It was independence that brought this multitude of illustrious
persons to Ghana. But what brought independence itself to Ghana. The story of the
Gold Coast’s journey to freedom is an epic one; and, for centuries, its outcome
The Portuguese traders, who landed on the coast at Elmina during the late fifteenth
century in search of gold, could not be expected to foresee the golden scenes of
6th March 1957. Nor could the slave traders of eighteenth century, who shipped twenty
million slaves from West Africa, be expected to believe that in less than three
hundred years, the sons of the Gold Coast would be cabinet ministers not slaves.
But what is remarkable, and perhaps unique in the records of human emancipation,
is that even as late as 1950, few would have dared to predict that a man who was
at that time languishing inside one of His Majesty's prisons, would, within seven
breathless years, be welcoming Her Majesty's special representative, in his capacity
of Prime Minister of the first independent African State within the Commonwealth.
Yet this is not a political fairy-tale, fitted with a happy ending. This is history,
with a happy ending, which had to be fought for, and won. The struggle for independence
had to be lived forwards by successive generations of the peoples of the Gold Coast.
But the struggle can perhaps be best understood if it is traced backwards. Independence
came on 6th March 1957. The fact that this was to be the day of days had been learned
by most of the population from a broadcast on 18th September 1956. On that day,
the announcer read the dispatch from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to
the Governor of the Gold Coast. Dr Nkrumah had read the Prime Minister the message,
a few hours previously, to the Legislative Assembly, the Prime Minister.
Her Majesty's Government will at the first available opportunity introduce into
the United Kingdom Parliament a Bill to accord independence to the Gold Coast and,
subject to Parliamentary approval, Her Majesty's Government intend that independence
should come about on the 6th March 1957.
The people's reaction to this epoch-making, matter-of-fact message was described
by a writer in the magazine, Drum: For a moment, until the words registered in people's
minds, there was a deafening silence. The came the earthquake of emotion that made
the sea hesitate from breaking on the beach. That, some say brought a rain of Coconuts
tumbling from the trees. That made the very lizards scurry for cover. That, some
mothers will tell you, made their unborn babies kick with joy in their wombs...