DR J B DANQUAH’S DEATH IS STICKING IN THE THROATS OF SOME PEOPLE LIKE A DEAD RAT
By CAMERON DUODU
Daily Guide 21 February 2015
A 69-year-old man is carted off to prison.
He suffers from chronic asthma. He also suffers from high blood pressure. Yet, he is put in a small condemned cell that contains neither a bed nor a mattress, but a single blanket. He is officially allowed to exercise for fifteen minutes a day, but even this is sometimes denied him by some of his warders.
He lies by an uncovered bucket used for defecation.
He writes about these horrendous deprivations to
the only person who can improve his prison conditions or release him from prison, the President of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah.
He reminds Dr Nkrumah that when he, Nkrumah, and the prisoner and their colleagues (who are known as “The Big Six”) were jailed in Northern Ghana without trial by the British imperialists in 1948, the British gave them bungalows with servants and gardens, and even allowed them to use typewriters to put down their thoughts.
In reminding Dr Nkrumah of this, he is subtly telling him not to be worse than the British, whom they had both condemned for their racist policies. In fact, he is — again without spelling it out — giving Dr Nkrumah a chance to define himself for history.
But his letter to Dr Nkrumah cuts no ice for at this time Nkrumah is consumed by megalomania. No-one can teach him anything. Certainly not a “wimpish” old man who had sought to obstruct Nkrumah’s path as Nkrumah pursued his own idea of greatness.
That man was Dr J B Danquah, whose struggle against British colonialism in the Good Coast after the Second World War was so relentless that even the British accorded him the sobriquet “doyen of Gold Coast politics”.
Since his death at Nsawam Prison on February 4, 1965, all manner of rationalisations have been made by Nkrumah apologists about why Ghanaians should not make an issue of his callous murder — for murder it was, inasmuch as keeping an old man with well-known illnesses in conditions reminiscent of a medieval dungeon was to sentence him to death n all but name.
First of all, claim the Nrumah apologists, Danquah was complicit in assassination attempts made against Dr Nkrumah. But that, it must be pointed out, is a crime against the state called TREASON, for which the punishment prescribed by law is death!
Why was Danquah not tried for treason if he was complicit in assassination attempts against the President of Ghana? After all, the Preventive Detention Act, under which Danquah was detained
without trial, existed when lesser known politicians, such as Tawia Adamafio, Ako Adjei, Cofie Crabbe, Emmanuel Otchere and others were afforded the “privilege” (if “privilege” it was!) of being tried before a Special Court. Most of them were initially acquitted, of course. Did Dr Nkrumah fear that if Danquah too was tried, he would be acquitted?
If that was so, then why do some Nkrumahists unashamedly still persist in laying charges of treason against Danquah? If a court, sitting each day for weeks, with extremely brilliant lawyers like Geoffrey Bing [Attorney-General] and Bashiru Kwaw Swanzy [Deputy Attorney-General] asking the questions, would not be able to prove, with evidence, charges of treason against Danquah, then the evidence obviously did not exist! In that case, why the continued defamation of Dr Danquah with allegations of complicity to assassinate the elected leader of Ghana?
Next, there is the allegation that Danquah was a ‘CIA agent’. Of course, no-one from outside the CIA knows exactly what it does. But in this case, the half-baked allegation came from a book written by the son of a
former American Ambassador to Ghana, Mr William P. Mahoney.
But as those who know even a little bit about intelligence matters would confirm, if Danquah was indeed a ‘CIA agent’, he would have complained to his ‘case officer’ rather than to the ambassador! The CIA does things clandestinely, and for a verygood reason! By keeping the Ambassador in the dark, the CIA provides him with what in intelligence parlance is called “plausible deniability”. This ensures that if the CIA causes any offence in a country, only the CIA station official(s) would be expelled, whilst diplomatic relations with the country, as such, remained intact.
What sensible people ought to appreciate, therefore, is that it was perfectly possible for someone in the American embassy – whether he/she belonged to the CIA or not – to make ‘charitable’ donations to anyone (whose human rights were being abused) on humanitarian grounds. It would be legitimate American policy and well within the ambit of the political department of the embassy.
Have those peddling this story considered its implication — namely — that whereas while people like Nelson Mandela were in jail, after being tried by the apartheid practitioners, their hapless families often received charitable assistance from sympathisers and charity organisations all over the world, probably including Ghana, in Ghana on the other hand (the self-styled land of the would-be ‘liberators of Africa’) it took an American to offer humanitarian assistance to the family of a man whose plight was probably worse than Mandela’s, in that he had never been offered an opportunity to say a word in his own defence, but had been detained without charge?
That aside, Dr J B Danquah deserves to be respected because many of our people adored him. And they are the only index of how important a person is — in the final analysis. When I was growing up and “Lawyer Danquah” (as he was called) once visited my town, Asiakwa, the women took off some of the cover- cloths they had on, and laid them on the ground for Danquah to walk on! I saw it with my own eyes. That, in our culture, is the greatest compliment anyone can pay to a living person — to say ‘I think you are fit to walk on the cloth with which I cover my body’!.
