The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye says Ghana’s independence was achieved over time through the struggle and sacrifices of people of varied professional backgrounds who contributed ideas, skills, financial and material resources towards its realisation.
The historian explained that a number of founding fathers worked towards the liberation of the nation from the British Colonial rule, with support from enthusiastic and compassionate nationalists.
They included lawyers, clerks, teachers, businessmen and women, traders and youth groups.
Prof. Oquaye made these remarks when he delivered the Founders’ Day commemorative Public Lecture in Accra, on Tuesday.
“It is necessary to emphasise the numerous factors and endowments by which the Gold Coast gained independence on March 6,1957,” he said.
“Ghana’s independence evolved, not a one-day affair achieved by a magic wand that suddenly appeared from somewhere.
“When you come to think that in 1957 something suddenly happened and somebody snatched independence for us, we’re doing ourselves a lot of disservice and we’re not teaching our children anything.”
The event, organised by the Ministry of information, was chaired by Yaa-Naa Abukari Mahama II, the Overlord of Dagbon.
It was attended by high profile personalities, including the Chief of Staff, Madam Akosua Osei Frema Opare, Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, Chief Executive Officer of National Petroleum Authority, Mr Hassan Tampuli and the Most Rev Opuni Frimpong, former General Secretary of Christian Council of Churches.
Other participants were the General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party, Mr John Boadu, General Secretary of the Convention People’s Party, James Kwabena Bomfeh, and other heads of public and private institutions.
Prof. Oquaye noted that Foundership needed not be perceived in monolistic terms, saying that, every year, Achimotans celebrated their founding fathers, which applied to Aggrey, Frasers and Guggisburg.
“In Ashanti, we have Osei Tutu and Okomfo Anokye. In the USA, Washington is not the Founder but have founding fathers. And you do not have to be a founder for your greatness to be recognised or given a holiday,” he added.
“What is not generally appreciated is the fact that the independence struggle of Ghana was more of a rally race, involving many runners, each passing the baton on to the other, rather than a one-man marathon from start to finish.
“What needs stressing is that when Nkrumah returned home in December 1947 from the USA and UK, the Gold Coast was on the way to becoming the first independent nation in the sub-Saharan Africa,” Prof. Oquaye pointed out.
The Speaker traced the history of the country from 1844 to 1873 during, which time the people of the Gold Coast had no say in the administration of the Colony, leading to the formation of the Fante Confederacy in 1874 and the Aborigines Rights Protection Society (ARPS) in 1897 to protest the Crown Lands Bill of 1896 and the Lands Bill of 1897.
He said from 1900 to 1924, traditional rulers were given representation in the Representative Assembly, which enabled them to have a say in the British Administration of the Gold Coast Colony.
He, however, highlighted the formation of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) on August 4, 1947, as a political pressure group, which invited Dr Kwame Nkrumah to hold its General Secretary position to galvanise momentum for independence struggle until Nkrumah broke away to form the Convention People’s Party in 1948, and eventually led the nation to achieve independence on March 6,1957.
Prof. Oquaye emphasised that people from different professional backgrounds collectively contributed their quota towards achieving the independence.
He mentioned notable names such as J.B. Danquah, Paa Grant, Edward Akufo-Addo, Ako Adjei, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey and William Ofori-Atta who worked tirelessly behind the scenes through the mobilisation of the youth, traders, teachers and the masses to protest against British Colonial Rule.
Prof. Oquaye said for instance, J.B. Danquah made the, “Great Emancipation Declaration” in Saltpond after the 1948 riot when the ex-servicemen were killed in the Christianburg Crossroads Shooting incident and also wrote a letter to the Queen of England to protest against plans by the British Administration to establish just a single university college in the entire British West African Colony.
Prof. Oquaye noted that J.B. Danquah vehemently advocated the need for separate university colleges for each of the four British Colonies.
Also, Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia seconded the Motion for declaration of independence in 1957 when Nkrumah officially moved it in the General Assembly.
The Speaker of Parliament added that even the nation “Ghana” was suggested by J.B. Danquah after rigorous research, and also he appeared before the Asanteman Council and went to the Northern Territories, which were then automous to explain the need to relinquish their status in order to form one united nation.
“When I reflect on the history and trajectories in this country’s past, I will say God loves us,” Prof.Oquaye said.
The Government, in 2018, laid before Parliament a Public Holidays Amendment Bill through the Minister of the Interior, Ambrose Dery, which was passed to amend the Public Holiday Act, 2001 in 2018.
The Founders Day Holiday, consequently, replaced was instituted to honour all those whose sweats and sacrifices worked together to achieve the nation its freedom from the British Colonial regime.