Mr Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to add my voice to this dirge that we are treating ourselves to this morning, on this auspicious occasion -- the 50th Anniversary of the transition of the doyen of Ghana politics, Dr J. B. Danquah.
Mr Speaker, Dr J. B. Danquah belonged to that elite group of Gold Coast lawyers and businessmen, the intelligentsia, as they were called locally at the time, who had long been pressing for a reformation leading to independence.
Mr Speaker, that group came to be known as men of property and standing. It was a group that formed in 1947, their own political party, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) choosing the slogan, “self-government in the shortest possible time”. The leader of that group was Dr J. B. Danquah.
Mr Speaker, Dr Danquah had gained a doctorate degree at the London University, qualified as a barrister at the Inner Temple and written a highly regarded book on Akan law and religion.
As part of the drive for political advancement, he had come up with the idea of dropping the colonial name of Gold Coast and changing it to Ghana, an African empire that had flourished in West Africa in the 11th Century.
Mr Speaker, hoping to build popular support for their course, Dr Danquah and his colleagues decided to hire a full time organiser and one name was re- commended to them; that name and person was Kwame Nkrumah. About Kwame Nkrumah, most of the people knew very little and that he himself had collected degrees in economics, sociology and philosophy.
Mr Speaker, it is often said that because of internal tensions and rivalries afflicting most African States, only strong governments could provide the stability that they needed to develop and prosper. Yet in practice, strong governments of the kind employed in post-independence Africa, where that personal dictatorship or one party systems rarely ensured either political stability or effective adminis- tration.
Once in power, many African leaders became preoccupied with staying in power, employing whatever means necessary to them. Most depended on their ability to operate patrimonial systems that kept key supporters loyal to them. Political activity was reduced to palace politics, an avenue for ruling elites to manoeuvre for their own interest.
Mr Speaker, that was what obtained. In dealing with political opponents, African leaders resorted readily to arbitrary measures -- arrests, detentions and other forms of harassments.
Mr Speaker, just within a year of independence, the PDA was introduced to enable the Government to detain anyone without trial for up to five years. In theory, the PDA of 1958 and other similar measures that followed were to be employed, only at times of emergency. In practice, they came to be used to silence
critics and opponents. Even in some cases, not the President, but people who were close to the President used the PDA to settle petty personal scores.
Mr Speaker, it is instructive to know that in 1958, when the PDA was enacted, 38 people were detained. In 1961, 311 were detained under the PDA; in 1963, 586. In 1965, 1,200 people in Ghana were detained under the PDA without resort and recourse to trial.
Among the victims was Dr J. B. Danquah for whom Kwame Nkrumah had worked on his return from London. He died, as we have been told, in prison in 1965, spending the last year of his life in solitary confinement. A sick and disheartened man, deprived of adequate medical treatment.
Mr Speaker, it is instructive to flash back on the death of Dr J. B. Danquah, what one African leader said. That leader was Hastings Banda.
Mr Speaker, in aparently responding to the death of Dr J. B. Danquah in Ghana, he said and I am quoting him,
“If to maintain political stability and efficient administration, I have to detain ten thousand or even one hundred thousand people, I would do it.”
Hastings Banda, in 1965, commenting about the death of Dr J. B. Danquah in Ghana -- The opposition parties across Africa were routinely banned on the grounds of national security; Government's opponents were routinely imprisoned, leaders on the African Continent relied on fear as an instrument of control and that was how Dr J. B. Danquah met his death.
Mr Speaker, we have come a long way but the nodal issues that Dr J. B. Danquah