Monday, September 29, 2008

A day without you (poem)

I wrote this poem around 2004 when I was in MIT. I saw a friend's signature and it went something like "A day without rain, A day without sun, A day without faith, A day without you". I thought it would be good fodder for a poem and so I started writing. The final product is a poem entitled 'A day without you'.

A day without rain
Spells the boredom of dryness
The grass folds its arms
Hungers for the greenness of love
The dam goes a damn
The river has a shiver
The farm blows an alarm
That all is not well

A day without sun
Spells the dangers of darkness
The moon curses its stars
Hungers for light for reflection
The party ends sooner
The slumber ends later
A boom comes from a stark dark room
That all is not well

A day without faith
Spells the comfort of comfort
The hungry crosses his legs
Awaits the next coin on his table
The don never closes his eyes
The pupil gives up on good sight
The pastor’s wife sees in this life
That all is not well

A day without you
Spells the missing person notice
The family never moved on
So did Ama and Mahama
Eyes are shut in their comfort
Some fail to cope with hope
The stage is set for you
To make it well

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

September 21st gives birth again - this time to a renewed CPP

Another post from my alter ego - Maximus Ojah, a member of the GhanaThink community.

Happy Belated Birthday Osagyefo,

Kwame, some people in this world are old, but as for you, you are grown. What! 99 years! I am struggling with my quarter-life crisis and am dreading the next few years; I can't even imagine a mid-life crisis. Happy belated again sir, and may you find rest and sleep at the same side of the bed you slept on September 20th. Do find that spot again because you smiled at your fans. You must have smiled when you read the news about the national launch of your rejuvenated party's campaign for this year's election. The CPP is back, new, vibrant and attractive.

Nkrumahists like us cherish your birthday like other holidays in the Ghanaian calendar. Were you called the African Showboy due to the flamboyant parties you threw for your birthday? Were you called the African Showboy because of how you lavished cedis (when they were as good as dollars) on your friends and sympathizers? September 21st is remembered as your birthday but the chapter has been re-written, the 2008 version will go down as the day Paa Kwesi Nduom's CPP launched its national campaign with a rally for the ages and introduced the running mate in the race for the FlagStaff house, the site of the new Presidential Palace. Actually, the Presidential Palace is on hold due to a myriad of problems, so let's call this election the race to be the first citizen of Ghana. Shall we?

Osagyefo, ever since Ghana returned to democratic rule, the Convention People's Party had been a shadow of the organization that led the fight for Ghana's independence. It had no CYO (Committe on Youth Organization), and you didn't hear any CPP representative on radio making 'educative noise' in the name of democracy. Your people were divided in the aftermath of the political ban on the CPP. Kwabena Darko rose up one day and paid tribute to your memory, installing the chicken as the symbol of his political party. People mistook his reverence for you for his Darko Farms company which produces day old chicks. Well, Darko's NCP was a day-old political wonder as well. Hilla Limann rode his popularity as Ghana's third president but he had lost too many of his Nkrumahist colleagues to Jerry Rawlings' NDC. Edward Mahama, a fine gentleman, took over from him and has still not been able to win back the hearts, pockets, thumbs and support of your sympathizers.

Along came Paa Kwesi Nduom, the one-time Deloitte & Touche consultant. He came to Ghana with a wealth of working experience in the US and established a hotel business. He stayed behind the scenes, taking up an Assemblyman post in the Central Region. By the time he run for the Member of Parliament against the famous Ato Quarshie in the Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abirem constituency, a lot of us knew him as the one who owned the Coconut Beach Resort in Elmina. He won the seat and won the CPP one of three parliamentary seats. Osagyefo, how far the mighty had fallen! A generation removed from the Nkrumah hype, we couldn't find winners in your fold to win parliamentary seats. George Opesika Aggudey, George Hagan, Kwesi Nduom and the rest had won the right to use the 'CPP' name, but the name was still not valuable.

Kwame, people blamed Kwesi Nduom, Freddie Blay, George Hagan and Prof. Agyeman Badu Akosa for taking up positions in the NPP's all-inclusive government. This is what I thought at the time. Why shouldn't we have the best people in the country hold the best positions? Should John Mahama refuse to be the Minister of Communications because he is in the 'opposition party'? I didn't applaud this move as getting more true Nkrumahists into the spotlight, I thought of this as unity. Kwame, did you try to recruit some of the UP members into your government? Why not? Were your philosophies and ideologies so different to prevent you from appointing a couple of Danquah-Busia guys in your administration? Did you imprison them because they refused your offers?

