The Giants of 92

Posted in Uncategorized on November 30, 2017 by kola

This story is about a group of year group secondary school intake that haven’t met in twenty-five years but thanks to technology and the bond that is created when chance throws two or more people together, they still get together in a reunion. The year is 1987 and it is a hot sunny day in September. The gates of one the most prestigious schools in Ghana is besieged by parents and their wards as today is the arrival day for the fresh intake of matriculating students for the year. The atmosphere when is drive into the school is that of a solemn sense of abandonment, a potpourri of emotions sweeps across the environment from a mild sense confusion to utter amazement at the landscape of the school. For the parents and wards who are visiting the school for the first time it all looks like a scene from a fairy movie with everybody milling about and those who had already gone through the process of registration sitting around with their wards just talking animatedly. For the admitting officers, this is not new. They have seen this many many years and every time it’s the same old thing. Nothing changes much. Parents bring their wards to the school and first they make enquiries about the procedure for registration and then meticulously follow instructions and then when they are done they go around the school looking at the view and later sit down and that’s when the verbal advice column begins with emphasis of upbringing at home. For the students, we look round and we look at each other looking spiffy in our khaki trousers and white shirts neatly tucked in. You were walking with your parents but you kept looking around you and over your shoulder hoping and expecting to see if you already knew any of the boys who were invariably your mates. The other thing too was that you had no idea what to expect and the anticipation tied up like knots in your stomach sending you into autopilot mode such that even though you were walking with your parents or guardians and hearing them talk, half of what they were saying was just blowing over your ears like a silent breeze you didn’t even feel. But hey, the landscape of the school was one that constantly made an impression on every student being admitted into the school. Very soon the moment of truth comes when it is all over and after registration your parents have to leave but not before you get that long pep talk. Mothers are the ones to hug long and weep that for most of the admitted students this is the first time they are leaving home and the comfort of the parents’ bosom. Indeed, inasmuch as we don’t think about it then, but rather in hindsight, it the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of every single one of these matriculating students. They are going higher on in life in a higher education, they are going to learn new plenty new things, make new friends and associates, new life skills and for a school like Ghana Secondary Technical School a lot of us are going to learn how to survive on what you have whether material or innate and hone our skills to use in this line of survival. In the evening after admission where we have been cooling down in the dorms the headmaster of the school calls an assembly of all the admitted students and formally welcomes us to the institution and impress on us how much of a privilege it is to be a student of the school. The best part of the speech is when he says that we should look around us for today a bond has been formed that will depend on each student present to be forged and it can only get stronger as they years wear on. Admittedly we were too young to understand this particular admonishing. Heck most of us were barely teenagers when we were admitted into the school. The headmaster then requests for a cane but contrary to what we are thinking he lets us form a long circular queue with the shortest persons in front. Everybody is baffled at what is going to happen and it is pretty interesting to look at the farthest ends of the circular arrangement and pretty hilarious the prepubescent smallish students barely three-foot-tall and looking like infants are in the front of the queue and also that the biggest boys are found at the extreme end. For an education system that was phasing out when we were admitted into the school, most of the older boys were coming out of the apprenticeship in the middle school so pretty older and long past puberty. Headmaster then walks around with cane stick in hand and starts distributing the classes in alphabetical order from Form 1A to Form 1D. Obviously with a system of class selection like means that the smallest end up in one class and the biggest in one class too. The ingenuity of the class demarcation system is lost on all of us until we become old enough to think it through. Class system is not by who is smarter than who or via an interim assessment test but it ensured that students of the same physical size ended up bonding closer together with each other as they bonded with the rest of their mates. Invariably however we learnt to not only harness or own individual strengths but also depend on the strengths of others where we were lacking individually. The smallest ones, usually good with academics, learn by rote and the biggest ones best with physical activity especially manual labour and including sport, learn by experience. Collaboration was ingrained in us early with this system of just class stratification. Throughout the years, like everything else in life being transient, it was pretty plain that not all of us were going to be at the finishing line. Along the line we lost some of our colleagues to the icy hands of death but their memories and the laughter we shared still lingers on and every time we meet we celebrate knowing them and respect that they are in Heaven looking out for us. Furthermore, the years have been good too and the class is spread all over the world. Thanks to social media and technology, we have been able to keep the camaraderie and friendship and keeping tabs on each other. Social media provided the platform to decide to plan and stage a reunion at the 108th Speech and Prize giving day which marks exactly 25 years for the graduating class of 92 but then there had to be a decision to do something memorable and not just attend the ceremony and leave the alma mater. It was decided that both teaching and non-teaching staff that were around during our intake be rewarded for shaping us into who we had become as adults. The gesture was also to create awareness to the staff that their efforts over the years do not go unnoticed but one day definitely they will be rewarded. This awards ceremony was done as a prelude to the main prize giving and the atmosphere was charged. Seeing the old teachers and having them opening their mouths in awe about how some of us have changed and grown into fine adults and then the best part of getting to call them by their nicknames we created for them and getting away with it was the best part. Back in the day how dare you call your teacher by his nickname but here we were not being treated as students anymore but as equals and laughing and tapping each other on the forearm and the back. This was a new high for some of us. In recognition and appreciation of this awards ceremony one of our most prominent teachers commented that the gesture was ‘highly unprecedented and dangerous’. Knowing his knack for eccentric drama we could only fathom that he meant ‘dangerous’ in his own good way and slang. The awards ceremony out of the way it was time to have fun. This was a homecoming of sorts and as many people as could make it were expected to and it was interesting that inasmuch as not many of our school mates could make it, those who did had mad fun. Throughout the weekend, grown men who were once young boys relived stories of myriads of events with relation to how we survived the school system and made it through till we completed. There were stories of incidents right from the gate and the way past the alleys in the front and back of not only the dormitories and classroom blocks all the way to Down Coast. Listening to the stories felt like the school had been placed into pieces of five-meter quadrants like the new Ghana Post GPS codes. Every inch of space in that quadrant has a story. The best stories however were the ones involving the teachers and that were recounted at the awards ceremony. Pretty sure some of the current students present must have found some of the stories incredulous. Like the story of a certain housemaster who asked for impeccable details of stolen items in order to help locate them and if it was money that was stolen, the complainant had to provide the serial numbers of the money stolen otherwise there was nothing he could do to help. Honestly there are too many stories to recount and each person coming for the homecoming, right from walking through the gates of the school, or driving for that matter, until the moment he laid eyes on his mates who had come earlier already had the memories playing in their heads and a very interesting cunny smile on his face. Somebody drives in and even before he got down from the car there are curious looks as to who it is and he gets down with a wide grin on his face hoping to recognize any of the curious onlookers too. Recognizing a mate became a trait and an adept skill during the homecoming weekend because not being able to recognize who you were addressing sounded pretty much embarrassing but luckily comrades stood in groups and helped each other out with their own verbal facial recognition software. One incident comes to mind when a fellow’s roommate joins the party late and his cabin bunk mate decides to welcome him with ‘ponding’ and after much laughter and hugs they disperse only for him to ask if the same person who he’s been hugging and backslapping was the same as his bunk mate. Well, it is to be expected especially when that same bunk mate is not the four-foot cross eyed geek you used to know but a six foot plus 95kg free spirited social animal. It is evident that the school that we left twenty-five years ago definitely won’t be what we expected to come to unlike any of those European schools that retain traditions to a coded tee. Recently with the increasing numbers in population and also pressure on education, the school has been crowded and the dormitories and facilities overstretched. It has become imperative that old students pitch in to provide infrastructure and it is commendable that the 92-year group has also gotten on the trail. The homecoming weekend just wasn’t about seeing the school we all love and walking it grounds. Meeting each other was crazy fun and we will each carry the memories till eternity but then let us remember our alma mater in our prayers and support her in the little ways we can so we can leave the legacy that our forebears left us to our descendants too. Pretty interesting to know that some of our comrades already have progeny in the school. Pretty commendable and admirable. As we have marked a remarkable year, we pray that we continue to have strength to tell people only the good things about the school and what it has helped shape us to be as adults. We didn’t just go to secondary or high schools to study but we formed bonds that have become everlasting. That is the essence of education that we need to inculcate into our children that school is not always about only the books but also the networking and the associations we form whilst we are in school. Educate the next generation to see the world as such and we will realize the dream of a better world. Like I always say it begins with YOU!! Long live high school reunions..

