Even though, Ghana was comparatively a small country in twentieth century African politics, with a population of about six million at the time of its independence. Ghana achieved independence in an atmosphere of goodwill towards all nations and this spirit became amply evident, when a remarkable number of delegates from all over the world came to the independent celebrations. Ghana’s struggle to overthrow colonial rule right from the formation of the first proto- nationalist movement to the declaration of independent statehood on the 6th of March, 1957, was largely a fight of many but not few notable people.
A man or woman considered as a hero must have achieved something great that really had an impact on the society. It saddens our heart and soul to hear the same names being mentioned over and over again during independence day celebrations of our noble country. How many times have you not being told about Kwame Nkrumah? How many times have you not being told about how Kwame Nkrumah’s PDA of 1958 killed Joseph Boakye Danquah ? How many times have you not being told about Yaa Asantewaa ? How many times have you not being told that the 1948 riot led to the arrest of six people from the UGCC, which eventually landed them, the name “Big Six”.
To be honest with you, the names mentioned above are true heroes of our noble country. But, are they the only ones worthy of attaining heroic status in this country of ours ? Where is Nii Kwabena Bonne ? The brain behind the 1948 riot ! Where is King Aggrey of Cape Coast ? The liberator and the soul behind the formation of the Fante Confederation!
Indubitably, one personality who seems to have been sidelined or relegated to the background in Ghanaian history despite his outspokenness and persistent opposition to British rule is King John Aggrey of Cape Coast. King Aggrey’s contribution to Ghana’s independence is unprecedented. He is on record to be the first king in Sub-Saharan Africa in the nineteenth century to really challenge the legitimacy of British power and jurisdiction on the Gold Coast. King Aggrey organized several protests against the British administration of the Gold Coast which inevitably earned him the accolade as one of the African political martyrs of British imperialism. John Aggrey became the backbone of his people, after his coronation as king of Cape Coast in February 1865.
King Aggrey provided the initial impetus for the open challenge to the British administration in Cape Coast. This enabled the educated people to support the traditional orders and use its institutions to check what they considered as the arbitrary expansion of British authority. King Aggrey, with the support of the educated men clashed several times with the Governor. He became defiant in his correspondence with the Governor, questioning the basis of his authority over him and his people. The series of letters King Aggrey sent to the Governor, were regarded as “very seditious”, which caused his arrest and consequent exile to Sierra Leone.
One can not deny the fact that, the Anglo-Dutch exchange of forts and settlements in 1867 and the report of British Parliamentary Select Committee of 1865 caused the formation of the first proto- nationalist movement on the Gold Coast. Thus, the Fante Confederation. But the soul reason behind the formation of the Fante Confederation was King Aggrey. The kind of ill-treatment meted out to King Aggrey and his exile to Sierra Leone, prompted the people of Fante land to organize themselves in opposition to British rule. Even in exile, Aggrey showed true love for his country. He remained completely defiant until he became very sick in March 1869 and quickly brought back from Sierra Leone to the Gold Coast by the British authorities. Looking at the role King Aggrey played towards the decolonization process of the Gold Coast, it is absolutely not surprising to see the month in which he seriously fell sick in Sierra Leone, as being the birth month of the New Ghana.
The acceleration of Ghana’s independence from 1945 to 1957 lies greatly on Nii Kwabena Bonne III (Osu Alata Mantse). Undoubtedly, Nii Bonne III is the single most successful massive boycott organizer of all time in the political history of Ghana. Nii Kwabena Bonne’s boycott of European goods which eventually led to series of riots and agitations in 1948, constructed the bridge for Nkrumah and others to cross to reach the destination of independence for mother Ghana. Kwame Nkrumah’s record as being the first president of Ghana would not have been possible without the yeoman’s job performed by Nii Kwabena Bonne III. Nii Bonne through his Anti-Inflation Campaign Committee sent series of letters to the Chamber of Commerce outlining the position of the committee. When the Europeans believed the Africans could not unite ! When they believed the Africans did not understand the value of money well enough to carry out a cohesive plan successfully ! It was Nii Kwabena Bonne III who broke this gene by delivering a powerful arousing and agitating message to the people of Gold Coast to invigorate them on for a full participation in his nationwide boycott of European goods.
As a pathfinder, Nii Kwabena Bonne III also pioneered a number ventures which proved very beneficial to this country. At the time of Europe’s Great Depression in 1931, Nii Bonne III single handedly campaigned throughout the colony for reduction in prices of foodstuffs. Nii Bonne III became the first Gold Coaster to earn the British Royal Couple’s invitation to tour the Buckingham Palace in February 1925. According to His Excellency M.A. Akiwumi (former Ghanaian Speaker of Parliament 1958-1960), Nii Kwabena Bonne III was a champion of the under-dogs and a good citizen who never liked anybody to take mean advantage of another. When the spirit of nationalism went into coma, it was Nii Kwabena Bonne III who resurrected it with his boycott of European goods. The arrest of the “Big six”, the Watson commission, the Coussey Committee, the 1950 constitution which came into effect in 1951, Nkrumah’s Positive Action, the 1951 elections, the 1954 Nkrumah constitution and the 1956 elections owe their successes to Nii Kwabena Bonne’s boycott of European goods in 1948.
King Aggrey of Cape Coast and Nii Kwabena Bonne IIII are worthy forerunners, liberators and heroes who fought fearlessly for the emancipation of their people. They really gave themselves to the service and foundation of this country. They played their parts as far as the Independence struggle of this country is concerned, to merit them a worthy place in the New History of Ghana.
Authored by: Team Kwarteng-Omare
Department: History Education
University of Education, Winneba