Progress Party’s Da Rocha & Owusu At “Tiananmen Square” In Ghana


“Onya Soomi”. Those were the words spoken in an extremely angry and somehow boisterous but fully justified tone by the late Hon. B.J. Da Rocha, who served in the Progress Party (PP) administration.
It was on that tragic morning of January 13th, 1972 immediately following the broadcast announcement by Colonel Acheampong (later, General Acheampong) of the overthrow of the PP administration.
Readers who know the Ga dialect, might characterize Hon. Da Rocha’s comment as an expression of obscenity. The pristine intent of the expression and the circumstances in which it was used, would however debunk placing it in the domain of obscenity. To readers outside Ghana or those in Ghana who might not be familiar with the Ga dialect, the expression is the Ga analog of “F.Y” (or the gesture of “giving the finger”) in the language of the youth of USA. In my view, the expression represented a justified arsenal in a fight to reverse the assault on the rule of law, democracy and the state constitution which had been perpetrated against the nation a few moments earlier.
This all took place at our house in Accra, the residence of a Progress Party stalwart, a strong financier of the party and a good friend of the late Hon. Da Rocha for many years. Immediately following Acheampong’s announcement, Hon. Da Rocha had come to our house in search of a suitable location to plan a possible “next move” and the telephones in the house were at his disposal for accomplishing these goals. It turned out that the offices of the state intelligence were intercepting his phone calls from our house and passing out directions to their field counterparts to locate and possibly apprehend him. It was this interference in his phone communication that set Hon. Da Rocha off and prompted his application of the expression mentioned earlier.
The inadequacies of Ghanaian communication technology at that time possibly did the intelligence body in. The whole neighborhood around our house was flooded with units of seemingly angry and “red-eyed” regular police, military intelligence, secret service, military police, both plain clothed and uniformed in an effort to find the location from which Hon. Da Rocha was speaking. They had no clue that Hon. Da Rocha and the phone were both in our house and so they did not set foot into our house. My suspicion is that the equivalent of “caller ID” technology was not available in Ghana’s telecommunication system at that time which might have facilitated the search for the location of the phone. Thank God for that.
While Hon. Da Rocha was at one front of the war in Accra, another front was simultaneously opened in Kumasi at the same morning by Hon. Maxwell Owusu who also served in the PP administration. Hon. Maxwell Owusu had gone to the offices of the state broadcasting station in Kumasi and made a broadcast announcement, debunking the overthrow of the PP administration and declaring that the PP was still in power which was later heard all over the nation. Like the deadly threat to Hon. Da Rocha in Accra, the announcement by Hon. Maxwell Owusu in Kumasi, stimulated the hovering of jet fighters over the city of Kumasi upon the orders of Acheampong and his men to locate possible centers of resistance. Unlike the incident involving Hon. Maxwell Owusu in Kumasi which was highly publicized, the incident in Accra involving Hon. Da Rocha, to date remains known to only a very small circle of persons within and outside our household.
My purpose for posting this article is to draw up appreciation for the deadly and brave sacrifices that these great men made in their fight to uphold the rule of law and democracy for both you and me. In their pursuit of these ideals, these men put their lives on the line and stood in the way of military force, the intelligence and fighter jets. In my opinion, they faced the same deadly danger as was faced by the pro-democracy and defiant Chinese student demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The brave sacrifices of these men should be respected and remembered.
The dividends of the precedence set by Hon Da Rocha and Hon Maxwell Owusu would later be observed in the replication of similar deadly pro-democracy demonstrations in Ghana, and ironically against the same military regime. I left Ghana a few years before the highly criticized proposed Union Government (“UNIGOV”) by Acheampong’s military regime. “Unigov” was an unpopular scheme engineered by the military regime by which the military regime would extend its stay in office under the guise of a coalition government with civilians. My friends who would graduate from Opoku Ware Secondary School and Prempeh College both in Kumasi and would later join me in the US for further education explained to me how as young boys, upon chanting the Twi expression, “Unigov ya gyae mu”, on campus, the military and police would literary send menacing armor tanks after them. The English translation of the Twi expression runs: “Unigov, we will not support or endorse it”.
Quite remarkable is the fact that without firing a single gunshot, these great men used their brains to start a pro-democracy campaign that would eventually shake a heavily armed military regime to the core. This is a manifestation of the old saying that the pen is mightier than the sword. My personal version of this saying is that sharp human brains are stronger and more effectual than human physical strength or military might.
The great men, Hon Da Rocha and Hon. Maxwell Owusu, are great heroes and they have gone to their graves with monumental glories.
Source: Onipa Ba