“THE NEW PATRIOTIC PARTY (NPP)
AND THE DEEPENING OF THE DEMOCRATIC CULTURE AND PRACTICE
A PAPER DELIVERED @ THE PARTY’S 21ST ANNIVERSARY LECTURE @
THE OSU PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH HALL ON THURSDAY 22ND AUGUST 2013
BY HON. PROF. MIKE OQUAYE
This presentation attempts a bird’s eye view of the
Danquah-Busia-Dombo(DBD) tradition from 1947 to this day. It
presents an opportunity to ask:
Who are we? Politically, where do we come from? What was the
tradition’s contribution in the founding of the Ghanaian state?
What principles underpin the tradition? What political parties
have represented the tradition and how have they interacted with
other political parties in our history? How have we performed in
government and what are our contribution to democracy, good
governance, human rights, the rule of law, and socio-economic
development? Finally, what lies ahead of us?
Moving Towards Nationhood
In 1821, the British directly assumed control of the Gold Coast
(ie the Gold Coast Colony). The Bond of 1844 regularised the
judicial authority the British was exercising. The Bond of 1844
made the nationalist struggle in Ghana a totally different
proposition. Our nationalist struggle may be seen in two
dimensions – first, the leaders between 1844 – 1945 (also
referred to as the proto-nationalist era); and second, the
period between 1945 -57 – the era of full scale nationalism,
spearheaded initially by the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC)
and later by other parties, the Convention People’s Party (CPP)
and the Northern People’s Party (NPP) etc.
The detailed periods are summarized below. The leading figures
who came from the so-called elite must be acknowledged in
letters of gold. Ghana was not built in a day and there was no
i.) 1844–73: Period of British protection around the coast; no
participation of the Gold Coasters in governance as in other
ii.) 1874–97: Period of demands for political participation.
Legislative Council established with African representation
though British Officials had the majority. Throughout Africa,
this was a novelty and it was because our people were getting
educated and were agitating for self government.
iii.) 1900-1924: this was the period of further increase in
African representation on the Legislative Council. Official
representation reduced in proportion drastically.
iv.) 1925-45: this was the golden age of proto-nationalism by
the progenitors of the Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition. The
Colonial Secretary reported to London that the educated elite
and mullatoes had become a menace, heightening agitation for
independence. The franchise was introduced into the Gold Coast
and the first African to cast a ballot in Black Africa was in
the Gold Coast. All these were done with a view to transfer
political power. The future leaders of the UGCC were maturing in
the political vineyard.
v.) 1946-57: this was the period of consolidation. We had a new
Constitution with African elected majority in the Assembly by
the end of 1951. Ashanti was included in the Legislature. The
principle of Cabinet responsibility was introduced for the first
In view of various attempts to contort the history of this
nation and take away the credit of the Founding Fathers of
Ghana; in view of attempts to degrade the real heroes of Ghana’s
independence who met in Saltpond on 4th August 1947; in view of
the injustice done to men like Paa Grant, J.B. Danquah, William
Ofori-Atta, Edward Akufo-Addo, Ako Adjei, R.S. Blay and others,
it is imperative to echo loudly that Nkrumah was not the Founder
of Ghana. The progenitors of the NPP founded Ghana and Nkrumah
who had been invited by these unsung heroes, became one of the
Founding Fathers by courtesy of that invitation. This issue will
the discussed in full on this occasion.
The Founding Fathers
A recap of the chronology of events shows that before the
arrival of Nkrumah, some gallant men were taking steps to lead
Ghana to independence and in fact a number of political parties
were formed soon after the end of the Second World War in 1945.
Kwame Nkrumah left for US in 1935. He studied and worked in US
and England. He returned to Ghana in December 1947 on the
invitation of the UGCC leaders who paid Nkrumah's fare, expenses
etc. He was the only person on salary in the UGCC. If something
had not been founded, what was Nkrumah brought down for? If
there was nothing, what was he to come and help to consolidate?
