When I walked into the Osu Ebenezer Presbyterian Church Hall last Thursday evening and was handed the programme line up, one name that caught my attention was J.B Danquah Adu. I had not heard that name before.
My friend, Abyna-Ansaa Adjei, was launching her book, Things Every Child of Ghana Should Know About Dr. J.B. Danquah. And she had invited me to attend. I was not a great fan of Dr. J.B. Danquah. I am one of the devotees of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and would naturally tilt towards the Convention People’s Party’s ideology instead of the United Gold Coast Convention, of which the likes of Dr. J.B. Danquah played an important role in founding. So in the needless rivalry between Nkrumah and the Danquah-Busia traditionalists, I often stand in the Nkrumah camp.
At that book launch, however, I came to realize that Dr. J.B. Danquah has been one of the most interesting characters in the political drama of our republic. You may not like him and his ideology but you cannot ignore his contribution to the democracy of our nation. He is credited with the name of our republic – Ghana – and suggested 6th March as the date for our independence in 1957, as recounted in Abyna-Ansaa’s book.
In 1943 when the colonial government appointed the Rt. Hon. Walter Elliot committee to research and advise it on the need to establish a university in West Africa, the Committee “produced two reports – the Majority report and the Minority report. The Majority report said that there should be three universities in West Africa – one in the Gold Coast, one in Nigeria and one in Sierra Leone. And the Minority report said there should be one university in Ibadan, a city in Nigeria, where students of all three countries could attend university.”
To the surprise of many, the British government accepted the minority report that said the university be established only in Nigeria. This did not go down with Dr. J.B. Danquah, who made a long and passionate argument in parliament in favour of a university in the Gold Coast. Part of his argument, quoted in page 54 of the book reads as follows:
“…The Gold Coast is not Nigeria and never could be! Achimota is not Yaba or Ibadan and never could be… Sir, for purely cultural reasons, I conceive that the Gold Coast, ‘a proud little country with a good reason for being proud’ will never, and can never and shall never be proud of a university situated at Ibadan and not at Achimota. And for this reason alone, this superlative cultural reason, I support the motion for a committee to be set up by your Excellency to look carefully into Dispatch No.169 and to make recommendations, recommendations to suit our Gold Coast tradition, our Achimota tradition.”
Dr. J.B. Danquah was part of the committee he proposed. And the result of their work was what led to the establishment of the University of Gold Coast, now the University of Ghana.
While some excerpts of J.B. Danquah’s profound writings and speeches were projected on the screen in the course of the programme, I developed more interest in the man. And that curiosity extended to one of the names on the programme line up, Hon. J.B. Danquah Adu. This person, I thought, had some relationship with the great man who was being celebrated, but I didn’t know exactly how they were related. I would later learn that he was the grandson of the Ghanaian political legend.
He was introduced as the Member of Parliament for the Abuakwa North Constituency of the Eastern Region and his role was to say the closing prayer for the occasion.
When he mounted the podium to give the vote of thanks, I noticed him for the first time. I hadn’t heard about him. He was not one of the active members of parliament; neither was he an influential member of the NPP, in my estimation. When he spoke, he did not exude the quality that I had learnt that evening about the man he was named after. That Thursday night was the first time I heard about him and saw him in person and his association with the great politician I had only begun to admire that night.
It therefore hit me hard when, barely three days after knowing that a J.B. Danquah existed in modern day politics, Joy FM broke the story that he had been stabbed to death in his home. From preliminary investigation and reports, it appears whoever went to murder the MP in that gruesome way was not a robber or a thief. It appears the purpose of the assailant was to kill. And he succeeded in leaving in the hearts of J.B. Danquah’s family members indescribable pain and agony. While the police hunt for his killers and we sympathize with his friends and family, it is also important to remind ourselves of our fleeting nature on this planet.
These are lessons that should humble us and teach us to love, and not to hate. To help prolong life, and not to snatch life from people we hate. If only we knew what tomorrow held for us, we would not strive to outdo one another in unhealthy competitions for wealth or power. All is vanity and chasing after the wind as the Bible teaches us.
Before J.B. Danquah gave the vote of thanks last Thursday night he told the gathering, who were mainly NPP sympathizers that “ten months from now” the party would be jubilating. “Akufo-Addo will be moving to the Flagstaff House Insha Allah!” he prophesied. His party members cheered him and clapped.
I am sure he knew he would be re-elected by his constituents to return to parliament. He also may have been fantasying about the return of his party to power in ten months. But he did not live another week. He died painfully.
We all will die. That is certain. What is uncertain is how and when we would go. Whether it is violent or peaceful, there is no guarantee that we will all die in old age. On Monday when I closed from work and got home, the first message I saw on Facebook broke my heart. A pretty young woman who was my mate at the Ghana Institute of Journalism was gone. I couldn’t believe it so I called a friend to verify. It is true, she said. Agnes Chukwu is gone. We are told she fell ill.
Sometimes such news of sudden and tragic departures of our loved ones makes rank nonsense of all human aspirations and endeavours. Deaths of such nature sometimes make us question whether life is worth the struggle and the hard work we put into it. After all, tomorrow is not guaranteed. But we should not live in fear and abandon our goals or refuse to enjoy life.
What those who plot to destroy others like what they have done to J.B. Danquah should remember is that they will not outlive eternity. They will not turn into stones themselves. So they should not feel triumphant. Even if they escape the law, they cannot escape the wrath of God. Sometimes their end is more miserable than the lives they cut short. Martin Amidu once told me the reason he does not fear death. “When I am dead I will not know that I ever lived,” he said. The pain is often suffered by family and friends. Pain does not last forever. Time will finally heal and life will continue. But the murderer and destroyer of other lives will not go unpunished.
Sudden deaths such as this remind us that when that moment comes, we don’t have time to write or amend our wills. We don’t go away with the wealth we gather. Moment’s like this should remind us to eschew greed, hatred and unhealthy competition.
Knowing how short and temporary our stay on earth is should teach us to love and help others. It should teach us to make our world a better place than we came to meet it. J.B. Danquah Adu did not live to see the outcome of his Thursday night prophecy. And you may not live to see how your plans for the next one, two or five years will turn out to be. But you have what it takes to make someone smile today while you have life. It may cost you something. Or nothing. But it is worth it.
May the soul of J.B. Danquah Adu rest in peace.
The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a senior broadcast journalist with Joy 99.7 FM. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.