Category Archives: GH2013

Misogyny Retards the Growth of Our Nation

 Misogyny

noun

Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

 

On April 23rd, Mark Ashong confidently strode into the offices of one of Ghana’s top cellular and data services providers for an interview with the executives that would be deciding his fate. Had had applied for a position as a network engineer in December, and the hiring process had been a long and arduous one. Still, the rewards that came with gainful employment with such a globally recognized brand would outweigh any inconveniences he had suffered over the last few months. Today, he would be meeting with a panel to gauge how he performed under pressure.

A demure secretary with a pixie hair cut showed him into the boardroom where the VP, CTO and his (eventual) team lead were seated. Mark rushed over to shake each of their hands firmly, and thanked them again for the opportunity to meet with them. The team lead was the first to speak.

“I see here that you graduated with a degree in microbiology in 2002?”

“Yes,” replied Mark. He got this question a lot. How does biology support your work in technology? He already had an answer with the phrases “attention to detail” and “creative thinking” prepared.

“So that would make you…what? 35 years old?” the VP asked, her eyes askance.

Mark was taken aback by this query about his age, but thought it best to show respect to these ranking members of the company he hoped to work for and said, “I’m 36…yes.”

“Are you married?”

Mark Ashong grunted his reply. Yes; he had just gotten married in December.

The CTO clicked her tongued and rested her chin in her hands. Finally, she leaned in and looked Mark square in the eye, asking, “Don’t you think this position would be a little too demanding for you? What would your wife think of the long hours you’d have to put in here? Wouldn’t you be better off with less responsibility so that you could better attend the needs of your home?”

By now, Mark was completely aghast. What did any of these questions have to do with his 8 years’ experience as a network engineer? Trying to draw the conversation away from his personal life, he fished out 3 copies of his CV and handed them over to the directors saying,

“As you can see from my work history and references, I am no stranger to hard work and am willing to put in the time needed to get the job done. I would be a great asset to your company.”

“Mark…can you fry an egg?”
“No,” Mark said brusquely, “but I can architect a Cisco enterprise infrastructure for a Fortune 500 company in two days.”

The three executives glanced at one another before thanking Mark for coming in. He would have their decision by the next day. Stunned, Mark Ashong gathered his belongings and went home to wait for the call. The next day, he recognized the voice of the petite officer manager. She was delighted to inform him that the execs had offered Mark the position of Administrative Assistant to the Team Lead. Would he be willing to come in and sign his office letter?

“How could this be? I applied for the position of Network Engineer!” he gasped.

The secretary lowered her voice, telling Mark in confidence that the decision was made to give him a less demanding position out of concern for his home life. It was never good for a man to be too far away from his wife. Surely he understood that? Mark nodded silently on the other end and shut off his cell phone. What choice did he have? He wanted to work for this company. It could possibly lead to future growth, right? He signed the offer letter and spent the next 2 years sharpening pencils and ordering office supplies. Mark Ashong had been passed up for one promotion after another because he refused to sleep with the President of the cellular and data company. It was standard practice if a man wanted to get ahead in this business, but he couldn’t degrade himself in this way. And that is how one of the brightest and best network engineers fell through Ghana’s development cracks.

******

You’re probably reading this and scratching your chin. How on earth could anyone allow this to happen, you may be asking yourself? The fact is scenarios just like this happen every day in cities and towns all over Ghana… and women – not men like Mark – are primary targets of such discriminatory treatment. Women in Ghana are discouraged from reaching their full potential for a myriad of reasons we are yet to make any true sense of. So far, the only justification for holding women back in the spheres of politics, education, spiritual leadership roles and finance is because it is the “natural order” of things…according to misogynists. And make no mistake: Ghana is overrun with misogynist philosophies, doctrines and policies.

I consider Nana Yaw Asiedu to be one of the most thoughtful and inquisitive minds on social media. He is one of the few people I have encountered who has invested the time to ask questions with a true desire to understand a point of view, and to do it with the utmost probity. It was he who asked:

Why is it taking Africans so long to realize the inseparable link between misogyny and underdevelopment?

Why indeed, when the evidence is so clear? Women comprise of 51% of the population and yet are subject to false cultural barriers to their development. There is a dearth of (wo)man power in many sectors that would bring wealth and development to the nation; but where we should be training girls to tinker and build automobiles and aircraft, we rather encourage them to sew and braid hair. There is nothing wrong with pursuing a profession in hair dressing if that’s your passion, but as any woman who has been on the receiving end of burned edges or 3 inches of hair chopped off by a bitter hairdresser will tell you, it would be much better if the coiffeuse had never set for in a salon! It’s devastating for all involved. Women must be encouraged to explore as many avenues as possible and not just acceptable/anticipated gender specific roles.

