The Village and the Dam

(for Agbenoxevi)

Political roads
Are not made
To last

In the election year
When dams are
Built
for villages
hurriedly

the rains come
down
To wash away
the village
And the dam

(c) Nana A Damoah, 180921

Cowries in a Calabash

Cowries in a Calabash

12 Sept 2021

One of these days, as a nation, we should have a deep conversation on what a job means in our present time. Nearly two decades ago, I read a book about Slash Careers, about managing multiple roles and jobs and side hustles. It was such a great insight for me personally, as I have always juggled my science and liberal arts interests side-by-side.

Throughout my career as a supply chain, technical services and manufacturing professional, I saw the shift by companies from offering permanent jobs, such as our parents had (some working in one organisation for their entire working lives), to turning jobs into temporary roles, using third party services to either provide labour or runs the actually services directly, outsourcing departments and services, using co-packers or third-party manufacturing sites and so on.

Today, in not a few countries, contract jobs which are renewed annually, is not uncommon. Jobs that may require only a portion of the 8-hour working day so you may find people doing a couple of such jobs to fit into a day.

Covid has come to even throw a new spanner into how work can be done.

What does the average young person consider a job today, in Ghana?

I listened to some of the interviews during the recent job fair organised by YEA. And I knew that the definition of a job may need a bit of upgrading here. The definition of a job may have changed and left many of us behind, jobless – per what our parents knew it as.

My serving today, from the cowries in my calabash.

Cowries in a Calabash

5 September 2021

Complain about the past and the present but also seek to do your bit to construct the future.

Our parents and those before them grew up in harder times, under rulers not their own, under situations not their own creation but they dared to dream and to change the narrative for those who were to follow after them, us.

They fought. They fought to claim and build their nation again, with their sweat, their hands and their all.

Work in progress, it is. And they did their bit and handed over. To us.

I fear we have become a generation of complainers who know all about who and what to blame and much less about what we have to sweat for and build.

And politics has made us lose our sense of communal labour. Of seeing the village as one unit and joining hands. You help weed my farm, I help weed yours. Ndɔ boa. That is our social welfare system, that is our tradition way of building together. Modern political administration has made us lazy. Where we look to the capital for everything, including building a latrine for our own village.

I sat in a book reading session once, listening to the venerable Kwaku Sakyi-Addo. He told a story of visiting a village once for a meeting between the village folk and some visiting NGOs. The meeting was held in a massive edifice, the local church. The main issues discussed were about facilities and development that the village wanted. One key request struck him: they wanted a community toilet. Later, he asked them how they built the church. They replied that they built it from their own resources and their communal labour. Why not use the same strategy to build the community toilet, he wondered.

I dare say religion has made us lazy too. We expect manna, not from our own farms, but from heaven. That is why a person would spend all day, on weekdays, praying for a job, in a church which is a converted factory or warehouse.

We are the ones to till this land and to bequeath a better land and country to those after us.

Woe betide us if our children turn out to be worse complainers than we are now.

My serving today, from the cowries in my calabash.

Cowries in a Calabash

6 July 2021

From my limited experience in industry, no fire truck can carry enough water to quench any fire. What you need are hydrants everywhere, working (as in water flowing through them) and ideally having booster pumps available to generate the necessary pressure to pump and shot the water to fight.

Do you see hydrants around?

Do we do drills to check that they are in good condition?

In my last role in industry, I was responsible for Health, Safety and Environment. We had regular drills – for evacuation, for fire fighting, for alarm systems. These systems need to be audited to close gaps all the time.

No good system runs on hope.

Cowries in a Calabash

11 July 2021

Aside the jokes and friendly banters, the GOAT debate shows how binary many of us are, and this shows even in how we view the politics and development of our nation.

Either or.

This vs that.

The world is big enough to have two or more views in the same seat.

As a refinery person, blends are a way of life.

As a lover of mathematics, polynomials are the spices of life.

As a man of chemicals, I know that in the presence of emulsifiers, oil and water can co-exist in one emulsion.

Happy Sunday.

Cowries in a Calabash

14 May 2021

I really love the conversations on-going about the cost of running our democracy, government and bureaucracy.

In the lifetime of my career, I saw changes done to conditions of service of Directors and Chief Executives, to match the times and the purse. In the company that Yamson ran, I saw a movement from when Directors had their own drivers and secretaries to when they drove themselves and typed their own letters or at best shared secretaries. I saw the movement from when the company had residences even for CEOs and numerous guest houses to a point where top managers lived in their own rented/own apartments and when employees stayed rather in hotels with sales of guest houses done. Always optimising, always finding ways to be more efficient, to improve the bottomline and to stay afloat and solvent.

