​Nsempiisms: Bringing Up Mono-Linguals?

Last week, on 19 September 2017, I was honoured to be part of the launch of the 11th edition of The Spelling Bee, and had fun doing a reading of my piece “You Know You Are In Ghana When…”. Thanks for the opportunity, Eugenia Techie-Menson (aka Mawn Van Boven) and well done for the amazing experience: audience, ambience, content, speeches, performances, theme…

Yes, the theme. THE RELEVANCE OF THE MOTHER TONGUE IN LITERACY.

The thoughts shared, the documentary screened of young people who can’t speak in their mother tongue or in any other local language, the looming danger of our grandchildren not speaking any of our native languages because their parents — our children — cannot teach them because they cannot speak the languages themselves…I haven’t stopped thinking about it all.

My little girl is being taught Twi as a subject in school and, this week, she brought in homework, to list five local or indigenous games in which songs are sang. We had fun trying to remember some and took the fun a notch higher by calling my mum on phone, who excitedly gave us three types of games. As we tried to get one last one, Mama called back and said “Adonko koraa, nea ɔmo to wɔ TV so no, ɛno nsoso yɛ agorɔ ni bi!”

I could literally feel the joy oozing from her as she contributed to her grand-daughter and namesake’s homework.

At home, my wife and I communicate primarily in Twi, she speaks Fanti as well but my Fanti is terrible (apologies to my grandma Abokoma and the etsew I ate in Cape Coast for seven years on Menya Mewu Hills) and Ga, when we don’t want the children to understand what we are saying. Their nanny is Ewe but speaks Ga mostly so, in addition to what they have learnt in the Ga classes at school, Auntie Mary has taught them some Ga so these days they are able to follow our Ga convos. Perhaps it is time to learn Ewe? But I digress.

We have been lazy as parents in speaking directly to them in Twi or Fanti. Well, let’s say I have. Wife mine has done much better. My more positive action, perhaps, is taking them to Wasa at least once a year for the past eight or so years, so they can get immersed in the language and the customs of their people much more.

On our last visit, in August this year, one of my sons was annoyed when a relative, when he responded in English whilst she spoke Twi to him, retorted “Ka Twi!” I explained that he understood but, perhaps, is also afraid of his accent.

Yes, so though they understand the language fairly, they speak it not like I do. So there is surely a gap, and I was rudely nudged into revitalised action during the launch of The Bee.

I have started speaking more of Twi now with the children, directly.

I don’t want them, or their children — my grandchildren — to be what the Country Director of Young Educators Foundation (who run The Spelling Bee), Eugenia Techie-Menson calls ‘mono-linguals’. They will not be so, not under my watch.

Will your grandchildren speak your language?

Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.

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Nsempiisms: Indiscipline or Deficiency

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.

Sebiticals Chapter 41: Have You Seen the Gyata You Reared?

lion cage

There is a popular cartoon that has been making the rounds for years.

 

Let me describe the progression in the scene for you.

 

The scene opens with actor standing in front of the cage with the lion locked behind it. The director briefs the actor that when the ‘action’ cue was given, the actor is to open the cage and free the lion. The lion will chase the actor around as the actor acts scared and distressed. The director then assured the actor that he shouldn’t worry about the lion harming him.

 

“Don’t worry,’ the director said, ‘the lion would eat you. It is written here in the script.”

 

“All well and good,’ the actor replied, “you might have written the script, but the question is, ‘Has the lion read the script too?'”

 

In the run-up to the 2016 Elections in Sikaman, the current governing party trained some gyatas and got some actors to go to town with those gyatas. It is clearer by the day that not everyone read the script.

 

Sebitically speaking, the NPP is reaping the results of its militarization in the run-up to the last elections. I pray that what is happening with the Delta, Invisible Forces, Azorka Boys, Kandahar Boys and associated vigilante lions, which have grown from cubs, will be a lesson for the future.

 

As I reflected on the journey to this place of violence, I realised that it is only the unobservant who would say where we are is as a result of magic. There was a build-up, gradually. At least, I saw it. And going through my previous posts on social media, I found quite a number of signposts.

 

In May, 2015, I had a short exchange on a friend’s page who called foot-soldiers of NDC the “most useless” she had ever known. I retorted that all political foot-soldiers in Ghana are useless, including those of the NPP. The propensity for foot-soldier nonsense is no respecter of party colours.