A student at work

Photo source: Black Youth Project

If we are truly serious about Ghana’s development, we must do away completely with misogynist attitudes, particularly in the realms of social justice and activism. We must begin to address the issues and causes that women champion by their merits, and not judge them by the workings of her vagina. It’s as if Ghana, the lips of a vagina have more power to communicate than the lips a woman speaks with. Whether she has given birth, the number of sexual partners (or lack thereof), or her presumed barrenness are indicators of her worth or whether she’s worthy to lead. Men have never suffered these confines – confines that do not even speak to character.

Ghana is losing yet another valuable and precious resource to the scourge of misogyny. The country is hemorrhaging talent via brain drain – and shockingly – within its own borders. We are killing talent and potential because men are too frightened to admit that a woman might be a valuable ally and too many women view themselves as merit-less. Let’s change this, before it’s too hard and too late to reverse the retarded course we’re on.

“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.” – Brigham Young

A nation can’t truly function unless ALL of its citizens have their rights respected and their potential maximized.

 

 

Raffia Reinvents Ancient Elegance

“I have an anecdote about one of the reasons our fabric means so much to me. As I mentioned, my father was in the Foreign Service. It is a rule that Ghanaian diplomats must wear Ghanaian national attire whenever the Embassy hosts an Independence Day party. In the early 1980’s, my family lived in Copenhagen. Our first 6th March there, my father wore Kente cloth slung across one shoulder in the Akan style. He was cold and uncomfortable the entire time. He never wore Kente again. The following year, he wore a thick batakari smock outfit complete with pantaloons and a cap. It was a tiny rebellion but to him, it made sense. It was warm, he felt comfortable and it was still a handwoven outfit – just not from Bonwire.” – Madonna Kendona-Sowah.

“***

Mark Twain once said that “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” I have always loved this quote. I affirms my long-held belief that if you ever want to know anything about the attitudes that a person holds about him/herself or how they view the world, one has only to take a quick glance at their clothing. I can tell a lot about a person simply by looking at their shoes, but that’s a conversation for another day. Today, we are talking about Raffia – an exciting a relatively new company that is revolutionizing Ghanaian fashion with an old classic.

Madonna Kendona-Sowah founded the company in 2013 after she looked around and realized that there was an element missing from Ghana’s mainstream fashion industry: there were no Northern textiles featured in any of the country’s shows and glossy magazines. There certainly weren’t any being shown on the international glossies either. That’s when Kendona-Sowah seized the opportunity to change this.

Madonna Kendona-Sowah

Madonna Kendona-Sowah

I’m personally glad she did, because I have to be honest: fashion in Ghana has become quite dull. We’ve seem most of the stuff on the runway in one form or another for decades now. Vlisco wax print is ubiquitous, kente even more so. Every collection features a backless dress, a mullet skirt or an asymmetric frock done in bold (imported) print or non-indigenous textiles embellished or fringed with kente. . It’s all very pretty, but it’s been done. To quote Edna Mode from The Incredibles, “I never look back dahhhling! Fashion only looks forward!”

To most Ghanaians, the North remains a mystery. Those of us who were born and live(d) in the capital were discouraged from including the Northern region in our travels for exploration. We were told “It’s too far” or “There is nothing to see in the North anyway”, indicating that there is nothing of value that comes from the North. A quick investigation into some of Ghana’s most beloved delicacies shows that nothing could be further from the truth. Southerners love Hausa koko and waakye, both imports to the coast from the North. Chinchinga (khebab), shea butter, kola nuts and a host of other gems that enhance Ghanaian life that we have yet to fully appreciate all come from the region. It only makes sense that the next big thing in fashion should come from one of its children.

 

Please talk about yourself for a bit. What is your Ghanaian heritage?

 My parents are both from Navrongo in the Upper East Region. I was born in Accra but raised in Europe and West Africa because my father was in the Foreign Service. Prior to launching Raffia, my experience of the North was sporadic visits to see my grandparents but I have always had a very strong sense of belonging to the North. I’m very proud of my heritage.

You’ve chosen to use raffia as the medium for your designs. Ghana is usually associated with kente and/or VLISCO wax prints exclusively. When did you realize there was a void in fashion?

I’d like to make a quick clarification before I answer this: the fabric is actually called “Gonja cloth” because of its origins in Daboya, in the heart of Gonjaland in the Northern Region. I chose the name “Raffia” as a metaphor for how something that is seemingly unremarkable in its raw state (an analogy for Ghanaians’ perceptions of Northern Ghana) can be used to make something beautiful.

