Dressed in their traditional smock or batakari and hats, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah together with Kojo Botsio, Komla Agbeli Gbedemah, Archie Casely Hayford and Krobo Edusei, stood emotionally at the Old Polo grounds, Accra, before a crowd of British subjects on 5 March, 1957, the eve of Independence.
Then soon-to-be Ghanaians had travelled from the entire country to witness the memorable occasion. Nkrumah with tears in his eyes finally declared: “Ghana free forever”.
This implied that Ghana was absolutely free from British colonial rule. It made Ghana the second sub-Saharan African country to gain its independence in 1957; the first was Sudan in 1956.
Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah later became the first Prime Minister of Ghana and subsequently, the first President of the Republic of Ghana.
Nkrumah’s independence speech
At the Old Polo grounds, Nkrumah’s significant speech still remains in the hearts of Ghanaians.
He said: “At long last, the battle has ended! And thus, Ghana, your beloved country is free forever! And yet again, I want to take the opportunity to thank the people of this country; the youth, the farmers, the women who have so nobly fought and won the battle.
Also, I want to thank the valiant ex-servicemen who have so cooperated with me in this mighty task of freeing our country from foreign rule and imperialism.
And, as I pointed out… from now on, today, we must change our attitudes and our minds. We must realize that from now on we are no longer a colonial but free and independent people.
But also, as I pointed out, that also entails hard work. That new Africa is ready to fight his own battles and show that after all the black man is capable of managing his own affairs.
We are going to demonstrate to the world, to the other nations, that we are prepared to lay our foundation – our own African personality. As I said to the Assembly a few minutes ago, I made a point that we are going to create our own Africa personality and identity.
It is the only way we can show the world that we are ready for our own battles. But today, may I call upon you all, that on this great day that let us all remember that nothing can be done unless it has the support of God.
We have won the battle and again rededicate ourselves … our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa. Let us now, fellow Ghanaians, let us now ask for God’s blessing for only two seconds, and in your thousands and millions.
I want to ask you to pause for only one minute and give thanks to Almighty God for having led us through our difficulties, imprisonments, hardships and sufferings, to have brought us to our end of troubles today.
Ghana is free forever! And here I will ask the band to play the Ghana National Anthem.
Reshaping Ghana’s destiny, I am depending on the millions of the country, and the chiefs and the people, to help me to reshape the destiny of this country.
We are prepared to pick it up and make it a nation that will be respected by every nation in the world. We know we’re going to have difficult beginnings, but again, I am relying on your support…. I am relying upon your hard work. Seeing you in this… It doesn’t matter how far my eyes go; I can see that you are here in your millions.
And my last warning to you is that you are to stand firm behind us so that we can prove to the world that when the African is given a chance, he can show the world that he is somebody! We have awakened. We will not sleep anymore. Today, from now one, there is a new African in the world!”
The euphoria that surrounds this day, makes Ghanaians to reflect on the struggles of their forefathers and how they toiled with their blood to build a better country for the generations that come after them.
The era of coup
In 1966, the Convention People’s Party (CPP) civilian administration led by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown by the military National Liberation Council (NLC) which was led by Lt. Gen. Ankrah and later by Lt. Gen. Afrifa.
The NLC ruled Ghana from 1966 to 1969 when the Progress Party (PP) took over the reins of power as a civilian administration with Prof Kofi Abrefa Busia as Prime Minister until 1972.
From 1972 to 1979, the military regime of the National Redemption Council/ Supreme Military Council (NRC/SMC) took over power with General Isaac Kutu Acheampong and later General Frederick William K. Akuffo as the respective leaders.
In 1979, from June to September, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings led the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and took over the reins of power for what was called a “house-cleaning exercise”.
The AFRC then handed over power to the People’s National Party (PNP) led by the civilian Dr Hilla Limann.
But on December 31, 1979, till 6 January 1993, Flt. Lt. JJ Rawlings was back in the scene with this time a military-led Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC).
This was later turned into the National Democratic Congress (NDC) political party which won the 7 November 1992 general and parliamentary elections.
It is generally believed that the 1992 elections which retained JJ Rawlings but as a civilian leader ended – and has ended – the military coups in the country.
General Ankrah in his first broadcast to overthrow Nkrumah’s administration on radio and television on February 24, 1966, described Osagyefo as a dictator who had reduced Ghanaians to “slaves”. The military action, he said, had to be used to remove Nkrumah who he could not remove by constitutional means.
Justification of 1966 coup
General Ankrah justified the 1966 coup.
He stated inter alia:
“The Ghana Armed Forces believe that the principle of one man, one vote is meaningless unless it is linked up with the principle of one man, one bread.
A government which operates on the basis of ten men, one bread for the broad masses of the people is unjust and unjust rulers do not deserve to be sustained by any theoretical conceptions of democracy.
As you know, dead men have the use of only one type of box – not the ballot box. And let those who judge us by their theoretical misconceptions remember that nothing kills with more devastating effect than hunger.
So that when people are exposed to the dangers of destruction through massive hunger and pain, when a government deliberately embarks upon a programme of removing bread from the mouth of the people through arbitrary dismissals and policies aimed at widening the circle of poverty and when it becomes clear that these dangers can be removed by quick, decisive action, it is, I maintain, unethical to demand that they wait for five years or so before the source of danger is removed.”
Ghana @ 63
The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, will today lead the country to remember this day in Kumasi, formerly popularly said by Ghanaians to be the Garden City of West Africa.
The 63rd-anniversary celebration is under the theme “Consolidating Our Gains”.
The Portuguese in 1471, were the first Europeans to touch base at what later became Gold Coast. Their interest in trading gold, a precious natural resource found here increased and by in 1482, they built a permanent trading post on the western coast of the Gold Coast (now Ghana).
This fortress, a trade castle, they named São Jorge da Mina – in English, St. Jorge’s Mine, which was later called Elmina Castle. Elmina Castle was constructed to protect Portuguese traders from their European competitors.
By 1598, the Dutch also began plying their trade on the Gold Coast. They built forts at Komenda and Kormantsi by 1612. In 1637, the Dutch had captured Elmina Castle from the Portuguese and built another fort, St. Anthony, in Axim by 1642. Other European traders joined in by the mid-17th century, largely the English, Danes, and Swedes.
The coastline was now dotted by more than 30 forts and castles built by Dutch, British, and Danish merchants primarily to protect their interests from other Europeans and pirates.
In the late 17th century, social changes within the polities of the Gold Coast led to transformations in warfare, and to the shift from being a gold exporting and slave importing economy to being a major local slave exporting economy.
The British in the late 19th century gained possession of all Dutch coastal forts, thus making them the dominant European power on the Gold Coast which they later colonised.