July 1st is celebrated in Ghana every year as National Holiday to mark the day Ghana became a Republic. This day since 1960 has been celebrated by various governments both pessimistic civilian and optimistic military regimes. During the early part of Rawlings' second term in office he said that the Republic Day shall be used to remember or dedicate to our senior citizens of the land. And ever since then we have seen it done everyone. The New Patriotic Party government has not reneged on that proclamation. We have seen our dear president feasting with the aged during Republic Day Celebration. But the question is feasting with living aged is the only way we can honour our great and dedicated citizens. What about the dead?
If there is a nation in the world that has not honoured well then it is Ghana. Why I am saying so? Go to France, America and United Kingdom and see how they have cherished and honoured the national heroes who through some painstaking commitment has made the present generation what they are enjoying.
In Ghana when it comes to our traditional and tribal heroes we have down well. But what is more tragic to see a nation that has risen to the majestic height of honouring its past chiefs but at the same time fallen to the passionless dept of not honouring its political or social leaders? Our past kings and chiefs and traditional heroes has been honoured well. The Ashanti's have down considerably well by honouring their kings and chiefs. Recently through the initiatives Otumfour Osei Tutu II the statue of his former uncle Otumfour Opoku Ware statue has been erected at Suame Roundabout. So today that place is called Opoku Ware Roundabout and not Suame Roundabout. Secondary schools in the Ashanti Region like Prempeh College, Opoku Ware Secondary, Osei Tweretwie Secondary, Dwamena Akenten Secondary, Afua Kofi Secondary, Tweneboah Kodua School and Yaa Asantewaa Secondary are all names of great Ashanti kings and queenmothers.
But when we cast our eyes to the national scene, the picture is tragically pathetic that we have failed to honour our heroes who through their selfless dedication has made Ghana what it is now. Ghana today is known throughout because of its past glories and its present achievements. I know that some people will say we have 28th February to remember the three World War II veterans. That is excellent.
Starting from Dr Kwame Nkrumah, have we really honoured him well? The founder of modern Ghana needs to be honoured in a befitting way. After the 24th February, 1966 coup everything about Nkrumah was seen as a bane. The National Liberation Council junta made every effort to discredit the works of Nkrumah such that institutions that had been name of him had the “Kwame Nkrumah” scraped off. After nearly three decades the Rawlings Administration restored Kwame Nkrumah University Of Science and Technology to this its original name.
HONOURING FOREIGNERS NATIONALLY
We were in Ghana when our former president named circle/roundabout and later over pass in memory of a slain leader of Burkina Faso. The present has N.P.P government has renamed it in memory of Dr. AKO ADJEI, one of the freedom fighters. The dollar question is why do we have to honour foreigners locally when we have not locally honoured our heroes. Charity we say it begins at home. In the Acts of the Apostle, the disciples of Christ were told to start from Jerusalem and later to Judea, Samaria and outermost part of the world.
When you make your way through the major streets in Accra you will see the following: AUGUSTINO NETO, PATRICE LUMUMBA, ABDEL GAMAL NASSER, JAWAHARLAL NEHRU, TITO ROADS AND AVENUES. In Kumasi scenario is not different. Names like STEWART AVENUE, HARPER ROAD, GUGGISBERG AVENUE OR ELLIS AVENUE.
To me the reason why we have not honoured our national heroes is that is we have allowed cataract of political inclination to blind us. CPP is for Nkrumah, NPP is for Danquah-Busia, PNC is Liman and NDC is Rawlings. Anytime when it is the birth day of Dr. Nkrumah it is only the Convention Peoples Party and other Nkrumahaists that make noise about it and not the New Patriotic Party nor the National Democratic Congress. Every year when the Danquah- Busia Memorial Lectures noise is made, it is only the people of that lineage holding the trump card. To members of the other political divide it is just a tinkling cymbal to them.
When we come to the case of the Dr. Hilla Liman the president in the Third Republic the picture is the same. After the 31st December, 1981 coup he was confined to a life of voicelessness. He was denied off all the necessary courtesies by the PNDC/NDC government. This even continued five years into constitutional rule. After his dead the NDC decided to have state burial for the late president but Dr Liman's family refused that offer saying that while he was alive there was nothing like the state offering courtesies and assistances to him. The NDC luminaries rebuffed that allegations and said that the government paid the hospital bills of the late president. After the death of Dr. Liman the Nigerian delegation sent to console Ghana was led by a former deposed head of state Alhaji Shehu Shagari. The then Nigerian president General Sani Abacha delegated Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Ghanaian Chronicle wrote either in the editorial or front page banner “ABACHA KNOCKS SENSE INTO RAWLINGS”.
