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Opinions of Thursday, 10 May 2018

Columnist: Iddrisu Mubarik

The Genesis of the establishment of University of Ghana

According to His Excellency, Nana Akufu Addo, the one to be credited as the founder of the University of Ghana (UG) is JB Danqua. Many in favour of JB Danquah as the founder of UG are persuaded by the claim that he “led” in the rejection of the recommendation for the establishment of a single university in Ibadan, Nigeria to be the only university to serve Ghana, Nigeria and Serra Leone altogether and mobilisation of funds.

This leading claim is flawed if you subject it to the facts of the history on demands and contributions for a university in Ghana. The critical questions are: What are the facts that made JB Danquah outstanding or “led” all the many prominent Ghanaian people, clubs, association who were also opposed to the ‘rumour’ or the fact that the British government intended to set aside the majority’s recommendation for separate universities for Ghana, Nigeria and Serra Leon and rather to establish a single university for all West African students at Ibadan, Nigeria? What arguments were made in opposition or rejection of the central or single university by JB Danquah that you think were not already advanced by Mr. Justice Akorsah and colleagues on the Elliot Commission majority’s side which recommended the establishment of separate universities for Ghana, Nigeria and Serra Leone?

Now, I am persuaded with the facts below that JB Danqua played NO distinguished or outstanding role that warrants he be credited as the founder of UG.

I am not saying that he played no role in the development of the university but certainly not on its genesis or foundation. It would be travesty of history to claim that JB Danquah’s role resulted in the establishment of the University of Ghana in 1948.

First, it is informative to note that the very first university in Ghana, now the University of Ghana, established in 1948, didn’t start on the present UG campus called Legon. The first campus was at the Achimota College, with Mr. David Mowbray Balme as the first principal.

On the opening ceremony of the university on Monday 11th October, 1948, speeches that were delivered credited some personalities for their roles played in the foundation of the university of Ghana and Achimota College.

The event for the opening ceremony was held in the dining hall of Achimota college. The event also attracted publications by newspapers.

It is instructive to note that none of the speeches delivered on the occasion of the opening of the university made mention of JB Danquah, let alone for any credit with regard to the establishment of the university.

The new stands notably the “Gold Coasts Bulletin” and the student’s “School and College Notes” all published a story about the event but the role played by JB Danquah was not captured. Perhaps, not really significant compared with others.

Why was such an important political figure not mentioned by either of the speakers and major news outlets? Why did the Governor (Sir Alan Burns) at the occasion of the opening ceremony, made mention of Ghanaian political figures who played remarkable roles for the education of Ghanaians and Africans whiles he did not mention JB Danquah.

In the speech delivered on that august occasion, the governor, Sir Alan Burns said “…with respect and honor, the names of Sir Gordon Guggisberg, Mr. A. G. Fraser and Dr. Aggrey and particularly Mr. Justice L. E. V. Mcarthy, whose long and distinguished service has been crowned by the outstanding work he has done for the college [Achimota, which first admitted the pioneer students for university education in the Gold Coast)”.

Mr. Justice L.E.V Mcarthy was the chairman of the opening ceremony and also the nominated chairman of the council of the new Gold Coast University College, now University of Ghana (UG).

In his speech, Mr. Justice Mcarthy also honored those who helped the course of education in Gold Coast (Ghana). He asserted that “… there can be no doubt that the noble lead of Sir Gordon Guggisberg and the work of innumerable people who for the last twenty years and more are fully appreciated”.

Note “innumerable people”. He continued that in 1943 two personalities played prominent role. He mentioned Mr. Justice Korsah and Mr. G.E Sinclair as the two personalities who played prominent roles in 1943 for university education in the Gold Coast.

Given this historical documentary evidence the credit of prominent roles for the foundation of the University of Ghana in 1948 cannot even go to cocoa farmers alone, how much more to claim that JB Danquah is the founder of the University of Ghana. What about Mr. Justice Korsah, Mr. G.E. Sinclair and Mr. Justice Mcarthy and the “innumerable people” whole played their part long before JB Danquah and the cocoa farmers?

Well, front line politicians mostly get their names in history making when indeed the historiography or historical facts cannot support them.

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