We are greatly honoured to have you here today to dispassionately discuss this very important topic: “The Advent of UGCC and the Independence of Ghana: Examining their Relevance in our Contemporary Society.” At 12:05 this morning, Dr. Vladimir Antwi-Danso—one of our panelists for this program, sent me an image of him on a hospital bed at the Beijing hospital—where he had been the whole of yesterday. But he added, “In spite of this, I shall by all means come.” I appreciate this unique act of his, and thank him dearly. He is one of the patriots of our time, maybe he would prefer comrade—a title for the members of the Convention Peoples Party. I would also thank the Chair—H. E. Dr. Amoakohene for accepting to stand in for President Kufuor on a very short notice.
We are not gathered here at this hour to show the superiority of one nationalist over the other; neither are we here to belittle the contributions of any personality towards the emancipation and development of our motherland. We have gathered here because we want to know our past, and how the past has contributed to the development or otherwise of our nation, and what we have to do differently to make our nation prosperous. Ghana, our motherland, is a great land with beautiful people and great minds; it is a land of enormous opportunities, resources and talents. With the uniqueness of our diversities, we stand a better chance of overcoming the obstacles that have brought nations on their knees. I am talking about poverty, diseases, sicknesses, divisions, hatred, selfishness, greed, corruption and other social vices. These are the obstacles that confront our survival, and must be dealt with in concert. Our divisions are there, our differences are visible, but, what we seem to forget is that, we need differences and diversities to grow, to be better, and subdue our environment.
In our discourses, we must disagree to agree; however, the disagreement should be based on facts and not fiction; merit and not myth; conviction and not convenience. When partisanship and pettiness reign in any society, her progress is normally impeded. At times, some of our actions, whether deliberate or not create problems in our society. For example, as much as I will never overlook the role of President Mills in the development of our country, I think naming the second floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) after him was wrong, especially when you have Presidents Rawlings and Kufuor—whose prior efforts hugely led to our discovery of the black gold around. In all humility, I submit President Mills should have been considered later. It should not have taken the NPP administration to name the third vessel after President Kufuor. We must understand that, as a people, we need to accept and appreciate differences and diversities which are the anchor of progress. A time should come on our political journey, and I think the time is now where we have to acknowledge and reward the unique contributions of our people based on merit and not political considerations or patronage. That is how we build a united society!
During the colonial rule, our forefathers had differences, yet, they came together to pursue a common and worthy end—the emancipation from colonial domination. Some had the vision, others carried the vision, and others made the vision a reality. We need to applaud them all; they all deserve their rightful place in the annals of our history. The vision is not ended, we have to carry the vision and see to its realization. As our first president once said, “our independence is meaningless, until it is link up with the total liberation of Africa.” This is the vision we have to realize, but in realizing it, we must admit that we cannot do so whilst divided; we cannot achieve it when we allow extreme partisanship to take over our consciences.
On Friday, 4th August, 2017, the day UGCC was born, I published an article titled, “The Struggle for Independence and the Unique Role of the UGCC.” In the article, I clearly pointed out that the struggle for our independence was not achieved on a silver platter, but that several of our patriots sacrificed their energies, resources, and even their lives to ensure that we became free from the shackles of colonial domination. In every society, there were people who stood in the gap between the present and the future; these are individuals who wanted to leave an enduring legacy for posterity. These are people who came to the conclusion that they have to live for the future; never valued their existence until it was linked to the liberation of their people. We don’t only live to eat and die, but to impact our world and leave a legacy for our generation and subsequent ones. Because the meaningfulness of our existence lies in the impact we make on society, we need to consciously reward patriotism and acts that encourage others to sacrifice their lives for the benefit of society.
I would like to crave on your indulgence to ask this harmless question, “What will happen to Ghana should we have founders’ day?” I refer to the question as a harmless one because, when we detach ourselves from emotionalism, and extreme partisanship, we shall discover that, those who led the fight for our freedom are all Ghanaians and patriotic ones as such. I am very much persuaded that we shall stand more united when we impartially accord our heroes their befitting role in our society. Let us think about this!
Sixty years before independence, a pressure group—Aborigines Rights Protection Society (ARPS) was formed with the sole aim of safeguarding the property of the indigenes; when the colonial administration decided to introduce the Forest Ordinance in 1911, they resisted it, though it was later passed in 1926. It was this same Society that stood behind the Big Six when they were arrested and detained, when the chiefs stood behind the Colonial Administration against their own. The leadership of the ARPS paid their dues in the fight towards our emancipation.
Mention must also be made of J. E. Casely Hayford, who formed the West African Conference in 1917, which later became the West African Congress in 1920. This was the first pressure group that clearly demanded self-determination from the colonial administration. Though it eventually demised, its role can never be pushed under the carpet. They came to the realization that the time had come for the indigenes to take their destiny into their own hands; they needed to determine their own future. Their aim was to invite the West African colonies under the British to demand “self-determination” and “no taxation without representation.” Three of their most crucial demands are self-government which should be implemented in order to enable peoples of African descent to be part of the governance of their own country, the granting of elective franchise, the abolishing of the system of nomination to the Legislative Council because of its undemocratic nature (Ofosu-Appiah, 1974).
