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Archive for the ‘Commentary on social issues’ Category

with inputs from Naa Oyo Kumodzi and Elsie Dickson

You know it’s a Fanti woman behind the waakye when she has no meat but rather chicken
You know it’s a Fanti woman behind the waakye when she has no boiled egg but rather spanish omelette
You know it’s a Fanti woman behind the waakye when she has no wele but rather sausage
You know it’s a Wasa woman behind the waakye when the stew is splashed onto the waakye, like thick palmnut soup, instead of being spread
You know it’s a Ga woman behind the waakye when the gari is as exotic as kpokpoi
You know it’s a Fanti woman behind the waakye when baked beans is added to the ‘salad’
You know it’s a Ga woman behind the waakye when the waakye is sticky and can be eaten like Ga Kenkey
You know it’s a Bono woman behind the waakye when she has bush meat as part of the “accessories”
You know it’s a Fanti woman behind the waakye when the fish is broasted
You know it’s an Anlo woman behind the waakye when the waakye is served with a side of akpavi kalami
You know it’s an Asanti woman behind the awaakye when she has smoked poku fish instead of fried fish, and she breaks off what you buy from the main one
You know it’s an Ewe woman behind the waakye when the gari is mixed with one-man-thousand
You know it’s an Kwahu woman behind the waakye when she sells the stew and shito separately from the waakye. You pay more you want stew or shito, or go home to use your own shito and/or stew
You know it’s a Fanti woman behind the waakye when sardine is added to the ‘salad’
You know it’s a Fanti woman behind the waakye when you can buy sardine instead of fried fish
You know it’s a Ga woman behind the waakye when stew has more pepper than the shito
You know it is overrated and overpriced when the waakye queue is too long 
Yet you know you will queue nevertheless if you are in the spirito-waakye-realm
Because you know that only the partaking in this food of foods would peace reign in your culinary soul 
Let me know when you find your rib of waakye
Happy waakye morning!
© Nana Awere Damoah, 040817
Pic credit: Abena Asantewaa Krobea

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I have been following the debate about the modes of tithing and giving in a screenshot being circulated online. Let the debate continue.
It made me take an excursion in my mind and to reflect, again, on how some of the home-grown churches have managed to raise funds to support their various activities and even venture into initiatives such as micro-finance organisations and educational facilities. Churches and para-church organisations that are not supported by any foreign donors.
It tells me that if we get our acts together, we can generate sufficient funds to run our own country and development. Already, figures show that remittances from abroad by Africans outstrip foreign donors fund inflows into the continent. I am certain the same trend applies to Ghana.
Aid hasn’t been used to develop many of these churches. Perhaps, I should say ‘foreign aid’. This doesn’t apply only to urban areas; it is replicated in the rural areas where even with minimal funds, citizens are able to raise money to build edifices for churches.
How I wish we apply that same “can do” mindset to our national development. 
Unfortunately, outside the church, we mostly lose this sense of responsibility to build, and take on a cloak of entitlement. Kwaku Sakyi-Addo wrote about visiting a village with some non-Ghanaians and having a meeting in a magnificent church building, where the elders of the church asked these foreigners to help them build a place of convenience. Taflatse, a place to squat so they stopped doing it in the bush. When Sakyi-Addo asked how they built the church, one of the elders proudly explained how they raised the edifice by their own funds.
Development will be a partnership between state and citizens. We must not lose our “communal labour” principles and look up only to the central government. Our forebears raised LA schools – schools built by local assemblies. Let’s not contribute and build only when implored from the pulpit.
We can do it. 
On our own generated fuel.
Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.

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Yesterday at the Media Meet with the President, there was a display of an attribute that disturbs me.

The moderator, the Information Minister, set the ground rules for the Q&A time: one question per person, make it snappy.

Not a few of those who had the opportunity to ask questions decided to ignore the instructions totally, asking two and sometimes three questions, even after a couple of warnings.

It is a character that irks me. We all think we can outsmart the system. It is either indiscipline or an inability to follow simple instructions.  

It is that same trait that makes people climb the curb to avoid traffic and then create more traffic in the process.

It is that same trait that makes people want to jump queues in the bank.

It is that same attribute that makes people want to bribe to cut corners.

