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15.01.2007 Editorial

Dr J B Danquah, Ghana's President we never had (Part 1)

By The Statesman
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The image and memorabilia of some very prominent patriots who have spent the whole of their time struggling for the ideals of good governance and self-government have been pushed under the carpets of some so-called new era politicians.

As to who did what in the past, bringing about the present that they have come to inherit, that will lead us into the future is not their concern.

Even if they show concern, they either reap from where they have not sown, or that they have misinformed the very people who are supposed to be told the truth for the credit to be accorded to them as national heroes. February 24th will be 38 years since Dr J.B Danquah died at the Nsawam Medium Security Prison with both legs and hands chained under the instructions of a man he paid £100 to enable return from London, UK.

Ghana will be 46 years on March 6. At the age of 46, our socio economic problems keep on compounding. The shackles of our foreign colonial masters have been dropped after Independence, only to put on local ones, more oppressive and repressive than those of the foreign masters.

One man, who started the struggle for indigenous participation in governance, leading to self government, became the most hated and wanted man in Ghana.

Dr Danquah was a member of f the Legislative Assembly of the Gold Coast from the early 1930s when the struggles began, leading to the formation of the Untied Gold Coast Convention (UGCC).

He negotiated for the establishment of the University of Ghana in October 1948 when the colonial masters decided to build a West African University in one of the British West African colonies.

J.B wrote a book on law even before he studied the subject, and two other books before attending the university of London, though he managed to pass his matriculation exams on the third attempt.

After spending all his time on Gold Coast and Ghana, after his death in prison, treated like a hardened criminal and a dangerous dog for being a political opponent, his body was barred from receiving a fitting burial, and his funeral is still pending. What a President he would have been. As a gesture of reconciliation, it is never too late.

Dr J.B Danquah deserves a fitting funeral. To prove me right or wrong in this proposal, read what Prof L.H Ofosu-Appiah of the Encyclopaedia Africana Secretariat wrote about Dr J.B Danquah in an introduction to a compilation of his letters entitled "JOURNEY TO INDEPENDENCE AND AFTER,” (Volumes 1,2&3) by the late Mr H.K Akyeampong.

Following is the full text of the Introduction in the book: “Journey To Independence And After.”

Since J.B died in detention after a lot of suffering to which Nkrumah was insensitive, attempts have been made to show Ghanaians and the outside world what a great patriot he was.

To those who followed J.B"s career closely, all this would seem to be unnecessary. But, as his letters in this collection reveal, throughout J.B's active life he was regarded by the British Colonial Administration and the Convention People's Party Government as “a factious disturber of government,” a derogatory meaning for a patriot in 18th century England. A careful scrutiny of his letters, however, shows that he was a patriot of a very rare type, a man who did not seek any rewards for work that he did and who spared no effort to prove that he had a high intelligence which he was not prepared for anyone, high or low to insult.

The Africa Latin poet, Terentius Afer, makes the claim that he is a human being, and all that touches humanity is his concern - homo sum, nil humanum a me alienum puto. Of J.B, it may be said that he was a Ghanaian, and all that touched Ghana was his concern. Therefore Ghanensis sum, nil Ghanense a me alienum puto, might well be his motto and the caption of this collection of letters.

As a patriot J.B's first burning desire was to secure independence for his country, the Gold Coast, for which he suggested the name Ghana. His letters show what he did to bring the Colony and Ashanti together to form a Legislative Council when the Colonial Administration was trying to get the Asantehene, Otumfuo Nana Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, to accept the Ashanti Advisory Council Ordinance, and keep away from the 'agitators' of the South.

His part in urging the chiefs of the Joint Provincial Council to elect non-chiefs into the Legislative Council under the Burns Constitution of 1946 helped to increase on the Council the number of educated men who really understood the tricks of the Colonial Administrators and could challenge them in their own field. It was a signal achievement.

The most significant characteristic of J.B which runs through these letters in his impatience with humbug, loose thinking and dishonesty among administrators and fellow citizens.

He could not suffer fools gladly. Where chiefs and other public men were cowering before the Colonial officials, he was not afraid to write to the Governor, the Colonial Secretary or the Secretary of State for the Colonies to complain about some stupid actions of the administrations. He was always brutally frank.

