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How Dr Bawumia held audience spellbound at a book launch with engrossing political history


Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia

He is revered as an astute economist and for his excellent political oratory skills.

But Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has another erudite trait unknown to the public, which he demonstrated on Thursday evening at the launch of the biography of the late J.A. Braimah, a true stalwart of Ghana politics.

What was billed to be an address by the Special Guest of Honour, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, turned out to be a remarkable piece of history narration, which even the history department at the University of Ghana would envy.

The Vice President kept his audience spellbound with not only a riveting account of the life of the first ever northerner to become a Minister of State, but also an engrossing narrative on the alienation of the north by colonial administrators, as well as the trajectory of politics and political movements in the north.

In doing so, Dr. Bawumia did not also pay glowing tribute to J.A. Braimah, he also eulogised northern political trailblazers, including his father, Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia, S.D. Dombo, Yakubu Tali, who established the Northern People’s Party and later joined forces with their brothers in the south for a united political movement, whose offspring is today’s New Patriotic Party.

As they say, it is better seen tham told. Below is the full address by Vice President Bawumia at the book launch


Mr. Chairman

Respected Chiefs Present

Ministers of State

Members of Parliament

Distinguished Invited Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Before I proceed, let me express my sincere appreciation to the J. A. Braimah family and the author, Alhassan Ahmed for the honour done to me in asking that I serve as the Special Guest of Honour, on the occasion of the launch of the biography of J. A. Braimah.

I will like to first of all commend Alhassan Ahmed for exhibiting the difficult discipline to document almost exhaustively the life of this great personality.

This day is indeed historic, historic many respects. My father, Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia of blessed memory and J. A. Braimah had a history of a very close and cordial bond, which dated back to their time in the Northern Territories Council. Our two families have since maintained this very cordial and warm relationship even after the demise of both of our fathers. Indeed, it is not by chance that our two families stayed and continue to stay in the same neighbourhood in Accra here, for decades.

Born in the Kanyase Royal family on the 31st of August, 1916 in Kpembe, in the now East Gonja Municipality of the Savannah Region, J. A. Braimah started School at the Tamale Infant School and continued at the Salaga Primary School, however, due to the restrictionist educational policy adopted by the colonial government at the time, schools in all parts of the Northern Territories (as Northern Ghana was then known), except Tamale ended at Standard Three. As a result, after Standard Three, J. A. Bramah proceeded to the Tamale Middle Boarding School, from where he completed in 1932.

Mr. Chairman

When the new System of Native Administration, popularly known as “Indirect Rule” was introduced in the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast in 1932, J. A. Braimah became one of the first Northerners to be appointed Native Authority Clerks to kick start the new system of local governance. He rose through to ranks to become a Senior Native Authority Clerk and Secretary to the Gonja Traditional Council.

From this position, J. A. Braimah served on many Committees and Commissions set up to ensure the momentous inclusion of the Northern Territories in the affairs of the Gold Coast. Prominent among which is the Justice Henley Coussey Committee on Constitutional Reform set up in October 1948 by Governor Sir Gerald Creasy.

The Recommendations of the Coussey Committee led to the formation of the Henry Ewart Committee, whose mandate was to work out the technicalities of the delimitation of constituencies and the establishment of voting procedures, qualifications and disqualifications of voters and candidates etc for the 1951 elections.

The Northern Territories Council (NTC) was, therefore, given the opportunity to have for the first time in history a representation in the Legislative Council, to discuss portions of the Ewart Committee Report that affected the Northern Territories. J. A. Braimah, who was the Vice President of the Council, was selected together with Yakubu Tali, and S. D. Dombo as Representatives of the Northern Territories. They were sworn in on the 24th of July, 1950, making J. A. Braimah and his two other colleagues, the first ever Northerners to serve as Members of the Legislative Council (Parliament).

