The Story of the Flag
The origin of the piece of cloth sometimes designed with fancy patterns or similar material, typically oblong, attachable by one edge to a pole and used as the symbol or emblem of a country or institution lies in ancient history.
A flag, as it is called, was superior to many emblems and symbolised various leaders, communities and towns of old. It was often given the same respect as was accorded the person or thing it represented. Before modern national flags became popular with the creation of the first modern states, most countries had the flags of their rulers.
Ghana was one such country which had the flag of its then rulers, the Union Jack of the British, which represented the idea and ideals of the people of Britain. The country used this flag until the night of its independence in 1957 when the Union Jack was pulled down and the Ghana Flag hoisted to symbolise a new independent state.
The beautifully combined Pan-African colours of Red, Yellow, and Green in horizontal stripes with a black five-pointed star in the centre of the yellow stripe represented the sacrifices made by the people for the qualities the country and people stood for.
Ghana’s national flag, which represents not just the colours beautifully combined but also the story it tells others about the people of Ghana, is held in high esteem.
Such respect does not depend on the aesthetic appeal of the design or on it attempting to represent visually the people of politics of a country.
Ghana’s flag is therefore considered neither a mere piece of decoration nor an object to be honoured for itself. It is honoured for what it represents.
National Flag Design
The design of the national flag did not come easy especially for a national symbol which would represent the identity of the new independent state of Ghana.
It needed all the elements to represent the beliefs, aspirations and hopes of the people of Ghana and that was what the then young Mrs Theodosia Salome Abena Kumea Okoh, born on Tuesday, 13th June 1922, did when she tendered four different designs out of which one was chosen as the national flag.
Her design caught the attention of then President Kwame Nkrumah for what the colours of the national flag stood for.
The green signifies the geographical location of Ghana which lies in the tropics and blessed with rich vegetation, the colour yellow represents the rich mineral endowments of the land and red commemorates those who died or worked for the country’s independence.
Also, the five-pointed lone star is a symbol of African emancipation and unity in the struggle against colonialism. Theodosia Salome Okoh indeed had great thoughts when she put those colours together to communicate a deep sense of nationality and nationalism.
Theodosia Okoh: A Stateswoman
Until April 19, 2015, when she was called to glory, Mrs Okoh, affectionately called Dosia or Mama by her three children, rose to become a stateswoman deserving great recognition not only because of the designing of the national flag but also because of her remarkable feats in other fields.
Growing up as the fourth child of her parents, Rev Emmanuel Victor Asihene and Mrs Dora Poobea Akyea Asihene in Wankyi in the Eastern Region, Mrs Okoh picked up and learned various skills including cooking, baking, sewing and embroidery.
At a time when girl child education was just catching up, Mrs Okoh was admitted to the Basel Mission Girls School at Agogo where she took her teacher training course and began teaching Art shortly after.
Her role as a stateswoman came to play when she got married to her husband, the late Mr Enoch Kwabena Okoh, who was working at the Colonial Secretary’s Office and subsequently became the secretary to the Cabinet in the First Republic and later head of the Ghana Civil Service.
As a result of the responsibilities of her husband, Mrs Okoh had to make a number of entertainment and public appearances including being presented to the Duke of Edinburgh when he visited Ghana in 1959 in place of Queen Elizabeth II.
A National Icon
Mrs Okoh has earned her name not only as the designer of the national flag but also as a pioneer in the popularisation of hockey in the country
In early post independence Ghana, Mrs Okoh got herself in the popularisation of the game by forming the Gold Coast Hockey Association and formed local teams which competed among themselves and teams from other countries.
Her enthusiasm and commitment to ensuring the sport thrived saw her elevation to the position of deputy chair of the National Hockey Association.
She, together with other hockey lovers like J.J. Janney, took up the challenge of finding a reliable and permanent hockey pitch for players.
After many appeals, government allocated a plot of land for a pitch; and thanks to a series of fundraising, the pitch was later converted to a reputable hockey stadium which was later renamed after her by former President John Agyekum Kufuor.
However, following the death of late President John Evans Atta Mills, the Mayor of Accra decided to rename the hockey pitch after the late president, but the public outcry over the decision resulted in President Mahama calling off the renaming of the pitch.
President John Dramani Mahama subsequently rendered an apology to Mrs Theodosia Okoh for the decision to rename the national hockey pitch after late President Mills.
President Mahama described the attempt by the Mayor of Accra to rename the pitch after Prof Mills as a “most sad mistake”.
Speaking at an inter-denomination thanksgiving service to climax the one year commemoration of the death of the former president at the Robert Mensah Sports Stadium in Cape Coast in the Central Region, Mr Mahama had said: “Prof [Atta Mills] himself in life would not have accepted it.”
The president had stated, “Let me express our regret to our grandmother Mrs Theodosia Okoh… for any emotional trauma she might have suffered as a result of the renaming of the national hockey pitch… The pitch shall continue to be called the Theodosia Okoh National Hockey Stadium.”
This incident had brought the veteran, who had until the unfortunate incident stayed as one of the national heroes whose contributions have shaped this country, to the limelight and drew the attention of government to the need to honour the country’s heroes while they are alive.
The state, as a result of this, gave the designer of the national flag and one of the pioneers of hockey in the country a state burial when she passed on for her immense contributions to the growth of the nation Ghana.
Her funeral was given the national attention it deserved when former and current presidents, parliamentarians and the diplomatic corps defied the rains to come and pay their last respect to the woman who symbolises motherhood.
Dr Omane Boamah, the Minister of Communication, in his remarks on behalf of the government, singled out her great contributions and advised others to learn from the many lessons of her life, which among others included her unyielding desire to work for her nation.
‘As we part ways with our mother and grandmother on this solemn occasion, let the lessons of her unyielding desire to work for her nation on many fronts guide us now as we recommit ourselves to the national cause,’ he stated.
Mrs Okoh has gone to rest with her Creator but her legacy still lives on in every Ghana flag that flies in the air. Her zeal for learning and enthusiasm for giving back to her society are life’s lessons that every Ghanaian must learn.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri