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Opinions of Friday, 15 October 2010

Columnist: Otchere-Darko, Gabby Asare

Mill's Ghana & the Purge of the Big Six (II)

Even Kojo Botsio Appreciated Paa Willie, Bernard!
BY GABBY OTCHERE-DARKO

On 22nd September 1962, Dr J B Danquah addressed a letter, drafted the previous
day, the day before the declaration of emergency in Accra, to The Rt. Hon. Dr
Kwame Nkrumah, PC, LLD, etc., President of the Republic of Ghana, Flagstaff
Jouse, Accra, Ghana, which began:
Dear Dr Nkrumah,
I have been wanting to write to you about the falsification of certain facts of
our country’s history in certain sections of our newspaper press, but the
repetition of the bomb explosion, followed by the natural upsurge of public
indignation, compelled me to restrain my hands from a belief that you and your
staff might be undergoing a severe strain, either of labour or of emotion, and
that you must be spared the extra expenditure of energy to look into such
matters closely.
Among the false facts Dr Danquah sought to correct was a statement at page 11 of
Work and Happiness, a document issued under the signature of the Convention
People’s Party (CPP), the party in power, but printed by the Government’s Press.
It stated categorically “When the Party (ie the Convention People’s Party) came
into power (in February 1951) wages were as low as 9d. per day.”
The truth, of course, was that quite apart from the general rise in salary
scales brought about by the Revised Conditions of Service for the Civil Service
(Sessional Paper No. 1 of 1947), the subsequent Korsah Committee (Sessional
Paper No. 5 of 1947) caused for wages generally to rise from 1s. 4d. to 2s. 6d.
in the Southern Section and from 6d. to 2s in the Northern Section. In the same
year the William Gorman Arbitration (with G E Moore, W E G Sekyi and O’Neil
Cromwell serving on it) increased the wages of those in the mining sector
further.
Dr Danquah remarked, “I am not saying that these wages were high. They may have
been adequate in relation to the cost of living at the time. What I am saying is
that it is historically inaccurate and misleading for the Editor of a newspaper,
or the writer of a responsible or serious Party publication, to state that wages
in force in 1951 were 9d., or 1s. 3d. or 1s. 6d. a day, when the public evidence
of the actual position in the matter is something quite the contrary.”
He went on to say something to the President and his government at the time
which is equally (if not more) relevant today:
“I Think, Sir, that we in Ghana have a big job of work to do, and that if we
build our foundations on the basis of facts or truth we are likely to go far,
but we will encounter enormous difficulties and misplaced repercussions if the
new generation of young and adolescent people are not led to see matters in
their true colours.” He concluded by appealing to the President “to save the
nation’s name and our ancestors’ record from undue blemishes. With warm regard
and best wishes for your safety. I remain, yours very sincerely, J B Danquah.”
Fast-forward to 2010, in the era of President John Atta Mills. On Sunday,
10-10-10, the 100th anniversary of William “Paa Willie” Ofori-Atta, who was born
on the 20th century version of 10-10-10, was quietly and solemnly observed at
the Ridge Church, Accra.

However, a few days before that a member of the Nkrumah Centenary Anniversary
Celebration Committee, Bernard Mornah, told the public that William Ofori-Atta,
a member of the Big Six, does not deserve to be honoured as a nationalist hero
and that Paa Willie played no role in Ghana’s independence struggle.

One could say that this statement is so hopeless that it does not deserve a
response but to take that view is to assume that it fell on deaf but adequately
informed ears, forgetting Dr Danquah’s warning against misplaced repercussions
if the new generation of young and adolescent people is misled with
disinformation or misinformation.
The irony of Ghanaian politics is that the NPP is today accused of being behind
the 1966 coup against Nkrumah and banning the CPP and its leadership from
holding political office in the Second Republic. Yet, by the Third Republic, the
Nkrumaist group was able to recover, re-mobilise and win back power.

