Archive for February, 2013

Respecting Chieftaincy in Ghana

Posted in Uncategorized on February 19, 2013 by kola

The institution of chieftaincy has in both modern and pre-colonial times have been dominant in steering the affairs of statedoms. This dominance has been transferred to post-colonial states in Africa.

Prior to colonial rule, chiefs were the sole socio-political heads of states in various parts of Africa. In cases where chiefs did not exist especially in acephalous societies, there was some form of hierarchy that governed the people. Such societies were ruled or governed by their belief in the spirit forces and therefore by the agents of the spirit forces.

In Vol 8 of UNESCO’s General History of Africa series, Catholic Bishop Tshishiku Tshibangu writes: “The African is profoundly, incurably a believer, a religious person. To him, religion is not just a set of beliefs but a way of life, the basis of culture, identity and moral values. Religion is an essential part of the tradition that helps to promote both social stability and creative innovation.” This means that religion is deeply embedded in the African psyche. This also means religion affects the everyday life of the African and there is no way the African can do away with his religious beliefs – whether traditional or Christian or whatever religion there is. John Mbiti, another prominent Kenyan writer on religion, also shares the same view.

During colonial times in Gold Coast, the British used the chiefs as intermediaries and their representatives to the people in their application of the Indirect Rule system of governance as dictated by Lord Lugard’s The Dual Mandate. The British recognized that there was an elaborate already existent system of governance thus no need to bring in whole battalions as they did in other areas to promote British colonial interests in the Gold Coast. The chief was therefore used as government agents of colonial rule.

Chiefs that were created by the colonial master in some areas where there were no ‘recognized’ chiefs were called ‘warrant chiefs’ because they were individuals given warrants to represent the British among the natives. In recent times, in the colonial legacy of the Westminster system of government, chiefs have to be gazetted before they are recognized by the government as chiefs. They must have gone through the due process of installation by the traditional custom and authority.

Colonial rule it might seem concentrated power and authority into the hands of the chiefs. But it also had its disadvantages. Having recognized the power of the chief as the sole social and political head of the local community, the British put the traditional laws under the authority of the British laws. It was the traditional laws that gave the chief his power and ceding this power under British laws ensured that the chief’s authority was curtailed. Furthermore, colonial government functionaries took over most of the roles of the chief within the community and this somewhat reduced the chief to a ceremonial head more or less.

Even at the time when Governor Guggisberg in the 1920s decided to give Africans a hand in the administration of the Gold Coast via the African representatives on the Legislative Council (chiefs), the then educated elite thought they were the ones who deserved that slot because they had seen how the British system worked. Most of the elite had been educated in the metropolis and were coming back to their homelands to help in the struggle for independence.

In the Legislative Council debates, we find the elite going head to head with the chiefs over who held the right to represent the people. The main proponents in this struggle were Dr J. B. Danquah representing the elite and Nana Sir Ofori Atta representing the chiefs. By a twist, these two great men were cousins. This struggle has continued prior to independence and even after independence.

Independence shot the educated elite into the limelight and the post independent leaders like Kwame Nkrumah further pushed the chiefs into the periphery. This is what led to the famous statement Nkrumah is purported to have said that ‘chiefs who do not support the CPP will flee leaving their sandals behind’. Furthermore, this struggle between the chiefs and the elite is what has culminated in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana barring traditional chiefs from active partisan politics even though in recent times, chiefs are very highly educated.

With chiefs virtually becoming ceremonial heads against this background, why then is it that we still defer to chiefs in our African communities and also more people want to be chiefs thus resulting in more chieftaincy disputes than ever in the history of the country. Chiefs can now only be seen during traditional ceremonies like funerals and festivals or at state ceremonial functions.

Chiefs are recognizable by their traditional dressing of gold ornaments, beads, sandals, regalia and entourage. Even without the regalia, Africans respect chiefs even if they do not have any jurisdiction over these people. We all defer to them and wonder if anybody has bothered why we defer to chiefs once we hear they are chiefs. We consider them traditional authority and as an embodiment of customs and traditions.

The African cosmology (belief system) accounts for the way we as Africans go about our daily routine. No matter our level of education our religious affiliations, traditional African systems are still instilled deep within us. They are innate.

The African traditional belief system comprises of the belief in a Supreme Being. He is the Maker of the universe called Nyankopon, Mawu, Yehowa, etc in various languages by various societies.

Next to the belief in the Supreme Being is the belief in spirit forces. These spirit forces are said to dwell in inanimate objects such as rivers, mountains, rocks, trees etc. These spirit forces have different names in different communities and examples are Nogokpo in Volta region, Akonnedi of the Lartehs, Kpeshie Naa of the Gas, etc. These spirit forces are the gods who the Africans believe are very powerful to affect the lives of the living person.  With the advent of Christianity, these gods have been demonized and as such even with Christianity the African still believes in demon and spirit possession.

