GHANA OUR HAPPY HOME
The Growth of Nationalism and the End of Colonial Rule
Ghana Independence took of as the country developed economically, and the focus of government power gradually shifted from the hands of the governor and his officials into those of Ghanaians.
The changes resulted from the gradual development of a strong spirit of nationalism and were to result eventually in independence.
The development of national consciousness accelerated quickly after World War II, when, in addition to ex-servicemen, a substantial group of urban African workers and traders emerged to lend mass support to the aspirations of a small educated minority.
Once the movement had begun, events moved rapidly-not always fast enough to satisfy the nationalist leaders, but still at a pace that surprised not only the colonial government but many of the more conservative African elements as well.
The Politics of the Independence Movements
Although political organizations had existed in the British colony, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) was the first nationalist movement with the aim of self-government “in the shortest possible time.”
Founded in August 1947 by educated Africans such as J.B. Danquah, A.G. Grant, R.A. Awoonor-Williams, Edward Akufo Addo (all lawyers except for Grant, who was a wealthy businessman), and others, the leadership of the organization called for the replacement of chiefs on the Legislative Council with educated persons.
For these political leaders, traditional governance, exercised largely via indirect rule, was identified with colonial interests and the past. They believed that it was their responsibility to lead their country into a new age.
They also demanded that, given their education, the colonial administration should respect them and accord them positions of responsibility.
As one writer on the period reported, “The symbols of progress, science, freedom, youth, all became cues which the new leadership evoked and reinforced.”
In particular, the UGCC leadership criticized the government for its failure to solve the problems of unemployment, inflation, and the disturbances that had come to characterize the society at the end of the war.
Their opposition to the colonial administration notwithstanding, UGCC members were conservative in the sense that their leadership did not seek drastic or revolutionary change.
This was probably a result of their training in the British way of doing things. The gentlemanly manner in which politics were then conducted was to change after Kwame Nkrumah created his Convention People’s Party (CPP) in June 1949.
The constitution of 1951 resulted from the report of the Coussey Committee, created because of disturbances in Accra and other cities in 1948.
In addition to giving the Executive Council a large majority of African ministers, it created an assembly, half the elected members of which were to come from the towns and rural districts and half from the traditional councils, including, for the first time, the Northern Territories.
Although it was an enormous step forward, the new constitution still fell far short of the CPP’s call for full self-government. Executive power remained in British hands, and the legislature was tailored to permit control by traditionalist interests.
With increasing popular backing, the CPP in early 1950 initiated a campaign of “positive action,” intended to instigate widespread strikes and nonviolent resistance.
When some violent disorders occurred, Nkrumah, along with his principal lieutenants, was promptly arrested and imprisoned for sedition. But this merely increased his prestige as leader and hero of the cause and gave him the status of martyr.
In February 1951, the first elections were held for the Legislative Assembly under the new constitution. Nkrumah, still in jail, won a seat, and the CPP won an impressive victory with a two-thirds majority of the 104 seats.
The governor, Sir Charles Arden-Clarke, released Nkrumah and invited him to form a government as “leader of government business,” a position similar to that of prime minister. Nkrumah accepted.
A major milestone had been passed on the road to independence and self-government.
Nonetheless, although the CPP agreed to work within the new constitutional order, the structure of government that existed in 1951 was certainly not what the CPP preferred.
The ministries of defense, external affairs, finance, and justice were still controlled by British officials who were not responsible to the legislature.
Also, by providing for a sizable representation of traditional tribal chiefs in the Legislative Assembly, the constitution accentuated the cleavage between the modern political leaders and the traditional authorities of the councils of chiefs.
The start of Nkrumah’s first term as “leader of government business” was marked by cordiality and cooperation with the British governor.
During the next few years, the government was gradually transformed into a full parliamentary system.
The changes were opposed by the more traditionalist African elements, particularly in Asante and the Northern Territories.
This opposition, however, proved ineffective in the face of continuing and growing popular support for a single overriding concept–independence at an early date.