It was Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings and his Provisional National Defence Council
(PNDC), the father of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), that overthrew the
People’s National Party (PNP) of the Nkrumaists less than half way short of its
four-year term. From that time, (P)NDC strategists set out to systematically
annex the broader mass of the left wing of Ghana’s political landscape, a
situation from which the CPP has thus far never been able to recover. Thus,
whereas the Nkrumaists managed to win back power 13 years after the 1966 coup,
nearly 30 years after the 31st December 1981 coup, the Nkrumaist group continues
to this day to see their share of the political landscape eroding, however.

True to this political irony, some in the CPP leadership are still stuck in the
neutral gear of seeking pretextual solace in the ‘Golden Era’ of Nkrumah and its
concomitant lamentation of the advent of the 1966 coup, which cut all so short
that glittering age of the First Republic. Rather than tackling the modern and
immediate causes of their current state of gradual electoral erosion, a good
section of the vociferous leadership of the CPP are happy to join the NDC to
blame the NPP for the overthrow of Nkrumah and link it directly but unhelpfully
to the contemporary woes of the CPP. It is as if the fact that Samia Nkrumah,
the daughter of President Kwame Nkrumah, being the only CPP Member of Parliament
today is proof enough of that convenient excuse for that inconvenient reality of
the CPP’s seemingly ever-limiting electoral relevance. When, indeed, it could
even be argued that the 2008 suspension of electoral cooperation between the NPP
and CPP was heavily responsible for this sad state of CPP parliamentary affair.
Should this, therefore, not call for greater cooperation with the NPP? Has not
the 1979, 2001 and 2004 election experiences provided us with sufficient
evidence that the two main political traditions are better off when they
cooperate with each other?

Sadly, there is very little to suggest that the two groups believe they have
more in common than against each other. Surely, there are strong historical
differences and any attempt to brush those differences aside would smack of lack
of intellectual courage which would only leave room for the apostles of
propaganda to misinterpret yesterday’s story to today’s people for tomorrow’s
elections.

So it was that last year Prof Akosa, an aspiring CPP presidential candidate, and
Deputy Information Minister Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa under the NDC
administration, were the ones saying the real ‘Big Six’ were the people who
stood on the Polo Grounds platform with Nkrumah on March 6, 1957.