Back to your question: I wore Gonja cloth dresses to my Master’s graduation ceremonies in 2010. My Ghanaian friends and relatives saw the pictures on Facebook and were so surprised that the fabric could be made into something other than “kaba and slit”. I was in the US then so it didn’t hit me until I moved home the following year and saw that while the smock had been popularized, most designers were working with wax prints. It wasn’t until 2013 that I saw this as an opportunity to do something different but meaningful with Gonja cloth.

Who or what inspires your fashion choices and design concepts?

The French designer Isabel Marant’s old professor of hers once told her to only design clothes she would wear herself. I think I tend to start from there.

For both collections, I focused on simple, elegant silhouettes. The Gonja cloth is of spectacularly high quality and I like to think it speaks for itself so I tried not to overwhelm the fabric with busy designs.

For the second collection I was inspired by the leading ladies of Hollywood’s Golden Age – I have always loved the clean lines of their clothes and their effortless sophistication.

raffia 2

The North is usually associated with poverty, neglected and lack of opportunities. However we’ve seen stellar personalities in business and entertainment (Wiyaala, Nuong Faalong, Sangu Delle, Blitz the Ambassador, etc) come from the area. Do you feel that there is a renaissance occurring in the North?

Absolutely. I think our parents’ generation worked hard to assimilate in the Southern urban areas because the South was where everything was. Our parents had it harder than us – they had strong accents, completely different values, even the foods they ate were different. Now we – their children – are realizing that we are the only ones who can bridge the gap by working to provide opportunities for people there, by encouraging other Ghanaians to visit and see what we’re about and by changing perceptions about the area.

What are your future plans for your company? Would you like to see raffia (the material) go as commercial as say wax print or batik? I think wax and batik are losing their excitement because they are used for everything from shoes, to hand bags to briefcases. Do you think raffia will become as ubiquitous? Would you be sorry if it did?

My priority now is to grow gradually and in the right way. We want to increase our customer base in Ghana and abroad so we’ll work on more trunk shows and getting more retailers. Another priority is to get a retail space in Accra.

No, I think the appeal of the Gonja cloth, like Kente, apart from its craftsmanship is its exclusivity. I don’t think Gonja cloth will become pervasive because it is expensive to make and difficult to work with. Kente is still very much a luxury fabric – even the advent of printed Kente didn’t change that. I’m confident that Gonja cloth won’t lose its value.

A skirt from the upcoming collection

A skirt from the upcoming collection

If you could dress ANYONE in your brand, who would it be and why?

I would dress Solange Knowles – she’s chic and edgy. Everything looks good on her- she throws things together that otherwise wouldn’t work and somehow pulls it off. She has a wonderful sense of style and I would love to see what she would do with one of our pieces.

 

Oh.

She didn’t want to say she wanted to dress me…but it’s okay! When you guys are drooling over my new, exotic threads this fall, you’ll know where I got them from. (You can thank  me now.) Learn more about Raffia, visit http://www.raffiagh.com or @raffiagh on twitter.

 

 

 

 

Development and Decay: The Blame Game Changes Nothing When the Flood Water Rise Again

There are a couple of things about Accra that the casual observer will note and that the average pupil is taught about the typography of Ghana’s capital city:

  1. Accra is situated in a coastal plain
  2. The city is 91 meters elevation above the sea level
  3. Accra – and other coastal villages and towns – are vulnerable to sea level rise brought on by climate change
  4. Accra sits in a watershed area

 

With rampant and disorganized urbanization on the rise, these and other factors make Accra and its environs the perfect candidates for flooding. The soil in the coastal plains is primarily made up of red clay. Loamy soil is found to the north in the temperate zones (Ashanti Region), while there is more sand and clay in in the arid North. Each of these zones requires a specialized network of specific materials to best suit soil and typography types. No one in Ghana’s government has seen to the sewage and drainage needs of the cities and towns that dot the country since Kwame Nkrumah’s overthrow in 1966. Tema – the ONLY planned city in the entire nation – remains a testament to Osagyefo’s vision and penchant for foresight. Unlike Accra, Tema does not experience flooding when seasonal rains fall twice a year.

nkrumah overthrow

The reasons for Accra’s epic failure are numerous and manifold. Since 1966, the country once (and still) ruled from the capital was mired in a series of coup d’états and counter coups. For 30 years, one military dictator after another sought to fatten himself and his cronies on the fat of the land and the suffering of the people. Money meant for development and public works went straight into private Swiss bank accounts. Instead of focusing on planning for the future, Ghana’s leadership was fixated on “strong man” politics and showing opponents where the power lies. Meanwhile, the metropolis continued to grow, both in terms of population and private infrastructure, but there were never any funds dedicated to expanding the municipal utility grids, an epidemic the continues today. There are families in Haatso, Adenta and Kasoa who have never enjoyed a shower or washed a dish with water provided by the city. They rely on boreholes and/or water trucked in to fill PolyTanks on their premises. This is not how a modern city is meant to operate. These are the fruits of corruption.

