REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA, NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO, ON THE RECEIPT OF THE NATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD BY THE AFRICA-AMERICA INSTITUTE, ON TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2017, AT THE MANDARIN ORIENTAL, NEW YOK
It is an honour to be amongst you – Excellencies, Ministers, Ambassadors, Members of the US Congress, distinguished guests, generous friends and beloved family, including my beautiful Rebecca – at the 33rd Annual Africa-America Institute Awards Gala.
On behalf of the people of Ghana, I thank the Africa-America Institute warmly for the honour of this award – The National Achievement Award. Ghanaians are deeply humbled by the award, and we accept the challenge that it imposes on us, and in what the world expects of Ghana. Should we also rechristen tonight’s gala the Ghana-America Institute Awards Gala? – and, my friend, Jim Ovia, you are one of us!
I congratulate all of the evening’s honourees. From the outstanding achievements like those of Jim Ovia from Zenith Bank, to the exceptional alumni of AAI, like Dr. Phumzile Mlambo Ncguka, from UN women, there is plenty of reason to be proud. And, then, when I consider our young achievers, our future, with young leaders and award winners like Nicole and Bozoma making their mark, I know our future is brighter than ever. To Steve Pfeiffer, Kofi Appenteng, Nik Amarteifio and the Board of Trustees of AAI, I say thank you for this exceptional show of appreciation.
There is so much for us to celebrate as Ghanaians, as Africans, as Americans and as friends. Tonight, I pay tribute to successive generations of Ghanaian patriots who played invaluable roles in establishing the free, sovereign and democratic Ghana that we are honouring, and those of you who are not from the country will bear with me if I do a little sketch of Ghanaian history tonight.
I pay tribute to members of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society – Jacob Sey, John Mensah Sarbah, Joseph Casely Hayford, J.P Brown, and their colleagues – who, at the end of the 19th century, organised the chiefs and people against the Crown Lands Bill, and forced the British colonial authorities to retreat from their attempt to seize our lands, like they did, at the time, the lands of our brothers and sisters in Southern and Eastern Africa, and, thereby, helped preserve Ghanaian control of Ghanaian lands. This was a monumental step towards the making of modern Ghana.
I pay tribute, too, to the memories of Thomas Hutton-Mills, Kobbina Sekyi, Kojo Thompson and Akilakpa Sawyer, who maintained the momentum of nationalist agitation initiated by the Society.
Ghana is also grateful to the great nationalists, George Alfred “Paa” Grant, Joseph Boakye Danquah, Francis Awoonor-Williams, R S Blay, George More, R S Wood, J W de Graft Johnson, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey, Ebenezer Ako Adjei, William Ofori-Atta, Edward Akufo-Addo, Cobbina Kesse, and Jimmy Quist-Therson, who gathered at Saltpond to inaugurate the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), the first truly nationalist movement of the Gold Coast, to make the first formal demand for the independence of our nation from British rule. The inauguration set in motion the dramatic events that led to our independence, ten years later, as they had predicted. The dramatic events included the 1948 Christiansborg Cross-Roads shootings, involving the 3 martyred ex-Servicemen, Sgt Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey, and the subsequent riots that engulfed all of Accra; the arrest of the six UGCC leaders, who have gone down into Ghanaian legend as the Big Six, for their implication in the riots – J B Danquah, Emmanuel Obetsebi Lamptey, William Ofori-Atta, Ebenezer Ako Adjei, Edward Akufo-Addo and Kwame Nkrumah; and the birth of the Convention Peoples Party, under Kwame Nkrumah’s dynamic leadership.
The Conventions Peoples Party threw up its own stars – Komla Agbeli Gbedemah, Kojo Botsio, Nathaniel Welbeck, Kofi Baako, Dzenkle Dzewu, Krobo Edusei, Atta Mensah, Nana Kobina Nketiah, et al – who were to add their own lustre to the nationalist struggle. They were given powerful support by the great Trades’ Union leaders, Pobee Biney, Vidal Quist and Anthony Woode, whose backing was so critical to the success of Nkrumah’s historic call for positive action. There were others on the side of the Opposition – Kofi Abrefa Busia, Baffuor Osei Akoto, Victor Owusu, Joe Appiah, R R Amponsah, Modesto Apaloo, S.G. Antor, S.D. Dombo, B. K Adama, Abayifa Karbo, Ashie Nikoi, Attoh Okine, et al – who were to play their distinctive part in our drive towards freedom.
