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23.03.2009 Editorial

Founder's day declaration hubbub

By Daily Guide

At his first State of the Nation Address to Parliament some weeks back, the 'omanpanin', Agya Atta, made it known he intends making the birthday of Asomdwekrom's first 'omanpanin', Dr. Kwame Okro, a public holiday.

The Founder's Day declaration has generated a lot of debate, most of which, I beg to say, is very nebulous because some of the debaters themselves seem to be ignorant of the facts.

I therefore deemed it very necessary to reproduce the piece (Dr. Kwame Okro: Hero or Villain?) published some nine moons ago to refresh menuanom's memories. Please read on:

The name Dr. Kwame Okro is so common in Asomdwekrom even lower primary pupils are familiar with it. He led the Convention People's Party (CPP) to free our dear nation from the shackles of imperialism and colonialism. This and more have endeared him to many hearts, both dead and living.

All these notwithstanding, there is another school of thought which believes Dr. Okro was the devil incarnate. They've chronicled a lot of accusations against him in order to justify their claim.

I therefore decided to research on him to satisfy my whetted appetite, and I must confess the results were very revealing. Be reminded that I was born a couple of years after he was overthrown, which implies I couldn't have had an inkling of happenings in his era.

Dr. Okro was born on September 21, 1909 to a father called Kofi Ngloma and a mother called Elizabeth Nyaniba. He was first named after an elderly person called Francis Nwia-Kofi. But the Fanti teacher who enrolled him in school mistakenly wrote 'Nkrumah' (Okro) for 'Ngloma' and it stuck till this day. He later changed the Nwia-Kofi to Kwame because he was born on Saturday.

He attended Elementary School at Half Assini where his father worked as a goldsmith. He later enrolled at Achimota School and obtained a Teacher's Certificate in 1930. He taught at Roman Catholic Schools at Elmina and Axim respectively.

He travelled to Obroniland where he obtained BA in Theology, MSC in Education and MA in Philosophy. Between 1935 and 1945, he combined studies with part-time lectureship in Negro History, during which he helped to found the Abibiman Students Association.

He was voted “Most Outstanding Professor of The Year 1945” at the Lincoln University. He later met George Padmore in Obroniland where they both worked towards the independence and unity of Abibiman. The struggle for independence gingered him to write his first book: “Towards Colonial Freedom” in 1947.

He returned to Asomdwekrom later that year and became the General Secretary of United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC). He was detained the following year with five others and released later, following disturbances in the colony. The six detained executives later became known as the 'Big Six'.

He left the UGCC and formed a new political party called the Convention People's Party (CPP), following disagreements centred on UGCC leadership wanting independence “in the shortest possible time,” while Dr. Okro wanted independence “now”. He declared 'positive action' in 1949, and was arrested following riots resulting from the action.

In 1951, he won a 'kokromoti' exercise while in prison to take the Nkrankrom Central seat. As a result, he was released from prison to form a new government. He again won the 1956 'kokromoti' exercise, which led to Asomdwekrom's independence on March 6, 1957.

Being a true Pan-Abibimanist, he convened the conference of the eight independent Abibiman states in 1958 to push the Abibiman unity agenda - which has eluded us till this day. He also helped many Abibiman states to gain independence and was described by many as one ahead of his generation.

He got married to a relative of 'Omanpanin' Gamel Abdel Nasser of Egypt , Helena Ritz, with whom he had three issues, Gamel, Sekou and Samia (the sitting Member of Parliament for Jomoro Constituency).

He declared Asomdwekrom a Republic on July 1, 1960, and ruled until his overthrow in 1966 while on a trip to Hanoi, Vietnam. He died on April 27, 1972 in Romania, and was buried in Asomdwekrom.

Abusuapanin, it is worth noting that there was massive infrastructural development during Dr. Okro's reign - the Akosombo Dam, Tema Motorway, Tema Harbour, Peduase Lodge, the defunct Meridian Hotel, Job 600 and a host of others. Education from the basic to the tertiary level was free during his rule. Life in Asomdwekrom, they say, was very rosy during his reign.

However, it wasn't rosy for all. This was made evident from the 1962 Kulungugu assassination attempt on his life and the reaction of the citizenry after his overthrow. Some of the headlines in the 'krowaa krataa' were “The Fall of a Satan,” “Asomdwekrom Free from Oppression,” “Kwame Okro's Myth Is Broken” and “Kwame Okro was a Fraud”.

Most materials I chanced upon mentioned his dictatorial tendencies and the application of the Protective Detention Act (PDA) as the main causes of his downfall. The draconian and inhumane PDA, which allowed for the detention of persons without trial, was reported to have victimized over 6,000 persons. Notable amongst them were Dr. J.B. Danquah and Obetsebi Lamptey.

It was also reported that he killed his political opponents with glee and showered extravagant gifts on his numerous girlfriends, which earned him the title “Show Boy”. Little wonder his overthrow was greeted with a riotous jubilation.

Abusuapanin, you now have a fair idea why Kwame Okro has many admirers as well as detractors. He is a hero to some and a villain to others. From where you stand, Abusuapanin, do you think he is a hero whose birthday should be declared a national holiday?

I expect an answer soon. Until then, keep enjoying your favourite banku and okro soup.

See you next week, if Onyakopon wills.
By Agya Kwaku Ogboro

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