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Hard Lessons

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2017 by kola

I have always maintained that sports has shown me more in life than I ever learnt in thee classroom and recently this notion just keeps reiterating itself and incidents in sporting circles and in sporting activities keeps reinforcing the notion.

In the recent Barcamp Cape Coast that I attended I found myself caught in a passionate discussion with a basketball coach over the importance of sports to youth development. I was reminded of a convocation I attended in one of the leading private colleges in Ghana where a five year plan for the college was on the agenda and there was no mention of any sports. Yeah trust me, not even soccer. Suffice it to say that I had to raise my hand and draw their attention to that important omission.

I tell the youth I have the privilege to mentor that if they don’t do any physical sport they are harming themselves because sports not only acts as exercise but also serves as an outlet for the stress that living in this fast paced global world brings along with it. Not only just that but also there are plenty lessons from playing any sport. When you’re applying for a job and you write on you cv that you’re a team player yet you don’t play any sports how do you understand the dynamics of teamwork in a practical sense.

Today I played a game of basketball and from the very beginning we led in a game that the first team to get to a hundred points wins. At a point in time my team led by over twenty points and at the rate at which the game was going and the synergy within our team it was a foregone conclusion that we had already won the game. But hey! We actually lost the game.

Yeah we did!

Now this is what happened. We were at a crunch time having reached 94 to our opponent’s 86 that instead of luck concentrating on what had enabled us lead the game from the beginning, we were more focused on finishing the game quickly being tired. The bid to finish the game quickly, a narrow view led to my team losing focus of what was more important which is the method to that finishing rather than the finishing itself.

In basketball turnovers means that the opponents tended to have more of the ball and they utilized their possession more than we did and it paid off for them as they gradually inched past us at 99 to win with a single shot.

Painful as it was, it is easy to draw parallels of this loss to our real life everyday situations where we look at the goal and only think of the finishing and not what goes into finishing perfectly. People tend to be narrow minded and fail to consider the bigger picture which is this case would’ve been to just take time and consider all the options. Sometimes albeit all the warnings of people who have been there we believe we are doing the right thing until it doesn’t work out and we recognize our folly but too late.

