I. In the Beginning
Ghana @ 1 in 1958, I was six and about to start primary school. The original Harruna Attah had, only a few months earlier, relocated his young family with a coterie of extended family members from Kumasi to Yendi in the Northern Region to start a new life with the prospects that the new country had to offer. Born in Aboso in the Central Region, he was the first to be educated in our wide and diverse extended family.
That put him in a mindset that could appreciate the promises of a newly independent country.
I have a very hazy memory of those days but by Ghana @ 9 in 1966, in secondary school, I was old and alert enough to witness my first coup d’etat – credit President Mahama on his book of the same title.
By Ghana @ 50, my opinions and attitude to life had become so well formed and entrenched that I was able to cringe publicly about President Kufuor’s sartorial choice of a grey western business suit for that day! It was such a letdown! Fifty years of Independence and the President could not even manage a symbolic Ghanaian/African outfit to celebrate the day with his compatriots. Rumour further had it that on his landmark visit to Buckingham Palace he and his Foreign Minister had contemplated wearing tails! In the end they did not and the President’s majestic kente made my day!
On March 6 2017 I will be uniquely placed with several others of my generation (and some much older) to pay homage to 60 years of Ghana’s growth from infancy to adulthood from the very first day of birth.
Over the years it has been observed with different degrees of panache or simply as just a routine pageant. The different heads of state and governments have milked it one way or the other but for me, none so brazenly divisive as Ghana @ 40 under the PNDC…Ghana @ 50 was big but also ended up dividing the nation. Indeed, a group had threatened a counter celebration. Reason: Who had the right to claim credit for our independence?
There is a huge planning committee for Ghana @ 60 and I will try to second guess some of their actions before they are even announced: J. B. Danquah, Edward Akufo-Addo and Obetsebi-Lamptey would be played up well, probably earning some more posthumous ennobling. After all were they not a part of the “Big Six”? With the exception of Ofori-Atta, they all have monuments named after them in the national capital and it would probably be argued that the best known of the Big Six, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah is already all over the place so why add another monument? Instead why not add a few here and there for the others especially William Ofori-Atta who still has nothing of significance to his name… Ako Adjei the other one also has a place of honour – they all have road intersections named after them, so in all probability some road structure will be assigned to Ofori-Atta.
And then Kofi Abrefa Busia, Dombo, Jato Kaleo, Kwesi Lamptey and other pioneers of the Danquah-Busia-Dombo (?) tradition would be on the pedestal of historical repositioning or as some may have it, revisionism…
There will be many awards and naming or renaming of national monuments but my guess again is that, they may recommend that the Tamale Airport or Stadium be named after the late Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama. Professor Adu Boahen and his running mate Alhaji R.I. Alhassan would not be forgotten even though what they have to their credit is a “Stolen Verdict”! That then brings up what to do with late President Liman – they cannot go all the way to the Western Region to rename the stadium in Sekondi-Takoradi after him, so he may have to share the spot with Alhaji Aliu Mahama in Tamale. President Mills already has an FSPO named after him and in a way the Asomdwe Park carries echoes of what he stood for. Would they have the courage of naming the Bui Hydroelectric Dam after President Kufuor or President Mills? The mother-of-all-guesses: President Mahama. Would they leave him empty handed or recognise him with our highest national order if they won’t name a monument after him? Captain Kojo Tsikata turned down an award from the Kufuor Administration; would he this time if offered one, and his former boss President Rawlings who was once humiliated when courtesies due a former head of state were denied him and an honourary PhD from UDS blocked? He unofficially has a car park named after him by popular acclamation. It was a market, Makola No 1 which he bulldozed in 1979 and can hardly be described as a badge of honour. Could some in the committee be eyeing the Kotoka International Airport for him and would any one dare rename it? Talking of airports: what of the recently “refurbished” one in Kumasi? If that would not offend certain sensibilities could they consider that for the Okyenhene or Togbe Afede?
I do not know how to bring in one of my very favourite Ghanaians: the Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II. He cannot be ignored in any Ghana @ 60 honours even though his position as Asantehene puts him way, way up there…
Those were guesses but my prayer is that they will not pack any honours list with footballers! There are many educationists, scientists, medical doctors, architects, designers, NGOs, diplomats, social workers, civil servants and many more, still active or retired, who though unheralded are contributing and have contributed far more than footballers without holding the nation to ransom regarding their fees and bonuses!
There will also no doubt be anniversary souvenirs and the images that would adorn them would tell whether Ghana @ 60 has learnt from the lessons of Ghana @ 50. There is one image, which to my mind, is the penultimate and quintessential icon of our independence: Kwame Nkrumah and his colleagues at the old polo grounds wearing NT smocks to declare that “At long last, the battle is over and Ghana, your beloved country, is free forever…” That should tower above all else. Yes, before that there were other pioneers of the independence struggle, but just as there were many Apollo flights before Apollo 11, it was Neil Armstrong’s “One small step for man and one giant leap for mankind” which is the one first true human footstep on the moon. There is another iconic image, that of the Big Six in a group picture, but that was not the declaration of our independence and any attempt to treat it as such, would be totally unacceptable and needless revisionism.
III. My country, My Future
Ghana @ 60 as I am about to turn 65… We have gained some and lost some since I witnessed Ghana @ 1. The wasted opportunities have been more than those exploited for our good. Essentially our own making, even as we enter this 60th year, I am witnessing the danger signs. Political bigotry and intolerance mean that huge swathes of our human resources are demonized and marginalized because of political non-inclusiveness. Perhaps due to our misreading of democracy and elections, innovative, creative and productive people who could contribute to creating our commonwealth are deemed not worthy and deserving of the “spoils”. I remember how as a secondary school boy my late father was “banished” from the Northern Region to the Volta Region because the Regional Commissioner found his presence in the region irksome…Many people have more or less similar stories to tell since Ghana turned 1 to the present…The future? I think I can attempt a prediction! If we do not banish the emasculating social indiscipline currently gripping us and the nugatory culture of partisan politics, Ghana @ 120 would be no different from Ghana @ 60, perhaps even worse…Not a curse, not a wish but the lament of one who was there at Ghana @ 1.
Alhaji Harruna Attah/Former Ghana High Commissioner to Namibia
Ghana@60: Some guesswork
I. In the Beginning