When J. B. Danquah returned home in 1927 after obtaining his doctorate degree, he created an intellectual ferment in the country. He established a law firm, as well as the first daily paper in the country. Together with journalists such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, K. A. B. Jones Quartey, they provided the enabling political atmosphere that raised national consciousness and awareness towards emancipation. Through their mediums, the indigenes were informed about happenings in the country, their depravity, and neglect to second-class citizens on their own land. It must be emphasized that it was through the hard work and sacrifices of the journalists that prompted the people to demand that a delegation of chiefs and the people be sent to protest at the colonial office in London over the Criminal Code (Amendment) Ordinance, popularly called the Sedition Bill, and the Water Works Ordinance of 1934. Dr. J. B. Danquah was the leader of the delegation as the secretary, and demanded, in addition to the two demands stated above, an increase in the number of Africans on the Legislative Council, the election of the provincial council members for the Eastern Province by the Whole Provincial Council, and non-chiefs becoming provincial members.
In the 1940s, the desire for freedom was intensified as the intelligentsia gave their all and ensured that the people got involved in determining their own destiny. Thus, when J. B. Danquah and Mr. George Alfred Grant met in Sekondi, the plan to establish a political party was agreed on. Mr. Grant was not happy about the socio-economic problems at the time and said to Dr. Danquah, “Danquah, the country is slipping down the hill, and what are you doing about it?” Dr. J. B. Danquah replied, “I am in your hands, Sir.” This interaction led to a meeting among Dr. Danquah, Mr. F. Awoonor-Williams, Mr. R. S. Blay, and Mr. Grant. It was at this meeting that led to the eventual formation of the UGCC in Saltpond, on 4th August, 1947.
This day, unarguably, represents the most important step towards the attainment of independence in the Gold Coast. At the inauguration, Mr. Grant was elected the chairman for the occasion, and Dr. J. B. Danquah delivered the inaugural address. The address was so potent and touching to the extent that it was able to create a national awareness, and craving for freedom. After the speech, which was greeted with deafening applause, Mrs. J. B. Eyeson mounted the podium and said, “Dr. Danquah, we had in the past given enthusiastic support to the cause of the Church. Today it is the cause of the nation. Women of the country are behind you.” (Ofosu-Appiah, 1974, p.52, 53).
It must be stated without any shred of doubt, that the dawn of the UGCC prepared the grounds for our independence. In fact, it was the prelude to our independence. As the first political party in the country, the intentions and subsequent activities of our nationalists made the attainment of independence a reality. All this time, Kwame Nkrumah was not in the country; however, upon the recommendation to the executive committee of the UGCC by Mr. Arko-Adjei, he was invited to become the secretary of the convention. Because of the passion of the leadership of the UGCC towards the liberation of the people, they paid Kwame Nkrumah’s travelling expenses, and he arrived in the country on 10th December, 1947. It must also be pointed out that, among the leadership of the convention, he was the only person who received monthly salary. For the other nationalists to use their own resources to bring Kwame Nkrumah back home and pay his salary to help in the struggle clearly shows their resolve and passion for freedom. This commitment towards liberation underscores the significant role of the UGCC towards our independence.
Events after the 1948 riots—which led to the death of Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe, and Private Odartey Lamptey, represent a watershed in our march towards Statehood. The arrest and subsequent detention of the Big SIX (J. B. Danquah, Edward Akufo-Addo, Ako-Adjei, E. Obetsebi-Lamptey, William Ofori-Atta and Kwame Nkrumah) made the UGCC very popular among the grassroots. The cablegram that J. B. Danquah, a member of the executive committee of the UGCC sent to the Secretary of State for the colonies in the United Kingdom demanding the recall of Governor Creasy, the dispatch of a special Commissioner, the establishment of an interim government to be run by the UGCC, and a Constituent Assembly shows the UGCC was yearning for freedom. Although, the objective of the Convention was the attainment of self-government in the shortest possible time, it was steadily moving in that direction until Kwame Nkrumah broke away to form the Convention People’s Party—which was the party that had formed the government when we won independence on 6th March, 1957. We must also applaud Kwame Nkrumah for leading us to achieve independence.
From the above, it is clear that patriotic Ghanaians fought for our Statehood. Those individuals, who led the way, deserve to be commended and applauded. But, for patriots like Mr. Alfred Grant and Dr. J. B. Danquah, who came together to form a political party to salvage the country from economic quagmire, and their invitation of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to be part of the preparation towards independence, probably, 6th March, 1957 would not have happened.
The birth of UGCC is relevant in our lives even today; likewise the day of independence. They offer us the opportunity to live the dream of our forebears—a dream that will make our nation a better place. The relevance of these two major events in our history is to make their dream and vision a reality. They united to instigate a struggle to achieve a great end, so we must unite to make our society better. We must unite to fight corruption, hunger, greed, hatred, animosity, and other societal vices. But, when we allow bitterness, hatred, ethnicity, political leanings, hate to lead our interactions and engagements, then these two events should better be seen as a waste of effort, which should not be so. God bless Ghana!
Source: Dr. Kingsley Nyarko
Executive Director, Danquah Institute (DI)
Senior Lecturer, University of Ghana