I always thought about that, and also thought about similar companies in the town that Nkrumah built, which ran aground as they continued to live like sons of previously rich (but now poor) parents. Like the one that dealt in iron distins.

At independence, A.G. Leventis and UAC existed, with Leventis becoming GNTC. UAC eventually merged with sister companies into Unilever Ghana. We all know how the story ended.

We can’t borrow from frugal countries to fund our lavish lifestyles. We can’t continue to operate as if the topline and the bottom line of Ghana PLC are independent variables. We can’t have our leaders wearing elastic belts whilst asking us to tighten our belts (to quote PAV Ansah).

If Ghana PLC were a business, it would surely have been sold off by now, I am very certain of this. Or referred to the Diversification Implementation Committee.

Let the conversations continue. Better still, let it lead to changes in both our appetites and the response to same.

Cowries in a Calabash

18 May 2021

We like to pad. We like to create allowances. We like illusions.

So we overprice so we can give discounts to arrive at the original price.

We overstate the starting time as 7am when we know we will start at 8am so, when we are an hour late, we start at the original time we intended.

We include the cost of delivery in the cost of product so we can offer free delivery to arrive at our original price.

It is not WYSIWYG with us. You don’t get what you see. You get a variation, which can vary from nought to infinity.

We have a way to go around the truth with a few lies. In a way mimicking Churchill who said, “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”

We are in a perpetual war with truth.

We don’t say what we mean and we don’t mean what we say. We operate on the principle of hidden costs. We are opaque.

Sikaman Awards 2020

Compiled by Nana Awere Damoah

Contributors: Reuelah Addae-Mensah, Samuel Fahren Otoo, Theo Osei, Nii Okai, Seth Bokpe

This year’s Awards were sponsored by GHBasket.com, WearGhana, Booknook.store, Chopbox Express, Buelandland Flowers, Queens of Hats, Kasuwah.store, Beulahland Floral Products & Services, Horseman Shoes, Smino Detergents and Meannan Foods.

This year’s Awards are dedicated to the memory of my friends Sena Dey and Kotei Neequaye and to all our loved ones who departed in 2020.

