Truth is a core question in philosophy. From ancient Greece to modern times, philosophers have proposed various definitions of truth. But, to take a historical fact out of context and use it to light the fire of hatred, especially in today's context of religious sensitivity, is most unfortunate. Francis Parkman advises us: “Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far more than a research, however patient and scrupulous, into special facts. Such facts may be detailed with the most minute exactness, and yet the narrative, taken as a whole, may be unmeaning or untrue. The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the time. He must study events in their bearings near and remote; in the character, habits, and manners of those who took part in them. He must himself be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action he describes.”
The above quotation featured in our editorial of Wednesday 8 – Thursday 9, February – Akufo-Addo to Clash with Tsikata. That editorial was about the Ghanaian's inherent love for freedom and the role our fore-parents like J B Danquah and Kwame Nkrumah played in that old struggle.
But, we have noticed two disturbing sets of trends. One, quite old, is to paint Dr Danquah as a CIA spy. The second, which incidentally was 'inspired' by that same editorial is to portray the doyen of Ghana, his grandson Nana Akufo-Addo and by extension the New Patriotic Party as anti-Islam.
These two arsonist flames of hatred were first publicly torched by Kwesi Pratt Jnr, with the disingenuous support of papers sympathetic to the NDC. With the anti-Islamic line, he has been conveniently assisted by a group calling itself the Muslim Youth Organisation, whose sentiments we would want to believe are genuine. Shall we begin with an unqualified apology to any person (or group) who would have been offended by aspects of that editorial.
We had predicted a strong probability of that intellectual exercise being taken out of context and irresponsibly used to whip up 'religious' hatred, that is why we followed J B Danquah's description of our flight from old Ghana with Francis Parkman's words.
What was the issue? Nana Akufo-Addo was reminding us of Dr Danquah's reminder that it was love for our freedom that made us flee the old Ghana to our present home. If to the old Ghanaians, who presumably had their own sovereignty and beliefs to protect, the Arab invaders, who came with Islam, almost a Millennium ago brought with them the threat of religious and political slavery, who are we to deny them that feeling? Notwithstanding, the fact that we now know better doesn't make it wrong at that material time. That, unfortunately, is the simple fact of history – like it or despise it.
It is rather noteworthy that in his speech at KNUST last week, Nana Akufo-Addo stated:
“The early nationalists, John Mensah Sarbah, Joseph Casely Hayford, even Kobina Sekyi, as well as the latter nationalists – Obetsebi-Lamptey, Akufo-Addo, Ofori-Atta, Ako-Adjei, Nkrumah and Busia – all agreed with Danquah that the paramount and overriding concern at all times is the preservation, in his vivid words, of 'our ancient freedom.' Because, according to him, the man whose scholarship gave our nation her name of Ghana, 'love of freedom from foreign control has always been in our blood.' But, that is not to say everything alien that our ancestors initially resisted was bad,” Nana Akufo-Addo stressed.
“We continue to enjoy the spiritual enhancement that Christianity and Islam have given us and the contributions those two major religions have made to our appreciation of tolerance, discipline and freedom from oppression,” the Foreign Minister told his audience.
He went on to say, “Ghanaians have never let go of their dependence upon the fundamental political power that depends upon people's confidence in their local Nana or Ya Na, in their Imam or pastor, in his or her relationship to the past and the future.”
For Dr Danquah's part, he had observed as far back as June 1, 1950: “Men's opinions and beliefs are based partly upon what men wish to believe as well as the interpretation they place on conflicting facts or allegations. But truth admits of no opinions, nor of any beliefs, but stands naked and unadorned, the view of her the evidence conclusive that she is a reality and not a fantasy or an imagined thing.”
Perhaps, a little history of Dr Danquah's upbringing would help. Kwame Kyeretwie Danquah was born in 1895 to Yaw Boakye, a state drummer in the royal court of the Okyenhene Nana Amoako Atta III and Lydia Akom Korantemaa. J B and his big brother Kwadwo Dua (Aaron Eugene Boakye) Danquah (later Nana Sir Ofori Atta I) were personal 'victims' of the fundamental struggle between the old traditional order and Christianity.
When the missionaries of the Basel Missionary Society were welcomed by the Okyenehene to settle at Obronikrom to help 'educate' his people, they were soon to convert Yaw Boakye, setting in motion an era of defiance against the traditional order. The state drummer turned preacher soon began to preach the gospel across Okyeman and beyond. The conflict between the two beliefs soon became apparent with the Okyenhene's authority and allegiance suffering from the effect of the received doctrine on his people. Eventually, the Okyenhene, it is said, was forced to drive out of town to Begoro, Yaw Boakye and his family.
So if anybody in the Gold Coast understood what a 'foreign' religion meant to the old order and the people whose job it was to protect the old order, J B was the one. But, as the John Stuart Mill Scholar of Philosophy of Mind and Logic that he was, he did not allow his own experiences to cloud his re-telling of historical facts.
