03.06.2013 Feature Article

“Scrap AU Day Holiday”? I Beg Your Pardon!

Scrap AU Day Holiday? I Beg Your Pardon!
03.06.2013 LISTEN

Mr. Franklin Cudjoe's recently expressed reservation about the relevance of the African Union Holiday as a statutory holiday in Ghana can easily be ignored as one of those loose talks that would eventually be forgotten. But given that the fact he is the President of the policy think tank, 'IMANI Ghana,' his rationale against the AU holiday deserves a corresponding rejoinder. In fact, his views about the relevance of the AU holiday in Ghana raises some questions about the logical framework from which 'IMANI Ghana' interrogates social, economic, political and educational policies in Ghana.

What's more, the arguments Mr. Cudjoe pressed forward to buttress his reservation about the AU holiday appear illogical and contradictory. On one hand, he is dead set against the AU holiday and, on another, he is opposed to it simply because it fell 'on a weekend and rolled over to the following week' (Ghanaweb, 27 May 2013).

First, is Mr. Cudjoe saying that just because the AU Day 'is not a holiday in most African countries' (Ghanaweb, 27 May 2013), therefore Ghana should have joined those countries, thereby relinquishing Ghana's pioneering role as the mother of African liberation and African Union? By his logic, since other independent African countries preceded Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah should not have invited the then seven heads of states of Africa and would-be liberation leaders to Ghana in April and December 1958 respectively to develop, inter-alia, a common front towards the total liberation of the African continent from the illegal colonial rule and settler regimes.

Second, if his reservation about the AU Day in Ghana is due to the fact that the holiday fell 'on a weekend and rolled over into the following' Monday, then what about some of the statutory holidays that sometimes fall on weekends? They include: Independence Day, Republic Day, Founder's Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (which at times fall on Saturday and Sunday), New Year, Easter Monday (Picnic), End of Ramadan, Feast of the Sacrifice and May Day? The question is, do not the number of days spent on the foreign holidays, (Christmas, Good Friday, Easter Monday and Moslem sacred days) adversely impact the productivity in Ghana more than the (one day) African Union statutory holiday?

Third, I agree that 'Ghana has too many holidays' that 'may not necessarily yield anything;' but reviewing them to get rid of those that 'are not necessary so as to safeguard productivity' cannot be done at the expense of what is the only justifiable African holiday, African Union Day. Also suggesting that we could have used this [AU] day to keep up with productivity and not 'extend it to a full working day and then waste it' (Ghanaweb, 27 May 2013), should apply to the wasteful nature vis-à-vis the number of hours and days Ghanaians spend outside work places/offices before and after Christmas, New Year, Good Friday and Easter Monday (Picnic).

What productivity, for instance, do the foreign sacred holidays generate in Ghana? What about the statutory Farmers holiday, during which the overwhelming majority of Ghanaian farmers (medium and small farmers, and peasants) go to their farms? What about the May Day holiday marking the martyrs of the May 1, 1886 Chicago Haymarket Massacre of workers who were striking for an 8-hour work day, which is not a holiday in the US? Besides, there are no such statutory holidays in the US as Good Friday, Easter Monday, Boxing Day, End of Ramadan, Feast of the Sacrifice and Farmers Day, so why don't we follow the US to maximize productivity?

The AU holiday, like the Independence Day, if properly observed with pomp, including parades, essay competitions, lecture series, symposia, artistic presentations, sporting events etc. across the country can instill pride, engender confidence in the people and enhance the African personality, which in the long run, can increase productivity than these foreign holidays.

The May Day, for instance, can be replaced with the Positive Action, which shook the very foundation of colonialism in the Gold Coast, and from which it never recovered. This historic action was jointly organized by the radical CPP and the more militant Gold Coast Trade Union Congress (GCTUC) led by Pobee Biney and Anthony Woods. These two militant trade unionists were arrested, charged and imprisoned along with Kwame Nkrumah, Kofi Baako, Kojo Botsio, Komla Gbedemah, Akua Ayisi Asabea, Leticia Quaye, Ardua Ankrah (Mrs. Nkrumah) and others for the 'illegal' strike in January 1950, in violation of Section 6 of the British Colonial Government Ordinance No. 12 of 1941. Such a holiday is more relevant to the Ghanaian experience than the May Day.

