Tag Archives: ghana

Pastor Chris, Plagiarism and the Pride of Life

Happy Friday, MOM Squad! Under normal circumstances, we’d be chatting about frivolous topics in recognition of Frivolous Friday; but there’s a disturbance in the Force that has to be addressed. I do hate it when folks won’t let the Force remain in balance. Someone is always throwing a monkey wrench into the Force!

I deliberately waited a few days before talking about Reverend Chris Oyakhilome’s (popularly referred to as Pastor Chris) arrival in Accra this weekend – or more specifically, the social media buzz heralding his arrival. I waited because for me, the issues of concern extend far beyond a man, a jet, a presidential delegation to greet said man at the airport, or even the plagiarized images that were used to conjure excitement about his arrival. My issues with watching this Pastor Chris Circus roll into town are centered on my worry for the body of Christ…or specifically, the Black/African branch of that body.

Last week, after I took on the role of the Poka Plagiarism Police, several people sent me a mashup announcing the reverend’s arrival that had been floating around on Twitter and Facebook, ostensibly with the hope/expectation that I would go berserk with indignation as I had before. But I am not indignant about the way the church that is hosting Pastor Chris (or specifically, the folks running their social media campaign) has used other people’s intellectual property for their own selfish purposes. Nor am I indignant about the manner in which the government of the land has diverted resources to accommodate one man and his team and held the rest of the city hostage. Far from it. Instead am grieved….and grieved down to the depths of my soul.

When political party stalwarts stole Poka’s work, I considered it a slap in the face of every artist who would eventually suffer the same fate. After all, should this party come to power, they would expect that all illustrators, musicians, etc. pay taxes on whatever profits they made from the sale of their work in order to support the agenda of the state. Yet on the back-end, they had the audacity to use that same intellectual property without the artist’s consent or knowledge, effectively robbing the artist(s) and then potentially taxing him/her on goods they had stolen once they came to power. This is robbery of the highest order…twice in broad daylight. It was important to speak up, so I did. Yet at the end of the day, we instinctively know that Ghanaian politicians and their cronies are uninventive autobots who pander to pedestrian sensibilities and recycle old ideas, enriching themselves in the process. Intuitively, we know we can’t expect much out of that batch. But when you’re a believer – a true believer – in the power and presence of God and all His mysteries, this sort of theft and behavior only produces consternation in those who call themselves faithful…unless you’re a religious zombie. And right now, West Africa is ripe for the Religious Cult Zombie Apocalypse.

There is a wave of anti-intellectualism that has swept through the Black and African church that is crippled us mentally. On a cerebral level, we are damaged that it WOULD take the power of God, dressed as Aristotle perhaps, to heal us of this plague. It is widely known that the average human uses less than or about 10% of their brain. That’s a lot of wasted potential. And if that doesn’t bother you, scientist have just recently discovered that the human brain has far more potential and power (about 10 times more!) than we previously thought, and can store information roughly equivalent with the entire internet. Yet somehow, when a “Man of God” becomes the topic of discussion, many cannot engage our brains at all.

So this becomes my question: If you call yourself a Child of God – daughter or son of the most High King – what in His holy name are you doing plagiarizing someone else’s work? Could you not tap into that same spirit that spoke the heavens and the earth into existence to create a phenomenal work for your church’s crusade? Did you spend any time in prayer, seeking revelation or inspiration for that cause…or did do exactly what your superiors kick against Sunday after Sunday? Did you imitate the world, instead of imitating Christ? Your actions and fruit say “yes”. Their silence on the matter says they approve of your inferior mentality. As the old adage goes: You know a tree by its fruit.

I don’t know anything about Chris Oyakhilome and the Chris-tians that follow him after apart from what I’ve seen in the news. I know he allegedly subjected his wife to physical abuse over a period of years. I know he has bleached skin and curly, processed hair. I know his marketing team knows their stuff. There are white people all over his website; which I have to add, looks like a virtual shopping mall for all things religious and not necessarily holy. In that regard, it’s really impressive. It appeals to the materialistic nature of desperate men. But did I get a sense of honoring God and pointing web visitors to either Him, His Son or the Holy Spirit? Not so much. But that was just my user experience on Pastor Chris’ e-real estate. Yours may be different.