The cry for independence reached full blast after the 1948
riots. On 28th February 1948 when the Ex-servicemen marched to
the Castle and shooting took place there was enough political
consciousness in Ghana! The cry for independence had been
resonating from 1945 to 1948. What magic could Nkrumah alone
have done from December 1947 (when he arrived in Ghana) to
February 1948 (when agitation reached its apogee) if there was
nothing worthwhile on the ground?
Some people have regrettably asked: How can we have more than
one founder? To such compatriots, I humbly lend this advice:
Foundership need not be perceived in monoistic terms. Every
year, Achimotans celebrate the founding fathers - Aggrey,
Fraser, Guggisberg. In Ashanti, we have Osei Tutu and Okomfo
Anokye. In the U.S.A., Washington is not the founder. They have
And you do not have to be a founder for your greatness to be
recognized or given a holiday. Martin Luther King (USA) is an
example. Nkrumah may be honoured with a holiday as First Prime
Minister and first President. He also did a lot for Ghana
regarding education, health, Akosombo Dam, Tema motoway etc. But
we should have a real Founders’ Day to honour ALL the real
founding fathers, including Nkrumah. The next NPP government
must see to this.
Some have said Nkrumah was founder because of the declaration he
made on the Old Polo Grounds - Ghana, your beloved country is
free for ever. Some people do not know that this event was
essentially a CPP rally and not the declaration of independence
which was done by the Duchess of Kent on behalf of Queen
Elizabeth II later in the National Assembly. So assuming that
before that old polo grounds rally, Nkrumah was indisposed and
Mr K.A. Gbedemah had made that statement, would Gbedemah have
become the founder of Ghana? This argument is, to say the least,
unfortunate. I feel sad that our history is sometimes toyed
with. No teacher should ever teach again that independence was
proclaimed or declared by Nkrumah at old polo grounds. If that
had been so, it would have amounted to the Unilateral
Declaration of Independence which happened only in Rhodesia (now
Zimbabwe) under Ian Smith.
Ghanaians must know exactly where we are coming from; so that
the past should be a guide to the present and the future. We
should give credit to our forebears who signed the Bond of 1844
on 6th March 1844, for example. They established a contractual
relationship between the Gold Coast and the British.
Soon after 1944, our leaders could demand; “white man, time is
up. Go home!” This is what Paa Grant, Danquah and others did.
We should recognize 4th August 1947 as the founding of the
ultimate independence movement. That day the UGCC was
inaugurated in Saltpond. It was a Broad Movement of Chiefs,
clergymen, lawyers, professionals, business men, teachers etc.
“It marked the beginning of a new era in the Gold Coast”, said
one historian. Saltpond was the headquarters of the Joint
Provincial Council of Chiefs and that is why the meeting took
place there. It was a unity movement which incorporated all
existing groups, e.g Obetsebi Lamptey’s League of the Gold
Coast, Danquah’s Youth Conference etc. Paa Grant was Chairman,
Danquah was the Political Leader.
Danquah made the Declaration of Self Emancipation. This became
the cornerstone of the New Ghana. Something happened in Ghana
akin to what took place in the USA. People should know that even
though Americans declared independence on July 4, 1776, it was
not until 1787 that the US Constitution came into force. Those
who made that Declaration of Independence are all Founding
Fathers in America.
Ghana’s Famous Declaration was made in 1947 by Danquah (who the
British came to declare as the Doyen of Gold Coast politicians).
Nkrumah was not in the country at all. The great leader said:
“We have come from all the corners of this country… (to decide)
how we are to be governed, a new kind of freedom, a Gold Coast
We left our homes in Ghana and came down here to build for
ourselves a new home: There is one thing we brought with us from
ancient Ghana (870 years ago). We brought with us our ancient
freedom. Today the safety of that freedom is threatened; has
been continuously threatened for 100 years; since the Bond of
1844 and the time has come for a decision”.
