Pomp and circumstance was on display at a parade of schoolchildren and the security services to mark Ghana’s Diamond Jubilee at the Black Star Square, in an atmosphere of rich cultural displays.
A wave of energetic dances from all 10 regions, a giant lantern carrying the nation’s flame of hope, a troupe of acrobats, the run by the legendary Azumah Nelson, a ground-shaking 21-gun salute, precision in the movement of arms and feet of the 1,200 schoolchildren and 1,200 security personnel and the President’s apt speech summed up the events on a day the Black Star Square was set alight.
It was a day the sun refused to bow to a moody sky. The sun did take its toll, but the main characters were apparently not concerned. A few of the participants who could not stand the heat fell like leaves, and by noon at least 15 schoolchildren and three security men had collapsed.
With the Ghana Armed Forces Central Band dishing out melodious folkloric tunes, the event took off shortly after 10 a.m. when President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo arrived at the Black Star Square, accompanied by his wife, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, in a glittering BMW saloon car, with the mounted constabulary of the Ghana Police Service trotting along.
Bespectacled and sporting a beautiful white smock, the President waved to the cheering crowd, mounted the rostrum and took the national salute for the first time at an independence celebration.
Then he moved to honour the age-old tradition of lighting the perpetual flame at the square.
It was also a moment to reach to the divine as Traditional, Islamic and Christian prayers were said seeking the blessings of God and the nation’s ancestors.
A break from the annual ritual was that the President handed over the torch he used to light the flame to Ghana’s legendary boxer, Azumah Nelson. The decorated former super featherweight pugilist took the torch and jogged around the parade.
The torch is to be sent to all regional capitals and brought back to the Black Star Square on March 6, 2018.
Another break from tradition was that the schoolchildren started the marching from the parade ground and ended it in the stands, ostensibly to protect them from the merciless sun.
President Nana Addo lighted up the flame yesterday at the Independence square
With the schoolchildren march past out of the way, the square was cleared for a cultural performance which rallied dancers and acrobats for a display that received cheers and applause.
After cultural displays from the three regions of the north, Volta, Western, Greater Accra and Central regions, a larger- than-normal lantern was wheeled in, with the theme of the celebration inscribed on it.
The lantern was a rallying point for the performers who twisted and wriggled around it, while an artist adorned in a beautiful Kente lit it.
When the security services took their turn, they started the parade with the tradition of Trooping of the Colours, after which they set the square agog by marching in dexterity to inscribe “GH is 60” under the heaviness of their neatly polished boots.
As if to assure Ghanaians and put word across about Ghana’s military might, some of the country’s tactical military weaponry, including anti-aircraft launchers, missile vehicles, armoured vehicles, police crowd control vehicles and fire service engines, were put on display.
Behind the Black Star Square, the ocean was pounding the shore, just as the foundation of the venue was shaken by a barrage of mortar fire in a 21-gun salute. It was a sound that brought back the attention of the sleepy few among the crowd to the parade activities.
With appellations from students of the Kinbu Senior High School inviting him to speak to the nation, President Akufo-Addo, in calculated steps, took to the podium to address the nation.
He took time to walk the country through its historical maze, from the signing of the Bond of 1844 through to the declaration of independence by Dr Kwame Nkrumah in 1957.
If the people who took part in the events were spectacular, the horses at the parade also held their own, strutting their way out of the maze of lines of security services and schoolchildren.
Group Captain Joshua Mensah Larkai, the Parade Commander, rode a horse, named “Fear Not”, and it lived up to expectation, moving with precision, stopping on lines and running when it should.
The 15-year-old horse had been at the centre of Independence Day celebrations six times already.
Although many Heads of State were at the event, it was the arrival of the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, at the Black Star Square to join the celebration that elicited great excitement.
And as Mr Mugabe stepped on the red carpet leading to the presidential dais, the entire media covering the event momentarily focused on him as he made his way to the place assigned to the dignitaries.
But it was not President Mugabe alone who received the loudest cheers. The announcement of the arrival of former President Jerry John Rawlings was greeted with deafening cheers that continued even as he walked graciously towards his seat, accompanied by his wife, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings.
Former President John Mahama’s arrival was received with joy and excitement, interspersed with cheers and shouts of “Onaapo”, which was a key word in his 2016 election campaign song.
It was, indeed, a show of unity in diversity as the country’s three former Presidents sat close to one another.
The three Johns — John Rawlings, John Kufuor and John Mahama — added a touch of statesmanship and unity of purpose to the event.
Heads of states
A number of Heads of State and Government and foreign dignitaries also graced the occasion, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria; a representative of the Pope, His Eminence Cardinal Guiseppe Bertillon; the Togolese President,Mr Faure Gnassingbe; the Prime Minister of Equatorial Guinea, Mr Francisco Pascual Obama Asue; the Vice-President of Liberia, Mr Joseph Nyumah Boakai, as well as the Vice-President of Zambia, Ms Inonge Wina.