Sane Eteshi – Matters Arising
My version of history is quite different from the version of history that has bestowed on another national holiday on our country. The Speaker of our Parliament over the years has campaigned for us to have a Founders’ Day because he is not happy with Founder’s Day. However, the date chosen – 4 August – has proved to be controversial because it represents nothing in our history: a day of no real significance, important to only a few and imposed on us from a very narrow reading of our political history.
But before I wade, yet again, into the debate, with a more refreshing perspective that will appeal to all, let me share the good news in the Convention People’s Party.
Our Senior Comrade R O Frimpong Manso and others have negotiated a party congress. There were two women vying for the leader’s position – one of them the incumbent acting chair, Hajia Hamdatu, who was pitted against a former running mate, Cherita Nana Kumankuma Sarpong. They had already seen off a challenge from two men, Bright Nana Oduro Kwarteng, a CPP stalwart, who was standing against a very young man, Kwaku Quansah.
The contest for the national secretary’s position had the acting incumbent, James Kwabena Bomfeh, running against one of the daughters of the party, Nana Yaa Jantuah. And again, a woman won. Then, for the position of the flagbearer, an old hand, Bright Akwetey – who took the party to court and caused a delay in holding the congress – was pitted against Pastor Ayivor, who was relatively unknown, and Ivor Greenstreet, the flagbearer in the 2016 election.
What’s in a date?
I think that some observations about the outcomes of elections in the Fourth Republic are in order here. On the national scene, Jerry John Rawlings and John Dramani Mahama won at their first attempt at securing the presidency. But Rawlings was a military-dictator-turned-democrat and Mahama was the incumbent, having completed the term of John Evans Atta Mills. John Kufuor became president, George Hagan came and left, George Aggudey came and left, Paa Kwesi Nduom came and left to form his own party, and Foster Abu Sakara came and left to form his own movement.
It is refreshing to note that Greenstreet has stayed the course and is intent to carry on seeking what the founders of the party wanted – social justice for all, self-reliance for the country and a large dose of African unity. His victory is as he deserves.
I know that my late uncle W J Kwesi Mould was the second person to contribute his £25 on the formation of the United Gold Coast Convention on 4 August 1947. But what has 4 August got to do with the founding of the nation of Ghana, and what have the Big Six got to do with it? Nothing at all, not even a tenuous link. The UGCC was more about the colony than it was about Ghana, and the personalities in the Big Six (accidental heroes, I must add) represented people from a minority in the Gold Coast.
When pressed, supporters of the new Founders’ Day have suggested that 4 August was also the day that the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society was set up, in 1897. Now this is convenient, but when was the National Congress of British West Africa set up and why does it, too, not deserve a holiday? Mr Speaker, can we have a holiday for the NCBWA?
Remembering the Boycotthene
And now to the events that led to the glorification of the Big Six, the accidental heroes of Ghana: the real history, not the selective one.
Theodore Taylor, of Sierra Leonean extraction (he may not have been allowed to register to vote in the Electoral Commission’s 2020 programme), popularly known by his stool name Nii Kwabena Bonney III, was the Osu Alata Mantse and doubled up as Oyokohene of Techiman.
Nii Kwabena Bonney, who built Rolyat Castle in Kokomlemle, had initiated a boycott of European-owned shops, starting from 28 February 1948. On that day, ex-servicemen who had fought in the Second World War decided to march to Christiansborg Castle to present a petition calling for fair treatment in the allocation of pensions and benefits. Their Caucasian peers alongside whom they had fought in the war had received payments and jobs where the Gold Coasters had none.
Private Odartey Lamptey, Corporal Attipoe and Sergeant Adjetey were shot on that eventful day. The looting of shops which started on that day was the result of the shooting of the three ex-servicemen, the youth of Accra having been primed about the boycott.
Mr Speaker, as you are in the habit of doling out holidays, may I ask for one more – Heroes’ Day, 28 February?
But what did the Big Six do collectively to win the independence of Ghana? Professor L H Ofosu-Appiah, the classics scholar, tells us in his book on Joseph Boakye Danquah that the plane sent to carry those arrested on suspicion of organising the 1948 uprising had room for only six people, so R S Blay and James Quist-Therson were not transported. On such a whim have these two prominent figures been written out of the history of Ghana.
If anything, I must now mount a campaign for them to be reinstated and we must have the Big Eight. Mr Speaker, big up a holiday for the Big Eight!
Tell your left from your right
We must find a way to make our national holidays more acceptable to all, and in so doing lay bare to all the true political history of our nation. Let us not leave any section of our nation behind.
We celebrate 4 June and 31 December, or at least Jerry Rawlings does, but not 24 February or 13 January, also coup days. We no longer celebrate 1 July as Republic Day, though we celebrate 6 March as our Independence Day. We now celebrate 7 January as Constitution Day. We also celebrate 4 August, the day that the UGCC was set up, as Founders’ Day. Fortunately we have not been able to do anything to shift 21 September, the birthday of the founder of our country, the initiator of the whole liberation movement in Africa.
Most people now recognise 4 August as a memorable day. It was the Nifa Nifa day! I remember driving to Cave du Roi that evening in 1974 for a celebration of sorts and returning the next morning at 5am driving on the other side of the road. It felt a bit strange, but I did get home safely.
Then this year I checked again and found that it was the birthday of a certain Barack Hussein Obama. OK, Mr Speaker: 4 August – Obama Day in Ghana!
Mr Speaker, one last request: please grant the CPP its own holiday – 12 June, the day the CPP was founded. At least the party is still standing.
Wuɔnuu tsuru! Emashi noŋŋ!
London, August 2020
Owula Ade Sawyerr is a writer, social activist and founder partner of Equinox Consulting, which works to develop inner-city and minority communities in Britain. He comments on economic, political and social affairs and is a past chairman of the UK branch of the Convention People’s Party.