A Ghana News Agency (GNA) posting on the website of the Accra Daily Mail (4/4/07) had a lecturer at the University of Science and Technology warning families against the skyrocketing costs of funerary rites in recent years. That Mr. Anthony Aidoo, reportedly, spoke passionately to the preceding issue was quite in sync with the newsmaker's professional practice and also, perhaps, his expertise; for Professor Aidoo was identified as a lecturer at the Kumasi University's Center for Cultural and African Studies.
And here, we must quickly add that we refuse to recognize the renaming of Ghana's premiere science and technology flagship after the first president of our country until the University of Ghana, our country's flagship academy, is honorably and fittingly renamed for Dr. Joseph (Kwame Kyeretwie) Boakye Danquah, the undisputed Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics and, perhaps, even more importantly, the de facto and de jure founder of the University of Ghana.
And regarding the question of the fitting renaming of Ghana's “Harvard University” for Dr. J. B. Danquah, this writer recently read a rather vapid and outright vacuous article written by Mr. Kwaku Baako, in which the latter irreverently sneered to the effect that if Legon were to be renamed for, or after, any species of humanity, then such species had to be the people of Labadi, a district of the Accra metropolis, whose chief and elders granted the land on which repose the august architectural landmarks of the University College that Dr. Danquah founded, in much the same manner that Dr. J. E. K. Aggrey has been described as a founding patriarch of the Achimota College (see The Ghanaian Observer 2/19/07).
But that Mr. Kwaku Baako would blasphemously write and publish an article titled “J. B. Danquah University or University of J. B. Danquah?” must not surprise any well-meaning citizen or resident of Ghana and beyond. The writer's father, the late Mr. Kofi Baako, was the unenviable lickspittle of President Kwame Nkrumah and the widely alleged architect of the patently vacuous, pseudo-Socialist ideology that came to be known as “Nkrumaism.” And other than the fact of the elder Mr. Baako's fanatical championing of “Nkrumaism,” to the utter disgust of even such Convention People's Party stalwarts as Messrs. Quayson-Sackey and Michael Dei-Anang, the Baakos are not known for any landmark or historical achievements, in the manner, for instance, that one may speak of the Danquah-Busia family or the Ofori-Atta clan.
Having thus registered the preceding observation, we must also quickly point out that this is in no way to imply that the younger Mr. Baako has no right to express his convictions or sentiments on any significant or pressing national issue. Needless to say, ours is a constitutional democracy in which individual rights, especially the right to unfettered speech, even sacrilegious speech, are jealously guarded. The same, of course, cannot be said of the political climate and culture created and fostered by the erstwhile Convention People's Party government. Which leaves one wondering about what, indeed, the current members of the rump CPP think of the intelligence of contemporary Ghanaians, in deciding to revive the name, insignia and memory of, perhaps, our country's most barbaric and dictatorial political machine.
It goes without saying that we could readily adduce volumes of reasons why we firmly believe that Dr. J. B. Danquah, rather than Mr. Kwame Nkrumah, more than any other Ghanaian leader of the twentieth century, deserves to have a major institution of higher learning named after him. Of course, we have amply done the same elsewhere and so intend not to belabor the issue herein. Suffice it to note in passing, however, that Dr. Danquah had far more to do with the historical fact of the University of Ghana having been originally affiliated with the University of London, rather than another major British academy. As for the younger Mr. Baako's rather invidious and downright fatuous suggestion that, perhaps, the people of Okyeman may want to name a “Secondary School” after Dr. Danquah, our humble riposte is that as hateful as the younger Mr. Baako may be of the Doyen and Okyeman, the incontrovertible history of both Dr. Danquah and Okyeman's phenomenal contribution to the foundation and development of postcolonial Ghana is a matter of public record.
Even so, we must also point out to the apparently, cognitively constipated Mr. Kwaku Baako that in much the same manner of his conviction that he would rather the University of Ghana were named after the people of Labadi, on the grounds of the latter having granted the land on which reposes the Legon Campus of Ghana's premiere academy, it would not be wholly out of place to have the University of Science and Technology named after His Majesty, Otumfuo Osei-Tutu I, this writer's direct ancestor and founder of the celebrated Asante Empire, on whose land sits the former Kumasi College of Technology.
Now, regarding Professor Aidoo's plaintive suggestion for families to retrench funerary expenditure, we can only counter that while, indeed, some measure of fiscal discipline or moderation may be exactly what the proverbial doctor ordered, the fact remains that funerals are a part and parcel of any people's culture, and that the manner in which any people choose to celebrate their departed kin is pretty much their own private affair. And to be certain, attempting to put a price-tag or value on the funeral of somebody else's kin or clansman or woman, may yet constitute the very height of sacrilege. This, however, does not imply the summary preclusion or foreclosure of any discourse on the issue.
In the case of Mr. Kwaku Baako, we must significantly observe that this writer once defended the former's right to free speech when the so-called Provisional National Democratic Congress sicced a bunch of hoodlums and terrorists on him. We are still of the firm believe that Mr. Baako has a right to express himself in any manner that he so pleases; but we also would like to assure Mr. Baako that we are ever-prepared to riposte any vitriol or insult that he may attempt to volley against the dignity and integrity of any of the Real Founding Fathers of postcolonial Ghanaian democracy.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is also the author of twelve books, including “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (iUniverse.com, 2005). E-mail: [email protected]
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