Provided below is the full speech delivered by Ghana’s Agric Ministered on the occassion of the 2021 Re: Akoto Memorial Lectures. It’s a must read.
SPEECH DELIVERED BY HON. DR. OWUSU AFRIYIE AKOTO ON THE OCCASION OF THE 2021 RE: AKOTO MEMORIAL LECTURES
The Chairman of the Council of State, Nana Otuo Siribour II, Juabenhen; The Chief Justice, My Lord Kwasi Anin-Yeboah; The Former Speaker of Parliament, Professor Michael Aaron Ocquaye; The Director of the Ghana School of Law and Faculty; The Vice Chancellor, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and Faculty; General Secretary and Regional Chairmen of the New Patriotic Party (NPP); Nananom; Members of the Media, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen.
The family of Baffour Osei Akoto is most grateful to the Ghana School of Law for the opportunity provided by this platform to discuss the life and works of my late father and his contribution to the development of our dear country, Ghana.
Over the past 16 years, since the inception of this all important lecture series, many high profile State officials and distinguished academics have provided stimulating lectures on this platform.
The contributors include the President of the Republic His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, Professor K. Date-Bah, Nana Dr. S.K. B Asante, the late Peter Ala Adjetey, the late Prof. A.K.P Kludze, Prof. Ebow Bondzi-Simpson, Prof. Raymond Atuguba and the current Director of Legal Education at the Ghana School of Law, Mr. Maxwell Opoku Agyemang.
Indeed, the focus of the lectures has been the case of fundamental Human Rights involving Baffour Osei Akoto and Seven others.
They had been detained under the Preventive Detention Act (Act 1958), as political prisoners in the condemned cells of the Nsawam Medium Security Prison on the 11th of November, 1959. A case of Habeas Corpus was argued in the Supreme Court of Ghana by no less a figure than Dr. J. B Danquah in 1961. This case has become a cause celebre and has taken the title of the Annual Lectures organised by this distinguished legal institution.
The fact that the Law School, in this year’s commemoration chose to lift the veil and to showcase the personality behind the famous case is something that the family of Baffour Akoto is very grateful for.
This is because the man we are talking about played a major role in both the cultural and political development of Ghana we know today. He was a cultural icon of no mean reputation when it came to traditional Akan law and Chieftaincy Affairs. Indeed it can be argued that his contribution in these aspects of Ghanaian life was even more significant than the case law that has taken his name.
Today, I intend to use a broad brush to paint the outline of a picture of the enormous contribution that Baffour Osei Akoto made to the development of both the culture and politics of modern Ghana.
I will attempt to do so under three main headings – his family life, his role as a Chief at the court of three successive Asante Kings spanning nearly seven decades from 1935-2002 and last but not the least, his contribution to the development of our politics today through the leadership role he played in the mid-50s which continues to reverberate in our current political dispensation.
By doing justice to the topic chosen for the presentation this afternoon, we are reminding ourselves that a life well lived will always be remembered. It is incumbent on us, therefore, to give our utmost in the service of country and humanity.
The traits that characterised Baffour’s life and works are meant to portray to the citizenry, in particular the youth, a model of the contributions expected of them to make Ghana a better nation.
In his inaugural speech as President of Ghana on 7 January 2017, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo mentioned Baffour Akoto and others as legends whose efforts and sacrifices ensured the freedom of the Ghanaian state. In that speech, the President noted:
Baffour Osei Akoto and others, who taught us that fidelity to principles, courage, patience, resilience and collective action, do yield results. They fought with intelligence, guts, steely determination and patriotism to liberate our land and reclaim our worth as human beings.
Their love for country continues to inspire generations of us to commit our lives to the search for an enduring democratic legacy for Ghana
1. FAMILY ORIGINS
Baffour Osei Akoto, the cultural icon and politician, was a quintessential Ghanaian who personified patriotism. He was born on 22nd February 1904 and passed on to eternal glory on 3rd September 2002. His father, Nana Owusu Sekyere, Chief of Ankaase in the Kwabre District near Kumasi was the grandson of Asantehene Osei Asibey Bonsu (1800-1824).