Should the argument today be about whether or not to credit the Big Six for
their role in the independence struggle? Should it not be about acknowledging
the critical contributions made by many others beside the Big Six?
Who was William Ofori-Atta?
In the words of his student at Achimota and political contemporary, the late R R
Amponsah, “He was one of the ‘Big Six’ detained without trial by the British
Colonial administration for leading the struggle for independence.”
According to, Bernard Mornah, the General Secretary of the People’s National
Convention, Paa Willie “only happened to be in the house of his uncle, Edward
Akufo-Addo, when there was a swoop”, so he was arrested along with the others
forming the Big Six in March 1948. The truth is Edward Akufo-Addo was married to
Paa Willie’s sister, Adelaide Yeboakua. So Mr Akufo-Addo was his brother-in-law,
a basic fact that was lost on Mr Mornah, the revisionist. Paa Willie was
nicknamed Ogyeabuo (the most-stoned politician) because of his principled and
frank opposition, whether against the colonial state or the kind of
‘independent’ state Nkrumah was turning Ghana into.
Perhaps, the account of Kojo Botsio, one of the key people in Nkrumah’s CPP –
and the ideological archbishop of Nkrumaism - may be more instructive. He first
met Paa Willie at Achimota and in 1947 served under Paa Willie as Vice-Principal
at the Abuakwa State College, with Paa Willie as Principal.
“I worked with Paa Willie till 1949 in a very harmonious atmosphere… The cordial
relationship between the two of us was further cemented by our common membership
of the United Gold Coast Convention in which he was an Executive Member and one
of the ‘Big Six’ who shared the limelight of national heroes with Sgt Adjetey
and Cpl Atippoe.”
Thus, apart from teaching, Kojo Botsio tells us, “Paa Willie found time to
engage in national politics stirring up the people to awake from their slumber
and claim their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.”
He adds:
“William Ofori-Atta was a great man. Often the greatness of a man is distilled
from riches by the work of scholars long after the people are gone, but in the
case of Paa Willie, his shining qualities have been there for all to see during
his lifetime, hence the general admiration and reverence accorded him wherever
he went… He was a dedicated and true nationalist, one of the greatest
politicians of modern Ghana.”
William Ofori-Atta’s friend from 1927, a mate at Dormitory C of Aggrey House,
Achimota, and later a CPP stalwart, Komla Agbeli Gbedemah, says, “after the
Burns Constitution of 1946”, which Paa Willie was instrumental in pushing for
but ended up being one of its major critics as woefully inadequate once it was
unveiled, “Paa Willie was one of the younger generation of political activists
who stood up and attacked the colonial government not with bullets and guns but
with vocabulary and agitation.”
22 years ago when he was recounting history, Kojo Botsio inadvertently offered
an explanation for post-facto efforts to demean Paa Willie when he said of Paa
Willie: “He, however, missed the CPP leadership boat for independence because he
belonged to the ‘step by step’ organisation which made him miss the victorious
‘SG Now’ juggernaut.”
But, the writer continues to put things into perspectives, albeit CPP-esque:
“This does not efface [Paa Willie’s] contribution to the attainment of
independence because at least he and other members of the UGCC Executive made it
possible for Kwame Nkrumah to emerge on the political scene at the time he did,
and the platform was set for the overthrow of British Colonialism in Ghana, a
contagion which spread to all Africa following Kwame Nkrumah’s clarion call for
the total emancipation and unity of all Africa.”
R R Amponsah, a fellow prison graduate under the Preventive Detention Act, 1958,
said of Paa Willie’s last detention under PDA in 1964, “Although the Ghana
Government must have thought that they were punishing Paa Willie and, to quote
the ruling Party of the First Republic, ‘showing him where power lies’, by
detaining him, it was while in prison in 1964, during his third detention, that
the real triumph of his life began, and he never turned back. He received the
greatest gift that anyone could be blessed with—that of Jesus Christ, who must
have kept on storing his treasure for him in His Father’s mansion.”
In the words of Ephraim Amu, Paa Willie was “an Outstanding Christian
Politician”. This certainly underlined his vision of a nation of free enterprise
built on a foundation of egalitarianism, where every individual has the
opportunity to do something with his or her life.
After four decades in politics, Paa Willie remarked, “All my adult life, I have
persistently fought to improve the lot of the average Ghanaian because my
political philosophy derives from the basic principle of social justice. The
price I have had to pay include imprisonment and social torture. But I am
determined to fight to its logical conclusion in the Third Republic of Ghana…”
Little would he have known that the ultimate price was to have his role in
Ghana’s politics degraded and disregarded by the General Secretary of a party
founded by, Dr Hilla Limann, the People’s National Convention (PNC). The irony
of Ghanaian politics!
It was Dr Limann’s Nkrumaist party of the Third Republic, the People’s National
Party, Paa Willie was accused by his own political tradition of assisting to win
the presidential run-off of 1979, when there was a split in the
Danquah-Dombo-Busia front between the Popular Front Party (PFP) of Victor Owusu
and William Ofori-Atta’s United National Convention (UNC). Indeed, Dr Hilla
Limann might have been so impressed with Paa Willie that he made him the
Chairman of Council of State in 1979.
So revered was Paa Willie that the military regime, PNDC, of Flt Lt J J Rawlings
gave him a state burial in 1988 when he died. In paying tribute, the PNDC regime
made reference of the fact that Paa Willie’s political engagement did not begin
and end with the arrest of the Big Six:

