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Ghana, how well do we know our history?
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Opinions of Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Columnist: Dekportor, Mensah

Ghana, how well do we know our history?

As we celebrate yet another Republic Day Anniversary, there is the need for us to engage in some serious soul searching as a nation. This soul searching exercise should as a priority involve us delving into history to determine how we have evolved as a nation to present day Ghana and how our history can guide us into a more fruitful future as a nation.
It appears that most Ghanaians have no recollection of the history of this nation called Ghana and are usually at lost to answer simple questions relating to the history of Ghana. However the history of a nation be it negative or positive is worth remembering and preserving since it provides useful lessons and insight into the present and the future status of the nation.
An examination of our history as a nation would for instance lead us to simple but significant questions such as “What is the meaning of the name Ghana”? How did our motherland come to be called Ghana? What is the historical linkage between the name Ghana and the land presently called Ghana?

A trip down history lane would disclose that the name Ghana was given to present day Ghana by Osagyefo Dr. Nkrumah at independence in 1957. Prior to that, this country and land called Ghana was called Gold Coast similar to Ivory Coast our next door neighbour’s name. The name Ghana as given to this country was primarily a name that related to the ancient Ghana empire located near modern day Mauritania and had nothing to do with the location of modern day Ghana. Indeed there is no firm historical account of any linkage between the ancient Ghana Empire and modern day Ghana after which it is named. For instance there is no clear cut historical linkage between the tribes of ancient Ghana and those of modern Ghana, and it is reasonable to say so considering the distance between modern day Mauritania and Ghana. Apparently, the rationale behind Nkrumah’s naming of modern Ghana after the ancient Ghana empire could have been his passion for Pan-Africanism which made him find it convenient to pick a name from anywhere on the African continent for the country where present day Ghana is located. Arguably that decision is quite controversial upon true reflection.
Countries around the world generally have names that are linked in one way or the other to their location. The linkage could be historical, cultural, and geographical or to a symbol that can be identified with the land. Take Nigeria for instance and you clearly can relate the name Nigeria to the river Niger that flows through the country. A similar example can be given of Democratic Republic of Congo named after the great River Congo located in that country. Country names are therefore typically historical, cultural and symbolic to the location as indicated earlier. Indeed the name Gold Coast that present day Ghana was previously called before the name Ghana was placed on it, had relevance to present day Ghana which has been well identified with huge gold deposits from history till today. Gold was a major attraction for the land in the past and remains so today. The name Gold Coast therefore had a true identity and linkage to the land called Ghana today than the ancient Ghana empire name which has no linkage to present day Ghana.
Besides for those Ghanaians who are spiritually and religiously inclined, they should be interested in the impact of the decision to impose ancient Ghana Empire’s name on the land where modern Ghana is situated. Are there any spiritual consequences whether positive or negative for such an imposed linkage?

Furthermore every Ghanaian should be interested in the history of the Ancient Ghana Empire located near present day Mauritania for obvious reasons and related questions. What were the tribes, cultures, religion and history of the people that lived there? We are told it was a prosperous empire, why did it collapse such that the name Ghana was not preserved in a prominent way by the people who lived there and natives of the land? Why did we ignore all the positive features or history of the land of present day Ghana to import a name unto Ghana which has no serious or prominent linkage to modern day Ghana? Those and other relevant issues of our history call for soul searching, reflection and dialogue by citizens of Ghana. Obviously it is the neglect of the significance of our history which has prevented us from interrogating this issue extensively as a people. However, it is not late to do this all importance soul searching exercise as a nation and a discourse and reflection on this matter by Ghanaian should be in order especially as we celebrate Republic Day.
The fact of the matter is that the name Ghana has no linkage historically, geographically culturally or otherwise to the land called Ghana today. There is no denying the fact that the lack of a clear and significant linkage between present day Ghana and ancient Ghana is problematic for historical and other significant reasons. As much as one may be a fan of Dr. Nkrumah, it is puzzling that he championed this name for this blessed land called Ghana on the basis that he did. It would be interesting and necessary for the official reasons behind the choice of the name Ghana to be publicized extensively within the context of this debate.
There is obviously no way as it is that, one cannot give a complete history of Ghana without reference to its naming after ancient Ghana.. If we continue to maintain the name then it is pertinent that we show a keen interest in the history of the ancient Ghana Empire, a land which has no linkage to contemporary Ghana except its name, which may have negative or positive relevance to modern day Ghana.
It is also reasonable to argue that a descendant of ancient Ghana can exercise his or her right to sue present day Ghana for pirating on its name and heritage without compensation.

Let us as a people open a discourse on this issue and interrogate it to give true meaning to the name and whether it is relevant to the history of modern Ghana. For, like it or not the history of nations are very relevant to the present and future of nations and Ghana is no exception.
Oh, Great Mother Ghana!!
“Sika Mpo ano”- Land of precious minerals and natural resources.
Land of hospitality and of rich cultural heritage.

Report By: Mensah Dekportor
Hamburg- Germany
Email: cmdekportor@gmail.com

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