We want to grab as much as possible when we have the stage. We want to eat as much as we can when it is our turn, not caring about those behind us.

The above are the examples of indiscipline. 

But there is more. 

Perhaps we just don’t know how, or care, to follow instructions. 
You put up a post and say people text a particular number and not call. They will call.
You say people should send details into your inbox. They put the details in the comments’ section.
You ask people to get in touch via a particular email (not your own) and they send the mail to your inbox.
Someone is to give a speech and you ask him to use 15 minutes, he ends up speaking for 45 minutes.
A student presenting his project is asked to wrap up in 2 minutes and he proceeds as if he has one more hour.
Yesterday’s session was revealing in these respects as well, aside the questions.
Indiscipline on display. Or plain deficiency.  
Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.

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In the days of yore when we were we and we roamed the highlands and lowfields of the university of spiritual training, which later was given a coating of the name from Nkroful, there lived an obroni-trained herbalist in the big herbal centre near the road that ran from the abode of Odekuro right into the bosom of Otumfuo. 

Teacher Croffectus told us many market days ago on the hills of Menya Mewu, which existed side-by-side with the valley of the swinging monkeys, that everyone needed to be aware of two aspects of self for life’s journeys and to also made decisions on careers: aptitude and attitude; what one’s gumption quotient was and what his behaviours and idiosyncrasies inclined him towards.
What Teacher Croffectus failed to add was one’s debiatitude: how one looks like.
This herbalist in the herbal centre near the road looks like a fitter mechanic. Our view in the land of spiritual training was that an obroni-herbalist is supposed to look dadabee kakra, and not to have features that made you look up at the ceiling instead of admiring the handiwork of Odumakoma Nana Nyankonpon. One of the reasons why perhaps Kapokyikyiwofaase didn’t even consider the suggestion of Premang Ntow’s son, that Premang Ntow’s grandson became a herbalist. The debiatitide.
The legend was that during the period when even Nii Saddam reduced the length of his drumming sessions and gave time to the lesser business of reading his books, when men and women alike chewed the midnight kola and burnt the evening osɔnɔ, when Sir RED roamed the rooms muttering “minfitɛ gbɛmen average” (I am destroying the cumulative average of students) and admonishing students to draw any line even if they couldn’t make head or duna of the isometric drawing questions….during that period of exams, many are those who thronged the herbal centre for some relief from pain and stress, from the toils of preparation for exams and from the stress of not making enough time for one inte or the other, and the repercussions thereof. 
The story continues that this fitter-herbalist used to prescribe herbs just as you stated your ailments and many who exited his consulting room found out, when they compared tales from not different tails, that they were given the same herbs, even for different complaints. They soon concluded that the herbalist listened only with his hands.
So, one day, Nii Saddam, also called Kule, decided to get to the root of the matter. When he was ushered into the consulting room, he just sat and didn’t utter a word. But Fitter-Herbie had started scribbling away and prescribing herbs!
“But you don’t even know what is wrong with me!” Kule indicated.
“Ah, but don’t you all have the same illnesses and symptoms during this time?” Fitter-Herbie retorted.
I bring you warm greetings from my Wofa Kapokyikyi who told me that whilst it is true what our elders say, that even though heads may look alike, the thoughts in them differ, sometimes when you see how one particularly-shape head is modeled upon a neck, one can sense that the thoughts in that head have been experienced before in the past, and soon enough, the pouring out of those thoughts confirms the suspicion.
Like the stance of the Fitter-Herbie, many times when one considers the happenings in Sikaman, one gets the feeling of Ghana vu. Many times, the trajectory that issues take, like the path of a quadratic graph that rises and falls, that ‘pours water’, a line that accelerates to a crescendo and falls, like the crest and trough of a wave, seems too familiar. In Sikaman, many times when the matters hit, one just gets the sense that we have been here just the day, the week, the month or the year before, and one could almost predict the path ahead of the issue. 
The steadfast problems of our land never ceases, their recycling never come to an end. They are renewed every morning, great is our faithfulness in traversing roads just travelled. 
How are our new politicians different from the old? How different do we address our issues? Are our national scripts rehashed just for new actors?
Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo wrote a novel entitled ‘We Need New Names’. Yes, in Sikaman, we need new scripts. We need new ways of doing things. We need new stories. We need new politics. We need to change the narrative. We need new mentalities of citizens. We need different heads and fresh thoughts from these heads, mixing in a national cauldron where each thought acts as an ingredient to produce a national meal of positive progress that delivers tangible development.
We can’t continue to be that predictable. We can’t continue to peregrinate as if we have no destination as a nation. We must get off the road just travelled and find new paths.
We need new names. No more Ghana vu.
Till I come your way next time with another sebitical, I remain:
Sebitically yours,