“Considering the man’s passion for public service, it is not surprising that Paa
Willie took to politics even while on the staff of Achimota School. In those
days, it took a great deal of courage and determination to express views which
were not palatable to the colonial administration. Outspoken nationalists, like
Paa Willie, were branded as communists and were never in the good books of
Government. A few courageous nationalists were, however, not deterred, but
pressed on to form the United Gold Coast Convention which gave birth to the
organized nationalist struggle for independence for our country.”
William Eugene Amoaka-Atta Gyampa Ofori Atta was born two years before his
father, Alex Boakye Danquah was enstooled as the Omanhene of the Akyem Abuakwa
State, in the Eastern Region of the Gold Coast. His mother was Oheneba Abena
Obenwaa, daughter of an earlier king, Amoako Atta I, who welcomed the
missionaries to Kyebi to set up at Obronikrom but later on fell out with them
when their indoctrination was such that it disturbed the social order of
allegiance to the stool, customs and traditions which maintained the Akyem
Abuakwa state.
The boy, Kwasi Willie, attended Kyebi Government School from 1918-25. He left to
continue his education at Mfantsipim Secondary School (1925-29) with his brother
Aaron Ofori-Atta, but they were both transferred to the Prince of Wales College,
Achimota, which his father (then Chairman of the Achimota College Council) was
instrumental in establishing. His classmates included Edward Akufo-Addo and K
Agbeli Gbedemeh – the first three candidates presented by the College for the
Cambridge School Certificate examination in 1930. Two years later, William
became the first senior prefect of Achimota.
Even as a student at Achimota, the young Willie’s nationalism was apparent in
his writings for the first daily newspaper in Ghana, the Times of West Africa,
which was published by his uncle, J B Danquah. His nationalism and
anti-imperialism at the time may not be that obvious even to those whose
archival research leads them to the newspaper unless they look for the pen names
Amoako Gyampa and Pro Pat Ria.

One of his students, K B Asante said on GTV’s Talking Point on 10th October
2010 – on the evening of the 100th anniversary of William Ofori-Atta’s birth --
that he was surprised Paa Willie lasted that long at Achimota as a teacher
(1939-43) because of his fierce opposition to the colonial government at the
time. Paa Willie helped to make Achimota the centre for youth agitation,
recruiting a new Achimota cadre of youths into active politics, and using both
the Plato Club and J B Danquah’s Gold Coast Youth Conference (1927-47) and its
‘Wither are We Drifting?’ speech series to send home the anti-colonial message.
In 1934, Willie was to accompany his father as private secretary, when Nana
Ofori Atta I led a high-powered Gold Coast and Ashanti delegation to the United
Kingdom to convey the protest of the people directly to the British Government
against the Criminal Code (Amendment) Ordinance (commonly termed the Sedition
Bill) and the Water Works Ordinance of 1934, which sought to charge
city-dwellers for the consumption of pipe-borne water secured from outdoor
stand-pipes.
According to a historical account, “What the popular struggle to scuttle the
water rate clearly revealed was the potential political strength of the masses
when they were mobilized in opposition to an action which directly and adversely
affected their best interest. The battle over the income tax and the earlier
campaign against the Land Bill of 1897 had offered the same testimony…”
Indeed, on 17 February 1934, the Times of West Africa, believing itself to be
threatened by repressive controls, had warned then that it was no coincidence
that the water rate, which it claimed had been “shelved in 1929 because of press
criticism” was about to be revived in conjunction with a Sedition Bill. J B
Danquah was joined in his opposition to the Sedition Bill by other vociferous
anti-imperialist journalists like Nnamdi Azikwe, Bankole Awoonor Renner, R B
Wuta-Ofei and I T A Wallace-Johnson -- all great West African anti-colonial
fighters (domiciled in the Gold Coast) at the time, who were united in their
determination to protect press freedom in the region.

Moreover, the likes of K A Korsah, the Member for Cape Coast, during the
Legislative Council debate of March 20, 1934, strongly denounced the proposed
water bill as an “ill-conceived and ill-timed” tax of sorts, which only went to
confirm the administration’s “scant consideration for the sufferings of the
people of this country.”

Nana Ofori-Atta gave the coup de grace with all nine African representatives on
the Legislative Council voting against the proposed legislation. It was, however
passed with official and unofficial European support, making it necessary for
the delegation to be put together in May 1934 for the England trip.
Interestingly, among the delegation to England were also Edward Ochir
Asafu-Adjaye and I K Agyeman, Nana Agyeman Konadu Rawlings’ grandfather , who
both represented the Ashanti Kotoko Society, Aku Korsah, Akilagpa Sawyerr and
Frederick Victor Nanka Bruce, representing the Accra Ratepayers, and James
Mercer, who represented the Western Region.