On an evening like this, I have to pay homage to some others, who are not listed among the forefront fighters for political freedom, but who fought equally hard for our cultural integrity and identity of who we are as Ghanaians, and the list here is by no means exhaustive – Kwegyir Aggrey; Nana Prempeh I, Nana Ofori Atta I, Yaa Asantewa, and Nii Kwabena Bonne III, iconic traditional leaders; Philip Gbeho, the composer of our National Anthem, and Ephraim Amu, composer of our unofficial national anthem; Theodosia Okoh, the designer of our national flag; Amon Kotei, the designer of our coat of arms; Kofi Antubam, the artist who first put Ghanaian art on the map; Ayi Kwei Armah and Ama Ata Aidoo, outstanding writers who have enriched the literature of the world; E.T. Mensah, King Bruce, Jerry Hansen and the others who popularised highlife, which has become an enduring identity of Ghanaian music; Esther Ocloo, pioneer industrialist and entrepreneur, whose food processing enterprises under the Nkulenu label changed our habits of food preparation forever; Evelyn Amarteifio, intrepid social activist and campaigner; Dede Asikisham and Akua Shorshorshor, formidable market queens, who made great contributions to the independence struggle; and other pioneer entrepreneurs like B.M Kufuor, Appenteng Mensah, Mpotima Darko, J.K. Siaw, B.A. Mensah and Kwaku Owusu, amongst others, who showed the way for the emerging Ghanaian private sector.
I pay homage to my predecessor Presidents of Ghana – Kwame Nkrumah, our first President, who led us with such verve and panache, finally, to the cherished goal of national freedom and independence, Edward Akufo-Addo, Hilla Liman, Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor, John Evans Atta Mills and John Dramani Mahama – all of whom contributed in their diverse ways, during their respective tenures of office, variously to the Ghana we are celebrating tonight, the Ghana of Freedom and Justice, the stirring words of our national motto.
Ladies and gentlemen, over the course of our history, the Ghanaian people have had to overcome several trials and tribulations: slavery, imperialism, colonialism, tyranny and dictatorship. We once lived in a country where freedom of speech was suppressed; where the safeguards of trial — the rule of law — were set aside; where individual property rights were disregarded by the state, because the citizen had no guaranteed rights; and where citizens went to jail for expressing honest opinions.
Nonetheless, what our history has taught us is that the spirit of the Ghanaian, in his or her quest for peace, progress and prosperity, cannot be quenched. We are a determined lot, who cannot be deterred.
It took us a while, but the consensus on multi-party constitutional, democratic rule has been established in Ghana. For the third time, the most recent being in December 2016, we had a peaceful transfer of power from a governing party to an opposition one. We did it without any fuss, and it is now part of what we do as a people. It is within this period of 24 years that Ghana has witnessed a consistent period of achievement. Today, after quite some time, we are recognised as a beacon of democracy and stability on the African continent. We are a country governed by the principles of democratic accountability, respect for individual liberties and human rights, and the rule of law, an aspiring modern nation.
We believe that democracy should not be subject to individual interpretation, and it should not be a negotiation between elites and stakeholders. I was not prepared to put my personal ambition before the principles that made me a politician in the first place. Democracy is best established when institutions are trusted, the rules of the game clear and political actors are prepared to win and lose. It is for this reason that, in the disputed elections of 2012, my party and I proved that we were willing and able to submerge our individual and partisan preferences for the common good. We demonstrated clearly that it was not the ambitions of Akufo-Addo, or the fortunes of the New Patriotic Party, that we sought to promote. The stability and progress of Ghana, and the enhancement of her democracy were the paramount considerations that guided our every action in those difficult days.
Ladies and gentlemen, the time has now come for us in Ghana to move on even further to deepen our democracy. It is time to make sure that we have a genuine separation of powers between the various arms of government. Our Parliament, the legislative arm of government, must grow into its proper role as an effective machinery for accountability and oversight of the Executive. Our Judiciary must inspire confidence in the citizens, so we can all see the courts as the ultimate, impartial arbiters when disputes arise, as they would.
We must also decentralise more, and devolve more power with corresponding resources to the base of our political system and to our people, in the regions, communities and localities. We must trust the individual and collective wisdom and good sense of our people. We must create wealth and restore happiness to our nation. We can only do this when we have a powerful private sector, with a strong sense of enterprise, innovation and creativity, and an educated and skilled population that is capable of competing in the global marketplace. This is why we are insisting on making basic education, i.e. kindergarten through primary school to junior high school to senior high school, free in all our public schools, to guarantee access to quality basic education to all of Ghana’s children, irrespective of the circumstances of their birth. In doing so, we must expand our horizons and embrace science and technology as critical tools for our development. We want to create a society of opportunities and incentives.
We have to build a confident Ghana which is united, at peace with itself and takes pride in its diversity, and which continues to pursue its pan-African vocation. It will not be easy. We have no illusions whatsoever about the nature of the task that we face, but I know that Ghanaians will rise to the occasion; they always do. The Black Star is going to shine and shine and shine.
I thank the Africa-America Institute once again for the award. It is good to be able to show that standing up for democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law has its rewards.
Thank you. Medaase paa. May God bless us all and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.