Religion is a funny thing. Despite the fact that there are millions of people around the world who simply consider themselves “Christians”, there is little uniformity of belief or unity in the body of Christ. There is little consistency in terms of what is expected from a Christian. I know that my pastor would be horrified if he discovered that his social media team had stolen someone else’s work to promote his event and then ignored pleas to take it down and/or credit the work. (And before any of you ask or cast aspersions: Yes, I did ask Poka for his feedback and he informed me that this is precisely what happened: the guys at the Accra church have ignored his requests… I say motivated by an ungodly spirit of privilege and pride.) My pastor has always preached that the body of Christ must be an example to the world, that we must be more innovative, more hardworking, more loving, out-serving, seeking to “imitate Christ as dear children.” In short, we must strive for excellence.

I do not see this in the average Ghanaian who professes to love Jesus, many of who have abandoned their work posts, contractual obligations unfulfilled and diminished productivity because they are “expecting something from God tonight”. What about what God is expecting from YOU? Indeed, there are more “sinners” who are better Christians than the average Ghanaian Christian. ‘Christian’ means ‘like Christ’. Does a quick scan through scripture show a Jesus who stole other people’s intellectual property, or enriched himself through offerings and tithes? Was He a taker? No. Jesus was a multiplier. He was a provider. He was a good steward. He was an intelligent man who spoke in parables and reasoned in the temple. The average Christian and their pastors are incapable of reasoning – because of that spirit of anti-intellectualism that’s sweeping through the church! It’s all superstition and voodoo, quite frankly.

For example, what’s the first thing Kobina Church-Goer says if you criticize his Man of God?

“Touch not my anointed ooo, and do my prophets no harm!!”

In other words, the Man of God is never to be called to account for his sins; and if you dare, God will get you for pointing out Kobina Church-Goer’s idol’s faults. And make no mistake, men like Duncan Williams and Chris Oyakhilome are idols for people all over this region of the world.

Matthew 23

Matthew 23

There are so many things that are awry with the way Christianity is practiced in West Africa that it’s hard to see how we’re going to straighten the crooked paths without demolishing the whole thoroughfare. Pastor Chris’ arrival in Accra and the fiascoes that are bound to ensue are just a symptom of a larger issue.

It was announced this week that the municipal government has actually authorized that several of the busiest roads in the city be shut down in order to accommodate traffic to the Pastor Chris-tian event. Why? Because they have bought into the cult of personality and are pandering to the people’s superstition: A superstition that says that if we “honor the Man of God”, we will get jobs and running water and healing from cancer. It’s no accident that the government has made these accommodations for this “miracle worker”. In doing so, they can further absolve themselves from their responsibilities and mandate as the leaders of that corner of the world. After all, if GOD couldn’t heal your child of malaria, what can we (with our development budget allocated for sewer management and hospital equipment – ooops, now squandered on trips to Dubai and V8s – my bad!) do?

Selah.

We are headed for dark days if we continue on this path. We’ve seen this in history before, where British men of the cloth used their God-given authority to rape newlywed brides on the night of their honeymoon in order to “bless” the marriage; where the Vatican enriched itself from the sale of Black flesh and the amassing of African gold; where Protestant preachers in the American colonies burned women at the stake for being too mouthy. If Accra can shut down the city so one man can do a crusade, leaving the residents vulnerable to any number of calamities due to impassible roads, the government can authorize just about anything for the sake of these Men of God. What happens tonight to the child who gets knocked by a car and can’t get to the hospital in time because the fastest routes have been blocked? What is his mother’s consolation? Why was there no consideration for the citizenry– or intelligent thought – applied to this visit? Could Pastor Chris not have held his event outside of Accra? Could the organizers not have partnered with other churches in the area to have shuttles take attendees from designated parking lots to and from the event? What would Jesus’ PA do?!