James Mercer was Ekwow Spio-Garbrah’s grandfather, the father of his mother,
Elizabeth Mercer. The famous gate at Adisadel College is named after his son,
Elizabeth’s brother, James Mercer II, first Ghanaian ambassador to Israel and
China.
The delegation arrived back home on 12 September 1934. Unfortunately, James
Mercer, a member of the delegation, was killed in an automobile accident shortly
after they arrived in Great Britain and Nana Ofori-Atta and the team arranged
for his burial in London before returning to Ghana.

But, the late Mr Mercer was not the only member of the delegation left in
England. Danquah did not also return, opting to do research in the British
Museum into the history and traditions of the Gold Coast and tracing its
connection to the ancient Sudanese empire of Ghana. It is worth noting that,
while Danquah was not the first to suggest this geno-historical link, the timing
and depth of his scholarly work made it possible for the name Ghana to be
assumed by the country on independence.
His nephew, William Ofori-Atta, also stayed behind in England in 1934 to read
Economics at the Queen’s College, Cambridge University, graduating with a BA in
1938. At Cambridge, Willie joined the influential Cambridge University
Democratic Front, meetings of which were presided by the famous
scientist/inventor Lord Rutherford until his death in 1937. While Lord
Rutherford was making a futile case for an international ban on the use of
aeroplanes in warfare, William was speaking in prophetic opposition to British
Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy towards Adolf Hitler of
Germany. It is likely that Paa Willie developed this position of opposing
appeasement through his political association with Stafford-Cripps, the notable
opponent to appeasement at the time – a position which both men were soon
vindicated by Hitler’s expansionist militarist push for more Lebensraum (living
room) for Nazi Germany across the continent of Europe.
It may be useful for Bernard Monah and his ilk to know that even before Nkrumah
got to Europe, carrying a note from Dubois to George Padmore to join the
Pan-Africanist movement, Paa Willie was. It does not by any stretch of the
imagination compare with what Nkrumah went on to achieve for Ghana and for the
anti-colonial drive in Africa. But, it is unnecessary to project Nkrumah by
stepping on the corpses of others.
Paa Willie, whose political activities were noted by British intelligence from
his days at Cambridge University around 1935-1938 to the point of being falsely
seen as Communist due to his links with Creech-Jones and Stafford-Cripps, had
joined the anti-colonial movement in Great Britain, which had become the
breeding ground for young educated Africans in preparing them to lead the
anti-colonial struggle in their respective home nations.
Paa Willie in 1937 convinced the Secretary-General and founding member of the
West African Students’ Union (WASU), Ladipo Solanke in pushing the agenda of the
Gold Coast Farmers Union to break the cocoa cartel of Cadbury's and the UAC.
With Labour Party MPs Reginald Sorensen and Arthur Creech Jones, WASU campaigned
in support of the 1938 Gold Coast cocoa hold-up, where small farmers attempted
to pressurise the companies by disrupting their supplies. It was for this
campaign that Paa Willie visited the factory of Cadbury and Fry in England, an
experience that helped him in 1966 as Chairman of the Ghana Cocoa Marketing
Board.

It may be useful at this juncture to look a little deeper into the work of WASU.
It was initially formed in 1922 (but officially launched in 1925) with J B
Danquah and his mate at the University College of London, the Nigerian Ladipo
Solanke, and inspired by the Nigerian-born Sierra Leonean, Dr Herbert
Bankole-Bright, who in 1920, with intellectual Gold Coasters, had formed the
earliest regional unity group in West Africa, the National Congress of British
West Africa (NCBWA). NCBWA’s co-founders were, namely, Thomas Hutton-Mills, Sr.,
its first President, and J. E. Casely Hayford, its first Vice-President. Other
co-founders and early officials included Edward Francis Small, F. V.
Nanka-Bruce, A. B. Quartey-Papafio, H. van Hien, A. Sawyerr and Kobina Sekyi.