 

I asked her not to worry if she disagreed with me on my assertion as I didn’t intend to convince her. You see, one doesn’t need to use words to convince anyone about the characteristics or potential shenanigans of foot-soldiers; the foot-soldiers themselves will, by their deeds and utterances.

 

So after that, we entered the season of the foot-soldiers as the parties started their primaries. My friend was soon impressed.

 

In the run-up to the last elections, I made a statement on my Facebook wall that ruffled not a few feathers. On 25 March 2016, I wrote:

 

“I have observed a trend over the past few years. The NPP is trying very hard to shed off its middle-class, book-long tag and to show that it can also talk rubbish and meet the NDC boot-for-boot. Gloves are off. The NDC is trying very hard to remove the rural, mass, rough and violence-inclined tag and appeal more to the middle. Gradually, the NPP is resembling the NDC of old and the NDC is resembling the NPP of old.”

 

I leave you to judge how this has played out. You be the judge.

 

My only comment is that the gloves were never put back on. The vigilantes are knocking their masters with ungloved fists. And in the gut too.

 

The previous year, on 15 May 2015, I had this from an excursion in my mind:

 

“What do the teeming semi-literate, usually unemployable and mostly irrational foot-soldiers of our political parties want from their inordinate support for their parties? And from the victories of their parties? The answer to that should lead you some sober reflections. That has a great impact on the quality of the output from our political leadership. And on what we achieve as a nation between election campaigns.”

 

A few days later, on 21 May 2015, I wrote: “The foot-soldier nonsense has started in the NPP.

 

On 7 November 2015, I quoted the Communications Director of the NPP in a post as follows:

 

“’We haven’t done a good job of teaching party supporters tolerance…’ Nana Akomea. Very poignant. This phenomenon of party foot-soldiers. It will bring us some big wahala one of these days. Soon.”

 

Party foot-soldiers have seized toilets, seized constituency party offices, seized party officers, seized national party offices, burnt party offices, chased district chief executives out of their offices, stormed court premises, turned into pseudo-armies and continue to enjoy political support.

 

On 7 February 2016, I wrote on my #QuotesbyNAD page: “This foot-soldiers-going-on-rampage-at-will nonsense must be stopped. One day they will have nothing else to vandalise but their leaders who fail to call them to order today.”

 

That day is precariously close.

 

One day soon, these same party foot-soldiers will seize the Flagstaff House and seize the

President.

 

We have already seen the back-and-forth with the court case involving the Delta Forces 1 & 2 teams.

 

In Arrow of God, Chinua Achebe wrote that the man who brings home ant infested firewood should not complain when lizards start to visit. According to Nana Ampadu, in his song “Woyoo woyoo”, a leopard who goes on a pilgrimage to Mecca doesn’t turn into a vegetarian. Even if he becomes head of a masalachi.

 

What we are experiencing with the vigilante groups in the NPP follows the principles of the Newton’s First Law of motion which states that every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force. When a car is in motion, the occupants travel at the speed at which the car is moving. When the car stops, the objects in the car (including the occupants) still travel at pre-stop speed of the car. Unless an external force changes their state, and restraints them. Like a seat belt.

 

The vigilante groups are still travelling at pre-elections and pre-inauguration speed. The governing party, their party, needs to find restraints to keep them in check and change their state. As quickly as possible.

 

This gyata who has even seen the Promise Land is asking for barbecued officials for dinner. With a serving of sobolo.

 

The feeding of foot-soldiers has emboldened them to go out to hunt for themselves. Soon, if unchecked, this reared gyata will break loose and start chewing live meat.

 

Till I come your way with another sebitical, I remain:

 

Sebitically yours,

Kapokyikyiwofaase

Sebiticals Chapter 40: Sikamaliamentary Palava

I bring you very foamy greetings from the shed of Akwasi Sorfree, the best palm wine tapper in Wasaman, where, departing from his regular practice, Wofa Kapokyikyi is having a calabash of palm wine. He told me that from time to time, even Memuna gets tired of fula. No Liberty Fun Club visits today.
Wofa was quite pensive today. Me, I just sat and enjoyed the conversations around the benches under the shed.
“A fool in a pensive mood is not making any judicious plans; he is still a buffoon,” Wofa whispered, almost to himself.
“Ei, Wofa Kapokyikyi! Please explain.” I had no incline what he meant by that.
“My son, a rich man who becomes poor is still better than a poor man who is trying to become rich.”
“Ei! As for today, you are really swimming in parables.”
Wofa was not finished. “A mad man who gets cured still have some tricks with which to frighten children. And a fool who is assumed wise only has to open his mouth to clear any doubts.”

