I have seen a few posts trying to downplay the effect of the Kalyppo trend and what momentum it brings to the NPP campaign.
I would be more thoughtful and careful about writing it off if I were strategizing for opponents of the NPP. This, clearly, is an issue that has reached and gone beyond the tipping point.
The symbol of this “epidemic”, as Malcolm Gladwell would describe it, or the vehicle, is not as important as the rallying it creates and the subsequent messages and discussions that ensue.
Initially, I read people who had no idea why so many images of Kalyppo were flooding their timelines ask for the reason and, when told, go “Aaaaah, really”. Many of them have since joined just in the mirth and the spread, even if apolitically. The epidemic spreads further. More va va voom ahoy.
My good friend Kobby Parker contributed to this and sent me this, which is so apt that I reproduce it in toto:
“For the first time in many years I had an iota of hope for Ghana this week. The tsunami of support and solidarity that swept across the country made me realise that it is possible to find a theme or cause through which we can rally an entire nation to action.
“It’s not just the politics of it all that wowed me but the developmental analogies.
“Is there any cause or vision around which we can rally the entire nation and call everyone to action? The kalyppo effect proves it.”
Will this lead to electoral gain and great capital for the NPP? I dunno. Two months is a long time in politics but in a political game where critical gains are counted in old Ghana pesewas, every coin of advantage and awareness counts.
Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.
Picture credit: Leticia Tish Addison Facebook Page
18 September 2016
Two events happened this weekend that brought me immense joy and satisfaction. Over the past couple of years, my friend Kofi Akpabli and I have been contributing our bits to the rejuvenation of a reading culture in Ghana, augmenting the efforts of organizations such as the Writers Project of Ghana (WPG holds a book reading at the Goethe Institute on the last Wednesday of every month) and Ghana Association of Writers who hold a fortnightly GAW Sunday event of book reading and poetry plus events on special days such as the upcoming GAWBOFEST which will be holding on 21st September, a holiday. In recent times, I have heard about other initiatives such as the one by Read Ghana, which is focused on providing Community Lead Read Literacy Services for Children in under-served areas in public primary schools, with other children in the community benefit as well. This effort is spearheaded by two amazing ladies – Klenam and Mary – and they have their next reading clinic slated for 21 September at Madina and Kwabenya. As I love to say, more vim to all the persons involved in these initiatives, which require our support.
Maukeni Padiki Kodjo is a blogger, writer and law student. She is the reigning Blogger of the Year, as awarded by Blogging Ghana, which is the key platform that organizes and provides an avenue for bloggers and persons who use social media to disseminate contents to connect and improve. Keni, as her admirers and followers call her, has been sharing her short stories in series on her popular blog kenikodjo.com. Some of the titles that she has churned out recently include Know Thy Man and Capital High. These stories are engaging and have huge following, who interact with the writer and offer creative suggestions for how the stories should unfold! What more can a writer wish for, eh? I see these stories quickly transiting onto screen soon, but we will discuss that some day.
This intense engagement should be part of the reasons why, after wrapping up on the latest series Know Thy Man, Keni decided to organize what, to me, is a first in Ghana: a meet-up for the fans of a blog to interact with the writer, her stories and characters, and to generally fraternize. According to Keni, the agenda included:
* Ask me anything’, an interactive Q and A
* Trivia quizzes
* ‘What would you have done?’ based on the #KnowThyMan series
* Photo shoots with some of the Kenikodjo characters
* Lots of networking and nibbles
And fun it was! I was unable to attend due to flight difficulties which meant I was able to get to Accra on the morning of 18th September, instead of the afternoon of the previous day as I had intended. However, again a mark of ingenuity on the part of Keni and her team, the meet-up was telecast live on Facebook, so I could follow live for a brief period but spent my evening watching the close to three hours video. In the words of Keni, “it was lit”! Young people gathering to discuss stories, characters, plots and literature. I was particularly impressed with the knowledge of the characters in the stories and quotes from the various series that the audience displayed during the trivia quiz session. Kudos to Keni! This column will be bringing you an interview with this amazing writer some time soon.