In effect, the arguments Mr. Franklin Cudjoe advanced against the African Union Day as a statutory holiday in Ghana are not only irrational, but they are also hypocritical. The first African Union holiday President Kufuor declared on May 25, 2002 fell on Saturday, while that of May 25, 2008 fell on Sunday. On those two occasions, Mr. Cudjoe was silent when President Kufuor's government rolled over the holidays to the following Mondays. The African Union Day is the ONLY LEGITIMATE African Holiday born out of the African experience with European colonialism and settler regimes.

At any rate, the AU statutory holiday in Ghana is President J. A. Kufuor's legacy. He was the President of Ghana at the time who made the declaration. This is what leaders, not copycats, do. For this reason, I wrote the following piece, 'A Salute to President Kufuor on African Union Day' (Ghanaweb, June 12 2002):

A Salute To President Kufuor on African Union Day
By: Botwe-Asamoah, Kwame Dr., (2002-06-12)
In his address to the assemblage at the All African Peoples Conference in Accra, December 1958, W.E.B. Du Bois said the following: 'If Africa unites, it will be because each part, each nation, each tribe gives up a part of the heritage for the good of the whole. That is what union means, that is what Pan-African means.'

In accord with the foregoing perspective of the father of Pan-Africanism, President Kufuor must be highly commended for declaring May 25 an African Union holiday in Ghana. This, in effect, affirms Ghana's pioneering role in the formation of the Organization of African Unity. Until the overthrow of Nkrumah's government by the traitors on February 24, 1966, (John Stockwell's In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story) Ghana was not only the vanguard of continental African unity, but was also the shining star of the entire Black race. Perhaps, a brief summary on how Nkrumah spearheaded the cause of the African Union will dismiss as senseless, the criticisms mounted against this authentic African holiday.

In 1945, Du Bois invited Nkrumah to the membership of the international committee, which drew up the four resolutions on the colonial question for the United Nations; these resolutions became part of the UN's Charter on the Declaration of Human Rights. Also Kwame Nkrumah and Du Bois authored the two declarations at the fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, 1945.

These declarations provided the ideological framework and plan of action for the decolonization of the entire African continent. Hence, on the eve of Ghana's political independence on March 6, 1957, Nkrumah enshrined the Pan-African project with a political will stating that, 'the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa.'

And indeed, Ghana provided logistical support, financial, material and human resources (including civil service personnel and teachers) to some of the newly independent African states and the liberation movements, from Algeria to South Africa. As the internationally renowned African prolific novelist and political activist Ngugi wa Thiong'o noted, Ghana, between 1958 and 1966 (February 23), became the 'Mecca' of Africa for all African people.

To match words with action, Nkrumah summoned the then seven independent African heads of state to a historic meeting that took place in Accra between April 15 and 22, 1958. In addition to resolutions on political, economic and culture, Nkrumah urged the African leaders 'to assert our own African personality and to develop according to our own ways of life, our own customs, traditions and cultures.' Kwabena Onyina, for instance, composed a song in commemoration of this historic meeting. In December 1958, an All-African Peoples Conference was also held in Ghana.

Diasporan Africans and the would-be leaders of the liberation movements within the continent attended this conference. Then, a series of meetings which took place between 1959 and 1963, amidst ideological differences, eventually culminated in the birth of the Organization of African Unity. Ghana, as the mother of the African Union is unquestionable. Jomo Kenyatta acknowledged this at a public meeting in London, 1959, when he stated that the independence of Ghana marked the end of the European domination of Africa. Certainly, Ghana paved the way for closer relations and cooperation among African nations as well as Africans in the diaspora. And one of the many manifestations of the OAU is today's African football competition, for which Ghana spearheaded.