The decision was taken that day. The Gold Coast should be free
and translated into the modern Ghana. The seed was duly sown.
And Nkrumah was not only physically in the UK, but also he made
no input whatsoever.
Nkrumah came and added bountifully to it. And Nkrumah was a
great man. But he was not in Ghana when it all started. Nkrumah
was not the Founder! Danquah conceived the idea of calling the
independent Gold Coast, Ghana. This was formally adopted in
Saltpond. It became known to every school child then that our
nation would soon become independent; that our leaders were
fighting for this; and the name of the new nation would be
Ghana. And all this happened before Nkrumah arrived. And not
even Nkrumah could have resiled from this when independence
Ghana is known in our history. Danquah gave it the nationalistic
interpretation – hence our name.
When Nkrumah said on the eve of Independence that our beloved
country Ghana was free for ever, he was putting the icing on the
cake. But there were other bakers of the cake. Can you forget
them? No. Our independence was gained more with brain than with
brawn. This must be acknowledged.
Tetteh Quashie’s cocoa had made the economy strong. The Gold
Coasters were far more educated than any part in Black Africa.
The economy was booming with gold, diamond, manganese, bauxite,
timber etc. Escott Reid observed Ghana had the highest per
capita income in Africa South of the Sahara (white south
After the 1948 Riots it was J. B. Danquah who sent that famous
Cable to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, saying the
colonial administration had collapsed. He made specific demands
as leader of the independence movement. He asked for the recall
of the Governor. Danquah called for an interim government run by
the UGCC. He proclaimed a Constituent Assembly to draw a new
Constitution for self government.
In his historic telegram, addressed to all the Chiefs and people
of the Gold Coast, it was Danquah who declared “The Hour of
Liberation Has struck””. Danquah wrote: “Inheritors of Ghana’s
ancient Kingdom. My message as you see, is not moved by fear.
Aggrey blotted fear from our dictionary. ‘Eagle fly for thou art
not a chick’”. In 1948 Danquah boldly declared that the eagle
would be an emblem of the new Ghana.
Before Nkrumah arrived, our name had been chosen by the
nationalist leaders at Saltpond. The Founding Fathers also chose
the Eagle as our national emblem. The national colours- red,
yellow and green- had been discussed at length and accepted.
Later, Ms. Okoh was to design it into a befitting flag. Nkrumah
changed the flag in 1964. He substituted the national colours
with what he desired all along - red, white and green - the CPP
colours. This also brought loads of acrimony. The original flag
was brought back only when Nkrumah was overthrown.
Indeed, the anthem which was composed by the legendary Gbeho,
had words which explained the colours thus: “red for the blood
of the HEROES (not hero) in the fight; green for the precious
farms of our birth-right, and linked with these the shining
golden band, that marks the richness of our fatherland.” What
Nkrumah added to the flag was the Black Star which he borrowed
from the Black Star Line of Marcus Garvey.
When the nationalist leaders met in Saltpond in 1947, they
further agreed that anytime independence was gained , the date
should be 6th March. Why? Because the Bond of 1844 was dated 6th
March 1844. So our release from the Bond should coincide with
the date accordingly. Who did this for Ghana? Danquah and Co.
Our forebears wanted independence and that is why they met in
1947. They discussed all those matters that concern a new nation
and drew up a liberal Constitution which later became the 1969
Constitution in a revised form.
What We Stand For
It is important to ask: what did the leaders of the
Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition stand for? Were they against Ghana
becoming independent? Were they over-zealous to seek political
power for themselves at all cost? Were there forebodings of
authoritarianism and over-centralism between 1951-54 when
Nkrumah became Leader of Government Business in the Gold Coast?