  1. Losses of the Year: Too many to count. When we reflect back on 2020, deaths will be one of the key highlights, with some high profile names: nationally, globally and personally. 2020 opened with the death of Koby Bryant and Nana Akwasi Agyeman (Okumkom) and ended with the death of ex-President Jerry John Rawlings and Maradona. Also everyone experienced a close loss. May the departed souls rest in perfect peace.
  2. Most Significant Event of the Year: The global pandemic of Covid-19. It affected the world like nothing has in the past 100 years.
  3. Sikamanians of the Year: Our Health Care providers – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, researchers at Noguchi and associated labs – all the frontline health professionals. In the year when few could travel abroad for medical services under Covid, they rallied and saved us all. We thank them!
  4. Yɛ-Wɔ-Kromers of the Year: The Manufacturing Sector, particularly how they got together and got into new production areas such as producing face masks, hand sanitizers and other hygiene products to combat Covid. Also, institutions and innovators who produces ventilators, automated hand wash machines, etc. Kudos also to the Ghana Standards Authority and Food & Drugs Authority on how they rejigged their approval processes to fast track. Also, food manufacturers and farmers for sustaining us all!
  5. Most Popular Sikamanian: Mrs Jean Mensah, the Electoral Commissioner. She got pundits for managing to organise a new Voters register in a Covid year and for a smooth voting day, and then got chewed for the collation and the aftermath wahala.
  6. Seetay Waa Moment of the Year: When the price of face shields, which were selling at a high of GHS50 each at a point, dropped so drastically to 3 for GHS10 and some selling them for GHS1. This dropped at a time when late adopter-entrepreneurs, seeking to cash in, had tonnes of them still on the high seas and at the ports, awaiting clearance. My friend Yuri says it is yet another case of an item travelling along the curve of boiling beans to a zenith of fart.
  7. “Sɛ Asa” Moment of the year (an event that finally happened after a long time of expectation or postponements or uncertainty): In 2020, the CPP became what we have suspected for so long – a joke!
  8. DaySpringer of the Year: Sarkodie. He was awarded by Dr. UN.
  9. Dayspring Institution of the Year: Sir Wyclef Kwame Owusu Fordjour. This man, Dr UN, is an institution by himself and we recognise him as such.
  10. Most Used Word: Quarantine.
  11. New Word of the Year: Covid/Corona
  12. Most Used Number: 19
  13. Most Popular Expression: Fellow Ghanaians
  14. Action Word of the Word: Zoom. It was used as a noun, verb, adjective and everything else. Even as a venue, as in: Where is the meeting taking place? Answer: Zoom!
  15. Election Word of the Year: Flipped. Our media houses show they really watched CNN, Fox and Trump Twitter. Flipping blue, flipping green, flip, flop, lollipop.
  16. Most Misused Word: Pulled, for Polled. With all those votes pulled here and pulled here and there, I even felt for the votes.
  17. CSR of the Year: Ghana Covid-19 Private Sector Fund building of 100-bed Infectious Disease Centre in record time. It showed us what we can do together.
  18. Tracker of the Year: Covid-19 Tracker. Did it really work or we just didn’t use it?
  19. Video Model of the Year: Uncle Ken the Dapper. After the premiere of the video, he reviewed the security settings of his national phone.
  20. Rumour of the Year: I heard something this year that got me in stitches. My fellow Nana R.A. Yurigani informed me that it was rumoured that the Supreme Leader of Western Togoland registered for his Voter’s ID. This still remains a rumour.
  21. Trumpish Covid Statement of the Year: Akua Donkor disputes the existence of Covid.
  22. Fight of the Year: Top contenders are Ken vs Obinim, Ken vs Tracey and Tracey vs Mzbel. The EC is still collating the results at the time of going to press. It may end up at the Supreme Court.
  23. Constituency of the Year: Ayawaso West Wougon
  24. Sports Newscaster of Year: Akwasi Boadi Akrobeto, aka Who Nose Tomorrow. He went viral with his reading of results of the top European leagues and ended up on Spanish TV and with his video being retweeted by leading footballers across the world.
  25. Book of the Year: Working with Rawlings. Sold like political promises. Even those who had hardly read any book since leaving school got copies, just to partake in the “Have you heard?” A number of these neo-bibliophiles read only portions they heard being discussed on air or on social media.
  26. Fashion Icon of the year: Osebo The Zaraman!
  27. Gaze of the Year: I hope in years to come we can still have this picture of the Ogyacious lady confronting the Police and going spiritual on them. Most people call her ‘Deddy’.
  28. Campaign Song of the Year: “Okada” – Mahama Cartoon Song/Video. Danceable tune, awesome video!
  29. Political Return of the year: Bede Ziedeng
  30. Most Silent Politician: Uncle ABS, Oko Rokzay
  31. Quarantine Diaries Author of the Year: Nana Yaw Koranteng. He gave us great insights during his 2 weeks of mandatory quarantine during the early months of Covid and got us all hooked on his stories.
  32. Court Ruling Interpreter of the Year: General Mosquito, SCI
  33. Practical Science Teacher of the Year: Sir Greenstreet of Redcockville. He got the entire Sikaman feeling the Electric Shock.
  34. New Mathematical Term of the Year: Flatten the Curve
  35. Subject of the Year: Mathematics. We all got mathematical, with R nought, finding out peaks, flattening curves and counting cases. The curve must be flattened, the curve must be flattened…and yet you don’t even understand dy/dx, cumulative frequency graphs and line graphs. When we said mathematics is life, you said the mathematics you learnt was never used in later life. See your life? By the end of the year, Mathematics came to the fore again with the Election results and collation. Maths is life!