The generation of Ghanaians who have been fed on Nkrumah's doctored history of Ghana will be agreeably surprised to find that it was J.B who really led the movement to independence, and the Watson Commission paid him a just tribute by calling him the “Doyen of Gold Coast politicians.” When he was going up and down the country in the 1930's and 1940's, nobody in the Gold Coast had heard of Nkrumah as a politician.

He with George Alfred Grant, Akufo Addo, Blay, Ako Adjei, Obetsebi Lamptey, William Ofori Atta, Awoonor Williams and de Graft Johnson founded and launched the United Gold Coast Convention on 4th August, 1947. Yet, writing on the independence movement in his book Dark Days in Ghana, Nkrumah, in 1967, makes the amazing claim that “it was men such as these, George Grant, J.B Danquah, Ofori Atta, Ako Adjei and Obetsebi Lamptey who were the nucleus of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), the Organisation I (Kwame Nkrumah) launched in Saltpond on 29th December 1947 to achieve independence by all legitimate and constitutional means.”

The events which led to the arrest of the “Big Six” and the part Danquah played in them are all brought out clearly in the letters. The attitude of the British Colonial Officers to Danquah and the nationalists of his caliber makes interesting reading, and the charges they made against the Convention leaders were extremely childish. J.B's reply to those charges makes the administrators look foolish, and I suspect the Colonial officials never forgave him for having such a low opinion of their intellect.

Their active support for Nkrumah and the CPP later on stems partly from wounded pride, and partly from the realization that the “noisy agitators” were easier to deal with than the “aristocratic elite.”

The London Times put it beautifully when it stated that with the formation of the CPP the British had recaptured the initiative. They held it until they made their principal captive a Privy Councillor in 1959!

The events leading to the break with the UGCC and the formation of the CPP had, even at that time, all the elements of a Greek tragedy. One could say at the time, as Danquah's letters show, that those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.

Nkrumah and all the leaders of the Convention People's Party, who were regarded as progressives by their admirers, began their careers by telling malicious lies about J.B and his associates and endangering their lives.

They accused them of taking bribes from the British just because J.B had agreed to Sir Sydney Abraham's suggestion that he should come to the Gold Coast to organize sports.

They accused them of selling out to the British because they served on the Coussey Committee while Nkrumah had not been appointed to it. What the Committee while Nkrumah had not been appointed to it.

What the UCCC members on the Committee actually did to hasten self-government by insisting upon the exclusion of ex-officio ministers from the Cabinet was never mentioned by Nkrumah and Gbedemah; and Danquah's call for a constituent Assembly was effectively ignored. These are all points brought out in the letters.

The invectives in the Accra Evening News against Danquah, and Gbedemah's contribution to this lying propaganda are all there for everyone to read. T

hat these lies spread beyond the boundaries of this country is clear from letters J.B received from young and old. The letters really bear out the truth of the statement that you cannot legislate against malice. T

he philosophy of politics adopted by the CPP leaders was based on the maxim: give a dog a bad name and then hang him. It is to the credit of Nkrumah and his henchmen that they succeeded in ruining Danquah's reputation among the common people so thorough that it took the Preventive Detention Act to restore it.

In all, they succeeded in making him a Cassandra, a tragic hero whose role was to issue warnings which almost everyone ignored. The later pleas of the CPP leaders after the coup that they did not know the sort of person Nkrumah was ring hollow when these letters are read.

At any rate now the world knows who was corrupt and dishonest; J.B has now been vindicated, while his enemies are struggling to clear their names in the Commissions of Enquiry.

The later assertion of the CPP leaders, especially Kofi Baako, the violence in politics was started by the National Liberation Movement is proved false in these pages where assassination threats first appear in Gold Coast politics.

The desire for a one-party state is evident from statements by Gbedemah, Adamafio and others on the necessity for the CPP to capture all the seats in the Assembly and dispensing with opposition.

It was this attitude to Opposition which led J.B's and others in the South of Ghana to support the National Liberation Movement, and not a real desire for federation.

One of J.B's weakest points was his refusal to believe that violence was not alien to the Gold Coast, He always regarded it as foreign in spite of evidence, and that was carrying idealism too far. But it was violence which gave the CPP.

Its initial successes, and the lying propaganda spread throughout the country helped the organizers to build the Frankenstein monster form which some of the creators suffered.

(Credit: The Archives of Mr V O D Twum-Barima)

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