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J. B. Danquah, the lawyer and political activist who helped found Ghana

December 18, 2018 at 10:00 am | History

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson | Staff Writer

December 18, 2018 at 10:00 am | History

In the history of Ghana, J. B. Danquah stands out as one of the prolific political activists who helped found Ghana’s independence and had a domineering presence in its early years until his death.

Born into the royal family of Ofori Panyin Fie which was the then ruling family of the Akyem State, Joseph Kwame Kyeretwie Boakye Danquah was privileged to have the best of education in the Gold Coast at the time.

He is said to have been born on December 17, 1895, but different reports indicate that he was born on December 21 while others just state that he was born in December of 1895.

Danquah exhibited great academic skills with an interest in serving even at a very young age. After successfully completing and passing his standard seven examinations in 1912, he worked as a clerk for a wealthy lawyer Vidal J. Buckle, who sparked in him an interest in philosophy and law.

Danquah also worked as secretary to the Omanhene of Akim Abuakwa, a clerk for the Gold Coast Supreme Court and an assistant secretary for the Conference of Paramount Chiefs of the Eastern Province.

Soon after, his brother, Nana Sir Ofori Atta, sponsored him to the UK to further his studies in law and philosophy. He obtained the London Matriculation certificate and went on to obtain B.A and LL.B degrees.
Danquah was called to the Bar in 1926 and in 1927, obtained a doctorate degree in Philosophy before returning home.

Immediately after his return, Danquah set up his legal practice and found new interest in Akan culture and history on which he wrote several essays and books. In 1931, He established The Times West Africa, the first daily newspaper in the country and by the 1940s, he had become very active in the political scene.

While serving in the legislature, Danquah noticed the lack of proper Ghanaian representation in the legislature of the Gold Coast. He also noted the pressing need for like-minded individuals to come together to work towards the independence of Ghana.

In 1947, he founded the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) which was heavily funded by George Alfred “Paa” Grant, a timber merchant and politician in the Gold Coast. The convention had members from the elite class of Ghanaians who shared his view and had the influence to work towards an independent country.

The UGCC elected its leaders and Paa Grant was made the president. In a search for a secretary, Gold Coast lawyer Ako-Adjei recommended Kwame Nkrumah, a young Ghanaian in London who was very dynamic. This was why Nkrumah moved to Ghana.

The Big Six

On  March 12, 1948, Danquah, Nkrumah and the other four members of the UGCC, later known as the Big Six, were arrested following riots triggered by the boycott of European goods in Accra. They were released after a month.

Danquah and Nkrumah did not see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues due to the latter’s displeasure at how things were run within the party. His ideas and views were described as too radical, leading to his departure and eventual formation of his own party, the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in 1949. Through CPP,  Nkrumah went on to win independence for the Gold Coast, now Ghana in 1957.

The Big six on the Ghanaian currency

Danquah, still very active in politics after independence, contested against Nkrumah in 1960 for the presidency but lost. 

He was very vocal about his displeasure with Nkrumah’s governing strategy and was arrested twice. He was first arrested in October 1961 under the Preventive Detention Act after being accused of planning against the ruling CPP. He was released in June the following year.

Kwame Nkrumah and J.B Danquah

Danquah was arrested again on January 8, 1964, after allegations that he was involved in plans to overthrow Nkrumah. Unfortunately, he did not make it out alive and died of a heart attack in detention on February 4, 1965.

Danquah’s role in the struggle for Ghana’s independence is greatly spoken about and on November 29, 2018, the J. B. Danquah Memorial Centre in Kyebi in the Eastern Region was inaugurated in his honour.

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