The Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, has called on Ghanaians to draw useful lessons from the sacrifices made by the founding fathers of Ghana and work together for national development.
He said the attainment of Ghana’s independence on March 6, 1957 was made possible because of the collective resolve and relentless effort of many front-liners who laid down their lives to liberate the masses.
Delivering a lecture to commemorate the 2nd Founders’ Day in Accra Tuesday [August 4, 2020], he said the diverse roles played by the founding fathers that culminated in the attainment of the common goal of independence meant that Ghanaians needed unity of purpose to develop the country.
The public lecture was chaired by the Overlord of Dagbon, Yaa Naa Abubakari Mahama II, who was flanked by other traditional rulers from Dagbon.
Key personalities such as the Chief of Staff, Mrs Akosua Frema Opare; the Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu; the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto; the Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah; the President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mr Roland Affail Monney were present at the lecture.
Founders’ Day debate
The question of who founded Ghana generated controversy in the past.
While some Ghanaians recognised the first President of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, as the sole Founder of the country, many others argued that other leaders played key roles in the founding of Ghana.
The argument reached its crescendo when by virtue of the new Public Holidays Act, 2018, which was passed by Parliament in 2019 to amend the Public Holidays Act, 2001 (Act 601), the September 21 Founder’s Day that was held to coincide with the birthday of Dr Nkrumah was changed to Founders’ Day to be marked on August 4.
While the proponents of the Founder’s Day debate raised concerns that the new development was meant to downplay Nkrumah as the founder of Ghana, those in favour of the Founders’ Day held that the new arrangement would cater for all persons who laid down their lives for Ghana’s independence.
It was against that backdrop that August 4 became a holiday to commemorate Founders’ Day, a date which also coincide with the formation of the first political party in the country – the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) on August 4, 1947.
Touching on that debate, Prof Oquaye noted that Dr Nkrumah “played a big part in the struggle for independence” and could be honoured with a holiday, “but it cannot be Founder’s Day.”
He said historical antecedents showed that although Dr Nkrumah was an outstanding figure in achieving the final goal, many other stalwarts started the battle years before the latter came on to the scene.
The celebrated politician and historian took audience down memory lane as he recounted the country’s history dating back to as far back as 1844, intermittently paying glowing tribute to the leaders at various stages.
“The road to independence may be mapped in five main eras – 1844 – 73; 1873 – 97; 1900 – 24; 1925 – 45; 1946 – 57; all with brilliant patriots who chalked a golden pathway,” he said, as he acknowledged the role played by all individuals in the independence struggle.
The Speaker of Parliament further stated that the chronology of events leading to independence had shown that before the arrival of Dr Nkrumah, “some gallant men were taking steps to lead Ghana to independence.”
Other key founders
He said at the time Dr Nkrumah returned to the country in December 1947, at the invitation of leaders of the UGCC, the struggle for independence had already gained momentum.
Prof Oquaye added that the struggle for independence had resonated with the people from 1945 to 1948, so Dr Nkrumah could not have done it all alone.
“Nkrumah did not alone compose the classical sonata and constitute the orchestra which sang Ghana’s clarion call to independence in sweet melody, all in two months! The fathers of the nation were there already,” he stressed.
“They included Paa Grant, J.B. Danquah, Akufo-Addo, Ako Adjei, Obetsebi Lamptey and William Ofori-Atta. It needs to be emphasised – something existed before Nkrumah was invited to come and help,” he stressed.
He eulogised the founding fathers for their contribution in various ways to the shaping of the country’s destiny in all spheres, ranging from the economy, human rights, education, agriculture to social protection.
Yaa Naa’s tribute
Speaking on behalf of the Yaa Naa, his spokesperson , Zamgbali Naa, Dr Jacob Mahama, traced the history preceding the struggle for independence and paid glowing tribute to all those who played various roles in helping the country to attain its independence.
“Nkrumah did not alone compose the classical sonata and constitute the orchestra which sang Ghana’s clarion call to independence in sweet melody, all in two months! The fathers of the nation were there already.”