On the eve of June 4th, 88 mm of rain fell on the capital city. Buildings not built to code collapsed. A Goil filling station leaking fuel exploded, killing 73 people on the spot. Some estimates say 100. All over the city, there were children – sometimes whole families – swept away in the flood. One trotro driver interviewed by CitiFM held back tears and fought for composure as he named 5 friends who died right in front of him. Before the waters had receded and before we had a chance to bury the dead, the blame game began.

Government leaders like, Mayor Oko Vanderpuije, were swift to point the finger at the citizenry, stating that it was those who built on waterways that were the cause of these floods. With the backing of the presidency, he has begun to tear down the homes and businesses of those who have found themselves the unlucky scapegoats of this draconian campaign. What the Mayor and others have failed to address and acknowledge is that in order for a person on business to build on a waterway or flood zone, they had to get city approval at some level. Whether that was under the table or with a certified document, land was sold by someone in authority. Rather than tearing down buildings, the Mayor and the President would do well to tear down the rot employed in their respective offices.

Citizens were quick to point the finger back, reciting a history of promises over the last 3 years that Accra would never flood again. Some went so far as to unearth newspaper clippings from 1988 citing the same flood events, followed by the same recycled promises.

Next, we pointed the finger at one another. We are the ones who drop litter on the ground. Non-biodegradable plastics wreak havoc on the environment, and when the casually discarded items choke our sewer system, they compound an already detrimental situation.

The fact is, there is plenty of blame to go around. Blaming the government and vice versa isn’t going to solve this problem, and if the citizens of Accra and other major cities do not take care, we will be singing this same song and sipping on the bitterness of our present tears in 6 months when the rain comes again.

We will not get a new citywide (or countrywide) underground sewer system by 2016. That’s an unfortunate but real fact. There are short term measures that we can take though. The first that MUST be tackled is the plastic that covers the beaches, roads and major gutters in the metropolis and outlying areas. Ghana must also refuse to become a dumping ground for the world’s e-waste. Computer hulls, motherboards, towers and wires are not biodegradable. They are not just poisoning the soil, they are poisoning our people and changing the nature of the soil, making it more water retentive. Those found funneling e-waste into the country must be held to account.

We have to ban plastic. Look to Rwanda for proof that the Ghanaian CAN (and must) do away with this scourge. Once it is banned, we can then focus on re-purposing the plastic that litters our shores and wetlands. It can be used as building material roads and houses and even clothing/accessories. Many of the Ghanaian expatriates who fled Ghana during the great Brain Drain era in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s ( during the coup and democratic reformation eras) would be happy to lend their scientific expertise, if only they felt welcomed to do so. There is no need to go to Germany for “brain work” – to quote General Mosquito – when we have loads of smart and knowledgeable Ghanaians (at home and abroad) who are itching to do their part to help the country be great again.

Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, we MUST have scheduled and reliable rubbish collection provided by both public and private sanitation companies. Because let’s face it: we can talk about educating the masses against littering and calling on the government to desilt waterways and gutters: but unless there are stop gap measures on the front end to ensure that plastic and other rubbish is disposed of responsibly by ALL, we are just kidding ourselves and chasing our tails.

cgw3amlyyt_gutter

The greatest irony of the flood is that it exposed all of the corruption Ghanaians in the middle and lower income classes have been agitating against for the past year or more. Officials rarely take notice of demonstrations unless there is property damage, violent crime or loss of life. Protestors did not have to lift a finger to destroy property. Flood, fire and wind obliterated the gas station of the unscrupulous owner who did not have his building inspected for leaks and up to code. It is heartbreaking that so many people died as a result of the type of negligence that is rife in every system in the country. Some may recall when the multistory Melcom shopping center collapsed and the horror that ensued, carnage that was rooted in the same negligence with regard to building codes in much of the capital city.

The flooding disaster in Accra was avoidable. All of the evidence has born that out. But it is not unique. Kumasi also experienced similar flooding in February of this year. The root causes and reasons are the same: there was no city planning and no soil consideration. Kumasi is a Garden City without any gardens. There are few trees to absorb the rain, as they have all been cut down. Water needs somewhere to go, and it is within the Ghanaians power to direct it.

We are not ants. There is no reason that Ghanaians should scatter and perish when it rains.

 

 

 

Flood and Fire, Blood and Bone

“Mercy, where are you?”

“I’m in a lorry with Aba. The rains are very heavy. We aren’t moving.”

Obodai grunted on the other end of the phone. Mercy could tell her husband was trying to be strong, but his voice quivered a bit when he said, “Just get home as soon as you can. I’ll meet you there.”

