Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye, the immediate-past Speaker of Parliament, says Baffour Osei Akoto, the legendary human rights and political activist, must be celebrated for the role he played in helping to build a democratic Ghana.
“Ladies and gentlemen, anytime we invoke the provisions of the 1992 Constitution (which emanated from the 1969 Constitution, engineered by then Lawyer Akufo-Addo) let us remember Baffour Akoto and others,” Prof. Oquaye stated in a paper he delivered at the 16th edition of the Re-Akoto Memorial Lectures in Kumasi.
“When Ghanaians delight in the 1992 Constitution, which upholds fundamental human rights, and delight in the Akufo-Addo Constitution of 1969 – the Charter of liberty, we should spare a thought for Baffour and several others,” he explained.
The struggles and vociferous nature of Baffour Akoto and that of other political activists who fought against autocratic rule catapulted the country towards the path for the rule of law, Prof Ocquaye said.
“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.”
“The Legacy of Baffour Osei Akoto – a Family Man, Chief and Statesman”, was the theme for the Lectures, organised by the Ghana School of Law, in collaboration with the family of the departed Statesman.
The paper highlighted the significance of Baffuor Osei Akoto in the past and contemporary Ghanaian politics with regard to the political tradition he inspired and belonged to.
Baffour Osei Akoto (1904-2002) was an agriculturalist, traditional ruler and politician.
He was the founder and leader of the National Liberation Movement (1954).
Prof. Oquaye declared: “Freedom is the innate catalyst which releases the best attributes of humankind for development.”
The Former Speaker said democracy and the rule of law represented the cornerstone for any progressive society, emphasising that, “You need the minds of the many to rule a nation.”
“The meaning and the relevance of Baffour Osei Akoto is that this cry will continue to resonate in Ghana, whenever autocracy rears its ugly head.
“And whenever the New Patriotic Party (NPP) cries, ‘Development in Freedom’, we are saying that our constitutional order is a tribute to Baffuor Osei Akoto, Danquah and others.”
He also eulogised the Statesman for his courage, tenacity of purpose, truthfulness and Resilience, even when in detention for seven years.
He explained how the Preventive Detention Act, 1958, was applied by the Nkrumah regime to detain any Ghanaian for five years (later amended to be renewable for further five years) anytime the government was persuaded that a person was committing acts contrary to the security of the State.
“Under the Act, Baffour Osei Akoto, Chief Linguist of the Asantehene, and others were detained. Dr. J.B. Danquah applied to the High Court for the release of the detainees under the Habeas Corpus Act,” the former Speaker recounted.
Highlighting the personality of Baffour Akoto, he said, “Our hero was a self-made man, mechanic, cocoa farmer, businessman, lover of freedom, traditionalist in cultural terms, senior linguist at the Ashanti Palace, very development-conscious and active in social affairs, especially football.”
“He was a proud and prosperous man who looked forward to an independent Ghana of chiefs and people working in close harmony to achieve the maximisation of freedom and development.
“He typified Wights’ observation in 1946 that the Gold Coast people find themselves the pioneers of political advance and the touchstone of political competence in Africa,” Prof. Oquaye observed.
He emphasised that “anytime a Ghanaian invoked his/her right to bail, the right against inhuman treatment, among others, let that Ghanaian, no matter the political persuasion of that Ghanaian, pause a moment and appreciate the significance of Baffuor Osei Akoto, other detainees and the defenders of freedom in our land.”
Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minister of Food and Agriculture, and also a son of the Statesman, said the inception of the Lectures 16 years ago, had helped to rekindle the enthusiasm among Ghanaians to always fight for the sustenance of democratic rule and freedom of speech.
“Indeed, the focus of the Lectures has been the case of fundamental human rights,” he noted.