J. A. Braimah would go on to serve in the 1951, 1954, 1956 and 1965 Parliaments of the country.

Meanwhile, after the 1951 elections, the Convention People’s Party (CPP) won majority of the seats in the Legislative Assembly. In the Northern Territories, however, the elections were conducted through an Electoral College and not based on Political Parties. Therefore, all nineteen (19) Members from the North entered the Legislative Assembly as Independents.

This implied that if Dr. Nkrumah were to select his Ministers solely from CPP Members of the Legislative Assembly, his government would not have anybody from the Northern Territories.

J. A. Braimah was, therefore, appointed by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in 1951 following Governor Charles Noble Arden-Clarke’s recommendation, to serve as Minister of Communications and Works, becoming the first ever Northerner to be appointed a minister in the country.

Mr. Chairman

Aside the immense work J. A. Braimah undertook as a minister in the areas of energy, roads, water, Posts and Telegrams, aviation, railway, ports and harbours, and educational infrastructure, he still found time to keep in touch with all persons who needed his attention. His position as a Cabinet minister did not in any way cloud his sense of community, he was down to earth and did not stand by ceremony, thus he did not request any of the privileges that are sometimes associated with people of his position.

This made him very welcoming, and someone in whose presence many people felt very comfortable. It did not, therefore, come as surprise that the Daily Graphic adjudged him the most popular minister in Nkrumah’s first government. In an exclusive editorial, the Daily Graphic in its number 529 issue of 1952 affirmed that:

“If the question: ‘who is the most popular Minister in the Cabinet[?]’ is put to any citizen of the Gold Coast, the reply in nine out of ten is bound to be Joseph Adam Braimah, Minister of Communications and Works.”

J. A. Braimah was a man who wears his integrity like a badge; there was absolutely nothing that could make him compromise this position. For this reason, when he realized that an amount of money he had received from Aksor Kassadzian, a contractor was meant to influence him, he immediately tendered in his resignation, to the shock of the Governor, who was reported to have asked him to consult a psychiatrist. J. A. Braimah thus became the first indigenous person in the country to resign his position as a minister.

Meanwhile, ladies and gentlemen, the journey towards self-determination picked up steam with the CPP government’s acceptance of the Van Lare Commission’s Report in 1953. This report recommended the abolition of the Electoral College system of elections in the Northern Territories and thus, heralded country wide elections through adult suffrage and identifiable political parties for the 1954 general elections.


Mr. Chairman

Following riots and agitations in Accra and other Southern principal towns for immediate Independence from the British Colonial rule by Dr. Nkrumah and other leaders, the Coussey Committee was set up in 1948 by the Colonial Government to draw up a constitution to advance the Independence programme. The Gold Coast then in the pre-Independence era comprised the Regions of the Colony, Ashanti, British Togoland and the protectorate of the Northern Territories.

The committee recommended among others, the creation of a Legislative Assembly based for the first time on universal adult suffrage for most parts of the Regions of the Colony, Ashanti and British Togoland. The Northern Territories, because of the mass illiteracy and poor education was for the first time to have an electoral college to elect 19 representatives to the new Legislative Assembly.

These elections took place in 1951. The North was then comparatively backward with a poor educational system, the highest educational institution being the middle school, these were the Government Middle School at Tamale and the Roman Catholic Middle School at Navrongo with less than ten primary schools sited at Gambaga, Yendi, Salaga, Wa, Lawra and Navrongo. There was not a single Secondary School in the North but a few standard seven pupils were selected each year for four years training in Achimota as Teachers to teach in the few primary and middle schools in the North. As a result the highest school graduates were those of the Certificate ‘A’ Teachers or the Certificated Standard Seven scholars.

Road infrastructure in the Northern Territories was poor; telephone and postal services were virtually non-existent. Apart from the poorly constructed and ill-equipped Tamale hospital there were only a few dispensaries at Salaga, Wa, Gambaga, Yendi and Navrongo. Treated pipe water supply was limited only to Tamale the Regional capital.

Mr. Chairman

The Northern Territory was left in its backward situation as it was during the immediate pre-independence period not because of its protectorate status but because of a deliberate policy of the British Administering Authority.