  36. Short-Lived Achievement of the Year: Accra being the Cleanest City in Africa. When we were all locked down, it was achieved. When we were released, it was back to square one. Default position!
  37. Quarantinee of the Year: Mr “I am a Science Student”
  38. Boys Abrɛ Leader of the Year: Akwasi Trump
  39. Accessory of the Year: Face Mask
  40. Safety Signage of the Year: Electric shock
  41. UN Peace Prize of the Year: Fomena Treaty, which is still being discussed. But the lesson still stand. According to my UST roommate Seth Attram-Danso, if you are tempted to be nasty to someone you disagree with, remember the Fomena Treaty.
  42. Political Loss of the Year: Dr Okoe Boye of Ledzokuku
  43. Industry of the Year: E-Commerce. Under lockdown, many people turned to online service to provide food, books, drinks and more.
  44. Occupation of the Year: Courier service rider
  45. Most Attended Meeting: Zoom meetings. We all discovered that we can dress and put on perfume for even online meetings.
  46. Most Downloaded New App: Zoom
  47. Resignation of the Year: Special Akwasi Peter’s reversion to Citizen Vigilante. He said he was nearly corrupted by a mother serpent so he is now even wary of ropes.
  48. Overtaker of the Year: Christian Kwabena Andrews, of GUM. He overran the shocked Akokɔ Kɔkɔɔ and all the coughing of Ayarigated contestants and got stuck like a gum to the 3rd spot during the Elections.
  49. Boiling Beans Team of the Year: Arsenal. Dada noaaa!
  50. Proven Theorem of the Year: The 24-Hour (Thawing) Rule. The 24-hour thawing time rule as stated “For Ghana news, always allow 24-hour thawing time. GH news changes much in its first 24 hours.”
  51. Escape of the Year: Former CEO of Nissan Carlos Ghosn’s daring escape to Lebanon. Now, that was some thinking out of the box, escaping in a box. He allegedly used a team of mercenaries posing as musicians to smuggle him out of the country in an instrument case.
  52. Artist of the Year: Moh Awudu
  53. Occupier of the Year: Manasseh Azure Awuni. His report led to the resignation of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) Boss.
  54. Most Generous Governmental Agency (also CSR Organization of the Year): GETFund. They even gave study abroad scholarships to people who said they never received them and had never travelled.
  55. Goof of the Year: The President endorsing Nii Lante Vanderpuye instead of Nii Lante Bannerman at an NPP rally for the Odododiodio seat. When the mistake was pointed out to the President, he uttered the famous word “M’anka no yie koraaaa!”
  56. Date Configuration of the Year: BC and AC – Before Covid and After Covid
  57. Admin of the Year: This award goes to the Admin of the Twitter Account of Accra Great Olympics. Oly Dade, Oly Fomena MP, Oly Quarantine! Oly Vaccine!
  58. Tourists of the Year: All of us. We became domestic tourists. Travelled from bedroom to sitting room. To bathroom and then to kitchen. And back to sitting room. Multiple times.
  59. Political Discovery of the Year: African leaders can govern without travelling.
  60. Pet of the Year: Kofi the Kraman, of the Australian High Commission. His godfather is Selorm of SeloArt who is working on a signboard to announce this award.
  61. Hushed Influencer of the Year: Ray Hushpuppi” who flaunted his Rolls Royces, fancy watches and designer clothing on Instagram, arrested on money laundering conspiracy charges in Dubai and repatriated to the United States.
  62. By-Force Leaver of the Leaver: Auditor-General Daniel Yao Domelevo. He spent the time exchanging letters with Jubilee. Now compiling them into a book. Working title: Dɔm La Va, Kplɛ Dɔm La Leave. Don’t ask me the language. It is Lat-Ewe.
  63. Callous Walkabout of the Year: Walk by Carlos, with Covid in tow. That was careless.
  64. Logo of the Year: Round-rimmed spectacles. Nicknamed Fellow Ghanaians. Adopted as Round 2 logo by the ruling NPP
  65. Deal of the year: Agyapa. It bred a serpent from Special Kwesi Peter’s pen.
  66. Legal Personality of the Year: Dennis Seyram Benson, arrested for acting as a lawyer for the supposed Western Togoland. A fake lawyer representing a fake country – a match made for the court.
  67. Diplomat of the Year: Gregory Andrews, the Australian High Commissioner. He took to Ghana like wele to waakye, and used walkabouts and social media to engage a lot. Also used his page to promote small Ghanaian businesses. A breath of fresh air!
  68. Musician of the Year: AY Poyoo. He’s the GOAT! He trended madly and got featured on BBC koraa. What else do you want from a GOAT? The YouTube video of his famous song I am the Goat garnered over 1.7 million views. He just released the sequel, titled…I am The Goatest. Of course!
  69. New Country of the Year: Kumerica
  70. Quarantine DJ of the Year: Ekow Fisho. He really got folks dancing with his Music for your Quarantine Feet
  71. Video Clip of the Year: Interview by Citi FM of a lady during lockdown, at Chorkor. “We are dying for Choooorkor!”
  72. Daddy of the Year: CKA Howard. A further title of International Uncle is hereby gazetted and conferred on him. All should note!
  73. Advert of the Year: Vodafone Vodafone Cash TV ad (Red News) with Akrobetu and Adwenkesie
  74. Best Dressed Female of the Year: Rasheeda Adams
  75. Chief Mischief Officer (CMO) of the Year: Blaqq Qouphy
  76. Male Journalist of the Year: Caleb Kudah
  77. Female Journalist of the Year: Nana Aba Anamoah
  78. Writer of the Year: Eben Ace (Ebenezer Ace Kojo Sarfsch)
  79. Female Facebooker of the Year: Abena Magis
  80. Male Facebooker of the Year: Se Lorm