If independence was coming, was it important to establish firmly
the constitutional framework within which Ghana would be
governed or this could be left ajar? Were there serious
ideological differences in the Gold Coast at this time? And how
best could Nkrumah’s Socialist “centralism” be reconciled with
the devolution of powers and human rights which the UGCC
perceived and which is also the cornerstone of what the New
Patriotic Party (NPP) today summarises as “Development in
Freedom”? Are we bomb throwers and trouble makers?
These pertinent questions are being posited to help us explain
the often-repeated fallacy that the leaders of the
Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition were against independence; that
they were nation-wreckers; that they were mere bomb throwers who
compelled Nkrumah, the kind-hearted nationalist, to detain them
by the Preventive detention Act (PDA)
Our Founding Fathers were liberal-minded, peaceful people. They
were not bomb throwers as we shall illustrate. Did we force
Nkrumah to be a dictator? The answer is No. It is only those who
put the cart before the horse or are oblivious of the chronology
of political events who will fall into such error.
In his autobiography, written in the early 1950s and published
in 1957, Nkrumah advocated that liberal methods were not
coterminous with rapid-development and that the establishment of
the socialist rapid development state in Africa, required
“emergency measures of a totalitarian kind”.
Several signs began to manifest themselves regarding this
in-built philosophy. Indeed, as Busia was to remind Ghanaians,
“nsuo beto a, mframa di kan” Before it rains; the wind first
blows. Some saw the “mframa” ( wind) early at dawn; some saw it
in the morning; others saw it at noon; some could not see the
wind till it was evening; yet there were those who sat till the
night came (including even Komla Agbeli Gbedemah, Nkrumah’s
right hand man, who ran into exile at long last and only
returned to Ghana after the 1966 coup).
Nkrumah hated any reference to fundamental human rights. Today,
the fundamental human rights of Ghanaians are secure because
when Akufo-Addo and others had the opportunity to write a
Constitution for Ghana in 1969, they expressly provided for
fundamental human rights. This was copied almost verbatim in the
1979 Constitution and also in the 1992 Constitution.
Hence, anytime a Ghanaian invokes his/her right to bail, the
right against inhuman treatment etc, let that Ghanaian, no
matter the political persuasion of that Ghanaian, pause a moment
and appreciate the significance of the fundamental principle of
our Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition.
Let us now take a look at attempts to assassinate Nkrumah.
First, during colonial times, Nkrumah reported a fire in his
house. The colonial investigation did not point to arson as a
cause. Yet Nkrumah always chose to make political capital out of
the event by claiming that his enemies wanted to kill him.
Second, there was the alleged conspiracy by R. R. Amponsah,
Modesto Apaloo and others to stage a coup. If there was enough
evidence in this connection, why did Nkrumah not try the
offenders before the white judges? Why did he go on to rather
have a Preventive Detention Act passed? Dennis Austin captured
for posterity, the Minority Report by the Chairman of the
three-member Committee who wrote: “(1) There was no
conspirational association between Mr. Amponsah and Mr. Apaloo
in association with Awhaitey” (the soldier who was supposed to
lead the coup). “(2) There did not exist between Mr. Amponsah,
Mr. Apaloo and Ahwaitey a plot to interfere in any way with the
life or liberty of the Prime Minister of Ghana on the airport
before his departure to India on the 20th December 1958”
The third alleged attempt was the shooting at Flagstaff House
where it was alleged that a lone policeman had shot at Nkrumah
and missed. No member of the Opposition was in any way linked to
the incident. Indeed, it was later reported that the would-be
assassin had jumped to his death from a balcony at the Police
Fourth, in 1962, the Kulungugu Incident occurred – the President
was hit by a bomb and was wounded. Incidentally, those put on
trial were leading CPP people – Ako Adjei (Minister), Adamafio
(Minister) and Crabbe (Secretary-General of the CPP). No leading
member of the opposition was involved. Indeed, they were all in
detention with Baffuor Osei Akoto or in exile with Busia.
The fact of the matter is that there was an open fight between
the “Old Guards” (those Nkrumah started with) and the “Socialist
Boys” (the new crop of younger ideologues and new entrants who
had found fresh favour with Nkrumah).