The rally at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle on the 21st of September was a testament to how far the CPP had come since the 2004 election. Nduom and his colleagues have rejuvenated the party from the ground up and done it quietly, peacefully and efficiently. They didn't pay people to attend the rally, they made sure everyone at the rally was a registered member. Kwame, can you imagine that? If I was in Ghana and had wanted to go to the rally, I'd be turned back right at Busy Internet as I started to make the home run for the Holy Gardens because I didn't have a CPP registration. That is bureaucratic, but in the days when peer pressure helps bloat the real numbers and the real story of many political rallies in Ghana, the CPP did the right thing.

What is your verdict on Paa Kwesi Nduom? People say he is not a true Nkrumahist, that he is someone who flirted with the NPP, someone who is on the books for fraud, someone who betrayed other people in the CPP, amongst others. Did you know any of his relatives when you were in power? People make it seem like to have positions in a political party, your father, uncle, aunt, or distant relative must have paid his dues. When did politics in Ghana become a family tradition? Your son, Sekou, has joined the NDC - which technically has a bunch of Nkrumahist people anyway - instead of joining forces with his sister, Samia, in the party you birthed. Sekou may have grown wary of the capabilities of the CPP, but your 99th birthday gave birth to a vibrant and serious CPP. A political party ready to take on its checquered history and live up to the billing and reputation it commands all over the world.

Kwame, do you care if Paa Kwesi is a true Nkrumahist? No one cares if Akufo Addo or Dan Lartey is, so why Nduom? We love you a lot Osagyefo, but Ghana is not about you. We don't need Nkrumahism; we need policies, programs, and people that will work for the development of Ghana. Nduom has built businesses and he has worked for his people. He took a ministerial position in the name of Ghana, and not because he hated you all of a sudden. He has not engaged in any serious fraud because the SFO has not been able to find anything to that effect. He is leading a new sound, a new ideology strung to the waist of Nkrumahism, a new generation tied to the tenets of independence and a new vision 50 years after the birth of Ghana. Osagyefo, I know you are proud, but for those of us who are tired with this slow progress, we are ecstatic.

So let the date ring from Paga to Cape Three Points and from Elubo to the Togolese border; September 21st is here to stay. The wave of change is blowing across the globe, and it's time for the best guys to lead. We don't want a golden age of business in some 'forward' time, we want a golden age of business now. We can't wait any longer for things to get better, Ghanaians must demand progress, change and excellence now, before they grow disillusioned - especially the youth. So Kwame, send some of your magic to the cockerel as it takes on this miracle. Send the message of urgency to Asumasi and Dzifa, to Yakubu and Borteley, to Yacoba and Alima, and to their sisthren and brethren who for one reason or the other, find themselves stationed away from Ghana.

As we celebrated your birthday, we also celebrated the enthusiasm with which Ghana was born and the charisma with which you drove us to pursue the goals of the 1950's. As we navigate the 21st century, we celebrate September 21st, 2009 as a mark of hard work and the result of preaching a message of change and development and how Ghanaians are willing to latch onto what is best and not necessarily what is popular. Some of us may classify Ghanaians in many ways that shows that we are doomed as a country. However, if a few good men could resuscitate an ailing political party, a few more good men could change Ghana for the better and nurture a country we would love to live in from September 21st to September 20th. Kwame, we want it and we want it "NOW".


Thursday, September 18, 2008

The story of the Ghanaian movie 'industry'

Many years ago, we used to have movie cinemas in Ghana. When movies were being advertised, they would say - showing at Rex Cinema, Roxy Cinema, among others. These days we don't hear that anymore. When that guy with the loud voice is promoting the new Agya Koo movie and the new Van Vicker flick, you are directed to the same stores that distribute Ghanaian music for you to buy the latest movies. There is everything wrong with this trend, but let's go back to see how we got here in the first place.

When I was in Presec around 2001, Ghanaian movies were up and coming. We had movies like Stab in the Dark, Stab in the Dark part 2, Ripples, Diabolo, You can't laugh, Who killed Nancy, among others. Some of our major actors even joined forces with Danny Glover and Omar Epps in 'Deadly Voyage'. We were encouraged by the productions. We had movie houses like Harry Laud Productions, Miracle Films, Venus Films, among others. Ghanaian movies were lauded, they were interesting and people actually wanted to watch and buy them.

