By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
I shall come to the subject of Prof. Mike Oquaye's rather quizzical call for President Barack H. Obama to be snubbed by the leaders of the African Union (AU), merely because the first African-American president of the United States has chosen the civilized, democratic path of backing the right of LGBT people to legitimately participate in conjugal relationships.
Prof. Oquaye's call is rather quizzical because it presupposes the political unification of the African continent, on which the AU concept and ideology are predicated, to be one organically interlinking people of identical cultural beliefs and practices. Even when it comes to the question of race, the composition of the membership of the African Union is not homogeneous. And so, really, what is the former Second-Deputy of Ghana's Parliament talking about?
Prof. Oquaye also clearly believes in the protection of brazen and pathological political assassins like Messrs. Rawlings, the Tsikata Brothers and the whole pack of hoodlums occupying the top echelons of the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC), thus his staunch defense of the insertion of provisos into Ghana's 1992 Republican Constitution granting indemnity to these moral reprobates and downright criminal elements of Ghanaian society.
I am not exactly interested in the patently hypocritical undertones of such a schizophrenic stance on political culture and ideology, but the callous validation of such cancerous disease as a gold standard by which Africans ought to measure what constitutes good moral praxis. Otherwise, there is no gainsaying the fact that Prof. Oquaye is a respectable and decent Ghanaian citizen and African.
In this write-up, as it were, though, I would like to take up the queasy subject of a news article originally sourced to the Daily Guide and captioned "Girl, 14, Tortured For Refusing To Marry," in which an Accra-resident Nigerian couple brutally coerced an orphaned female minor relative into marrying a man alleged to be more than old enough to be her father (See Ghanaweb.com 11/26/12). What concerns me here is the fact that the young woman had been brought over to Ghana from Nigeria with the alleged promise of having her continue her education, only to be brutally forced into this pre-arranged marriage situation.
It is also quite obvious that there are more male humans in Nigeria than Ghana, as well as this decidedly primitive practice being more prevalent in Nigeria than in Ghana. So why did the couple, whose names were given as Mr. Hamidu Dobi, 50, and Ms. Sahadatu Amidu, 35, decide to practice their morally retrograde culture in the country of their chosen residency, rather than the country of their births?
At the time of the couple's alleged arrest by the Tesano police, their ward had reportedly been forced at least three times to marry three different men much older than herself. But, of course, the bone of contention here is not the age of the victim's pre-arranged suitors, but the glaringly dispiriting fact that she was being criminally betrothed to these pre-arranged suitors, men in whom she reportedly had absolutely no interest and/or desire in setting up a homestead with and/or creating a family with. This, in essence, is my pet peeve when it comes to talking about the kind of blind pan-Africanism which otherwise decent people like Prof. Oquaye are fanatically and doggedly pushing on the rest of us.
The relief here is that law-enforcement agents have reportedly intervened to halt this unpardonably bestial practice of forcibly pre-arranged marriage. There are painful personal memories here, however vicarious and distant. For legend has it that my own mother barely escaped being forced into marriage with a man who was almost the same age as my maternal grandfather, but for the timely intervention of one of my "kid uncles," Rev.-Col. (Rtd.) E. B. B. Sintim, former Chaplain-General of the Ghana Armed Forces and recently pastor of the Abeka Presbyterian Church, who promptly reported the incident to my no-nonsense youngest maternal granduncle, Mr. Martin Aboagye, of Yirenkyiren-Amanfrom and Akyem-Asiakwa, who promptly stanched this at once benighted and bizarre practice in its tracks.
I learned about this most painful incident, which occurred in the Konongo-Odumase township, in the Asante Region, a decade before my own birth from my mother shortly before her eternal transition in March 1998. And so I sorely missed the prime opportunity to have questioned my grandfather, with whom I was very close, precisely what motivated such a highly enlightened man to have agreed to offer my mother's unwilling hand in marriage to a man about his own age.
I also don't know what my reaction would have been, had my grandfather confirmed to me that, indeed, he had actively participated in or even passively and/or tacitly condoned the attempt. Very likely, it was my third-grade educated grandmother, who never quite liked her own daughter (for reasons that I would later learn from my own mother had to do with a baptismal dress imported from the United States for the exclusive use of my mother and her twin sister and us, their future children) who had initiated such a flagrantly unfortunate episode.
All I know is that the aging suitor was a reasonably well-to-do-storekeeper. I have also struggled to stop myself from imagining what my own fate would have been with the successful execution of such a bizarre scheme. What is most painful for me to endure is the fact that none of my mother's three other sisters, two of whom were older, appears to have suffered the same parental abuse. One redeeming irony here also may be the fact that my mother would also be the only one among her sisters whose marriage would last to the very end of her life.
___________________________________________________________ *Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D. Department of English Nassau Community College of SUNY Garden City, New York July 7, 2013 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ###