“Afomi y3 Swalaba,” to wit, “I was born in Swalaba” is a Ga phrase President-elect, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has been using since he started campaigning for the presidency as far back as 2007.
Swalaba is a suburb within Accra Central which can now be safely described as an inner city and, therefore, the significance of the phrase is to give an indication that he is not far removed from the daily challenges of the ordinary Ghanaian.
And moreso, his place of birth underscores his multicultural and diverse background which has defined his political disposition and public life.
Political activism runs through his family as his father, Justice Edward Akufo-Addo, a Supreme Court Judge and later a ceremonial President, used his house as the headquarters of the country’s first political party, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), after it was formed at Saltpond on August 4, 1947.
Three of the Big Six, known as the founder fathers of Ghana, were Nana Akufo-Addo’s blood relatives. They are J .B. Danquah, his grand uncle; William Ofori- Atta, his uncle, as well as his father.
It is not surprising that the man Akufo-Addo grew to become not only an astute legal brain in the country but also a formidable political pillar in the political development of the country, particularly in the Fourth Republic.
Nana Akufo-Addo cut his political teeth very early in life and so in his early 30s, he was the General Secretary of the People’s Movement for Freedom and Justice (PMFJ), which was composed of political stalwarts such as Okatakyie Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa, William Ofori-Atta, Komla Agbeli Gbedemah, Albert Adu Boahen, Sam Okudzeto, Obed Yao Asamoah, Godfrey Agama, K. S. P. Jantuah, Jones Ofori-Atta, Johnny Hanson and Nii Amaah Amartefio.
The group led the “NO” campaign in the Union Government (UNIGOV) referendum of 1978, designed to solicit popular support for a one-party military-led state.
The campaign ultimately brought about the fall of the Acheampong military government on July 5,1978 and the restoration of multiparty democratic rule to the country in 1979.
Akufo-Addo had to go briefly into exile after the referendum, when his life was in danger. But from his base in Europe, he was very vocal in the international media and criticised the military rulers back home, while calling for a return to democracy. Back then he was acknowledged as one of the leaders of the pro-democracy movement in the country.
In 1991, the President-elect became the chairman of the Organising Committee of the Danquah-Busia Memorial Club, a club dedicated to the preservation of the memory and ideals of the two great advocates of Ghana’s democracy, J. B. Danquah and K. A. Busia, Prime Minister of the Progress Party government of the Second Republic.
With branches across the country, the club eventually transformed into local organs of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) prior to the 1992 election which heralded the reintroduction of democratic governance under the 4th Republic.
He was the first National organiser of the NPP and, later that year, the Campaign Manager of the party’s first presidential candidate, Prof. Albert Adu Boahen.
In 1995, he led the famous “Kume Preko” demonstrations of the Alliance For Change (AFC), which mobilised a lot of Ghanaians onto the streets to protest the harsh economic conditions of the Rawlings era, especially the introduction of the Value Added Tax.
Akufo-Addo was elected three times, between 1996 and 2008, as a Member of Parliament for the Abuakwa South Constituency in the Eastern Region.
From 2001 to 2007, he served first as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice for two years, and later as Foreign Minister for five years in the government of President John Agyekum Kufuor.
As Attorney-General, he spearheaded the repeal of the Criminal Libel law, which enabled the Ghanaian media to become one of the most vibrant in Africa.
Under his chairmanship of the Legal Sector Reform Committee, the implementation of the court automation programme was initiated.
As Foreign Minister, he was fully involved in the successful Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) peace efforts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, and Guinea Bissau, and was chairman of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council in 2003.
Ghana was elected by her peers to take the non-permanent West African seat on the UN Security Council for 2006-07 under his leadership.
In August 2006, Akufo-Addo chaired the meeting of the Security Council which took the decision that halted Israel’s massive incursions into Lebanon.
Again, Ghana was elected to the new UN body, the Human Rights Council, with the highest number of votes—183 out of 191—of any country, and also as a pioneer member of another UN body, the Peacebuilding Commission.
Akufo-Addo stayed in France for five years as a lawyer at the now-defunct New York-based international law firm, Coudert Brothers. Apart from the exposure to the dynamics of international corporate transactions, his stay in France also made him fluent in French.
In 1975, he returned home to continue with his legal career. He joined the chambers of U. V. Campbell from 1975 to 1979, and in 1979 co-founded the law firm Akufo-Addo, Prempeh & Co., which has become one of the prominent law firms in Ghana.
Akufo-Addo used his law practice to champion the cause of human rights, rule of law, justice, freedom, and democracy.
He was well known for giving free legal assistance to the poor and fought for the rights and liberties of the Ghanaian people. Indeed, he took frontline role as a lead counsel in many of the important constitutional cases of the modern era, which protected the independence of the judiciary, the right of the citizen to demonstrate without police permit, and the right of equal access of all political parties to the state-owned media.
He is regarded as one of the most brilliant advocates in the history of the Ghanaian bar.
In October 1998, Nana Akufo-Addo competed for the presidential candidacy of the NPP and lost to Mr Kufuor, the man who eventually became the President in 2001.
Nana Akufo-Addo was one of the chief campaigners for former President Mr Kufuor in the 2000 election and held positions in the Kufuor administration.
Akufo-Addo resigned from the Kufuor government in July 2007 to contest the flagbearer position of his party, the NPP, for the 2008 elections.
Competing against 16 others, he won 48 per cent of the votes in the first round of that election, but was given a unanimous endorsement in the second round, making him the party’s presidential candidate.
In the December 2008 presidential race, he went ahead of his contender, Professor John Evans Atta Mills in the first round but could not obtain the required more than 50 per cent of the valid votes cast to secure victory.
However, in the second round, Nana Akufo-Addo lost to Prof. Mills, who obtained 50.23 per cent of the votes.
Nana Akufo-Addo accepted the results without calling even for a recount, thereby helping to preserve the peace, freedom and stability of the country.
The President-elect, however, challenged the results of the 2012 presidential election results in the Supreme Court, which was declared in favour of John Mahama.
Nana Akufo-Addo again took a shot at the presidential slot when in March 2014, he announced his decision to seek his party’s nomination for the third time ahead of the 2016 election.
He secured an unprecedented, landslide victory of 94.35 per cent of the votes in the party’s presidential primary in October 2014, in a contest with seven competitors.
He was, eventually, elected President in December 2016, a feat he has repeated in the just ended election on December 7, last year.
The President-elect commenced his primary education at the Government Boys School and later to the Rowe Road School, both in Accra Central.
He later travelled to the United Kingdom to undertake his secondary education at Lancing College, an independent boarding and day school in southern England.
Upon his return to the country in 1962, he took up a teaching job at Accra Academy before enrolling in the University of Ghana for a degree in Economics.
President-elect Akufo-Addo moved to the United Kingdom again to read law and was called to the English Bar (Middle Temple) in July 1971 and the Ghana Bar in 1975.
In 2019, when he paid a homecoming call to his Lancing College, most of his classmates who came around were not surprised that Billy, as they affectionately called him, had risen to become the President of a respected African country because he was an all-rounder, from academic, sports and other extracurricular activities.
Some came to the school with group pictures of the school sports team which had President Akufo-Addo as the only Black African in the team.
Maybe his beginnings at Swalaba in Accra Central and Lancing explain his love for sports, especially boxing, football and cricket because Swalaba is close to Bukom
He was born in 1944 to Edward Akufo-Addo and Adeline Akufo-Addo, both of blessed memory.
After today’s happy inauguration, Nana Akufo-Addo will have another celebration awaiting him on March 29, his birthday, although he will be busy constituting his next government.