Nkrumah faced trouble from within the CPP. And how could the
Kulungugu of 1962 lead to the PDA of 1958? Nkrumah had his
ambition to monopolise power and men like Baffuor Osei Akoto
opposed him. Baffuor, Danquah, Busia, Dombo and others all
wanted independence but not at any price!
Fellow countrymen and women, God is good. Latter events
exonerated our leaders. After the overthrow of Nkrumah,
Akufo-Addo lived to give us the 1969 Constitution which was a
charter of liberty and the bedrock of constitutionalism, good
governance and human rights as a whole in Ghana today.
Formation of the NLM; Corruption etc
The formation of the National Liberation Movement (NLM) has been
damned by opponents of the tradition. They say the era of
1954-56 was a mere struggle for power. This is wrong. There were
serious issues of corruption, dictatorship etc at stake. Our
leaders apposed these tendencies.
The 1954 Elections had been held in relative peace and it was to
lead to independence. Why was the National Liberation Movement (NLM)
formed under the leadership of Baffuor Osei Akoto? The immediate
cause was that the government pegged the cocoa price payable to
farmers at 72 shillings a load instead of the 100 shillings the
government had promised during the campaign. This was against
the backdrop that the world cocoa price had increased to a
record level. The government’s policy on cocoa was perceived as
discrimination against farmers and the Ashanti Region. It was
felt that the absolute lack of consultation was evidence of the
“over-centralist” and “over-weening” tendencies in Nkrumah. To
add insult to injury serious corruption had emerged in the Cocoa
Purchasing Company (CPC). Indeed the findings of the Jibowu
Commission, headed by a Supreme Court Judge from Nigeria
justified the concerns of Baffuor Osei Akoto and others. The
report stated “inter alia:
1. The allegation that the CPP controlled the CPC is justified;
2. No direct proof was produced that CPC funds were used to
finance the CPP. But we cannot be satisfied that loan monies
might not have been used for other purposes;
3. Loans were only given to farmers who were members of the pro-CPP
United Farmers Council;
4. Loans were given in excess of the fixed limits, and without
regard to the authorized procedure;
5. Bribery, corruption and extortion among some CPC officials
6. Repayment of loans had fallen greatly into arrears;
7. CPC Funds had been used to secure farmers’ votes for the CPP.
8. There was truth in the allegation that CPC purchased vehicles
for CPP election campaign…..”
The abuse of CPC funds was an official policy of the CPP. It was
like the GYEEDA of today! It showed how corruption had reared
its ugly head. It operated particularly against the farmers and
our leaders were out to defend the farmers. Evidence is found in
the notorious statement of Krobo Edusei in the Assembly in March
1954. “The CPC is the product of a master brain, Dr. Kwame
Nkrumah, and it is the atomic bomb of the CPP. As Hon. Members
are aware, the Prime Minister in his statement to the CPP told
his party members that organization decided everything and the
CPC is part of the organization of the CPP”.
The CPP quickly kicked against internal party democracy which is
crucial in our tradition. In the 1954 Elections, candidates for
the CPP had been selected from Accra, leading to protestations
by a large number of “CPP Rebels” who attacked Nkrumah for
Notably, in 1964, under the One-Party System, all candidates for
the CPP in an election where every CPP candidate went unopposed,
were selected from Flagstaff House.
Indeed, MPs were allocated constituencies according to Nkrumah’s
pleasure. Nkrumah said this was justified under the doctrine of
“democratic centralism” as MPs were allocated constituencies
they had never visited, nor lived in; nor hailed from. The aim
was to destroy all loyalties and let everyone derive his
position from Nkrumah. Typically the 1992 Constitution provides
that political parties in their internal organization and
management, shall abide by democratic principles. It is
unconstitutional to hand-pick candidates or breach the
provisions regulating geographical and other qualification of