Speaking of Jesus and roads: Did Jesus stop traffic on Palm Sunday? Absolutely. But the following week, He was crucified as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. What is Pastor Chris’ sacrifice when all this is said and done? If there is none, then the jets, the escorts, the road blockages are just vanity.

I hope that people will take the time to evaluate their relationship with these silk suit wearing master manipulators and ask themselves the hard questions. But they probably won’t. They will justify these self-serving acts and declare that God approves of them because these men are His “chosen and anointed”; And also because one day, they also hope to recipients of the low-hanging fruit…and they certainly don’t want the rest of us criticizing or making them feel bad about it when they do.

Over to you.

What Incentives Were Offered to Ghana to Host Two Gitmo Terrorists

Source: Al Jazeera

Source: Al Jazeera

 Ever since news broke last night that two detainees of Yemeni origin have been resettled in Ghana after spending years in Guantanamo Bay prison, tongues have been wagging about what the Ghanaian government might have taken in return for harboring the two men. Why Ghana? Why not Oregon? After all, Mahmud Umar Muhammad bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih al-Dhuby were beneficiaries of America’s “hospitality” at Gitmo, weren’t they? Why then should they not continue to enjoy that hospitality on mainland American soil? Why is America outsourcing its problems and ‘mistakes’ to Africa? Because Americans don’t folks tainted by claims of terrorism – proven or otherwise – living in their “backyard”. Do Ghanaians?

Ghana’s foreign ministry – headed by Hanna Tetteh – released a statement saying that the two detainees had been cleared of any charges involving terrorism and that although absolved, the pair are unable to return to their home country. In two years, they will be free to leave Ghana, (to where, I wonder) and in the interim they will have their movements “monitored”. This claim that Ghana has the capacity to monitor anything has elicited ridicule from the population at large. We can’t get our voter’s register in order, nor do our computer systems have the capacity to enroll the correct number of students in secondary schools around the country (see Wesley Girls), but we can monitor the movement of two highly trained, hardened Gitmo detainees? The only way this works is if America provides the manpower, training and equipment to make that possible. And perhaps that’s what it all comes down to: incentives and gifts.

The move is being hailed as a partnership between Ghana and the USA, with the former given kudos for “its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” However, we all know what this Mahama-led government is capable of…and none of that includes goodwill without greased palms.

According to this chart, Ghana is only one of several African countries that has pledged to accept and transition prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Others include Somalia, Cape Verde and Egypt. Only God knows what negotiations took place to facilitate prison transfers into each of these needy countries. So far, the only inducement that has been made clear is that there is a sense quid pro quo in operation here ; that it behooves these current (and future) host nations to be on America’s good side and be seen as an ally from which “favors” can be potentially drawn later.

It’s never as simple as a response to a humanitarian need or goodwill. Accra and its environs are a constant humanitarian crisis waiting to erupt with the next rainfall.

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 8.51.24 AM

Ghana’s willingness to accept the two former detainees could have something to do with furthering AFRICOM operations for the US. Again, to what benefit we probably will never know. These things cannot be found out in something as simple as a quick Google search. When I asked a friend who worked in defense what possible motivation a country like Ghana (or Sweden, for that matter) would have in partaking in such a “goodwill venture”, he was very cryptic on the call.

Locations of all US military operations in Africa. Source: Nick Turse

Locations of all US military operations in Africa. Source: Nick Turse

“There are some words that are very innocent when they are spoken or written separately. Individually, 5 or 6 reports can be labeled ‘unclassified’. But put them together in a stack, and suddenly it becomes a ‘classified’ document that only Top Secret clearance holders have access to.”

“Uh huh…”

“Now, you’re on the phone with me stringing words together like Gitmo, Pentagon and prisoner. On their own, those are just fine. But together…it’s Operation Crosswalk. You gonna have SWAT swinging through your bedroom window if you keep tying certain phrases together.”

