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11 April 2014


As-salamu alaykum

I am truly honoured to have the opportunity to join this famous family to celebrate the life of one of the historic figures of modern Ghana, an illustrious son of the North, the late Tolon Naa, Alhaji Yakubu Tali.

I salute the family and all those who, through diverse efforts, have ensured that this event has been successfully put together. It is a happy coincidence that this ceremony is taking place on the eve of the National Delegates’ Conference in Tamale of the New Patriotic Party, the political party whose forebears he served with such distinction. It has enabled the leadership and members of the Party to be present here in Tolon on this occasion, to add our voice to the commemoration of this hardworking, most praise worthy man, whose life continues to inspire us.

The late Alhaji Yakubu-Tali was born in 1916 at Tali, a village 32 kilometers from Tamale, to the late Tali Na, Alhassan Sulemana, and Madam Ayishetu. Through both parents, he belonged to the royal families of Tolon and Kumbungu. Like myself, dare I say it myself, in his youthful days, Na Yakubu Tali was a good footballer.
He started school at the age of nine. At the time, students were identified by the names of their villages. This served as a means of distinguishing between students who bore similar names, hence the name Yakubu Tali.

In his youth, the policy of the colonial government was to ensure that no student from the Northern Territories, no matter how academically sound, was allowed into the secondary division of Achimota school. However, he could not be kept out, and Yakubu Tali became the first Northerner to attend Achimota School in the 1930s.

On leaving Achimota in 1937 and for a period of nine years, he taught in several schools in the then Northern Territories, where he was a most effective teacher. Wherever he went, he became an inspiration to parents and students alike.

His political life begun in 1948 when he was elected a representative of the Western Dagomba District Council to the Northern Territories Council. He was elected as the President of the Northern Territories Council six times in succession from 1952 to 1958, when it was finally dissolved. He served as a member of the historic Coussey Constitutional Committee in 1950, whose constitutional proposals provided the roadmap for Ghana’s independence in 1957.

The late Tolon Naa was a special member for the Northern Territories in the Legislative Assembly of the Gold Coast in 1950. He won the 1954 and 1956 parliamentary elections for Dagomba South, first as an independent candidate and, then, as the candidate of the Northern Peoples Party. He remained in Parliament until 1965.

In 1954, he participated in one of the seminal events of the new Ghana – the formation of the Northern Peoples Party, which was established to advance the interests of the North in the new political atmosphere of the 1950s. Together with other great political personalities of the time such as S.D Dombo, Mumuni Bawumia and J.A. Braimah, Yakubu Tali helped draw up the constitution of the new party, which was approved by the delegates; officers were elected; and various local branches established. He was specifically tasked to build a solid machinery for the Northern Peoples Party in the great Dagbon Kingdom, a task he successfully executed, which led to the organisation of the first congress of the Northern Peoples Party here in Tolon on the 10th of April, 1954. The party was outdoored the following day, the 11th of April, the very day, 60 years ago, on which we are holding this commemoration. The distinguished S.D Dombo was elected Chairman and the highly respected Mumuni Bawumia, the father of my brilliant running mate, Mahamudu Bawumia, was elected Vice Chairman, with Fuseini Dramani as General Secretary, and the fearless Imoro Salifu as Propaganda Secretary.
Alhaji Yakubu Tali was a very effective and eloquent debater. It was not for nothing that he was known as the Golden Voice of the North because of the clarity and fluency of his expositions. He was a frequent visitor to my father’s house, and I had the privilege, as a young man, of listening to that memorable, unforgettable voice. He worked closely with political giants like the late Mr Victor Owusu of most blessed memory, then MP for Agona Kwabre. He later became Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly in July 1960. He was a member of the Ghanaian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in 1960, 61 and 69.

After leaving Parliament in 1965, he embarked on a new career as a diplomat. He was appointed Ghana’s High Commissioner to Nigeria from 1965 to 1968. He was Ghana’s Ambassador to the then Yugoslavia during the Second Republic. In 1972, he was recalled and appointed Ghana’s High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, and was also accredited to Guinea as an Ambassador. He was a member of the 1979 Constituent Assembly, which prepared the Constitution of the short-lived Third Republic. He was a founding member and the first National Chairman of the Popular Front Party, PFP. Victor Owusu selected him as his running mate for the 1979 presidential election, which, unfortunately, they lost, thereby depriving our nation of a potentially great presidential team.

Ladies and gentlemen, you will all agree with me that this was a great man who led a full and varied life, worthy of celebration. Politician, diplomat and statesman, Alhaji Yakubu Tali was also a chief of high traditional standing. An educated and cultivated man, he was an admired teacher of many of the young Northerners of the time. He was a person of deep-seated faith, a trait respected by all. He was a true embodiment of the dignity of tradition and chieftaincy in Ghana. He skilfully blended his faith, tradition and public service much to the admiration of his contemporaries. He belongs to the ages and represented the best elements of this noble tradition, the Danquah-Dombo-Busia political tradition of Ghana, reflecting integrity, loyalty to principle, selflessness, and commitment to honest public service in the highest degree.

We, therefore, have a duty, as beneficiaries of their toils and as loyal members of the political tradition these great men left behind, to be part of the celebration of the life of the Tolon Naa, Alhaji Yakubu Tali. As we commemorate the life of this noble Ghanaian from the North, I want to use the occasion to remember and recognise as well his compatriots from the North for their individual and collective sacrifices to the building of modern Ghana. We will continue to hold S.D Dombo, Mumuni Bawumia, J.A Braimah, Imoro Salifu, Jato Kaleo, Naa Abayifa Karbo, B.K Adama, C.K Tedam, who, happily, is still with us and Chair of this occasion, and the many others in high esteem. Pioneers in the struggle, against great odds, to establish Ghana as a democracy, where there is respect for the principles of democratic accountability, human rights and the rule of law, their labour has not been in vain. It is bearing fruit. They traced the path that our nation is following today. May their souls, and the soul of Alhaji Yakubu Tali, Tolon Naa, continue to rest in perfect peace in the bosom of the Almighty.

I thank you for your attention.



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