Ghana’s 62nd Independence anniversary is fast approaching. For many, the fact that there is no work on the day is relieving; many young and middle-aged persons will take to the beaches, pubs and football fields to have fun.
I believe it is also a time for us as Ghanaians to reflect on what our past has taught us. The road to Ghana’s Independence was long, bumpy and arduous. Many of our forebears who started this journey did not live to see the dawn of our Independence Day celebration; the likes of Jacob Kwaw Sey, Kobina Sekyi, John Mensah Sarbah and Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford readily come to mind.
I would like to talk about one of our foremost proto nationalist movement- the Aborigines Rights Protection Society, in this short piece and the lessons we can learn from their activities.
Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society (ARPS) was formed in the then Gold Coast in 1897 with J. W. Sey as its President, J P Brown as the Vice, J. M Sarbah as the Secretary. It was formed purposely to protest against the Land Bill. The Land Bill was to allow the colonial government at the time to take over public lands that were not in use at the time. ARPS sent a delegation to London to petition the passing of the Land Bill of 1897. The petition was accepted and eventually the Bill was withdrawn. This ARPS became the mouthpiece of the people of Gold Coast until it collapsed in the 1930s.
What lessons can we glean from ARPS?
The people who came together to form this society looked far beyond their days and their families. They thought of a future ahead of them and the many descendants who will spring up in the nation, it was not here and now but life beyond them and the generations after us. Well I dare to say that things have changed drastically in the post Independence years. Most political and social groupings are formed just to take care of their members or at best their immediate families. There is a wide gap between the few well to do -and the majority poor in our society now. The well to do continue to amass the resources meant for the living and the unborn, tagging the poor as the lazy in the society. A closer look at the work rates of the poor in our society might suggest most are hardworking. It is time for us to reconsider the purposes of our coming together to form groups. Do we have the future generations in mind?
ARPS and its leaders cared about the land God has given to them as stewards. They fought very hard to prevent the colonial government from taking it; they fought with all their might, resources and soul so that future generations will lay claim to their God-given resources. They went all the way to London to present a petition. We have a lot to learn from them, our rainforest is fast depleting, few people in this nation care about it, and after all, we have the Ghana’s Forestry Commission mandated to take care of it. I believe we should be worried about this trend. In the last ten years we have lost substantial hectares of our forest. We are cutting them for timber with no future in mind. We all have to stand up to fight this menace of deforestation. Our rainforest is for the future generations and us.
ARPS and its members were bold to speak against bad colonial government policies. They were not afraid to suffer for what they believed was in the best interest of their people and the unborn generation. It is a bit different now, in the name of politics too many well-meaning Ghanaians keep quiet because they are afraid they will be tagged as belonging to party A or B. Let us speak out to defend our nation if the need arises.
I would like to end with words from one of our patriotic songs. Ma Oman yi ho nhia wo, Ghanaman ye woara wo de. Think about this nation, Ghana is yours. We should add to our new mantra Ghana beyond Aid, ‘Ghana beyond our Generation’.
An article by Kwabena Nifa Kurankye, a historian and educationist