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Opinions of Sunday, 28 December 2008

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

The Final Crown, the Golden Jubilee House

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong ponders the main prize of the impending presidential run-off on December 28, the newly presidential Golden Jubilee House, and says it reflects Ghanaians democratic aspirations, 51 years on as a sovereign state

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong

As Nana Akufo-Addo, of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), or John Atta-Mills, of the main opposition National Democratic Party (NDC), campaign Ghana-wide for votes in the up-coming December 28 presidential run-off to rule Ghana, they have been circling the newly built Golden Jubilee House, the new seat of government business in Accra, with the intension of occupying it.

That’s would be their trophy if any of them win on December 28. In the first round of December 7 vote, both Akufo-Addo and Atta-Mills crawled closer to the Golden Jubilee House – Akufo-Addo gaining 49. 4 percent and Atta-Mills getting 47.5 percent. This has heightened their cravings for the Golden Jubilee House.

The two candidates surely should have been entertaining all sorts of fantasies of the Golden Jubilee House – Akufo-Addo’s presidential aspirations being the longer as he confronted dreadful military juntas and helped opened up democratic forces. Fantasies born out of the fact that the Golden Jubilee House is freed of the “dark” excesses of the old seat of government, the Osu Castle, and this has also freed the two candidates from enormous historical and spiritual burden that have dogged previous leaders who had occupied the depressing Osu Castle.

The Golden Jubilee House raises emotions, all sorts of dreams, and, in relation to the Ghanaian culture, all sorts of prophetic predictions, despite sometimes the abysmal outcome of the predictions. Like the old Osu Castle or America’s White House or Nigeria’s Aso Rock or Britain’s No. 10 Downing Street, the Golden Jubilee will have mystery around it as Ghana’s democracy grows and qualified citizens jostle through the democratic process to be President of Ghana to occupy it.

In either Akufo-Addo or Atta-Mills, the Golden Jubilee House would be a radiator of all that Ghana, founded on democracy and freedom, but muddled up by its scrawny elites couldn’t hold to the nuances of democracy, saw over threatening 21 years of military juntas and 6 years of menacing one-party systems denting the democratic process. In either Akufo-Addo or Atta-Mills, the Golden Jubilee House will be a centre of democracy, freedoms, rationality and resolution of all the unresolved national developmental challenges that have dogged Ghana because of the acute dark historical, psychological and spiritual entanglements that emanated from the Osu Castle.

The Golden Jubilee House, as a resolution of the contradictions of the aged Osu Castle in relation to Ghana’s economic and political liberty, fit into the African-American writer Toni Morrison (as re-echoed in her latest work A Mercy) statement on the founding of the United States: “What was distinctive in the New World was, first of all, its claim to freedom, and second, the presence of the unfree within the heart of the democratic experiment.” The historical, psychological and spiritual crises that boiled within the Osu Castle made it unfree in an independent and free Ghana. The Golden Jubilee House resolves the fact that the progress of Ghana will never be driven from unfreed Osu Castle any more.

The Golden Jubilee would see the contours of presidential hopes dashed and achieved: the late Victor Owusu (1923 - 2000), Foreign Minister (1969-1971) under Kofi Busia’s almost two-year-old Progress Party (PP) regime, imaged himself at the Osu Castle. Owusu’s mother had told him he will be president of Ghana one day. The Osu Castle eluded him. Some may occupy the Golden Jubilee without any pre-conceived thought: Hilla Liman (1979 – 1981) was picked from nowhere and occupied the Osu Castle by beating the much more popular Victor Owusu. Jerry Rawlings, riding on the rot among military regimes and general discontent, occupied the Osu Castle for almost 20 years both as military junta leader and elected civilian president. That is the Osu Castle mystery at work. The Golden Jubilee House will resolve most of these contradictions.

Built out of democracy and paid labour, unlike the Osu Castle that was built by tyrannical colonialism and unpaid, forced slave labour (like America’s White House), the path to occupy the Golden Jubilee House would be democratic and not undemocratic, as most occupiers of the Osu Castle were. The Golden Jubilee House would not see the rough and unpalatable behaviour that occurred at the Osu Castle: both Gen. Kutu Acheampong and Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawlings were subject of immense speculation of dreadful juju-marabou dealings at the Osu Castle. The depressing nature of the Osu Castle made Liman and Acheampong near-alcoholics. The Osu Castle made Liman, Acheampong and Rawlings heavy smokers - a projection of unhealthy lifestyle. The Golden Jubilee House will negate all these negatives and is expected to project decent behaviour from either Nana Akufo-Addo or John Atta-Mills.