“What? Wait. Did you hear that?”

Y’all. I SWEAR I heard a third party click on the other end of our call!

I have no answers to what motivation the government of Ghana would have for accepting two potentially dangerous men, but given the rate at which the Chinese are building school blocks and Malaysians are taking over the telephony industry and Brazilians taking over our major building projects and, and, and, it’s not difficult to cut through the mud and see what’s going to bubble to the surface. In time, these motives will become clear – and specifically when no one in government thinks it is “important”. But by then, it will be too late to draw any real lessons before the same mistake is repeated again.

I’m terribly disappointed (as usual) in Ghana’s ruling government for allowing this to pass without public debate or awareness. I’m disappointed in the opposition who surely knew that this was coming down the pike and failed in their duty to alert the citizenry. Yet again, Ghanaians are being treated like children, robbed of their basic rights on a daily basis. We all had a right to this knowledge, forehand. The only clear beneficiary in this equation is America, President Obama, specifically, as this affords him the opportunity to make good on his early promise to close Guantanamo Bay prison before he left office. Him, and perhaps a few nameless middle men who have received their cut of whatever was being offered to sell out the country, once again. When does it stop?

 

*SWAT, if you’re reading this, I just have questions ooo. I don’t know ANYTHING! I don’t want any wahala.

 

 

How I (Presumedly) Became Ghana’s First Female MC

This is one of those stories I was going to wait to tell my grand kids to serve as a moral or a fable, but I guess I’ll tell it to y’all now. Just hold on till the end.

******

As a teenager, I frequently found myself the subject of rumors – the quality of which varied from the outrageous to the plausible. Some where laughable and others really hurtful. Being subjected to rumors is the price of admission into certain cliques and even certain academic institutions in Accra. I have slept with people I’ve never met, been on vacation to places I’ve never heard of, bombed exams I never took. I’ve survived the onslaught almost unscathed.

There are so rumors so ridiculous that it belittles one to even address them. These are the type that earn an “Ahhh? Is that what you heard?” coupled with a side eye and a sucking of the teeth. Then there are others that are amusing at first, then flattering, then potentially lethal to your street cred if left unaddressed. The rumor that I am Ghana’s FIRST female MC is one of those.

Yes. You read that right. It’s rumored that I am Ghana’s pioneer female MC. Mic Checka Malaka in the hizz-ous!!!

This is something I’ve heard before, but never really took seriously. If not for a respected member of Ghana’s music industry asking me to tell him how it all happened it last night, I wouldn’t be addressing it all! But if it has reached THIS person’s ears, then the rumor has grown teeth and wings and is auditioning for a part in Game of Thrones. I would let the rumor persist if not for the fact that I may be called on stage one day to “spit bars like I used to back in the day” for an expectant crowd and then find myself staring blankly into a sea of Accra’s finest looking like this guy:

riakWhat I am about to tell you is going to confound you. It may change your opinion of me forever. I am willing to take that risk. The truth must be known!

In the early 90’s, hip hop was HUGE. It was bigger than anything that had come before. Bigger than jazz, bigger than ragtime, bigger than Koo Nimo. This was the era of Queen Latifah, Naughty by Nature, Biggie and Pac. I had just completed my O’levels and my imagination, potty mouth and I were ready to fully engage in all the musical glory that the genre had to offer. I entered and performed in several talent concerts in the city, ready to show off my rap skills.

People used to say I looked like her. Humph. Wish I looked like her MONEY!

People used to say I looked like her. Humph. Wish I looked like her MONEY!

Well, it wasn’t “several” really. More like 1.5. And that’s exactly what makes this rumor so hard to believe if you were there and SAW what happened.

