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Opinions of Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Columnist: Antobam, Kobina

Allow the Heroes of Independent Struggle to RIP

Why don’t we allow the Heroes of our Independent Struggle Rest in Peace

1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
3. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
4. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
5. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
(Extracts from ‘The Paradoxical Commandments’ by Dr. Kent M. Keith

I am going to wade into the “who founded Oman Ghana” hullabaloo and I know that the protagonists on both sides of the argument, especially the half-literate, non-thinking ones are going to come after me like attack dogs, but I will do it anyway, for the sake of the future of my grandchildren. The late former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (the first woman, and possibly only scientist ever to hold the position once said, “Science first finds the facts, determines their veracity and then applies them in argument.” From the first landing at Elmina of the Portuguese to the land which became “The Gold Coast”, through the signing of the Bond of 1844 with Fanti Chiefs, the Aborigines Rights Protection Society, the United Gold Coast Convention to the Convention People’s Party, through 5th March 1957, numerous Gold Coasters, as my Sierra Leonean friends would say, played crucial roles in the journey that ended up at the Polo Grounds on the evening of 6th March 1957.

Do the present generation of 15 to 55 year olds ever try to learn about people like Nana Kwamena Ansah, Kwaw Ebonyi (alias “I went to Italy for Adzesua”), who paid from his own pocket for Lawyer Mensah Sarbah and his friends to go to the Court of St James and argue against the Lands Bill, which would have turned the Gold Coast into another South Africa, Rhodesia or Kenya? About sixteen years ago, I climbed Mount Nakuru, the second highest mountain in Kenya on a pilgrimage, to see the tombstone of a man and his wife at the apex of the beautiful mountain. As a scientist, I was fascinated by the geology and ecology of the surroundings, but I was also intrigued by the fact that the Kenyans have preserved the memory of this most obnoxious individual and his wife. My Kenyan friends simply told me, “He is part of our history and we cannot obliterate it. We especially need that to let generations unborn know how far we have come and how precious our freedom is.” It was very humbling for me as a Ghanaian.

Apparently because of the land laws that existed in Kenya before independence, this veteran of World War II, travelled to Kenya after the war and armed with his knowledge of the area from earlier military exercises, climbed to the top of the mountain with local chiefs and pointing as far as the human eye could see, declared “the land bordering that tree, that hill all the way round is mine. From tomorrow, everyone within the perimeter so described, works for me!” And that was it, no discussion, no argument, no MOU, no indenture, no paper signing, nothing. His word was the Law. He quickly recruited his own security and began exacting rents from the people whose ancestors had lived and farmed those lands for thousands of years.

Do we ever ask about Paa Grant, Atu Ahuma, Sgt Adjetey and his friends, Nii Kwabena Bonney, alias Boycotthene, without whose efforts and commitment “Positive Action” would ever have succeeded? My English Master and Housemaster was one of those students who were sacked from Mfantsipim School by the colonial government, for supporting positive action. They ended up as the pioneering students of Ghana National College. Prof Ampenyin Allotey mentioned that in his fascinating interview a little while ago. Does anyone know the number of students that were sacked, how old those brave, young selfless students were? Do we know any names for posterity?

The American “Declaration of Independence” was signed by all the generals on the two sides of the civil war. People who had sought to blow each other to smithereens a few weeks before. Today, nobody speaks ill of any of the two sides. They were all part of the struggle.

Selfish traits
A very selfish trait has run through our national politics since the early 1940s or thereabouts and our current vicious cycle of two feet forward, three backward has that trait to thank for. First Dr J B Danquah used the Aborigines Rights Protection Society to further his personal political ambition. In comes Kwame Nkrumah in late 1947. After enjoying the largesse and hospitality of a group of people, he turned around and used their hospitality against them. Even the name ‘Convention People’s Party’, with the word “Convention” well seeped in the psyche of Ghanaians had a lot to say about Kwame Nkrumah’s tactics. Was that opportunism? Probably not. Ingratitude? May be. But that is the game of politics. Some are more astute than others. That is what Tony Blair did to Gordon Brown in Britain in the 1990s. The end justifies the means? Certainly.