His mother, Obaapanin Akosua Apeaa of Kwabre Heman, was the great granddaughter of Asantehene Osei Yaw Akoto. So he was born a true Asante Royal and named Osei Akoto. He took on the noble Asante title “Baffour” when he ascended to the Butuakwa and Appiah Kyeame stool in 1935. The stool was endowed with the title “Baffour” when it was created by Asantehene Osei Asibey Bonsu around 1810.
Baffour Osei Akoto was a strong personality imbued with leadership qualities. He was endowed with a magnetic influence that drew people of diverse backgrounds in terms of social standing, education, ethnicity, religious persuasion, etc.
Although he did not have much formal education, he deployed his indigenous knowledge and wisdom so effectively that he was able to weave together a strong team of highly educated personalities from notable professions such as the law, academia and engineering into a formidable political force to influence the direction of our politics in the 1950s (see later).
2. BAFFOUR AKOTO AS A FAMILY MAN
Two aspects of Asante traditional culture influenced the family life of Baffour Osei Akoto. These are the matrilineal system of Asante culture and the practice of chieftancy.
The matrilineal system meant that as head of the Abusua he was socially and financially responsible for all members on the maternal side of the extended family including his sisters, maternal nephews and nieces, the grandnephews and grandnieces. And there were scores of them.
Yet he took responsibility for all aspects of their wellbeing including their welfare, marriage life, education etc. Indeed in the early 1950s he personally financed a nephew and niece to sojourn in England to read law and medicine. That was how committed he was to his matrilineal family and to education.
As the occupant of the Butuakwa and Appiah Kyeame stool, he had stool wives. He also had wives outside the stool. These together produced thirty-six (36) children and yours sincerely is NUMBER EIGHTEEN (18th). He was very committed to the upbringing, education and careers of his children.
He educated his children in the best schools and was keen to ensure that they entered lucrative professions and embarked on careers that would stand them in good stead in their future lives.
This has produced a whole range of professions among my siblings – from law, accountancy, journalism, politics, writers, business to academia. His six years of incarceration under the Preventive Detention Act temporarily prevented him from carrying out his responsibility to both the extended and immediate family.
But he resumed these responsibilities when he gained his freedom after the 1966 coup d’état which overthrew the Nkrumah regime.
Apart from his commitment to his family he also assisted in nurturing the families of his friends and colleagues. He treated the children of his friends like his own and mentored many who later in life made such an enormous contribution to the development of this country.
Baffour was the Executor of the Will of his great friend Mr Kobina Annan, the father of the late Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations. It was Baffour who paved the way for former President His Excellency Agyekum Kufuor, his stepson, to enter politics by becoming the Progress Party’s candidate for Atwuma Nwabiagya Constituency.
He replaced Mr B.F. Kusi who had won the seat in a famous by-election for the National Liberation Movement (NLM) in 1956. As a child, Otumfuor Osei Tutu II was also no stranger to our home as a neighbour in Ashanti New Town and as a classmate and friend to my siblings. These are the most famous ones. But he nurtured and mentored many others.
It should be emphasised that Baffour Osei Akoto was a true-blue Ashanti who was proud of his ancestry but he was not tribalistic. He equally cherished Ghana’s rich cultural diversity and considered it a strength for the country. He spoke perfect Kano Hausa which he learnt while plying his trade across the country as a motor mechanic in his youth.
He did not only work closely with people all over the country on the political front but also encouraged inter-ethnic marriage. He arranged for his blood sister Madam Yaa Ayiwa to marry to his friend Chief S D Dombo, a Dagau from Duori in the Upper West Region. Today, the occupant of the Duori Skin, Na Tikai Dombo, is a son of Dombo and Ayiwa and for that matter a nephew of Baffour Akoto.
3. BAFFOUR AKOTO AS A CHIEF AND SOCIALITE
Baffour was a prescient person who considered culture as the foundation of human development. He, therefore, promoted Asante culture as he occupied the prestigious office of advisor and spokesperson (Okyeame) to the Asantehene. The significance of the role of Baffour Osei Akoto and hence his legacy in chieftaincy affairs can only be appreciated in the context of the history of Asante in Ghana and West Africa.
Asante history offers examples of heroes and heroines who made immolations for the sustenance of the Asante nation, and those examples were a guiding light for Baffour. He was, therefore, prepared to pursue at length fairness, equity and justice.
