Letter to Hassan: Ghana must write more

Sat, 5 Jul 2014 Source: Mohammed, Inusah

Hassan, as you will recall, I always lamented the fact that we have such paucity of writers as a people that nothing better of us seems to be documented. I always felt sad and looked for a way to express it on paper until the medical writer; Dr. Sodzi Sodzi- Tettey put it in a 1,425 worded article. In that well-researched, well-thought out and well-written article ‘Where is President Rawlings’ autobiography’, he stated: “Almost 13 years after leaving office after 19 years in power, President Rawlings has not written a single book on his momentous political life! Five years post presidency, President Kufuor has failed to write a single word on what influenced the major decisions of his tenure!

President John Mills— four years as Vice President, four as President. Dead! No autobiography! Vice President Aliu Mahama— eight years in office. Dead! Without a book. Justice Daniel Francis Annan—for eight years, Speaker of Parliament and an experienced political hand. Dead! No autobiography! Peter Ala Adjatey—four years, Speaker of Parliament and past leader of a major political party. Dead! Without a book. Major Courage Quashigah, probably the only first class US Army- trained ranger, national party organizer, and Minister of State for eight years. Dead! No book!

How many more of our leaders are waiting to die without sharing their experiences with a younger generation?

How many are woefully failing in their social obligation to prevent avoidable governance pitfalls with carefully documented historical accounts to be learned from!”

Poignant! I always say that the first President of this land will always remain the best President of the land and the best African ever though the most vilified. Why? Because he has left a treasure chest of reminders for posterity to glean and better judge him. His book ‘Ghana, the autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah’ bears it all. Perhaps his ‘bounce-back-ability’ each time he is criticized and sunk into the darkest bowls of history as captured in the following two articles is as a result of the numerous books he wrote before, during and after his presidency. One of the articles titled “The President who was bombed and bombed again.” Written by one of the greatest writers this country has ever produced, a man who has over thousand articles to his credit, the former Maths and Chemistry teacher and a multi-award winning journalist (and now the Editor-in-chief of The General Telegraph), George Sydney Abugri.

And the other article “Kwame Nkrumah- the Unsinkable” that describes he unsinkable nature of Kwame Nkrumah as wonderful, a clear manifestation of cosmic theory of predestination and a classic case of communist philosophy of historical inevitability.” The writer of this masterpiece, Kofi Bentum Quantson, ends well as he stated “Kwame Nkrumah is unsinkable. This truth is not only historical; it is historic.’ It is not out of normal for Nkrumah’s name to be mentioned all the time because “when things are written, they have a lifetime of their own”, a wisdom given by Benjamin Disraeli, a former British Prime minister.

Nigeria maybe in the world news always for the wrong reasons but when it comes to putting things on paper, it is the crème de la crème of all African nations. If you care to know, the greatest African writer by all standards, Chinua Achebe, is a Nigerian. He has written books that have been translated in over forty world languages. He wrote with unequalled finesse and unparalleled panache. No wonder he is the only writer who stood strongly against the racist Joseph Conrad who wrote “In the heart of darkness” painting Africa black. In Achebe’s much criticized essay, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”, he wrote “Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as the other world; the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization, a place where man’s vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant bestiality.”

In 1966, when political unrests plagued Nigeria due to the coup d’état of Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and the subsequent military crackdown which resulted in the presidency of Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, Achebe was picked up by the authorities because they believed he had an afore-hand information of the coup d’état just because he wrote a book earlier “A man of the people”, a political satire which ended with a coup d’état at a time the nation had never experienced that. How prophetic his writing was!

I look forward to the day Ghana will have the likes of this great writer. In recent times, we have lost Prof. Kofi Awoonor, a literary icon, Margaret Safo (Peggy Oppong) whose books continue to be wonderful pieces of literature for the students in the second cycle institutions.

The youth must rise up to the occasion to fill the gap left by the demise of these two great writers and subsequently correct the writing anomaly in this country. When we say “Ghana must work again”, we are not only talking about the economy and governance. We are also not only talking about sports. Neither are we also talking about the manufacturing of aircrafts and rocket science. When we say “Ghana must work again”, it encompasses everything. Including that which consolidates our heritage as a people, everything that entrenches our position on the map of the world and everything that will make later generations proud of the well-documented history and lives of their successors. And writing will massively ensure that.

“Writing, which is now my job, is a social necessity, like the jobs of the mason, the carpenter, or the iron worker.” A fact stated by Ousmane Sembene, a Senegalese writer who wrote “Tribal Scars or The Voltaique”, a story about how tribal marks came into existence.

I have hope when I see the youth making efforts. When I read the works of Manasseh Azure Awuni (Achebe in the making) and Mahmoud Jajah, I become happy beyond reproach. Likewise Dr. Sodzi- Sodzi Tettey, George Sydney Abugri, Nana Awere Damoah etc. Not forgetting sports writers like Christopher Opoku and Gary al-Smith. I am filled with hope for the future when I read the string of words put together by these wonderful guys. Ghana will surely work again.

As I put pen to paper, I am just returning from the book launch of the third edition of the book ‘ Light upon light’ by a young and upcoming writer, a third year student of KNUST, Kabirat Ahmed Salihs.

Chinua Achebe said it all when he said “The worst thing that can happen to any people is the loss of their dignity and self-respect. The writer’s duty is to help them regain it …………”

Ghana indeed shall work again!

Columnist: Mohammed, Inusah