As Ghana commemorate her 62 independence anniversary I remember my 7 days visit to Ghana to explore the beauty of the old Gold Coast. As a proud Nigerian, on my arrival to Accra I paid a courtesy visit to the Nigerian High Commission, though the High Commissioner was not in the office at the time of my visit, I was warmly welcomed by Mr. Osasona Oluropo Obasola, the Minister II Political Matter at the High Commission. He was nice to me and we discussed on so many political issues on Nigeria and Ghana relationship.
The next day, I paid a courtesy visit to Oblempong Nii Kojo Ababio V, though I met the absence of the 96 year old ruler, I was told he was still receiving visitors after his 4th annual WETSE KOJO/KING JAMES Memorial lectures that was held same week of my visit. I was received and welcome by the able Secretary of the palace who is also a first class Chief – NII Akwei Bonso III. (Mr. Ezekiel Quarmina AlloteiCoffei) – Oblempong Nii Kojo Ababio V was born on June 12, 1920 at James Town, British Accra, to the late Mr. William Cofie of Aflagai Shia, Naa Korle We, James Town and Madam Delphina Owoo from the Krotia Division Adjumako of the Royal Stool of Ngleshie Alata (James Town). In 1934 he gained admission to Achimota College to pursue a three year secondary education. During the World War II, he gained admission to University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. He is a Dental Surgeon Licentiate in dentistry at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1949, Scotland. He is a Bronze Medal winner at World Students̕ Games in Paris. As a traditional ruler, Oblempong Nii Kojo Ababio V, he is currently the Senior Advisor of the Greater Accra Regional House of Chiefs which he is a founding member. He has spent over 38 years on the thrown, He is the Paramount Chief and President of Ngleshie Alata Traditional Council. He is also a patron of Accra Great Olympics Football Club.
While in Ghana I met and had a brief deliberation with Mrs. Sherry Ayitey, the Hon Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, I presented to her a copy of my magazine, ‘The National Biographer’ though she wanted the edition that had the Ghanaian President, John Dramani Mahama, I gave her the President Goodluck Jonathan edition, since the Ghana edition was not officially out on the News-stands until November.
I had the privilege to have danced with the ANUNYAM Traditional Music and Dance Troupe, this group makes waves in Accra and its surrounding areas with splendid performances of various traditional pieces laced with their own variations. The group is led by Nii Afotey Odai, the group has in its repertoire, pieces such as “Adzogbo”, “Mandela”, “Tigari”, “Burundi”, “Nokona” and “Adiagba”, which they have performed to cheering and enthusiastic audiences. I was honoured to be adorned in one of their colourful traditional dance wrapper, a group you will love to watch as they perform.
Then I visited the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and memorial park, I presented to the Mausoleum a framed photograph of Dr Kwame Nkrumah and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, taken in 1959. The gift was received by Mr. Edward Quaw, Principal Curator of the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park. He told me that though they have a photo of the two great leader, it was a thing of joy to have me come all the way from Nigeria with a gift for donation to the the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, we hugged and exchange contact addresses.
The Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and memorial park located in downtown Accra, Ghana was designed by Don Aurthur, It’s made up of Italian marble, with a black star at its apex to symbolize unity. It is erected in memory of Osagyefo (the Messiah) Doctor Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president and one of its founding fathers. Built on a former British polo field, it was the point where Nkrumah declared independence in 1957. The park consists of five acres of land and holds a museum tracing Nkrumah’s life. It is surrounded by water which is a symbol of life and music makers in all forms. Events are held on Independence Anniversary celebrations on 6 March and the Celebration of Emancipation Day on 1 August. I also visited the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and memorial park, centerpiece the final resting place of Nkrumah and his wife. It is made up of marble flooring and marble grave surrounded by ocean washed rocks. At the top is skylight that illuminates the graves.
If we recall on February 24, 1966, the government of President Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown in a coup, led by Colonel E.K. Kotoka, Major A.A. Afrifa, Lieutenant General (retired) J.A. Ankra, and Police Inspector General J.W.K. Harlley. During the coup, there were riots and destructions, one event that remained remarkable was the beheading of the statue of President Nkrumah, today at the memorial stands the headless body of the great leader. When I asked the Principal curator why they have not joined the head back to the body, he explained to me, that it is more historic leaving the headless body the way it is. The bronze status was originally in front of the Old Parliament House, Accra, it was vandalized during the February 24th 1966 military/Police coup d’état. The head was taken away but was returned by a patriotic Ghanaian on May 28, 2009, it was mounted on the Park on September 1, 2009.
The Mausoleum and memorial park also hosts President Kwame Nkrumah’s official car, and several other materials used by President Nkrumah while he served as the president of Ghana, his dress, shoes, bed, table, telephone set. There are several tress planted in the Mausoleum and memorial park for remembrance among them is a ‘Lignum Vitae” (tree of Life) planted by the Nigeria Hon. Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu.
I also visited the Independence square or Black Star Square, the celebration venue for Ghana independence anniversary, the square has an eternal flame. Ghana gained independence in 1957, and they are 62 today.
I visited their National Museum, and saw the wonderful display of Ghana’s culture and history including the slave-trade, and Ashanti Kingdom. Then at the Makola Market, it was like visiting Onitsha market in eastern Nigeria, the market had absolutely everything and anything you may wish to buy.