In those days, everybody in secondary school had a rap/rhymes/lyric book. We would all write down the lyrics to songs in exercise books and perform them later. Some people were better at it than others, usually those who painstakingly scribbled out the words to genres as divergent as country is from high-life.  The person with the best compilation of lyrics won. Won what, no one knows. Lets say they won honor…that honor being bestowed the mantle of being the go-to person for verification of lyrical content. This is how a whole dormitory in a certain unnamed school could perform Fresh Prince’s ‘Summertime’ with the intro going “Hegediz kukum hedediz…” (Here it is…) with gusto and without apprehension.

The first time I rapped was with my classmate Akua. We performed Pharcyde’s ‘Passin Me By’ at a show in GIS. I was the dude with the high pitched, nasal voice…or at least I was supposed to be. On the day of the actual show, I chickened out at used my regular speaking voice in the performance. Akua hardly spoke to me after that. We’re Facebook friends now, so I guess she’s forgiven me.

The next time I was supposed to rap (the .5 in this equation) was at Labadi Beach during some event during the long vac. I had been invited by Wos, Ben, Eddie and Jake to join their group. I didn’t understand why, but it was something to do so why not? I asked my mom for permission, she gave it, and I practiced for the show. I didn’t even write my own rhymes – something that it is critical for any person claiming MC status to do. I think the name of the group was NFL, I can’t remember. All I know was Das EFX was big at the time, and every other word Ben and Wos rapped had an “iggity” at the end. I was going out with a guy named Joe at the time. This is where you’ll want to pay attention.

On the day of the even, your humble potty mouthed thug miss arrived at the beach in all white. I wore white baggy pants, a fitted white shirt, cornrows and combat boots. I also had a baseball bat in my hand. You know…to up the hard core effect and to let people know I meant bidness. I had such a hard life living in a 5 bedroom home in Labone, naw’mean? The presenters of the show instruct us to step out on stage so we could be introduced to the crowd later.

“Oh look! They even have a girl in their group!” he trills.

The crowd goes wild. I grip my baseball bat tighter, cock my head to the side and deliver a 5 point mean mug. We descend from the stage where Joe is waiting for me. I feel exhilarated.

“You’re not going to rap today,” he said flatly.

“What?”

“No girlfriend of mine is going to stage to rap,” he sneered.

My sister was disgusted. I was confused. What was this gibberish this boy was talking? As it turned out, I couldn’t perform that day because our set was too long. Each performance had to be no more than 3 minutes. Ours was between 5 and 6. I volunteered to step back. The boys debated and Jake was next on the chopping block. Somehow, later during the show, Jake and I got into it. I think I told him his breath was stank, his body was stank, something or everything about him was stank. He threatened to shoot me because “you don’t know I am carrying a gun eh?”

My sister, always ready to come to my rescue swoops in with this challenge:

“Shoot her! Shoot her! I want to see if you can shoot her!”

Jake backs off and my sister hurls a string of insults as his retreating silhouette. Joe and I broke up shortly afterward. He’d left for the States to go to college, and I was grateful for his departure. Ladies: don’t ever let some boy waltz into your daughter’s life and control or quell her creativity. Did he born her? No. He did NOT.

If you can suss out from this series of events how I became Ghana’s female first MC, please let me know and come for toffee!

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.

 

Help! My ‘Torso Beads’ Are Too Tight and I’m Afraid…

“Hey Malaka! What are the credentials for wearing Krobo waist beads?”

“Have a waist, I suppose. I dunno. I’m not Krobo.”

“Ah.”

My younger cousin from my American side of the family was the one making this inquiry. She lives in Columbus, Ohio and to my knowledge, has never been out of the country. Now, she was asking me about waist beads…Krobo waist beads, specifically. What had piqued her interest in this particular region of Ghana?

Krobo is a small town in the Eastern Region of Ghana, and as far as I am concerned, is an enduring bastion of our fast-fading culture. Krobos are known for hot girls, hard work and elaborate beadwork. Still, the do not hold a monopoly on bead making/wearing in the region, so I was a bit miffed that my cousin did not inquire about Akuapem waist beads. I suppose it’s because Larteh people are more famous for their juju than their accessories.