Next to the belief in the spirit forces or gods is the belief in the dead. The dead were once living beings like us who have gone on into the afterlife and it is believed still take care of the living by interceding on our behalf in the sprit realm. The belief in the dead ancestors is what accounts for the elaborate funeral ceremonies we see nowadays and the saying that we do not speak ill of the dead.

The African believes in the living being. This is why we have systems such as the extended family system where everybody is each other’s keeper. There is also a belief of self which relates each person to the other either by blood or spirit. This accounts for the systems of inheritance, matrilineal or patrilineal, the clan relations, etc.

The final link in the African belief system is the belief in the yet unborn. Africans already make provision for children and generations yet unborn. This accounts for why folk struggle to work hard in life and their simple reason being that they want their children to have it better than they had it when growing up. This is another reason why African land is held in trust for the family and not sold outright.

With this background, am sure you are wondering where the chief fits in in all this or you might have found it already because I am sure you are African reading this. Chiefs are usually, in most cases, the descendants of the founder of the society. In some societies, the chiefs are considered as gods. Those who are not considered gods are linked directly by bloodline or ancestry to the founder of the community.

The chief of a community is therefore the representative of the not only the spirit forces but also the representative of the ancestors within the community. Since we venerate the ancestors, it is imperative that we give the same reverence to the chief of the community. It is for this simple reason that Africans defer to chiefs throughout the continent even if the chief has no jurisdiction over you. Once he is a chief of some community, one does not even ask what sort of chief is or his designation and one accords him the necessary reverence.

In recent times however, the chieftaincy institution has been dragged in the mud by some unscrupulous people some posing as chiefs. There are many chieftaincy disputes more than ever in Ghana. This is because people have begun to flout the laid down traditional ways of choosing the chief as existed in the generations past.

With the capital economy and more candidates eligible for the position, it is imperative that some people are using their influence and wealth to covet chieftaincy titles they do not deserve. They are also using political clout to influence who becomes the chief of a community because of the government gazette that is required to recognize a chief of a community.

In an institution where the criteria handed down generations is stringent and makes sure the best candidate gets the position, lobbying for the position and using monetary influence has led to some bad nuts becoming chiefs in their areas. Some of these people flout the customary and traditional laws of the community and only do as they please. These chiefs think that the community is subject to their whims and caprices and as such they only perform the functions that they see fit, not what is expected of them by the community. Mostly they are highly educated and very rich and flaunt their wealth to the community as ‘untouchables’.

In Ghana, even though the Article 276 (1) of the 1992 Constitution forbids the active participation of chiefs in partisan politics because of issues we have discussed from the background of chiefs, we find chiefs taking sides with political parties and sometimes mounting political platforms to raise funds for and openly support political parties. Why then will our democracy not be marred by violence and intolerance if some political parties cannot organize rallies and even campaigns in these areas.

Some astute chiefs however have managed to set up development funds and projects within their communities to better the lives of their people. It is imperative that as Africans we use what we know from our culture as a yardstick to measure which of the chiefs are good and development minded and which of them are not. It is only in this way and with one voice that we can curtail the activities of these bad nuts within the institution not to drag chieftaincy into disrepute.

African chiefs embody the culture and represent our core values as Africans. If we do not protect our culture, like the Chinese have done, we will lose it to all these western influences cropping into our culture and very soon we will not have any identity at all. A people with no identity are a lost people.

Long live Ghana, long live Africa!!