Soon enough, Nigerian movies infiltrated the Ghanaian market led by Genevieve Nnaji and Ramsey Nouah. Ghanaians loved them and eventually, our movie houses partnered with their Nigerian counterparts in producing Ghanaian-Nigerian movies. It looked like a good idea but what it did was it swallowed the budding Ghanaian movie industry. Later, it became much cheaper for Ghanaian movie houses to sell Nigerian movies than shoot new Ghanaian movies and Ghanaian movies faded out of the system. Nollywood was born and Ghana was its second major market. Nollywood is now the third biggest movie industry (after Hollywood and Bollywood) and has fans all over Africa, America, Europe and all the way to the Carribean. Genevieve Nnaji became so big in Ghana that when she took a break to release an album, the album was produced by Ghanaian producers, videos shot by Ghanaians, beats made by Ghanaians and she even sang in Twi!

These movie houses we had were in the business as businessmen. If it was much cheaper to sell and market Nigerian movies, the expedient thing to do was to stop the Ghanaian productions. As a result, our Psalm Ajetefios, Grace Norteys, Brew Riversons, Pascaline Edwards', Nat Baninis, Akofa Adjani Asiedus, had to find different jobs since they were no screenings and castings for them. The local producers concentrated on television series. With television, they could get sponsorship and at least balance the books. The move worked, it gave birth to shows like Sun City, Things we do for love, etc. Those who couldn't get roles in these were cast in the good old Akan Dramas and Thursday Theatres. Cinemas like Rex and Roxy stopped showing movies and became white elephants.

Fast forward to December 2006. I was holidaying in Ghana and this time around town, something was different. The Nigerian movie posters had been replaced by Ghanaian ones. Movie trailers were a feature on Ghana television as much as advertisements for crusades and conventions. We had new movie superstars - Agya Koo, Nadia Buari, Van Vicker and Jackie Appiah. There was a buzz for Ghanaian movies. I was so excited that I bought 8 different films. Actually, I bought 16 because when you buy 'Ka wo nan to so', you have to buy Part 2. Parts 1 and 2 come hand in hand. You couldn't rent the movies like the times of old. This was a business, and in order to cut losses, selling the movies outright was the best thing to do.

Ghanaian movies were back! Agya Koo, a one-time Concert party champion (after the likes of Nkomode and Bishop Bob Okalla), was a movie star. He was in every movie (just like Genevieve was in almost every movie in Nollywood's infant stages). The movies that featured him were pretty much 'Key Soap Concert Party' on the big screen. They were hilarious, mostly thanks to Agya Koo's antics and lines. Most of these movies were set in Kumasi and these movies became known as Kumasi movies. If you heard a movie with a title in Twi, it was probably a Kumasi movie with Agya Koo as the main actor.

These 'Kumasi movies' were nice, but their fans were mostly around the Twi-speaking population in Ghana. The buzz traveled across to the Twi-understanding population in Amsterdam, Hamburg, New York, Columbus, the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia), Worcester, areas. These movies had subtitles but that didn't endear them to the Accra crowds who thought these movies were too local. The Accra crowds had an answer though; along came Venus Films and AA productions. The crew that had given us 'Ripples' and 'A Stab in the Dark' were back and were producing 'Darkness of Sorrow', 'Mummy's Daughter' and 'Beyonce the President's Daughter'. These productions bore a resemblance to the pomp and pageantry associated with Nollywood movies - flashy cars, flamboyant dresses, flabbergasting houses, fly ladies, etc. These have become known as "Accra movies". They are set in Accra or the elite places in Accra, and they are in English. They had their movie stars too. Van Vicker, a fair complexioned guy, was the main lead actor and quickly developed a large fan base. When he visited New York and the DC area in 2007, he was 'mobbed'. Nadia Buari, a half-caste daughter of famous Ghanaian musician Sidiku Buari', has also become a superstar. She is even dating Michael Essien. Now, that is a celebrity marriage. Jackie Appiah is another star who is also the face of IPMC and is featured on countless billboards in Ghana.

Venus Films used Nollywood's marketing wheels and drove themselves into fame. "Beyonce, the President's Daughter" is probably the most popular movie out of Africa in the last few years and it is a Ghanaian production. It features Van Vicker, Nadia Buari and Jackie Appiah as well. Nadia plays Beyonce who is the daughter of the president and is interested in cute boy Raj (played by Van Vicker). Raj owes his life to Ciara (played by Jackie Appiah) who took him to the hospital after he was shot/robbed and is interested in Ciara only. Beyonce takes steps to take out Ciara throughout the four or so parts of the movie and would do anything to get Raj's love. We probably shouldn't be naming our movies Beyonce and having characters named Ciara but we'll talk more about that in another blog entry. Many Nollywood fans thought "Beyonce" was a Nigerian movie. Nollywood conquered Ghana in the past but on the back of movies like "Beyonce", Ghanaian movies are shooting back into prominence using the same tools that made Nollywood so successful.