It had been 2 hours since the rain had started. A slight drizzle which then transformed into a persistent, steady deluge had brought the entire downtown area of Accra to a halt. The traffic jam had started from Circle. Mercy shifted in her seat and looked behind her. The never ending line of cars looked like a bloated octopus, growing a new limb with another car, truck and trotro materializing from the outside of the city, each filled with desperate people trying to get home. The only thing moving in this fetid brine of surging gutter and rain water was the water itself. The vehicles were stagnant.

Aba, just 2 years old, was listless and hungry. She pawed at her mother’s face, defiantly reaching for Mercy’s hand bag to fish for snacks.

“Aba, there is nothing for you to eat in there,” she whispered harshly. “No…no! Stop crying! We’ll be home soon. We’ll see our house and daddy soon.”

Aba would not be placated. The other passengers stared at the two, some with compassion, others with irritation. The driver’s mate – a pimple-faced boy of no more than 15 – was rude when he informed Mercy that he would either have to silence the child or get out. No one objected to his decree. Mercy was miffed.

“Driver, y3 b3 si aha (we will get down here),” Mercy said. The mate opened the door and let her and the squalling child out, slamming the metal door behind them with a bang.

Water fell from the sky in buckets as it began to rain anew, beating Aba and Mercy mercilessly now that they had found themselves outside and on the road. Suddenly, a chorus of screams cut through the air. The knee-deep water in the roads had begun to swell, the bloated octopus coming alive. It waved its tentacles shaking off unwanted pieces of itself, distorting its body as it tipped over vehicles filled with frightened human beings. Mercy watched as the lorry she was just in tipped over, its terrified inhabitants scurrying out of narrow windows for escape. She did not see the driver’s mate emerge. She trembled as she dug into her shirt for her phone. Only one bar left.

She spoke haltingly to her husband. “Obo. I had to get down from the car. I am going to see if one of the buildings will allow me and Aba to enter. The battery on my phone will soon finish.”

Obodai was full of questions, but Mercy begged him to wait until she had found shelter so that they could talk properly.

“I’m carrying Aba. I have to go. Pray for us.”

“Okay, okay…I will pray. I will see you soon.”

“I love you…”

*Click*

The phone died, cutting their conversation prematurely short. Had he heard her? Never mind. She would tell him again when this ordeal was over.

The water now had reached the middle of Mercy’s thighs. She was a petite woman, who stood at 5 a mere feet in the kitten heels she infrequently wore. But they were strong thighs, tempered by years of walking on Accra’s beaches and frolicking at the coast. She considered water a friend. In all her 23 years, she had never seen a buddy turn to foe so quickly.

Mercy trudged through the sludge and surging water, making a direct a beeline for one of the formidable business buildings at Circle as possible. She was now crossing the bridge at the outdoor market’s edge. A dead cat floated by her, shrouded by a halo of trash – cheap plastic imports from China and India, Indomie packets and a plethora of polythene bags. These were the hallmarks of progressive and modern Ghanaian life. She ignored whatever it was that was clinging to her calf, refusing to imagine what it could be, and shifted her daughter on her back. Aba was much calmer, now that they were outside of the stuffy lorry. Despite the chaos, the toddler began to coo.

“We are almost there, Babs!” Mercy heaved. This was more for her own exhortation than it was for the child’s.

To her disappointment, the office buildings were locked up…darkened by dumsor and void of human life. She assumed all the workers were now stuck in the traffic she had extracted herself from. What to do now? Walk.

Mercy sighed and kicked off her flip flops. This was higher ground, but still pretty deep as far as she was concerned. She felt her body weaken from being exposed to the elements for so long. Aba had stopped cooing, and was now breathing heavily. Her baby had gone to sleep. Good.

Now back on the road-turned-river, she paused to consider which direction she should take, resting her weary forehead against the side of a concrete wall. It collapsed. A brick slammed into her temple, disorienting her. There was a shriek, maybe two…Mercy could tell. All she knew was that Aba’s comforting weight was no longer on her back. She had to find her daughter, but where?

Dizzy

Dizzy

Dizzy

The world existed in colors and sound she had never seen or heard before. In cobalt blues and orangey-reds…her vision veiled by dragons and fire. But where was Aba in all of this?

“Mama!”

Ah! There she was. There Aba was amongst the swirling, Milo brown water, bobbing like a newborn light. Mercy scooped up her child and held her to breast.

Dizzy

Dizzy

Dizzy

“You see? You see, Aba? I told you we would make it home. Now let us lay down in our bed and rest.”

 

When the storm subsided and the waters receded, Mercy and Aba’s corpses were discovered the next day.

 

flooding*This post is a tribute to the unknown mother and child discovered clutching each other after the June 3rd Accra Floods. Out of respect for their humanity, I am not posting their picture here. May their souls and all of those lost in the devastation rest in perfect peace.