Kapokyikyiwofaase

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Dear Wofa Kapokyikyi:

I bring you warm buharattan greetings from Amalaman where the value of cowries here, otherwise known as naiwries, is falling faster than the rate at which Nana Premang Ntow’s teeth fell out.

Another big story we are all watching from here is what role Oga Kpatakpata will let Amalaman play in sorting how Papa Jammeh, who drank humble sobolo after losing the bid to extend his time on the throne and then spat it all out, saying that he forgot that he hadn’t prepare for his time as an ex-Oga. 

You know, Wofa, that Amalaman exported democracy to Sierra Leone when it (Amalaman) had none at home. Sister Charity was definitely not at home. With democracy now in place in Amalaman, Oga Kpatakpata and Amalamanians will be more than eager to support the move to uproot Papa Jammeh like a yam.

We watch to see how it goes.

This week, my friend Abena Krobea shared a video about a young Malawian inventor called William Kamkwamba. In the video, the young man recounted how famine was ravaging his country in the early 2000s and how he had to drop out of secondary school. Determined to still educate himself, he decided to frequently visit the library of his former school and to read books, especially science books. From one of those books, he learnt about windmills, and decided to build one himself. Not having the requisite materials, he visited scrap yards around his house and salvaged bits and bits including bicycle parts, and PVC pipes, and built his first wind mills that powdered his house with electricity and also pumped water for irrigation. Awesome stuff! Inspirational!

In this TED talk by William, he made a profound statement: “I tried it. And I made it.” He made a move with his ideas, he took a risk on his dreams.

When I watched the video and as I personally tango with the many ideas I have that I haven’t tried, knowing what I to do and yet not doing it, procrastinating, thinking of how to do it perfectly, yet holding back and worrying about the passage of time, giving me a headache, I looked at William and I am provoked to take the pill of action and welcome my relief.

But it is not that easy and that is when I decided to write to you and share my reflections.

At a book reading at Rennie’s Garden, Dr Ruby Goka told us that one of the worse things about being a doctor or a medical student is that when one got ill, he or she only imagines the worse of possible illnesses. 

Same with the educated African. The educated African seems only to be conditioned for steady state conditions, to feel comfortable only when conditions are certain and all risks have been fully analysed and covered.

The educated African is the most afraid to take risks on his dreams.

Not so with many entrepreneurs who need to take a plunge into uncertain waters. Not so with William, who tried it and made it.

I am going to try, Wofa. Many of us are struggling with dreams that are in turbulent state. Unclear about how the dreams will pan out and unsure about whether the dreams are even sensible enough. Like seasoned sailors, like Peter the disciple, we look at the water and the weather and drop anchor, refusing to sail out. 

I will sail, Wofa.

The story is told of the rich man whose only daughter fell into a pond infested with crocodiles, at a game reserve. In desperation, as he looked at one giant crocodile close in on his daughter, the rich man shouted for help and promised that whoever could rescue his precious daughter would be given half of his entire wealth. Out of nowhere, one young man dived into the pond, swam quickly and brought the girl out, just in time to miss the closing jaws of the monster crocodile!

After catching his breath, everyone was eager to know from the young man what gave him such confidence.

“Young man,” they all asked at once, “what do you have to say about such daring? We all want to know what moved you to dive in. Was it the promised money?”

“Thank you all,” he started, “but what I really want to know first is who pushed me!”

Either pushed or not, I am going to learn to dive, Wofa.

“I tried. And I made it. Trust yourself. And believe.” Those are the words of Kamkwamba.