Even when he was offered he opportunity of release from prison in exchange for abandoning his political beliefs, he chose to remain incarcerated because his freedom would be on the condition that he could no longer defend the defenceless.
We may view the contributions of Baffour by looking at Ashanti history in two broad phases. The first phase was the period from the formation of the nation by King Osei Tutu and his friend the legendary Okomfo Anokye in the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century (1900). The sovereignty of the Asante Kingdom ended following the defeat of Asante by the British in the Yaa Asantewaa War of 1900.
The Asantehene Otumfuo Agyemang Prempeh I was exiled to Seychelles Island in the Indian Ocean where he was kept by the British from 1896 – 1924. The second phase of Ashanti history begun with the reign of Otumfuo Osei Agyemang Prempeh II (Asantehene: 1935 – 1970) who succeeded Prempeh I. The latter, upon his return from exile in 1925 remained as Kumasihene until he went to the village in 1931.
It was during the reign of Otumfuo Prempeh II (Kumasihene: 1931 –1935/Asantehene: 1935 – 1970) under whom the Ashanti Confederacy was restored in 1935, that the office of the Asantehene was reinstated. That period marked the beginning of the second phase of Asante history.
It is worthy of note that Baffour Akoto was enstooled as Okyeame at the time of the restoration of Asanteman and Otumfuor Prempeh II indeed started his reign with Baffour. Okyeame Akoto, as he was popularly known, served all the Asante kings, including the current occupant of the Golden Stool, Otumfuor Osei Tutu II.
It should be placed on record that the office of the Okyeame is not only about being the spokesperson of the King. The Okyeame, in fact, is the closest officer and advisor to the King. He may even enter the King’s bedroom without prior permission.
The Okyeame is the ear, nose, mouth and legs of the King. Otumfuor has twelve akyeame, each in his own right occupies his family stool created to serve the occupant of the Golden Stool in the role of Okyeame.
In the more than six decades of his service to Asanteman, Baffour did a lot to help in promoting Asanteman and Ghana as a whole, as His Majesty Otumfuor Osei Tutu II eloquently expressed in his tribute to Baffour on his passing in 2002:
Baffour excelled in his career as an Asante diplomat, a valuable repository of Asante and Ghanaian social, cultural and political history, and a defender of the power of traditional leadership in the face of the onslaught of modern post-colonial politics in Ghana.
Although a traditional ruler, Baffour Akoto was a keen sports enthusiast; in particular football. He never missed his Sunday football matches at the Jackson’s Park in the early years and later the Kumasi Sports Stadium. He chaired the Board of Kumasi Asante Kotoko in the 1940s and is reputed to have given them the red colour for their jersey.
In 1951, he paid to accompany the national football team on their first visit to England. On that trip he travelled a First Class on the “SS Apapa” and brought back lots of gifts to the family on his return to Kumasi. Baffour had a circle of close friends who enjoyed the good life to the full.
They socialised at weekends and on public holidays with garden parties, dances and Black Tie events. White Horse Scotch whisky Cuban cigars, West Indian Calypso and the Gold Coast highlife (E. T. Mensah etc) were the order of the day. The friends were a mixture of entrepreneurs, businessmen, Senior Colonial Officials and administrators.
They included Mr Collingwoode Williams, Mr Kobina Annan, Mr A Acolatse and several other prominent personalities in Kumasi.
I mention these activities to illustrate the point that before entering politics, the life of Baffour transcended traditional boundaries onto modern evolving lifestyles. No wonder the spillage of his activities into the emerging politics of the day.
Baffour Akoto, like many other legendary Ashanti heroes and heroines, had to make some sacrifices to save the Ashanti nation. These included loss of his stool and position as Okyeame. It came as a bombshell on the fateful day of 12 January 1961, when the Asantehene Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II announced that Baffour who was languishing in prison had been destooled and his Butuakwa and Appea Stool abolished.
Many were those who wondered how such a big blow could be dealt someone who had all his life fought to maintain the dignity and sustenance of the Golden Stool and Asanteman.
But Otumfuo, the Asantehene, knew that Baffour would save the Golden Stool at all cost. This was at a time when Nkrumah had declared that chiefs would run away and leave their sandal behind. And when the CPP Government had threatened to break up Asanteman. So, if destooling Baffour was a decision that would avoid such a confrontation to save Asanteman, then why not?
