Past flag bearers of the npp

Prof Albert Adu-Boahen

Prof Albert Adu-Boahen“Integrity” is in the air. The word recurs in tributes paid to Albert Adu Boahen, historian, good governance activist, Professor Emeritus.
THE first alumnus to join the faculty of the History Department at Legon, the good professor was already at post in 1961 when the University College of Ghana attained sovereign status, now mandated to award degrees of its own. A motto to capture the aspirations of the new university was needed. “Integri Procedamus”, translated “Progress with Integrity”, was proposed; and for the logo to match it, a cluster of three aya trees was posted at the top half of the shield in the making while the lower part posted two symbols that still need explaining to discover what: the horns of two rams.
The aya tree or the fern is known to grow straight, upright and unbending. Integrity has no other posture. The horns of a ram apparently never cease growing; pitted against each other on the shield, they curved inwards for unimpeded growth. If there is no stopping growth, then there is progress unending.
Among Legon’s legends, and there are many, one goes that not everybody in the University’s Governing Council was happy with the choice of logo when it came up for approval. After all, the institution already had a logo, the cock that crows to awaken the sleeping to a new dawn. Also the symbol of the Convention Peoples Party, the crowing cock was to a beginning nation a new dawn. Other parts of the continent that were also coming to a new dawn in their political struggle would also go for the crowing cock which remains the logo for Zimbabwe’s largest political party.


From what has been said of Professor Adu Boahen, it is acknowledged that he lived the motto of his alma mater. Coming from unexpected quarters, acknowledgement of merit is the sweeter. Somehow, one source disavows personal knowledge, only that if the Professor was welcome in the home of the source’s father-in-law, then he had to be all right!
But who vouches for Father-in-law? Served well by commerce, belonging to the property-owning segment of the population, his the prominent face of Freemasonry, he was still alright? His associates were not?
The Constitution of the Fourth Republic identifies the presidency as the fountain of honour. Somehow, from this source, only dishonour comes to some who deserve better. Such was the fate of the first to access the Vice-Presidency of the Fourth Republic. His complaint of physical assault remains lodged in the police records. The complaint could not be pursued because his assailant enjoyed immunity from prosecution.
Belatedly, dishonour comes also to others. Now called names, the longest ever in office as Foreign Minister, subsequently Attorney General, lately Chairman of his Party, has come to such a fate. The longest in office as Finance Minister fares no better. Both have dared to suggest listing of their party on the Ghana Stock Exchange, so to speak, so others besides the “Founder” could have some shares. Citing violence in the party, both have now left the party.
As for Professor Adu Boahen, no state honours came to him while alive. Nor is the posthumous now possible. But as observed by Sir Christopher Wren, we have only to look around the monumental St. Paul’s Cathedral in London to appreciate the genius of a builder, himself! Look around the shelves at any Africana library worth its name, Professor Adu Boahen might also say.
To be read by so many around the globe is the honour that does not come to everybody. Professor Adu Boahen’s students include all who study his works. The most privileged of them all must be those who actually sat under his feet. There were twenty such in the Honours Class of 1965 who should feature in the funeral; and as the popular Negro Spiritual goes:
I want to be in their number
When (the students) go marching by.
No political activist to begin with, he soon became one, never more combative than when speaking to the motion:
He debated the military junta that in 1972 had overthrown the Second Republic. He suffered incarceration for his trouble. But with consistency for companion, Professor Adu Boahen continued to fight the unwarranted intervention in the governance process. Others choose to temporise, waiting to see the face behind any piece of illegality; and if it turns out to be the face of family, then we begin to prevaricate, rationalize or justify.
In politics or perhaps in life generally, even if our cause is right, bidding one’s time for the acceptable moment also pays dividends. It is noted that running for the presidency in 1992, Professor Adu Boahen had misgivings about the electoral outcome. Being the man of letters, he did what he knew best. He merely documented his misgivings. A less careful politician would have taken to the streets. We are better off for the ensuing peace and subsequent refinement of the electoral process that sustains the peace. Milton said it: “They also serve who only stand and wait”.
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But rewards come after all to those who play by the rules. The no-fuss arrangements that attended the Professor’s exit from centre stage were more consistent with dignified retirement. He did not need ad hominem insertions in the Constitution or bodyguards in tow wherever for his protection. He could go and come as he pleased. He could not have asked for more.

Professor Adu Boahen could be fun. Over beer in the Senior Common Room of Akuafo Hall he gave as much as he took. Once, he was carrying on about his native Juaben when a junior colleague, the worse for beer, intervened to say the Professor should be talking about Cape Coast where all coming from inland Ghana go to be civilized at Mfantsipim.

The Professor retorted to say it was unimaginable that a normally cowardly Fante could have the effrontery to be so abrupt with his seniors. He reminded the now alert Senior Common Room of how too much beer and living in Kumasi, even if confined to Fante New Town, could make everybody bold. Kumasi-born Fante, the Professor’s adversary, knew when to shut up.

On another occasion, at the Ghana Club, Accra, the Professor was first to draw blood, when he said to a member of the club that he had the lean and famished looks of a Sahelian refugee. The retort came that he, Professor, must be the improved variety of the pygmy; whereupon another remarked that those who lived in stone houses must learn not to throw glasses. The Club erupted into thigh-slapping guffaws, the Professor laughing loudest.

In the pages of the “Legon Observer,” Professor Adu Boahen’s contributions alternated between the serious and the un-serious. Writing more often in the latter vein, he was “Kontopiat” when he would poke fun at all around him. There is still a lot to make us laugh, particularly things said and by whom. It turns out that Kwame Nkrumah’s contribution amounts to no more than a “Flag and Anthem Independence.”


It turns out also that Father-in-law was an associate of Kwame Nkrumah and, ipso facto CPP, so the claim goes. So was it Father-in-law who passed on that uncharitable assessment of Kwame Nrumah’s contribution? We wonder.

Further to things said, decision-making was going to be more extensively participatory; how could a mere 200 meeting in Parliament decide for all 20 million of us?

More in the same vein, why weren’t labourers in the boardroom? How does any board decide the size of lavatory pans to buy without consulting the labourer who carries it?

Further still, since everybody buys the same basic items from the same market, what was the point of salary differentials?

And, who cares for the law courts where the rich can get away with graft by exploiting“technicalities”?

Everything was going to change, suit-wearing in the boardroom and all.

As for the people’s power, who so naпve was asking for a handing over, “to whom”?

Things did change, but “not what they would, but the right twigs for an eagle’s nest”,and we could not agree more with W.B. Yeats. It is thus the Constitution of the Fourth Republic returns us to familiar terrain, all thanks to Civil Society, greatly inspired by Albert Adu Boahen, intrepid nationalist and a scholar.

Born on historic Empire Day, the Professor shared birth day with the historic Queen Victoria. He chose the same historic date, May 24, to return to his ancestors, seventy-four years later. He was destined to write history made by others, not to make it himself, so went taunts from the rival camp in the run-up to the Presidential Elections of 1992.

They were wrong who posted that prediction. “Historian Who Made History” is the verdict that competes for space on the head stone to mark the final resting place of our Teacher.

Finally, about integrity and where it resides, there is controversy only because, like the character in “Alice in Wonderland”, some of us insist that words have no meaning except what the speaker chooses to confer. And so the Butcher of Abuja is readily vouched for. And we want to quibble over who else?

Rest in Peace, Professor!
Credit: Ebow Daniel


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