As I reflect some more, the story of a friend of mine, let’s call her Adwoa, come strongly to me. Adwoa was passionate about training and development, and talked continuously about how she would love to set up an outfit for that purpose when she went out of the company on an expected early retirement. We called it “being paid off”. That day never came. One day, Adwoa didn’t return to work. She died with her dream.

I am going to find that vim to dive, Wofa. Because, as I told Aboko my friend, sometimes one needs to know when to move before he is pushed. And I have seen a lot of pushing lately. Your company can decide to push you, to sack you. And then you would find that you can actually swim very well and beat crocodiles.

I tried and I made it. William has really provoked me.

Till I come your way another time with another sebitical letter from Amalaman, I remain:

Sebitically yours,

Kapokyikyiwofaase

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​**My friend Billy Hanyabui asked me to share this for the New Year. Enjoy this excerpt from Sebitically Speaking. Happy New Year!**

I have had a long debate with my friends on what exactly should be the right expression in Twi used to wish one another a happy new year. Literally, in Sikaman, we exchange greetings to express our appreciation for seeing another year, in experiencing the full cycle of another year. So in Twi, we say that afe akɔ asani abɛto yɛn, meaning ‘the year has gone (round) and met us again’ (in good health). Therefore, afe ɛkyia yɛn nhyia pa. So is the right expression Afe-nhyia-pa or Afe-hyia-pa?

Whichever one it is, Happy New Year. May another afe (year) go and come and meet us again, in good health, for us all and our loved ones.
The beginning of the year is always a special one for my family and I. Our dad Bombay focused more on celebrating the first of January than Christmas and would strive to have us in our hometown, Wasa Akropong, for annual reunions. 

Incidentally, it was on his way back from the town centre after buying biscuits for a children’s party he was organising in Wasa Akropong that he was knocked down by a hit-and-run driver whose overtaking went wrong. He was declared dead on arrival at the district hospital in Akropong on 31 December, 2005. So at the end of each year and the beginning of the next, we remember Bombay and the influence he had on us, his children. I am sure he is sitting with his brother, Wofa Kapokyikyi, reading this right now. Bombay, nnipa nsɛ hwee . Da yie . We remember you.

In my book Through the Gates of Thought, I reflected on the unit of time; and how it appears that time itself was getting shorter, leading to the question which became the subject of one discussion: Are the days and years getting shorter? I mused over the fact that time “comes to pass” whether we are stressed, relaxed or doing nothing, whether we are overworked or underworked. 
I recall one Monday in August 2005 during my postgraduate studies in Nottingham, UK, when I was contemplating the sheer amount of work I needed to do before the end of that week. I had three major assignments to submit and I had absolutely no idea where and how to start almost all of them! I felt really stressed. Our course Director and lecturer for our Desalination class, Professor Nidal Hilal, asked me in a casual conversation as we waited in the corridor before the start of class, how things were going, and I remarked to him that there was just too much to do before the end of week. His response was deep – that we always underestimate the capacity of the human body to withstand stress and the capability of the human brain. He assured me that I will certainly survive that week, and I did! I am here, to tell my story! Of course, that week passed. 
The lesson from Professor Hilal has always challenged me to look at how I can fully utilise my days. The late motivational speaker, Myles Munroe, famously asked his listeners to ensure that they go to the grave empty, emptied of all the potentials they can possibly explore on earth. Our days can always take an extra bit of initiative and activity and, as we start this new year 2015, I wish to challenge you on some kpa-kpa-kpa-solutions (resolutions to help your ‘hustle’) this year. Kpa-kpa-kpa comes from an interview of a guy who indicated that it represented the hustle to make ends meet on a daily basis in Sikaman. 