Nadia, Van Vicker, Jackie and lately Majid Michel have become marketable stars, even more marketable than their Nigerian counterparts. Together with the "Kumasi movies", they have breathed life back into Ghanaian cinema and Ghanaian cinema has a following. Other movie houses have been formed and revitalised, creating competition and encouraging better productions. There is a lot to be done to sustain the movie industry, make it more appealing and world-class, but at least, there is life. The actors and actresses who disappeared when the Nigerian movies took over Ghanaian entertainment are returning to the big screen. Movie auditions are being held all over the country and the youth are flocking to get the chance to be the next big star. They even have a reality show on television - next movie star.

In my next 'movie' blog entry, I will discuss how the Ghanaian movie industry can get better and produce world-class movies that will make every single Ghanaian pay attention. We've created the buzz but now it's time to descend onto academy awards, international film festivals, independent cinemas and home theatres.

In the meantime, visit these websites to watch Ghanaian movies.
Ghana Cinema
Ghana Nation
Ghana's Entertainment

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

18 year old African self-taught electronics genius

Slow blog day :-) But did you hear about the 18 year old African self-taught electronics genius.

Check out the video

Every now and then we hear about Africans inventing things, making technological breakthroughs, finding cures, etc. It's great to have the news media pick up these 'good' stories but the excitement dies down and we never really hear about these particular people anymore. They are just replaced by the next African genius or next invention. What can we do to encourage these people who are being ingenuous in finding solutions to our problems? I am interested in starting a project to document these things and find support for these entrepreneurs. If you are interested in helping out, get in touch.

Full story on Morris Mbetsa below
Morris Mbetsa, an 18 year old self-taught inventor with no formal electronics training from the coastal tourist town of Mombasa on the Indian Ocean in Kenya has invented the "Block & Track", a mobile phone-based anti-theft device and vehicle tracking system.

The system, that Mbetsa created by combining technology from projects that he has completed in the past. The real-time system uses a combination of voice, DTMF and SMS text messages over cell-based phone service to carry codes and messages that allow control of some of a vehicles' electrical systems including the ignition to manage vehicle activation and disabling remotely in real time.

Another feature of the system is the capacity to poll the vehicle owner by mobile phone for permission to start when the ignition is turned in real time as well as eavesdrop on conversation in the vehicle.

Mbetsa is now looking for funding to commercially develop his proof of concept and bring it to the market as reported in this video carried on the Kenya Television Network earlier this year.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Leading into leadership – the Presec years

My senior secondary (high school) experience in Presec constitutes some of the best years in my life. My leadership journey continued. I didn’t get any ‘would you run for president’ questions there but I got similar questions about leadership. Here, I was in a boy’s school, separate from the ‘distractions’ that girls could be and in an environment where you had to be of your best behavior. Being of your best behavior may help shape your leadership abilities, but it is not the only trait or factor in leadership. I didn’t have all these traits in Presec and though I may have gained some, I may still not be the finished product. Writing the first entry about leading into leadership was nice, so we get to do it twice.

I chose to go to Presec because it is an excellent school and I also wanted to get away from my parents. I wanted to become more independent and get the chance to ‘live a little’. I wouldn’t go to a Cape Coast school because I didn’t know any relatives there and I had to be in a place where I could access great home-cooked food. Yes, my burning desire for free food started early. Besides, 7 of my JSS mates were going to Presec and coupled with the fact that all the top students were doing ‘Science’, I fell to peer pressure. I really wanted to do General Arts, but I succumbed to popular opinion. Doing Science hasn’t turned out to be a bad option, but I fell for the popular choice, which may not necessarily have been the best choice, for me. Now that is not what I want my leader to do, but I did it. Spare me, I was just a teenager.

Being a ‘homo’, ‘nino’ or first year boy in a Ghanaian boys’ boarding school is hard. I was part of the labor force, we did every work imaginable. When you are a servant, there isn’t much of an opportunity to lead or even influence. You are more concerned with ‘sucking up’ to your seniors or bribing them with ‘cash or kind’ so you will live a peaceful life. I wasn’t going to have any of that. My parents worked too hard to get me these sardines, shito, milo, and other provisions for seniors to ‘command’ and ‘bully’ them from me. I was seen as stingy and suffered for it. Call it insubordination, call it courage, call it miserliness, call it ‘chisel’, I call it rebellion aka positive defiance.

