At the end of the Berlin conference in 1896 which had resulted in the European imperialism was the correlative birth of Nationalism in Africa. The entirety of Africa, most especially West Africa had been shared among the European countries. This was done to gratify their socio-political and economic interests. There was; nationalism of resistance, nationalism of protest, nationalism of self-government and Pan-Africanism, which had become famous amongst all due to the impact of personalities and groups involved in same.
By 1871, the Fante Confederacy, a proto-nationalist movement formed in the Gold Coast had already advanced its fight against certain activities of the Europeans. The Asante people had before that rejected any form of imperialism until the Kingdom was defeated in 1874 in the Sagrenti War. Then came the Aborigines Rights Protection Society (ARPS) of 1897 which was formed to campaign against the Lands Bill of 1897. By 1917, the National Congress of British West Africa (N.C.B.W.A), which brought all the British colonies in West Africa together, was formed to protest against colonialism. These countries were Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia and Sierra Leone. Joseph Casely Hayford, Herbert McCauley of Nigeria, John Mensah Sarbah, J.W Sey, Dr. Akiwande Savage of Nigeria, T. Hutton Mills, Dr. F.V. Nanka Bruce, J.P. Brown and a host of others were leading members of the N.C.B.W.A. It was quite an elite movement. The “elitist” N.C.B.W.A could possibly have charted the path for students of African descent studying and or living in the diaspora to have joined the fight for African liberation from European imperialism.
The West African Students Union (W.A.S.U), founded in 1925 in London by Nigeria’s Ladipo Solanke, a “student” of Casely Hayford was the first official nationalist movement formed by Students. Leadership and largely speaking the membership of this Union was not only made up of highly educated Students but also that these were vociferous and enthusiastic young African Students ready to sacrifice their lives in the attainment of freedom from European imperialism. In furtherance to the fight against European imperialism was the founding of the Union of Gold Coast Students (U.G.C.S) which had amongst “its aims an end to British colonial rule and the achievement of independence” in Gold Coast, now Ghana. It is from the U.G.C.S which the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), founded in the 1960s (possibly in 1961 or 1964), traces its roots.
This democratic, non-partisan and progressive mass movement of students called NUGS have since its foundation days protected the welfare/interest of its members, regardless of the setbacks. There is the claim of the arrest and detention without trial of founding leaders such as Prof. Anselmus Kludze, F.Y.I. Fiagbe, Kwadwo Carr and others under Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s Preventive Detention Act (PDA) of 1958. Their crime, if any at all, was their nationwide massing of Students to protest against the some activities of Dr. Nkrumah, most especially his PDA. The founders of NUGS could have been incited to form the Union due to the arrest and detention without trial of Dr. J.B. Danquah who was a former Vice President of W.A.S.U (which birthed U.G.C.S which also birthed NUGS). Though unsuccessful in his activism and advocacy, Dr. J.B Danquah had challenged the validity of the PDA, calling it illegal, unconstitutional and an affront to the political and civic rights of the Ghanaian citizen. The founders of the Union (NUGS) wholly believed in the position of Dr. J.B. Danquah in relation to the PDA therefore raising their voices in protest against this obnoxious law.
Pathetically, the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) which is the largest student organization in Ghana is missing in the political history books of the country. The contributions of NUGS to the socio-political history of Ghana must not be overlooked. There must be a place for NUGS in our Social Studies and or Government syllablus to enable students for whose welfare needs the union was founded to have primary access to information about the Union. It must be admitted that the Fante Confederacy, Aborigines Rights Protection Society (ARPS), National Congress of British West Africa (N.C.B.W.A), West African Students Union (W.A.S.U) and the Union of Gold Coast Students (U.G.C.S) agitations against European imperialism is what gave them a place in our history and political books, and same must be accorded the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) which strongly opposed Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s PDA and other regimes of dictatorship and militarism in Ghana as well as the impact of the Union in the struggle for better welfare of the Ghanaian Student both home and abroad.
In conclusion, if the aforementioned nationalist movements which are today extinct have a place in our books, then, it is never out of place to argue a case in favor of the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) which is still alive, have played and is still playing very key roles in students advocacy and activism to be incorporated into our curriculum especially History, Social Studies and Government subjects respectively.