The British policy as seen in archives was to let the North remain a reservoir for the recruitment of labour for the mines, timber and cocoa industries in the then colony and Ashanti. The idea was to develop the South first and consider the North later. As a result, education was limited only to Middle School level.

Northerners were not encouraged to make contact with people in the South for fear that the Southerners might influence the Northerners to kick against the policy being pursued. As a result of this policy, education was neglected in the Northern Territories.

Mr. Chairman

By January 1954 there were rumours that Dr. Nkrumah had advised the Governor to dissolve the Legislative Assembly for new elections to be held for the granting of Independence. In response to this, discussions were held by S.D. Dombo, Mumuni Bawumia, Yakubu Tali Tolon Naa, J.A. Braimah Kabachewura and Mr. J.A. Nagba then Secretary to the Northern Territories Council to decide on the Northern response to those developments.

As a result of these discusions they came to the conclusion that the North would be worse of if certain developments in physical, social and economic infrastructure did not take place before independence was granted to the Gold Coast.

They were convinced that they we could not achieve their objective in a situation of disunity in the Legislature. They therefore decided that the solution lay in the formation of a political party for Northerners in unity to fight to secure the much needed developments and constitutional safeguards for the North before the grant of Independence. In this regard, they also decided to make use of the Protectorate status of the Northern Territories as a bargaining weapon for our course.

They accordingly agreed to the formation of the Northern Peoples Party to capture all or most Northern seats in the Legislative Assembly in the hope that they would have a united force to bargain with the emerging Government and the British Colonial powers for a better future for Northerners when the country gained Independence.

The Northern Peoples Party also aimed to ensure that certain Constitutional Institutions were established for the Northern Territories to continue to provide the much needed developments to bridge the gap between the North and the South within a reasonably short time even after the grant on Independence. In this regard the they had in mind a Regional Authority with Executive powers to undertake such developments.

Mr. Imoro Salifu from Bawku was invited to join the party. In March 1954, Mr. S.D. Dombo, Mumuni Bawumia, Imoro Salifu, Mr. J.A. Nagba were mandated to tour the Northern Territories to introduce the new Party to the people.

Mr. Chairman

By the beginning of April 1954 the initial campaign was over and the first delegates conference was held in Tolon Naa’s house in Sabongida. The Tolon Naa himself was present and participated in the deliberations.

These were patriots who were driven by the collective good and not personal interest. For example, the Congress proposed Mumuni Bawumia as Chairman of the Northern Peoples Party but he declined in favour of Mr. S.D. Dombo the Duori Naa.

Mumuni Bawumia declined to be Chairman because the strength of the NPP was in Mamprugu including the present Bawku and Bolgatanga Districts of the Upper East Region of Ghana, and he did not want the impression to be created that the Northern Peoples Party was a Mamprusi Party. The Nayiri, King of the Mamprusi Kingdom (whose symbol is the Elephant) was a strong supporter and financier of the Northern Peoples Party. Mr. A.F. Derimani a Dagomba was elected General Secretary, Mr. Imoru Salifu of Bawku was elected Propaganda Secretary and Mr. J.B. Fuseini Lamashegu Naa was elected Treasuer.

The Northern Peoples Party leadership agreed for strategic reasons to let J.A. Braimah and the Tolon Naa to contest the election as independent members but to join the party after the election. As a result the Northern Peoples Party had no candidates in the Gonja East Constituency and in Tolon/Kumbugu. The 1954 General elections gave the Northern Peoples Party 17 out of the 26 seats including the independents candidates, of Yakubu Tali, J.A. Braimah, C.K. Tedam, Alhaji Osumanu and W.A. Amoro who were sponsored by the party.

Mr. Chairman

The Northern Peoples Party pursued the battle with the British Colonial Authorities and the Government of the Gold Coast for Constitutional safe guards and developments for the North with renewed vigour after the 1954 General elections.

