THE FORGOTTEN HEROINE OF GHANA’S INDEPENDENCE AND LIBERATION

The forgotten heroine of Ghana’s independence and liberation

Source: George Haldane-Lutterodt
Date: 8th-september-2017 Time:  1:52:54 am

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Many people contributed their quota towards our Independence march forward and even more supported in the efforts of gaining absolute freedom in 1957, and 1960 as a Republic Day for Ghana.

Paramount among these freedom fighters is the Osagyefo Himself, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and the “ BIG SIX”, of which he was inclusive. Mention can also be made of Nii Kwabena Bonnie, the Osu Alata Mantse who led a boycott of European Goods.

Some individuals and freedom fighters for Ghana’s Independence and progress may not have blazed the limelight as the Osagyefo, the BIG SIX and the political party, the United Gold Coast Convention.

But one colossus who has been forgotten in the liberation struggle has been Agness Oforiwa Tagoe-Quarcoopome. A stalwart of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) and a political trailblazer during the days of liberation and struggle for independence.

Destiny Child

Born on May 27, 1913, to the late George AryeequayefioTagoe and Madam Okaikai Aryee, Oforiwa became a destiny child from birth after losing her parents.

After attending the Accra Royal School at James Town from 1922 to 1929 where she was forced to stop her education due to circumstances beyond her control, the agile and affable young Oforiwa resorted to business as her means of survival.

She then entered the fray of buying and selling all kinds of goods and mercantile at Makola and Okaishie in the main business districts of Accra.

She became the first Makola woman to open a bank account with the then Standard Bank of West Africa (SBWA), now Standard Chartered Bank on the advice of the expatriate Sales Manager of the UAC. In those days the rich Makola women kept their hard earned cash at home in strong safes.

This single act transformed her business rapidly and other market women followed her example. For over 55 years during which she actively worked with the commercial houses such as the UAC, UTC, PZ, GBO, CFAO, and later S.D KARAM and GNTC, she commanded an unqualified respect and goodwill.

Travel scholarship

Her business performance with the UAC buoyed with the integrity and honesty and underpinned by the creativity and innovativeness won her a unique admiration and distinction of management that she was awarded in 1958 a traveling scholarship, as the first Ghanaian trader to visit their corporate centers.

This award took her to Manchester in the United Kingdom, Holland in the Netherlands and other centers. She no doubt acquitted herself creditably on this trip that she returned home with a wide range of attractive designs.

The trip indeed signified a distinctive achievement of a woman of her social standing and also indicated an absolute recognition and reward by UAC for her contribution to that organisation.

Her interests were not only limited to textiles but she ventured into real estate with numerous property holdings throughout Accra. She judged correctly and bought properties in the early 70’s in the Holland Park area of London before the property boom of the mid seventies when buildings in London quadrupled in price in a pace of two years. These properties which were bought for around 100,000 thousand pounds in the early 1970’s are now worth several millions of pounds sterling.

Religious background

Her devotion to Christianity stemmed from the highly religious background of her parents. She commenced her Christian devotion from the Methodist Church at James Town and later transferred her membership to the Reverend Ernest Bruce Memorial Methodist Church at Adabraka Circuit, where she regularly worshipped till her death on July 7, 1997, after a short illness.

She was honoured in 1999 as a class leader and became the chairperson of the Methodist Guild by popular acclamation.

Auntie Oforiwa was one of the first to build fully furnished luxury airconditioned apartments as far back as 1964 at Kokomemle in Accra which the Nkrumah government rented to high ranking Russian officials who lived there until the Coup D'etat of February 1966 when Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown.

Nkrumah incidentally stayed at her Asylum Down house for a short period of when he arrived in Ghana from UK.

Illegal Custody

She was taken into illegal custody during the 1966 coup by a group of Junior Officers led by the late Lieutenant Arthur as she was perceived as being one of the main backers of Kwame Nkrumah and his Government. No other Makola woman dead or live had to face the horror of that moment of being taken out of her house in the night by over 50 soldiers armed to the teeth in front of her family.

Lieutenant Arthur was later executed for an attempted Coup against the then National Liberation Council (NLC) government which led to the death of General Kotoka.

Auntie Oforiwa was immediately released from custody by General Ankrah, chairman of the erstwhile National Liberation Council and the then Military Head of State who was also closely related to her only child and son Ing Gerhardt Haldane-Lutterodt.

(The late Engineer Gerhardt Haldane-Lutterodt will later years become the Chief Director at the Ministry of Trade and Industry under the then Rawlings Government.)

Support for Nkrumah

Her Immense role in supporting Kwame Nkrumah to gain Independence for the country was par excellence. Auntie Oforiwa mobilised the Makola Women Association to throw their weight behind the Osagyefo, as she was their organiser. She used her connections within the Makola Women Association to generate massive funds for the Osagyefo to help in his independence campaign.

She together with members of the Accra Market Women's Association played an immense role in protecting, defending and helping Nkrumah financially in his hid to govern this country between the period 1955 to 1966. Despite her fervent support for Kwame Nkrumah, she had excellent relations with opponents of Nkrumah including J.B. Danquah and Paa Willie.

Auntie Oforiwa was a woman with an impeccable sense of love and humility. She dutifully remained silent on her immense material wealth and physical achievements. 

However, on some occasions when pushed to her dissatisfaction by her immediate family on the subject of wealth she would explode with a gentle smile; "by God's Grace I can do those things but they do not improve the quality of my life."

Deede Ashinkinshang and Akua Shorshoorshor were hailed by the President during his inaugural speech. They were Autie Oforiwa's best friends, but the omission of Auntie Oforiwa was most unfortunate because after the 1966 coup she more than any Makola woman was in harm's way for her immense support of the CPP and Kwame Nkrumah. indeed her residence had to be protected for some time by the Military Police. There is no doubt that Agnes Oforiwa Tagoe-Quarcoopome was one of the main players, without a shred of doubt, behind the success of Nkrumah.

A special remembrance would be held for this great colossus of a woman on September 10 at the Ernest Bruce Methodist Church in Accra at 8:30 am.

In conclusion, I would stress that a nation that forgets its heroes and heroines is not worth dying for.

The writer is a renowned Economist, Business Consultant and former president of the Ghana Athletics Associaton (GAA).

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