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Archive for the ‘Nsempiisms’ Category

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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My earliest memories of my holy village, very first faint memories, are of asking my late paternal grandfather Nana Premang Ntow II why he was sucking the chocolate bar instead of chewing it. Apparently his teeth had taken a Wassa leave at the time. I don’t recollect what year that was. But I recollect that in 1980 we attended his funeral in Akropong, travelling in the VW Beetle owned by Oldman Briscoe, the famous CATholic friend of my dad’s. I recollect the apaa that took place in honour of this late Omanhene and particularly remember tasting duck meat (whatever it is called, apart from dabo-dabo) which was part of the spoils of the apaa. During the apaa, any livestock not contained in a pen or in a house and found in the open, found itself on the highway to the royal soup.

My next big visit was somewhere around 1983 when we went by a sleeper, an overnight train, from Accra, boarding from Dzorwulu station, to Tarkwa and continuing to Akropong by road. I recall my late brother Yaw Appiah running after the truck taking us back to Takoradi from Akropong as he wept. He was a student then at Amenfiman Secondary School, the local second cycle school to which my dad sent all my siblings who make it to the secondary school, so we could reconnect to our roots and not become Accra people. I only changed from Amenss to Ghana National because my class six teacher convinced my dad to send me to a science school so I would become a medical doctor because I was good at science and mathematics. Amenss didn’t offer science. I was later to remedy this deviation from the norm by undertaking my national service after sixth form in Amenss between 1993 and 1994 as a mathematics and science tutor, and also teaching during my first two years at the university, during vacations. Indeed, my two siblings, Yaw and Ntiako who made it through the sixth form, also did their national service within the traditional area, Yaw at Wasa Asikuma and Ntiako at Wasa Anyinabrem. According to my big brother, “Anyinabrem is 12 miles by land, sea or air. No matter where you pass to that village, the distance is still 12 MILES. That was the old lady’s first teaching post.”
Thus begun my romance with my hometown. When my parents relocated to Wasa Akropong from Kotobabi in 1987, when I was in Form 1 at Ghana National, I started travelling alone between Accra, Cape Coast and Wasa Akropong, spending many hours on the road. Those days, a journey from Accra to Wasa started at dawn and ended at midnight, in the OSA Tata buses. One reached his or her destination, either way, with the hair coloured ginger. 
I had many happy times in my village as a boy, during vacations from boarding house and during my national service days. Being taught how to ride a bicycle, how to swim and fish in the Ehyire river by my best friend in the village, the Wasa-Frafra boy called Aboko, who I saw again last year when I visited. Aboko taught me how to speak my mother tongue properly, having been born and brought up in Akropong. His family are very much indigenes of the village. We went together to the stream to fetch water for all activities except for drinking, as we usually harvested drinking water from the roofs when it rained. We took long swims in the river, besides women who were washing their clothes right there. I learnt to push trucks and go to the farms to weed and harvest. My mum operated a chopbar so I learnt about bushmeat, and how to roast and dissect it. Happy moments, that built my pride in my holy village.
One of the major stories around Wasa then was that when it rained, you could find gold nuggets in gutters! My traditional area is rich in minerals, especially gold, and galamsey boys were popular then. You could identify them when they walked through town during market days, with their swagger, colourful dresses and bling bling. They made money quickly and spent it quickly, and they were raided often by the police. Even though lucrative, galamsey was seen as illegal and the citizens ensured, with the police, that it was under control.
Every year since I finished the university and started working, I have gone back home to visit. And for important family events especially funerals. Even whilst working away from Ghana, I still kept that tradition, taking the children with me also as they were added to the family.
I visited my holy village of Wasa Akropong last December, 2016, and I was ashamed of what my hometown had become. China town! With so many Wasanese that I couldn’t even see my own people!
It had undergone a Chinese Invasion. Our Chiefs in collusion. With chinese signages everywhere! The rivers now look like milo drinks with expired milk. Parcels of land look like cooked beans mixed with gari and palm oil. 
Nottingham University has a campus in China, and another one in Malaysia. It is traditional for students to transfer from China to the UK for a year for their studies, like a study abroad program. One of the strengths of the multi-national, multi-cultural heritage that my alma mater has. When I finished my course in September 2006, I stayed for a couple of weeks helping as a student volunteer for the International Welcome week for Nottingham Uni, where we helped new international students settle in and get acquainted with the UK, with Nottingham and with the school. One day, just as we were wrapping up for the day, we got information that two buses of students had just arrived in the school from Heathrow. The buses were filled with Chinese students, full of life and adventure. As an aside, the Asians are sending their kids to school abroad and really educating them. Part of their success story, not a fluke. In Nottingham University, we used to say that out of every five students you encountered, three were Asian and two were Chinese. An Iranian friend joked once that it felt like Chinatown. They enriched the programmes and were an encouragement to most of us, as we struggled through our courses, reminding ourselves that if they could learn to speak and write English, sometimes only perfecting it during their studies in the UK, and pass their exams, those of us from Africa who were mostly taught in English from primary school had no excuse not to pass. But I digress. 
Landing at Kotoka Airport on 18th February, just last week, from Lagos, I saw so many Chinese travellers coming into the country that I was reminded of that day in Nottingham. I am sure many of them will be going to Wasa. To continue the gold rush, to continue decimating our lands, with our complicit consent.
A writer observes patterns and is wary of coincidences. So I found it quite significant  that the first foreign delegation to visit the new President on his first working day in office on Monday 9th January 2017 was from the Chinese embassy. 
We read history and wonder why our ancestors sold their kith and kin for rum, schnapps and gunpowder. Yet today we sit and watch as we sell ourselves cheap to the Chinese (and many others by extension and in other activities apart from galamsey) for yen, fried rice and sweet & sour soup. Acting as if we are a people available for rape by the rest of the world, turning our backsides up and supplying our own petroleum jelly. 
Aren’t we ashamed of ourselves?
Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.
(This piece is part of the speech delivered by Nana Awere Damoah on 25 February 2017, during the launch of his latest book, Nsempiisms)

