Following the comprehensive victory of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in 1951, the opposition parties at the time gradually came to accept that they needed to unite more effectively if they were to be in a position to provide the real opposition to the ruling government.
However, after Ghana attained its independence on March 6, 1957, Parliament passed the Avoidance of Discrimination Act, 1957 (C.A. 38), which banned all parties and organisations that were based on any racial, ethnic or religious groups with effect from December 31, 1957.
The Act was to prohibit organisations using or engaging in tribal, regional, racial and religious propaganda to the detriment of any community, or securing the election of persons on account of their tribal, regional or religious affiliations and for other purposes connected therewith.
That affected virtually all the vibrant political parties and forced them to crawl back into their shells because their ideologies and principles went contrary to the new Act.
Those parties included the Northern People’s Party, Muslim Association Party, Togoland Congress, Anlo Youth Organisation and also the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), which was the leading opposition party as of that time.
However, to the disappointment of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the law rather turned into a blessing rather than a curse for the opposition.
Rather than breaking down those groups, the Act helped to unify and galvanise the political opposition in the country.
Specifically, the Act convinced the leaders of the opposition parties that they had no choice but to come together and form a truly united party to oppose Nkrumah and the CPP, and that they did with the formation of the United Party.
Although the 30 or so members of the opposition in Parliament were dominating the proceedings by the force of their arguments, it was clear that they were not achieving much concrete success.
In addition, the parties and their members were under constant threat from the government as members were being falsely accused of plotting against law and order. Accusations were also levelled against some members who were alleged to be planning to assassinate Nkrumah and his Cabinet.
With these considerations in mind, the opposition parties agreed to come together to form a single party to be known as the United Party. It was outdoored in Kumasi on December 1, 1957 with Mr Alex Hutton–Mills as its National Leader and Dr K.A. Busia as the parliamentary leader.
However, the formation of the UP did not bring an end to the problems of the opposition. It rather marked the beginning of the long and bitter struggle for the soul of Ghana and for true freedom and enlightenment to the people.
Persecution and harassment
On many occasions, members of the opposition United Party continued to be victims of a calculated campaign of persecution and harassment by the CPP government, forcing the leadership of the opposition to go into exile.
Having succeeded in emasculating the opposition, the CPP now felt confident enough to put into effect, its plan to bring the country completely under its authority and control.
In spite of those setbacks and the continuous harassment by the CPP government, the members of the UP maintained their resolve to fight on, even though the odds were clearly against them.
After Nkrumah’s overthrow in 1966 by the National Liberation Council (NLC), the leader of the UP, Dr Busia, took advantage of the situation and returned to Ghana.
The NLC placed some members of the former opposition parties in prominent positions in the new administration and Dr Busia was one of the people the new government used extensively. He was appointed by the NLC as the Chairman of the National Advisory Committee, a committee of eminent personalities appointed to provide advice to the new government.
The membership of the committee also gave Dr Busia and his colleagues, the opportunity to contribute to and influence the decisions of the NLC at critical periods in the country. That helped to raise their political profile and gave them the opportunity to advertise their personalities, as well as ideas and principles of good government.
Later, leaders of the coup declared their intention to hand over the reins of government to a civilian administration as soon as they had put the country and its affairs in order. They gave an assurance that under the future civilian administration, there would be democracy, political maturity and greater freedom.
Dr Busia immediately initiated plans to rebuild the United Party and prepare it for election whenever the NLC decided to return the country to civilian rule. He invited the former members of the UP and requested them to prepare the draft of a manifesto and strategies for the party.
When the draft was presented, a young intellectual from the University of Ghana, Dr Albert Adu Boahen, suggested that the new party should be called Progress Party (PP) which was accepted by Dr Busia and his colleagues and later the party was launched.
The New Patriotic Party
After the launch, Dr Busia and his colleagues immediately commenced the campaign which won them the election in 1969. They governed until 1972 when the party was overthrown in a military coup d’ etat led by Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong.
The overthrow of the PP government led to a series of military regimes which gave no room for political parties to operate.
This led to many political parties to recoil into their shells. It also led to the formation of the Danquah-Busia Club by a former member of the PP, Mr Attakora Gyimah, when he observed that those who belonged to the Danquah-Busia tradition were being left behind.
On March 5, 1992, during the celebration of the 35th anniversary of Ghana’s independence, the Provisional National Defence Council which was the government as of that time, announced that the ban on political activities would be lifted and a presidential election was going to be held.
That led to the transformation of the Danquah-Busia Club into a political party, the New Patriotic Party, with a former member of the PP, Prof. Albert Adu Boahen, as its leader.