Was the Gold Coast ready for Independence on March 6, 1957? Today, from all indications, and with hindsight, the answer to this question has to be “no.”
According to the history of Ghana, before Ghana was born the Gold Coast had been colonised by almost all of the colonial powers of that era, starting with the Portuguese in the fifteenth century, and ending with close to 100 years of British rule. It goes without saying that the impact of colonialism on the peoples of the Gold Coast was almost unshakeable. Before the historic day, the colony was not only entirely used to colonial administration but also heavily dependent on Britain for all kinds of merchandise and services.
Any local product or service was considered to be inferior to its foreign counterpart. The “white man” was regarded as the one who possessed all the intelligence, ingenuity, and the means to make things happen. Sadly, some folks even elevated the white man to a status almost equal to that of God!
With this kind of mindset, real independence was going to be very hard for the new-born nation of Ghana to attain, I would imagine.
One would have thought that the idea of self-determination, after five centuries of imperialism, would be enthusiastically welcomed by all and sundry. Unfortunately, some Gold Coasters did NOT even like the idea!
Of those who embraced independence, one-half, mainly CPP party members and supporters, claimed it was about time the people of the Gold Coast took their destiny into their own hands. Their rallying cry was “Self-government now!” Even though the other half, the United Party and its supporters, also liked the idea of independence, they maintained that the time was not ripe yet. Maybe they were right.
So one section, at least, of the new country was not fully committed to the idea of an independent Ghana. Just imagine a new country in the making, bitterly divided on a make-or-break issue like sovereignty. It certainly wasn’t a good sign, to put it mildly.
Apart from the disagreement over independence, the political parties had other serious differences as well, the major one being ideology - socialism versus free market economy.
As it turned out, many Ghanaians mistook independence for “self-government” or “freedom.” People overlooked the fact that sovereignty demands self-reliance. Unfortunately, only Kwame Nkrumah and a relatively few people at that time understood what “self-government now” entailed. I wonder how many of Nkrumah’s comrades and party stalwarts understood his vision and the socialist-slanted language in which he expressed it.
In Ghana today far too many Ghanaians, including the top brass, don’t seem to comprehend the demands of our independent nation. To a large extent, we are still unnecessarily dependent on imported expertise and merchandise. How come our mines are still under the management of foreign companies, after six decades of independence? Maybe I am going too far. We still see government contracts being awarded unfairly to foreign contractors, even though local counterparts can do an equally good, or even better, job. The mantra seems to be: “Made-in-Ghana is not good enough; imported-from-overseas is better.” Is this the Ghana our founders bargained for? I doubt.
I would contend that becoming a sovereign nation in 1957 was not a bad idea. However, as we celebrate independence on March 6, I hasten to say that Ghana has failed miserably to take full advantage of her political freedom.
No one realistically expected Ghana to make a clean break with the Gold Coast right from Day One.
However, after nearly six decades of self-rule, Ghana’s dependence on foreigners has hardly changed, compared to what it used to be in the Gold Coast era. It is almost as if the colonialists influenced our thinking to continue relying on them forever!
Yes, Ghana is independent in the sense of autonomy. No big deal. The real challenge is economic independence, which means developing our country to its fullest potential with the resources and workforce that we have, to obviate the overdependence on foreign aid and imports.
Moreover, we need to change the undesirable colonial attitudes, or else we will never achieve real independence.
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