The Castle and the Palace: Chieftaincy and Politics in Ghana

Posted in Uncategorized on February 19, 2013 by kola

Chiefs have played an important role in the political framework of Ghana from time immemorial but recent times there have been calls for the institution to be scrapped because the traditional roles of the chief has been replaced by government functionaries. Yet more and more people are clamoring for chieftaincy titles all over thus sparking off the many chieftaincy disputes all over the country which has not helped in promoting the institution in the eyes of its opponents and only giving them more impetus to call for its abolishing.
To further delve into the issue especially of the chieftaincy disputes it is important to study what the law states about the chief and also his place in the political framework of the country. The constitution of Ghana, the highest law of the land defines the chief as “chief means a person who hailing from the appropriate family and lineage has been validly nominated, elected or selected and enstooled or installed as a chief or queenmother in accordance with the necessary customary law or usage.” (Chapter 22 Article 277)
Even though it is established that chiefs are very important in the political framework of Ghana, chiefs are barred from active partisan politics by law. Article 276 states “a chief shall not take part in active party politics; and any chief wishing to do so and seeking election to Parliament shall abdicate his stool or skin.
He may however be elected for public office if he qualifies for it. Article 276(2) “Notwithstanding clause (1) of this article and paragraph (c) of clause (3) of article 94 of this Constitution, a chief may be appointed to any public office for which he is otherwise qualified.”
The institution of chieftaincy in Africa has been with us since time immemorial. Traditional leaders have always existed in traditional society. It is very important to note that not all traditional areas had chiefs, even though they had some form of traditional leadership, before the advent of the Europeans. When the Portuguese arrived on the coast of El Mina they met the Fante chiefs.
There were chiefs in the Fante states because it is these chiefs who met the Portuguese on the coast and signed treaties with them to allow them to trade along the coast. The Portuguese had arrived on the coast of El Mina because they believed it was the source of all the gold that was arriving in Europe via the Trans Saharan trade. It was Fante chiefs who later signed the famous Bond of 1844 with Commander Hill that was to usher the Gold Coast as a colony during the scramble and partition for Africa. The Bond of 1844 ceded the authority of the chiefs in the Gold Coast to the British crown. It is believed that was the beginning of the decline of chiefly authority in the Gold Coast and chiefs have never attained their power and authority since it was ceded to the government and in recent times government functionaries have taken over most of the chiefly roles.
When the Bond of 1844 was signed it was an era of African state expansion and the Asantes inland had the Asantehene as the head of the Asante kingdom. The Asantehene is a unique position unlike any other in Africa because he is not just a paramount chief, he is a primus inter pares, a first among equals. This is because the Asante kingdom is made of different states that came together to form one kingdom to unite them and make them stronger. The Asantehene is the paramount chief of Kumase, the biggest of these states and he is just one of the paramount chiefs in this united kingdoms. The constitution of the Asante kingdom was drawn up by the legendary Osei Tutu with the help of his Grand Vizier Okomfo Anokye from Denkyira who conjured a Golden Stool from the sky to symbolize the unity of the Asante kingdom. He also planted a sword in the ground and with some rituals using hair and nails of the different paramount chiefs of the other states and said whenever the sword came out of the ground, the Asante kingdom would start falling apart. The sword is still in the ground till this day.
It is believed that the Golden Stool contained the spirit of Asante and any time it was lost, the Asante kingdom was at the risk of being disassembled. The occupant of the Golden Stool will be the representative of the gods and ancestors and the Asante people pay allegiance to whoever occupies the Golden Stool which is the Asantehene. This is the same information that Governor Hodgson, a British Governor of the Gold Coast got and marched with soldiers to the center of Kumase to demand that the Golden Stool be brought to him to sit on so that he will show that he was the overlord of Asante. When the stool was not provided he had all the chiefs in Asante arrested. When the men who were in Asante were afraid to fight, Queenmother Yaa Asantewaa mobilized an army and fought the British. This was the famous Yaa Asantewaa war that led to the final defeat and annexation of Asante into the Gold Coast territory. The Gold Coast was then divided into three parts: the Central Province, Asante Territory and Northern Protectorate.
The British used a system of Indirect Rule as popularized by Lord Lugard, a military diplomat, who had put it to effective use in India and parts of Asia where the British had colonies. Indirect Rule recognized that the colonies in Africa had traditional rulers who the natives revered and obeyed. The British calculated that it was therefore more cost effective and prudent to use these traditional leaders to administer the colonies instead of spending so much transporting garrisons of army and administrative personnel from the metropolis to these colonies. All that was important was for them to find a way to put these traditional leaders to work for British interest and do whatever the metropolis wanted.
Indirect Rule also recommended that resources used in these colonies be used to develop the colonies and surplus sent to the metropolis. For example, as at the time of Gold Coast’s independence, the British government owed the Gold Coast and amount of six million pounds sterling from exports from the Gold Coast. Indirect rule was to use local administration but still the metropolis had to benefit from the natural resources of the colony that were exported back to the metropolis.
Some other European nations used Direct Rule Policy. These European nations include Belgium and Germany in their African colonies. This is where the natives were subdued by force of arms and then forced to do the bidding of the colonial masters. The natives had no choice than to comply with what the colonial masters wanted or faced harsh measures and punishment. Even with the British, where there was settler interest the British also used Direct Rule.
Settler interest refers to a colony where the conditions including weather and land were favorable and similar to European conditions and conducive for the Europeans to settle. The Europeans as such had to find a way of taking over the lands of the people and convert it for their own use. This they took by force and put the natives in reserves. Such areas include
South Africa, Zimbabwe, parts of Kenya etc. In these places, the natives were subdued by military warfare with the Europeans which of course the natives lost due to the superior power of the European armies and then they were forced to work on their own lands which had been converted to lands of the masters.
It must be noted that there were kings in these areas who mobilized their armies against European occupation of their territory but they were subdued. One of such kings was Chaka of the Zulu kingdom. He is known to have had the most protracted war with the Boers to take over his land and kingdom. Chaka not only had issues with the Boers but also with succession smaller nations in his kingdom who went to fight on the side of the Europeans hoping to gain freedom from the Chaka’s kingdom. Kings in Africa have always played an important part in the political scheme of things.