Well, for me sports will not only continue to teach me lessons but will be what I affectionately call therapy because it keeps my head screwed on straight. I’d therefore advise that if you’re reading this and don’t do any sport, you do find one and participate in, not just watch or comment on. Remember you’re the only one responsible for your own well-being.

Like a always say it begins with YOU!!

Abena Foriwa

Posted in Uncategorized on August 22, 2017 by kola

It was on that fateful Sunday when I was off to support a bosom friend give thanks to God for the life of her mother surviving an illness. We were just in the queue for lunch when I had a phone call from my cousin that you had passed on.

Abena Foriwa is my last surviving grandma on my mother’s side. When the Asante women are extolling the virtues of their Yaa Asantewaa in war, holding her own against the British, she chose her battles well and fought against illiteracy.

With the little that she had from trading she supported her husband Nomo Akufo to ensure that at least her first daughter (my mother) and all her children, were educated.

I’m glad I only called my cousin back after I had eaten that meal because I know Maai (as we all affectionately call you) you would be angry with me to take all that food and just leaving it sitting on the table uneaten because I heard news of your demise. You brought our mothers and uncle up to be strong and the discipline and resilient determination you instilled in them was passed to us.

Dear Maai, I remember when we were little children just toddling about in our underwear you reveled us with stories about our mothers and how each of them behaved when they were our age. We used to love these stories not just so we could tease our mothers when we all got back to our various homes but also to teach us thee rudiments of life.

These lessons were part of the “maintenance time” instituted by you and papaa (as we called our grandpa) at the end of every year.

The “maintenance time” is akin to the family reunion where various branches of the family gather together under one roof at the end of the year to take stock of what has been happening with the whole clan or extended family. Cousins get introduced to each other and it is a time when grudges are settled amongst family members. Younger children look forward to such a time because our favorite uncles and aunts, well to do, will bring gifts to share. It was also sharing time for the family.

Maai leeey, when I heard that you had given your last breath the heaviness that descended on me made me want to be alone and just savor in the memories of you. Within minutes I could do nothing and I felt numb. I couldn’t think of one memory where you weren’t making us laugh especially with you trying to pronounce English words that we your educated grandchildren used on you inadvertently. I remembered the first time you ordered us to stop the racket we were making in the “baafloom” and we actually had to come out with our naked soapy self to hear you say it again before we finished our baths. 😂😂

My first suggestion when I heard the news was not to call my mother until one of her children was with her. Being one of the eldest children she was indeed going to take it hard and as later events proved she did. Thankfully she had company and I’m glad my brothers handled it pretty well. This is a woman who inasmuch as was prepared for the inevitable being a health worker and all, was bawled over by the passing of her last surviving parent. She just wanted to leave the capital and go home to be with her family and now deceased mother. The height of grief makes people do stuff that are not aware of but it is understandable. With loud wails that got the neighbors curious mother insisted on leaving that instant. We didn’t want her traveling alone and that’s how I ended up on a bus to the village with my mother.

Maai your passing makes us sad but getting to the house where you lived and died and where we always visited at this time was one of the hardest moments. Here I was thinking you will still be in your favorite seat right at the first veranda. But that seat was empty. I remember the last time I visited and you were in that seat, you had grown pretty senile (memory loss and recognition) but you knew that no matter how educated I was I still appreciated the traditional things. So you offered me your cup of water and when I drank it all you just pointed to the earthenware pot in the corner and without a word I walked towards it and drank 5 more cups before eating the apem and “krobo salad” auntie prepared.

That smile on your face, as if to say you’re happy your grandchildren didn’t go wayward, is the last memory I have of you.

It was when I sat quietly in the corner listening to the wailing women, your daughters included, that I understood the gravity of your sacrifice and magnanimity. Inasmuch as they were wailing they were actually singing your praises and thanking you for being a loving parent. The woman who had sold her last piece of cloth to buy a chop box and ensure her daughter had provisions to go to boarding school, the mother who will sell produce in the market all day from sunrise to sunset but run home at intervals to ensure that her husband and children had food to eat in the afternoon, the friendly woman the neighbors come to for advise of all sorts regarding all topics, the mother who will beat you with anything she could lay her hands on if you were disobedient especially by refusing to do homework but will protect you from outsiders when they came to molest you. The mother who tucked her children into bed and ensured that the house was kept tidy and plenty more.

Maai leeey!!! as I sat there listening to them I kept wondering who you were. Maya Angelou, an American woman your age mate probably, who also passed on, called you and women like you a Phenomenal Woman. Another woman, Barbara Taylor Bradford, also called you A Woman of Substance. Indeed these are apt descriptions of what exactly you are grandma.

Abena Foriwa as I write this sitting in the dark weeping silently I’m even kind of expecting your frail hands to touch me on the shoulder and reassure me that it’s okay and that you’re in a better place. I feel your presence so much I’m going to put on the lights right now.

Grandma, now I cant stop the tears. I miss you so much. As you go be with Nomo Akufo, Maa Padikuo and the rest of the family already gone ahead, please have a “maintenance” session up there with God Almighty on our behalf that our family will keep enjoying the blessings you left us and we will promise to keep the lessons you taught up holding it close to our bosoms.