The good news was that the Butuakwa and Appea Kyeame Stool was reinstated and Baffour was reinstalled as the occupant of the stool after the overthrow of the Nkrumah regime in February 1966. The status and privileges of the stool and its occupant were also elevated. Baffour’s office was accorded the special privilege reserved for senior officers in Asanteman.
These included the permitting him to swear the oath of allegiance with the Mponponsuo Sword instead of the Ahwehwebaa Sword. It can be said of Baffour, therefore, that he exemplified the concept of sacrifice, which is replete in Asante history with a legend like Nana Tweneboa Kodua of Kumawu, who sacrificed his very life to save the Ashanti nation.
Another lesson exhibited by Baffour was that in line with his deep knowledge of Akan custom, when his stool was abolished, he never contested it. He did not make any attempt to question the action of the Asantehene.
In Akan custom, deference is accorded the elderly and occupants of higher offices. In line with that principle, when someone is pronounced guilty at the chief’s court, they are required to thank the chief and the elders. That is in recognition and appreciation of their wise decision.
4. BAFFOUR IN POLITICS
Who is a statesman? According to Cambridge Dictionary, a Statesman is ‘An experienced politician, especially one who is respected for making good judgment.’ Baffour’s involvement in politics was short.
His political career was mainly from 1954 to 1957. But it is said that the strength and greatness of a leader are not measured by the longevity of the time during which they are at the pinnacle of power. It is the impact of their office that matters.
The legacy of Baffour Akoto as a politician, and for that matter a statesman, finds expression in the very constitution with which our country is being governed today. Notable amongst them is Article Three (1), which provides that ‘Parliament shall have no power to enact a law establishing a one-party state.’ I should emphasise that, amongst the prime purposes of Baffour Akoto in politics was to help prevent dictatorship in Ghana.
He was anxious that if people who loved freedom sat on the fence, Ghana would one day become a One-Party State; an anxiety which eventually materialised. Had he and his ideological allies like J B Danquah and K A Busia and others not persisted the way they did, the negative impact of the One-Party State as was introduced in 1958 would have been much graver.
Baffour and his colleagues, who now constitute the ancestry of the United Party tradition, were of the considered view that One-Party rule for Ghana, in the light of our traditions, was a step backward from the wisdom of our ancestors. And that where one head constitutes a council, there can only be folly and disorder as Dr Busia observed.
The case for monolithic one-party rule cannot be based on our tradition. It should also be noted that the traditional systems provided alternatives from which to choose; and heads, whether of families, or tribes, or chiefdoms, could be changed by those whom they represented. If we care to learn from our past, we shall find pointers to the solution of our contemporary problems of government, central as well as local. We had foundations for a democratic system of government.
On the invitation of some Ashanti youths and with the support of Asanteman, Baffour founded and led a political movement, the National Liberation Movement (NLM), which eventually became a very formidable alternative political party to the then ruling Convention People’s Party, and which was joined by stalwarts like J B Danquah, K A Busia.
In the 1950s Baffour considered the actions and inactions of government as deceitful and detrimental to the cocoa farmers whose sweat constituted the backbone of the country’s economy. One of the major issues after the 1954 elections had to do with cocoa producer pricing and the tax deductions from cocoa. Nkrumah had promised that the cocoa producer price would be doubled to five pounds per ton.
But eventually the government pegged the price at 72 shillings (three pounds twelve shillings). This enraged cocoa farmers. Their sharp agitation found favour with Baffour Akoto, who himself at the time was one of the biggest cocoa farmers in the country.
The farmers looked up to him to protect their interests. At the same time the youth in Ashanti were getting increasingly concerned with the propaganda which was being waged by the CPP against traditional authority, targeting chiefs in particular. They were anxiously looking for someone in authority to lead them to halt the undermining of the traditional order.
The rising concerns of both the cocoa farmers and the youth (in Ashanti) conspired to pile political pressure on the prominent Baffour Osei Akoto to provide leadership. So it was that on 7th September 1954, he led a large crowd of supporters to slaughter a sheep in the sacred.
River Subin which runs through the centre of Kumasi, to symbolise the birth of the National Liberaton Movement (NLM). This was followed by a huge rally at the Prince of Wales Park near Kejetia attended by hundreds and hundreds of people with many coming from beyond the boundaries of Ashanti.