‘Traditional leaders’ is used in this report advisedly because the Northern Territories prior to the advent of the Europeans did not really have chiefs. The Tendana, the land owner, was the traditional head of the community. These states in the north were mostly theocracies and the Tendana was not only the priest of the community but also the head of state. This is because he was the representative of the gods and the people obeyed what the gods had to say. This is also true of the Ga people of the south who were ruled by the Wulomei, traditional priests. The Ga state was also a theocracy and the gods determined the fate of the people. The natives listened to the priests who conveyed the message of the gods to the people.
The British especially realized that theocratic states needed someone they could deal with when it comes to administering the community. They separated the political administration from the priestly duties notwithstanding the fact that they branded traditional religion primitive, barbaric, uncouth, etc. So in states where there were no chiefs, the British selected a chief who was given a warrant to rule the people. These people were called ‘warrant chiefs’ and they were used especially for tax collection and development projects in the various communities. Warrant chiefs were paid a stipend for the amount of tax collected and this made them employees of the British colony. Chieftaincy therefore was established in the whole of the Gold Coast colony.
Thus families from which chiefs came from became very influential and important in succession to the title in a traditional area. Lineage and kinship ties became an integral part of traditional society. Some societies inherit matrilineally, like the Asante so the kingship title travels down the line of the female ancestor. Others however are patrilineal like the Ga and kingship title travels down from father to son directly. Therefore a person born in a kinship line was entitled to the throne to be chief so there are kingmakers who choose the best candidate for the title and throne or skin. At times there was more than one candidate and the best one has to be chosen for the title.
In recent times, the criteria for selection has changed. With the way the world is developing, it is important to choose a candidate who will meet global requirements such as a highly educated scholar, must be successful at what he does and must have a considerable experience in many fields thus giving him a wide network. It is for this reason that chieftaincy disputes have increased in recent times. There are instances where the most likely candidate does not really meet the global criteria and so another candidate is put forward for the chieftaincy title. The supporters and opponents therefore go head to head over the choice of chief and this ends up affecting events such as festivals and communal development since the chieftaincy seat is vacant and being settled in courts of law.
The important role played by chiefs in national development was acknowledged by Dr Kwame Nkrumah so that after independence, the National House of Chiefs was set up as an advisory body to the political authority on chieftaincy issues in the country. The constitution of Ghana makes provision for the National and Regional Houses of chiefs. Chapter 22 Article 271 establishes the National House of Chiefs and Article 272 points out its roles to (a) advise any person or authority charged with any responsibility under this Constitution or any other law for any matter relating to or affecting chieftaincy;
(b) undertake the progressive study, interpretation and codification of customary law with a view to evolving, in appropriate cases, a unified system of rules of customary law, and compiling the laws and lines of succession applicable to each stool or skin;
(c) undertake an evaluation of traditional customs and usages with a view to eliminating those customs and usages that are outmoded and socially harmful
The National House of Chiefs is therefore mainly an advisory body to the President on chieftaincy issues. Chiefs have therefore been reduced to consultants and basically figureheads in their communities. This is because their roles have been taken over by government functionaries in their various communities. Recently, the Dutch government has voted some money to sponsor the codification of the traditional laws with special regard to succession in chieftaincy to reduce the incidence of chieftaincy succession disputes that affect the whole national body politic in the country. Most of these protracted disputes have arisen and persist out of government interference in the issues at stake. Political leaders usually have a vested interest in who becomes chief in a particular area in terms of resources and votes for democratic elections. There is the need to go into the history of the community and trace the lineage of the chiefs and find who the rightful occupant of the stool or skin is but this is blatantly disregarded.
Chiefs are important in the politics of Ghana and even though barred from active partisan politics they have been known to influence partisan politics with their open support for one party or the other. It is on record that there was times in Ghana’s political history where political parties were formed based on support from chiefs in a particular area.
With modern democratic machinery taking over most of the roles of the chief and the chief being reduced to just a figurehead in the community, what else is there to gain from acquiring a chieftaincy title that has people cramming for it all over leading to many chieftaincy disputes. These disputes not only mar the image of the institution but also are a misuse of regional and national resources in trying to get these disputes settled so there can be peace and development within these communities.
The answer lies in the African cosmologic set up. The African’s world view is made up of the spirit forces, the living, the dead and the yet unborn. Whatever the African does inherently is fashioned into this cosmology. This is why no matter how educated and how exposed an African is to European and Western culture, he still believes in traditional systems. This accounts for why people will go to the Christian church but still consult witchdoctors on the side when they have issues.
With regards to the chief, the African believes that the chief is the custodian of traditional authority and customs. The chief is the representative of the gods and ancestors on earth because he comes from the direct lineage of the founder of the community. It is in this regard therefore that chiefs still carry the respect of the people whether from their own traditional area or community or not. Any African sees any chief and accords him the same respect that his subjects will accord him in his community because the African does not see only a man but also a representative of the ancestors and founders of a particular community. Chiefs stand in the gap between the living and the dead in a community or society.
It has been established in this report that chiefs play an important role in the politics of African society and Ghana is no exception. People with means also crave chieftaincy titles they do not qualify for and this also brings about disputes which not only mar the authenticity of the institution but also affect national development. It is important that chiefs be part of the national development planning since they are usually the representatives of the people and not the government functionaries that are put in place. Some of these government functionaries do not even stay in the communities but are absentee residents and are not really aware of what goes on in the community. People therefore still look up to chiefs for direction and purpose in whatever they do. So what the chief of the community says at durbar during festivals is taken very seriously.
In conclusion, so long as we remain Africans, chiefs will be a part of our system no matter the education, experience and exposure in the global world of technology and computers. Chiefs will continue to embody the socio – cultural heritage of Africans in our various societies and people will still use them as the first point of call for advice rather than the government functionaries who come and go with elections.

