Yipeeeee! All you children shout; it’s now officially Jubilee House. It is the house one president laboured in diplomacy to get constructed. He was never to live in it but rather handed over to another president. That successor worked so hard to convert this treasure of the tenth most beautiful ‘presidential palace’ in the whole wide world into a chicken coop. Luckily for the motherland, there wasn’t enough time to execute that degrading plan.
Gazetting Jubilee House is the second time I have felt a personal thrill of liberation. The first was Otanka of fond memories yanking away a barrel filled with concrete to block the road currently labelled… As at January 2001, I found it absurd other compatriots and I couldn’t turn right off Independence Avenue to WAEC and thereby avoid traffic gridlock at the African Liberation (Ridge) Circle.
One night of celebration in the house of B.A. Mensah, some friends and I had rushed to go and catch a glimpse and maybe grab a handshake with newly-elected President Ɔsono Kokuroko Kufuor. He had just departed when we arrived. But Otanka was around. “Please kindly deal with the nuisance of a barrel of concrete obstructing that road,” my colleagues and I pleaded with him.
This was around 10:00 pm. Next morning, a colleague called that he had heard on radio that the concrete filled barrel of obstruction was gone. We hopped into a car and as we reached the junction, we saw it was true the obstacle was gone. What else can man ask for to be delivered that quick!
Since the dawn of January 7, 2017 have I wished for this Otanka action type change of some letters that read ‘Flagstaff House’ hung surreptitiously dead in the night; something I saw as a defacement of a magnificent edifice. Its military implications never truly reflected the liberating monument the structure is. Shaped somehow in the stool in which power resides among many groups in the motherland, it doesn’t deserve to be assigned any colonial vestige like a name.
Those who talk history need to be told that the place ceased to be Nkrumah abode February 24, 1966. It became the residence of military chiefs, including the one who deposed Nkrumah and has his name inscribed at the airport Kwame built. I have made many references to the military-inspired ‘Flagstaff.’ Thus, only those with coup mentality would find pleasure in that name.
Others who should know but don’t seem to know are talking waste in printed letterheads and whatever else is embossed with Flagstaff House. I have read letters from the seat of government with the address ‘The Castle, Osu.’ This is as late as September 2017. So how people in charge of research of all things for congress will talk waste in letterheads baffles me.
I never heard it is pointless or unnecessary when congress went on a name changing spree in 2009. They had no rational reasons to offer for the useless exercise except evoke some exclusionary ethnic justifications. There is nothing ethnic about Jubilee. Flagstaff is not being changed to Jubilee for any ethnic reason like the dropping of Ohene Djan. Maybe Flagstaff is veiled ethnic interpretation for those who lived and died there.
In 2008, congresspeople went on name changing spree, including dropping ‘Ohene Djan Stadium.’ Unless one is dumb, no one such trumpeting the Nkrumah name know what that gentle Aburi man did for Ghana sports as Director of the Central Organisation of Sports (COS). He championed the building of the hard won reputation for and with the Black Stars brand. Congresspeople destroyed that reputation in a flash.
They killed that reputation when they flew over three million American dollar cash to Brazil from Accra and social media splashed photos of players smelling and savouring their share of the cash. Look at the laughably renamed High Street when they could simply have named the GIMPA-Dzorwulu only road he built after him. No one would mind if they added the new Haatso stretch to it and call it ‘Mills Drive/Road/Way.’
Flagstaff is about coercion while Jubilee’s association is with independence. Again, where Flagstaff connotes suppression, Jubilee extols liberation. When you are heading for a desired destination, you don’t keep turning your head back, otherwise you would lose direction. Moving from Flagstaff to Jubilee is progress. Yesterday when I was under the colonial yoke, I was Flagstaff. Today as I head towards economic independence, I am Jubilee. Nothing sounds better.
The sagists say by any other name, flower rose will still smell sweet. With humans, though, parents go to various lengths to find suitable names for their children. The Flagstaff naming insisters have so far advanced maintaining colonial military past. Jubilee commemorates our political freedom, so let Jubilee be.
By Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh