President Akufo-Addo yesterday paid glowing tribute to the gallant men and women whose individual and collective efforts led to Ghana’s independence 60 years ago, expressing disappointment about the gains made so far.
According to President Akufo-Addo, Ghana can no longer hang on excuses to remain poor 60 years after independence.
Eulogising the founding fathers of the country at the 60th independence anniversary parade at the Black Stars Square in Accra, the president noted that after the nationalists successfully fought against colonial rule in order to take charge of their own destiny, “we have run out of excuses” for failing to provide a “dignified life for the mass of our people.”
“Sixty years on the economic dividend that was meant to accompany our freedom has still not materialised.”
President Akufo-Addo honoured the memories of John Mensah Sarbah, Joseph Casely Hayford, J.W. Sey, J.P. Brown, Thomas Hatton-Mills, Joseph Boakye Danquah, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey, William Ofori-Atta, Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, Edward Akufo-Addo and Kwame Nkrumah for championing the struggle to self-rule.
The list also included George Paa Grant, R.S. Blay, Cobbina Kessie, J.W. de Graft Johnson and Francis Awoonor Williams, the famous three ex-servicemen – Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey – who were shot dead by the British colonial police in their effort to present a petition at the Osu Castle; Ephraim Amu, composer of Ghana’s Twi National Anthem; Dr Kwegyir Aggrey; Philip Gbeho, composer of the English National Anthem; Theodosia Okoh, designer of the National Flag and Amon Kotei, designer of the country’s Coat of Arms.
Also on the list were Kofi Antubam, the artist who first put Ghanaian art on the map; Saka Acquaye, the poet, writer, sculptor and musician who wrote the first African folklore; J.A. Braimah, the Gonja scholar and statesman who wrote insightful publications about the Gonja people; Apaloo, the poet who immortalised the philosophy and music of the Ewe language; E.T. Mensah; King Bruce; Jerry Hansen and the others who popularised traditional highlife music which has become an enduring identity of Ghanaian music as well as musicologist, Prof J.H. Nketsiah, touted as the unrivalled authority on African music.
Then came the turn of the former Asantehene, Prempeh I, who waged a heroic battle against the British and retained his dignity even in exile; Yaa Asantewaa, the woman of valour who led the Ashanti resistance to British imperialism; Nana Ofori Atta I, who saw the wisdom in investing in the education of the young; Nii Kwabena Bonne III, Osu Alata Mantse, who organized the boycott of goods of European traders and triggered the mass resistance that led to the 1948 riot.
President Akufo-Addo did not leave out Professor Alexander Adum Kwapong, the first Ghanaian Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana; Dr Oku Ampofo, sculptor and physician who encouraged confidence in traditional arts and medicine; Akua Asabea, a political activist; Evelyn Amarteifio, social welfare pioneer; Esther Ocloo, pioneer industrialist and entrepreneur whose food processing enterprises under the Nkulenu label changed Ghanaian habit of food preparation; Dede Ashikisham and Akua Shorshorshor, famous market queens who helped finance Kwame Nkrumah and the nationalist movement from their successful businesses.
Komla Agbeli Gbedema, the organisational genius of Nkurmah’s Convention People’s Party (CPP); Kojo Botsio, the party’s theoretician and strategist and those in the opposition at independence, like Joseph Boakye Danquah; Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey; William Ofori-Atta; Simon Diedong Dombo; Kofi Abrefa Busia; Baffuor Osei Akoto; Victor Owusu; R.R. Amponsah; Joe Appiah; S.G. Antor; Modesto Apaloo; Ashie Nikoi; Attoh Okine and others were also given special mention by the president.
After extolling the virtues of these great men and women who laid down their lives for the country’s independence, President Akufo-Addo expressed disappointment about how far the country has come in terms of development.
He recalled, “The popular slogan was to seek first the political kingdom and all other things would be added.
“We assumed and, indeed, we expected that rapid economic development would follow the political freedom that we had won.”
Sadly however, he indicated, “The economic dividend that was meant to accompany our freedom has still not materialised.”
Instead, Nana Akufo-Addo noted, “Sixty years after those heady days, the mass of our people are still poor.
“We have run out of excuses, and it is time to.….get our country to where it should be.”
For him, “The challenge before us is to build our economy and generate a prosperous, progressive and dignified life for the mass of our people” and that “Hard work, enterprise, creativity, discipline and a consistent and effective fight against corruption in public life would bring the transformation we seek.”
“We will achieve these goals when we move and act as a united people. We must take pride in our diversity by all means, but the Ghanaian must always rise above the ethnic or sectional interest.”
President Nana Addo observed, “We have a bright future, and we must mobilise all our resources and all our strengths, here and in the Ghanaian Diaspora, to get to that promised land of prosperity faster.”
The president equally expressed concern about the environment, saying, “It is turning out to be a constant refrain, I know, but, on a day like this, we cannot ignore the state of our environment.
“We are endangering the very survival of the beautiful and blessed land that our forebears bequeathed to us. The dense forests that were home to varied trees, plants and fauna have been largely wiped out. Today, we import timber for our use, and the description of our land as a tropical forest no longer fits the reality. Our rivers and lakes are disappearing, and those that still exist are all polluted.”
He had this for Ghanaians, “It bears repeating that we do not own the land, but hold it in trust for generations yet unborn. We have a right to exploit the bounties of the earth and extract the minerals and even redirect the path of the rivers, but we do not have the right to denude the land of the plants and fauna nor poison the rivers and lakes.”
For him, “There is nothing we can do better to pay homage to those who fought to free us from bondage than to dedicate this 60th independence anniversary to protecting our environment, and regenerating the lands and water bodies” whiles noting with emphasis “I am confident that we can achieve the dreams of our forebears. I am hopeful that we will be worthy inheritors of this land. I urge that we wear the accolade of being a Ghanaian with pride.”
President Akufo-Addo charged, “Let us mobilise for the happy and prosperous Ghana of tomorrow, in which all of us, including our youth, our women and the vulnerable in our society, will have equal opportunities to realise our potential, and build lives of dignity. Then, our independence will be meaningful. Then, we will have a Ghana beyond aid.”
Present were Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia and wife, Samira; First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo; Speaker of Parliament Prof Mike Oquaye and wife; Chief Justice Georgina Wood; former President Rawlings and his wife Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings.
Former Presidents John Kufuor and John Mahama graced the occasion alongside leaders of other African countries, including Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe and Togolese President, Faure Gnassingbe and many more.
There was splendid display of Ghanaian culture and tradition during the celebration yesterday.
By Charles Takyi-Boadu, Presidential Correspondent