“Thus may we take the name of Ghana, not out of romanticism, but as an inspiration for the future. It is right and proper to know about our past. For just as the future moves from the present, so the present has emerged from the past.”

Ghana’s first President Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah moving his famous “Motion of Destiny”. This was on July 10, 1953. It was a motion for constitutional reform that will see the Gold Coast gain independence in the near future. Nkrumah in his autobiography recounts the atmosphere in parliament on the day.

“…every seat in the assembly was filled and crowds were standing outside anxious to take part in what was going on in the House. The atmosphere was one of rejoicing, almost as if independence had already been won.”

He recalls his opening line;

“Mr. Speaker, I beg to move that this Assembly in adopting the Government’s White paper on constitutional reform, do authorize the Government to request that Her Majesty’s Government as soon as the necessary constitutional and administrative arrangements for independence are made, should introduce an Act of Independence into the United Kingdom Parliament declaring the Gold Coast a sovereign and Independent State within the Commonwealth.”

Why ‘Ghana’?

Nkrumah explained that long before England had assumed any importance, there was an empire that stretched from Timbuktu to Bamako and even as far as the Atlantic. He continued that lawyers and scholars lived and were respected in the empire and that “inhabitants wore garments of wool, cotton, silk and velvet. There was trade in copper, gold and textile fabrics and jewels”.

It is this Ghana empire, which Nkrumah believed inhabitants of Gold Coast were descendants of, is standard the new nation was to take after.

“There was so much in its glory. What our ancestors in the context of their contemporary society gives us confidence that we can create, out of that past, a glorious future, not in terms of war and military pomp but in terms of social progress and of peace.

The CPP government will later in 1956 propose the name Ghana again in the Government White paper on a new constitution. Scholars according to writer Kabral Blay Amihere (Ghana, 1947-1957-The Independence Story) note that the first link between Ancient Ghana empire and the Gold Coast was made by Rev. W.T Balmer in his book “A History of the Akan People of the Gold Coast.”

Mr. Blay-Amihere holds the view nonetheless that scholar and politician J.B Danquah popularised the name in his poem “The Woman I Love” published in 1936. It reads;

“I love woman,

A black woman

Golden is her personal name,

Guinea’s Golden Lady,

And Christened by her God-Fathers

But from birth Ghana”

Mr. Blay-Amihere notes in his book that when the issue of the name came up on August 3, 1956, in the Legislative Assembly, the opposition boycotted this session leaving only 72 members of the CPP. 

When the issue came up again, Nkrumah according to the Report of the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly Debates stated;

“No criticisms were made at that time in the assembly of what I then said and indeed it would have been difficult for the Leader of Opposition (Dr. Abrefa Busia) to have done so. He was then the leader and only member of the Ghana Congress Party in the Assembly. Hon. Members may think it is a little ludicrous for an opposition led by the Leader of the Ghana Congress party to repudiate the name of Ghana merely because it has been proposed by the government as a suitable name for the country at large”.

NPP member of the Assembly for Gonja East J. A Braimah was the first Opposition member to formally reject the name.

“The name “Gold Coast” is preferred to the name “Ghana” from the Opposition’s point of view. If we go back into history, we will find that the Northerners are descendants of the Songhai Empire, and we have been told that it was the Songhai empire that defeated the Ghana Empire, why should we accept the name of a nation defeated by us.”

Mumuni Bawumia of the same party representing South Mamprusi East continued;

“I think according to the White Paper it is clear that the three territorial councils were in favour that the name Gold Coast should still remain as the name of the country. I advise government to accept the amendment. We maintain that the name “Ghana” is not suitable and that Gold Coast is suitable enough.”

Danquah, the proponent of the name was at this time not a member of the assembly.

CPP Member of the Assembly, Krobo Edusei argued as follows;

“The Opposition were the people who first proposed the name but because Kwame Nkrumah will get the credit of renaming the country Ghana, they say no.”

Votes Cast

The issue was put to a vote and “Ghana” carried the day.

As the nation marks August 4, 2020, as Founders’ day, it is worth stating the timeless words of Kwame Nkrumah.

“Our battles shall be against the old ideas that keep men trammeled in their own greed; against the crass stupidities that hatred, fear and inhumanity. The heroes of our future will be those who can lead our people out of the stifling fog of disintegration through serfdom, into the valley of light where purpose, endeavor and determination will create that brotherhood which Christ proclaimed two thousand years ago, and about which so much is said, but so little done.”

Credit: Kabral Blay-Amihere’s soon-to-be-published book, “1947-1957, The Story of Ghana’s Independence” assisted the author greatly in this publication.