My writer friend, Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng explains that kpa-kpa-kpa “strictly excluded stealing and included legitimate means of ‘hustling’ by piecing this and that together to keep body and soul together”. 
The analysis and reflection of how time passes was the subject of a telephone conversation in the last quarter of 2014, with my good friend, Dr. Moses Ademola, who practises in Ireland. We chatted about general life issues and got to the topic of building houses for our families. I argued that building a house can be a long-term project that needs steady progress once you start, even in a small way, indicating that averagely, it takes about ten years for people to build their own homes. Moses countered that a period of ten years was too long and one should save enough to build quickly in about two years. My counter argument was that in most West African countries, the value of one’s savings are usually wiped out by inflation and so it is almost difficult to save enough to build because the increase in the prices of building materials would render the amount saved inadequate when one is finally ready, so the best way is to start building, phasing the stages out. I ‘killed’ the argument when I reminded Moses that it had been eight years since we both completed our studies at Nottingham University. He was amazed that this was close to the ten years he said was too long!
In 2011, I encountered one of my lowest points, triggered by too much thinking and self-assessment. One of the main points of disappointment with myself was that contrary to the advice of my first boss, Auntie Aba, I still hadn’t started on the project of stopping the payment of rent. What I argued about with Moses was my action plan. A long-term plan based on small steps and actions will always get results. In Unilever, we were taught to have a bias for action and to appreciate the wisdom in the mantra that small actions everyday make a great difference. My personal mantra has been as follows: ‘Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast’. This year, get started on building a house. 
There are a lot of other ideas you have and have been waiting for the right time to start for years. Remember that the first time someone ever did something, s/he did it as an amateur. Start. Brown leaves fall, green leaves fall too. Don’t over-analyse to paralysis. Move. Do it! 
My boys told me in late 2014 that they would be attending Universities in the UK and US. I took a mental note quickly and this year, I want to start a long-term plan for investment for their University fees. Fortunately, I have about a decade to do that. This year, plan for your children a decade or two from now.
In 2012, I realised that working away from my family, I would have some spare time especially in the evenings and could finally make time to study for a professional course in Supply Chain as I have wished to for years. I set myself a target of three years to complete it and made a budget to fund the course over thirty-six months. That led me to an online course with Liverpool University, comprising eight modules plus a dissertation. As I write now, I just started the seventh module and I have nine more monthly payments to do. As explained earlier, the time passed even though I filled the cup that represented my day with gravel, sand and water!
A lot of people are taking courses online and adding to their knowledge. A number of full-time workers are taking evening courses and doing part-time studies. Don’t sit and complain and say no one is appreciating you at work when your worth is not appreciating because you are learning nothing new. Start a course. Time still goes by whether you are too busy or not.
This year, make time to sit with at least two of your mentors and pick their wisdom to guide you. If you don’t have any mentors, get at least two and engage with them. As you do this, get them or other close friends to give you feedback on how you did last year and what you need to do better.
This year, if you promise to return a call, keep your promise especially if you are a businessman or woman. And keep your promises to your friends. A promise kept is the first indication of respect.
This year, plan a trip to one of the regions in Ghana with your family. I suggest the Volta region or the Northern region. You will enjoy it and the children will learn. You will learn too.
Take the children to your hometown. Don’t break the link with your roots.
This year, try and speak your local language with your children. They may not learn enough to speak it fluently but they will learn it well enough to understand it. That would be a good start.

Success in life is not just about the destination, but the journey itself. Make time to smell the roses, make friends, create memories, and enjoy the moments.
A very Happy New Year to you!
Till I come your way with another sebitical, I remain:
Sebitically yours, 