In fact, history is replete with leadership roles that Ghanaians have played toward the course of African unity. They include J. E. Casley Hayford and Kobina Sekyi (both of the National Congress of British West Africa), Seth D. Cudjoe, J. C de Graft Johnson, and J. B. Danquah. The rest are Joe Appiah, G. Ashie-Nikoi, Kojo Botsio, Kankam Buadu, Kurankyi Taylor, J. S. Annan, Ako Adjei, Kwame Nkrumah and many others. Even today, wherever there is an African social, cultural or students' organization in the US, Ghanaians always find themselves in leadership positions. I recall in 1977, when some African residents in New Haven, Connecticut (including some university professors) pleaded with some of us Ghanaians to accept the leadership role of a newly formed African organization.

It is against this backdrop that I question the rationale of the critics of President Kuffour's historic declaration marking 25th May an African Union holiday in Ghana. Surprisingly, the critics of the holiday closed their eyes to the May Day holiday; and the irony is that the commemoration as regards the hanging of four of the falsely accused overworked industrial workers in the 1886 Chicago's Haymarket incident is not even celebrated by the labor unions in the US. Second, the critics did not use the same argument against the many non-African religious holidays in Ghana.

The arguments advanced by the opponents of the president's declaration that it impedes productivity and economic activities of the country are inconclusive. In my view, the holidays that have had substantial adverse impact on the economy and productivity, which eluded the critics, is the observance of sacred days of foreign religions in the country. The first of these are Easter holidays which occur on Good Friday and the picnic, the following Monday. This does not take into account the waste of working hours on the travels on the Thursday preceding the Good Friday and Tuesdays after the so-called picnic. Though they are not statutory holidays, public offices and work places (with a few exceptions) on the Thursday and Tuesday just cited, are partially empty of workers.

Perhaps, the most devastating of all the non-African religious holidays in terms of the economy and productivity is the Christian sacred rituals on December 25 and 26 commemorating the birth of Jesus (Greek word for Hebrew Joshua) on December 25. Furthermore, December 24 has become an occasion for different governmental departments and public corporations/institutions to hold Christmas parties. Between December 27 and 31, one would again find some offices and work places of public institutions with partial ghost workers; and, woe unto any person who travels to Ghana to transact some important business or conduct research that week. Next are the two new statutory holidays for observing Islamic sacred rites. The question is, don't these non-African religious holidays have the greatest adverse effects on Ghana's economy and productivity as compared to the African Union holiday?

It would have made sense had the critics suggested a reduction in the number of holidays set aside for the rituals of these two foreign religions. For instance, Boxing Day on December 26 in Britain is for the opening of boxes containing gifts for loved ones and friends; whereas in the US, the boxes are opened on the morning of December 25. The next day, December 26, people are back to work in full force and on time. Easter, for instance, is not a statutory national holiday in the US. I know some leading divinity schools in the US, where classes are held on Good Fridays; and, Rev. Dr. Brew Riverson and Rev. Dr. Asante Antwi can bear me out.

The following are my recommendations: First, in addition to discouraging Christmas parties on December 24 at all public facilities by public employees during working hours, the national observance of the Christian rituals should be limited to the Good Friday and the Christmas day, December 25. Second, believers in African religions and their saviors/saints like Okomfo Anokye, Kofi Gyeprem of Akyem Tafo, Krakye Dente of Kete-Krakye and many others should also be given a holiday in the year to observe their sacred days.

My other suggestion to President Kufuor's government and the parliament is to annul their aggressive obsession about the study of European languages in the public schools, and consider setting up a national commission to develop an African-centered curriculum on African history and culture, from the Nile Valley civilizations to the present. The commission should take into account J. E. Casely-Hayford's vision of an African university on the African soil. If considered, I would add that the study of African history and culture (including the languages) should be made mandatory for all students from kindergarten to the university. This is because culture is the keystone of socio-economic transformation. Otherwise, the African Union holiday on May 25 would become a cosmetic proclamation.

I salute President Kufuor for his historic declaration!

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