10 SEPTEMBER 1948, Page 16


Ste,—Since the report of the Watson Commission of Enquiry was pub- lished, a number of people have eitr praised or condemned sections of it. The sections most criticised by British writers with colonial experience are those dealing w:en constitutional reforms; it is asserted by some that the demand for responsible government was not voiced by sane African interests, but by a band of agitators, led by Mr. Kwame Nkrumah. Mr. Nkrumah, we are told, returned to the Gold Coast only three months before the recent disturbances and, furthermore, had been away from the country for some fourteen years. If it is true that Mr. Nkrumah was able to arouse widespread popular feeling in a country about the size of Great Britain and with a scattered population of 4,000,000 and having no fewer than ten principal languages, then Mr. Nkrumah achieved nothing short of a miracle. Moreover, if he was really the moving spirit behind the recent disturbances which followed close on the shooting of unarmed ex-servicemen, then it is fair to conclude that a growing discontent already existed in the Gold Coast and that all that was required was someone to give vocal expression to the feelings of the people.

Six of the leaders of the Gold Coast National Convention have been described as men who wanted to seize power and to see the rule of the " intelligentsia," as opposed to that of the Chiefs. It must be stressed that any attempt to divide Gold Coast society into Chiefs, intelligentsia, and illiterate masses, would prove an impossibility, because the three groups are closely interwoven. Who are these six leaders of the Convention who, without having a single gun between them, are *credited with having sought to seize power in the Gold Coast? They are Dr. J. B. Danquah, Mr. Akufuo-Addo, Mr. William Ofori Atta, Mr. Ako-Adjei, Mr. Nkrumah and Mr. 0. Lamptey. All six men have studied in British institutions, four of them being barristers. Dr. Danquah is a barrister, a brother of the late Nana Sir Ofori Atta (paramount chief of the Akim Abuakwa State) and a representative of the Joint Provincial Council of Chiefs on the Gold Coast Legislative Council. Mr. Akufuo-Addo is a barrister and a son-in-law of the late Nana Sir Ofori Atta. Mr. William Ofori is principal of a State School, son of the late Nana Sir Ofori Atta and grandson of a previous paramount Chief of the Akim Abuakwa State. These are the credentials of some of the men who are accused of trying to push out the Chiefs and take power to themselves.

It is true that Dr. Danquah and many other literate and illiterate Africans have been urging that the Chiefs should not attend the Legisla- tive Council. This general feeling is not based on any opposition to the Chiefs, but springs from a genuine desire to preserve the importance and dignity of the Chiefs. The natural ability and political sagacity of quite a number of the Chiefs are not questioned. The request is being made because: (a) attendance at the Legislative Council meetings involves long absences from one's State and therefore less attention to one's local duties; (b) acrimonious exchanges between a Chief and a non-Chief tend to rob the Chief of much of his dignity; (c) any general ill-feeling towards a Chief in the Legislative Council tends to render him less popular with his own people and undermines his position on the Stool.

Everyone who is fully acquainted with the Gold Coast and understands some of the principal languages of the people cannot help but appreciate the reasons behind the request that Chiefs should elect to stay,out of the Legislative Council. Otumfuo Nana Sir Agyeman Prempeh II, the most important person in the whole of Ashanti, has elected to stay out of both the Legislative and the Executive Councils. This decision has added to his dignity and influence not only in Ashanti, but throughout the whole of the Gold Coast. No one in the Gold Coast today would seriously think of criticising Otumfuo either in the Press or outside the Press.

The late Nana Sir Ofori Atta was often abused both in and out of the Press, and although some colonial administrators praise him for his services to the Government and people of the Gold Coast, his own people of the Akim Abuakwa State know how near he came to being- deprived of the Stool. The late Nana Sir Ofori Atta came to realise that the Legis- lative Council was no place for the traditional head of a State, and there is little doubt that had he lived longer he would have resigned from the Council. The present paramount Chief of Akim Abuakwa, Nana Ofori Atta II, refused to stand for election to the Legislative Council. His importance in Akim Abuakwa and elsewhere in the Gold Coast remains, and, if anything, has increased.

No one in the Gold Coast would seriously suggest that the Chiefs should be deprived of their traditional power and dignity. They are the cus- todians of our traditional cultural heritage and a living force in our society. The Chief's dignity and power have always depended on the extent to which he applies himself to the performance of his local duties, and gains the confidence, respect and affection of his people. Remove him from his. own State and you suspend him in mid-air, and deprive him both of his roots and the source of his power and dignity.—Yours faithfully,