 

An Appeal to Our Leadership to Get Some Self-Respect

 

*Stick with me Atlanta readers. This post is about Ghana, but it concerns you too!*

Over the last few weeks, there has been much ado about the lack of respect for Ghana’s leadership and in particular, for the office of the presidency. Several members of parliament, a smattering of traditional leaders and now recently, presidential staffer, Sam George have made plaintive noises about Ghanaians’ absence of regard for the country’s leadership core. They complain that people “get up” and make “any sort of statement” they wish about the presidency. This ought not be so, in their estimation. Fair enough.

I for one believe that we must respect the office of the presidency – or the office of anyone appointed, elected and/or entrusted with a leadership position over our lives and land. I also believe that it is incumbent upon those who occupy these positions whether it be for 4-8 years (or a lifetime) to respect themselves AND that office as well. The only way to earn the respect of others is to have at least a modicum of respect for oneself first…and Ghana’s leadership at ALL levels is suffering from a severe deficiency in that area.

The primary problem with Ghanaians (and many African nations) is that we misinterpret the term and definition of “respect”. To respect someone means to have a feeling of admiration or a recognition that they are valuable, important or good. There is an understanding, based on the previous deeds of this person, that they are serious and therefore must be treated in an appropriate way. The “African” definition of respect is fealty, obsequiousness and credulity. Elders do not want to be questioned or challenged not because they are wise, but because they have occupied space on the Earth for a particular number of years. Presidents and MPs want an unquestioning, servile, and silently longsuffering populace to perform at their whim and fancy, not because they have the best interest of the nation at heart, but because they won an election (or overthrew another government by the gun) and think it obedience is theirs by “right”. Again I say, the problem with Ghana’s leadership is that they have done too little to earn the nations respect.

Respect is earned, it is not a gift.

There are too many examples of how Ghanaian leadership has portrayed itself as a band of clowns at a circus and shamed our country repetitively and globally. I wouldn’t be able to contain them all in one blog. However, I know it is imperative to detail at least a few examples so that the leadership can see itself from our eyes and work on doing better. I am merely holding up a mirror!

1. Your public Facebook profile, which is accessible to your counterparts globally, has you listed as “Former Aide to D Chief of Staff”. D Chief of Staff. You don’t even respect your title enough to present yourself professionally to the world.

photo(1)

2. Our (current) president takes pictures in front of CNN logos like he’s on a secondary school Yankee safari.

This will never NOT be funny

This will never NOT be funny

3. In 2011 our former president, John Kufuor took time out of his presidential schedule to meet with broadcast journalist Forrest Sawyer discuss how AMAZEBALLS Ghana was. “You can even walk around with a $100 bill in your teeth, and no one will rob you!” President Kufuor proudly proclaimed! That wasn’t true then, and it certainly isn’t true now. But that’s not the point. The point is, why is our president meeting with a guy who has no real influence on travel and tourism? And furthermore, isn’t that what the culture and tourism minister and his/her entire team are for?

4. Anita De Sousa tried to convince the entire nation that dwarfs and juju – not market fluctuations or failed fiscal policy – were responsible for the decline of the cedi. No really. Black magic caused the currency’s decline, according to this woman.

anita-and-the-dwarfs

5. The entire world watched and mocked as our football team, the Black Stars, held the Ghana government hostage when they refused to play their second game at the World Cup because they had not been paid their promised appearance fee. Personally, I was proud of them for using their leverage, but it’s awful that they were put in a position by an untrustworthy government where they felt compelled to.

"Y'all berra have ALL my money!"

“Y’all berra have ALL my money!”

6. The (un)official response to the cholera outbreak was nothing if not laughable. Remember when your favorite Accra mayor ordered the burning down of the makeshift homes of the slum village behind Arts Center, leaving dozens of families homeless? Who could forget? It was monstrous. It was barbaric. It was inhumane. Oh… and it didn’t solve the cholera outbreak.

A lot of Accra and the surrounding areas look (and smell) just like this.

A lot of Accra and the surrounding areas look (and smell) just like this.

7. Oh gosh. The bribes. The corruption! They are so many. The Soli 100 bribes. The 13 vehicles presented the members of the National House of Chiefs bribes. SADA. GYEEDA. Acronyms that translate into millions of dollars that should have gone into infrastructure that have instead vaporized into some “honorable” man/woman’s pockets. We know this because Victoria Hammah fully expected not to retire from politics until she had made at least a million dollars. Poor, poor Victoria.

