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“At Long Last…”

"At Long Last..."

At long last, the battle has ended! And thus Ghana, your beloved country is free forever.

Ghana is celebrating her independence today and this marks its 60th anniversary since she gained her freedom from the British colonial masters. As has always been the norm, over the years, the day is often marked with different activities commencing with the yearly ritual gathering of Ghanaians at the Independence Square to commemorate the day while the rest of the day witnesses different forms of jollification by Ghanaians. While we mark this memorable day, let us pause and take a stroll down memory lane to trace the journey of the independence of Ghana after it became an imperial colony of Great Britain in 1874.

And yet again I want to take the opportunity to thank the chiefs and people of this country…who have nobly fought and won the battle.

The independence of Ghana though was declared on 6th March, 1957, the battle for its achievement took an arduous journey with the laudable effort of some nationalistic movements and patriotic individuals whose love for the country is immeasurable.

The agitation for self-rule dates back to the early 1850’s with the resistance against the Poll Tax Ordinance of 1852. The Poll Tax Ordinance of 1852 was a law enacted to raise money for the development of Gold Coast. However, the people of Gold Coast were not pleased with the government’s control of the tax. This led to the birth of the Fante Confederation in 1868 and later the Aborigines Right Protection Society (ARPS) in 1897 to plan a policy of self-determination in order to protest against government actions. Though both achieved their individual goals in spite of the challenges they confronted, British subjugation and the exploitation of the indigenes continued.

Another form of resistance to British imperialism came from the Asantes through the historic Yaa Asantewaa War of 1900 led by the queen mother of Edweso, Yaa Asantewaa. The war emanated from a number of measures put in place by the British that were not favourable to the Ashantes. The war came to an end with the defeat of the Ashantes and the exile of Asantes’ dignitaries including the Asantehene Prempeh I, the queen mother, Yaa Kyiaa and Yaa Asantewaa to the Seychelles Island in 1902.

The nationalist spirit which necessitated the formation of the Fante Confederation and the ARPS also necessitated the birth of an inter-territorial front, National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA), co-founded by Joseph E. Casely Hayford in 1920.The NCBWA was made up of leaders of four British West African colonies: the Gambia, Gold coast, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The core mandate of this congress was the creation of legislative councils in the four British colonies to partake in the elective assemblies in charge of colonial administration. The congress, therefore, pushed for the establishment of higher institutions in the four British colonies for the education of citizens. This was to enable a fuller participation of citizens of member countries in decision-making and policy implementation of the colonies. Though the congress died with the death of Joseph E. Casely Hayford in 1930, it saw the establishment of the Prince of Wales College in Sierra Leone, the Armitage College in the Gambia and the Achimota College in addition to other educational facilities established by the missionaries. Also, there was the establishment of University Colleges in the Gold Coast and Ibadan, Nigeria. This enabled the expansion of formal education as scholarships were granted for those who excelled for further studies abroad. The increase in the number of educated Ghanaians paved way for the springing up of youth movements such as the Gold Coast Youth Conference and the West African Youth League. These youth movements prepared the ground for effective moves against colonial rule. These movements, however, could not achieve much success as they were stifled by the Sedition Ordinance introduced by the colonial government and partly due to their membership confined, largely, to the upper middle class of professionals, exempting the ordinary men and women in the society.

The World War II also had a great impact in the facilitation of the struggle against colonial rule. The unfair colonial economic system and social injustice during and after the war brought about dissatisfaction among the people of Gold Coast. Consequently this geared up a revolutionary spirit among the people which led to the formation of the first political party UGCC in August 1947. Its founding members included George Grant, J.B. Danquah, R.S. Blay and R.A. Awoonor Williams, Edward Akufo Addo, Kobina Kessie, William Ofori Atta, J.W. de Graft-Johnson,E. Obetsebi Lamptey and Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who was invited from the United Kingdom to be the party’s general secretary. The UGCC’s fight against colonial oppression saw the throwing of the Burns Constitution of 1946 into disuse and the birth of the Coussey Constitution of 1950 which was more favourable to the people of Gold Coast. With the UGCC at the political front, the people’s dissatisfaction against colonial policies intensified. This led to the 1948 riots and the boycott of European goods led by Nii Kwabena Bonne III, the Osu Alata Mantse. Thus, the UGCC leaders were held responsible for the acts and its leaders were imprisoned for eight weeks. The arrested leaders of the UGCC became known as the celebrated ‘Big Six’ of Ghana’s history.