I was fortunate enough to be quite smart in Presec. I began winning quizzes over my seniors and wowing people with my smarts. This won me a few friends but I didn’t guarantee me free passes when it came to ‘bullying’ and discipline. I also got involved in a number of clubs, prominent among them were the Editorial Board and the Quiz, Writers and Debaters Club. I was still seen as a ‘soft’ boy and stingy. I couldn’t do the hard jobs like scrubbing so I was constantly assigned to the ‘doma’. Yes, my superiors found it prudent to give me the job of cleaning up the toilets that would never flush, that smelled like ‘you know’ and the job for which there were no ‘tools’.

Being on the Presec Editorial Board was the most prestigious thing for any Presec junior (form 1 or 2). You had to be able to write pretty well, but you had to be neat, respected, respectful and generally ‘not a bad boy’. To finally get onto the board, you had to go through the most vigorous vetting exercises known to man, it could scare you away from pursuing the positions. I had to become neater to pursue this, keep three handkerchiefs at all times instead of two, walk ‘well’ enough not to get my shoes and clothes dusty, start doing favors for my superiors and be of my best behavior. I was good enough to make the board, I was probably one of the more popular guys but I couldn’t earn the topmost position. I was made an Assistant Managing Editor. Later, I heard, I didn’t get the position because I wasn’t ‘mean enough’, not ‘hard’ and probably couldn’t order people around. Read it as soft, read it as second banana, read it as being a follower, in my book, I just was not the bossy type.

Presec is a school where the seniors and the juniors are in warfare due to the way the former treats the latter. A junior’s worst enemy is a prefect (student government). Luckily, the junior has a Students Representative Council (SRC) to fight for his rights when he has been found guilty or is being treated unfairly. The juniors loved the SRC and the seniors loved the prefectorial council. The two were like political parties with the prefects being the incumbent party. When I was in Form 2, the SRC somehow sided with the prefects too many times and had formed a ‘union government’. Who was going to stand up for the juniors now? We, my colleagues and I, of the Editorial Board, aka Presec Media, would stand up. Our motto was “The pen is mightier than the sword”. We went to work, writing some ‘articles’ about how the prefects and SRC were being unfair. We caught the wrath of both parties, and were to face ‘consequences’. We were humiliated at the dining hall, etc. Most of the Editorial Board before us were prefects or SRC members, so they were not happy with the developments and to them, heads had to roll. Heads rolled alright, and there was a shakeup in our board. I kept my position, my senior managing editor was demoted and someone ‘jumped’ me. Must be me again, I couldn’t be entrusted with leading.

When we were entering our final year, most of my mates wanted to be prefects. By this time in my life, I wasn’t going to run away from responsibility but I just didn’t think I wanted to be a prefect. It wasn’t a priority. I was encouraged to run for the protocol prefect position because I was an automatic choice. I wasn’t going to run for senior prefect, because I was behind in the hierarchy, other students had set their sights on the position since they stepped in Presec and worked every other day to be in the running for the highest office in the land. They had been neat, they had ironed their dresses so well the edges could cut tree branches, they had given away food when seniors bullied them, they had stayed out of trouble and this was to be their reward. When they were being flowed ‘spe’, they kept their cool, they didn’t ‘strike’, they ‘posed’ so as not to be seen as hungry boarding school students, they had played their cards right. As for me, I could care less, and if you cared less, you couldn’t be given such responsibility.

Running for prefectorial positions in Presec was fun. People memorized famous quotes to mesmerize voters, we learnt Latin sayings so we could show we were intellectual, we started to follow every rule in the ‘green book to the letter. If you signed your life away to the aspiration season and you ended up being shocked, you could be ridiculed for the rest of your ‘days’ in Presec. I run for the Protocol prefect position and endured all the crazy vetting procedures. The day of reckoning arrived and everyone was giddy and anxious as to see who would be elected and who would be shocked. I had been assured the position was mine but there was one twist, I had refused a kingmaker a bottle of Malta Guinness some days before.

You guessed right. When the names were mentioned, I was ‘shocked’. They actually passed me over for a position ‘everyone’ said I was guaranteed to get. I cried, I kid you not. When the guy I was supposed to succeed heard of this, he said it was a mistake and quickly, I was re-instituted. It was a whirlwind turn of events but at least, someone was able to entrust some responsibility into my hands. I knew I could do the job and I was willing to be better than my predecessor.

