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21.03.2007 General News

Don’t Distort Nation’s History

The President of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS), Dr Letitia Eva Obeng, has deplored the attempt by some people to distort the country's history.

She observed that in recent times, particularly during Ghana's Golden Jubilee celebrations, there had been disturbing misinformation bordering on false claims about the contribution of certain individuals to the attainment of independence.

Using the platform of the 40th J. B. Danquah Memorial Lectures last Monday to express the concern, Dr Obeng cited a recent television documentary on the contribution of Ghanaian women to national development and wondered how there could be such a programme without the mention of distinguished personalities like Hannah Cudjoe, Mrs Evelyn Amarteifio, Justice Annie Jiagge, Esther Ocloo and the famous trader, Auntie Dedei.

“Could it be because those women were not politicians?” she asked, pointing out that although those women were not politicians, their contribution to national development was as worthy as gold.

Dr Obeng described that television documentary as “shallow and very embarrassing”.

She called for urgent measures to stop the distortion, adding that majority of Ghanaians were below the age of 50 and so if the history of the country was not straightened, the youth would be misled.

This year's J. B. Danquah Memorial Lectures, on the theme: “Ghana and the promotion of Pan-Africanism and Regionalism”, are being delivered by Prof. S. K. B. Asante, a Fellow of the academy and Member of the Governing Council of the National African Peer Review Mechanism.

The lectures were instituted by the GAAS in 1968 to honour the memory of Dr Joseph Boakye Danquah, a member of the Big Six who is widely acknowledged as the Doyen of Gold Coast Politics, foundation member of the academy, lawyer, journalist, poet, novelist and dramatist, for fighting for freedom in all its manifestations.

The three-series annual lectures are normally held in February, the month in which Dr Danquah died in prison in 1965, but, as explained by the Honorary Secretary of the GAAS, Prof Henrietta Mensah-Bonsu, the departure this year was because the academy could not secure the British Council Auditorium, the traditional venue, in view of the Golden Jubilee celebrations.

The change notwithstanding, the first series of the lectures attracted a large audience, including the family of Dr Danquah, and also survived three intermittent power outages at the early stages of the programme.

Dr Obeng, the first female President of the 48-year-old academy and 2006 recipient of the Order of the Star of Ghana, said it was important to record the country's history without bias sentiments for the benefit of the youth and posterity.

She said the celebration of the country's Golden Jubilee was the most appropriate time to straighten its history.

Dr Obeng said it was important to acknowledge the contribution of all individuals to the breaking of the yoke of colonialism and urged people stuck to one view to purge themselves of such a stance because they stood the risk of distorting history.

Delivering the main lecture on the topic, “Ghana in search of Pan-Africanism and Regionalism: A historical overview”, Prof. Asante explained that Pan-Africanism and regionalism were tools employed by the Gold Coast nationalists in the struggle against colonialism and imperialism in the 1920s and 1930s.

He said it was regrettable that such impressive contributions made by Dr Danquah and other nationalists towards the attainment of independence before the advent of Dr Kwame Nkrumah in national politics seemed to be neglected.

Prof. Asante spent a greater part of his 70-minute lecture on debunking the overwhelming credit given to Dr Nkrumah in the struggle for independence and proceeded to “set the records straight”.

He cited instances to dismiss what he described as the myth surrounding Dr Nkrumah as the prophet of Pan-Africanism and other claims, contending that other nationalists like Dr Danquah, Paa Grant and R. S. Blay had already blazed the trail.

Prof. Asante said contrary to claims by Ras Thomas Makonnen, a West Indian Pan-Africanist and close associate of Dr Nkrumah, that it was Nkrumah who promoted the idea of a separate national university for Ghana as opposed to a single West African university, it was common knowledge that Dr Danquah was credited with that proposal when Dr Nkrumah was in England.

He noted that the Italian aggression on Ethiopia in October 1935 provoked Pan-African sentiments among Gold Coast nationalist politicians who viewed the attack as a European domination to enslave the African and, therefore, demanded self-government.

“Without the antecedents or the anti-colonialist tradition firmly rooted in the soil of the Gold Coast, resulting in the significant achievements in the struggle towards self-government, it might not have been possible for Nkrumah to have achieved in so short a period such a resounding success over colonialism, despite the comparatively favourable post-1945 environment,” he submitted.

Story by Kofi Yeboah