Rest well grandma. You have lived a full life of a century and some.

Rest well Maai!

Rest in God’s bosom Abena Foriwa!

ZanGo, An Oral History

Posted in Uncategorized on May 15, 2017 by kola

zongo

Was it not Bob Nesta Marley who said that ‘in this great future we cant forget our past’ but in Africa have we really delved into our past? The history of Africa has been shrouded in white diaries and ledgers and told to us by adventurers, traders, missionaries and colonial exploiters from the archives of libraries in Europe.  What have we done as a people for ourselves and the black race going through slavery , colonialism and now neo-colonialism.

I believe as individuals we should tell the stories as we know it and any time I hear a story  of African history I have tended to share it so the information doesn’t end with me but then I strive to leave it for posterity. Inasmuch as the young these days are not bothered about the history, at least the very few who bother to be conscious of their heritage should have the material to read and learn.

It is in this spirit that i learnt a valuable history lesson about how zongos came to be formed in Ghana on a social media platform. For using social media as a learning tool and to enhance personal knowledge and development that’s a whole article and course on its own.

A simple question as ‘where are the hausas from?’ generated this whole discourse that I am going to share with you and I pray you get enlightened as I was after I had read through the whole discussion.

In the beginning there were suggestions from people on the platform saying that the hausa came from Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Cameroon, Chad and some even settled in Ghana. The consensus however was that the Hausa are the largest ethnic group and indeed scattered all over West Africa but some first settled in Prang in the Brong Ahafo region. It was revealed that the Hausa in Prang were brought in by the colonial governor as infantry to fight in the middle belt expansion wars with the Asante and therefore the Hausa spoken there is purer than that spoken in Accra.

The truth is that the Hausa as well as other tribes were in the Gold Coast before it gained independence to become Ghana. aside those that settled up north due to the Trans Saharan trade, others migrated down south to other parts of the Brong Ahafo, Ashanti and then Accra as we know it now. They have therefore been in existence for over a century.

A tribe indeed does not necessarily have to be a permanent location in a country to be a citizen of that country. the colonialist scramble put borders on the ethnic groups that existed within Africa for example the Ewes were divided into ghana and Togoland, the Nzemas into Ghana and La Cote d’ivoire, the Chambas into the eastern parts of Northern region and Togo and the Mossi into parts of upper west and Burkina Faso. there are myriad examples all over Africa.

Inasmuch as all these tribes existed before independence and were in the country then, they are Ghanaian.

However where they settled became known as zongos and the question then arises how the name came about.

The word is actually ‘zan go’. it is a designated quarters for Hausa settlers. even in Northern Nigeria which is predominantly Muslim there are zangos which only refers to an area where the hausa people due to their conservatism in religion  and culture, like to keep a closely knit society.

It is said that the word ‘zan go’ is actually a combination of two words ‘zan’ which is Hausa for ‘i am’ and ‘go’ which denotes the action of going or to go. This came about as a result of the taxation put on the colonists by the British colonial masters after they brought in 700 Hausa soldiers from Northern Nigeria to form the Gold Coast Constabulary. The Hausa usually refused to pay the tax in the settlements they were given, therefore they moved out to form their own communities which meant  that if you didn’t pay the tax ‘then go’ literally. ‘mu kafa zango’ literally meant let’s set up a quarter for ourselves.

There are zangos all over and they mostly have names and especially in Accra we have places like Fadama, Sukura and Nima which has grown into a cosmopolitan potpurri of other ethnic groups so you wont really hear it being called a zango like it originally is.

Nima is not really seen as a zongo because the Hausa were not given a chance to dominate the place. Originally there was the Kador, a tribe from Burkina Faso and Mali who were dominant and then the Fulani too. the Gas gave Nima to the Futa family who were Fulani and then other tribes from Togo and Benin, the Chamba, the Kotokoli and others found it as a good entry point to serve the colonial masters and other high ranking officials  who lived in Kanda, Ridge and Cantonments. It was also a general entry point and suitable place to start when one wanted to work in the capital. life in Nima was accommodating from the people to general living in terms of living expenses. People easily get integrated into such communities and you are given all the necessary assistance as if you were part of the community. Such areas promote communal living .

Nima is known as Tunbin Giwa, The Belly of The Elephant because all the foreign tribes are found there and because they are predominantly Muslim the lingua franca is hausa and that is what passes it for a zango.

Later settlements like Madina and Ashaley Botwe came as a result of the attempt to decongest Nima because of the plague.

The formation of one of these zangos has an interesting history not far from most of the zongos that were formed in the colonial era and the case of Sabon zongo is a case study.

In the early 1905-1910 the foreigners settled in Old Accra, around the High Street, Cowlane (Fulani and Hausa tended cows, Fulani and Zamrama people were traders along the West African sub region) the Hausa traded kola from the hinterland through the Jamestown Port. there was a central imam in the community who was the ‘Leader of Muslims’ and after his death there arose a succession problem. Mallam Neinu, was a mallam from Sokoto, so a petition was sent to the colonialists who decided that to salvage the issues of succession each tribe should just have their own chief chosen by themselves.