8. The insistence on racing to the bottom and striving for mediocrity. Ghana was ranked 76th out of 76 on global school rankings. The Minister of Education’s official response was to: (i) decry the results as presenting a ‘false’ picture (ii) dismiss the results because it did not list every country in the world (because if Somalia had been on the list, Ghana surely never would have placed last!) (iii) derail the conversation by pointing out how many of Ghana’s children have access to education, while we completely ignore the poor quality of that education, thus ensuring that we will remain 76th out of 76 forever.

9. In the midst of President John Mahama’s “Buy Made in Ghana” campaign, Parliament has AGAIN ordered furniture and other fittings for the Job 600 office complex for Members of Parliament from China. This time, Majority Leader Alban Bagbin has boldly asserted that importing furniture will “preserve the nation’s dwindling forests”. Deforestation is a major problem in Ghana, and we’ve lost thousands of hectares of forest growth without any conservation or replanting efforts. But please, let’s be serious. Ordering chairs from our neo-colonial masters is not going to save our forests. Parliament is merely diverting monies that should go into our R&D and manufacturing industries and giving it away. What does Ghana get in return for you settling your black bum in a chair made in China?

So in a population of 25M, NO ONE knows how to make tables and chairs? Huh? NO ONE??

So in a population of 25M, NO ONE knows how to make tables and chairs? Huh? NO ONE??

Atlanta, this one is for you. Watch this video. Just watch it! I have some friends who have said that Phaedra Parks was wrong to put then VP John Mahama on blast. (This episode came out 2-4 years ago, I believe. I watched it when it first aired but it’s just now making the rounds on social media.) Look. Phaedra is a reality TV star, and has no control over what footage Bravo or any other network decides to air from the 24 hour cycles in which they are consistently filming her. The problem isn’t that Ms. Parks did a monologue about her conversation with our VP-now-president, the problem is that common Phaedra Parks has unfettered access to his cell phone! This is like Afia Schwarzenegger having access to President Obama’s private cell phone and putting it on Channel O for the world to see. How was this allowed to even be possible???

 

You see what we mean, Mr. President and co.? You lot don’t even respect yourselves. How are we now supposed to manufacture respect for you? Please find some time to unearth some dignity so that we can get Ghana back on course to reclaiming her past glory. We are 400 years behind the mark. We are still stuck in medieval mind frames. Too many people actually believe (because this is what YOU have told us) that God will miracle a solar grid or hydro-electric dam from the sky if we pray hard enough. We don’t have the facilities to treat the mentally infirm because you’re spending that money to import Italian cars and Chinese chairs. I even spared you the agony of mentioning dumsor. But no, seriously, enough with the lies and the excuses. #DumsorMustStop.

You have disgraced yourselves and your positions, and we will not be bullied into silence for pointing it out. Ghanaians will keep demanding better, and you ought to want to do and BE better. Over to you.

 

 

A Legacy of Broken Promises, Shattered Dreams and Our Ecomini

Yvonne Nelson is a Ghanaian actress and a producer. Physically, she was built for modeling or volleyball. Academically, she could have been anything she wanted. Professionally, she chose to enter into the entertainment arena, and has worked towards it with such passion and dedication that she has earned the moniker of “celebrity”. Yvonne Nelson is now leading the charge for a May 16th 3dumsormuststop vigil and is now the voice of a “voiceless people”… but it ought not be so. Ghanaians should not need Yvonne Nelson to speak for us.

But we do.

We need Yvonne Nelson, Lydia Forson, Sarkodie, EFYA, Shatta Wale and any other individual with a platform and a regional/international presence to speak for us, because our own government has methodically and intentionally rendered us voiceless. They have stripped the people of their power and their voice for their own selfish gain, hoping that the elite and celebrity classes would be also so equally egocentrically driven that they would leave the masses to flounder and drown in our mess. The bloodsucking members of Ghana’s military leadership, parliament and eventual executive branch have taken Ghanaians for fools for almost 40 years in all that time, did not account for the fact that some of us may have been brought up with some national pride and would one day call them out for their misdeeds.

It started with One Simple Step. It continued with the Occupy Ghana marches. Today it is the #dumsormuststop vigil. Tomorrow, there will be another call to arms. Ghanaians will NOT stop until our government has delivered to us all that it has promised and all that is ours by right as a nation.

Ghana’s energy crisis is but one of many crises the country has to grapple with. We have a long standing employment crisis which has led to decades of Brain Drain. We still have a health crisis with a deficit of doctors in many specialized fields, including psychiatry and oncology. Ghana’s education system is churning out thousands of graduates every year with no critical thinking or reasoning skills. Many of them serve in public office. We have a series of environmental crises, compounded by poor city planning and management. The energy crisis has only gone further to compound all of these existing problems. We were not promised an attempt to keep a lid on a mashup of disasters by our leadership. We certainly were not promised a government that would create more problems for its people. Ghanaians were promised a fair, transparent, empathetic and efficient government and the bill has come due. The people have come to collect.

