The National Anthem of Ghana was played loudest on a deafening note and it reverberated through the spacious hall as the special guests and audience stood to honour those who sacrificed their lives and fought for Ghana's Independence – an occasion at which Ghanaians in Italy celebrated 55 years of their country's Independence Day in the Italian northern city Pordenone.
The event at 'Campo Sportivo di Villanova' was well attended by many Ghanaians, including the youths in their numbers, who travelled from different cities in the north of Italy to be part of an entertaining day graced with the presence of Ghana Ambassador to Italy, Her Excellency Anita Evelyn Stokes-Hayford, who led a team of staffs from the Ghana Embassy in Rome to celebrate with their compatriots.
Clad in an eye-catching green colour Ghanaian wear (kaba) with an equal headgear to match, Her Excellency sat in there like a loving Ghanaian mother with her children offering some words of advice and encouragement – and she spoke well. Her speech was punctuated with applause from the audience as she touched on the story of Ghana before and after Independence, the economy and how blessed Ghana is as a nation. At one point, she showed her prowess in the Ghanaian 'adowa' dance when she got off her seat to join Juliana Afrakoma who was entertaining the audience with the traditional dance. It was colourful and beautiful to watch, the few Italian present in the packed hall (who also had their national anthem played) definitely took a message home and will not forget the glamour of array of colours, costumes and traditional dance of Ghana.
The 6-hour moment of celebration was marked with a quiz competition contested by the youths between the ages of 17 and 19 from five cities. They answered question on History of Ghana, General Knowledge, Science, Mathematics and English. Emmanuel Ofori Attah Karikari from the city Lecco won the first prize and in addition was presented with a trophy. Ebenezer Baiden (from Pordenone) was second whilst Johnson Osei (Brescia) took the third spot. All 12 contestants – Faustina Fordjour, Miriam Koomson, Daniel Ofori Attah Karikari, Emmanuel Ofori Karikari, Alice Fosu, Priscilla Addai, Lord Koomson, Ebenezer Baiden, Mavis Antoh, Johnson Osei, Jeffrey Amoo and Giuseppe Akoun – were presented with medals.
Ambassador (Mrs) Stokes-Hayford in her speech expressed her profound gratitude to the Executives Board of Ghanaian Nationals Associations in Italy (COGNAI), Presidents and Executive Members of various Ghanaian Nationals Associations in Italy, Pastors, Italians and all Ghanaians Associations present at the function. “It's with profound joy, that I bring you warm greetings from His Excellency the President, Prof. John Evans Attah Mills, and the Government of Ghana. Our beloved country, Ghana, has reached a new mile stone in its life, 55 years,” she noted.
Fifty-five (55) years of Independence in the life of a country is no mean feat, she mentioned and said it is something to be proud of. “We therefore, take this opportunity to salute our heroes, both past and present, who sacrificed to make this day possible. We salute our founding father, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and all the gallant men and women who fought to ensure that you and I can enjoy the freedom we have today”.
She also talked about prevailing socio-economic landscape of Ghana and how the country has made giant strides in development. “In recent years, our GDP has steadily risen from about US$16 billion to US$38.6 billion. Annual growth rate has risen from 6% to over 14% and for the first time in decades our inflation rate is in single digit,” she added.
According to statistics in her speech (from the World Bank), Ghana is the second fastest growing economy in the world after Qatar and she attributed it to the prudent economic management Ghana enjoys under His Excellency President Mills. “The journey has not been an easy one,” she mentioned, “we as a nation have gone this far by virtue of our collective determination and zeal and we must not rest on our oars in our effort to move forward as we strive to build a better Ghana.”
She called on Ghanaians irrespective of their Political Party affiliation to choose the right people in the upcoming elections in December. “The year is going to mark another watershed in our political history. Elections are around the corner and whilst we may each have our own preferred candidate for President or Member of Parliament, I pray that God will guide us to select the right people to stir the affairs of the State. Currently I can confidently say that I cannot see any other African country which is more democratic than Ghana,” she stated, adding: “this, I attribute to our love for peace. We should, however, not take that peace for granted especially in an election year. I therefore urge each and every one of us to stay vigilant and do everything within our power to jealously guard that peace during the coming election.”
In the concluding part of her speech, Her Excellency Anita Evelyn Stokes-Hayford urged Ghanaians, in the light of the favourable economic conditions prevailing in Ghana, to participate in the economic development of the country by identifying their niche in the booming investment sectors such as agriculture, energy, real estates, service delivery and other sectors that are sure to enhance their personal economic standing and by extension, the development of the country.