Six Decades Of Independence – Six Champions Of Freedom

the-big-six

Taken from newsghana.com

Today marks the 60th year of Ghana’s independence from the United Kingdom. While Ghana’s champions of freedom have their faces adorn the national currency, outside of Ghana, all but one enjoys anything resembling international recognition. I’m not much of a fan of “Great Man” theories – narratives of history that surround a single t cheaindividual. Of course, it’d be a bit cheap and cheeky to mention that I’ve only expanded it to six. But in my view, not expanding the role of independence as a team effort of resistance – a united front in the mission of self-governance does them a great disservice. These men were: J.B. Danquah, Edward Akufo-Addo, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey, Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, William Ofori-Atta, and Kwame Nkrumah. They were six of the leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention. But collectively within Ghana after their arrest by the colonial authorities in 1948: They became known as “The Big Six”.

An assembly of nascent lawyers, civil servants and clerks, they founded the UGCC in 1947 with the mission of self-governance through “that by all legitimate and constitutional means, the direction and control of government should pass into the hands of the people and their Chiefs in the shortest possible time”. Nkrumah himself was a relatively late addition to the party, after fellow student-cum friend Ako-Adjei during their time spent in the historically black university Lincoln University persuaded him to accept the invitation of heading the party upon returning to the Gold Coast. After much consideration, Nkrumah took the offer and returned home. Their first major challenge was taking on the Association of West African Merchants (AWAM) and organising a mass boycott of their products until they became affordable. They later campaigned for the worker rights of World War II veterans,  who were kept out of receiving war benefits for their service. This is turn, snowballed into a series of riots in Accra – and then, their subsequent arrest as the principal agitators. Their imprisonment in Kumasi had  only encouraged their infamy, and they were split up. It was from there, the title “The Big Six” emerged, even after the group experienced internal disagreements, pertaining to the direction of the party. Of particular note was Nkrumah himself, who was something of a maverick within the UGCC. In spite of Dr Danquah being dubbed “the doyen of Gold Coast politics”, it was Nkrumah who gained based on his radical fervour, gained an increasing influence – more so after founding the Ghana National College and the Accra Evening News after their release from prison.

The other members were concerned with Nkrumah’s actions interpreted as party policy. The members were however, reluctant to remove him, and so repositioned him as honorary treasurer. The concessions of the colonial government towards the Gold Coast’s autonomy were not enough for Nkrumah, and amongst the disagreements with Danquah over the direction of the Gold Coast’s future and mounting pressure of his own supporters, Nkrumah finally broke off with the UGCC to form the Convention People’s Party in April 1949. Its populist sloganeering was broadcast via speakers attached to red-and-green vans, led to a landslide victory during the first universal suffrage in the Gold Coast for CPP against the UGCC, even with Nkrumah imprisoned by the colonial authorities for the riots that occurred during his calls for direct action protests for a constitutional assembly. Nkrumah was shortly released from prison, The UGCC dissolved after its defeat. Yet all of its members would still become involved within Ghanaian politics and the judicial system. Though, only Ako-Adjei joined the CPP in 1957.

After the 1956 elections the independence parties clinched a clear majority, the Gold Coast was granted its independence by the British Government, and so on the 6th March 1957, it was renamed Ghana, based on Danquah and Nkrumah’s suggestion, after the ancient empire of Ghana. The relative obscurity of the other five members, one of whom became President of Ghana from 1970-1972 can at least in part be attributed to the lasting influence of Nkrumah on the region both home and abroad, often negatively, as the rest for one reason or another fell afoul of Nkrumah, half of them were incarcerated as Nkrumah’s government became authoritarian. Despite the tragedy of the Big Six’s relationship on a professional and personal level, today Ghana is led the one of the children of these great nationalists – Nana Akufo-Addo, ensuring a continuity of a proud legacy. Ghana – the black star of Africa rejoices in its sixty years of freedom, with the image of five of its heroes, all of whom democrats rehabilitated. It is only fair that the tale of their struggle and recognition be mentioned alongside the person who became Ghana’s first president.

 

 

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