J B Danquah was WASU’s ts first president and Casely Hayford was its patron. It
was WASU which inspired Dr Danquah to form the Gold Coast Youth Conference in
1927 and for Nigeria’s first genuine nationalist organisation, the Nigerian
Youth Movement of Dr James Churchill Vaughan and Hezekiah Oladipo Davies, to be
formed in the 1930s. This was when in 1930 Solanke traveled throughout West
Africa, opening branches or affiliates of WASU and, with that, establishing
WASU’s growing identity as a leading anti-colonial group, calling in the 1930s
and -40s for dominion status and universal suffrage for the West African
colonies.

WASU had become the intellectual youth movement in Great Britain, which offered
critical nationalist preparations for those who were to later return home to
lead the anti-colonial struggle. Ironically, Solanke, after spending some years
in Africa in the 1940s lost his influence in WASU to younger and more active
leaders at the time like Kwame Nkrumah who served as Vice President and later
Joe Appiah, who grew in WASU to serve as its president.
British leader, Clement Attlee, had given an indication of what was achievable
then when he gave a speech to WASU in which he suggested that the Atlantic
Charter would apply to all nations. By 1942, while Nkrumah was in Pennsylvania,
and yet to make his way to England, WASU organised a "West African Parliamentary
Committee", chaired by Labour MP, Reginald Sorensen, where it published a call
for the immediate internal self-government of Britain's West African colonies,
to be followed by independence within five years of the end of the war. Harold
Macmillan personally visited WASU’s Africa House in Camden, London, to argue the
British government's case.
As stated earlier, the establishment of the Gold Coast Youth Conference by Dr
Danquah in 1927 was part of a bigger project across West Africa by the
leadership of WASU, which, three years later, saw Solanke touring the region,
preaching and planting the organizational seeds of nationalism.

Indeed, the history of WASU offers a peak into Paa Willie’s history of
reconciliation. recalls the efforts by William Ofori-Atta in 1937 to resolve a
dispute that threatened to break-up WASU. Solanke was accused of wasting money
while in Africa, and of attempting to personally control the new lodgings,
Africa House.

How anyone can say Paa Willie played no role in the independence struggle shows
how desperate this revisionist programme is being pushed under Mills’ Ghana.

Paa Willie, for his part, in his characteristic modesty, did not claim greatness
for himself. In 1979, after more than three decades in frontline politics, he
said, “My political experience derives from many years of apprenticeship to some
of the great men who laid the foundation of our nation.”
In 1937, the Times newspaper of London felt it worthy enough to capture Paa
Willie’s role: “The son of Sir Ofori-Atta, Knight of the British Empire and a
great friend of the colonial government, says British Imperialism is a fraud.”

