The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, says Ghana, and, indeed, Africa, has not seen a more far-sighted political thinker than Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia.
Speaking at the 40th anniversary of the death of Ghana’s Prime Minister of the 2nd Republic, on Tuesday, 28th August, 2018, at the Accra International Conference Centre, President Akufo-Addo noted that the overthrow of the Progress Party Government meant that Ghana was deprived of the full impact of Dr. Busia’s agenda for development.
“Decades have gone to show that we turned out to be the poorer for it. We can imagine, for example, where our nation would have been now if he had been given the opportunity to develop his visionary programme of rural development,” he said.
He continued, “Some of the ills of contemporary Ghana, such as rural-urban migration, which has been the source of much current social tension, could well have been avoided.”
Dr. Busia’s emergence onto Ghana’s nation’s political scene coincided with the period when one-party state ideologies were dominant on the continent and appeared to be more appealing and relevant to developing economies.
In his book, “The Challenge of Africa”, written in 1962, at the height of the Cold War, Dr. Busia argued against the post-colonial myth, propounded, with convenient ease, by Africa’s first generation of leaders, that multiparty democracy was allegedly a luxurious western concept alien to African society.
Dr. Busia is quoted as saying “The principles of democracy – freedom of speech, including the right to criticise and to make propaganda against the government; freedom of assembly and association, including the freedom to organise opposition parties and to propose alternative governments; freedom of the people to choose their governments at general elections and to change them peacefully; freedom of religion; freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment without trial; the rule of law; guarantees for human rights and civil liberties – all these principles of parliamentary government are universal. They can be adopted and applied by any nation that chooses to do so. They can be institutionalized in any culture.”
According to President Akufo-Addo, Dr. Busia was unequivocal that democracy cannot endure if the leaders and the people are not committed to it; if they do not understand it, or if they are not sincere to its principles.
“He believed that democracy could, and must work in this country, and it was for this reason that patriots such as himself, Joseph Boakye Danquah, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey, Edward Akufo-Addo, William Ofori-Atta, S.D. Dombo, B.K. Adama, Baffour Osei Akoto, Victor Owusu, R.R. Amponsah, Joe Appiah, Osei Baidoo, Oheneba Kow Richardson, S.G. Antoh, Modesto Apaloo, Ashie Nikoi, Attoh Okine and others, risked their lives to fight against the asphyxiation of our freedom, and the incapacity of our parliamentary system to defend it,” he said.
In President Akufo-Addo’s view, Dr. Busia believed that democracy is consolidated when a majority of the people believe that democracy is the best form of government, or, in Churchill’s words, “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”.
“He worked through the Centre for Civic Education to popularise the notion of democratic citizenship, to induce the citizenry to invest in nation-building, to believe in the rule of law and the propriety of acting properly in the national interest, to combat corruption and lawlessness, and to manifest pride in nationhood,” the President added.
President Akufo-Addo continued, “Whilst his opponents, especially those who held the reins of power in the 1st Republic, were fearful of individual freedom as potentially an unbridled license for adversity and distraction, Dr. K.A. Busia viewed freedom as a great ally of progress.”
As one of the three legendary founders of the Danquah-Dombo-Busia political tradition, from which the New Patriotic was borne, President Akufo-Addo indicated further that “Dr. Busia believed that individual freedoms were not just about the space and ability to speak freely, associate and assemble freely, and to vote freely, important as they are, but also about their capacity to stimulate enterprise, creativity and innovation, and, thereby, provide the inspiration for rapid economic development.”
Dr. Busia, the President concluded, “dreamt of a Ghanaian nation at peace, prosperous and generous, a beacon of hope to Africa and the world, a proud African lion, striding into the future with confidence, secure in the knowledge that, here on this continent, we are a nation of destiny, an example, not just for our age, but for all ages.”