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Opinions of Sunday, 27 February 2011

Columnist: Asante-Yeboah, Joseph

I celebrate my human rights in February

The month of February is nearly gone, and I look forward to spring, Easter and summer. Before the white man arrived on the shores of the Gold Coast to bring Christianity to Africa, my ancestors, as a people, had their religion to acknowledge the fact that there is a supreme being up there, an invincible spirit that passes all understanding.

My father and my mother taught me that the fact that I could not see this spirit showed that he was truly the Almighty, the Omnipotent. All the people on the earth belong to this Almighty, therefore, I should avoid hurting Him by loving my fellow human being as myself.

When I got to understand this Akan concept of God, the idea of showing reverence for my ancestors and holding the dead in esteem came to me with much fascination. I am here referring to the literary works of the eminent scholar Dr J B Danquah.

It was on the 4th of February 1965 that Dr Joseph Boakye Danquah, Doyen of Ghana Politics and the man who identified the people of the then Gold Coast as being part of an ancient empire called Ghana in the north of Africa, died in Nsawam security prison. To me, Dr Danquah is foremost in mind when we talk of our African ancestors.

The United Nations General Assembly has passed a resolution declaring this year, 2011, as the International Year for People of African Descent. Therefore, in the month of February in which the anniversary of Dr Danquah’s death occurs, I feel I must embrace his literary works that have helped me to appreciate and believe in my African personality. His untiring work, along with others, to start the movement for independence and secure respect for fundamental human rights for everyone and good governance for the country must equally be celebrated.

Still on the international stage, Americans are, in this month of February, celebrating Black History Month. Thus, in my own local area, I can take inspiration from this and find a quiet hour during the month to acknowledge the contribution that my ancestors, in their own little way, have made towards mankind.

Talking of my ancestors and people who have laid down their life to give me freedom, my mind goes back to Sgt Atikpoe, Adjetey and others who were massacred in the Christiansborg cross roads incident. It was that incident that brought awakening to the people of Gold Coast about the need to fight for our freedom. The date was the 28th of February. Again, it was in February 1948 that the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) declared to the Imperial Power the readiness of the people of Gold Coast to govern themselves.

During my youthful and adult life, I continue to be inspired to see great men and women carry the flame of liberty burning, and I feel humbled to acknowledge their achievement. 23rd February 2011 was the first anniversary of the indomitable B J da Rocha passing away. I salute him, as the month quietly draws to a close.

The date I would probably celebrate most in terms of my human rights, human dignity and development in freedom is the 24th of February 1966. It was the same Thursday that it is this year, 2011. It was the date Kwame Nkrumah and his CPP tyrannical government was overthrown. I know there are people who feel uncomfortable defending the operation that was executed by the Ghana Armed Forces and the Police at the time. But I witnessed the announcement and the celebration that erupted across the length and breadth of the country in the early hours of the following morning and for weeks and months thereafter and cannot keep quiet over them. On the occasion of the forty-fifth anniversary of your gallant effort, I salute you, General Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka, Lt-Gen Joseph A Ankrah, General A K Ocran, Mr A K Deku, Mr J W K Harley, General Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa, and all those who laid down their life to give us the freedom we enjoy today.

Soon after the overthrow of the CPP government, the Legon Society on National Affairs was formed. In addition, a number of institutions organised public lectures basically posting the question “What went wrong?” I think this should be a continuous process, asking ourselves at each stage of our nationhood: “What could we have done better?”

As I look back on the several months of February that have passed since 1948 and even earlier, it is my humble suggestion that NPP set February aside to retrace the bumpy road that has taken the Danquah-Dombo-Busia tradition this far, rededicate ourselves to the ideals of that tradition and recommit ourselves to fundamental human rights, strong institutions, good governance, the rule of law and order, and development in freedom in our struggle to make our nation great and strong.

I dedicate this article to the memory of the men and women of the Ghana Armed Forces and civilians who fell defending Dr Busia’s Progress Party government in Col Acheampong’s coup d’etat of 13th January 1972.

Joseph Asante-Yeboah