Kapokyikyiwofaase

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In the fourth year after the old Odekuro Asomdwehene Obenefo Yohani Atta Nikanika died, there arose three men from the land of Montie who came shouting in the wilderness: “Make way for the Son of Drahama, Odekuro Okasafo Yohani Mahani Nikaboka, he who has been anointed to rule in the affairs of the land with yentie-obianic vim!” 
And all the men and women and animals of the air, sea and land asked, “From whence cometh these folks who speaketh forth with vitriolic fervour?”
When the cries of the people reached the ears of Odekuro, he nodded and said the people needed elevation to see the source of the fervour that had taken hold of the Men of Montie.  
When the Men of Montie did the ultimate biegya and took the judges of the Supreme Council of the Ahenfie Court to the laundry behind Obaapanyin Potisaa’s house, washing them clean and hanging them out to dry, and when summoned to the Council and asked to go sleep some time in the stool room to reflect on their utterances, Odekuro went to the room under the cover of darkness and opened the door, releasing them to go, with the admonishment, “Go and biegya no more on the Council, but toaso on all others”.
As they stepped out of the stool room, Amakye the town crier followed them with his afekyirewaa, singing Yentie Obiaa. 
Imbued with such royal encouragement, the Men of Montie proceeded to biegya, with all buccal cavities at full blast.
But trust Wofa Kapokyikyi, the life patron of Liberty Fan Club, whose motto toasonically remains yɛ bu didi and whose bitters is fortified with the choicest roots of Sikaman, to get to the root of the matter. He told me that the source of the montienic fervour was political akpeteshie.
From my elementary chemistry as taught by Teacher Johnson, the fuse from political akpeteshie exhibits both diffusive and osmotic tendencies, flowing from an area of high concentration to that of low concentration and also permeating all spheres of the society.
Soon, this fervour found its way to royal rooms and, in a weird chain reaction that managed to defy the Vander Waals theorem, this fervour reacted with the gbeshinic catalyst and found not a few royal victims.
Come and see biegya paa from high places.
And so it came to pass that the custodians of our tradition decided to indulge in binge drinking of this political apio. One chief, who speaks with a similar tongue as we do in Wasa, used bɛn kɔdi bɛn tɔn to express his wish to become a serial caller just to show how Odekuro has so transform Sikaman that his lineage should rule forever. And the people of the Dorma said “Omanhene, kasa!” With such loud encomiums, this chief proceeded to say that if he lost that argument as a serial caller, Nananom should have a say about his stool. But Nana was sly, he spoke in sebi-pothetical terms. 
Many more chiefs spoke for and against Odekuro. It was a free-for-all royal biegyanisation. Political akpeteshie flowed on the land, and across it, ubiquitous like the Pra and the Volta in its reach.
But the biegyaest of all was the Omanhene of Gbese who got overtaken by all the seven spirits of gbeshie and proclaimed that ɛbaa yi shie if Naa Toshie’s friend ever gets a stool! Come and see clapping! “Twaa! Twaa! Omanye aba!” the people cried.
It has been said that when Nii saw the word “biegya” which means “open fire” in Twi, the Ga word for fire, which is “la”, ekikied him and made him to “la lala” (sing a song).
Odekuro heard the song and was pleased. 
So it came to pass when it had all passed that Naa Toshie’s friend took the real commanding lead and cruised to victory.
The constitution of the Sikaman enjoins the chiefs to stay out of drinking political akpeteshie but, this year, they decided that the cup that was used to serve Takyi should deservedly be extended to Baah. Afterall, man resembles nothing. They decided that being called fathers of their states amounted to little if they couldn’t sip small for the stomach’s sake. They decided that the tradition of a chief not eating in public was antediluvian.
Kɛhini is a big ant with a super-foul smell. When your name is Kɛhini, you don’t enter the fray when there is a search for the person who just broke wind.
It turned out that Nii Ayi is of the Kɛhinic order. His stool is a stool under stress – being pulled in two directions. With his promise to step down, the other party found its voice. And now as well, Wofa Kapokyikyi has polished up his little Ga Mashie vocabulary and is telling Nii Ayi, “Nii, tɛɛshie”.
A few days ago, Nii Ayi’s supporters came out of the Ahenfie to tell us that we don’t understand royal speak. And that Nii spoke in proverbs. I used to think that it was only the politicians that thought citizens of Sikaman have apeprensa in place of grey matter. I have been educated. I was wrong.
The attempted proverbilisation of this plain mayishinated statement by Nii reminded me of the Baba-Jamalian prescription. According to the world-famous Baba-Jamalian principle, when in a position of power, when you see a sheep, it is most appropriate to call it a cow. Afterall, all paintey be paintey. 
Meanwhile, we continue to wait for what next adesa would ensue from Adesa We. Ta wɔ adesa, Mensah, ta wɔ adesa. 
Wofa Kapokyikyi once told me that when an elder loses respect, even his public fart elicits no response. I still hope to not to be fart-neutral where some of our chiefs are concerned. 
I hope the Nii Ayi Bonte issue teaches our venerable chiefs to desist from binge-boozing on political akpeteshie. We want to still respect them.
May we never again reach that low montie point. It was the ultimate Yentie Obiaa moment and that is the enduring legacy in my mind with respect to Odekuro.
Till I come your way again with another sebitical, I remain:
Sebitically yours,

Kapokyikyiwofaase

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