I had to get closer to Wofa Kapokyikyi to confirm whether he was in the spirit. He wasn’t. He was very sober, which was even more dangerous. For what a man says when drunk, he thought about whilst sober, and Wofa’s thoughts, when being cooked in his fertile mind, were caustic.
Oh yes, I bring you greetings from Wofa Kapokyikyi, who told me that Kotei the jack-of-all-trades, who recently graduated from village electrician to cable TV fixer, has finally come to install the apotowiwa on top of his roof so that his television set can now receive images from the capital.
Wofa says he has been following the proceedings, news, discussions, accusations, fights and all the drama from the House of State this year, and his mind was still trying to manage all the twists and turns.
“I love the state of our Parliament now. For every story, there are about four versions of the near-truth. And then the truth. I love it more when each storyteller calls the other a liar. Makes it even more colourful when the lied to is not believed, when he states his version of the truth which cannot be distinguished from the lies which the liar tries to discount.”
“Ei, Wofa, son of Premang Ntow and grand nephew of Bassanyin!” That was all I could say. I started to think that the palm wine wasn’t getting on well with the physiological mechanisms of my Wofa’s metabolism.
It is getting tangled and mangled and appearing far from simple eh? It is sounding convoluted and you are getting discombobulated eh?
Exactly! That’s the idea, to make you appreciate my confusion with the train of thoughts that Wofa was peregrinating today.
“You see, my wofaase, our big men in the House of State have given onto themselves the ‘Insult Privilege’. They have arrogated to themselves alone the power to disrespect MPs. To insult MPs. To fight MPs. They say to the ordinary people, ‘You have no right to disrespect us or to speak ill about us. We don’t need your help. We can do it ourselves. To one another.’ Who am I to disagree?”
Wofa paused and took a sip from his calabash. The foam formed a white line above his upper lip. I wondered how that line would have formed if Wofa had an Andamic moustache. He didn’t give me much time to wonder.
“You remember the accusations and counter accusations about the black polythene courier bags? You remember the naadoli-cowric statement that was covered with a polythene sheet? Did you see the fight that brought us good memories of the zoom-zoom days?”
I nodded. I did remember all of them, I answered.
I asked Wofa if the continuous use of the Insult Privilege wouldn’t dent the image of Parliament. 
He chuckled.
“How can you dent further a milk tin that has been used for various rounds of chaskele?” He said this slowly, nodding slowly.
He was done with his palm wine. Just one calabash. He stood up and held one of the bamboo pillars holding the roof of the shed in place.
Amakye the town crier who was sitting across us and had his transistor radio glued to his ears just increased the volume as we heard the latest news from the House of State. The voice within the radio said some of the big men of the house had used their special nkrataa to take some people across the cornfields and left them there. The radio voice said the man making the accusation was called Jon. Not John o, not any of the former Odikros.
We all said “Hmmmm”. Except Wofa, who said “Oyiwa!”
“Did you notice that in the visa matter of Jon vs the MP4 (apologies to Efo Kofi Gbedemah),” Wofa asked, beginning to walk towards the police station junction, at which we would turn left towards home, “ that only ‘nieces’ and ’wives’ were carried along, and not nephews or brothers?”
I followed him down the road, with my mind made up on one thing: palm wine is not good for my Wofa Kapokyikyi.
Till I come your way again, hopefully when Wofa Kapokyikyi reverts to sampling the normal spirits at the Liberty Fun Club, I remain:
Sebitically yours,