To the people, he was ‘Akuafo Kanea’ (The Lamp of the Farmers), who, they fully knew, had relentlessly fought the colonial government for years to treat fairly, the illiterate farmers whose hard work had made the Gold Coast the biggest producer of cocoa in the world but who were paid whatever the British Government and its merchant group — the “AWAM” cartel (the Association of West African Merchants) — decided to pay them for their crop.
Now, in spite of his fame, Dr Danquah, was, as a person, very modest and absolutely honest. I had the privilege of interviewing him once for Drum Magazine, and in spite of the disagreements between himself and Dr Kwame
Nkrumah, he harboured enough objectivity to agree that Dr Nkrumah’s policy of asserting ‘the African Personality’ in world affairs was an excellent policy. “But we must not make a fetish of it,” he cautioned.
Again, despite being often cited as the person who ‘founded’ the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), he himself was modest enough to – publicly – acknowledge ‘Pa’ Alfred George Grant as the person who
QUOTE: “gave birth to [the] conception of a United Gold Coast becoming militant in the struggle of this country’s liberation, by forming a Convention of the chiefs and people for this purpose”.
It has been said that a prophet is not unknown, except in his own country, and the truth of this saying was made manifest on Dr Danquah’s death. The then President of Nigeria, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (who had started his own anti-colonial political career in Ghana and had observed Dr Danquah in action at close quarters) broke protocol by paying an eulogistic tribute to Dr Danquah, an opposition leader in a neighbouring country.
QUOTE “By the death of Joseph Boakye Danquah, the world has lost a valued ally in the crusade for human freedom, and Africa has lost a great champion of fundamental human rights. It is not universally appreciated that Dr Danquah was probably the first West African to obtain the doctorate in philosophy from a
British University, when his dissertation….was accepted for the Ph.D. degree by the University of London in 1927-28.
“As a journalist, Dr Danquah was a proprietor and an editor of what is assumed to be the first daily newspaper in Ghana, which he christened The Times
of West Africa…. Under the pen-name of ‘Zadig,’ he maintained a column which he used to expose cant and criticise the hypocritical practices of his day. The Times of West Africa …. constantly reminded the colonial government that the Bond of 1844 did not transform the people of Ghana into chattels, but reserved to them, their freedom, until the time when they would
be able to regain it.
“When the Gold Coast government introduced the Sedition Ordinance of
1934, Dr Danquah was the secretary of the delegation, under the leadership of his brother, the late Nana Sir Ofori-Atta, which was sent by the Gold Coast people to the Colonial Secretary [to protest against the law]. Two years later, Mr Isaac T. A. Wallace Johnson of Sierra Leone and I [Dr Azikiwe] were to make history by being the first persons against whom this law was first tested…..
(Dr Azikiwe had published an article by Wallace-Johnson entitled “Has The African a God?”]
of Nigeria and the Cameroons] delegation was returning from London, Dr Danquah joined ‘Pa’ [Alfred George] Grant and Mr R. S. Blay and other Ghanaian patriots to give us a grand reception in Sekondi. Dr
Danquah then informed me of what they had heard about a young Ghanaian who was then editing The New African in London, under the auspices of the WestAfrican National Secretariat…..That was when I [Nnamdi Azikiwe] assured them that this budding leader … could be of invaluable help in the struggle of Ghana for a place under the sun.
“It is an irony of history that a great pioneer of Ghanaian scholarship should
die in a detention camp barely eight years
after his country had become free from
foreign domination. During my brief stay
in Ghana (1934-37), Dr Danquah and I did
not often see eye to eye politically, but we
were sensible and mature enough to
respect each other’s right to state his opinion
as he sees fit…..
“As one who fought side by side with
Dr Danquah in order to liquidate colonialism
in Africa, I personally regret the circumstances
surrounding his death….. I
fought against the colonial regime
because… it denied us fundamental
human rights. Consequently, my idea of
independence is a state of political existence
where every person shall enjoy
human rights under the rule of law.
“I am sorry that Dr Danquah died in a
detention camp. I wish that he had been
tried publicly, told what offence he was
alleged to have committed, given a fair
opportunity to defend himself, and then
either [been] discharged or punished,
depending upon the fact, whether or not
his innocence had been established or his
guilt proved beyond any reasonable shadow
independence means the substitution of
alien rule for indigenous tyranny, then
those who struggled for the independence
of former colonial territories have not
only desecrated the cause of human freedom,
but they have betrayed their people.
“To Mrs Elizabeth Danquah and the
members of the mourning families, I send
my condolences and those of Nigerian
fighters for human freedom….. Dr Joseph
Boakye Danquah has paid the price of
leadership. May his soul rest in peace.”
“Desecrated the cause of human freedom”
and “betrayed their people” were
very strong words to use by one African
head of state against another. It was an
therefore pause and ask themselves, if they can, why
a man of such an impeccable anti-colonial
pedigree should, despite the likely political consequences,