I have been part of a couples fellowship for about 14 years. This is a group of about ten couples who meet regularly to pray, study scriptures, discuss our marriages, relationships, children and other related concerns. And also to create a platform as friends to share our challenges for mutual support. And we do have fun too!
A couple of months ago, one of our members suggested that I should also make time to read to our children during one of our meetings. A bit like learning to bring charity home, since she is supposed to begin at home! After one postponement, we planned and held it on 18 September.
Frankly, even though Akpabli and I had been reading to audiences over the past three years, this was the first time I would be reading to such a young audience. However, as my friend Jonathan Agyeman mentioned to a mutual friend who asked whether she could bring 13-year olds to our upcoming book reading in Kumasi on 24 September, I have been taking my children to most of my book readings; my eldest is only 10 years. And my kids love the book readings and will usually repeat to me their favourite portions heard. So I appreciated the fact that the children within our fellowship would enjoy the readings. My main challenge was the selections to read to them and how to space out the readings.
I worried for nothing! This was one of my most enjoyable sessions ever! I started with a reading of Akpabli’s fufu and soup articles, and then moved on to a reading from “How to Be a Nigerian” by Peter Enahoro. The kids giggled throughout. After the first two readings, I invited them to ask questions. Questions ranged from the differences between soups in Ghana and Nigeria to how to drink soup. When I took my book I Speak of Ghana to read for the second round, Kwaku Ofori-Atta, one of the kids, exclaimed that he loved the book and can he read his favourite chapter, please?
I handed over the book to him and he read the chapter “You know you are in Ghana when…”. We asked him questions after his reading which he fielded remarkably. From then on, the kids took over the reading! Each child wanted to read their portions of the various books!
We had readings from Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (which was done by Papa Yaw), The Imported Ghanaian by Alba K Sumprim (my son NK read the chapter “You Are Invited”, which is his favourite chapter after hearing Alba read it at the JamRock event), Excursions in my Mind (my son NY read the chapter “Books and Knowledge”), Ladybird Favourite Stories for Boys (my 6-year old daughter and Papa Yaw read two stories from this book) and the Wimpy Kid collection (reading done by Papa Roberts). Each of the readers answered questions. The children asked for the meanings of the new words, with David Mankattah the most active, for which he won a prize: I vowed (he asked us to explain what the word “vowed” meant) to get him an favourite book of his choice from anywhere in the world. They also asked me about how they can also write books. Little Papa Yaw asked me if I can help him write his own book! Another vow was made!
The parents discussed the various, practical ways we can encourage reading amongst our children. My son NK contributed to this aspect of the discussion by encouraging the parents to get their kids adventure books. He showed one such book he had borrowed from the community library.
Feedback after the reading event was really positive. Some of the parents confessed that this was their first such event, experiencing book reading in such a manner. Ato said he had listened to book discussions on BBC a number of times which usually focused on one book and the author’s experiences and views; but the format we used, where we just read from multiple books and enjoyed the sound of the written word, was unique and refreshing. The children indicated that they enjoyed it too, learnt new words and expressions. The parents remarked on the confidence exhibited by our children in stepping up voluntarily to read, for which we were proud. Some of the children answered, when asked if they had reading sessions in their schools and time set apart for library sessions, that these were not mainstream.
A good literary weekend it was for me, both from afar and near. In the words of the hymn writer, we thank God for such and humbly ask for more.
10 September 2016
I haven’t felt this insulted and angry in a long while.
I am on my way to Athens via Paris on Air France. At the pre-check in counter, where verification of documents is done at Murtala Mohammed Airport, the Nigerian lady indicates that the Schengen visa from the Greek embassy is not allowed on the airlines (KLM/Air France) if the holder hasn’t travelled to a Schengen country before. She flips through my two passports that I handed over to her. She suggested that they would have to “off-load” me, and proceeded to start filling the appropriate form for that purpose. She told me she just finished off-loading one such passenger.