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​Rawlings used to be called Efo Commissioner. Kufour used to be called Commissioner-General. Mahama is the current title holder. 
I have been musing on how, in how many years, we complained about slow pace of development, wondered where all the money borrowed have gone to or been used for, yet how the flurry of commissioning of projects, completed and uncompleted, as well as the beginning of new projects (some, like roads, completed in days), in the past few weeks, have suddenly changed the narrative.
The politicians are very clever and they know how we remember only in brackets of a couple of months. I know this too. 
Anytime I do the categories for my annual Sikaman Awards and ask for nominations in the last quarter of the year, many people only remember events in the current month or the previous, hardly thinking back 10 months.
We do have short memories.
I was engaged in an online course for some years. Each week, students were expected to submit a researched paper on Saturdays, and to read and contribute to submissions of classmates. For the contributions, a student needed to do three to five posts over three days; you were marked down or considered as having skipped class if you waited and posted all your three submissions, at least, all in one day. The thinking behind this was that we needed to interact with both material and class, and get enriched thereby. 
The current practice of skewing all projects towards elections creates the enabling environment for our politicians to throw a few rainbow sprinkles at our electoral bridal party every four years.
Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.

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When I was learning to stride the Unicorn in the town Osagyefo built, my colleagues used to make fun of those of us who didn’t indulge in the water-like substance (and associated forms of same) Wofa Kapokyikyi favoured. However, when we went out for functions, the Safety Manager would point to people like us and ask our colleagues to get us to drive them home if they felt the earth was moving too frequently at the end of the events.

At every funeral in Sikaman, it is deemed wise if there are a few people who can be trusted to keep sober when the drink Kofi Akpabli calls ‘Yes We Can’ flows like a river. The entire populace of the village cannot, and should never, be drunk at the same time.
Like this drink, politics has a great potency of making us drunk. But, in the same way, we should have a portion of the village keeping away from drinking deep; ideally, not even tasting at all. The entire village cannot be in political stupor at the same time.
This is why it is worrying that our chiefs are not just tasting this drink of politics but actually running their own blue kiosks and selecting their drinking partners and clients. 
In this nation, who speaks and all the various shades of political parties listen to with respect? How many of our elders can we trust as the proverbial old lady that we all run to for balanced advice and wisdom? How many people do we have in Sikaman presently who transcend our political fiefdoms?
We say “sε opanin dware wie a na nsuo asa”; the elder finishes bathing, then the water is finished, meaning “when an elderly person finishes talking, all other talk must cease”. But what if the Opanyin rushes to start bathing before everyone else? 
Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.

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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

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15 May 2016

I was having a chat with a dear friend of mine yesterday about an order for autographed sets of my books. When I asked her about the names to sign the books to, she mentioned three names, one of which meant “hope” in Twi. She explained that it was her sibling’s name and that they have an Akwapim side of the family. This friend has a Ga surname and so that was a revelation.

I was born and brought up in Kotobabi in Accra, but my parents made sure we were connected back to our hometown and heritage. I took it (from what I heard) that my paternal grandpa and maternal grandparents were Wasa; my paternal grandma, Maame Afua Abakoma also known as Elizabeth Amonoo I knew was Fanti. Her brother, S Appiah Wilson, lived at Agona Swedru and he was the one my dad stayed with for most of his education till he completed Middle School at the Agona Swedru Catholic Middle School. I was told Abakoma’s family hailed from Ajumako. Indeed when Nana Wilson died, we attended his funeral there. That was my heritage as I knew it for many years.

Until about seven years ago when I got to know, from my paternal aunties, that Abakoma’s mum was from Asanti Juaben. So overnight, I realised there was some linkages I needed to update.

Anyone who knows Brong (Bono) Ahafo well would know that there are a lot of people there would bear same surname as mine. I asked my dad once and he wasn’t very sure but said one of his uncles journeyed to Bono to trace that link and never returned.

A few years ago, my big brother told me my maternal grandfather has roots in Nzema.

When I proposed to my girlfriend (my wife now) and as we travelled to Wasa to introduce her to my parents, I thought about how times had changed from when parents went back to their hometowns or selected girls from their towns for their sons when they came of age. I reflected on how now sons and daughters are sent miles away to schools where they interacted with people from all over the world; some of these boys and girls don’t even know the roads that leads from Accra towards their hometowns. I took home a lady whose parents are from Winneba and Saltpond.

With a combination of Wasa, Asanti, Fanti and Nzema, what tribe do my children belong to?

What about those children born to parents of different nationalities and races?

That is why modern day tribalism amuses me. Because many of us don’t even know the full stories of our ancestral and ethnical make-up. Not a few people will tell you, for instance, that the attribute of great height in some Asanti families is imported from further up north. Professor H Kwasi Prempeh likes to remind us that the famed chief cum boycott-hene Nii Kwabena Bonne III was both Osu Alata Mantse and Oyokohene of Techiman. As Prempeh says, Nii Bonne claimed both proudly.

Elections are here with us again and politicians will appeal to tribalistic instincts again. Next time one of them attempts that, ask him or her if he or she is even sure which tribe he can claim.

Above all, ask yourself: which tribe do your children belong to? Are you even sure.

Nsempiisms. Even whilst I shake my head at such absurdity, my mouth has fallen.

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