The Hausa chose Kadiri English, the Yoruba already had \Braimah who was given a chieftaincy by the Ga Mashie mantse, and who later married a Tagbon lady with the family name Peregrino. The Peregrinos were freed slaves from Brazil who had settled in Jamestown. The Fulani chose their chief as well as the Zamramas so every ethnic group had a chief instead of one central mallam overlooking all the Muslims.

The unrest didn’t stop but however continued among the Hausa because they believed that Kadiri English, being a kola merchant and very rich had used his influence to get himself made the chief and hence there was rebellion. The Ga mashie stool decided to relocate the aggrieved Hausa people to a place several miles away from the zongo lane which was the first properly demarcated and mapped out zongo community. So they moved and the boundary was set right behind where korle bu hospital sits now right down to the International Central Gospel church premises now straight down for about a mile towards the present zongo junction and up towards Radio Gold premises.

The chieftain however didn’t stay put where he was at zongo lane but being of immense wealth and influence bought lands directly opposite the resettlement and called it Zango Tuta and designated a chief there.

Mallam Nenus son was brought to set up the Sabon Zongo which literally means new zongo because the old zongo in Accra still owed allegiance to the chief they were disgruntled against being kadir english.

This is why on Eid day the Hausa at zongo junction ride on horseback through Tudu  through Adabraka to High Streeet and go round where most of the chiefs will alight  and walk the streets of Cowlane and its environs followed by a large crowd of women and children amidst brass band and traditional music and just make merry until everyone went home.

It must be noted that most Hausa in Ghana are from Sokoto and the Hausa language  has been adulterated to suit the location. There is the original Kano /Kaduna version and the accents are different depending on the location and also social factors such as intermarriage in the communities the Hausa found themselves in.  It is said that there was even an attempt to learn Hausa amongst the constabulary ranks and that also degenerated into a kind of patois.

Hausa people are said to be very loyal and this the colonial British used to their utmost advantage and has been a legacy handed down politically such that in political expediency politicians tend to go to these zangos to pick up followers to do their bidding. However this and the communal nature I believe can be harnessed to develop such communities and improve the lives of more people that live in these communities.

Well, I have picked up a bit of oral tradition of the formation of zangos in Ghana and this enlightenment will be a key knowledge to share and know how to relate to the different ethnic groups and tribes that live in the zango communities not as negative people but as hard working people whose grandparents migrated here and they are as Ghanaian as any other Ghanaian from anywhere in Ghana.

Spread the word.

Like I always say it begins with YOU.
As told by Alhaji Rabiu Maude. 

Accra 

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one love marley

Lets Get It Right

Posted in Uncategorized on May 3, 2017 by kola

 

road

it is indeed with great trepidation that i write this blog article. what is it with executing contracts in Ghana that we can not seem to get it right every time i would have loved to write a satirical piece about how we execute especially road contracts in Ghana but i am not in the mood to be creative but very blunt so that the whos it concerns will get it since they seem to be as shallow as the receding irrigation ponds in the savanna.

i will not even go into a list of the projects that i have been peeved about but then i will mention a few that affects the Ghanaian directly even though they all do.

contracts are given in Ghana and obviously they are geared towards facilitating free flow of movements of goods and services and even human transport from one place to the other albeit providing social infrastructure. but the execution of these contracts always leaves so much to be desired probably because the bidding process involves so much kickbacks that in the end the money for the contract is spread so thin that it results in very shoddy work.

let us examine the road in front of my house in Tamale that was constructed a fortnight before election and then you pass on it now and realize that it would have been better if the road had not been constructed at all. suffice it to say that we have enjoyed a relief from the dust for a couple of months.

how about the speed ramps that are springing up everywhere and i’m surprised to notice that there are even potholes on some speed ramps. how that is possible only they know. then the roundabout potholes that has been fixed nine times in four years at the Tamale Sports Stadium.

i know you are reading this and you know these are not isolated cases and we find them all around us. every time we are patching something. we have become patching technocrats.

now let us also take the eastern corridor road. i remember some government spokespersons touting that they had used it and the road was pretty passable and i was not surprised in the least when they only used the road sitting in their air conditioned offices in Accra and using computers to take satellite shots of a non existent road. and even if they did, it was in fully fitted air-conditioned v8 cars. the road is so bad that a cyclist doing a national tour for a cause called me to ask me where the road was. when i replied that by his location he was on the road, his comments are unprintable here.

to examine the timing of the projects if even they are to be executed is another thing. we never seem to get it right and it is only to the advantage and comfort of some people without considering the users albeit it is for the general good. let us take for example the renovation of the under bridge by pass, in Accra somewhere last year and the commotion it caused to commuters for the several days that this ‘renovations’ went on. people were stuck in traffic into the early hours of the morning even past midnight just to get home from work.

oh i hear the same is happening at the Tema roundabout now, just after the motorway.

somewhere early this year too the Yapei bridge which is one of the main connectors of the northern region to the south was also closed for repair works for the second time and i took to social media to complain but alas i am a lone voice in the wilderness. assuming you were travelling from Accra up north it meant that you had to get to the bridge before the closure at 1400GMT  every day or else risk waiting for it to be reopened at 0600GMT the next morning. what this meant is that all schedules within the north and the south had to be tailored around the opening and closing of the bridge for that long.

