was expelled. It must also be stated that the United Party abandoned the boycott and returned to Parliament, although both R.R. Amponsah and Modesto K. Apaloo were still in detention without trial. By this, J. A. Braimah felt hard done-by. And so, he decided to join the CPP. As captured by Alhassan Ahmed, J. A. Braimah said:

“As a result of the action I took following the dictates of my conscience, to attend the sittings of Parliament to do my duty to my constituents and my country, I was expelled from the United Party on the 17th March, 1959, by a letter signed by the National Chairman of the United Party. But my former colleagues are now attending Parliament, although the two members detained under the Preventive Detention Act have not yet been tried in a Court of Justice. Who then was right, I ask? I have today decided to join the Convention People’s Party, the Government Party.”

How then could any objective minded person, who has the benefit of this history, if not for the purpose of desecrating the memory and legacy of these esteemed people, label the Northern Members of the United Party, as in the words of Haruna Nuako: “detractors in the UP tradition” who “abandoned and betrayed the Northern People’s Party and the UP for their personal interests and goals”?

Meanwhile, Dr Mumuni Adam on his part state that: “It is because of the then actions of these defectors that have subsequently resulted in the current weakness being witnessed by the modern New Patriotic Party (NPP) at the northern sector of Ghana.” This is ridiculous. Dr Adam without thinking only insulted readers with this warped and wild extrapolation.

It must be stressed that after the formation of the United Party, there was only one Parliamentary Election before the overthrow of the government of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah by the Major General J. A. Ankrah led National Liberation Council (NLC). The election was held in 1965. As at the time of the election though, the United Party had been banned by the CPP government. Ghana became a One-Party State, with CPP as the only recognized Political Party. As a result, Alhassan Ahmed stated that: “All the 198 members [who contested the1965 elections in the country]…were handpicked by the CPP’s Central Committee and then declared elected unopposed.”

The next election in the country was held in 1969. When the ban on political parties was lifted by the NLC military government on the 1st of May, 1969, the members of the defunct United Party led by Dr K. A. Busia came together to form the Progress Party. While former CPP members, led by K. A. Gbedemah formed the National Alliance of Liberals. Although there were other political parties, these were the two main parties going into the 1969 elections.

The Northerners who were labeled as “detractors” and “defectors” formed the nucleus of the Progress Party campaign in the North. As Alhassan Ahmed noted: “During this time, the Progress Party enjoyed not just the support of the members of the NLC but also found favour with the prominent members of the defunct Northern Peoples Party… This support by J. A. Braimah and his colleagues”, Ahmed stated, “culminated in the PP sweeping the Parliamentary seats in the Northern and Upper Regions. Out of the 14 seats of the Northern Region, the PP won 9, and 13 out of the 16 seats in the Upper Region.”

And so, how could people who led the Progress Party to secure this resounding victory in the North still be accused of being responsible for the “current weakness being witnessed by the modern New Patriotic Party (NPP) at the northern sector of Ghana”?

Indeed, Ahmed continued that: “for their efforts in securing a resounding victory for the PP, the Northerners were rewarded with government positions… J. A. Braimah was appointed the Northern Regional Minister (Regional Chief Executive); Jatoe Kaleo, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare; S. D. Dombo, Minister of the Interior; B. K. Adama, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs; Imoru Salifu, Upper Regional Chief Executive and others as Ministerial Secretaries (Deputy Ministers).”

Furthermore, with the lifting of the ban on political party activities in January 1979, the Northerners who were described as “detractors” again played central roles in the formation of the Popular Front Party (PFP). Prominent among such is the selection of Tolon Na Yakubu Tali as Running mate to Victor Owusu.

Unfortunately, Dr. Mumuni Adam, Haruna Nuako and their ilk have been blinded by their deadly dose of ignorance of historical facts, parochial interest, unwillingness to recognise, or the deliberate denial of clear contributions and legacies of the Northern Members of the United Party to development of the Danquah-Dombo-Busia tradition.

Political History Society of Northern Ghana

[email protected]

References

1. Austin, D. (1970). Politics in Ghana, 1946-1960 (Vol. 242). Oxford University Press.

2. Ladouceur, P. A. (1979). Chiefs and politicians: The politics of regionalism in Northern Ghana, London and New York, Longman Group Limited

3. Ghana National Assembly Debate, 3rd March, 1959

4. Staniland, M. (1975). The Lions of Dagbon: political change in northern Ghana (No. 16). Cambridge [Eng.]; New York: Cambridge University Press.

5. Ahmed, A. (2021). J. A. Braimah: Biography of a Trailblazer. Accra: Digibooks Ghana Ltd.

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