what do we want in a relationship?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 16, 2013 by kola

In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, who happens to be a very conventional psychiatrist, she was giving me insights into relationships. This is against the backdrop of recent trends in Ghana that most young women would want men to do ‘everything’ for them. This has been characterized in some adverts lately on the Ghanaian television screens where men are prepared to even stake gamble games and give the benefits or winnings to their female partners.

It is also important to understand what pushes women and men into relationships because of the current unhappy marriages and the high divorce or separation rates that we find in our African societies as prevails in the western world. More relationships are now based on western concepts than being based on the African tenets and moral principles that we grew up with.

First and foremost, men marry reality and women marry potential. A man says “this is what i want” and he marries precisely that or as close to it as he can get.

A woman’s list is fuzzier because she believes that with time, anyone can change so she considers the man not only for the now but also for what he can become in the future not just as in profession but as in personality and his abilities.

Example, a woman meets a man who is a law student and sees that he’s ambitious, career-driven, intelligent, well-spoken, caring and she thinks, “this man will be a great man who may become a big lawyer/judge and will one day have his own corporation or be the head of something.”

On the other hand, a man meets a woman and he thinks, “Her body is banging, she’s nice, great smile, fun personality, smart. This is what i’ve been looking for. Thank God I’ve finally found it”

There are pluses and minuses to both of these

The plus for the man marrying reality is that as a woman, your man loves you just for who you are. He has chosen you because you fit all the criteria for what he is looking for now and believes he will need therefore you can be secure in his love for who you are.
Women have so many self-esteem issues that knowing your man loves you for precisely who you are – warts and all, makes you stronger.

The minus is that if you start to change in a way that he doesn’t understand. Example, you were thick when he married you and now you want to slim down and be a size 8 instead of a size 18, he’s going to be upset because if he wanted a size 8, he would have married one.

With a woman marrying for potential, the plus side is that with her encouragement and support, the man can do so much more than if he were by himself she sees opportunities that he could take and can advise him on how to go about things because she wants what’s best for him. She sees in him what he even cannot always see.
The minus, if she doesn’t know how to convey this to him in a way that makes him open to her then he will see it as nagging. He is bound to think she sees him as inadequate which will hurt him greatly because he loves her in her entirety and doesn’t understand why she doesn’t accept him as he is and reciprocate the gesture.

However it isn’t that she doesn’t love him but that she sees how he could continue to grow and be better just as she sees how she can continue to grow and be better.

However, the key is for both parties to understand these “hidden” aspects of our expectations and then to manage them in a way that blesses and not harms the relationships.

So then I ask the question why some women are so insecure about themselves. I sometimes don’t get it that pretty and intelligent women would worry about some physical flaws that are really not so visible (seemingly only exist in their minds) but they still make a meal out of it.

My friend then gives me an interesting insight into the psyche of African women and all women for that matter which I can relate to. She tells me women are socialized to be critical of themselves and others. “Women are taught to constantly compare ourselves to other women.”

How many of us remember as young children being taken to task for not being like your best friend who was skinny, did more home chores yet still had great grades. Mind you this was even before you were like 10yrs old. Now I wonder how many of us have grown with that competitive strain in our DNA and daily life and happenings and how much this affects our daily life and living it even as adults.

My Extended Family

Posted in Uncategorized on February 10, 2013 by kola

My grandfather Nene Nomo Akuffo of blessed memory was a very hardworking and versatile man. He was also a polygamist and married 2 women. Most of what i remember about my step grandmother and his marriage to her is hearsay but I some fond memories   of him.

Nomo Akuffo lived in Asesewa 9a town in the Eastern Region of Ghana known for its bustling market center) with his wife Abena Foriwaa and his family of five children. His children all loved him because even though he never had any formal education, he tried his best possible to make sure his children were educated.

The first of his children, Mary Akuffo, my mother, had to help her mother at the market to sell stuff in the morning before going to school. She usually carried burfloaf aka ‘bofloat’ on her head, in a head pan and sold to people who added it to ‘akasa’ porridge in the morning for breakfast. She then had to go help Abena Foriwa take her things to the market to sell before she headed out for school.