In the Second Republic, General Afrifa and his friends made sure they had “their man” Prof Kofi Busia at the top, to protect their interest. That is exactly what Okutwer Bekoe and his friends at the helm of the PNP did with Dr. Limann in the ill-fated Third Republic. The brilliant French scholar from prestigious Sorbonne, had no room whatsoever to manuevre. They simply tied Limann’s hands behind his back and allowed his opponents to pummel him.

The Fourth Republic has not been spared this selfishness either. Knowing the skeletons in his cupboard, Jerry Rawlings first got his friends to insert Indemnity Clauses in the already approved Constitution by cover of night. Still not satisfied with that, he went to the Swedru Sports Stadium and without nominations, debate or voting, simply raised the hand of Prof Atta MiIls as his successor. Mr. Kufuor would not be left behind in the shenanigan. For whatever reason, he wanted Alan Cash to succeed him by hook or crook. Much of the aggravation that bugged the NPP in the elections of 2008 and 2012, can be traced to that. And oh, I nearly forgot the Paa Willie - Victor Owusu folly of 1979.There is still bad blood from that episode, between the two factions of the party.

The South African example
Now contrast all that with Mr. Nelson Mandela and the ANC in South Africa. Having gone from a very humble background to the best boarding school for non-whites at the time and eventually becoming one of the first black attorneys in South Africa, Mandela’s original idea was to fight for his personal right to practise his profession as a middle class African. But before then, he had joined the ANC, which had been formed a few years before he was born, and as he read about freedom fighters, he learnt that until every black South African was freed from the shackles of Apartheid, his own personal freedom was meaningless.

Mr. Mandela eventually became one of the leaders of the ANC and formed the military wing, Umkhonto we Siszwe single-handed. After he was jailed, his friend and law firm partner, Oliver Tambo ran the two organizations from exile, with occasional smuggled messages between them. About eighteen months before Mandela was released, Olive Tambo suffered a stroke which confined him to a wheel chair. At their first meeting in Sweden where Mr. Tambo was recuperating, Mr. Tambo said to Mandela, “Nelson, now that you are out, you should take over the leadership of the congress.” That should have been the natural thing to do. But Mr. Mandela said, “No.” When Oliver Tambo insisted, Mandela told him that he should wait for the next congress and put it to vote. When Mr. Tambo died a few months before the first multi-racial election in South Africa, Mr. Mandela touched his casket and said, “it feels like a part of me is gone.” That is statesmanship, which shows a man who was prepared to serve his fellow human beings with humility, selflessness, faithfulness and honesty. That is what we missed in the run up to our national independence and are still missing in our leaders today.

Leave the dead to rest in peace
The most nauseating aspect of the “who founded Ghana cacophony” is that the shrillest voices come from people who had the opportunity to serve Mother Ghana and achieved absolute damn all, in spite of the millions that were thrown at their outfits. Instead, much of that money went into the pockets of private individuals who are now living it up like Arab Sheikhs.

As Mr. Justice Dotse rightly pointed out at the Supreme Court the other day, there are more serious life and death matters to resolve in Ghana. Malaria, whooping cough, cholera and hepatitis, among other environmental diseases, should not be killing our people in the twenty-first century. Our schools are failing 80% of the future leaders of Ghana, while we still go to aircraft manufacturers and ask them to double the prices of aircraft that we buy because “our taxpayers are suckers for punishment.” We then go globe-trotting in multi-hundred million dollar aircraft with bowls in hand, begging others to give us five million dollars, to come and build school pavilions!

No, our forebears have done their bit and gone. Let us leave them in peace to enjoy their well-earned rest. Let us learn from whatever mistakes they made and move on. As Ghanaians, (and especially well brought up Akans), we do not speak ill of the dead. We usually send them off with good tributes and leave the hereafter to their Maker. Many of those people that we are now using as our kicking rags lived and died for their convictions. Many forsook family, lucrative careers and youth and went to prison for what they believed in. That cannot be said of many of us who even when we have been caught red-handed breaking the law, try to wriggle ourselves out of prison.
I might return.