2020viz

The (P)NDC has overseen the lion’s share of Ghana’s (under)development since Flight Lt JJ Rawlings unleashed his coup to end all coups in 1981. Ghana has been on an oscillating pendulum of hopeful progress and decline ever since. There was a plan to bring the country on par with its Asian counterparts Singapore and Malaysia called Vision 2020 which I wrote about here. (A copy of the document also exists online if you are curious about the details.)

The (P)NDC government anticipated population growth decades ago, and talked about a mixed approach to solving this foreseen problem to include wind, solar and nuclear energy. What the people got instead was daylight robbery. Our coffers were looted by officials with federal monies being deposited into Swiss accounts; our sugar, rubber, tomato processing and shoe making factories were decimated; our beaches which could rival any in the Caribbean for their beauty were fouled with human waste. When our brothers venture to sea, they haul back tin cans, diapers and bio-waste in their nets. This is in our food supply. Now Ghanaians MUST import basic lifestyle items like tomato paste, canned fish and toothpicks. But what’s worse, perishable food items (like frozen chicken) are held up in port for weeks and go rotten in freezers that cease operation when the lights go off. They are held up in port because the workers are not paid, and the only way to clear one’s items is to pay your way through the intentionally constructed labyrinth of bureaucracy that features an itching palm at every turn.

The NPP had 8 years to change the course of this tide, and in my opinion did not do enough to do so. Nevertheless, President Kufuor did a lot more for the country’s reputation in his two terms than any other leader besides Nkrumah. It is mind boggling what the Mills/Mahama combo has been able to undo in such a short time.

Ghanaians are scratching out a living. This is not what we were promised! We are literally under siege by those whose lifestyle our taxes and fealty finance. Every week, several times a week, the population is insulted by either the current president or some member of his cabinet. We are called “unsmart”. We are called “prostitutes”. We are told we are doing the dirty work of the opposition while our infants are dying in non-functioning incubators or our fathers gasp for last breaths because the hospital lifts do not work and the oxygen tanks are on the bottom floor. We are taunted to vote them out if we dare. Yentie obiaa…we don’t hear you, we don’t care.

In our culture, the worst thing you can call someone is a liar. As far as I know, there is no word in any of our vernacular for “maybe”. Our tradition mandates that either you do something or you don’t- and you certainly don’t make a promise that you have no means or intention of keeping. In other words, let your yes be “yes” and your no be “no”.

Ghanaians are angry, frustrated and feeling hopeless and it is President Mahama’s fault, no matter what his minions, sakawa boys and yakiri kubuus may say. Rhetorically, they ask: “So did dumsor start with President Mahama? Is he the one who brought it? Heh? Did Mahama cause dumsor?!?!”

What pseudo Socratic thinking.

No. He didn’t. We’ve had a power crisis since the 80’s. However, he ran and won his election on the premise and promise that he had the answers to solve the crisis. It was part of his manifesto. He made it a habit.

 

Now that Ghanaians are demanding that he keep his promise, his sycophants have charged us to come up with ideas, rather than criticize. One of Ghana’s most learned sons did just that, and offered to provide his services for free. Benjamin Dedjoe is  the Chief Electrical Engineer for the US Army Corp of Engineers’ Arsenal division. He was rejected by the Ministry of Power and Energy and told that it was not expertise that was lacking, but rather “resources”.

Rejection Letter MOPE

A year later a Ghanaian delegation including a man wearing his wife’s coat went to Germany in search of their expertise to solve our problems. Until the Germans can solve our African created problems, the government wants us to conserve energy. How can one conserve something (s)he gets 30% access to?

This is why Ghanaians are angry. Our future is being sabotaged. Our past is being denigrated. The culprits responsible for this mayhem are lacking in both compassion and common sense, and the people are expected to be silent in the face of such abuse. We will not be.

I’m looking forward to the day with Yvonne Nelson and our celebrity core will not have to serve as the “voice of the people”. I look forward to the day when we get our power back. It is soon coming…I can feel it. In the meantime, we march, tweet, think and agitate with her.

Burglars and the Single Woman

Me looking serious

Home invasions are a terrifying – and frequent – occurrence in any metropolitan area. Accra is no exception. As a child, our home was burgled on several occasions, with the thieves making off with appliances, clothing or VHS tapes. The specificity of the items stolen indicated that that the burglar(s) had been in our home before, possibly as a guest or a worker. In fact, most victims or burglaries are familiar with the thief and vice versa. A thief studies the habits of his his target, familiarizes himself with their home and executes his attack when he has gathered enough information.

This is a frightful thought for anyone…but what about when you live alone and the thief turns out to be someone paid to protect you? Nana Darkoa shares her story. Please watch and share, and more importantly, stay vigilant!