I said “Oh wow!”
She asked where I work and I tell her, and provide all the supporting documents including company ID and letter of invitation from our sister company in Greece which stated my designation. I then showed her my UK student visa which is in my first passport (in another pack of two older passports), asking her if a travel to the UK mattered. She took pictures of all these and send to their chat forum on WhatsApp, awaiting further directions. At this point, it was all civil as I expected her to trigger their standard procedures and seek approval for my boarding.
Then she looked at my bag (1 piece, 24kg) whilst the allowance is 2 pieces. She let out what got me annoyed:
“Your bag is too big for someone going for only 10 days. It looks like a bag for someone who is not coming back.”
I blew my top!
“I consider it an insult,” I told her calmly, surprising myself. I was boiling inside, the heat of my anger could have easily cooked beans.
She said that is how they “profile” and that they were there to profile.
Profile? I thought that was a term used by people we called racists, on blacks. I thought that was a word peculiar to the US, especially lately with all the news we have been hearing. I asked her whether she knew what I was carrying and why one bag was too big for ten days when the allowance was for two anyway?
“If you are going for a vacation, yes, but not for a business meeting.”
She wasn’t making sense anymore. I know when to stop when an argument is going nowhere.
She left to go upstairs to process passengers for the final boarding and told me her other colleague will attend to me. Eventually, I was called, and I completed the check-in procedures. I also called the company airport passages guy who I like to swerve when I travel, not seeking to worry him as I travel through the Lagos airport often so quite at home. He was livid!
We don’t respect ourselves.
After I submitted and, thus finished my Master’s in the UK, on the 15 September 2006, I stayed in the UK for just two more weeks because I opted to serve as a Student Assistant for Nottingham University’s International Welcome Week, where the University helps freshers to settle in and go through induction. I was back in Ghana on 2nd October, and resumed work in November. I returned to the UK in December to graduate and came back right after graduation, to continue working in Ghana and on the continent (with a month to spare on my student visa). This is in line with my cardinal belief that I don’t have to sweat elsewhere, as I wrote in my book I Speak of Ghana, where I stated “Why sweat my youthful years away building someone’s village and not mine? Why put my shoulders to a wheel that turns another economy whilst the one that has my umbilical cord tied to it travels south? And in returning to Ghana, I was returning toAfrica, to the continent that needs the resources to grow. How can Africa improve if we don’t want to stay, sweat and swim against the tide of under-development and turn our economies around? Why sweat elsewhere when I can sweat on the continent, and stay in a better Ghana, a better Nigeria, a better Africa?”
I haven’t travelled back to UK since then, mainly because work hasn’t sent me there. And many of my friends know I hardly do non-business travel, especially outside Africa, because I absolutely hate the notion that a visa officer would think I wish to be an illegal immigrant and thus ask questions we as Africans wouldn’t ask when his kin and kind wish to visit the continent.
So for a fellow African to think that a professional, an engineer, an expatriate for a multinational in another African country would want to travel to Europe only to escape Africa was a painful insult.
Even a low grade airport official who may not have travelled before (sorry if I am profiling her too) thinks that a professional engineer has nothing to do with his life but to run away to Europe via Athens and live as an illegal immigrant.
At the pre-departure check point she tried to be nice and smiled and wished me a safe trip. I didn’t mind her.
“You didn’t respond to my wish,” she whispered.
I gazed at her and didn’t even blink.
I don’t forget those who insult me.
I may take condescension from someone different and put it down to ignorance and bigotry but not from a fellow black.
This experience, aside the annoyance, caused me to think deeply on the flight. How do I contribute to build my country and continent such that no one, not even our own selves, would think or want to flee at the least opportunity? How do I help to change the narrative?
It took less than 5 minutes for the immigration guy to stamp my passport at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to go to the boarding gate to Athens.
Seems some can be more French than Jacques Chirac.