Accra, Aug. 4, GNA – Today is August 4, 2017, and a lecture, expected to define Ghana’s destiny after 60 years of independence, is scheduled for the evening at the National Theatre in Accra.
The date, August 4, is very significant in Ghana’s history and the struggle for independence because it was a day that marked the beginning of an uprising that ultimately led to self-rule in Ghana, then the Gold Coast.
Professor Michael Aaron Oquaye, the Speaker of Parliament, will deliver the lecture on the theme: “August 4, Ghana’s Day of Destiny,” before an audience that cuts across the Ghanaian social strata as the lecture would chronicle the events of the national liberation struggle from August 4, 1897, to the day of Ghana’s independence, March 6, 1957.
The Speaker, according to Mr Abu Jinapor, the Vice Chairman of Ghana’s 60th Independence, was chosen to deliver the lecture not only because of his values in statesmanship, but also for his pedigree in academia, politics, religion and public service.
On August 4, the Aborigines Rights Protection Society (ARPS) was formed as a conglomerate of different groups of intellectuals in Cape Coast and Southern Ghana who sought to protect the traditional land tenure practices of the indigenous Gold Coast peoples from being usurped by the colonial government of Britain.
One of the initial goals of the Gold Coast ARPS was to ensure “…that every person may understand (the Lands Bill of 1897) the same”.
The Gold Coast ARPS became a voice for the rights of indigenous peoples by both broadcasting their aims in their own newspaper, Gold Coast Aborigines, and advocating on behalf of indigenous land rights by presenting the reasons for their dissent of the Lands Bill of 1897 in front of the Legislative Council.
Particularly, John Mensah Sarbah, a key member of the Gold Coast ARPS and a lawyer, helped to advocate against the introduction of the Lands Bill of 1897 by arguing that it was no different from a previous, unsuccessful bill in 1894; that its introduction would break family and society ties, and that the land was valuable to indigenous peoples for its religious significance.
The Gold Coast ARPS then sent a delegation to London to advocate for the dismissal of the Lands Bill of 1897 in front of Joseph Chamberlain, the Secretary of State of Britain at the time.
A notable aspect of the delegation was that it included not only members of the Gold Coast elite, but also “prominent merchants”. It was through their meeting with Joseph Chamberlain that the Gold Coast ARPS was able to get support for the denunciation of the Lands Bill of 1897 and the assurance that “native law would remain and prevail with regard to devolution of land”. The Gold Coast ARPS eventually fell out of fashion in exchange for newer nationalist movements, such as the National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA) in 1920.
Fifty years on, the United Gold Coast Convention was formed, and J.B. Danquah of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) chose the eagle as the emblem of the nation, and it was approved.
Prof Oquaye in the lecture may praise the nation’s forebears for resisting the attempts by the colonial British to usurp Ghana’s lands, as the former set out to apply land acquisition policies elsewhere in Africa to the then Gold Coast.
‘But in the Gold Coast, we are not people you can easily take advantage of. Mensah Sarbah was quick to protest that Ghana’s costmary land is never waste. No land in Ghana is fallow, no matter bushy,.. It belongs to a family, or an individual, for which the chief is a custodian,” Prof Oquaye had said.
He also might advocate the protection of the land rights of the present and future generation, prescribe suggestion to enhance Ghana’s land holding policy reforms.
The Speaker, when he received the invitation to give the lecture, said: ‘…The land belongs to the dead, the living and the unborn……Any chief who sells land arbitrarily must be de-stooled.’
Mr Jinapor has told the media that a thanksgiving and memorial service would be held at Saltpond where the first nationalist political party, the UGCC, was formed.
Mr Jinapor, a Deputy Chief of Staff, said the 60th Anniversary Planning Committee had been tasked by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to ensure that the anniversary was celebrated in an elegant but modest manner.
Leading members of the UGCC including Paa Grant, Ako Adjei, Obetsebi-Lamptey, J.B. Danquah, Mr Justice Edward Akufo-Addo and R.S. Blay are being celebrated today in Salpond.
Mr Jinapor said the views of many pundits and those in the New Patriotic Party were that it was the fight by John Mensah Sarbah and his colleagues that led to the stability of the nation and the land tenure system the country has today.
By Benjamin Mensah, GNA