The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Afriyie Osei Akoto, has encouraged Ghanaians to adopt positive thinking that would inure to the greater good of society, while endeavouring to leave behind legacies that would benefit both current and future generations.
Dr Afriyie Akoto particularly urged the citizenry to emulate the life and works of Baffour Osei Akoto, and cultivate the virtue of courage to banish elements that jeopardise the progress of the nation.
He was speaking at the 16th edition of the ‘Re-Akoto Memorial Lecture’ organised by the Ghana School of Law at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) yesterday.
The annual lecture is used to commemorate the significance of the classic case of ‘Re: Akoto and 7 others’ in Ghana’s constitutional dispensation. The Memorial Lecture was instituted by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, who is also the life patron of the Student Representative Council (SRC) of the Ghana School of Law. The lecture seeks to promote research and educate the citizenry on the development of Ghana’s constitutional democracy and human rights.
This year’s anniversary was held on the theme ‘The legacy of Baffour Osei Akoto: A Family Man, A Chief and A Statesman’.
Dr Afriyie Akoto, who is the 18th son of the late Baffour Osei Akoto, noted that there are many challenges that threaten lives, survival and the posterity of the nation, which call for the active participation of the entire citizenry to resolve.
“These include corruption of all forms, environmental degradation, the fast eroding values, including discipline, care for humanity and neighbourliness, which our forefathers bequeathed to us,” he said.
He noted that Baffour Akoto, as then Senior Okyeame of the Asantehene, played an instrumental role in helping to deepen chieftaincy and culture and to leave lasting legacy for generations.
“He did not wait for any sophisticated weapons to accomplish all these legacies. What he possessed were bravery, oratorical and rhetorical competence, which underpins the importance of language in governance and cultural transmission.
“Everyone is endowed with some skills, ideas or knowledge with which they can achieve something remarkable. That he challenged the dictatorial tendencies of the times points to the innate quest of all individuals – regardless of the academic achievements – to fight for human dignity,” he added.
The late Baffour Akoto was instrumental in laying the foundation for multiparty democracy in Ghana. He was one of the leading founders of the United Party tradition, the precursor to the recent-day New Patriotic Party.
He formed the National Liberation Movement (NLM), which joined forces with other parties such as the Northern People’s Party (NPP) to oppose the dictatorial tendencies of the Nkrumah government.
Dr Afriyie Akoto noted that the liberty of the Ghanaian was eroded with the introduction of obnoxious laws such as the one-party rule, saying it took people like Baffour Akoto and his colleagues to fight to reverse the trend.
“He was a farmer himself and he championed the cause of cocoa farmers. Baffour’s position and role in the struggle for Ghana’s independence is reflected by the Daily Graphic publication of 24 September 1956, in which he pointed out that the National Liberation Movement and its allies were not opposed to Gold Coast independence and underscored that what the NLM was asking for was an agreed constitution for a self-governing Gold Coast,” he said.
Re-Akoto and 7 others
Re-Akoto is a case that sought to challenge the powers of Kwame Nkrumah and the constitutionality of the Preventive Detention Act (PDA). The Act gave the first President the power to arrest and jail, without trial, any Ghanaian he considered a threat to the country and his presidency.
Under the Act, people like JB Danquah, Arko Adjei, Obetsebi Lamptey, among others, were jailed without trial. Baffour Osei Akoto and seven others were also picked and thrown into prison without trial.
When Baffour Akoto filed a case at the court to challenge the power of the President and the constitutionality of the Act, the court dismissed the case.
Thus, Re-Akoto has been criticised by many scholars as the court’s failure to uphold the rights of the citizens as against abuses by the executive branch.
Re-Akoto is seen as the first case that tested the constitutional interpretation powers of the Supreme Court.
The effect of Re-Akoto, many believe, led to the 1966 coup, and ensured significant changes in subsequent constitutions of the country, especially the 1992 Constitution.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, also speaking at the event, charged law makers to be guarded by the effect of laws and systems placed on the ordinary people. He asked them to be guided by the bad decision in Re-Akoto when making laws for the country.
Prof Aaron Michael Oquaye, a former Speaker of Parliament, noted that the meaning and relevance of Baffuor Osei Akoto is that this cry will continue to resonate in Ghana whenever autocracy rears its ugly head.
He added that Ghana’s constitutional order is a tribute to Baffuor Osei Akoto, J B Danquah and others, saying when Ghanaians read with sweet assurance that they have a legal right to demonstrate, we should not be oblivious that this is the result of the struggles of many faithful departed.
“Whenever the NPP cries ‘Development in Freedom’, we are saying that freedom is the innate catalyst which releases the best attributes of humankind for development. When Ghanaians delight in the 1992 Constitution, which upholds fundamental human rights, we should spare a thought for Baffuor and several others and delight in the Akufo-Addo Constitution of 1969 – the Charter of Liberty. This, the NPP will forever uphold. This Ghana will forever uphold. This is worthy of celebration,” he said.