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Opinions of Monday, 5 October 2009

Columnist: Ackah, Abena Pokuaa Atuahene

What is Busia doing at Nkrumah Park?

POLITICAL INFAMY: What is Busia doing at Nkrumah Park?

By Abena Pokuaa Atuahene Ackah

A national system of awards and honors, properly handled, can inspire individual creativity and national development; wrongly handled, it can, among other things, promote cringing subservience, mediocrity, and distort history.

And a people with a distorted history are a people divided - a division that could reflect bitter experiences and memories. What citizens in a developing country like Ghana need are politicians whose policies reflect the nterests and aspirations of its people. To achieve this, politicians must rise above pettiness, cronyism, tribal or political traditions, in order to create a society in which all citizens, despite their individual or group differences, share core values that sustainably secure order, harmony, and peace. For these reasons, all Ghanaians have a right and a duty to insist that system of national awards and honors49 be used to promote the people’s interests and aspirations. This article has a limited focus: it is to register my concerns about the potential or actual distortion of history that results from the erection of Professor Busia’s statue at the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, currently known as Jubilee Park, in Sunyani B/A.

First, the name ‘Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park’ symbolically reflects the monumental contribution of Kwame Nkrumah to the social and economic emancipation and identity of the Bono people. Why did the NPP government rename the park Jubilee Park? What does ‘jubilee’ mean for the Bono people? What good reasons were given for the renaming? None, as far as I know. Thus we get the impression that the NPP is attempting to rewrite the political history of Ghana, in a way that gives the Busia-Dankwa tradition what it lacks: a monumental presence in Ghana’s political history.

Second, monuments and street-naming are normally initiated by the people through their Regional House of Chiefs in conjunction with the Assembly of the relevant district. In this particular case the NPP government ignored administrative protocol, with implication of contempt for the interest and aspiration of the chiefs and their people - a conduct quite revealing of the self-styled champions of the rule of law in Ghana.

A brief history of the creation of the Brong Ahafo Region brings into sharp focus the distortion of an aspect of Ghana’s history occasioned by the NPP’s imposition of Professor Busia’s statue, a very political honor for the sake of salvaging or building a party tradition at the expense of the historical interest and aspirations of the Bonos.

As will be recalled, Bono Ahafo was a province of the Ashanti Kingdom - a condition that gave effective ownership of the human and natural resources of the Bonos to the Ashanti King. In all history, no people have flourished in slavery and servitude. This fate of the Bonos remained unchanged until 1948, when Nana Akumfi Ameyaw III, the Omanhene of Techiman, led Techiman to secede from the Ashanti confederacy (Austin, 1964, p. 294). The secession of Techiman was supported by Osagyefo Oseadeeyo Agyemang Badu I, Dormaahene, Drobohene, Nkoranzahene, Berekumhene, Bechemhene, Kukuomhene, Abeasehene, Mohene and some of the Brong states.

This freedom-fighting culminated in the formation of the Brong Kyempem Federation in April 1951 at Dormaa Ahenkro, under the auspices of the Dormaa state. Meetings of the movement were later moved to Techiman in early 1958, where renowned Bonos like Kofi Adomako Anane, who later became Abrefa Mbore Bediatuo VI (Paramount Chief of Wenchi Traditional Area), his two brothers Nana Kwame Atakorah and Nana P.A.C Atuahene, and other concerned young men and women in the region joined the Brong Kyempem Federation to agitate for the independence of the Bonos from the Ashanti Kingdom.

Nana Kusi Appiah, who was then the occupant of the Wenchi Stool and a brother of Professor Busia, refused to attend these meetings and to connect with the people for the fight for Bono independence. Professor Busia at that time was collaborating with the Ashantis, who had helped him to be elected into parliament. He dissociated himself from the struggle, despite his education and clout at that time.

Convinced in the justice of their cause, the Bono chiefs presented a petition to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah for total secession from Ashanti. After deliberations, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah called for a referendum on the matter. But the Bono chiefs rejected a referendum on the grounds that, against the Ashantis, they were not sufficiently resourced to campaign for votes. Under the unrelenting pressure of the Bono chiefs, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah took a firm decision and on the 4th of April 1959 the Brong Ahafo Region was created and Mr. Yeboah Afari, who came from Dormaa Ahenkro, was appointed first Regional Commissioner for the region. In 1961, when Nana Abrefa Mbore Bediatuo VI became the 3rd president of the Regional House of Chiefs, he appealed to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah for a proper secretariat to be built for the Regional House of Chiefs. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah readily gave ?700. The edifice was built but later got burnt; and Dr Nkrumah’s government rebuilt it.

Dr Nkrumah also saw to the tremendous transformation of the region, building economic, physical and social infrastructure across the Region, to give meaning to the independence of the Bonos. In this respect, Wenchi, Professor Busia’s home town, benefited greatly from the CPP government. This includes infrastructure for regular water supply and the setting up of a tomato factory, a farm institute, and the Ghana Tobacco Company, later the Pioneer Tobacco Company - all these stablishments providing real opportunities for the employment and training of the people across the Region.

So a Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park is a truly symbolic appreciation by the Bono people of the foundational contribution of the founder and first president of Ghana to the social, economic, and spiritual wellbeing of the Bono people. It is, therefore, baffling to see that a park named after Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah is renamed Jubilee Park, which, moreover, is dominated by a statue of Professor Busia, who wilfully neglected, failed or refused to sympathise with the Bono people in their historical struggle for independence and identity.

To be sure, Professor Busia deserves some honour. He was an eminent academic, and was the first person from his home region to have occupied the highest public office in Ghana. But do these achievements constitute sufficient reason for diminishing Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in favour of Busia, given their respective contributions to the emancipation of the Bono people? And, in any case, granting the traditional hatred of Dr Nkrumah by the Dankwa-Busia tradition, why should Professor Busia take precedence over those Bono chiefs who risked their lives and fought tirelessly to emancipate the Bonos from Ashanti domination? The renaming of the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park as Jubilee Park and the erection of Professor Busia’s statue in that park amount to a distorted rewriting of an aspect of Ghana’s political history - a distortion that could confuse politics with history, and heroes with villains in the minds of the unsuspecting youth, our future leaders.

In these circumstances, one is compelled to ask: when shall we have politicians who can distinguish clearly between partisan interest and public interest, between partisan sentiment and historical facts, and have the courage and strength of mind to pursue the latter for the collective welfare, even when it hurts their partisan interests?

Credit: Abena Pokuaa Atuahene Ackah