School was a couple of miles away and this was the only way her mother will agree that she go to school. Being a traditional society, albeit a man’s world, education of the girl child was not really a priority but she was determined to get an education and make herself a better person. Her father had imbibed in her the importance of education.

Nomo Akuffo was a very witty and funny man who used proverbs and anecdotes to drive home some of life’s important lessons. The one I strongly remember is ‘a stranger is like a brook passing through your life. What it gathers is what it will carry downstream.’ This is a proverb that is supposed to teach one about the importance of people as they come through your life. If you are good to them, they carry a good story about you to people and you make more friends with less effort.

He also said that ‘human beings are sweet but we do not eat human flesh’ which was to say that no matter who you come into contact with, everybody had faults and when dealing with them, it was important to discount that or take into consideration that now man is perfect.

Even with no formal education, Nomo Akuffo had a knack for documentation for future generations. He believed in documenting whatever he did. When he bought land, he made sure he had the papers for it. This has proven very helpful for us grandchildren especially with the property he acquired almost all over in different parts of Ghana, since he was a successful cocoa farmer who even had international laborers from Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

In all this, Nomo Akuffo groomed his only son, my uncle Joe to take over from him. Uncle Joe was the only male child in the sea of 4 other females. Even though he was younger than 3 of his sisters, his dad made sure he had the best of education and everything he wanted in life. He was the only person for whom everything was provided for so he could attend secondary school in Accra Academy, then a leading high school at the time. It was either Accra Academy, Achimota and Adisadel Colleges or Mfantsipim School which were the choice in prestige schools at the time. No expense was to be spared on Uncle Joe’s education.

After secondary school in Tema, Mary had to teach in a primary school for a while then went off the Nursing Training College because she had always wanted to be a nurse. Kate, her immediate sibling went off to Teacher Training College to be an educator. The rest of his children went into trading like their mother and he encouraged them with capital anytime they needed. Obviously, Nomo Akuffo did not stand in the way of his daughters. He let them choose what they wanted to do and supported them as best as he could and they sure made him proud.

Every year, he had a family gathering which he called ‘maintenance’ where all his family came together and spent time with him for about a week. For us grandchildren we could not wait all year round to go spend a week in the village with Grandpa Nomo Akuffo. If any siblings had a grudge against each other, this was where it was settled to face the New Year – the gathering was usually after Christmas or early in the New Year. It was for his whole family including his in-laws. It was also an opportunity for us children to get to know our cousins and catch up on what was going on in our lives. Nomo Akuffo ensured that the family bond was kept strong year after year.

The family gathering was also a time to strategize where the family was heading. The siblings had always remained a closely knit family and they had drawn their husbands into the family. It was as if the husbands were siblings too and as such there was a kind of freedom to associate and share within the family. Usually it was at these meetings that it was agreed that we the grandchildren would swap parents especially during holidays so we always had company and also did not or never lost sight of our heritage because there was a part of the year you knew were going to spend with your cousins in the village to experience all those moonlight moments that you read in books as a city dweller.

At these meetings too it was agreed who was going to foster whose children, that is to say that there were some people assigned specific responsibilities within the family which made them indisposed to take care of their own children and the rest of the family had the responsibility to step in. As my grandparents grew older it was obvious that they needed much more care and attention and as such it was agreed at one such meeting that one of my aunties will take the sole responsibility of staying with them every minute of her waking life. This meant that she had to give up her trading activities and take care of the aged parents. The family therefore decided to pitch in and contribute to raise her children; after all they were their children too. So you go into a house and you can not make out which children are the biological children of the parents and which ones were cousins because we all behaved like siblings anyway.

Another instance of fostering is where children were sent off to live with aunties to be raised almost right from birth. Up till date, I have cousins that when I say are not my sisters people wonder because they have been like sisters to me since infancy. My mother only had three boys and as such these gals were an added balance and interestingly, that is how some of us learnt about girls and how to treat them especially with all the emotional mood swings they have to go through. Imagine going through life without knowing anything about women and all that you knew were from books. What a handicap.

The African extended family, as described so far, also acts as a support system. In the modern corporate world, a young woman who goes to marry and gets pregnant will have to deal not only with the pressures of work and marriage but also of childbirth and child raising when the baby is delivered. A younger cousin from an auntie or uncle comes to stay with this corporate woman and acts as a child care giver or even baby sitter so the mother can go about her usual life. This is very expensive these days to employ somebody to do these duties and once you are in a close knit family, there is always somebody who is willing to step in and help rather than spend a lot of money sending the child to daycare everyday. All one has to do is take care of this younger cousin and either put her through school or help her learn a trade because at the end of the day whatever skills she acquires comes back into the family anyway. After the child is of age, she can also be independent and not depend on you anymore.

