‘Baffour Akoto Fought Tyranny’

The late Baffour Osei Akoto

Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, son of the late Asantehene Chief Linguist (Kyeame) Baffour Osei Akoto, has said his father played a key role in helping to prevent dictatorship in Ghana after attaining independence from colonial rule.

“He was anxious that if people who loved freedom sat on the fence, Ghana would one day become a One-Party State; an anxiety which eventually materialised,” he said, adding that “had he and his ideological allies like JB Danquah and KA Busia and others not persisted the way they did, the negative impact of the One-Party State as was introduced in 1958 would have been much graver.”

Delivering the keynote address on the occasion of the ‘2021 ReAkoto Memorial Lectures’ organised by the Ghana School of Law at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi yesterday, the Agric Minister said, “Baffour and his colleagues, who now constitute the ancestry of the United Party tradition, were of the considered view that One-Party rule for Ghana, in the light of our traditions, was a step backward from the wisdom of our ancestors. And that where one head constitutes a council, there can only be folly and disorder.”

The focus of the lectures, instituted some 16 years ago, has been the case of fundamental Human Rights involving Baffour Osei Akoto and Seven others. They had been detained under the Preventive Detention Act (Act 1958), as political prisoners in the condemned cells of the Nsawam Medium Security Prison on November 11, 1959 by the Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah government, and the Supreme Court had endorsed the illegal action of the executive.

Baffour Akoto was a “founding-member” of the National Liberation Movement (NLM): a political setup that advocated for a federated Ghana which never materialised and was only released from prison after the 1966 coup.

The minister, who is the 18th son of the late Asantehene Kyeame, said that “the legacy of Baffour Akoto as a politician, and for that matter a statesman, finds expression in the very constitution with which our country is being governed today,” adding “notable amongst them is Article Three (1), which provides that ‘Parliament shall have no power to enact a law establishing a one-party state.’”

He said that “the guiding principle of the NLM was in tandem with a phrase in what became the national pledge, upon Ghana’s independence, ‘to resist oppressor’s rule….’ The NLM indeed sought to resist oppression and suppression and to ensure true freedom for the Ghanaian.”

He said “the life and works of Baffour Osei Akoto entreat us all to cultivate the virtue of courage to banish elements that may jeopardise the progress of the nation. 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.”

“By doing justice to the topic ‘The Legacy of Baffour Osei Akoto: A Family Man, Chief and Statesman,’ we are reminding ourselves that a life well lived will always be remembered. It is incumbent on us, therefore, to give our utmost in the service of country and humanity. The traits that characterised Baffour’s life and works are meant to portray to the citizenry, in particular the youth, a model of the contributions expected of them to make Ghana a better nation.”

Nurturing Commitment

He said “apart from his commitment to his family, he also assisted in nurturing the families of his friends and colleagues. He treated the children of his friends like his own and mentored many who later in life made such an enormous contribution to the development of this country. Baffour was the Executor of the Will of his great friend Mr. Kobina Annan, the father of the late Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations. It was Baffour who paved the way for former President, His Excellency Agyekum Kufuor, his stepson, to enter politics by becoming the Progress Party’s candidate for Atwuma Nwabiagya Constituency. He replaced Mr. B.F. Kusi who had won the seat in a famous by-election for the National Liberation Movement (NLM) in 1956.”

He added that “As a child, Otumfuor Osei Tutu II was also no stranger to our home as a neighbour in Ashanti New Town and as a classmate and friend to my siblings.  These are the most famous ones. But he nurtured and mentored many others.”

“It should be emphasised that Baffour Osei Akoto was a true-blue Ashanti who was proud of his ancestry but he was not tribalistic. He equally cherished Ghana’s rich cultural diversity and considered it a strength for the country. He spoke perfect Kano Hausa which he learnt while plying his trade across the country as a motor mechanic in his youth. He did not only work closely with people all over the country on the political front but also encouraged inter-ethnic marriage. He arranged for his blood sister Madam Yaa Ayiwa to marry his friend Chief S.D. Dombo from Duori in the Upper West Region.

He said “Baffour excelled in his career as an Asante diplomat, a valuable repository of Asante and Ghanaian social, cultural and political history, and a defender of the power of traditional leadership in the face of the onslaught of modern post-colonial politics in Ghana.”

“In law, one of the notable case studies in Ghana is Re Akoto, a matter which nearly dented the image of the apex court of the land. It was through Re Akoto that the constitutionality of a law passed by Parliament on the due interpretation of a constitutional provision in Ghana was tested and thus, paved the way eventually to human rights to assume an entrenched position in Ghana’s constitution.”

Over the past 16 years, since the inception of this all important lecture series, many high profile state officials and distinguished academics have provided stimulating lectures on this platform. The contributors include President Akufo-Addo, Professor K. Date-Bah, Nana Dr. S.K. B Asante, the late Peter Ala Adjetey, the late Prof. A.K.P. Kludze, Prof. Ebow Bondzi-Simpson, Prof. Raymond Atuguba and the current Director of Legal Education at the Ghana School of Law, Mr. Maxwell Opoku Agyemang.