Anyway.

My cousin’s inquiry gave me pause, and made me reminisce a little about my own waist beads. Even though I’ve worn traditional beads at some point in every stage in my life, I began wearing them consistently back in 2002 as a nod to our ancestral beauty practices. On a visit to Ghana in that time, several women of my parent’s generation were quick to share their disdain and disapproval for the presence of the beads around my waist.

“This is something villagers do,” one woman spat.

Ah, ah. It wasn’t her waist, and she didn’t buy them for me. I resisted the urge to spit back at her and roll my eyes, instead nodding like the “good African girl” my father silently implored me to be in public.

My favorite waist beads were crafted by an old woman who lived in Osu behind Kikiriki Kitchen. She had strung some for one of my best friends in colors and shapes I had never seen before. She even had 3 or 4 gold spun beads strung on the line, which had such an alluring and hypnotic effect that I have to confess that it was nothing but pure envy that took me on the perilous trek over a 20 foot wide gutter bridged on either end by a rickety piece of wood.

“Her beads are not cheap o,” my friend warned in advance. “She is a master bead maker.”

“Oh, it’s just beads. How expensive can it be?” I scoffed.

The elderly woman greeted us with the cool of a woman who had seen and done it all. A halo of curly grey hair crowned her round head. She was in no particular rush to service us. I liked and disliked her instantly.

“Where do you want your beads to sit?” she asked.

“Here,” I said, pointing to the top of my hip. “I want them to sit low.”

After I had been measured and fitted, the old lady named her price. I balked, but then I remembered that beads were once a unit of currency and a measure for one’s wealth and status in the community. I empty my wallet and stare imploringly at my friend.  I think I still owe her money.  It was well worth it though. I have always loved those beads.

It is those same beads digging into my torso today.

Yes, you heard that right: The beads that once sat demure and seductively across my hips are now cutting off my circulation around my rib cage, digging into my skin, causing me nightmares in my sleep. And it’s ALL my cousin’s fault! If she hadn’t gone poking her artsy, inquisitive nose into this aspect of our culture, I would have left this vainglorious past with my waist beads buried in the past! You see, I took the beads off in the middle of my first pregnancy and haven’t thought about them since. After Aya was born, I got another set that were strung on elastic, but I never considered them quite as beautiful as the ones I’d gotten in Osu so I stopped wearing them, too. But once my cousin asked about (Krobo) beads, I fished them out of my jewelry box, inhaled and slipped them over my head and breasts. Now they are STUCK.

I can’t believe how much my body has changed! The transformation has been radical, and not for the better. They always tell you how having kids changes your body, and I have accepted the man hairs on my chin and chest, the feet that have grown in both length and width…even the kangaroo pouch that is the hallmark of four C-sections. Am I now expected to accept that my torso in 2015 holds the same dimensions of my waist 15 years ago? Heaven forbid!

While trawling through Poka Arts’ images on Instagram, I came across two images that sum up my demise perfectly. No, no. Look! It will help you understand my struggle.

Me, before my first kid:

photo 2(1)Yeah, I believe my body is a temple… but I pretty much eat whatever I want. It’s all good, because I work out 3-4 times a week and I play in a Gaelic football league. But you know, whatevs. Ooooh! Are you gonna eat the rest of your chocolate ganache? Can I have it?  I’m going for a run later. No, silly! I don’t “diet”. I don’t need to. LOL!

Me, after all my kids:

photo 1(5)Yeah, I believe my body is a temple. I try to eat a plant-based diet, primarily…but then I get super hungry and end up eating pizza for breakfast…and lunch. Look, I just like to eat pizza. It’s quick, it’s easy, and the kids like it too! I try to work out whenever I get the chance, but I’m usually busy stressing over the kids…which leads to more stress eating. Oooooh! Are you gonna eat the rest of that chocolate ganache? I have a PTA meeting coming up because one of the girls roundhouse kicked another kid on the playground. It’s okay. I’m going to cry myself to sleep later. Maybe the pain from my tears will mask the pain of these beads digging into my back…

Nevertheless, I was happy that I could at least get my favorite beads onto my body, even if they weren’t fitting me in as appealing a manner as they once did. I excitedly sent a picture to my sister, anticipating her approval and matched excitement.

photo(16)

“What is this?”