The Golden Jubilee House will see either Akufo-Addo or Atta-Mills demonstrating the grasp of Ghana. Unable to grapple with the forces that wheel within the Osu Castle, Rawlings became more violent, arrogant and disrespectful. Despite making him humble, the Osu Castle made Liman, simultaneously a gifted deep thinker and disoriented person. The Osu Castle saw the execution by firing squad of Generals Akwesi Afrifa, Acheampong and F.W.K Akuffo. The Osu Castle saw the early death of Nkrumah, Gen. Joseph Ankrah, Kofi Busia and Liman. As a product of democracy and freedoms, the Golden Jubilee House wouldn’t see some of the bizarre totalitarian scenes of the Osu Castle and would make its occupiers live longer.

The Golden Jubilee House will be freed of the anger and prickliness that affected the Osu Castle. From the first regime of Nkrumah in 1957 to the dawn of military regimes in 1966, the Osu Castle became a charm, attracting all sorts of forces both good and bad. Rawlings’ highly emotional, violent/crude talks contradict that of Busia’s and Liman’s even tempered and more refined disposition. The Golden Jubilee House wouldn’t see a Rawlings’ beatings and roughing of government officials including his Vice President Ekow Nkensen Arkaah. In this sense, the Golden Jubilee House resolves the irrationalities that beclouded the Osu Castle.

The Golden Jubilee House would be open to the public, as a democratic window and not become a secret shrine. The Osu Castle did not since the early 1920s and, like most oracles/shrines, photographing the Osu Castle had been illegal. Ghanaians can democratically photograph the Golden Jubilee House like the White House or the No. 10 Downing Street. The Golden Jubilee House will be unchained from the Osu Castle’s dark bases such as having dungeons within that are “dank and horrible, with the scratchings of desperate slaves still visible on the walls.”

Freed from such negativities, the Golden Jubilee House will not see constant renovation and spiritual appeasements to untie it from dark traditional spiritual practices. Despite President John Kufour’s recent renovations of the Osu Castle, before building the Golden Jubilee House, the place was found with human blood at the basement, purportedly a ritual sacrifice. Kufour refused to stay at the Osu Castle purely for spiritual reasons. He loved to stay and work at the Golden Jubilee House. The Golden Jubilee House wouldn’t have all these dark traditional rituals, enabling Akufo-Addo and Atta-Mills to think better about Ghana’s progress.

In this sense, both Akufo-Addo and Atta-Mills have to note that Gen. Acheampong, alleged womanizer, also turned the Castle into some sort of a brothel, with women flowing in and out for favours via sex and other romantic inducements a la President Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky affair at the White House.

But akin to the Osu Castle, the Golden Jubilee House under either Akufo-Addo or Atta-Mills is expected to see restlessness and quarrels of party big-wigs, as Gen. Ankrah, Gen. Acheampong, and Busia, Liman, Rawlings, Kufour and their parties big-wigs did at the Osu Castle. There were so many quarrels within Liman’s Osu Castle that it brought his regime down. Rawlings, unable the heat from radiating from within the Osu Castle, used loose his bearings and either roughen or beat some of his Ministers and officials in the Osu Castle, the most famous being his roughing of his then Vice President Ekow Arkaah.

Reminiscent of the Osu Castle, the Golden Jubilee House, as the symbol of power and centre of progress, would periodically experience demonstrations from aggrieved Ghanaians, sometimes violently, especially under the democratic occupiers Akufo-Addo or Atta-Mills. The Osu Castle saw frenzied demonstrations by students for democracy especially during the Gen. Acheampong and Flt. Lt. Rawlings regimes. However, more violent demonstrations at the Osu Castle occurred during the colonial era. Luckily for the Golden Jubilee House, Akufo-Addo or Atta-Mills will not see such deadly protests of the colonial era type because the Golden Jubilee was born out of democracy and genuine freedoms.

As the American say, everything about the Golden Jubilee House will be real; there will be no Rawlingsian theatricalities. So as usual, as Ghana’s democracy grows and larger political competitions play out, the ultimate prize, the Golden Jubilee House, will be waiting to welcome either Akufo-Addo or Atta-Mills on December 28, and simultaneously mirroring to them the developmental challenges facing Ghana.