the first time the bridge was closed it was for several weeks and even in those first two weeks or so, there were no materials so the bridge was closed and yet there was no signs of work on the bridge. it happened again the second time and now i hear there is going to be a third closure.

what at all are we doing at the bridge that we can not have it done just once an for all and we keep creating this inconvenience for ourselves by people who sit in Accra and do not understand the ramifications of these decisions they make.

with regards to the other ‘renovations’ works, is it not possible to rather get to work when the roads are less busy to traffic so that workers can work round the clock to fix whatever has to be fixed instead of deciding to work at peak times of traffic?

i would have calculated this and said that all this sitting in traffic translates into man hours wasted but then i remember we are in Ghana and man hours do not really count. we sit in our offices and pretend to be working and wait for our salaries at the end of the month not guilt laden that we have nothing to show as output for the period. what is it therefore if we sit in traffic for a few hours when we do not get home to that comforting warmth at home and even that the electricity company have a say in it.

what a country!

i think it is high time the citizenry demand accountability radically and not let some bureaucrats determine how uncomfortable we get without taking into consideration how we feel whilst lining his pockets with our tax money and the freebies we offer them in the ‘responsible’ positions we have assigned them.

but this also starts from ourselves as it behoves on us to account to ourselves as citizens of this great nation. as John Kenned put it, we should be asking what can we for the nation instead of what the nation can do for us.

the president in his inaugural speech, as reiterated in his May Day speech, has asked Ghanaian not to be aloof but to do our best in participating in national development. this participation is not from the sidelines but then as national patriots it is a conscious effort of the individual to start with himself and then others can tag along. he was only saying what i have always said that it takes only you to start a patriotic revolution.

let the citizens demand accountablity from our elected leaders and civil servants.

let us arise and build a better ghana

like i always say it begins with YOU!

 

GadaMedikal Nation 

Posted in Uncategorized on April 12, 2017 by kola

The “Vagimas” have come and gone and as usual couldn’t just slide by with its quirks, pips and controversies. Inasmuch as I’d like to delve into the controversies first let me just mention that the event has never gone by without Ghanaians having a swell time whether positive or negative.

In a social media frenzy society it is obvious that whilst people’s eyes picked through the event with a fine tooth comb, their fingers will be busy with their internet access gadgets. It’s therefore not surprising that one can log on to any social media site Twitter, Facebook or Instagram being the most popular, and get a blow by blow account of the event as it unfolded. 

Furthermore following the right people can be a plus because it is only then that you enjoy a plethora of statuses with regards to the event being a healthy potpourri of sarcasm, funny quips, snide remarks and as is with social media, just plain “trolling” of persons at the event. One could end up going through a whole range of mood swings and emotions even more than either a woman at that time of the month or even a pregnant woman.  (Feminists leave me alone 😂) 

From the very beginning of  the show it was obvious that there was going to be a twist to this particular event. The red carpet was a stage and interestingly the hostess was bedecked in a flowing and trailing flaming red dress that could easily have been the red carpet. The people she in particular interviewed was a group of people, especially the ladies, with an interesting mix of fashion sense. It was so easy to recognize the four Spy Girls and other intresting cartoon action figures. 

As for her co host The Tailor, well it was the anniversary of his staged marriage proposal to his Big Brother wife and who can fault him showing her off that after two years they are still married. 

Fancy a northern artiste upstaging a southern based artiste at this particular event and the hullabaloo it has created. For some of us it’s not really the upstage but the question as to why of all the categories that Medikal was nominated the one Gadam took from him is the only one causing waves. 

I’ve been telling whoever will want to hear that the regions up north have their own music and film industry and some of the artistes up here have been able to go national in the main stream and once they get that far they’re international with bookings all over Europe all year round. Need I mention  Sherifa Gunu, Samini, King Ayisoba, Atongo Simba, Mohammed, Surina Issa, Wiyaala and a host of others. These are northern artistes mostly based up north and notice I didn’t mention VIP or Mugeez of northern origin. 

It is true that people up north love southern music and northern artistes have been fond of using southern “covers” with northern lyrics. I’d say this is them breaking their teeth. However the new crop of northern artistes have realized that with the right blend of authentic northern beats, mixed by quality trained engineers of northern origin, there could be a blend of northern music that is parallel to music from any part of the world. And yes! I applaud the ability to get this epiphany and the talent to explore it and make it work. If you don’t believe it just listen to Wiyaala’s latest album and inasmuch such am album wont win awards in Ghana, just as the albums of the Fokn Bois, the music will go beyond the shores of Ghana and not be stuck in some medical ward of Ghanaian underground music waiting to go to theatre. 
The new crop of northern artistes are not only talented but realize that they need management too of industry players to guide them in their activities. Thus in recent times we’re seeing more collaborations with southern artistes and even double concert bookings and this is geared towards putting them in the limelight. We now have artistes with fans not only based in the north but also to please the fan base in the south they highlight their own concerts. Fancy a northern artiste performing at the National Theatre and filling the place up. 