“These are my waist beads, Adj! I haven’t worn them in years.”

“Why do they look so tight?”

“…Because they are tight.”

“I don’t think our ancestors intended for them to look this way.”

“Look. Just be happy I can get them on, okay? You always outchea jackin’ up my high.”

She floods my inbox with celebratory emojis  – illustrated applause, confetti and champagne glasses – and then goes silent. I hate my sister.I am looking miserable.

Marshall offers to lift my beads over my head if I would agree to simultaneously smash and lift my boobs so he can slide them over. I refuse. I hate the pain these beads have caused me, but I loathe the idea of them defeating me even more.

That’s all I have to say about that. Until memory becomes my reality, my rib cage beads and I remain ever yours!

The Foreboding Message in Walov’s Revolutionary Song, ‘Never Go Change’

When Michael Kwame Gbordzoe composed the lyrics to our national anthem,  ‘God Bless Our Homeland, Ghana’ culminating the first stanza with the refrain:

And help us to resist oppressor’s rule, with all our will and might forevermore

I wonder if he ever imagined that the government elected by the people, for the people, would eventually morph into the oppressor of the people.

There is no doubt that citizens are feeling burdened and hopeless in the country right now, and that is directly as a result of the way the country is being governed. From the executive office of the president, to the religious leaders that sway the emotions of the people, to our municipal mayors and educators, there is a frenzied – almost primal need to subjugate those who find themselves under the authority of anyone in these groups. Ghana has long been considered a hard place to live, but it is only recently that it has become near impossible for the native Ghanaian to thrive in his/her own homeland. Ghana is very kind to the expatriate corps, who navigate the system with ease thanks to the privilege that being paid in dollars/pounds sterling. Ghanaians themselves will go out of their way to show a foreigner that their lives and desires are preferred above their own. This has contributed to the climate and attitude that the native Ghanaian is not worth serving to one’s best. It is an attitude that Ghana’s political elite display with wanton flagrance, insulting the population and then offering half-hearted apologies for political expediency, if any at all.

It is in this bleak climate that Wanlov the Kubolor has penned what many consider the song of the soon coming revolution, ‘Never Go Change’. (The video released was online two days ago). The melody is haunting, the message a warning. The single black and whaite shot of what appears to be a homeless, but hardworking man sweating in his toil is a portent and reflection of life for the average Ghanaian today. I asked Kubolor to talk about his motivation for the arrangement and lyrics of the song.

wanlov-kubolor-resized

MOM: Musically, I think it’s a BIT of a departure from your usual subject matter. You usually tackle sexual attitudes and religion (this has earned you the moniker “controversial”)…so why politics now?

Wanlov: Musically it is because I am known for rapping/singing on beats, but I started listening to Sixto Rodriguez over 2 years now and have been learning acoustic guitar from Kyekyeku & Tumi Ansah (M3NSA’s dad). Also dumsor is to blame for me learning guitar…but I think you meant topic-wise. I have always rapped/sung about politics from jump. The first song on my first album “Green Card” was called 50th Dependence and sadly all the lyrics from then are even more relevant now. 

MOM: Have you been meaning to do this song for a while, or was it spontaneous considering the political climate Ghana is in now?

Wanlov: I wrote this song a few months ago and debuted it at the Lauryn Hill concert in Accra. The crowd response gave me goosebumps. This is the song of the revolution.

MOM: ‘Never Go Change’ reminds me of Lauryn Hill’s I Find it Hard to Say (Rebel) in which she calls out authority figures for diminishing the value of Black life and oppressed people. She rhetorically asks “Why don’t you rebel”. It’s apropos that you would open for her with this!