In 1952 the position of prime minister was created and the Executive Council became the cabinet. The prime minister was made responsible to the assembly, which duly elected Nkrumah prime minister.
The constitution of 1954 ended the election of assembly members by the tribal councils. The Legislative Assembly increased in size, and all members were chosen by direct election from equal, single-member constituencies.
Only defense and foreign policy remained in the hands of the governor; the elected assembly was given control of virtually all internal affairs of the colony.
The CPP pursued a policy of political centralization, which encounted serious opposition. Shortly after the 1954 election, a new party, the Asante-based National Liberation Movement (NLM), was formed.
The NLM advocated a federal form of government, with increased powers for the various regions.
NLM leaders criticized the CPP for perceived dictatorial tendencies. The new party worked in cooperation with another regionalist group, the Northern People’s Party.
When these two regional parties walked out of discussions on a new constitution, the CPP feared that London might consider such disunity an indication that the colony was not yet ready for the next phase of self-government.
The British constitutional adviser, however, backed the CPP position. The governor dissolved the assembly in order to test popular support for the CPP demand for immediate independence.
The crown agreed to grant independence if so requested by a two-thirds majority of the new legislature.
New elections were held in July 1956. In keenly contested elections, the CPP won 57 percent of the votes cast, but the fragmentation of the opposition gave the CPP every seat in the south as well as enough seats in Asante, the Northern Territories, and the Trans-Volta Region to hold a two-thirds majority of the 104 seats.
Prior to the July 1956 general elections in the Gold Coast, a plebiscite was conducted under United Nations (UN) auspices to decide the future disposition of British Togoland and French Togoland.
The British trusteeship, the western portion of the former German colony, had been linked to the Gold Coast since 1919 and was represented in its parliament.
The dominant ethnic group, the Ewe, were divided between the Gold Coast proper and the two Togos.
A clear majority of British Togoland inhabitants voted in favor of union with their western neighbors, and the area was absorbed into the Gold Coast.
There was, however, vocal opposition to the incorporation from some of the Ewe in southern British Togoland.
On August 3, 1956, the new assembly passed a motion authorizing the government to request independence within the British Commonwealth. The opposition did not attend the debate, and the vote was unanimous.
This is a short video to summarize the Independence day.
The British government accepted this motion as clearly representing a reasonable majority. On March 6, 1957, the 113th anniversary of the Bond of 1844, the former British colony of the Gold Coast became the independent state of Ghana, and the nation’s Legislative Assembly became the National Assembly.
Nkrumah continued as prime minister. According to an independence constitution also drafted in 1957, Queen Elizabeth II of England was to be represented in the former colony by a governor general, and Sir Arden-Clarke was appointed to that position.
The Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, the resting place of Nkrumah’s mortal remains was the exact location he gained independence.
This special relationship between the British Crown and Ghana would continue until 1960, when the position of governor general was abolished under terms of a new constitution that declared the nation a republic.
The independence constitution of 1957 provided protection against easy amendment of a number of its clauses.
It also granted a voice to chiefs and their tribal councils by providing for the creation of regional assemblies.
No bill amending the entrenched clauses of the constitution or affecting the powers of the regional bodies or the privileges of the chiefs could become law except by a two-thirds vote of the National Assembly and by simple majority approval in two-thirds of the regional assemblies.
When local CPP supporters gained control of enough regional assemblies, however, the Nkrumah government promptly secured passage of an act removing the special entrenchment protection clause in the constitution, a step that left the National Assembly with the power to effect any constitutional change the CPP deemed necessary.
Among the CPP’s earliest acts was the outright abolition of regional assemblies. Another was the dilution of the clauses designed to ensure a nonpolitical and competitive civil service.
This allowed Nkrumah to appoint his followers to positions throughout the upper ranks of public employment.
Thereafter, unfettered by constitutional restrictions and with an obedient party majority in the assembly, Kwame Nkrumah began his administration of the first independent African country south of the Sahara.