Ghanaian parliament

By Emeka Obasi

While Frederick Metcalfe presided over Nigeria’s House of Representatives under Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Augustus Molade Akiwumi became Speaker of the Ghanaian Parliament in February 1958. His tenure lasted until June 1960 when Justice Joseph Richard Asiedu took over.

Akiwumi was the second Speaker having taken over from Emmanuel Quist. The Nigerian had naturalized and was also a Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana. Although his wives, Grace Aryee and Helen Kabuki were not Nigerians, he made sure his children bore Nigerian names. They were: Akinusi, Akiola, Akilano, Akilowu, Akilebu, Omotayo and Akilaja.

Born in Lagos in 1891, Akiwumi traveled to the United Kingdom at 19 and lived with a family known as the Smiths. He bagged a degree in Law at Cambridge and also went into banking after being called to the bar in 1921. The Lagos Boy subsequently relocated to the Gold Coast and never looked back. He watched as nationalism grew all over West Africa. A year after Ghana achieved independence, Akiwumi became Speaker of Parliament.

Ghana was known for cocoa and the secret behind that was William Pratt, a Yoruba of Ijebu extraction. Pratt was one of the unfortunate Africans shipped to Jamaica as slaves. When he gained freedom, the man returned to his continent and settled in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Pratt was a good carpenter in the West Indies and on return left  for Fernando Po where he planted the first cocoa seedlings.

It was from today’s Equatorial Guinea that Pratt’s cocoa seedlings were brought to Ghana and Nigeria. There is no doubt that that vision by the Ijebu man helped grow the economy of Ghana and Nigeria. And it is remarkable that an Ijebu Remo man, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, used cocoa to develop Western Nigeria. When you look at Cocoa House, Ibadan, just do not forget William Pratt.

Pratt’s maternal great grandson, Robert Wellesley Cole, had Egba- Yoruba and Igbo blood. He was also the first West African to become Fellow, Royal College of Surgeons, England. Wellesley Cole is the author of the book well known  to Nigerian students in the 1970s : Kossoh Town Boy. His sister, Irene, brought back the family to Nigeria when she married Justice Samuel Ighodaro, the first Bini lawyer.

Before Akiwumi, the Gold Coast had seen Yoruba in Kumasi. Samuel Rowe had led the Ashanti Expeditionary Force from Lagos to Cape Coast in 1873. They were under the command of Captain John Glover. The Ashanti had shown the British how tough Africans were and that war lasted for so long before the Asantahene could be subdued. Earlier in 1824, the Brits were humiliated in the battle of Nsamankow.

The British Governor, one young man called Charles McCarthy, did not come back to tell the story. The Ashanti defeated the invaders, capturing some officers including the governor who was beheaded.. The Ashantehene used McCarthy’s skull as cup and drank from it after decorating his prize with gold.

Glover later became Governor of Lagos Colony and was ‘crowned’ Oba by the Yoruba. Madam Tinubu donated land where the famous Glover Hall was constructed on the Island. Rowe climbed up too and was appointed Governor. Rowe Park Sports Center was named after him in the Mainland area of Lagos.

READ ALSO: Nigeria hands over suspected vessel, crew to Ghana for investigation

Three Yoruba footballers shone playing for Ghana. Amusa Gbadamosi, Ganiyu Salami and Ben Aminu Arafat were popular with the Black Stars and won continental laurels. Gbadamosi was known as African Pele and could be described as the very first Pele in Ghana. Abedi Pele Ayew and Abogye Pele adopted that great name long after the Nigerian had hung his cleats.

Gbadamosi played for Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oaks. Kotoko lifted the CAF Champion’s League[ then known as Africa Cup for Champion Clubs] in 1970. The Porcupines were captained by Ibrahim Sunday, an Hausa man from Kano. Perhaps I should point out here that among the troops who fought with Gl; over during the Anglo-Ashanti War were some Hausa soldiers. What we know today as Nigeria Army was actually called Glover Hausa in the early years. Some used the tag ‘Glover and his Thieves’.

Gbadamosi won the Africa Nations Cup with the Black Stars at Tunisia ’65. The Ghanaians had won when they hosted in 1963. So Tunisia was their second time and they defeated the hosts. Gbadamosi went beyond Africa with the Black Stars. He made his Olympic debut at the Mexico’68 Games after picking a Nations Cup silver with Ghana in Sudan.

Former ECOWAS Executive Secretary [2002-2005] and current Head, United Nations Office for West Africa [UNOWA] Mohammed Ibn Chambas passed through Gbadamosi who taught him in his years of inexperienced youth. Chambas lived in Nigeria and still frequents Yoruba land.

Salami attended St. John’s Grammar School, Accra and played for Ghana Academicals, Accra Hearts of Oaks and Black Stars. Like Gbadamosi, this Ogbomosho man won the Nations Cup  with the Black Stars at Tunisia ’65. He later switched nationality and returned to play for Green Eagles of Nigeria. It was funny watching Salami play for Nigeria while Gbadamosi represented Ghana at the Mexico’ 68 Olympic Games.

In 1967, Maj. Ray Ibikunle Armstrong flew to Ghana to bring back the Nigerian trio of Gbadamosi, Salami and Arafat. It was good news as Nigeria was then at  war with Biafra and had lost the services of some players from the former Eastern Nigeria. Salami stayed put and played himself into the Eagles. Gbadamosi flew back to Ghana. Salami was in Ghana 20 years ago as coach of Shell Nigeria Academicals when they were hosted by Ghana VALCO Academicals.

When Ghana hosted the Africa Nations Cup in 1963, Nigeria debuted. The Green Eagles were sent to Kumasi as part of Group b with Egypt and Sudan. Seven Yoruba players made the Eagles. They were Lati Gomez, Niyi Omowon, Adetunji Shotayo, Abiodun Lajide, Jide Johnson, Emmanuel Remi and Buiston Olayombo. That constituted the highest by any other Nigerian group.

There were six Igbo players: Godwin Achebe, Isaac Nnado, Austin Oduah, Albert Onyeanwuna, Chukwuma Igweonu and Shedrack Ajaero. Nigeria lost 6-3 to Egypt and 4-0 to Sudan. Goalkeeper Emmanuel Omiunu did not forget that experience till he passed on. The Green Eagles waited for another 13 years before a second Nations Cup appearance and they won their first medal. a bronze, in Ethiopia.

It is quite interesting that the Yoruba have produced governors who know Ghana as much as they do Nigeria. Sunday Ajibade Adenihun, Military Administrator of Imo State, 1978-1979, was born in the Gold Coast. Former Oyo State governor, Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala spent part of his life in Ghana. Beyond the governors, if you want to tickle ex-Sun Newspapers Managing Director, Mike Awoyinfa, just call him ‘Bros Ghana’.

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