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Picture: Diaspora Ghanaian chief greeting a chief from Ghana @ Ghanafest in Chicago.

Sankofa:Ghana National Council Of Metropolitan Chicago-The History

The history of the GHANA NATIONAL COUNCIL (GNC) began in the 1960’s as the story of the GHANA STUDENT’S UNION (GSU) of Chicago. The history continues today as the story of the Ghana National Council, now an umbrella organization of eleven (11) affiliate Ghanaian organizations.

The need for a national organization became obvious to a group of concerned Ghanaians in the mid to late 1960’s. Volunteers joined forces to set up the GSU, which immediately rallied support and goodwill in the community.

Representations were established with the Ghana Government and with the Ghana Embassy in Washington. The GSU was accorded recognition.

Capable and dynamic leaders such as Mr. Benjamin Annaman, Mr. Joseph Adigbli, Alhaji Wahab Tijani, and others emerged to lead the organization in succession, and to unify the Community.

Over the years however, inter-personal friction, rivalries, and ill feeling arose among the leadership, concerning the direction of the organization, causing the unfortunate demise of the GSU.

In the mid 1970’s a new organization, the GHANA COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION (GCO) rose from the ashes of the GSU. But again the age-old plague of conflict and personality clashes destroyed the GCO even before it could muster the support of the community.

Another organization emerged around this time, THE PATRIOTIC FRONT (PF). But its focus was more political and, perceived to be aligned with the new ruling Rawlings’ Military Government in Ghana. Consequently the community’s support was cool to lukewarm despite the dynamism of the group. The PF consequently remained on the sidelines.

Then followed a long period of hiatus when the community had no representative organization. During this time, two distinct organizations emerged that would later become the nucleus of the GNC: The Ghana Chicago Club (GCC – Ga-Dangme / People born in Accra based) and Milenovisi Habobo (Ewe based).

Later Haske Rassolilah (Multi ethnic but Muslim based) and Kwahu United emerged to become part of the nucleus.

These so-called “Ethnic” groups were indeed thriving on their own but with a narrow, regional, social and other focus, underscoring the need for one more attempt at establishing a NATIONAL organization. About this time, the debacle of Ghanaian refugees from Nigeria was in full swing.

A group of community leaders got together, among them:

Rev. Albert W.Y Mensah Joseph K.Adigbli & wife Patience

A.C Eddie-Quartey Benjamin K Ale (Deceased)

Joseph Appiah Wahab Tijani

Rev. Kweku Lartey (Deceased) U.Baba Cisse

Godfried Annang Kingsley Mensah

Ishmael Seye (Deceased) Nana Wiafe Ababio

O.Sowah Botchway

Dan McKwartin (Deceased)

To hammer out a structure and a constitution for a national organization, that would bring together the various ethnic groups under an “umbrella”, but cognizant of their respective autonomy; and also to address the issue of the “The Ghana Relief Fund”, charged with the responsibility of marshalling help and resources for the Ghanaian refugees from Nigeria.

Several meetings were held mainly at the Adigbli residence, and in the early 80s the GNC came into being, based on the affiliation of all the “ethnic” and other groups.

The affiliation resulted in qualifying the GNC as the sole national organization for the Ghanaian community. Other ethnic groups were admitted into the GNC at this time, namely:

Fanti Benevolent Asanteman

Okuapeman Okyeman

GaDangme

The GNC was finally structured bureaucratically, namely, a Central Committee of three (3) representatives from each affiliate organization, an Executive committee headed by a President, and governed by a Constitution. This structure was deemed compatible with the socio-political tenets of the Ghanaian community.

However, subsequent events finally demonstrated that such structure was rather counterproductive to the aspirations of the GNC.

Therefore a new Executive structure was put in place, after careful deliberations by the Central Committee, with a Secretariat headed by a Secretary-General, instead of an Executive committee. A revised Constitution was also adopted.

