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Opinions Wed, 24 Jul 2013

Ephraim Amu was a selfless cultural leader

Dr ephraim amu was a selfless cultural leader of genius selfless leadership

Compatriots,

I recently wrote to a friend online wall that Dr. Ephraim Amu, Peki and Ghana's foremost son, was a giant of a cultural genius – an unheralded selfless leader. His, "Yen Ara Asase Ni" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXjSMUY7HKw&sns=fb) should have been chosen as Ghana’s National Anthem. This simple sentiment to a friend generated the following interesting discourse between her friends, her and me:

One friend said: ‘Ephraim Amu believed in African values. He always projected his African values [so much that] he [was] excommunicated from the Presbyterian Church.’ agreed one. Given prompt agreement, I shifted the exchange of opinions to the quality of contributions our earlier nationalist leaders made. Another replied:

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‘I think it was easier for them to fight the whiteman - different values, different color, and oppressor versus oppressed dichotomy than it is easier to unite our own people behind a common goal. See who are still heroes on the continent? Those who can say no to the West - Mugabe, the ones in your own country and so on. Because that is much easier to do as [it is] diversionary. Think about that and get back to me.’

Before we revisit this discourse, we must not discourse Dr. Ephraim Amu as if he is just ancestor who has not impact; as if he is ‘not there’; as if he is vacant and insignificant to our national development. Who was he? Paa Kwesi gives us a good idea:

"Dr. Ephraim K?ku Amu was born on 13th September, 1899 at Peki-Avetile in Ghana's Volta Region. He grew with a love for music and agriculture and also developed a strong interest in crafts and preaching. His father was a traditional drummer, singer and carver. He was a music teacher, teaching many of Ghana's pioneering highlife stars and music legends. He had particular interest in the instruments Atenteben - flute (for which he wrote music) and Seprewa. He was also very keen on writing music that reflects Ghana's native languages" (Paa Kwesi, Dr. Ephraim Amu - Museke African Artistes, 2006-05-13, http://www.museke.com/EphraimAmu; Dr. Ephraim Amu profile, http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/people/person.php?ID=194; Dr Ephraim Amu, http://www.allghanadata.com/?id=47-673-1&t=Dr-Ephraim--Amu;http://www.spyghana.com/lifestyle/personality-profile/dr-ephraim-amu/).

I once visited Peki-Avetile for a week. I liked it there. This historic town has one of Ghana's oldest Catholic seminaries. Rivaling, Cape Coast - my home town - it has one of Ghana's oldest teacher training colleges, Avotele Catholic Seminary and Teacher Training College (a quarter of a mile down the road). It also has some of Ghana's oldest, architecturally interesting buildings. The long road from Accra towards its town centre, seems to naturally divide the town equally between farm lands (paralleling the Akosombo power grid) and its old, time-tested cultural institutions: the Catholic Seminary, Training College, Town hall, road-side bars, etc.

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The sense of walking through the warm, embracing womb of an important, historical town - the sense of arriving in the bosom of Dr. Ephraim Amu's country - wafts through one’s soul like the sound of the ateteben music of which his music was famous for at sundown.

Dr. Amu was a one-and-only committed character. He once carried an organ on his head and walked for miles through the night in order to master the technique of playing it! Unlike our greedy ex-gratia and high-salary-car-and-house-loving MPs, he was dedicated to what he was doing. This quote is one of the reasons why he was an extraordinary son of Ghana and Africa:

"From 1 January 1920 Amu started work as a teacher at Peki-Blengo E.P. Middle Boarding School. On taking his appointment, Mr Amu taught songs and was keen on making his pupils able to read music well. He went to Koforidua to buy a five octave Henry Riley folding organ for the school. He faced the problem of carrying the organ to Peki. After successfully reaching Frankadua by a motor vehicle, he had to carry the organ on his head and walk the distance all-night and arrived at Peki the following morning. Eager to master his skills in music, Amu took music lessons with Rev. Allotey-Pappoe who was a Methodist Minister stationed at Peki-Avetile" (http://www.spyghana.com/lifestyle/personality-profile/dr-ephraim-amu/).

There are valuable lessons Ghanaian/African leaders can learn from exemplary leadership qualities of Dr. Amu. The competence of nationalist leaders like Dr. Amu over the current ones today, is because of a lot of complex factors.

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Although there were much fewer educated people in their day compared to today’s, the quality of their education, their Spartan discipline, and the sharpness of their collective understanding of our national objectives, were sharper. They had less arrogant, semi-literate educated elite and masses of people to contend. Also, they were lucky to have had in their midst Dr Nkrumah who provided the right leadership to refract their selfless vision nationally and continentally.

This point was borne out after Dr. Nkrumah and the CPP’s ouster from office; the linchpin of Ghana and Africa’s most focused visionary leadership had been decapitated. Thereafter, internal political chicanery, false ideologies (of religious salvation mixed with confused politics, economics and corruption) and perverse ‘I-don’t-care’ ism, set in as gangrene on the left toe of a cane-sugar munching diabetic. The stench of that economic rot still stuff’s and overwhelms the nostrils of our development and modernisation!

There are many reasons why Ghana/Africa lack strong, conscientious leadership abilities as exemplified by Dr Ephraim Amu and Dr. Nkrumah. Our leaders today are often aged, of ill health, ideologically religious (rather than being secular and executive directed) and lacking of the necessary verve, sharpness of mind, effervescence, precocity and courage to stand up to all possible challenges of development and modernization (including standing up to bullying by both the west and east).

The IMF/World Bank economic programme has formed a bulwark - an economic excuse for incompetent leaders to escape culpability for their bankrupt, clueless leadership. There is extreme lack of intellectual rigour in Ghana/Africa. Serious issues that require focused reasoning and thorough analysis, are made frivolousness through tendentious party politicking. Whenever there has been national crisis (flooding, spontaneous bush fires, suspicious copy-cat market fires, electricity light-offs) they have predictably shown no prior planning to preempt disaster.

There is also the problem of old curmudgeon leadership styles. Some of our leaders fear a take-over by younger blood. So they hug the political space by hook or crook. Although I like Pres. Mugabe for keeping a social and economic even-keel in Zimbabwe against extremely hostile western pressures. But he is now 89 years old. It is time he elevates the generation of younger, intelligent, effervescent leadership refer above, to continue the moderate economic successes Zimbabwe now enjoys.

To conclude, evaluating the above reasons, the main challenge in Africa today, is not what our leaders must do, but how we the general citizenry must discourse government policies that affect us with a view to exerting the highest standards of scrutiny of their performance: a sort of lead-me-I-lead-you symbiosis between our leaders and us. Because politics is too important a responsibility to be left solely in the charge of politicians.

Dr. Ephraim Amu is one of Ghana's most decorated sons. His doctorate was an honoree from the University of Ghana. His picture adorns our old 20,000 Cedi note. Bless his memory. I think we have had a thoroughly good cultural discourse to chew on today. Do you agree with me?

Regards.

Columnist: Kofi of Africa