The party had hoped that the Ghana Congress Party, which was its ally, would win enough seats to form the official opposition in the Legislative Assembly. The GCP leadership was made up of the professional-oriented leadership of the UGCC and some dissatisfied CPP members. In the event, it turned out that only Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia, leader of that Party was returned to the Assembly. The GCP won only one seat (Wenchi) out of 104 seats.

Therefore, in accordance with British Parliamentary democracy, the Northern Peoples Party contrary to its policy was forced to become the official opposition Party in the Legislative Assembly with Mr. S.D. Dombo as Leader. In another act of selflessness, the NPP agreed, notwithstanding being in the majority to make Busia the leader of the opposition on the basis of his education, exposure and competence and to forge a unity between the north and the south.

At this time, the National Liberation Movement (NLM) was not in existence. In fact, this 1954 alliance between the Danquah, Dombo and Busia traditions predated the formation of the UP.

Dr. Nkrumah, the Prime Minister had hoped that the 1954 General elections would be the last before the grant of Independence to the Gold Coast but this was not to be.

In 1955, a new political movement called the National Liberation Movement (NLM) sprang up in Ashanti. Three influential members of Nkrumah’s CPP namely Victor Owusu, Joe Appiah and Mr. R.R. Amponsah crossed the carpet to join the N.L.M. The N.L.M. was born with the slogan of “Federation” for Ghana – and campaigned vigorously for a federal system of Government for the Gold Coast. Dr. Busia of the Ghana Congress Party also crossed the carpet to join the N.L.M.

However, immediately after independence in 1957, the CPP government passed the Avoidance of Discrimination Act, which outlawed all political parties formed on regional, racial and religious grounds. And so, the Northern Peoples Party, which held the highest number of seats, went into alliance with the other opposition parties to form the United Party (U.P.) with Busia aas leader, Dombo as deputy leader and J. A. Braimah as National Vice Chairman.

Mr. Chairman

It is important to recall that as a member of the opposition, J. A. Braimah faced unthinkable difficulty, especially in his position as a chief. His political enemies within and outside his Traditional Area, instigated his removal as Kanysewura, barely a year after his elevation to the skin. His deskinment was grounded on a very weak and vexatious charge of visiting the United Kingdom as a member of the opposition delegation for constitutional discussions without the permission of the Yagbonwura.

Tried as he did, J. A. Braimah could not reverse the decision, not until ten years later when the government of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown. He would later be elevated as the Paramount chief of the Kpembe Traditional Area and then to the Yagbonwura skins as the King and Overlord of the Gonja Kingdom.

Similarly, in an environment when many feared to speak out when things were wrong, obviously for fear of incurring the displeasure of the CPP government, J. A. Braimah was forthright, honest and firm in his constructive but articulate criticisms of the government’s actions he deemed inimical to the development of the country. Predictably, this incurred for J. A. Braimah the wrath of the CPP government. As a consequence, under the obnoxious Preventive Detention Act (PDA), J. A. Braimah was placed under house arrest for several months.

Distinguished Guests

J. A. Braimah was a prolific writer, erudite researcher and a scholar of Gonja history. He wrote several very important books on the Gonja people. His writings remain reference points for many academic papers and books, including obviously the one been launched today.

Mr. Chairman

J. A. Braimah was a man of varied talents, uncommon integrity and an embodiment of selfless public service. He was a man far ahead of his time. Indeed, he represented the most excellent specimen of the enviable Danquah-Dombo-Busia tradition, and this has never been lost on the New Patriotic Party.

J. A. Braimah’s abiding faith in a democracy that respects the rule of law, human rights and the doctrines of democratic accountability and his quest to see the bridging of the development gulf between the North and the South of Ghana, kept his name alive till today.

It is for the struggles of J. A. Braimah and his compatriots that we, have a Ghana that we are proud of today. A Ghana full of opportunities; and a Ghana leaping into the future with great hopes and aspirations.

Thank you for your attention. God bless you and God bless our homeland Ghana.

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