Dec 18, 2015
Towards National Identity and National Integration in Ghana
In newly independent nation-states globally, nationalists have used a variety of symbols to “brand the flock,” forge a national identity separate from the colonial past, signal the change to a republic, publicize the establishment of a new government after a military coup or civilian election. Several scholars have identified the myriad of such national symbols, which include national emblems, flags, colors, crests, mottos, freedom torches, maps demarcating or contesting the national boundary, national flora and fauna, literature, art, folk dances, music, ceremonies, anthems, rituals, speeches, languages, rallies, oaths of allegiance, public parades, remembrance days, holidays, dress, national dishes, national currencies, postage stamps, artifacts, museum exhibitions, monuments, statues, shared values, myths, memories, and traditions (Harcourt Fuller, 2010, Symbolic Nationalism During the Nkrumah Era in Gold Coast/Ghana).
Included in the design of the Ghana Coat of Arms are the cocoa tree, the castle, the state sword (akofena), and the linguist’s staff (okyeame poma). On postage stamps and public buildings (e. g., the Accra Community Centre and the Old Parliament House) were adinkra and other cultural symbols of various ethnic groups in Ghana,
While Nkrumah sought to use these public symbols (see attached pictures) of the nation to construct a new national identity for Ghana, powerful adversaries of the prime minister, most notably the Asantes, argued that the state was merely appropriating Asante traditional symbols, of which they were not in favor. This would cause a prolonged and sustained war of symbols between the CPP government and the Asante-dominated National Liberation Movement (NLM) and other ethno-political entities such as the Ga Aborigines Society (GAS) and the Northern People’s Party (NPP), throughout the Nkrumah years and beyond.
The NLM flew its own sub-national banners, one of which incorporated the Asante Kotoko (porcupine) symbol of warfare and cocoa tree. Another version of the NLM’s flag featured an image of a stool, symbolic of the traditional power of the kings and chiefs. The NLM-led opposition to Nkrumah took exception to Nkrumah’s representation and appropriation of what they considered to be their agricultural commodities and symbols (Fuller, 2010).
Were the akofena and okyeame poma exclusive symbols of the Asante as the NLM sought to claim?
On the issue of cocoa tree being on the national coat-of-arms it is interesting to note that at the time of independence cocoa, which had started in the Akuapem Hills in Eastern Region, was growing in all regions except for the three Northern Regions and what is now Greater Accra Region. Even the three Northern Regions that were ecologically not suitable to grow cocoa contributed labor to the cocoa industry. Akuapem, Akyem, Ewe, Fantse, Ga, Nzema and Krobo migrant farmers all played important role in making Ghana a major world producer of cocoa.
Why did the NLM claim cocoa to be their agricultural product and that Nkrumah dared not appropriate it as a national symbol?