By: A. Kwabena Brakopowers and Kennedy Twumasi
Verdict: Misleading! DUBAWA’s checks had shown that the use of the elephant symbol on Ghana’s award medal dates to 1960, when the country’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, instituted the award scheme.
Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo, on Tuesday, March 14, 2023, awarded some Ghanaians and foreign diplomats honours for playing key roles in the country’s fight against COVID-19 and in the maritime border dispute with a neighbour, Ivory Coast.
“It is important to state that today’s awards ceremony is a purely national event, devoid of partisan, ethnic or religious considerations, and organised solely in recognition of the services offered by its recipients to the growth, development, progress and prosperity of Ghana,” the President said on his Facebook wall.
However, the symbol of one of the award categories, the Grand Medal, had courted the displeasure of some leading members of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The Grand Medal is awarded for dedicated service to Ghana. The ribbon is blue with red edges and a half-black, half-white central stripe. It has the symbol of an elephant on it.
Reacting to the symbol on the Grand Medal award in a string of tweets, opposition Member of Parliament Rockson-Nelson Dafeamekpor, had accused Ghana’s President of politicising the national award scheme.
“Today, this Govt [government] has made the Elephant, the Political symbol of the NPP, our National Symbol so much that it sits on Medals being awarded at a State Event,” he said.
Hours later, a Twitter user with the account name NatGTetteh shared a similar post commending some members of the National Democratic Congress for turning down the awards for their roles in Ghana’s victory in the maritime border dispute with Ivory Coast.
Due to the interest the post generated on social media within the last few hours after it was shared, DUBAWA decided to investigate the claim.
In probing the claim, DUBAWA visited the premises of Ghana’s Public Records and Archives Administration Department (PRAAD) in Accra to access records on the award scheme dating to 1960.
Also, DUBAWA visited some websites that curate images of medals worldwide and reviewed news reports on Ghana’s National Honours Awards.
Records available at the Public Records and Archives Administration Department showed that Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah instituted the national awards, medals and orders on July 1, 1960, when the West African nation attained a Republican status.
The July 2, 1960, edition of the state newspaper, Daily Graphic, had an article on the orders, medals and awards announced by President Dr Kwame Nkrumah on July 1, 1960, in a special Republic Day Gazette published in Accra.
The decorations ranged from the Order of the Star of Ghana and the Order of the Volta to the Nkrumah Prize for distinguished work for Africa.
According to the announcement in the Gazette of July 1, 1960, the Orders of the Republic of Ghana are the Order of the Star of Ghana, the Order of the Volta and the Ghana Service Order.
These awards, orders and medals carried images of the country’s coat of arms, an elephant, Kwame Nkrumah, shield, and eagles, among others.
Of particular importance is the Order of the Volta, which had the image of an elephant.
Data from the Public Records and Archives Administration Department showed that the current Grand Medal Awards did not form part of the medals, awards and orders Dr Kwame Nkrumah instituted.
However, the use of the image of the elephant on the national awards dates to July 1, 1960, when President Dr Kwame Nkrumah Gazetted the orders, medals and awards in recognition of exalted service to the Republic.
The governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), an offshoot of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), whose political symbol is the elephant, had not been established when the awards and medals were instituted.
The NPP was founded on July 28, 1992, 32 years after Dr Nkrumah had announced the decorations in the Special Republic Day Gazette.
Records had shown that former President John Agyekum Kufuor organised the first National Honours Awards ceremony in the fourth Republic in 2006, where 160 individuals who had rendered distinguished services to the country were given state honours.
It will, therefore, be misleading for anyone to suggest that the governing New Patriotic Party had put its political symbol, the elephant, on a national award.
The use of the image of an elephant on Ghana’s awards, orders, and medals was not the creation of the New Patriotic Party.
Records at the Public Records And Archives Administration Department (PRAAD) showed that the country’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, used the image of an elephant as the symbol of the Order of the Volta.