Even the way we bury our heads of state in this country is nothing is to write home about. The three generals who were executed in 1979 bodies were not given a befitting burial. After more than twenty years their bodies were exhumed and given a proper burial. Even Nkrumah mortal remains have to remain in Guinea for sometime before it was finally interned in Ghana.
Apart from past heads of states, Ghana has some military officers and some civil servants who have toiled hard to bring fame and reputation to Ghana. Their works and contributions appear to stand unnoticed. In the field of peace keeping, medical sciences, academics and sports we can count as many as thousand heroes there and yet we do not appreciate their contribution. Recently the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports has started a process of honouring great sports men and women for the country. This is step in a good direction.
As I conclude this piece let us ask ourselves is there any place of monument to remember the Dr Hilla Liman in Ghana other than his tombstone in his hometown? Do we have to wait until, say, People National Convention government to come power before we can properly honour the late Dr. Liman? Is naming a little street in Accra called Busia Street enough?
May be we may take consolidation in the words of the president Kuffour that government would develop the hometowns of former presidents to be able to attract tourist. The thing is that it is easier said than done. To me there is nothing wrong for declaring the birthday of Dr. Nkrumah as national holiday. Even in the United States a black civil rights leader called Martin Luther King Jr assassinated in 1968 has properly been honoured such that inn 1983 the United States Congress designated his birthday as a national holiday in the U.S. Apart from this national holiday there is the The King Centre, Martin Luther King Streets and Avenues etc named after Dr King.
The N.P.P administration can partially be exonerated from the blame of not honouring our past heroes and statesman. The ten thousand cedis bears the pictures of the Big Six whilst the twenty thousand cedis bears the portrait of Dr. E,mphraim Amu. We can also talk about the bust of the three high court judges at forecourt of the Supreme Court.
As you move from one ministry to department to another government agencies you will see a colourful portrait of President Kuffour. You will not see that of Dr. Nkrumah, Dr. Busia, Dr. Liman and not to talk about Dr. Jerry Rawlings. When you get to the White House and other Federal Buildings in the United States you will see pictures of past presidents from George Washington to Bill Clinton. Even in classrooms and train coaches one will see portraits of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and alike portraits hanging. One question that is boggling my mind is that should any government come after the N.P.P all the m(b)illions of cedis of tax payers money used to import beautiful wall portraits of President Kuffour would be removed and packed somewhere to gather dust. (I stand to be corrected; I have not been to the Castle before). The new president's pictures will be the only picture that we can see.
WHAT WE SHOULD DO NOW? It is still not too late. We can still honour our dedicated heroes. The Akan says that “sankofa yen kyi” which is literally translated that if you leave something and go back for it, it is not an abomination. Let us look through the pages of our history from the period of pre- colonial time to today July 1st, 2004 and identify all Ghanaians who have made contribution to the country start naming roads, streets, institutions, colleges and other public establishment after them.
Secondly, July first each should be declared as Founders Day where we will pay homage to Ghanaians who through their indefatigable and selfless effort made us what we are today. Names like the Kwame Nkrumah, J. B Danquah, Obstesbi Lamptey, Ofori Atta, Arko Adjei and Akuffo Addo, John Mensah Sarbah, Dr. K. Abrefa Busia, Dr. Hilla Liman, Jerry John Rawlings deserved to be honoured. Not only these people but other like chiefs, kings, industrialists, former Chief Justices, Speaker of Parliaments, Inspector General of Police, sportsmen, farmers, scientists, economist and alike should be honoured. If it means state conferring on them posthumous award the state should as matter of urgency do it. Ghana Post can also come into play by issuing of commemorative postal stamps. Metropolitan, Municipal and District assemblies can also name streets and roads after our heroes.
Thirdly, there should am institution of a National Hall of Fame, where the statues or busts of deserving fellow men and women would be preserved. Finally a comprehensive and commemorative history books to written which should be devoid of all political colouring about our heroes. This proper documentation will prevent our rich history to be washed way by the rushing tide of western indoctrination. Children can read such books and they can learn a great deal of lessons from it and some of them can become their mentors. If we fail to do this some subsequent generation will not have no rich history to learn from. To them, their heroes and mentors will be Hollywood and Death Row Record stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Van Dam, Tupac Amaru Shakur, 50 Cent, Snoopy Doogy Dough etc.
What are we also doing to immortalise the contributions of past heroes? If we fail to do it a future historian will write that a great nation perished because it failed to appreciate the works of its heroes. It is trite but urgently true: that nation that does not honour its heroes is not worth dying for. There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance and neglect. A word to the wise is in enough and those who are drinking from the well must not forget those who dug it. Appiah Kusi Adomako is a freelance writer, an educationist and freelance moralist. He also works with an NGO called –LEADERS OF TOMORROW. He can be contacted on Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation, P.O. BOX. KS 13640. Kumasi-Ghana, West Africa. Email: [email protected] . www.interconection.org/lotfound Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.