In recent times, Africa has become more westernized and as such old parents are sent to old people’s homes where they are expected to be taken care of and if the children have the time they go to visit on weekends or at the close of day during the week. Some school of thought that is traditionally African frowns on this practice touting the argument that your parents have taken care of you and you in turn ‘dump’ them in a home to be treated like children or even patients in a hospital.

But the proponents are of the view that, they will get better care there and that usually most people do not trust their family members and are afraid of being taken advantage of. These are usually Africans who have been western influenced and are more nuclear family oriented.

Well, for both sides of the argument, it is up to one to decide what one thinks is best for the parents and what one is prepared to do and can afford. The aged are repositories of wisdom and are like living libraries. The information gleamed from Nomo Akuffo has stayed with me, including some of the lessons my parents learned from his words when he was alive. Being close to these aged folk i believe is to have access to a whole lot of information on various issues in life especially in this era of information where knowledge is power.

With regards to the extended family system, it is here to stay and no matter what influences we acquire as Africans, we can never get away from family. That is why nepotism will never fade away no matter how much of a dinosaur we consider it to be. Family will always remain family and whether we like it or not, we are all related one way or the other. Therefore it is just as important to love your neighbor as yourself because you just might be treating your brother, sister, cousin, uncle, aunt or grandparent right.

Long live Africa!

The Art of Police “Deception” – A Guide to Motorists Survival in Ghana – By Qouphy Appiah Obirikorang

Posted in Uncategorized on February 10, 2013 by kola

The Art of Police “Deception” – A Guide to Motorists Survival in Ghana – By Qouphy Appiah Obirikorang.

What’s In a Sport

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2013 by kola

This piece is inspired by a birthday party I went to by Mr David Amoo-Osae, CEO of Movie House Theatres. In his birthday speech, he made mention of having to play squash, with a couple of older men and he’s learnt a lot from them. He went further to outline some of the lessons he’s learnt both from the sport of squash and also from interactions with his fellow sportsmen usually older men. The benefits he outlined inspired me to delve deeper into what is really in a sport apart from the obvious exercise to keep one healthy.


Being an avid and if I may say so, an accomplished sportsman myself, I can understand where Mr Amoo-Osae is coming from when he said that sports gave him a sense of mental well-being and helped him relax after a hard day at work in his executive positions and through the numerous decisions he has to make in a day.


When he is confused about one thing or the other, he always could turn it to his sports colleagues who are older men and much more accomplished than him in every field for advice that never failed. This is amidst the guffaws of teasing and joking that comes after working up a sweat on the squash court.


Mind you, sports affects him in every aspect of his life be it corporate, family or otherwise as it does most people who take sports seriously.


But hey, let’s delve deeper into what sports does for individual into more details. For this I asked a few of my friends to contribute to the discussion.


Mrs Eliz Sena, now residing in Canada has been a basketball enthusiast and player all her life and she played on the university team during her days at Legon. She had this to say;


“Basketball thought me a lot about teamwork, no matter how good a player is, he or she needs the team to win.”


In this statement, she reiterates the importance of team work in a sport as in life. Various outdoor sports such as soccer, volleyball, basketball are all team sports. Even some that can be considered individual sports like athletics, boxing, badminton and tennis can still be team sports because you need team mates to play against or spar with to get to perfection.

This sense of team building means that one listens to ideas from other people and takes them into consideration before making a major decision in one’s life – it doesn’t matter what aspect of life. As Liz points out, no matter how good or smart a person is, he or she is not all-knowing and it’s always prudent to listen to different perspectives of a situation. As our African elders wisely said ‘knowledge is like a baobab tree and no one person can put his arms around it’ to which John Donne wrote ‘no man is an island unto himself’ (


Team spirit is therefore an integral ingredient in a successful portion of life.



Another good friend of mine, who has taken de sport of basketball to new heights in Ghana having set up ReboundGh ( and an avid blogger also had provided this insight into sports.

Theophilus Ofoli Kwei Mensah writes:


What’s in a sport?

I believe that a sport on its own doesn’t do much for a lot of the people who participate in it. We can’t deny there are a good number of both amateur and pro athletes who have horrible life skills and behaviors; the very things sports is claimed to build in a man. Just look at the outbursts of anger and sometimes insults that ensue as a result of a bad call on our basketball courts. The Lance Armstrong story ( Armstrong) deserves a mention here just to highlight that sports has its negatives too.

But sports sheds a lot of good light into our lives too if we avail ourselves. The positivities of sports can only be enjoyed when the coaches make a conscious effort to highlight the lessons that need to be learned by players from the very first day they step on a sports field. Life lessons like hard work, staying positive at all times, preparation, mental toughness, discipline, love, commitment, teachability /learnability, courage and respect for others are some of the greatest lessons sports can imbibe into even the worst of men. These are lessons that can’t be taught in any classroom or by just reading some book. One has to experience certain situations to be able to acquire them and sports is just one of the few activities in the world that can provide such platforms…

LeBron James’ AAU coach Dru Joyce Snr. said at the beginning of their documentary ”More Than A Game” (


”Basketball is a vehicle to get you from point A to point B; use basketball, don’t let it use you”

Then check this Mike Tyson video out, an example of someone who I think didn’t learn most lessons the sport he was so good in taught him at his peak but is a noticeably changed man now  after his lessons has seeped into him.­47871992
1-2-1 w/jeffstaple feat. Mike Tyson (Ep 1)


Need I say more? It is pretty obvious that an individual determines what and how the sports he participates in affects him at whatever level and in whatever aspect of his life.



