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Opinions of Monday, 5 March 2018

Columnist: A.R. Gomda

The long journey to independence

Sixty-one years ago the Union Jack was lowered for the freshly minted country, Ghana, to emerge. The new name was rooted in the old Ghana Empire of Mansa Musa’s fame because after all, both shared in abundance the precious mineral – gold.

I do not think that when the name was proposed it attracted significant opposition, if at all. Be it as it may, today we have reached the sixty-first milestone since the British handed the mantle of leadership to us – the objective of the struggle from the days of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society and the eventual setting up of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), which sought ‘Self-Government in the nearest possible time’ and then the aftermath of the split in the ranks. Entered the Convention People’s Party (CPP), which was for ‘Self-Government Now!’

Whatever their differences, both wanted independence for Ghana their country which the colonialists considered a model.

Several bodies and individuals contributed in varied forms towards the attainment of independence. They are too many to be mentioned in such a limited space. Suffice it to point out that the Committee on Youth Organisation (CYO) played a major role in galvanizing the youth of the Gold Coast to put pressure on the British to eventually accede to leave us to manage our own affairs.

Tawiah Adamafio in his book, ‘By Nkrumah’s Side,’ points out, “I was a member of the Adabraka branch of the CYO and we were really a strong group. With men like K.B. Ntim, member of Kade in the Busia Parliament and Kwesi Amoako Atta, our Secretary, who later became finance minister in the Nkrumah Government at the time of the coup, the branch did its utmost in vain to repair the split that had occurred in the UGCC, by trying to bring Kwame and the other leaders together.”

The youth from the above did not find the rift within the UGCC inuring to the interest of those clamouring for independence.

The youth managed to organise a rally at Palladium, Accra, during which Mr. William Ofori Atta from the other side was made the chairman and Kwame Nkrumah tasked to speak. The occasion was successful and thought to have paved the way for the eventual patching of the rift. Whatever it was, it was short-lived as the parties went their separate ways.

So many things happened which significance lay in their ability to provide the impetus for expediting the journey to independence.

Motion Of Destiny

The Motion of Destiny cannot be ignored in the journey to independence. It was a motion which Kwame Nkrumah presented in the legislature to put more pressure on the British.

On Friday, August 1956, the Legislative Assembly approved a Government Motion calling on the British Government to arrange as soon as practicable, this year for an Act of Parliament declaring the Gold Coast an independent state.

As noted by Tawiah Adamafio, “The Motion of Destiny was an act of superb strategy which pushed Britain several paces forward towards the Independence line. But the British were masters at this game and they fought back in a most subtle manner.”

A semi-independence template was put in place, even though as observed by Tawiah Adamafio, it unfurled some challenges.

“The semi-independence self-government which the CPP accepted had imposed some difficulties on the party. The ex-officio ministers held the most important portfolios: defence, internal security, external affairs, the Civil Service and the Judiciary. The British had retained real power in their own hands and thus rendering the CPP government impotent like a dog which could bark but not bite, a veritable paper tiger.”

Kwame Nkrumah suffered at the hands of the opposition as observed Tawiah Adamafio, but in a subsequent election in which he (Nkrumah) won decisively, the British offered him extended power.


The motion introduced by Kwame Nkrumah (Prime Minister) asked that the Gold Coast should be declared a sovereign and independent state within the Commonwealth under the name of Ghana.

Members of the legislative assembly present shouted ‘Aye’ when Sir Emmanuel Quist, the Speaker, put the question. No member of the opposition was present.

Mr. Kojo Botsio, Trade and Labour Minister and leader of the House, pressed for a division.

The minister recalled the Secretary of State saying he would call for an independence vote, a roll-call of sorts. When that came to pass and the Speaker announced the result, it was ‘Ayes’ 72 and ‘Noes’ nil. The Ayes had it.

5,000-Word Speech

The members of the legislative assembly cheered as the Prime Minister, in a 5,000-word speech, introduced his motion in which he made the following points.

The issue of the constitution has been fairly and squarely put before the electorate and they have returned their verdict. By all democratic procedure, the matter must end there.

The Opposition are asking for the destruction of the Gold Coast as a nation and its partition into a number of tiny autonomous states – a prospect he considered too unreal to be contemplated.

Wherever members of the opposition might be it should be conveyed to them that they should admit with grace that they had an opportunity to put their case and that the country had decided against them.

The government’s constitutional proposals adopted by the Assembly provided for the preservation of cultural traditions in the regions.

Independence provides an opportunity for building a new society in which social justice and a fair share of the good things of life shall be the right of everyone.

The Government’s course is clear. The Secretary of State cannot but proceed to honour his pledge. He cannot and would not wish to go back on his words.

Necessary Mandate

A three-debate ensued and it was argued that the matter of the Constitution had been settled and that the general election gave the government the necessary mandate to demand total independence in 1956.

The Speaker was said to have called Mr. Kojo Botsio, even as members of the legislative assembly strove to catch his eyes.

Although members of the opposition were not in the House, they had already made their case for a federation as opposed to a unitary system.

So much water passed under the bridge but independence was attained, the British having agreed to hand over power to the CPP – the party which won overwhelmingly in the election which was held to take a final decision.

The Queen was represented at the independence celebration by the Duchess of Kent. The Union Jack was lowered midnight of 5th March, 1957.

‘My One Regret’

Governor Charles Arden-Clarke stated that the outward sign of the transformation which had taken place was the acknowledgement of Her Majesty, the head of the Commonwealth, as Queen of Ghana.