The television shows and cable networks are mostly in the south and as such when a southern artiste gets popular he’s interviewed on several shows depending on his manager capitalizing on his popularity. Northern artistes don’t have that privilege but still manage to break through courtesy of their fans. Sitting in a taxi right now and looks like the radio station is having a Fancy afternoon and everybody is singing. At the night clubs in Wa, Bolga and Tamale any time a Fancy Gadam music is played you know that’s when you can grab a gal and dance away to the tunes from the speakers. 

For those pundits who are creating that noise about Best New Artiste category it is important for them to realize that Accra is not Ghana and if even they used popularity to determine who takes that title Medikal would be nowhere near Fancy Gadam. Both artistes are talented guaranteed but those granting the awards deemed Fancy to win and oh! Check who had more votes. Northerners came out to support en masse.

Ghana is bigger than Accra and Kumasi and we shouldnt be deluded that being popular in the south means you’re popular up north too. If there is a lesson learnt from this particular edition of “vagimas” that will surely be it. 

One last thing as shared by my friend and pseudo bodyguard, Jacob Yawson in a round table discussion with Godwin Agoligi at The Observatory during lunch,  why can’t we just theme the awards night so we can at least create a cultural and tourist agenda with the awards. Let us showcase our rich culture and unity of purpose in diversity when we let our designers create clothes with African prints instead of the mimicry of caricatures of fishes,  animals and other things including cartoon characters that we find on our non existent red carpet. 

So that when you’re asked what are you wearing you not only mention the name of the designer but also the type of cloth and educate us on the name of the cloth. So for example at the next themed event Medikal would’ve hardened up and will be in a Woodin caftan called Enfamihu designed by Debby Couture when asked “what are you wearing?” 

Indeed this particular edition of “vagimas” will go a long way of creating trends. Joe Mettle won the Best Artiste (auto correct spelling Best Baptist 😂) and I love what one of the artistes said when asked if truly he deserved it and honestly I’d repeat it any day to anybody who thinks Fancy Gadam shouldn’t have won Best New Artist. He said ” if you want to know who the artiste is, just go out there and buy an album!” Simple words but very loaded. 

The critics and pundits will always be there to criticize and everybody takes home one thing or another from such shows. Whatever you took away I hope it helps you to be a citizen and not just a participant. Making a change in your own corner is not a corporate action but like I always say it begins with YOU! 
PS.

for more insight into northern music and film who better to guide you through than the Ghana Film Institute valedictorian of his graduating class Rabiu Fishbone who’s also a producer of a northern music show on the only northern television station NTV on Multi Tv. His blog is rafiufishbone.blogspot.com

And oh! If you still got problems after all this insight then I’ sure it’s not too risky to settle down to a Sister Debbie cuisine breakfast of One Kalypo and Two biscuits.. 😂

Ghana Work Attitude 

Posted in Uncategorized on April 6, 2017 by kola

Long read from a Dutch-Ghanaian gentleman as I read on a social media site. I believe it is worth every word he wrote. 

DOES  STAFF WANT TO AND KNOW HOW TO WORK IN GHANA?

March 31, 2017 
Sometimes I write based upon recent events, but I also write about things I see and hear and things relating to my educational or professional back ground.
This time I write out of frustration.

I have the wellbeing of Ghana and Ghanaians at heart, proof of that is my assuming Ghanaian nationality and frankly there is no other country in the world where I prefer to live (or die).  I used local content and local produced materials 15 years before both outcries for it became relevant to most Ghanaians.
But I have to admit to my fellow Ghanaians, that especially Ghanaian employees and service providers don’t make it easy for me. My wife a born and bred Ghanaian has given up long time, but I am not that easy, I hardly ever give up on my goals, targets and dreams. 
Where does my frustration come from?
My frustration comes from workers, employees or however you will call them and people who are providing services like; *mechanics, plumbers, carpenters, masons, and security guards but also shop attendants, petrol station attendants and many others.*
I always hear captains of Industry, employers and owners of companies complaining about high levels of taxes, lack of electricity, too expensive electricity, bad roads to their companies, bureaucracy, corruption and everything else.
But they are always carefully avoiding one subject: the quality of our workforce.   In general  (but there are exceptions) the Ghanaian worker doesn’t care about the quality of his job, and doesn’t have any feeling for his profession nor his customer/client. Sometimes they show a total apathy to work and just aim to dragging themselves to the end of the week, simply because they need an income.           
In Europe there is a saying for people with low ambition: “his only planning is to go to work and come home tired”, but in Ghana I mostly have the feeling that coming home tired is not part of our workers plan. It made it almost impossible to employ an honest hardworking, motivated person in Ghana!

Not only our soft cultural behavior, mostly coming down to not calling a spade a spade, a politeness, strong unions and high will and participation to strike against almost everything increasing production, a judicial system that fights tooth and nail for rights of employees, 50 years of almost total neglect of skills based education, lack respect of a well trained worker and low morals in general have created a very low quality workforce in Ghana.
I have worked with employees in the hospitality sector, printing and news sector, NGO’s, construction and several other sectors and the employees are mostly not fit for their job.
I read an article a few weeks ago, “China’s unfair competition for Ghana”.
I reacted and wrote: Why? Is it because a Chinese employee will work 6 days a week with his wife and children, goes 1 week a year on a holiday, (if he goes, mostly he doesn’t) and works dedicated and hard to deliver, even without supervision? That’s than an easy answer for me, so if a Ghanaian also does the same that would make it fair competition isn’t it?