From there I left for ‘Osu Castle’, built at about the 17th century, it was primarily used in the gold and ivory trade, but under Dano-Norwegian control it increasingly dealt with slaves, it has been used for different purposes like for storing slaves before shipping and as headquarters for Danish Gold Coast. Portugal, Denmark, the Akwamu ethnic group of Ghana, Britain and more had occupied the castle in the last 300 years. For example Asamani, the Akwamu leader, in 1693 occupied the Fort for a year, trading with merchants from many nations. In 1694, Asamani sold the Fort back to Denmark-Norway for 50 marks of gold (400 troy ounces, worth £200,000 to £250,000 in 2008) but retained the keys, which are still in the ethnic group’s possession to this day. In the 1770s, the Danes at Osu became involved in a conflict with Dutch-controlled Accra because of the castle. In 1850, the British bought all of Denmark’s Gold Coast possessions for £10,000 (between £850,000 and £1.5m in 2007), including Fort Christiansborg. An 1862, earthquake destroyed most of the upper floors, which were rebuilt in wood. Later that century, the castle became the seat of the colonial government. In 1950, the wooden upper floors were rebuilt according to the original Danish plans. In 1957, when Ghana became independent, with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State, the Fort became Government House, the residence of the Governor-General. When Ghana became a republic in 1960, it became the residence of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah. Osu Castle as the seat of government hosted many international dignitaries: including Queen Elizabeth II, U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. President John Kufuor moved the seat of government out of Osu, even with that there is still heavy security in that area. It is open to tourists but no photos inside and outside for it many controversial history. I also visited the statue of the blessed memory of the early Basel Missionaries who first landed at OSU (Christiansborg) 1828 and tragically died within months of arrival and in commemoration of the site of site of the first chapel of the Basel Mission.
I visited the ‘Ussher Fort’ in Accra, Ghana, built by the Dutch in 1649 as Fort Crèvecœur, it was one of three forts that Europeans built in the region during the middle of the 17th century, it was part of the Dutch Gold Coast, until the Anglo-Dutch Gold Coast Treaty (1867), which defined areas of influence on the Gold Coast, transferred it to the British in 1868. It was used as a slave port lust like all other Forts in Ghana, located in Usshertown, east of the Korle Lagoon, the area was heavily developed by the end of the 19th century but today it is a fishing community inhabited primarily by the ‘Ga’. there is heavy presence of neglect and decay but it is obviously a place of attraction for tourist like us due to the presence of colonial remnants. The James Fort, was not left out.
I walked through the ‘DOOR OF NO RETURN’ like we have the POINT OF NO RETURN in Badagry, Lagos Nigeria, it was said that once a captured person crosses this door, he or she is a sure slave heading out of Ghana. From there I entered the ‘Dark room’, once u walk pass the DOOR OF NO RETURN’, you will enter inside this room and be kept there for at least 24 hours. it’s a dark room with a tiny opening on the wall big enough to enter only a hand, but even with that, it has an iron cross bar to it, by the time a slave is brought out, he descends the staircase into a waiting ship out of Ghana. I also visited the Slavery museum set up by KID N’ TEENS Ltd. sponsored by UNESCO in collaboration with EU Commission under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relation. It contains photos and history of 400 years old slavery in Ghana, you need to visit it to appreciate slave trading. then the shocking part was visiting the electrocution room, this is where hardened prisoners were electrocuted on a chair after the slave fort became a prison, the chair is missing but you can see the remains of the electricity unit. Before the introduction of electricity, hardened slaves were beaten to death in this room. u can call it ‘Room of Horror’
At the slave market inside Ussher Fort in Accra, Ghana, I saw iron chains fixed to the ground. A slave is chained to the iron in the market, come rain or sun until he or she is bought. The prices varies from, a tin of sardine, a pack of matches, mirror, a bottle of gin, Tobacco, gun-powder, umbrella pottery, woollen cloth, iron, brass pans and many others, including Manila iron money. I went into the kitchen and walked into several of the rooms for slaves, each tiny room accommodated as much as 20-50 slaves depending on the number of slaves available at a given time. then I came out and relaxed at the balcony of Ussher Fort in Accra, Ghana facing the Atlantic ocean. Probably the spot the Colonial slave masters stood to bid farewell to his shipload of slaves as they depart to the unknown world.
I paid my last respect to the former President of Ghana, Dr. John Evans Atta Mills, by his grave side, may his soul, continue to rest in peace. From there I had the privilege of been hosted by former President Jerry John Rawlings in his house for 1 hour and17 minutes.
Coincidentally during my visit the world observed the UN World Food Day, so I represented Nigeria at the United Nations World Food Day held in Accra Ghana, The World Food Day highlight the 2016 theme, “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.
Tired, I had to look for somewhere to relax the sun was hot in fact it was raining sun and all I needed was to cool down, then I saw this Jamaican looking Ghanaian, with his table of coconuts. Coconut business is good business in Ghana and Togo so I observed, young men pushing their four wheeled wooden truck of fresh supply of the fresh coconuts about. Coconut water contains nutrients that helps in Weight-loss Efforts, because it contains less fat content. it helps in building a perfect skin. it helps to facilitates Digestion, boosts hydration, reduces blood pressure and its compatible with human blood among many others, to quickly rehydrate the human body if administered intravenously. My seven days were remarkable and fun filled, my tour guard Mr. Solomon, a young wonderful man so also is Dr Donaldson the Personal Assistant to President J. J. Rawlings a complete gentleman. I love the people of Ghana and will love to visit again. Happy 62nd Independence day for all my Ghanaian friends and family.
Dr Raphael James is a Nigerian based tourist documenting tourist sites across Africa