Another sign of the change which had come said the Governor was the presence of the Duchess as Her Majesty’s Special Representative on the occasion.

Sir Charles Arden-Clarke said the gratitude of the people of Ghana very deep though, it could not equal the graciousness of Her Majesty in inviting the Duchess to come to Ghana or the graciousness of the Duchess in accepting the invitation.

Raised Glasses

He declared, “All we can humbly and gratefully do is to raise our glasses to Your Royal Highness’s health and to the happy outcome of the duties which will so shortly devolve upon you.”

In her reply, the Duchess said she was deeply moved by the overwhelming warmth of the reception she had been given.

She added, “If you have felt any disappointment it is because I have been unable to include visits to Ashanti, the Northern Territories and Togoland. These are regions I am sad to have missed since they would have given me a fuller, wider picture of your country as a whole.”

Speaking about her impression, she said that she had been struck by the sense of overwhelming vitality – a vitality which was apparent in all the country’s undertakings.

Kwame Nkrumah’s Response

In a speech following the toast, Kwame Nkrumah said that the new state of Ghana would be a centre to which all peoples of Africa might come and where all the culture of Africa might meet.

The Prime Minister stated that the government and the people of Ghana were most anxious to establish friendly and cordial relations with all countries.

“The desire of Ghana to remain within the British Commonwealth was inspired by the belief that Commonwealth countries were dedicated to seeking solutions to common problems by democratic and peaceful means.

“So long as the Commonwealth stood by this avowed policy, Ghana’s continued association with it was assured.

“Ghana would be pleased to give assistance in any way possible to British colonial territories now at different stages in the march to freedom.”

These words of Kwame Nkrumah gave a clear direction of his government.

National Anthem

With independence achieved, the country needed her own anthem and the man who eventually had his efforts adopted was Philip Gbeho.

He was paid three thousand pounds for his effort.

The adoption of the anthem was one of the last rites after the lowering of the Union Jack, the flag of England.

Until the adoption of the new anthem, all citizens of the Gold Coast went by the British’s ‘God Save The Queen.’

He was paid the amount as his copyright for the piece of music during the first week of September 1957, shortly after independence.

The gentleman was Music Master at Achimota School and entered the competition for interested persons to submit their works for consideration. He beat them all and was paid an additional one hundred pounds for emerging the winner. There were four final contestants after a short-listing exercise.

The cheque for the three thousand, one hundred pounds was paid to Philip Gbeho at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Accra, on September 5, 1957.

The transfer of the copyright was signed by the Information and Broadcasting Minister, Kweku Baako, on behalf of the government and Mr. Philip Gbeho.

Gbeho was reported to have said in an interview shortly after the event, “I regard the composition as my masterpiece and something from inspiration. I do not know how I did it myself.”

He was not only a musician, but also a person interested in the politics of the times. He showed particular interest in the referendum on the issue of French Togoland.

He spoke a lot about it, some aspects of it captured in the Daily Graphic.

He is reported to have said that the issue had occupied the attention of Ewes in both French and British administrations.

Mr. Philip Gbeho said, “The referendum for all that I know, aims at separating the Ewes on the French side permanently from their brothers in the Gold Coast and British Togoland.”

For him, therefore, the referendum was no solution to the Ewe problem adding, “The Ewes from the beginning have only one aim – that is to live together as one tribe. The barriers separating us and making us French-Togoland, Ewes, British-Togoland, are artificial and are not in our interest. Our fathers have always condemned these lines of demarcation and the imperial powers certainly know about all our grievances in this matter.

He said that the struggle over the British-Togoland was an effort to unite the Ewes under a single administration. “That struggle is now over and we are now awaiting the results of the UNO in November or December. It is of course, British-Togoland that will receive independence with the Gold Coast: if that happens then three quarters of Ewes will be permanently united.”

The problem about the Ewes is not for the political parties to solve, but for the people themselves to address.

The French, Mr Gbeho said, only took over what formed French-Togoland after the First World War, the decision having been taken at a colonial dinner table.

The late Casely Hayford, he recalled, through the National Congress of West Africa, fought the issue from the Gold Coast to No. 10 Downing Street in England, but did not achieve his objective.

The aim of the French to absorb the Ewes in French-Togoland into the French Empire, he said, was unacceptable.

“The referendum,” he continued, “falls short of the aspirations of the Ewes. Let us therefore, return to the aims of the All-Ewe Conference, which seeks the unification of the entire Ewe country under a single administration. I must make it clear that by a single administration, the All-Ewe Conference had in mind the British Administration in the Gold Coast.”

He paid tribute to the British people for making it possible for the people of the Gold Coast to become self-governing.

“I wish to mention people like Maclean, Guggisberg and Fraser. They could have planned to let the Gold Coast remain forever a colonial territory or another South Africa,” Mr Gbheo said.

He maintained that the Ewes had watched the two sides and preferred the British segment, which was being almost ruled by Africans. “At the present moment, the Ewes in French-Togoland are not free to express their views in public without incurring the displeasure of the ruling authorities.”

Ewes in French-Togoland, he said, at the time must aim at following the rest of the Ewes wherever they may be. “In fact, that was our aim when we were fighting for the removal of the artificial barriers in Eweland through the All-Ewe Conference.”

A Daily Graphic cutting of the 50s is the source of the foregone.

- Kwame Nkrumah examining mealy bugs under the microscope while Archie Casely-Hayford looks on

- Akufo-Addo, a member of the ‘Big Six’

- Nii Kwabena Bonne III, Osu Alata Mantse and Member of the Legislative Assembly

- Sir Charles Noble Arden-Clarke

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