But hey, sometimes what do our parents think about it and us when we devote our time to sports instead of our books. Admittedly, sometimes it is scary even to ourselves that we devote more time to sports than to our books but then isn’t it said that life is the biggest classroom ever and experience is the best teacher. But still I had to ask Coach Feranmi, Founder and CEO of the DC Dynamics and Coach of the Central Courts what he thought about sports and this is what he had to say.

I’ve always found the traditional belief that sports is a mostly positive a bit shallow. If you really think about it, you’ll realize it’s not that simple. I came across a write up a while back which explained this quite well.

“Discussions of character in sports hinge on two sometimes competing beliefs. One holds that sports build character, the other that sports reveal it.
The case can be made that both ideas are valid. Character is regularly revealed in the way that players, coaches, parents and leaders of youth sports organizations (YSOs) conduct themselves on and off the field.

The “Sports Builds Character” belief is a trickier proposition. Who is to question that sports provides a wonderful setting for the development of poise, confidence, determination, resilience, self-sacrifice, courage. etc? The list goes on, and it is not a coincidence that a strong involvement in sports was the common feature of those who tried to take back the plane on 9/11. Yet every Positive Life Skill associated with sports has a counterpart that can be learned equally well, and often more easily.


If you can learn fair play and sportsmanship, you can also learn to cheat. If you can learn about commitment, you can also learn to quit on yourself and your teammates. Accountability and accepting responsibility: making excuses. Again, the list goes on.

Many of the adults involved in sports simply assume, based on their own experience that the positive side of these character traits will emerge. In fact, without a concerted effort to use sports to teach positive Life Lessons, you might as well be flipping a coin.

That being said I must say that the playground is the most practical classroom in the world. Often times the playing ground is where young children, learn how hard work really feels. It is where they learn to cope with adversity and I think that thought is best summed up by this letter a mother posted on a website.

“Dear Other Parents At The Park:

Please do not lift my daughters to the top of the ladder, especially after you’ve just heard me tell them I wasn’t going to do it for them and encourage them to try it themselves.

I am not sitting here, 15 whole feet away from my kids, because I am too lazy to get up. I am sitting here because I didn’t bring them to the park so they could learn how to manipulate others into doing the hard work for them. I brought them here so they could learn to do it themselves.

They’re not here to be at the top of the ladder; they are here to learn to climb. If they can’t do it on their own, they will survive the disappointment. What’s more, they will have a goal and the incentive to work to achieve it. It is not my job — and it is certainly not yours — to prevent my children from feeling frustration, fear, or discomfort. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn that those things are not the end of the world, and can be overcome or used to their advantage.”

I believe that the sports field/ground is a great model of life and just like life, we’ve got the good, the bad and the ugly. So for me there’s a lot in a sport. There is a lot of crap, that no one should be involved in but also a great experience that everyone should have.


This multi-faceted opinion not only cuts across from how the some parents feel about their children learning through sports on the playground but also shares the sentiments of most people in sports about the lessons and evils that come with doing or playing a sport.


But one thing boggles my mind always. If sports is this good and has this many lessons, why do some people stay away from sport. These people at first I was believed to think were eccentric but Michael, a relatively quiet graduate of University of Ghana and now into corporate administration, had this to say about his non-participation in sport.


Well, I don’t really play any sport, but the watching of it keeps me relaxed and de-stressed. Sports calms my nerves especially soccer. It brings out the best of my emotions, gets me so passionate and literally kicking my legs as I watch.


Even though I am only an observer, the game gets me so involved that I feel like the striker/defender/goalkeeper/midfielder whenever my team is tasked to deliver. I’m the world’s greatest when my team wins, walking confidently in my team colors, shouting and chanting victory songs, making all the noise in the world, even at times undressing…


Yeah! that’s how bad it gets and when I lose, I just fold myself in bed covered by the heaviest of blankets but yet still cold. I forfeit food and if possible put off my phone just to avoid hearing and reading of victory comments from opponents.


Sports makes me feel most patriotic.       (




And this from a guy who has never done any sport in his life. His level of participation is just as an observer and I believe there are many like him.


The debate also exists what is a sport (

but that is not for me to discuss here. Whatever you find yourself doing as sport, just make sure that its lessons are learnt. There is no way I could have enumerated all the lessons I have learnt from sports in such an article but each individual has their own lessons.