In sharp contrast to the CPP whose leader, Kwame Nkrumah, had threatened to annihilate the chieftaincy institution, the NLM aligned itself with traditional authorities. Little wonder that the NLM had a strong alliance with the Northern People’s Party, which also had traditional rulers as its core base.
The NLM sought to ensure checks and balances in governance and to put some restraints on the central government. It is gladdening that later constitutions of Ghana appear to have embraced all these ideas proffered by Baffour and his colleagues. It was the NLM together with the Northern People’s Party that formed the foundation of the United Party (UP) from which the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) is rooted.
In the 1956 elections which ushered in Ghana’s Independence on 6th March 1957, six Political Parties were represented in the National Assembly. They were as follows:
Name of Political Party No of Seats
Convention People’s Party (CPP) — 66 seats
Northern People’s Party (NPP) — 14 seats
National Liberation Movement (NLM) — 13 seats
Togoland Congress Party (TCP) — 2 seats
Federation of Youth Organisation (FYO) — 1 seat
Moslem Association Party (MAP) — 1 seat
It is significant to note that of the 31 seats belonging to the five opposition Parties represented in the first post-Independence Parliament (National Assembly), 27 were shared almost in equal measure between the NPP and NLM.
These two Parties formed the core of the drive to form the United Party (UP). They were joined by the three other Parties in Parliament plus the Anglo Youth Organisation (AYO), the Ga-Adangbe Shifimo Kpee (GASK) and other local organisations.
As a founder and leader of the NLM it fell on Baffour in consultation with his Executives to appoint the leader of the 13 members of his party in the new Parliament. Dr K. A. Busia was selected to lead the NLM Members in Parliament. Subsequently Baffour led the discussions which made Dr Busia leader of the 31-Member minority in Parliament.
Baffour Akoto was indeed the power behind the minority in the first Parliament after Independence. In exercising this power, he worked closely with the leader of the Northern People’s Party (NPP), Chief S. D. Dombo who was in Parliament and leaders of the other minority parties in Parliament. So if you talk of the ancestry of the modern New Patriotic Party of the 4th Republic, Baffour Osei Akoto stands tall.
In 1957, the government enacted the Avoidance of Discrimination Act: ‘An Act to prohibit organisations using or engaged in tribal, regional, racial or religious propaganda to the detriment of any other community, or securing the election of persons on account of their tribal, regional or religious affiliations and for other purposes connected therewith.’
Leaders of the opposition parties realised that the prime aim of the law was to disband all political parties except the CPP and introduce a One-party rule in Ghana. Before the law could come into effect on 31st December 1957, in his capacity as the founder of the NLM, Baffour chaired negotiations which convinced the leadership of the other opposition Parties to come together to form one party to be called the United Party (UP).
Given his strategic role in founding and leading the NLM and in playing such a critical part in the negotiations for the formation of the United Party (the precursor of the New Patriotic Party) it is surprising that Baffour Akoto does not even get a mention in contemporary discussion on the history of our political tradition.
There is a gaping hole in contemporary discourse on his enormous contribution. I would like to use this platform to appeal to the leadership of the New Patriotic Party to take urgent steps to rectify this omission by recognising the contribution of Baffour Akoto in the political development of our tradition.
The guiding principle of the NLM was in tandem with a phrase in what became the national pledge, upon Ghana’s independence, ‘to resist oppressor’s rule….’ The NLM indeed sought to resist oppression and suppression and to ensure true freedom for the Ghanaian.
The NLM advocated federalism, a concept that was informed by the time tested Asante or Akan political system that permitted each state (Oman) to enjoy some amount of autonomy in economic and political terms.
Federalism, as was advocated by Baffour, anchored on the belief that every part of the nation would contribute into the national treasury according to its means and that the total national cake would be shared in such a way that each region would receive according to its needs.
In 1956, the NLM and its allied parties, led by Baffour accepted a proposal by the colonial authorities for general elections before independence instead of the request for a federal constitution.
This was a difficult situation but Baffour thought deep into the future and convinced his colleagues to accept that offer. His prime motive was for the NLM and other opposition Parties to get a voice in Parliament.
