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30, 3, 2024



Today, I extend Happy Birthday greetings to a colleague and Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. This salutation, though, comes with an extended footnote for the benefit of younger ones interested in the history of activism propelling this 4th Republic.

Akosua Adomako Ampofo, a seasoned scholar whose political activism has gone unnoticed, is the one I highlight today on her birthday. She first came to my attention some three decades ago, 1993, when a major march was underway to protest the adventures of one Salifu Amankwah who was inflicted on Ghana by Rawlings’ 31st December revolution. Salifu was a no-nonsense Warrant Officer. Call him the virtual minister of Kwame Nkrumah Circle, in charge of discipline. He had a famous truck on which was permanently perched his famous monkey, call it 31st December monkey. If they formed a company, it was probably called Salifu & Monkeys Ltd.

If you ever saw Salifu in shirt, he was probably off duty. His bare chest was his working gear. Salifu’s major assignment was fighting indiscipline at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle (now interchange). Pedestrians feared to spit, or piss. If you felt like it while at the Circle, you held it until you reached a Salifu-free zone before facing the wall. If you strayed into no-walk zone, Salifu was there for an instant drill, slaps, kicks, etc. Taxi drivers dreaded to park. Salifu was simply a No Parking sign. If your car broke down at the Circle, you were safer abandoning it and taking to your heels. It all looked as if what ‘obibini’ blackman needed was a little ‘Salifu’ in his life.

All this happened until one day, Salifu overreached himself and was convicted of murder. Under very strange circumstances, however, he was pardoned by the Head of State, JJ Rawlings. Pardon for murder.

From 1992 onwards came constitutional democracy: a parliament, cabinet, President etc. Mike Gizo was the Minister for Greater Accra. Upon seeing the return of indiscipline at the Circle, Gizo decided that the pardoned murderer, Salifu Amankwah, should take back the same job which inspired him to kill.

Ghanaians were up in arms. ‘Keep murderers off our streets’ was the call.

Early May 1993, one bold woman and her husband, held in hand a protest letter, signed by two hundred people from all walks of life. The idea was to send a letter of protest to Mike Gizo, Minister for Greater Accra during the Rawlings constitutional regime. The protest leader was Akosua Adomako Ampofo; following in tow was her husband, Dr Kwame Ampofo of the Obstetrics & Gynaecology Dept, Korle Bu; Kwame Karikari, Communication Studies; and my good self, holding placards and heading to the office of the Greater Accra Regional Minister. To our surprise, the premises had been cordoned off by heavily armed policemen who had originally misread our agenda as a mass demonstration. Dramatically entered four non-armed scholars led by a heavily pregnant Akosua Ampofo. That foetus must be 30 years now. Akosua peacefully read our petition to the waiting press, and handed a copy to Mike Gizo, the Minister. Parts of the petition were as follows:

‘It is an insult to the competence of Ghanaians to imply that Warrant Officer Amankwah, out of the thousands of trained Ghanaians, is the only one qualified to beautify Accra.

‘Even though Salifu Amankwah was pardoned by Jerry Rawlings, Chairman of the PNDC, we consider it an insult, not only to the widow and family of Mr Quarshie (the deceased), but to the entire people of Ghana, that Salifu Amankwah has been reappointed to the ‘scene of the crime’. The message being sent to Ghanaians and our young children still forming their lives, is that crime carries with it no consequences; indeed, it may even be rewarded by officialdom.

‘Finally, we the undersigned are demanding the immediate withdrawal of Salifu Amankwah from the AMA Traffic and Sanitation Task Force, and from any other official responsibility.’

Signed on behalf of the signatories on the attached sheet.

Not long after this, Salifu Amankwah was withdrawn from the Circle.

2014. Years thereafter , Akosua bounced back: stimulating another fight for freedom on Legon campus. A series of groundbreaking incidents nearly brought University of Ghana to a collision with the NDC Government: the razing by Government of a newly constructed security gate near the Legon stadium; its restoration by Legon, and second reprisal demolition followed by another reconstruction, until the gates’ final completion in 2017. It may be recalled that this compelled Legon authorizes to name the site: ‘Academic Freedom Road.’ While the then Vice Chancellor Ernest Aryeetey, Legon’s Academic Board, Vice Chancellors of Ghana, UTAG, and the Legon Community should be applauded for fiercely safe guarding Legon’s academic freedom, I make special reference to a ‘concerned group’ of intellectuals that solicited thousands of signatures from sections of the public, and sent a protest note to President John Mahama, calling for the dismissal of Gbevlo Lartey, the national security coordinator who led the rude onslaught. That concerned group of intellectuals was led by Akosua Adomako Ampofo of the Institute of African Studies.

Next stop 2018. A Mahatma Ghandi statue unveiled in 2016 by the University of Ghana behind the Balme Library, was brought down aher 2 years of agitation by students and lecturers. Otherwise known for leading India’s struggle for independence in 1947, Ghandi later made racist remarks about black South Africans when he worked in South Africa. By hosting his statue at a prominent location, Legon was imprudently perpetuating the memory of a racist, who considered Indians as better than the ‘savages’ of Africa. The Ghandi statue was brought down after a long period of agitation by Legon students and faculty. His statue undermined the values of racial equality which the University of Ghana proudly upholds. The leadership that mobilized support leading to the ousting of the Ghandi statue from Legon, included Akosua Adomako Ampofo.

Some architects of Ghana’s freedom, democracy and their sustenance, are often like the precious waist beads, they do not rattle. Pardon me then as I rattle today the deeds of a virtuous woman of courage, and a great fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Akosua Adomako Ampofo, a happy birthday! And Salutations to the entire family!

[Kwesi Yankah is a Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences And Fellow, Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences]


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