People from diverse backgrounds of Ghana have significantly contributed to the development of this country with some going the extra mile to do extraordinary things in nation building.
Despite ethnicity, religion, financial or marital status, these people whom I refer to as ‘Heroines and Heroes of Ghana’ have contributed buoyantly to making the nation to advance.
In Ghana, most of these doyens were mostly in politics including Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the country’s first President, Yaa Asantewaa, an Ashanti warrior as well as some notable former heads of states such as the late former President Jerry John Rawlings, who championed a successful Fourth Republican Ghana.
Again, though some ground-breaking heroes or heroines are well-known and celebrated, there are many more unsung heroines and heroes worth celebrating, who never got the credit they deserved.
Madam Hannah Kudjoe (1918-1986) was a prominent activist for Ghana in the 1940s and 1950s and becoming one of the first high-profile female nationalist in the independent movement and was the National Propaganda Secretary of Conventions People’s Party (CPP) and philanthropist, who worked to improve women’s lives especially in Northern Ghana.
Again, Sophia Oboshie Doku contributed to the independent struggle and was one of the first Members of Parliament in the first Parliament.
The struggle to make one’s nation proud is not limited to politics but cascaded into economics, religion as well as fashion, which brings us to the first crowned winner of one of the oldest beauty pageantries in Ghana, referred to as MISS GHANA, and won by Madam Monica Amekoafia.
It is obvious that Miss Ghana Beauty Pageant was started by Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana in 1957, as an initiative to offer the “Independent” Ghanaian woman a platform to positively impact society.
Its management continues to introduce innovative and exciting approaches in selecting the finalists so as to attract the right calibre and intelligent ladies to compete.
In contemporary time, the event has metamorphosed into various brand names such as Miss Malaika, Ghana’s Most Beautiful, Miss Ghana, Miss Volta, Miss Tourism, Miss Golden Stool as well as festival related and tertiary Level pageantries.
Madam Monica Amekoafia was born on June 30, 1934 to one Mr Augustus Amekoafia and Madam Anastasia Apau in a town of Alavanyo in the Hohoe Municipality of the Volta Region, who won the coveted crown on March 4, 1957 at age 22.
During the countdown to the attainment of independence, Monica Amekoafia was invited by the then queen of Alavanyo to represent her town in the search for the upcoming event to select beauty and intelligence in Ghana.
Madam Amekoafia found herself on the stage at the Accra Community Centre, where she vied for the coveted title of Miss Ghana with representatives from; the Western Province, Eastern Province, Ashanti and Northern Territories.
She wore a contestant ‘Number Nine’ tag on the day going into the finals and when the declaration was about to be made by the judges, spectators in unison acclaimed by loud shouts “number nine, number nine,” for demonstrating beauty and power in knowledge, which eventually became a misname for the people of the Volta Region as ‘Number Nines.’
The number nine tag meant elegance, beauty, intelligence, pride, eloquence and culture. In contemporary Ghana, the number nine has been misconstrued and being used in derogatory terms as a result of failure to read or comprehend.
An almost two minute Huntley Film Archives YouTube video reveals a cheering crowd on the pageantry day, while Miss Ghana is seen being lifted onto the shoulders of men, smiling and wearing her crown and winner’s sash.
Madam Amekoafia got married to Mr Henry Kofi Marrah, a Ghanaian diplomat sojourning in London and subsequently became Mrs. Monica Marrah. They had two daughters and two sons.
Madam Amekoafia who lost her husband in September 1985 after 28 years of marital life, died on 24th June 1990, six days to her 56th birthday.
A statue of Miss Ghana 1957, Monica Amekoafia of blessed memory, was unveiled at a brief ceremony as part of the country’s Golden Jubilee celebration in 2007 in Hohoe to immortalise her memory as an instrument of inspiration to the present generation especially the youth.
However, a visit to the grave of Miss Ghana 1957 by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) at Alavanyo Dzogbedze was “nothing to write home about” of a winner of such a prestigious national contest as well as making a tribe or region gain a ‘nickname’ which would remain till the end-of-time.
The faded white-painted grave, which had an inscription in a black paint captured “Monica Amekoafia, First Miss Ghana, 1957 with a black star” was where the mortal remains of Mrs Marrah lie, less than ten steps from the roadside off the Hohoe-Kpando main road.
Her grave, in an old cemetery, which is now almost encroached on by estate development “has now become a resting stop.”
Mamaga Ametor Hoebuadzu II, Paramount Queen of Alavanyo Traditional Area and a relative of Madam Amekoafia in an interview with the GNA said “she was very beautiful, kind-hearted and always wearing a smile with her bright white teeth.”
She said her crown had no major impact on her hometown aside making it proud across the globe.
Mamaga Ametor revealed that the Paramountcy had a plan to redesign the grave for the first Miss Ghana but lacked the resources to carry out the plan.
She appealed to the Hohoe Municipal Assembly and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture to come in to assist them to execute the plan to add to the many tourist sites in Alavanyo.
The Paramount Queen revealed that the statue of Madam Amekoafia was erected in Hohoe to honour her memory as a model and public figure from the Municipality because Hohoe was the administrative capital.
Mr Ezekiel K. Gbagbago, Family Head, Dorlewu Amekoafia Family of Alavanyo Dzogbedze told the GNA that although he was young when his cousin won the crown, he still recalled how that moment was celebrated in the town.
Ghana News Agency’s findings showed that no one in the family has since signed ‘Amekoafia’ as their surname, which made the late crown winner the only ‘woman standing’.
“This is an issue I will raise at our annual family meeting to see how we revive the Amekoafia family name which has gone almost extinct,” Mr Gbagbago stated.
Mr Eric Atikpladza, a radio personality in Hohoe, who raised funds to redecorate the roundabout, where the statue of the late Madam Amekoafia was erected, said it was to help beautify the effigy.
“The public must help preserve it because it’s a good developmental project. Most of these were only seen in Accra and Kumasi, so now that it’s here with us, we have to protect it for future generations.
He commended Zoomlion Ghana for maintaining the aesthetic beautification of the roundabout including maintaining the flowers and clearing of the weeds.
There could be many more heroes and heroines just like Madam Amekoafia in our communities and we must as a nation preserve them for the future generations, who might live to only read about them.
The State could also help through the Tourism Sector to undertake aesthetic beautification on the memorials of these heroes and heroines, to boost the tourism potentials of the country, as the adage goes, “a community or country who fails to honour its heroes and heroines, is not worth dying for.”
Recently, street naming became a major development issue at the District Assembly level, heroes and heroines at the local levels could take the centre-stage of naming our revered heroines and heroes towards maintaining such status quo and reference.