Cowries in a Calabash

In the mid-2000, I had the opportunity to be away from Ghana for a year to study for my Master’s, on scholarship – by the foreign office of that country. I returned to Ghana within a fortnight after submitting my dissertation, rejoined the Unicorn, took a week’s leave in December to return to my school to graduate and came back to Ghana.

I won’t forget a call I received the month before I returned after finishing my studies, from a senior of mine who lives the country of my stay abroad. He enquiried about my plans after school and I told him I was returning to Ghana. He exclaimed and asked whether I didn’t like it there, quite plainly wondering if I thought it was the best decision to make. At the time, there was a facility to take a 2 year working arrangement for work experience and, especially for graduates with my background, training and experience, it was a desired transition. Indeed, quite a number of Africans including fellow Ghanaians stayed back and are still there.

In returning to Ghana, as I have noted in associated topics in some of my books, I was clear in my mind that I was returning to a continent that didn’t have all the top-notch facilities and services I had quickly got used to abroad. In fact, when I came back home, I had to go through what one can call a “reverse cultural shock” – reintegrating into how things work back home. But I told myself that it is us, who must till the land and build the infrastructure and systems that we admire in countries elsewhere.

This week, I have been thinking of this same theme and my career journey since then. This time in relation to the elements of the spokes of the bicycle that represents the ecosystem we need for small businesses to thrive. And it is an ecosystem. A small business that tries to do everything from end to end will fail. We can only succeed when the supply networks that ensure that the process from farm to fork, from plantation to plate, from raw material to the end user – the consumer we all serve – is seamless and works well. So we need each spoke of that bicycle wheel to work well.

And to improve. And be strong. So we must be prepared to build the quality and to the standard we want. And this can only be done if we balance well impatience with poor delivery standards and performance with patience to give constructive feedback and to transfer world class systems knowledge to our service providers, who most times are also small businesses. To grow together.

So, when that courier company gets it wrong, lambast but give a second chance and coach. When that printer delivers a poorly bound book, reject it but show him what quality means and try again. Those who have worked in big world class systems need to help small business operators build to same standards.

We can only get better as we push to build our systems – together.

Remember, Rome was not built in a day but it was built every day.

Corona Contemplations Cut 5

13 April 2020

My father was a professional driver. During his career that spanned over 4 decades, he drove trucks from the army (he was with the mechanised unit through to military police), UAC Textiles (where he drove for about 22 years distributing clothing all over the country), to a rural bank in our holy village.

From my teenage years, he travelled with me on some of his treks, when I was on vacation. Some of my favourite memories of him are times we spent on these trips. Years before I started driving, he gave me driving lessons.

But his biggest piece of advice to me was in 2002. I had just bought my first car, after a couple of years working post-graduation. It was a 1990s Opel Vectra. I loved that car and was so proud of it.

The weekend after I got the car, my friend, house mate and office colleague Albert Danquah (who had purchased a Peugeot a few months before I got mine and was a more experienced driver – by a few months) decided to drive from Accra to Wasa to visit my old folks. We took turns driving and by the time we got back to the capital, I had gained much confidence.

When we got to Wasa, my Dad – Bombay – was in his farm. We went there and fetched him. He took over the wheel and asked that we drive to Bogoso to visit a couple of people.

As we set off from Bogoso township and were about to join the main Tarkwa-Bawdie road, Bombay hesitated a few seconds and told Albert and I, “Anytime you get to a T-junction, just before you are about to enter after looking left, right and left again, hold on and count to three. Then you can move.” He later added that the same applied to when you are overtaking on a highway.

That 3-second rule has saved my life many times. Because there are blind spots when using your driving mirror.

On social media, that same rule can be applied and you can save your integrity and sanity.

Take 3 seconds to crosscheck. From official sources. From a credible source. From a second or third source. It helps.

It prevents you from sharing fake news. Especially in these Covidic times.

Back to my corner.

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