Rev. Dr. Kweku Lartey was elected Secretary-General, SG, with Alhaji Baba Cisse as Vice.

The GNC that was handed over to the leadership of Rev. Kweku Lartey, was a vibrant, healthy, albeit shaky one. It was brimming with ideas. And to be sure Rev. Kweku Lartey, with the unflinching support of Mr. A.C. Eddie-Quartey, Rev. A. A. Akrong and the Ghana-Chicago Club, implemented a series of programs and initiatives, which have remained the backbone of the GNC to this day. The most notable being the, Ghana Fest celebration.

When the torch was passed on rather hastily to Alhaji Baba Cisse in 1993, due to Rev. Lartey’s return to Ghana, the GNC began a long descent into what would eventually become a period of divisiveness and disintegration. The organization lost its vision, its purpose, its raison d’etre. Many competent well-meaning individuals left to pursue their own interests, leaving the organization in the hands of a few overworked and under-appreciated volunteers.

The Central committee meetings degenerated into internecine rifts and acrimonious debates.

Finally some “enlightened” members realized the need for change. Certain departed individuals including yours truly, were approached to return to the Council and help with the transition into a new era.

In 1997 a fresh wind blew into the GNC with the election of Nana Owusu-Bempah as SG and Mr. Ebo Onumah as Vice to head the Secretariat. The new administration got off to a fine start with fresh, positive ideas and seemed to enjoy the goodwill of the community at large. To be sure some tactical and administrative errors were made as all fledgling administrations do. In the meantime the agents of destruction and backwardness (AODB) regrouped and soon the GNC was back to its old culture of mindless self-destruction.

Personal attacks at meetings became vicious, vitriolic and vituperant. The Central committee was pervaded with an atmosphere of pernicious hatred among members.

All the positive changes that had begun to take shape were soon lost sight of. A breakdown in leadership took hold at the GNC. Even the moderator was constantly accused by the AODB of being partial, for trying to steer meetings away from crass emotional, negative and idiotic behavior and towards positive goals. Owusu-Bempah resigned feeling disgusted.

With the Owusu-Bempah’s administration gone, a period of calm and stock-taking descended upon the GNC. Cooler heads began to prevail again, thanks largely to the timely arrival of three new affiliate organizations: Brong-Ahafo, Northern Association and Ghana Nurses Association. In 1998 The GNC was restructured, reorganized and stabilized, under the leadership of Mr. Clement Timpo as President and Mr A. C. Eddie-Quartey as Council Chairman. With the help of dedicated Executive officers, the GNC began a period of sustained growth and achievements, some of them positive and far- reaching; such as:

501-C3- TAX EXEMPT STATUS AN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE A WEB SITE ON THE INTERNET There will be more changes in the future hopefully, so we can continue to provide outstanding services and benefits to our people, such as.

GHANA FEST CELEBRATION…See the history of Ghana Fest elsewhere on this site.

In 2005, Mr. Reuben Hadzide was sworn in as President, with an Executive that hopefully, will take our community into the 21st century. We need a GNC that will provide the leadership needed to mobilize our people and their resources. We need to expand our horizons by crafting new ways and initiatives and programs that will transform the Ghanaian community. From the economically invisible caricature it is now, to a prosperous, well-placed, clout-bearing entity with access to all the power bases and economic opportunities around us. We need an institution that will leave a true legacy for our children.

We are facing the future and being dissatisfied with the past, we should be determined to go out into larger fields of service for our people.

Your support will be needed in a new effort to finally give voice to our dreams and aspirations. LET US MOVE FORWARD!

AFTERWORD In closing, I would like to pay tribute to the following Ghanaians, ALL DECEASED, for their selfless service, dedication and sacrifice in making the dream of the GNC a reality:

· Benjamin Annaman

· Benjamin K.Ale

· Rev. Dr. Kweku A.Lartey

· Ishmael A. Seye

· Dan McKwartin

It is imperative that someday we establish a memorial and a place of honor for these fallen heroes.

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