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Opinions of Thursday, 12 February 2015

Columnist: Andoh, Isaac Kyei

What I learnt from Hon Bagbin

…while he schooled Parliament on JB Danquah

For a generation that feeds on processed and refined information preserved overtime and imposed on us to accept and pass on to the next generation as unadulterated historical fact despite the salts added to the tasteless stories and vinegar added to the tasty ones, it is refreshing when someone steps up, reveals the actual truth that has been replaced by the distortions on no less a platform than the Floor of Parliament.

This is how I felt when Hon. Alban Bagbin shared the truth about Dr JB Danquah to the admiration of his colleague MPs on both sides.

3rd February 1965 is a day worth remembering and celebrating by all because it marks the death of one of the fathers of our dear nation in no less a person like Dr Nana Joseph Kwame Kyeretwie Boakye Danquah at the Nsawam prison.
He died from exposure to cold and hash treatment whilst serving jail term for his alleged (alleged because of the nature of the sentence) bribery of a guard on duty by the name Constable Seth Ametewee who tried killing President Nkrumah but the intervention of his personal bodyguard Assistant Superitendant Salifu Dagarti who died as a result. This was part of about seven attempts on Dr. Kwama's life between 1960 and 1966 when he was overthrown.
Contrary to the impression that Dr. JB Danquah died as a result of the Preventive Detention Act (PDA) for no apparent reason or smell of any offence, Dr JB Danquah was released from detention after he was incarcerated in accordance with the PDA without reasonable grounds and rearrested for the second time for his alleged bribery of a guard turned assasin to kill Nkrumah.
Making it seem as though he was imprisoned for nothing does not only hide the facts of the event leading to his arrest but present Nkrumah as just a plain evil person. As a matter of fact, it was impossible to narrow down suspect without including Dr. Danquah.