Although the call for federalism did not materialise, it yielded some useful results as it led to devolution of powers to the regional authorities at Independence. This arrangement did not last as the CPP rode a coach and horses through it soon after Independence.
It was that concept that has become the basis of the current decentralisation in Ghana, also known as Local Government in which we have Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies, which are coordinated by the Regional Coordinating Councils. At the time that the CPP Government was nursing an ambition to monopolise power in Ghana, it was men like Baffour Osei Akoto who stood up against the emerging dictatorship. And they suffered for it.
Re: Akoto & 7 Others
One of the notable issues that underpinned the political life of Baffour Osei Akoto was his arrest and detention under the Preventive Detention Act (PDA) and which he sought intervention of the Supreme Court.
After independence, the Convention People’s Party government enforced the infamous PDA, which initially allowed the President to imprison for up to five years people whose activities posed a threat to the security of the state. The period of imprisonment was later increased to 10 years.
According to the law, persons charged under the PDA may not have recourse to a trial. The PDA was renewed in June 1962 and in May 1964. It was abolished after the 1966 coup. It was under the PDA that J B Danquah was arrested and kept in cells meant for prisoners who have been condemned to die for their crimes till his death in prison in 1965.
Section 2(1) of the Preventive Detention Act of 1958 provides that:
The President may order the detention of any person who is a citizen of Ghana if satisfied that the order is necessary to prevent that person from acting in a manner prejudicial to:
a) the defence of Ghana.
b) the relations of Ghana with other countries.
c) the security of the state
On 11th November 1959, Baffour Akoto, then senior Okyeame of the Asantehene and seven other Ghanaians were arrested and summarily detained without trial under the PDA.
The seven persons were Peter Alex Danso, Osei Asibey Mensah, Nana Antwi Boasiako, Joseph Kwadwo Antwi-Kusi, Benjamin Kwaku Owusu, Andrew Kwadwo Edusei and Halidu Kramo.
In the book, ‘Historical Dictionary of Ghana,’ the author justly states the PDA set the course of dictatorship in Ghana. There are hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians today who, if given the chance, would narrate the harrowing effect of the PDA on their lives and their families as a result of the thousands of people, notably parents, guardians and bread winners who were incarcerated under thar law.
The allegations for the detention of Baffour and his colleagues were that they encouraged the commission of acts of violence in Ashanti and Brong Ahafo and associated with persons who had adopted a policy of violence as a means of achieving political aims in those regions.
Dr J B Danquah, counsel for the suspects applied to the High Court for (habeas corpus) the release of the suspects to enable them appear before the court for trial.
This was refused by the High Court. Danquah invoked the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for interpretation of Article 13(1) of the 1960 constitution, which provided amongst other things that the President on assuming office shall make a declaration that he will ensure the safety and security of all persons in Ghana without discrimination.
The Supreme Court, speaking through Arku Korsah JSC, held that the said provision of constitution was a mere declaration of the President and unenforceable in a law court. This decision of the apex court has since been criticised by legal scholars as retrogressive because it gave the then President an unfettered power to trample on the fundamental rights of Ghanaians.
It is not for nothing, therefore, that various Law faculties in Ghana as well as the Ghana School of Law, organise Re Akoto Memorial Lectures, debates, and moot courts.
In view of the unpleasant outcome of Re Akoto, the framers of the 1992 Constitution have broadened the frontiers of human rights law in Ghana such that the chapter on human rights–Chapter Five (Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms) is not only entrenched but open-ended and has also been made explicit and enforceable by the law courts. The decision of Baffour not to sleep on his rights but to test the constitutionality of the PDA by invoking the interpretational powers of the Supreme Court was legendary.
May that remarkable legacy provoke us all to think of something memorable that would survive us when we are no more. These may include the fight against corruption, environmental degradation, breaking of the cycles of poverty, ignorance and diseases.
In conclusion, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the life and works of Baffour Osei Akoto entreat us all to cultivate the virtue of courage to banish elements that may jeopardise the progress of the nation. He did not wait for any sophisticated weapons to accomplish all these legacies. What he possessed were bravery, oratorical and rhetorical competence, which underpins the importance of language in governance and cultural transmission. Everyone is endowed with some skills, ideas or knowledge with which they can achieve something remarkable. That he challenged the dictatorial tendencies of the times points to the innate quest of all individuals – regardless of the academic achievements – to fight for human dignity. In our time too, there are many areas that threaten our very lives and survival and the wellbeing of posterity. These include corruption of all forms, environmental degradation, the fast eroding values including discipline, care for humanity and neighbourliness, which our forefathers bequeathed to us. Let us think and act in ways that would inure to the greater good of society so that some day when we are no more, like Baffour, society would consider it apt to continue our good works.
