By the gracious grace of the Lord, the boy from Bongo completed his four turbulent years of studies in the Ghana Institute of Journalism on June 11, 2010. But before I left for my second hometown (Kete-Krachi) to see the family before I officially start recouping the fees I started paying in Kete-Krachi Local Authority Primary School, I decided to get myself some obroniwawu. So I went to Ghana’s largest market for second-hand clothes – Kantamanto.
The atmosphere at Kantamanto was different from the usual hustle and bustle, survival-of-the-fittest scene in the Central Business District of Accra. Though the day was still very young and unspent, that part of the city hardly went to bed and one was sure to meet that do-or-die lifestyle at every minute of the day, 24/7. But this virgin Saturday morning was different. From Opera Square through to the Rawlings Park to the Despite Music Shop area and then to Kantamanto itself, the atmosphere was very breezy. The tens of (sometimes noisy) preachers, who rent the morning air with their sermons of prosperity, and never of salvation, seemed to have noticed the excitement and decided to stoke it up. From their speakers boomed danceable gospel tunes, to which sellers and buyers alike sang along and danced merrily.
The music was just one aspect of the party. If you were not very careful to place your palms where they ought to be in time, that rascal could split your eardrums with the hollow South African-made trumpet they call vuvuzela. Clad in all manner of costumes of red, gold, green and the “glittery” Black Star, the word on the lips of everybody that morning was “we.” Its twin brother, “they” was for once missing. And the antecedent of that first person plural pronoun was Ghana. “We will win! Ghana will win,” were the incantations. In fact, it was a morning I wished would repeat itself for at least ten times in a year.
Ghana was to play the Socceroos of Australia that afternoon and anybody who went to the heart of Accra that morning would bet with his balls (or their equivalent) that if a thief had been caught that morning, they would have, for once, escaped lynching.
Later that afternoon when I was going to board the Kete-Krachi-bound bus at Agbogbloshie, the atmosphere was the polar opposite of what I had seen in the morning. Disappointment might be an understatement, but at least that was what I saw written on the many faces who flew the red, yellow and green handiwork of Theodosia Okoh at half mast after Ghana failed to secure the maximum points we needed so much to progress to the next stage of the tournament.
Ghana against USA
But I was lucky to be in Accra when Ghana played the USA, and I don’t think the greatest wordsmith ever to exist on this planet could get a word that aptly conveys the scene on the streets of Accra after the match. The streets of Dansoman, especially the one from Mamprobi Bamboi to Dansoman Last Stop, were in a state of indescribable frenzy. I could not tell whether it was the touting of stranded car horns, the loud vuvuzelas or the countless jama compositions in the innumerable tongues that held sway in what appeared like a competition to outwit one another in noise making. Energetic and kenkey induced stocky bodies glistened with sweat in the car lights as bare chested young men took to the streets.
They turned anything that could produce a sound into a drum. Children, young enough to still be suckling at their mothers’ breasts were there, too, chanting inaudibly into the frenzied atmosphere, “Oseeyie Ghaaana! Black Stars!” The Oldies were not left out either. Not energetic enough to join in the crazy march, they stood at the sides of the streets and waved their walking sticks to the marching youth. There was this one whose frame was bent over like a dry bean pod. But he too was there. Cheering!
The sight to behold, however, was from those medium, large and extra-large and well-endowed “obolosonics” who had their breasts flapping against their chest like fresh topala. You don’t know topala? Ask any Frafra near you. They are the fruits of the giant baobab trees of the savanna. Some can be very heavy. No wonder some fresh topala end up tearing down baobab branches. Indeed, that Saturday night was a night to behold and the pronoun again was “we.” So I asked myself whether this was the acrimonious Ghana I had known all along.
Why do we celebrate the way we do?
A lot of people are forcing us to believe that the madness that accompanies the victory of our Twinkle Twinkle Little Black Stars is as a result of football fever. But I beg to differ! It is not the football or the beauty of our game! No, it isn’t! Why did Ghanaians not feel bad or take to the street to celebrate when Germany demolished England 4-1? Did they play ampe? The answer is simple. It did not involve Ghana. So the reason for the wild celebrations is GHANA!
Football is just a popular sport, but what really ignites the wild jubilation is that potent spirit in us called Ghana. It is the Ghana in us that has made people walk stark naked in wild jubilation. It is the sense of belonging we attach to the geographical entity called Ghana that is responsible for the disappointment, broken heartedness and collapse of supporters when our team loses.
I don’t like boxing and wrestling. But when Joshua Clottey opened a cut on Zab Judah’s face I watched with pleasure and wished it were more severe. Why? Joshua Clottey is not my clansman. I knew I would not get to spend a pesewa of his money. And until that bout, I hadn’t heard about him. But Clottey and I have one spirit – the “Ghanaian Spirit.”
The World Cup is not just about football. It is about our national pride. It is this national pride that sent former US President Bill Clinton onto his feet when the Americans equalized our first goal. It was this national pride that made President Mills “sit on thorns” when that equalizer came. It was this pride that forced Barack Obama to take time off the G8 Summit to watch the match. It is not just about the beauty of the game; else we should spare these celebrations for the European Champions League. That’s where we see really beautiful footwork.