I was a good protocol prefect. My job was to organize and lead Presec delegations to events outside of school, organize and oversee major events in Presec and be the guardian of all clubs and societies in the school. In no time, I was everywhere. I may have been the busiest student in the school coupled with my responsibilities on the Editorial Board and other places. I did an admirable job but my academics suffered a little. You could say I performed poorly in my ‘leadership’ position because other duties suffered, I couldn’t handle and excel in all I needed to do. Of course, I didn’t need people to point this out to me, so I studied really hard for my final exams and did remarkably well. The end does justify the means.

Being protocol prefect allowed me to interact with a lot of people – dignitaries, girls, teachers, etc. It helped my organizational and social skills. It may have been the best thing to happen to me in Presec. I was an ambassador and the interior minister. It may not be the president, but it begs for leadership as well. A leader is supposed to have good time management skills, excellent priorities, good decision making and great multi-tasking. Maybe I was unable to do these in my teen years, but it was something I had to be able to do as I grew up. Did I get better at it? We’ll find out in the next installments.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My experience with Nigerian films (story)

Last night, I was browsing through the few Presec magazines (called Odadee) I had looking for some articles or stories about Presec's beloved Mrs. Akyeampong. I have in my possession, the 1999 yearbook, and the 1999, 2000, and 2004 Odadees. These are part of my prized possessions, I doubt I will ever 'recycle' them. I even add them to my luggage sometimes when I am traveling even though I never ever read them on, during, or after the trips. As a member of the editorial board and the work that goes through to deliver an edition of the Odadee magazine, I cherish these publications like Michael Jordan cherishes championship rings.

I found too many interesting, hilarious, and great literary pieces that I want to share. The first in this series is one called 'My experience with Nigerian films'. It is credited to one 2001 graduate of Presec. Basically, the writer uses 'chao' (plenty) Nigerian movie titles to write a story. All of these movies came out before the end of 2001. With the simplistic titles coming out of Nollywood, it was almost a very easy task. Here it is. The movie titles are in bold. if you remember half of these movies, count yourself a huge Nollywood fan.

Yesterday is gone. Today is yet another day. I have decided to hold on to my cross after this true confession I intend to make.

It is all a flashback of my worldly life. It all started when Benita convinced me to join the Glamour Girls and we started dating the Glamour Boys. After school hours, we spent the night in a hotel till day break. Onome, my own flesh and blood, did all she could to stop me from joining the squad but I rejected.

Later, Bora, one of the boys, made a deadly proposal to me. I fell into this spell and soon we were engaged in deadly passion. I could not compromise with the Agege spirit on the oath. I swore to this Oracle never to fall in love. It was a betrayal on my part but it was too late to end the deadly affair since it had already made me a pregnant virgin.

culled from

All the blood money given to the capturers to seek help from Samadora to destroy the pregnancy was in vain. It caused a heartache and I felt so light as a dry leaf. I couldn't just imagine my life being used to pay back the witches. There was confusion in my life. The loads of scandals doubled anytime I set my eyes on Saikobi.

One silent night, I had a terrible nightmare. My mum, Mama Sunday, could not believe my dream and accused me of being a strange woman. I felt abused.

One night when it was full moon, I made a narrow escape with Karishika into the garden of Eden. The gardener looked so pleased to receive us. He was our only hope then.

The death of Bora was the end of the wicked and I gave myself to Christ and contemplated on the question: Will Jesus come?

As a strong believer now, all this is a closed chapter never to be opened again.

Kai, who remembers watching Karishika? That movie was something. Of course, Nollywood hasn't changed much, they have similar movie titles and have started making Nollywood versions of popular Hollywood and Bollywood movies. The Ghanaian movie industry has also followed suit. I'll find some time to write another story using movies that are more recent and have equally 'easy to pronounce, easy to remember, easy to ridicule' titles. Till the next experience with Naija films is written, enjoy this one.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Leading into leadership – the early years (Tech)

Many people have asked me about my interest in one day running for president. “When are you filing your nomination for the presidency”, they ask jokingly. I don’t have any ambition to be a president or participate in politics in the future but the encouragement I receive has me thinking hard about it. Aside from being the patriot I try so hard to be, I have to be seen as a leader to receive such encouragement. I am hopelessly in love with Ghana and the potential of the nation, I am very optimistic about it and sometimes foolishly idealistic. However, I have not always been this way. In this series of blog posts, I will write about my journey to this point and if I am even worth being mentioned in the same breadth with leadership.

