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Opinions of Friday, 30 April 2010

Columnist: Amoateng & Busia

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To Honor The Memory Of Busia

“We will hold on to what we have”. This, in short, seems to be the message the majority of Brong/Ahafo citizens are sending to the security minders of our dear nation with their spontaneous reaction to the Brong/Ahafo Regional Coordinating Council’s decision to denigrate the memory of their favorite son, Professor Busia, by erecting a statue of Dr kwame alongside his statue at the Sunyani Jubilee Park.

From the various reactions from Bonos around the globe what is palpably clear is that they may have differing political stances but they put Busia way above the narrow political firmaments most Ghanaians appear to occupy, and that they are prepared to bury their political differences to preserve Busia’s place in the history of the region. In fact, from these reactions, it is easy to see that any attempt to implement this ill-conceived idea has the potential of heightening the existing social tension in the region as a result of the ongoing chieftaincy-related conflicts which similarly implicate the current regional administration.

Why have the majority of Brong/Ahafo citizens and in fact those outside the region reacted so passionately to this preposterous idea of denigrating the memory of Professor Busia’s? First of all, Bonos have never been happy about the national political establishment’s shabby treatment of Busia compared to Nkrumah. Salah Mensah, another illustrious son of the region and a leading member of the ruling party has accurately observed that “there are two people who have clearly defined the history of Ghana in modern times, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and Dr. Kofi Busia”.

Yet, nobody in their right mind can argue that Busia and Nkrumah have been put on the same pedestal by succeeding political elites with regards to the number of national monuments that bear their names. Pulse for a second and think of the number of such national monuments that bear the name of Nkrumah alone: kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum which is a major tourist attraction in the center of the national capital, Kwame Nkrumah Circle, kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology etc.

Can anybody on the Regional Coordinating Council point to any such honors that have been accorded Professor Busia who made similar social, educational and political contributions to the building of our dear nation?

The second reason why Bonos are angry is the timing of the decision by the Coordinating Council which, to all intents and purposes smacks of a need on the part of the Regional Coordinating Council to score cheap political points. There is no denying the fact that this decision to belittle Busia’s role in the evolution of our country has come on the heels of a political transition that has witnessed the displacement of the Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition during the last general elections.

What the Regional Coordinating Council appears to be saying is that Busia was the co-founder of a political tradition that is opposed to the tradition identified with Nkrumah, the supposed “creator” of the Brong/Ahafo Region and therefore logically, Nkrumah supersedes Busia in importance with regards to the history of the region.

However as even a cursory examination of the historical record would show, this is an historical anachronism and a faulty logic at best. In fact, this reasoning is the result of reading history sideways by those members on the Regional Coordinating Council who are behind this move to belittle the importance of Professor Busia.

As I have already indicated, Bonos have, from time immemorial, viewed Busia beyond the narrow confines of the CPP-UP political space. In fact, to most Bonos the Busia phenomenon is multi-dimensional in nature, a fact which largely explains the iconic status of the man both in our region and in our country as a whole. But, sadly and rather ironically, the historical record has been quite silent on the non-political role Busia played for Brong/Ahafo and the country as a whole.

In politics, Busia reached the zenith of his political career when in 1951 he entered Parliament on the ticket of the Ashanti Legislative Council, a body which at this time included the present-day Brong/Ahafo region (Western Ashanti). Through his dedicated work in the National Assembly, he rose to become the leader of the Parliamentary Opposition to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s ruling CPP by the time of Ghana’s Independence in 1957.

Contrary to the popular belief that Busia opposed everything Nkrumah stood for in our country’s politics, he, in the finest tradition of the brand of politics he stood for, duly supported the motion tabled by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in Parliament for Ghana’s independence.

But Busia’s accomplishments were not limited to party politics; in fact, the name Busia has become synonymous with a number of “firsts” in our country’s history. The pre-independence civil service was not only prestigious, but essentially the preserve of the white colonialists. Yet, because of his superior intellectual prowess and diligence, Busia, together with A.L. Adu, were the only two Africans who were first appointed to the prestigious position of District Administrative Officers in the pre-independence civil service.