It is for this reason that we should see what is currently ongoing in South Africa and the spontaneous jubilation back home beyond football. This is the opportunity to teach those who have still not realized how bonded we are together to learn at least one lesson and let it guide their conducts as Ghanaians.
Are Gyan and Dede NDC or NPP?
We are living (or rather surviving) in a country divided into almost two equal halves – everything is either NPP or NDC. There are a few hiding in the cloaks of CPP to push their NPP and NDC agenda.
Our so-called honourable parliamentarians have taught and continue to teach us that everything about NDC is bad and everything NPP is bad. They are like programmed robots, who fail to use the contents of their skulls. If President Mills says this agenda must go through, then all NDC MPs will support it. Not even one of them will see anything wrong with it. If Kufuor says we should sell Ghana Telecom, all his MPs will support it. It’s either NDC or NPP. To them, Ghana is secondary. And so severe is it that if one MP opposes his party’s policy, he is considered insane. That is why Hon. P.C. Appiah Ofori is not taken seriously in his own party. When he alleged that MPs in his party had received bribes prior to the sale of GT, those words appeared to have come from mouth of a drunkard. The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) didn’t investigate. Mills and his men kept mute. So?
You either fully support NDC or NPP “fully”, or you’re tagged a saboteur.
But the Black Stars have taught us that Ghana is not all about NPP or NDC. We hail Asamoah Gyan and Andre Dede Ayew not because they are members of our political parties. They are part of us. They are like our kinsmen. They are Ghanaians. And until we stop following these greedy politicians who ride in air-conditioned 4WDs while our productive young men sell them dog chains to restrain their well-fed bulldogs, we cannot progress. The gold and cocoa have not helped and the oil find will not produce any impact if we don’t change. We must be the change we wish to see as Gandhi admonishes.
When Asamoah Gyan netted that brilliant goal, we did not wear party colours before pouring into the streets. We wore Ghanaian colours. We did not celebrate on party or ethnic lines. The NDC and NPP supporters sang and danced together. Both Abudus and Andanis rejoiced. The Mamprusis and Kusasis in Bawku burst with excitement. There were wild jubilations in Kumasi and so was it in Tuobodom. The people of Peki and Tsito, Nkonya and Alavanyo were not left out. And so were the two factions in the Anlo chieftaincy crises not left out in the spontaneous explosion of joy. Akuffo Addo’s faction and Alan’s faction, the Mills’ and Rawlings’ factions rejoiced together!
We’re all Ghanaians. That is the definition we give ourselves for now. All other things are secondary and if this country is to see progress, this is what we should note and put into practice. Natural and human resources alone do not develop a nation. Nigeria can boast of the very best of intellectuals and in terms of oil wealth, it is a giant. But the line between Nigeria and a failed state is thinner than the edge of a sharp circumcision blade.
Lessons from the Black Stars
We either work as a team or we perish. Cote D’Ivoire went into the tournament with the kind of stars that can match any of the best teams in the world. I was so much disappointed when Drogba told the BBC that his side was proud to have played Brazil and Portugal though they did not qualify. He (Drogba) is currently one of the best strikers in the world and his teammates can compete with the best anywhere. But what happened? We all saw it! They have solid individual players but a weak team.
When Ghana played the USA, the three-time African Footballer of the Year and Ghana’s most talented footballer ever, Abedi Ayew Pele, watched his 20-year old son play in a tournament he and his star-studded squad never got to play in his heydays. I was wondering what was going through Abedi’s mind. If only Abedi, Tony Yeboah and others had been united…
Lessons from Gyan and Dede’s success stories
Asamoah Gyan and Dede Ayew have great lessons for us all. Asamoah Gyan, the impotent and accursed striker of yesterday is the hero of today. In the Ghana 2008 Africa Cup of Nation tournament, so severe were the criticisms and curses against Gyan that his mother went to the Black Stars’ camp and asked her two sons (Barfuor and Asamoah Gyan) to pack and go home. It took the intervention and consolation of former President Kufuor, who went there in person to speak words of comfort to Asamoah Gyan, to save the situation. Today, he is our Jesus. The young striker has not allowed people to dictate his destiny and this we must learn.
Dede Ayew came under a barrage of criticism when he was included in the national team two years ago. Despite his enormous potential, it was generally believed that his father Abedi Ayew Pele’s “Kululu” that got him there. Even when he led the Black Satellites to win the WAFU, Africa and World Under-20 trophies, his critics were still not satisfied. My mate in GIJ, Richard Nii Abbey (DQ), still believes (even today) that Dede should not have been in the squad but for his father’s “undue influence.” But I believe such people must bury their heads in shame. Dede has taught us a great lesson: “If people speak ill of you, live your life in such a way that no one will believe them.” Today, only a mad man will openly criticize his inclusion in the Black Stars.
But the greater lesson is from the entire Black Stars team. They have taught us that we (Ghanaians) are hounds of the same owner (Ghana) and we must not tear the game apart. This message is loud enough and the illiterate, the literate and uneducated literates must learn if we are to move an inch further from our quagmire of miserable state of affairs.