We can paraphrase a famous Shakespeare quote to introduce leadership. Some are born leaders, some achieve leadership and some others have leadership thrust upon them. Increasingly, I feel I fall into the third category. I don’t even know what it means to be born a leader, but I can also confidently argue I haven’t achieved leadership or become the kind of leader I constantly preach about. When people tell you to run for leadership positions or that they will vote for you if you run for a leadership position, you are having leadership thrust upon you. Thank you all very much but allow me to introduce myself one more time.

When I was in primary school, I was a smart student. Placing 3rd, 4th, 5th in my class was not something I enjoyed so I promised myself to ascend to the zenith. Through a stroke of genius, I combed everywhere I could for information and before I knew it, I knew many random facts to win whatever episode of Jeopardy I could participate in. I call it genius, because soon enough, I placed first in my class and would never relinquish my position. I worked hard for something and it paid off. I also led other people to do the same and they did better academically as a result. Call it leadership if you may, I call it taking the bull by the horns and achieving a goal.

I was anything but a social animal during my years at UP and USTJSS. I didn’t interact too much with the opposite sex and my circle of friends consisted of those who lived in my neighbourhood. If I stood for a popularity vote, I’d have lost miserably. In spite of this, my teachers and colleagues found it prudent to elect me ‘class prefect’ many times probably because the teachers saw me as an academic influence and my colleagues thought of it as a thankless job. When a class prefect’s job is to report noisemakers and stubborn students to the authorities, you can see why it is a job a young child would stay away from. I was the sacrificial lamb. You could bet that if my class committed grievous offences, I would be the one to take the fall for that. This is the reward for being a ‘good boy’.

The idea of leadership was foreign to me during these times. Friends called me Kwame Nkrumah all the time because they said my forehead was like his. That was the only semblance I bore with him. I knew him as the man who led the fight for independence but right now, I know him as someone different. At that time, I couldn’t see what kind of a leader he was because I wasn’t concerned or interested. I wasn’t interested in taking risks, or making bold moves, you could say I was shy. I was a crybaby as well because I was too remorseful after ‘sinning’ and I couldn’t handle punishment as well as my peers. What is a person like me to do with leadership?

When I entered junior secondary school, my reputation as a class prefect had followed me. Note that I didn’t say I was a great or good class prefect. I had done the job before so when my class had to choose one, I was often chosen. I wasn’t chosen because I had a history of successes or mess-ups, I was chosen because someone had to do it. I became more social in JSS, and my popularity soared. As class prefect, I would organize quiz competitions amongst my colleagues (this earned me a nickname called Mr. Clue) but when I jotted down ‘names of talkatives’ I would not include my crew because according to yours truly, these people were making academic noise. This is partiality of the first order but I found a way to reason it out as a good deed. Call it dictatorship if you may, call it partiality if you may, call it abuse of position if you may; I call it ‘influence’.

During the transition from JSS 2 to JSS 3, the school had to elect prefects. I didn’t stand for a single position because I feared I was not popular. These positions would be awarded by voting. Standing for a position, having to campaign, being subject to public ridicule, and ultimately served with no guarantee of attaining that position scared me intoto. It would have been a nightmare. The risk-averse boy that I was said ‘no, thank you’. I feared failure, defeat, and disappointment. My friends stood for these positions, I supported a few and some of them won. I was happy for them. Knowing people in high places would save my face in case I was in trouble. The first real opportunity at leading and creating change came my way and I bolted usainly in the other direction like a Michael Phelps chasing a world record. This leadership thing was/is probably not for me, I will say to myself.

To achieve greatness, you have to work on it from day one. The same holds true for leadership. You have to show a bonafide liking for it, a perpetual interest in leading, and a confidence that exudes factors uncontrollable by you. When I was young and seeking to be counted amongst the first 10 in the USTJSS combine, leadership was the last thing on my mind. Even when I got to represent my school in a national competition, Kiddie Quiz, among others, I didn’t feel a sense of leadership. We’ll see if I grew more attached to it as I progressed through life.

PS: Listening to Mandela, a tribute song composed by South African artiste, Lira

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I wrote this article for KNUST's TECHNOCRAT magazine a couple of years ago at the request of one of my Odadee mates there. I don't know if it was ever published but the contents of the article are still relevant a few years on. I hardly write articles for magazines/newspapers because I find it hard to write technical pieces without my usual sarcasm, question asking and flexibility. I tried with this one :-)

Science, technology and entrepreneurship in Ghana

It was a breath of fresh Ghanaian air to lay my hands on my first issue of KNUST’s Technocrat. I saw it a conscious effort to promote the ability and the potential of our Ghanaian intellectuals, mind and hand. People close to Ghanaian inventors know their capabilities but the word never reaches the masses and many a time the investor. It is about time it did. I spent a few minutes thinking what ‘bridging the gap between industry and academia’ meant. This was my conclusion – applying innovation and inventiveness in academia into creating value for society through business. That is not the case.