And neither was Busia’s role in our country’s affairs limited to his accomplishments in the politico-administrative sphere. Busia’s intellectual and academic exploits were indeed legendary and his reputation in this regard went far beyond our national borders. He became the first African South of the Sahara to be appointed a university professor at the Leiden University in the Netherlands, while here at home he was the first African to become a professor and the head of the Sociology Department at our Premier University, Legon.

We must hasten to mention that these attempts by a few Bono citizens to belittle Busia’s contributions to both the region and the country as a whole are not new. During the 40th Anniversary celebrations of the creation of the region, Dr. Busia’s name was conspicuously left out of the list of the region’s so-called illustrious sons and daughters. In fact, it took an equally intellectual giant and citizen of the region, Professor George Benneh, to remind the audience at one stage that as his role model and mentor, Dr Busia, more than any Bono citizen, deserved to be on the list of the region’s “illustrious sons and daughters”.

The question that is perennially begging for an answer is: What will make a region like Brong/Ahafo relentlessly seek to ``disown’’ its most illustrious son and dishonor his memory? The answer to this simple question lies in the increasing politicization and polarization of everything in the region every time the NDC is in power.

Thus, one is inclined to believe that the present Regional Coordinating Council, like the one during the 40th Anniversary celebrations, is either packed with people whose political and social beliefs are diametrically opposed to those of Dr. Busia’s or are simply incompetent. The lack of competence on the part of these regional structures is evidenced by the fact that the answer to the substantive question of the relative contributions different post-independence political actors made to the creation of the Brong/Ahafo Region has so far eluded them. This is because a more competent Coordinating Council would have done its homework to uncover the historical facts about the pioneering role Professor Busia played in the conception and propagation of the idea of a separate region for Brong and Ahafo.

Even though as a separate Administrative region, Brong/Ahafo was created in 1959 by an act of Parliament, Busia had thought and written about this project as early as 1939. In a letter he wrote in 1939 during his sojourn at Oxford University to his cousin, C.E. Donkor, who also happened to be a staunch Nkrumaist, this is what Busia said:

“…you do not seem to realize that I cannot achieve my life work; the creation of a Great and United Brongland without you (C.E. Donkor) and Sammie, and that therefore any consideration of my future must include you. The time is not yet ripe. Do not be impatient’’ (Our emphasis).

This letter, and subsequent ones he wrote to his cousin during this period, all show that to all intents and purposes, Busia loathed the Ashanti suzerainty over Bono and Ahafo, but was waiting for the “ripe” time to inaugurate the project. As a royal of the Wenchi stool, this idea of Busia’s must have spread like wild fire amongst the amongst the traditional political elite (chiefs) of the then Western Ashanti Province (Brong/Ahafo) and therefore played no small part in the formation of the Bono Nkye Mpem Movement which exerted considerable pressure on the Nkrumah government to finally accede to its request for a separate region.

It is equally significant to note that the same historical records reveal that the intentions and roles of Dr Nkrumah with regards to the creation of the region have been greatly exaggerated. Contrary to popular opinion, Nkrumah did not create the Brong/Ahafo region out of benevolence or love for the peoples of the region, but out of his self-interest in breaking the front of the largest opposition to his intended dictatorial rule, i.e. the Ashanti-based NLM. From this brief analysis of the historical data, it is clear that the Anniversary Committees for both the 40th and 50th Anniversaries and their respective Regional Coordinating Councils either lack the competence or are intellectually lazy to search for the information about those of our citizens who deserve to be adored and honored

DR. ACHEAMPONG YAW AMOATENG is a Professor of Sociology based in South Africa and Ghana AND LAWYER OBENG BUSIA is the immediate past Ghana’s Consular-General to New York and a nephew of Professor Busia.

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