Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah wa yer wo den? – Ade Sawyerr
The Ghana@60 team came over to England in May 2017 to talk about the 60 glorious years of our independence won for us by Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah on the 6th of March 1957.
They treated us to a very well-made film by a charming young man ‘From Gold Coast to Ghana’, that had been premiered in Accra 2 days before the celebration of our 6oth birthday to some acclaim but also to a lot of controversies. Incidentally, I had written a piece with the same title for our national black newspaper in the UK, the Voice – http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/gold-coast-ghana
So I thought great! Let me listen to this young man and watch his film which must be a bold attempt to depict our history from his perspective, a different light or angle that I may have missed. In his introduction to the film he talked about how our unreconciled history may have affected our development and gave examples of how in places such as the West, most of the contributors to the founding of the nation had been given their due place, recognised and adequately celebrated. The examples from Nigeria and South Africa were not very convincing, indeed Oliver Thambo had always been the head of the African National Congress and there was no question or debate about that except that because of the incarceration of Mandela for a very long time he had become the international symbol in the fight against apartheid.
But then in the main introduction for the event, I heard quotations from Danquah flowing all over the place and should have realised that something was going on when South Africa was mentioned in relation to Ghana. What came to mind was Busia’s feeble attempt for dialogue with South Africa and then I remembered that Kufuor had set up a National Reconciliation Commission copying from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa – so in truth our history had been reconciled already!
Paul Adom-Otchere said that his film was about the various and different constitutions of our land so I thought that this was going to be interesting for me and I must suspend judgement so that I would enjoy what this film is all about.
And then the film started and I started noticing several things in the script. Achimota School and there the names of the mothers of President Nana Addo and the other flagbearer aspirant Kyeremanten came up. Aggrey was celebrated all right as was Fraser. The grandees of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society were recognised and celebrated in the film and there was a brief mention of the National Council of British West Africa.
Suddenly from nowhere appeared JB Danquah, framed as one of the leading lights of NCBWA, who was to be the bridge between the past and the future of Ghana looming large in the rest of the narrative and central to the transition between Gold Coast and Ghana. Sarah Grant was excellent in her account of the events and very balanced but from that point came justification after justification of the role of Danquah had played in our independence including the laughable suggestion that if Nkrumah had allowed his motion of destiny to have been amended our independence would have happened in 1954 instead of 1957.
Of course, Danquah did play a role in our independence, but more as a leader of sorts of the opposition. He has been honourably rewarded with a Circle as has Obetsebi Lamptey and Ako Adjei with an underpass, maybe the others in the Big Six now need to be celebrated: Akufo Addo pere, and Paa Willie must also have things named after them so that all the Big Six would have been eventually recognised.
There was mention of Sgt Adjetey, Lance Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey.
Then there was a map of Ghana and how Danquah was supposed to have persuaded the Asantehene about Ashanti being part of the nation. But hear this, folks – if Danquah was that persuasive in Ashanti how come that in the 1951 election, the UGCC his party did not sweep that Ashanti Region but ended up with a single seat courtesy of an electoral college. And here was I wondering why the role of the NLM, who the renamed Ghana Congress Party begged to merge with was not given the coverage they deserved in this film.
There certainly was something really surreal about this film – it was as if all the lofty pronouncements about an attempt at reconciling our history, so that the nation would move on, had been jettisoned under another agenda. This agenda was to rehabilitate Danquah who was never a leader of our country and who despite his academic brilliance and hard work never achieved the accolade that he went by – the doyen of Ghana politics, a title that he reminded Nkrumah of, in his letter of congratulations on our independence.
It is not everyone who is successful in politics, it is not everyone who is destined to be a leader of the country that they fought for, not all of us will attain the political heights that others do. That is the fact of life and no amount or attempt to rehabilitate them will let history be any kinder to them.
The film in my view air-brushed out some of the more important people of our story of independence. No mention of Gbedemah and Botsio who ensured Nkrumah’s victory at a time that he was in prison. No mention of the other active players Dombo no, Apaloo, nada, Antor, nary a mention, Bankole Awoonor Renner, nothing. Ayeke did not feature and these were all leaders of their parties at independence.
I was incredulous, you cannot talk about the history of Ghana without mentioning a political giant like Baffour Osei Akoto who caused the CPP to split in Ashanti and went on to form the formidable NLM or Matemeho.
And truly in discussing our independence, if you can mention, the Big Six, incidental heroes, three of whom the film reminded us were related to president Akufo Addo fils, you cannot fail to mention the central figure of the time – Theodore Taylor in private life but better known as Nii Kwabena Bonne Nii Kwabena Bonne III, Osu Alata Mantse, also Nana Owusu Akenten III, Oyokohene of Techiman, Ashanti. This man who took on the AWAM and initiated the boycott of the English merchants that coincided with the shooting and the riots certainly deserves a mention in the story of our independence even if the story is based on constitutions of our country.
After watching this film, I just thought that I needed to comment on how revisionist this is and how the current president has bought into this attempt to rehabilitee a fine scholar who was never destined to be the leader of our country. If this film is a state or party sponsored rewrite of our history, then i can say that our history will never be reconciled. Fairy tales and ‘Tsier Ananu stories will not satisfy our youth in their quest for the story our independence if Nkrumah is cast as an incidental character with Danquah as the central figure.
We wish the president well in his mobilisation of the country for the future and in his vision of Ghana beyond aid, but as for his version of history – it has been rejected not only by the youth but by most of us senior citizens.
Let us work together to fix the country let us use our resourcefulness to transform our resources into wealth for future Ghanaians and beyond so that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo will leave an enduring legacy that we will all be proud of.
But frankly, this revision is not going to go down well. As Sarah Grant sang in the film
Danquah, Nkrumah wa yer wo den?
Ade Sawyer is an associate at community engagement and business development consultancy Equinox Consulting and comments on social, political and community development issues. He can be reached at www.equinoxconsulting.net or at firstname.lastname@example.org