We, in modern Ghana, must not allow our local cartoonists of polemic to make a mockery of our heterogeneous and intrinsically inclusive, multicultural past. Ethnic-baiting and religious hatred are divisionary tactics as old as the Shai hills and the Aburi mountains. Ghana is a country where we still speak upwards of 30 distinct languages, and we still engage daily in the rituals, customs and religious observances that inspire that vibrant diversity of self-expression. We should resist the entropic forces that descend our privileged, sacred symphony of beliefs into a shaky, incoherent tower of Babel.
The weaker an opposition is, the lower it will stoop in devising tactics to divide and breed suspicion. Our country's cohesion and unity on the international stage could not be more critical than at this time, when outside interests are just as prone to create of the West Coast a new Gulf crisis in their insatiable demand to satisfy their addiction to oil. If our Muslim brothers are misled into thinking they have no stake in a government, whose Vice is himself a true disciple of the Rasul of Allah, then we open the door to chaotic interference from outsiders who would eagerly profit from instability. Internally we suffer the antics of a cadre who are comparably addicted to power and control. These detractors cannot conceive of a democracy where parties form a consensus coalition to fight against a common enemy: poverty. Rather, they would prefer a destabilised, fractured and debilitated political arena to prevent the efficacy of the current administration in any progressive policy. Our Veep has never sold out and in no way is he ever going to sell out neither his religious convictions nor our government's solemn respect for the prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him. Any true Muslim, just as any true Christian, understands that the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and of the Prophet Mohammed converge on the mandate that thy neighbour is thy brother. Ghana has always exemplified that spirit of mutual respect, indeed of agape or brotherly love, preached by both these religious geniuses.
As the Rasul of God and the Son of God would recognise themselves in each other, so too should we recognise ourselves in each other, and not be misled by those who would ransom our dear country's peace and future prosperity for petty profit and selfish gain.
This latest unhealthy trend in our country's urban mix of the pure and the profane gives us an opportunity to exercise our spiritual fortitude and perseverance. We must bear with those who are currently weak, who remain politically immature, who see as children: not clearly with foresight, but regressively and through the glass darkly. We must follow our chosen examples in the right Way as our religious heroes have taught us to react through their lives and their teachings. We need to hear this latest mischief and bear with it as the tantrums of a misinformed, misled, and broken underdog.
So in keeping with our directives, we will grow stronger in our own compassion, in our own vision, by insisting on an attitude of mutual respect, forbearance, and godly love. Praise be upon Him.
Next issue, is the CIA Spy charge. The claim is that declassified files from the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States have disclosed that Dr Danquah was on its books as an agent. That he was receiving funds and passing on information to America. We shall respond with a simple question: KGB files (and even South Africa's Truth and National Reconciliation files) show that Nelson Mandela and his ANC were receiving financial and technical support from the KGB. Does that make Mr Mandela or Thabo Mbeki a Soviet spy?
First-hand testimony by former combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and factual evidence been presented about the inner nature of the ANC and its eminence grise, the South African Communist Party – which was led by the late Joe Slovo, a Lithuanian-born KGB colonel and the 'Chief of Staff' of the KGB-trained MK, show a strong relationship between the ANC leadership and the KGB.
Unfortunately, Umkhonto we Sizwe was accused as an extension in Africa of the KGB and its role in the civil war in Angola misconstrued to serve primarily as a surrogate to Soviet foreign policy interests. During his treason trial, Oliver Tambo, the former president of the ANC, was accused of working with Chinese security agents.
We cannot look at the alliances formed in the liberation years without understanding the internal-enemy-danger-psychosis of the period. Dr Danquah never flinched in his principled stance for free market and liberal democracy – the very ideas America preaches. So, should it therefore be strange if he sought the support from America in 'liberating' Ghana from Nkrumah's 'Soviet-like' dictatorship?
When the MK forces supported Josua Nkomo's or Mugabe's ZANU, they knew it suited the Soviets and the Cubans who gave them logistic support. But that was in the context of the Cold War. Nkrumah, of course, was suspiciously and unfairly viewed by the Americans and Britons as a Soviet 'stooge'. The release of the VENONA transcripts and material from Eastern bloc intelligence archives after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, added more material for the discussion of what had been going on during the 1950s and 1960s.
Ghanaians must begin to take strong principled stances against the prophets of intellectual dishonesty and reckless sectarianism. The time will come when the whole of our civil society is strong enough to provide a useful contributing opposition, one which spills over with alternative programmes, useful criticism and corrective policy analyses. The current sounding brass and tinkling cymbals that we hear now are abrasive and empty diatribes. Through the pain of a useless mouthpiece the opposition sadly exudes little more than deceits and efforts to humiliate. But this is only because currently the opposition's mouthpiece has nothing else to offer.
Perhaps, Ghana truly is not a country worth dying for if a man who ignored his lucrative law practice to lose his life in the struggle for freedom could be reduced as a mere spy for a foreign power.