As to whether Dr JB Danquah was guilty is an issue for another discussion but the fact that he was not given fair trial gives credence to the majority held view that he was unfairly dealt with in the entire process. As a matter of fact, he was sentenced without trial.
One can however not rule out the fact that all the political movements Dr Danquah was part of at one point or the other were inexcusable from the many atrocities that became synonymous with the reign of Dr Kwame Nkrumah.
It is however tempting to believe that Dr. JB Danquah would have opted for a legitimate means to overthrow Nkrumah or at worst fold his arms and allow his associates to map up such plans, he seems too gentle for that.
What I learnt from Hon. Bagbin: Dr JB Danquah was sentenced (though without proper trial) as a result of his alleged involvement in an attempt to assasinate Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. He was arrested on suspicion of a serious crime and not just for the sake of Nkrumah victimizing his opponent without provocation.
Dr. JB Danquah is also celebrated as the brain behind the formation of the United Gold Coast Convention. This is also untrue. The idea of forming a national front in the form of UGCC came from Paa Grant, called the seventh of the big six and a wealthy business man at the time who proposed a collective front against colonialism. Paa Grant arrived at this decision when his businesses where taken from him by the colonial government.
He approached Dr. JB Danquah who was excelling as a legal practitioner in Accra and was serving in various capacities within the colonial structures and others to form the group. With his academic record and evident practical excellence, there’s no doubt that Dr Danquah played a role in the formation of the front, but to recognise or preach that he was the founder is an affront to Paa Grant who did not only initiate the move but also single handedly financed the group's activities.
The fact is the idea of forming a movement against colonial dictatorship would hardly have come to Dr. JB Danquah given his usual diplomatic approach to issues and how he himself and the Akyems in Abuakwa and Kibi specifically benefitted from the Indirect Rule system adopted by the Colonial Government.
(For those who have raised their eyebrows) Nana Sir Ofori Atta I (1881–1943), being one of the few educated chiefs in the then Gold Coast was at once a chief of his own people, the acknowledge leader of his brother chiefs in the Colony and the valued and trusted advisor of the colonial Government.
In view of this he became the link between the colonial government and the chiefs. Nana used his position to push the Akyems, largely from Abuakwah in the area of education and gave them most of the scholarships that the Colonial Government made available to the Gold Coast. Nana Sir Ofori Atta was Dr JB Danquah’s elder brother and therefore was behind JB Danquah's studies in England and long academic credentials.
What I learnt from Hon. Bagbin: Paa Grant is the brain behind the formation of the United Gold Coast Convention and the one worthy of being called the founder if it's foundation is to be narrowed down to an individual; all others, were legal doyens invited in - including Dr. JB Danquah- to help actualize the vision. Unfortunately, Dr JB is given this credit even by credible international information platforms like Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia. UGCC would have been formed with or without JB Danquah because Paa Grant was desperate to safeguard his businesses.
Dr JB Danquah is presented by his worshipers as a fighter and the most influential front-line politicians at the time.
As a matter of fact, Dr JB Danquah lacked charisma and therefore in spite of his academic and administrative prowess chickened out when his qualities were needed for the position of the General Secretary of UGCC. Being a legal brain and one of the very best at the time, he was well suited for the position of the General Secretary of the movement, but he lacked one thing- he wasn’t a fighter.
Dr JB Danquah would rather write letters and negotiate than lead a demonstration and that kind of personality wasn’t going to help, therefore, the coming of Nkrumah brought the much needed vibrancy into the group and the entire nation embraced it as the tool for fighting for more right within the colonial structures.
As a thinker, he had no match but action is preferred to talking in pursuit of freedom. Naturally, JB Danquah preffered adding to Ghana intellectually than politically (check his lettet from Nsawem Prisons to President Nkrumah.)
Even after the Big Six were arrested and disagreement led to the split between Nkrumah and the others, Dr JB Danquah and his colleagues opted for ‘Self Government within the Shortest possible time’ when the people craved it now.
Personally, with the benefit from hindsight, I am of the view that gradual pursuit of independence would have benefited the country in the long-term than Nrumah’s radical approach that has led to the sorry of a nation we have now. However, with 5 coups, it is difficult to conclude if the timing of our independence is the result of where we are or military dictatorship has been the cause of our retrogression since independence.
With Dr. JB Danquah’s approach, Ghana would have attained independence somewhere in the seventies or late sixties.
In Dr JB Danquah, we have a politician who contested three parliamentary elections, won one and lost two and lost one presidential election to Nkrumah in 1960. The manner of his arrest, imprisonment and eventual death brought him more popularity than his life - politically
With his level headedness, accademic prowess, intelligence and experience, Dr. JB Danquah is the best right-hand man for a president, not the president himself. Nkrumah would have been a better president with JB Danquah as his advisor.
What I learnt from Hon. Bagbin: Dr JB Danquah is more of an academician than a politician. He influenced Ghana academically than politically. Academicians have their place in Ghana's history whereas politicians have their place. JB Danquah was both but deserves more mention in the former than the latter
Dr. JB Danquah flattered to decieve during election and with a record of two defeats in three Parliamentary elections contested and one defeat as a presidential aspirant to Nkrumah in 1960 that ranks as the worse result by any main opposition candidate in the history of Ghana, 'the oldman' of Ghana politic's political career was not as successful as we are being made to believe now.

It is also neither here nor there to advocate for similar recognition to be given to Dr. Danquah and Nkrumah given the fact that they both disagreed on the opproach to pursuing our independence and on record to have pursued it independently; and the mere fact that he together with his colleagues boycotted the 6th March Independence Celebration, Dr. JB Danquah does not deserve similar recognition and credit to what Nkrumah merits. As a matter of fact, the big six didn't give Ghana independence as we have been made to believe.
Most of Dr. JB Danquah's defeats in elections was down to his inability to appeal to and identify with the uneducated and low class of society. A trait a natural politician must possess.

