I read Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama’s speech of the quoted title, presented at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and felt a dolorous sense of wistfulness (See the Opinions section of MyJoyOnline 5/26/13). I felt a palpable sense of wistfulness because the leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) expediently sought to shortchange the facts of history by rather mischievously describing Ghana’s first Prime Minister and President, Mr. Kwame Nkrumah, as the “founder” of the erstwhile Gold Coast. The grim reality is that Mr. Mahama claims to be a remarkable historian in his own right.
His gaping failure, or even deliberate omission, to mention at least a couple of the Founding Fathers, and Mothers, of Ghana readily informed me that as a nation, we have a pretty long way to go, let alone to speak of a continent fervidly in search and in need of organic unification. The fact of the matter is that inasmuch as he is incontrovertibly regarded as a standout, or even foremost, among the ranks of the legendary and immortalized BIG SIX, Kwame Nkrumah is not the “founder” of Ghana in much the same way that Gen. George Washington is not the founder of the United States of America.
And until our leaders soberly come to terms with this objective and plain fact, the vigorous push towards African unification is unavoidably bound to be arduous and rancorous. I make the foregoing observation because recently, a young and apparently cynical reader of my columns wrote to demand why none of the African leaders celebrating the golden jubilee of the African Union, in Addis Ababa, had been heard to mention the name of Dr. J. B. Danquah, Ghana’s foremost constitutional lawyer and thinker of his generation and a fierce fighter for democratic governance.
Well, I don’t know that many staunch supporters of African Unification recognize the inescapable fact that without the democratic rule of law and order, the noble dream of a United Africa will continue to be a pipe dream. This is where the lofty democratic ideals of Drs. Danquah and Busia and Mr. Dombo come to the fore. In other words, it is absolutely nothing short of the unpardonably insulting for Ghana’s President Mahama to cavalierly presume to take for granted the high moral stance taken and hard fought by the putative Doyen of Gold Coast and Ghanaian politics to ensure that Ghana became the virtually unique and/or exemplary bastion of democratic culture and governance that leaders like Mr. Mahama proudly brag about today.
In the main, and predictably, Mr. Mahama’s Addis Ababa speech was fraught with platitudes. But it was his allusive and brief concluding paragraph that piqued my attention and interest the most. In concluding his speech, this is what the electorally embattled Ghanaian president had to recall: “At that first African summit [in 1963] in Addis Ababa, Emperor Haile Selassie said[,] ‘May this convention of union last 1,000 years.’ With the renewed sense of potential on the African continent, indeed, it shall.”
It is not clear exactly how Mr. Mahama appreciates this memorable quote from Emperor Haile Selassie; but it clearly could be interpreted in two distinctive ways: Either the Ethiopian monarch meant to say that the annual talk-shopping festivities of the erstwhile Organization of African Unity were apt to last a thousand years, or that an organically and politically united African federation was being wished a millennial span of existence.
Linguistically speaking, the first interpretation, as logically superficial as it may seem, was clearly what Emperor Selassie meant. Indeed, had he meant the second interpretation, the Ethiopian potentate would have worded his speech the following way: “May this [present] covention [or gathering] lead us to 1,000 years of continental African unity.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of English
Nassau Community College of SUNY
Garden City, New York
May 27, 2013