On the release of the ‘Big Six’, Nkrumah began to indulge in clandestine dealings detrimental to the solidarity of the party. As a result, he was relieved of his post as the general secretary. He formed a new political party by converting the Committee on Youth Organization (CYO) of the UGCC to form the Convention People’s Party (CPP) on the 12th of June 1949.The CPP, which was more radical in its attempt to gain independence, gained popularity over the UGCC as the former embraced all classes of people and its political ideologies were more alluring to the masses. While the UGCC stood for the achievement of independence within the shortest possible time, the CPP, “self-government now”. Again, the CPP owed its popularity and success to Nkrumah’s charismatic authority and the unwavering support of political strategists such as Kojo Botsio, K.A. Gbedema, Dzenkle Dzewu, Kwamina Wellbeck Pobee Biney, Krobo Adusei and Nana Kobina Nketsia IV of Esikadu, Sekondi. The CPP in its radical nature in achieving self-rule led its leaders into prison in 1950. While the leaders of the CPP served their prison sentences, the party won the 1951 election. This led to their release by Sir Charles Arden-Clarke. Nkrumah was made the leader of Government Business and in 1952, the prime minister.

Nkrumah’s assumption of office as the prime minister was a promising step towards independence. It saw the tailoring of the 1954 constitution to suit the people of Gold Coast. Also, for the first time the people of Gold Coast were granted general suffrage as all constituency seats were contested for. This saw the springing up of new political parties to contest in the first election in 1954.This saw the CPP winning 79 of the 104 seats and in the 1956 election, 71 of 104 seats. With this milestone in the life of the people of Gold Coast, self-rule was at hand. However, it was delayed by two developments .First was the advent of the National Liberation Movement (NLM) led by Baffour Osei Akoto to oppose Nkrumah and address the grievances of the Asantes. Second, is the controversial issue of the trusteeship territory of the trans-Volta Togoland. In resolving these outstanding differences, the secretary of states for the colonies, Lennox Boyd, through a diplomatic mediation brought the CPP and the opposition parties to an understanding and advised Nkrumah to table a motion for independence in the new parliament. On 7thFebruary, 1957, a royal assent was granted to the Ghana Independence Act and the country was proclaimed a sovereign independent nation on 6th March 1957.This day also marks the anniversary of the signing of the bond of 1844. The new nation was officially named Ghana (the name of a powerful empire in the Western Sudan in the early days).

… I am depending upon the millions of the country, and the chiefs and people to help me reshape the destiny of this country

From the foregoing, one thing seems to stand out, that the independence of Ghana was not granted on a silver platter and as such, as we celebrate this year’s Independence Day, amidst the feasting and bashing, let us, as Ghanaians, be cognizant of our obligations and duties to our mother land, parents and teachers must teach wards/students to take inspiration from the hard work of our forefathers who won us independence and emulate that and “Steadily and consistently… build a better and richer life for our country” Nkrumah.

 

REFERENCES

Kordzo Gadzepkor, Seth. History of Ghana since Pre- History. Accra: Excellent Publishing and Printing, 2005

Obeng, Samuel. Selected  Speeches of Nkrumah. Accra: Afram Publications, 1960

Asirifi, Danquah. Self-Rule in Ghana: Pioneers of the Struggle.  2007.

Kimbe, David. A Political History and Change in Ghana. Accra: University of Ghana Press, 1992.

August 16, 2017

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