In those series of speeches, he shared platforms with George Padmore, Jomo
Kenyatta, Arthur Creech-Jones and Sir Stafford-Cripps, whose daughter, Peggy
Cripps, married a Ghanaian lawyer, politician and victim of PDA, Joe Appiah, and
one time president of WASU. It was during this time that Kwame Nkrumah became
Joe Appiah’s close friend, to the point of Nkrumah becoming Joe Appiah's first
choice for best man at his controversial socialite wedding to the British
aristocrat, Peggy in 1953. Until his return to Ghana in 1954, he was the
personal representative in London of the leader of the Gold Coast government,
Kwame Nkrumah. But Joe Appiah was soon to be disillusioned with Nkrumah and
joined the National Liberation Movement to become the MP for Atwima-Amansie in
1956. It was during his time as MP that he was twice arrested and detained,
under the Preventive Detention Act, in 1961 and 1962.
Joe Appiah and Paa Willie both had aristocratic upbring, from the two royal
households of Manhyia (Ashanti) and Ofori Panin Fie (Kyebi), yet their politics
was noted for the welfare of the average person, steeped in social justice
principles. Indeed, the development of Paa Willie’s strong sense of social
justice can be partly traced to his relationship with those politicians with
aristocratic backgrounds who became the key movers of socialist-Marxist
ideologies of the period, namely Creech Jones, George Strauss and
Stafford-Cripps. Joe Appiah, of course, had a father-in-law in Sir
Stafford-Cripps. In early 1939, during Paa Willie’s acquaintance with Cripps,
the former was expelled from the Labour Party for his advocacy of a Popular
Front with the Communist Party and anti-appeasement Liberals and Conservatives.
Infact, Cripps was seen then as the biggest threat to Winston Churchill’s
premiership, leading to him being expediently shipped out to India by the Prime
Minister to negotiate with nationalist leaders Ghandi and Jinnah for a
convenient arrangement that guaranteed India’s loyalty to the British war effort
in exchange for albeit an informal promise of full self-government after the
war. Fortunately, so successful was this intervention that it helped pave the
way for the series of independence from British Colonial rule that followed the
end of the War.
Creech-Jones, another anti-colonialist acquaintance of Paa Willie then, was very
instrumental in easing British Colonial resistance to Ghana’s struggle for
independence. Elected to Parliament in 1935, two years before meeting Paa
Willie, he became the Secretary of the Colonial Office in the Labour government
of 1945-1950. Creech Jones presided over a conference at Lancaster House for the
African colonies in 1948, where the ongoing events in Ghana were instrumental in
shaping the outcome. It is recalled that the Watson Commission, which contained,
prominently, the views of the Big Six, had recommended in 1948, in paragraph 100
of the report, that “the Gold Coast should become self-governing within ten
years.” This report went to London to the Secretary of State for the Colonies,
same Arthur Creech-Jones, who, on behalf of the British government, issued a
white paper on the Watson report, with the pledge that the British government
would speed up with implementing the recommendations. It led to the formation of
the Coussey Constitutional Committee’s appointment in December 1948, a wholly
African body put together to recommend the necessary interim measures to carry
out the Watson recommendations and the constitutional arrangement for
self-government. Its report was ready in September 1949, three months after the
formation of the CPP and four months before the declaration of ‘Positive
Action’.
It is this same Creech-Jones who introduced the Government Bill to give the
colony of Ceylon (Burma) dominion status and eventual independence. He thus
presided over the Colonial Office's first granting of independence to a
'non-white' colony, which was followed a year later by Independence for India
and Pakistan.

Is Paa Willie’s role being diminished today because he was not in Ghana at the
material time of independence declaration in March 1957? For the period 1955-59
Paa Willie returned to England to study law, emerging from Gray’s Inn as a
Barrister-at-Law. Surely, that would be preposterous.

K A Gbedemah says of Paa Willie:
“As a result of the Watson Commission, the Coussey Constitution replaced the
Burns Constitution, and, under it, William gained a seat in the National
Assembly in 1951. For the three and half years of this Parliament, William was
one of the assiduous members, debating toughly with humour, wit and pungency,
but without acrimony. He, however, lost his seat in the 1954 Parliamentary
Elections, but most members of the house labeled him the Non-Elected
Parliamentary member because of his continued interest and concern for national
affair. He was often there in the galleries. It was during this period that from
1961-1965 that he suffered his 2nd and 3rd detentions under the First Republic.”
R R Amponsah says more of Paa Willie:
“In the United Gold Coast Convention, the Ghana Congress Party, the United
Party, the Progress Party and lately the United National Convention, he always
strove to foster understanding, not only within his own political party but also
between his party and the opposing parties.”
He continues:
“The irony of the politics of Ghana was that he was himself detained in prison
five times by two independent Ghana governments. And while the British Colonial
administration kept him and his colleagues in government bungalow at their place
of detention, the two Ghana governments of his own kith and kin detained him in
prison with criminals. Yet, throughout his political life, he never showed any
sign of vengeance, malice or bitterness against those responsible.”
All of this revisionist obliteration is to cement a political dualism that
denigrates the NPP as enemies of progress, with the hope of getting the NDC to
annex the CPP.

This is part of a piece by the Executive Director of the Danquah Institute.
gabby@danquahinstitute.org

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