As a traditional ruler, Baffour, the Senior Okyeame of the Asantehene played an instrumental role in helping to deepen chieftaincy and culture. Even his going into politics was, to a large extent, driven by his resolve to help sustain the legitimacy of Ghana’s traditional institutions and he succeeded in resisting the efforts to reduce the prestige and authority of the Ghanaian chief.
By Akan traditions, an Okyeame is someone who is endowed with the skills of oratory, wit and mastery of the language. To a very large extent, he must also be knowledgeable about the history of the state. And one must be at the apex of these traits to be the okyeame of the Asantehene. These, therefore, point out the place and persona of Baffour Osei Akoto in terms of traditional leadership.
His Excellency Busumuru Kofi Annan, the late Secretary-General of the UN, in his tribute to Baffour admonished:
‘The greatest tribute we can pay to his memory is for each and every one of us to do all we can to preserve for posterity, as he did, the best in our traditions, cultures and societies, thereby enriching all humankind.’
In the area of politics, Baffour Akoto was one of the leading founders of the United Party tradition which has now become Danquah-Dombo- Busia Tradition. It was the NLM, the party formed by Baffour Akoto, which together with the NPP led by Dombo, that formed the nucleus of the other political parties that merged to form the UP in 1956.
Baffour helped to lay the foundation for multiparty democracy in Ghana. As a generational thinker and futuristic person, he accepted, in 1956, the proposal for general election in the hope that even if his party did not form government, it would have representatives who would offer alternative ideas for national development and to ensure that Ghana remained a multiparty democracy.
At the time that the liberty of the Ghanaian was being eroded with the introduction of one-party rule in Ghana, Baffour and his colleagues fought to reverse that trend because it was incongruent to our traditions and that policy was bound to deprive the citizenry of their rights and freedoms.
In his quest to defend the liberty of his fellow citizens, he lost his personal liberty and suffered imprisonment and loss of his ancestral duty as a chief. But years on, one party rule has been exorcized. That is a remarkable legacy of Baffour and all those who fought the gallant battle with him.
What Baffour and his ideological allies sought for Ghana was to establish in the country a government based on true democracy, constitutional governance, the rule of law, sound democratic institutions, the freedom of the individual and a national economic development in which the private sector played the dominant role. These elements now form the foundations of Ghana’s constitution.
In law, one of the notable case studies in Ghana is Re Akoto, a matter which nearly dented the image of the apex court of the land. It was through Re Akoto that the constitutionality of a law passed by Parliament on the due interpretation of a constitutional provision in Ghana was tested and thus, paved the way eventually to human rights to assume an entrenched position in Ghana’s constitution.
I am sure that our friends in the legal fraternity would agree with me that many of the provisions in the 1992 Constitutions, and indeed, the Constitutions post 1966, were informed by historical antecedents.
Notable amongst them is the provision that prohibits ‘one party’ rule in Ghana. Undoubtedly, the wisdom to abolish one-party rule stemmed from the lessons of the bad experiences of that concept in the First Republic and its concomitant human rights abuses as suffered Baffour Akoto and several others.
Another area that Baffour Akoto’s life influenced society was his deep love and concern for farmers. He was a farmer himself and he championed the cause of cocoa farmers.
Baffour’s position and role in the struggle for Ghana’s independence is reflected by the Daily Graphic publication of 24 September 1956, in which he pointed out that the National Liberation Movement and its allies were not opposed to Gold Coast independence and underscored that what the NLM was asking for was an agreed constitution for a self-governing Gold Coast.
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Funeral Brochure for the late Baafour Osei Akoto
Oquaye, Mike. Politics In Ghana, 1972 – 79, Accra
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Oquaye, Mike. Politics in Ghana 1982-1992, Accra
Tornado Publications, 200
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The Inaugural Speech of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo
The 1960 Constitution of Ghana