Wanlov: [It] was not a conscious decision, but it crossed my mind to ask her to do (record) the song with me. However she was in a bad space because she had just lost her band leader so I shunned. Maybe if the song goes worldwide will ask her to revisit it with me ;)

MOM: You’re one of the few celebrities who has used his voice to address social ills. Do you take on this mandate BECAUSE of your celebrity, or does your fame give you the platform to advocate for causes you would be engaging in regardless?

Wanlov: I do not consider myself a celebrity…just an unpopular popular citizen who knows better and wants that better to be a basic Ghanaian right.

MOM: Do you expect any backlash for releasing this song, particularly for the call to “cut off their heads and splatter blood all over the walls”?

Wanlov: It would surprise me…they do not take the entire country seriously…why would they take me seriously? Besides they kill people every day through their lack of action or abundance of greedy or uninformed decisions. 

MOM: Why did you choose to use such a calm, melodic beat instead of something more angry and edgy?

Wanlov: I am past angry…I am now in the calm & calculated zone waiting for my people to arrive.

MOM: The song is a jeremiad about the flagrant display of greed in the face of so much suffering in the nation. Our political and social elite seem to be able to get away with the most heinous crimes with absolute impunity, and because they can, they do. And they will never change. But at the end of the song, you ask the listener: “Like you, you go change?” Do you think we ALL have the potential for corruption at the levels we’re seeing? And if so, is there really any hope for Ghana? It doesn’t seem to matter who we vote into power, the question keeps coming back: “Like you, you go change?” After all, these guys went to our schools and live in our communities. They are a part of us. What keeps this cycle of crap going, in your opinion?

Wanlov: The only reason something radical has not been done yet about corruption is because we are all waiting for our turn to get into a position and exploit it selfishly. We admire successful corruption stories. For example, Woyome is a hero to many. Ministers implicated in corruption are hailed and called honorable.

There is no hope for Ghana to change peacefully in the next 2 generations. My youngest sister who finished high school 2 years ago paid for a school sweater her first year. She and her mates did not get the sweater they paid for in the 3 years they attended that school till today. They were punished if they wore “non-prescribed” sweaters which they needed to because the school is in the mountains and it gets very cold when the sun sets. Upon all the maths and science and whatever they studied, the biggest practical lesson they learnt was behavioral. The teachers/staff they looked up to taught them that when you are in power you are not accountable.

Also our generation did not grow up seeing our parents bribing police by the roadside or tipping the ECG worker to not cut the illegal connection, but our children are growing up seeing this as normal…so imagine the next century…

This cycle keeps going because of the fine balance of colonial legacy, capitalism, religion, shortsightedness, nepotism, patriarchy, pretend patriotism & cultural/spiritual poverty. It has been set up nicely and will keep repeating till the pipes burst in the ever depraved marginalized slums who can’t even afford to follow a religion to sedate them. They will ravage everything shiny and attack anyone above their level of livelihood. Then Ghana will start from its ashes instead of continuing from the tree tops.

Ma bre (Translation: I’m tired)

 

Watch ‘Never Go Change’ here:

*NB: A day after this interview, news broke that Adams Mahama, the Upper East Chairman for the new Patriotic Party (NPP), had been the victim of an acid attack by two unnamed assailants. His injuries were deemed critical, and sadly cost him his life. He was part of political dispute and the victim of his own party’s in-fighting.

Politicians cannot continue to rely on the goodwill and pseudo spirituality/piety of the Ghanaian public. People are angry. People are frustrated. People are losing their capacity to tap into their compassion and humanity.

No right thinking person would condone these attacks, but ALL right thinking people must ask what sort of desperation would lead a person to resort to this kind of violence and address it at the root. The roots are obvious and exposed, but it is up to us as Ghanaians to admit that they are rotten and tend to them accordingly. It’s not as simple as “because Africans are savages”. To rely on that as an explanation is to willfully dismiss the many obvious and reoccurring wrongs in our society today.