Or do we expect the Chinese to come late (or not at all) when it rains, show up late (or not at all) after a public holiday, arrive standard late at work, work officially 5 days, but are there indeed 5 days but don’t really work, ask days off for the many funerals to attend, would that make Chinese competition fair?

The reason I got frustrated (this time) is the following:

My wife is running a construction company and 2 months ago had to fire her crew of 7 workers because we found out that whilst she was working, friends of her workers robbed our house. She called a friend in Accra and he said he could send masons and laborers.  He had plenty workers because there was not much work in Accra. On Monday they showed up 2 hours and 20 minutes late to start, but instead of starting to work, they all needed to eat first.    

After eating, they were all walking with their full bellies looking like they were not really in the mood to start. As you will understand they know exactly when lunch time started and took an hour break after which my wife had to push them to start again. By 1.20 instead of 1 she had everybody going but the next day she discovered that after she left at 4 the workers also had immediately stopped.       

This went on for a few weeks, in which they worked an average of 6 to 6 and half hours a day, telling my wife this is heavy work so they don’t work 8 hours. Than a national holiday, actually falling in the weekend was celebrated on a Monday. As every Ghanaian will understand (little bit more difficult for me because of my Dutch background) 5 out of our 7 workers didn’t show up, because of celebrating, 1 came on time and 1 of them showed up 1 hour later, complaining that he had to walk all the way to the work side because my wife didn’t wait for him.

To cut a long story short, my wife sacked all of them; naturally they left with most of the tools we provided, which is called stealing in the rest of the world, but we got used to that. My wife managed to get a new group altogether, or actually tried twice to get a new group, the first group didn’t show up, the second group postponed 1 day, but because she simply didn’t have a choice she accepted that and work finally started again.

I am, besides my daily job running a guesthouse, and my workers are mostly on time.
However I have some other small problems, like stealing and lying and as a result of that I had to lay off 4 crews of 3 girls in 2 years.

Tea, milk, jam, soap, cutlery, glasses and cups but also towels and even bed sheets are disappearing in no time. I admire my girls for their team spirit because even if all of them know who had stolen something they all declare they don’t know.        

I recently lay off another girl who I caught sleeping on the job (this time without a guest) and my “trusted” worker with me for over 6 years declared without blinking his eyes that he never knew the girl is sleeping and watching TV during working hours regularly.
This problem is definitely not a high class lower class problem, foreign and local nor black or white problem because most of my Ghanaian and some of my foreign friends (maybe not all of them understand employees tactics) all complain about low quality of work done, laziness, lying, stealing and low moral towards work of the Ghanaian workforce.

The public sector is not different, lying stealing, low work performance, absence and on top of this all corruption. 

To me the most annoying thing in the behavior of workers is the fact that when you complain about this behavior and low quality of a service provided, they react in a way that you should rather be grateful that they came to provide you the service. Let me end with one example.
I am quite handy myself and although not trained in plumbing, I can easily say that I am a better plumber than most people in Ghana calling themselves a plumber (I used 9 different plumbers over the past 10 years). The outlet of my toilet was leaking and I was simply not in the mood to do it myself, so I called a recommended plumber. After breaking one of the tiles behind the toilet and putting all back together he stated that he “fixed” the problem.  But when I put the water pressure back on and flashed my toilet I found out that not only my toilet outlet was still leaking, but now also my water supply was leaking. He was polite said sorry and started all over and when we tested again this time he solved the outlet leaking but the water inlet was still leaking. Trying to fix that he spoiled the float valve inside which needed to be replaced and when I finally started complaining he left and insulted me because he was doing his best to help and I should respect him for that instead of complaining about everything, he left without being paid, but called later that I owe him 2 days pay.                                                                                       
To cut this long story short, last Saturday I removed the toilet, replaced the broken tile, put in a new float valve and connected all to the outlet and to the water inlet in about 2 hours and not to my surprise there were no leakages.    
The result I am expecting from this article?
I hope that my article will trigger an open minded discussion in Ghana so we can all think about ways to tackle this problem, through education but also through informing our youth and training them in ways to work, like the rest of the competitive world because with this type of mentality towards work developing Ghana will be a difficult task, for this and any government to come.
I also hope that the Government of Ghana realizes that we need to train skills among our youth and pay attention to attitude change. Because when I calculate roughly what our society is losing in its attempts protecting ourselves against stealing, robbery and our general safety, I estimate that, that alone almost doubles labor costs in Ghana.
The costs of loss of materials due to wrongful use, spoiling of materials and tools due to unprofessional use is many times higher than that and we urgently need to extend our skills training to become competitive.
Ghanaians among you who have traveled have seen the differences abroad are complaining about exactly the same things as I, a new Ghanaian is complaining about. 
I will always remain positive, and I am sure we can improve, but we need a lot of help of other positive thinking Ghanaians to fulfill this enormous task.
My last remark: I hope no foreigner is reading this because it is a message to Ghanaians and not  meant for foreigners.
Written by

*Nico van Staalduinen*