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Opinions of Friday, 18 May 2018

Columnist: Bernard Asubonteng

Dr. J.B. Danquah even never existed!

The average Ghanaians are walking contradictions, to say the least. Especially, mention anything about culture and many will jump over the moon to defend and explain how they cherish and venerate their numerous cultures and traditions. Still, when it comes to promoting or cherishing all aspects of culture that many of them proclaim loudly, a lot of them begin to pick and choose as if culture is only about chieftaincy, wearing authentic Ghana “Angelina clothes,” having expensive funerals, or just eat many of the Ghanaian local delicacies while bragging about the “richness” of the nation’s culture.

For millions of Ghanaians, therefore, culture may have little to do with how we venerate or honor the country’s past heroes, including the people whose singular and collective efforts—before and after political independence—prepared Ghana into the ranks of contemporary nations around the world. Talking about cultural veneration or honoring the nation’s famous forebears brings to the fore the historic contributions by Dr. J.B. Danquah toward the formation of modern Ghana.

No doubt, Dr. Danquah played a yeoman’s role in terms of laying down the skeletal structure and the foundational markers for the nation’s self-rule train to take off, yet there are some vociferous groups in the country who wish J.B. Danquah’s name is wiped out of any literature ever written in the annals of Ghana’s checkered history. Whether out of sheer academic dishonesty, rational ignorance, hatred, pure jealousy, or selective rendition of historical reality, whenever the name Dr. J. Boakye Danquah is raised, there are some people who dabble in skewed logics that since Dr. Danquah was not elected president/prime minister his contributions toward the country’s founding are inconsequential.

Put differently, the unstated age-old position of these historical ignoramuses or cynics (wherever they are) almost borders on the veiled suggestion that J.B. Danquah never even lived let alone contributed anything of substance to the formation of our present-day Ghana. So for these “Danquah deniers,” any historical account regarding then Gold Coast’s struggle for self-autonomy from the Union Jack must all be centered and narrated around the sole personality of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first prime minister of the new Ghana.



Unquestionably, Dr. Nkrumah’s leading role in Ghana’s sociopolitical morass is written and etched into an unmovable boulder rock that will always stand the test of time. Indeed, the country’s historical narrative about Dr. Nkrumah’s effort has been exhaustively explored, of which any lingering doubt—if there is one—is long settled in every literary account worth its salt. To that end, any further inquiry to authenticate Nkrumah’s role is pointless.

In view of the preceding fact, it is puzzling and inexplicable to note that the mere mention of Dr. JB Danquah’s name—another important player in Ghanaian political history—gets some people so nervous to the point of insecurity in their convictions, that they start pointing to Dr. Nkrumah’s accomplishments while trivializing and belittling Dr. Danquah’s. It is as if to say, albeit ignorantly, that throughout the world history the fight for political freedom or self-rule is single-handedly done by one person. Evidently, the history of the struggle for political independence worldwide is a collective effort, irrespective of who is leading the pack.



In Ghana’s case, Dr. JB Danquah was a notable part of the pack; and, he played pivotal role in the nation’s agitations for independence. In fact, he and others introduced Dr. Nkrumah to the country’s struggle for self-autonomy; this is a fact! That is why it will be a mark of intellectual deception to attempt to rewrite Ghana’s history mainly because of some partisanship or personal animosity one may have for Dr. Danquah.

Laughably, whenever some Ghanaians who view themselves as knowledgeable in the nation’s political history start discussing Ghana’s fight for independence without the input of JBD, it makes some of us want to question their reasoning or intellectual prowess. History, in all its ramifications, is holistic and cannot be told from one-dimensional perspective. Simply put, every history has a context. No past human events ever happened in isolation. Probably, it is why in history 101 we normally talk about “remote and immediate causes” of events. Again, Dr. Nkrumah’s immediate efforts might have led to the British giving up their colonial powers in Ghana, but it is equally true Dr. JB Danquah and others “remotely” or long lit the fire of independence struggle before Nkrumah came in to finish it off.


George Washington, for example, played one of the most significant roles in the revolutionary war of independence and became the first president of the United States as Dr. Nkrumah was to Ghana, but hardly does any American refer to Washington as the sole founder of US. All Americans call their freedom fighters as “founding fathers.” Certainly, as human beings American citizens also show some form of political or ideological partisanships, but when it comes to the history of the founding of their country, they do not give all the credit to George Washington. They understand that the formation a modern society is so complex and energy-sapping for one mortal human to carry on successfully.

But it seems like a large number of Ghanaians think otherwise, because many of us are used to lying almost about everything, including even the country’s true history. In that regard, it is not surprising that with all the prominent role Dr. JB Danquah played culminating in the formation of Ghana’s first university, yet some “well-versed Ghanaian historians” are constantly trying to dismiss his effort. To these “Danquah skeptics” it is worth reminding them that the late Baba Yara, one of the famous Asante Kotoko footballers from the north, didn’t build the iconic Kumasi Sports Stadium but the place proudly bears his name as we speak; and no one in Ashanti Region has issue with that. Why can’t some Ghanaians put their partisan or tribal blinders aside and celebrate all our past heroes or heroines and give them credit they deserve?