The Danquah Final Funeral Rites Committee leading the commemoration of 50 years of the death of Dr. Joseph Boakye Danquah, has been asked by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government not to dare visiting the Nsawam Medium Security Prisons, where he died in detention for any ceremony whatsoever.
One of Ghana’s foremost statesmen, JB Danquah, as he was affectionately called, died on February 4, 1965 after being detained without trial by the Convention People’s Party (CPP) government led by Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
The committee, chaired by Prof. Mike Aaron Oquaye, a former Member of Parliament (MP), in a letter dated January 22, requested the government to permit them embark on what they termed “commemorative visit” to the prisons but the Ministry of the Interior said the request had been declined on the basis that the facility was a security zone.
“The matter was referred to the National Security Council and the Ghana Prisons Service who have both advised that the prisons are security zones and therefore such requests should not be acceded to. Your visit to Nsawam Prisons is declined,” Mrs. Adelaide Anno-Kumi, chief director at the ministry, stated in a letter she signed on behalf of the minister, Mark Owen Woyongo and copied to the National Security Coordinator and the Director-General of Ghana Prisons Service.
Dr. Danquah a politician, lawyer, journalist, poet, historian and philosopher who is referred to by many as a ‘great light’ and ‘the flower of West African scholarship,’ died at 6:30 am 50 years ago in a condemned cell No. 9 at the Nsawam Prisons.
He was first detained under the Preventive Detention Act (PDA) on October 3, 1961 and released on June 22, 1962. On 8 January 1964, Dr. Danquah was again arrested, detained and died, having suffered a heart attack.
According to extracts from the report of the Commission of Enquiry into Ghana Prisons, 1967-1968, “The life of Dr. JB Danquah in the cells was regimented in the same manner as that of a condemned prisoner awaiting execution … his cell was subjected to frequent rigid searches.”
He has been described by many historians as an indomitable fighter in the cause of human freedom, a patriot whose burning desire throughout his life was to secure independence for the Gold Coast, for which he suggested the name Ghana.
Dr. Danquah’s petition for his release from detention, which eventually reached the desk of President Kwame Nkrumah reads among other things, “Dear Dr. Nkrumah, I am tired of being in prison on prevention detention with no opportunity to make original or any contribution to the progress and development of the country, and I am therefore respectfully writing to beg, and appeal to you, to make an order for my release and return home …. I am here required to sleep or keep lying down on the blankets and a small pillow for the whole 24 hours of the day and night, except for a short period of about five minutes in the morning to empty and wash out my latrine pan …my health being undermined and my life endangered by various diseases without being allowed to be taken to the Prison Hospital for continuous observation and treatment..”
Dr. Danquah’s petition fell on deaf ears. He died at the age of 69, after a most remarkable, busy, selfless and noble life.
He was a central figure in the nationalist movement in the Gold Coast and a leading spokesman of the Gold Coast intelligentsia for more than three decades.
He was closely involved in the main trends of colonial politics in the Gold Coast from the 1930s to the 1950s: the demand for constitutional reform and agitation for self-government, the Gold Coast youth movements which provided, as the renowned political scientist, David Apter has put it, ‘a basis for more serious political organizations along nationalist lines after World War II;’ the establishment and leadership of the first political party in Ghana, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), which put self government prominently on the political agenda, and the fixing of 6 March as Ghana’s Independence Day, in commemoration of the Bond of 1844, signed on 6 March.
“The core of his political ideas was to bring the natural rulers and non-traditional elites together in the struggle towards achievement of Ghana’s independence,” Apter narrated.
Source: William Yaw Owusu/Daily Guide
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