I was seriously disappointed on Thursday, February 19, 2009, when I heard some New Patriotic Party (NPP) members of parliament (MPs) protest President Atta Mills' intention to introduce a Legislative Instrument to institute a Founder's Day in honour of Ghana's founding President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah.
The MPs, led by their Okai Koi South colleague Nana Akomea claim that there was no need to declare any Founder's Day in honour of Dr Nkrumah because “many Ghanaians are still hurt by the human rights abuses suffered under the first president.” Nana Akomea said time was therefore not ripe for the nation to honour her founder. The minority MPs have vowed to do everything within their power to block the legislation, anytime it is brought before parliament for consideration.
Some of the MPs even went to the extent of asking during the President's address that, “what has Nkrumah done to deserve such honour”? “He doesn't deserve it,” others exclaimed. My other disappointment with the MPs was that they booed and jeered during the better part of what has become rather informally known in Ghana now as the 'State of the Nation Address.'
Then on February 23, 2009, Asare Otchere-Darko, Executive Director of the Danquah Institute entered the fray. Otchere-Darko also claims that the Founder's Day should be broadened to include other persons in the 'Big Six' who all fought for independence for the nation.
Interestingly and contrary to his assertion that the Danquah Institute is an Accra-based independent Think Tank, Otchere-Darko's Danquah Institute has largely operated as a political campaign wing of the NPP. This was the organization that was churning out many unscientific opinion polls about the NPP's fortunes in the 2008. Thank God all those spurious opinion polls only helped in speeding his NPP into a hallowed opposition!
I can however appreciate Otchere-Darko's frustrations. After all, after founding his institute, he couldn't even wait for a year before ingloriously yanking out Busia's name from the name of his Danquah Institute – the original name of the organization was Danquah-Busia Ideological Institute. I think that the haste in altering the name by Otchere-Darko might have been informed by his perception that Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia's role in the Independence struggle as well as his service to the nation as Premier from 1969 to 1972 are inconsequential. Or maybe, the existence of the name Busia might conflict with the political campaign ideology of the institute! Whichever way, one might be tempted to say that by that singular act, Otchere-Darko has flawed his latest argument of broadening the Founder's Day to include other persons in the 'Big Six.' Because he has shown that he picks and chooses as he pleases!
Furthermore, Otchere-Darko and other Danquah ideologues have often sought to berate the achievements of other personalities in the independence struggle while at the same time always displaying this huge fixation on the achievements of Danquah, a man believed to have betrayed the independence struggle by accepting handouts from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to help overthrow the Osagyefo.
Also, during all the eight odd years that the NPP stayed in power, they sought to unmake and rewrite everything Nkrumah. They covertly and overtly allowed everything Nkrumah to decay. Talk about the Nkrumah Park in Sunyani, the NPP folks unashamedly renamed it in honour of Dr Busia.
Then come to Accra, the capital. The Nkrumah Circle, the largest converging point for travellers in Accra was deliberately allowed to rot, under the pretext of having 'secured financing for a major rehabilitation that would include the construction of a modern interchange.' Well, the Ghanaian taxpayers should be asking officials of the NPP regime whether or not they indeed secured financing for work on the Nkrumah Circle. If they did, they should be asked why they did not embark on the project.
While the Nkrumah Circle was falling apart, the NPP regime overtly rehabilitated the Obetsebi-Lamptey Circle, did a complete make over for the Danquah Circle, and the other circle near the Togo Embassy in Accra was decorated and named after Akufo-Addo. I believe all this is good – because the personalities were all instrumental in the independence struggle albeit their later roles in betraying the very cause they fought for.
I remember very well driving around the Nkrumah Circle one morning with a foreigner friend of mine. I was so humiliated when the friend asked me whether we did not feel embarrassed as a people to see a circle 'in honour of our founding President decay to that unsightly level?' According to my guest, if other circles in Accra could be made to look so beautiful, then we did not have any excuse for leaving Nkrumah's to look so horrible!
Although, I admitted to my friend that we had no excuse, I was also quick in reminding him that the leaders at the time were very instrumental in overthrowing Dr Nkrumah's regime.
My appeal to President Mills is that he should not be deterred by protestations of the minority MPs. They had all the opportunity to institute a Founder's Day which would have been fashioned according to their own beliefs. That day could have been declared in memory of all the 'Big Six' if the NPP thought there was need for a day like that at all. But they failed to even envision a Founder's Day!
If President Mills is able to institute the Founder's Day, it would go down in history as one of his memorable achievements as President. I'm very sure many of us who support Nkrumah's ideals would bless him for doing the nation and in fact, the entire black race an honour.
If you go to Tanzania today, there is a huge bill board erected in memory of Dr Nkrumah – the bill board has one of his favourite quotes: “We face neither East nor West, we face forward.” There's even a hall at the University of Dar es Salaam that was named after Dr Nkrumah. In some other countries, postage stamps continue to be printed with Dr Nkrumah's portraits and some major streets have been named in other countries after him.
In fact, Dr Martin Luther King Jr was once quoted as saying that if he could achieve half of what Dr Nkrumah had achieved, he would feel fulfilled as a freedom fighter.
All I can say to President Mills is that he should ask his MPs to sponsor the Founder's Day Bill with speed. It is clear from the actions of the NPP MPs that if they get a second chance they would scuttle the process.
The events marking Dr Nkrumah's centenary celebrations are just beginning and the most memorable event in the celebration could well be a declaration of the Founder's Day to coincide with his 100th birthday which falls on September 21st, 2009.
By their latest actions, the NPP MPs have started showing that many times, they best serve the interest of the people of Ghana when they are in opposition. The effectiveness of the NPP in opposition is clearly being enforced by the Minority Leader, Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu. For the past seven weeks or so, I've realized that the Suame MP is so eloquent and critical that I am beginning to wonder whether he was in parliament when the NPP was in government.
What I am very sure about is that while some of the NPP MPs are objecting to the Founder's Day just for the fun of it, others are also doing so based on mere jealousy. They can shout all they can but I am happy that if the vote is put, they would lose badly in parliament.
President Mills, your cliffhanger win in the December 2008 elections was historic, but you can complete that historic feat by declaring the Founder's Day in memory of the Osagyefo. You have the opportunity and all I can ask is, write the history! This is the time.
By Kwabena Mprah Jr. [Email: [email protected]]
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