Impression is also created that Dr. JB Danquah was the political mentor of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and for the man referred to us "the doyen of Ghana politic", politics would have been a distant dream for Kwame Nkrumah . This is also another desperately propagated falsehood to present Dr Kwame Nkrumah as an ungrateful and heartless student.
Firstly, right from the onset Nkrumah disagreed with JB Danquah on how the UGCC should operate. Whereas the founders of the group saw it more like a pressure group to fight for more right for the indigenous people first, Nkrumah wanted the group to be used to end colonial rule altogether and radically so. Nkrumah was more of a Marcus Gavey Student who was influenced at personal level by Trinidadian Marxist C.L.R James, Russian expatriate Raya Dunayevskaya and Chinese-American Grac See Lee Boggs, all members of US based Trotskyist intellectual cohort. He is the very opposite of Dr. JB Danquah and therefore labeling him a student of the Akyem Abuakwa man is untrue.
Secondly, Dr Kwame Nkrumah was not a political novice prior to his coming to the Gold Coast. This is an African who had first gained popularity in the US and Canada prior to his coming to England in 1945. The first thing he did when he arrived in England was to help organize the 5th Pan-African Congress and later founded the West African National Secretariat to work for the decolonization of Africa.
This is the man Mr Ako Agyei met when he travelled abroad and therefore found material-fit to lead the UGCC. Infact, Nkrumah was more exposed to more political ideologies and been at the forefront of the struggle for decolonisation of not only Ghana but Africa than Dr. JB Danquah whose focus all that time was for greater participation and not total take over.
Pro-Danquah activist create the impression that it was betrayal on the part of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to desert the group after the famous Big Six arrest. It must also be noted that Dr Kwame Nkrumah was with the UGCC in less than 3 moths before their arrest as a result of the riot and therefore he was still getting to know them at personal level. Aside that, due to disagreement on the direction of the group, he was demoted to the position of treasure and thereforce gave him little option than seek a different path.
Contrary to the impression that Dr. Nkrumah betrayed loyals friends by breaking away, they were not yet friends and the fact that his vision and approach was different from the founders of the group, their short time together was charactarised by disagreement and arguments which made it near impossible to build any bond of friendship- not withstanding the short time they were together before the split.
As at 1960, Nkrumah had related with JB Danquah and co like this: three months as friends, nine years as opponent. I don't see any betrayal of friendship here. Infact Dr JB Danquah didn't even refer to the ever existence of friendship when he wrote from Nsawam Prison to President Nkrumah
What I learnt from Hon Bagbin: Nkrumah did not betray friends as I was made to believe all this while, contrary to that, disagreement on approach led to the split. More like the marriage that never was despite a brief period of promising courtship.
NB: In my honest opinion, the hyper Nkrumah group overstates the achievement of Nkrumah for their expedience and pretend not to notice his many flaws and failures as a leader whereas die hard JB Danquah supporters in their quest to bring Dr JB Danquah on the same pedestal with Nkrumah in our history books blow his influence on Ghana politics out of proportion
In my view, though Nkrumah clearly outshines Dr JB Danquah in the ladder of essence in Ghana’s history, though Dr JB Danquah has much less flaws compared to Nkrumah;
Dr. JB Danquah isn't close to the hero Nkrumah was and neither is he any where near the valain he was.
Professor Mike Quaye won the admiration of the audience at the Dr. JB Danquah Symposium when he revealed that the statesman anticipated our current power crises, termed; “dumsor” ‘dumsor” in the early fifties. For the record, the construction of Akosombo Dam began in 1961 and completed in 1965. The idea of a Dam on the Volta River was conceived in 1915 by geologist Albert Ernest Kitson. In my humble opinion the honourable Professor was sensational.
6th March presents the Super-Nkrumah group the opportunity to retaliate, hopefully, Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa and co won't tell us Dr. Kwame Nkrumah walked on the sea from Liverpool to the Gold Coast when he was invited by the UGCC.
He will not admit that the downfall of Nkrumah was as result of his going autocratic, intolerant and taking matters into his own hands instead of strengthening the courts and institutions to effectively deal with the violence and lawlessness that informed PDA and other measures.
He won't admit that a gentleman like JB Danquah deserved to be treated with the dignity he earned for himself through selfless dedicated service for the good of our dear nation. He won't admit that Nkrumah's personal ambition cost Ghana dearly and we are still paying the price for it.
I will be preparing for 6th March
I pray I get more Bagbins to tell me the truth about the yesterday of our dear nation.
Isaac Kyei Andoh
isaackyeiandoh@yahoo.com