Kapokyikyiwofaase

​Sebiticals Chapter 35: Ghana Vu – The Road Just Travelled

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

Sebiticals Chapter 27: Of Giving, Tithing and Accountability 

​**One of the 3 Sebiticals not published in Sebitically Speaking.
Many years ago, I read a quote which I have been looking for in the past few months but can’t find. The writer of the quote stated that he hardly gave advise on relationships (marriage) and religion, because he didn’t want any persons to blame him (the writer) for their woes in this life or in the next.
I have generally followed that advice. I hardly write about direct religious advice and I can count only about two articles of mine which are dedicated to marriage. And this is out of over a hundred full articles I have written over the more than a decade of active writing.
Last week, actually on my birthday, 3 June 2015, Accra experienced one of the worst flooding I have seen in my life. This coincided with one of the worst fire incidents that nation has ever known as well, when a fuel station near Nkrumah Circle due to an explosion of a fuel tanker. Initial reports indicate that fuel from the tanker leaked and was carried on the surface of the flood waters to a nearby fire source. As of writing, about 150 people have been reported killed from that incident. Many of the dead were sheltering away from the rains when the fire started. A dear friend of mine had left the same fuel station just 5 minutes before the blast. The total death toll from the combined fire and flooding incidents is currently over 200. 
May the souls of the departed rest in peace. 
And may we who remain behind ensure that, together, we create the environment and nation that prevents such catastrophes from happening.
As we mourn, I believe that our faith should find expression in our response to the needs of the afflicted and poor around us, and in our giving to assuage their pains. Our faith should speak through acts of charity. For instance, the least we can do as Christian churches is to donate all offerings this month to relief efforts. We should do even more. Dip into our vaults and give succour to the afflicted. 
Do an act of kindness this month.
Which is why over the weekend after the flooding, I used my Facebook page to engage my readers and followers on the principle and act of tithing, giving and accountability in our churches and religious organisations.
I have always maintained an unorthodox approach to tithing and how I disburse my tithes.
I was taught about tithing in the Scripture Union. Which is an evangelistic organisation. I felt comfortable then to give my tithes to SU and still do. So my foundational appreciation of this duty is to give for the furtherance of Christian outreach. 
My understanding is that when money is brought into the house of God (read: christian evangelistic organisation), it is to be used for three purposes: maintaining the house, supporting the workers in the house and feeding the outside world for which the house and religion exists: the poor, the afflicted and the needy.
So I continue to tithe, which means I set aside a tenth of my income. And I give to chrisitian organisations and also give out to support outreaches. Outreaches here include to the poor, afflicted and needy. 
Which means even when I see a needy student who needs funds to finish school, that person falls within my scope. If I see a poor person in my society, that person falls within my scope. If there is a project to bring relief to a community, it falls within my scope. I don’t believe that my money needs to go through the conduit of an organisation for it to be blessed enough to express christian charity and love to a recipient.
Note that I haven’t mentioned ‘church’ so far. I see that as a subset of the total universe I have defined above (recall your mathematics and sets).
I find many of our churches forgetting that we exist to affect our world and not necessarily only by the noise we make through our loudspeakers. 
This month, use your funds directly to affect a poor, afflicted or needy person.
This proposal generated a lot of responses and varied views. In our discussion on tithes, a few people made a submission that I summarize as below:
“Giving of tithes is an instruction and must go to my church. My responsibility is to obey that. How the money is used is not something I should concern myself with. It is something only the pastor(s) is/are accountable to God for.”
I was, and am, still shocked. If accountability does not and cannot start from the church, then I am not sure how we can hold anyone accountable in this land.
Perhaps I have been ‘spoilt’ by my training and association with Joyful Way and Ridge Church.
Right from the beginning of my time in JWI, I was shocked with the detailed and tough questions asked at Annual General Meetings (AGM). We used to joke that if your first meeting as a JWI member was at an AGM, you would wonder if it was a christian organization, with the Executives questioned on their stewardship and accounts.
Audited accounts are circulated to everyone and lines of expenditure and income outlined are scrutinised. The Executives would give account for each year of stewardship.
The group has a constitution which governs it and which is followed, with regular reviews as and when. The Executive body reports to a Board.
Ridge Church has its board, has AGMs and accounts given each week on preceding week’s inflows.
Perhaps my expectations of accountability in our churches are utopian.
But, back to the point of giving this month to help those affected. 
Let me leave you with some more questions:
What did you do last weekend to help someone affected by the floods? 
When was the last time your church did an outreach or donation to the needy, poor and afflicted?
Does your church have a program to support such people? Even within the church?
Do an act of charity this month.
Think about various ways you can help. If a group of people could set up a hot-lunch spot today to share food with the communities affected by the floods. They need clothing, mattresses, water. A few people have set up fundraising activities; find one and support. You can lend a helping hand whether you are in Ghana or not.
You can also join efforts to clean up your community. 
Whatever you do, don’t be on the fence. 
We are one another’s keeper, and the shoes could be on your feet the next time.
Till I come your way again with another sebitical, I remain:
Sebitically yours, 
Kapokyikyiwofaase