Ananse and Ntikuma, Things Fall Apart

Thu, 26 Jun 2008 Source: Casely-Hayford, Sydney

By Sydney Casely-Hayford, Publisher, The New Ghanaian newspaper and www.thenewghanaian.com

Ghanaian culture is steeped in oral tradition, spectacular in its praise songs. Each line gives a colorful description of some aspect of the person’s "praise name." The call-and-response form is simple. The poet speaks (calls) a line of the poem, and the audience responds on cue with its line. The audience will repeat the same line throughout the poem; each of the poet's lines will be different.

Rhythm and sound are important, not rhyme. You need to speak your poem aloud and listen for a beat and you may need to edit it for better sound. For JAK, there has been no praise name yet. With his “Akwasidae” fast approaching, threads of obsession with national awards doggedly follow his political wake. This date, unlike that of many festivals in Ghana, will not be determined by traditional calendars, but by a constitutional dictate, which also saw his “Jerry Ananse” chomping at the bit, refusing to exit and hoping to re-enter through a side door (he forgot to stamp his palm when he left the castle disco for a breath of fresh air).

Traditional protocol requires a linguist to interpret the king’s words and visitors not talk directly to the king. The linguist, in turn, talks to the king, who then responds directly back to the linguist. This method of triangular dialogue prevents the king from making a mistake, since one could always blame the linguist if there is a misunderstanding. On this basis, presidential spokesperson Andrew Awuni, announced the “Grand Order of The Star and Eagles of Ghana” on June 23rd, 2008, which can only be bestowed on president Kufuor himself and coup d’tat maker supremo, JJ Rawlings. Vice presidents are relegated to The Order of the Star-Companion. The highest and most important award in our country today is to be President. Nothing trumps that!

With this single stroke, president Kufuor has his praise name. All he needs now is a lyricist. Enter Obuor, Ofori Amponsah or better still Lord Kenya, all with “Orders of the Beat of Hiplife”. Doubtless, they have the required skill sets.

7th January 2001, Presidential inauguration. President Kufuor invites interesting Heads of State to Accra, including Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Gnassingbe Enyadema of Togo and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria. The inclusion of the Nigerian president as the special guest of honour at the celebrations was understandable (they give us comparatively cheap oil and on very favourable credit terms), the invitation to and the inclusion of the Togolese and Burkinabe Presidents to the inauguration?

NPP, as an opposition spouted the standard rhetoric of ‘peaceful co-existence and very close co-operation with all neighbours, especially in the West African sub-region’. Taking for granted that having good neighbours is a welcome and acceptable development, it does raise questions however, as to whether all neighbours should be welcomed irrespective of their norms and values with respect to what the party itself claims to be its non-acceptance of “illegal overthrows of government (sic) anywhere in the world … [and its wish to] emphasize respect for the rule of law and human rights in African and world politics.” “Jerry Ananse and John Ntikuma”, not necessarily zero ethics tolerant.

Recently, it is becoming apparent that there is an increasing contradictory schism between the rhetoric of foreign policy and the reality of praxis by president Kufuor in direct contradiction to the NPP party. Placing Rawlings on the award platform negates any parliamentary hue and cry from Bagbin and associates. Do not forget president Kufuor and JJ have had clandestine meetings in the past. Talk of awards here?

Chasing his praise name, two examples will suffice. Six days after the inauguration of the President and, while his cabinet had not been formed, President Kufuor accepted an invitation from the Togolese leader Gnassingbe Eyadema, to pay a state visit on 13 January 2001 and participate in celebrating the 34th anniversary of the overthrow of the previous government. During the visit, the Ghanaian President was awarded the highest civil order of the Togolese. Quoting two editorials in The Ghanaian Chronicle, “… the president received an award from this misanthropist who parades himself as the president of a nation! … What is the understanding between Kufuor and Eyadema that made it imperative that the Ghanaian leader had to be physically present in Lome on that day? What was the award for? What services has Kufuor rendered to Eyadema that he had to be honoured? … These questions are begging to be answered.” Ask the question again, substitute Atta Mills.

The issue of corruption has been a major impediment to the socio-economic and political advancement of Ghana since independence. The pervasive influence on public decision-making processes has been a cause and consequence of the structural and economic decay. A veritable culture of graft and rot in several governmental institutions has plagued this government for months and years. Rated low in terms of honesty and integrity; the Police, Government Ministers, Political Parties, the Customs, Excise and Preventive Services (CEPS), the Judiciary, Ministry of Finance and Lands Commission.

In 1958, Chinua Achebe created Okonkwo, who rose from nothing to become an important man in the village of Umuofia, a powerful clan, skilled in war, proud tradition and advanced social institutions (AFRC, June 4 1979). During a religious gathering, a convert unmasks one of the clan spirits. The offense is grave, and in response the clan decides that the church will no longer be allowed in Umuofia (Amartey Kwei and co. executed). They tear the building down (Makola market and private companies razed to the ground). Soon afterward, the District Commissioner asks the leaders of the clan, Okonkwo among them, to come see him for a peaceful meeting (Ghanaians call for multi-party democracy). The leaders arrive, and are quickly seized. In prison, they are humiliated and beaten, and they are held until the clan pays a heavy fine (Opposition parties forced to withdraw from elections).

After a release of the men, the clan calls a meeting to decide whether they will fight or try to live peacefully with the whites (NDC, NPP agree to stay in parliamentary elections; Ghanaians want peaceful elections). Okonkwo wants war (Jerry says no!). During the meeting, court messengers come to order the men to break up their gathering. The clan meetings are the heart of Umuofia's government; all decisions are reached democratically, and an interference with this institution means the end of the last vestiges of Umuofia's independence. Enraged, Okonkwo kills the court messenger (NDC boycotts parliament again and again). The other court messengers escape, and because the other people of his clan did not seize them, Okonkwo knows that his people will not choose war (Despite everything, peace prevails and parliament continues). His act of resistance will not be followed by others. Embittered and grieving for the destruction of his people's independence, Okonkwo returns home and hangs himself (Jerry refuses to attend 50th independence celebrations, still uncommitted to multi-party democracy).

Clan members are not allowed to touch Okonkwo’s dead body, it is taboo! Others must do this, just as Ntikuma must for his Ananse.

Remember “Things Fall Apart?”

Sydney Casely-Hayford

Columnist: Casely-Hayford, Sydney