Many sectors of the Ghanaian society and industry suffer from the ‘AIDS’ mentality. This is a different kind of revelation. We will save the promiscuity and casual sex discussion for later but for now let’s talk about Acquired Import Deficiency Syndrome. Monetary gains, foreign dependence and ignorance are impeding our development as a country. We continue to suffer from a game of playing catch-up where we trust foreign judgment and foreign goods and services as better than our own. The business and technology industry stalls our own ingenuity and innovation under the premise of what I can’t seem to figure out. We are not willing to invest in our societies and communities, it’s the selfish ‘how much cut do I get’ phenomenon that reigns supreme.

A sad case of AIDS was the recent saga surrounding the Indelible Ink produced by the KNUST department of chemistry. For political and other reasons I cannot seem to fathom, efforts to use Ghanaian ingenuity to solve a simple but important problem fell on rocks. It is difficult enough for entrepreneurs and researchers to take risks, and even more difficult for investors and producers not to implement them because they think doing so are risks as well. “M’aton me colour TV akoto black and white”. If we don’t support our own goods and services, who would?

If these are the challenges our educators and professionals face, you may wonder what roadblocks and speed ramps meet the young and entrepreneurial students in our communities. In an educational system which does not invite creativity and works on retentive memory, innovation and invention is not welcome. There are cases when student initiatives like TRATECH are looked down upon. We must find encouragement, enthusiasm and hope in our workmanship and production.

We have unique problems. We also have unique solutions no one can find but ourselves. We know how things work in our country and as customers are the best to unravel and repair the crevices and cracks in the system. We have to allow ourselves to seize opportunity and present ourselves as credible solvers. Opportunities can be found in repairing the bureaucracies and inefficiencies that exist in our civil service. It is about time we changed with time. The global village is evolving and we must evolve in our best possible judgment to stay with them.

Innovation and taking initiative is absent in the secondary school institution, through the tertiary and this replicates itself in the workplace. There is general apathy towards change and innovation in many public institutions. Let me try to dissect and discuss this problem. Our education teaches us to balance the books, get A’s and B’s, chew and pour. Any additional material aside the conventional is unneeded and too-known. Some university curriculums use notes from decades ago. Should we begin to question first class placement in this country when we are passing through education and education is not passing through us? “This is the way our fathers did it and so what are you trying to say?”

The destiny of any nation depends on the opinions of its young men and women. Opinions pertaining to the nation’s future, its citizens, potential and priorities come into play here. When our young professionals go to play second class citizen doing janitorial work abroad, it tells you something about our opinions. Isn’t it funny how we complain about paying ‘expensive tuition’ when we all wield mobile phones? The best way to predict the future is to create it. We, as students need to be entrepreneurial. We are the future, and if the present gives us nothing to write home about, let’s create our future for the better. Let us make the elderly find cause sit down at our table and listen. We are hip, hop and young. But we can also be wise, dynamic and patriotic.

We need to start talking about Ghana, our future and our Ghanaian system. The talk about politics is enough. When two elephants wrestle, the grass under their feet will suffer. We have to refocus our priorities for the good of our nation. Let’s move the educative noise from the political arena to issues that affect Ghana. The more we know, the more we will change.

Supa chompia - in search of African (super) heroes (GhanaThink)

I just blogged on GhanaThink (as abocco) about super heroes and the challenge to develop Ghana as part of my Sounds on da ground and seens on the see-ins. Basically, I take a Ghanaian song and based on its lyrics, discuss some issue pertaining to our beloved country.

kwame planeteer super hero captain planet supa chompia ghana africa earth environmentThe other day some friends (Ghanaian and Nigerian) and I were having a regular conversation that followed after watching a regular Nollywood movie. The conversation turned to discussing other things; African music, high school boarding house experiences, education systems, studying for PhDs and hurrying up Masters degrees, gold diggers, wastemen, etc. Eventually, we ended up talking about African leaders, politics and what we needed to do us Africans to develop. The latter issues have been on my mind a lot lately. The emergence of Obama has caused me to think even more about the issue of leadership. It has me dreaming of Kwame Nkrumah. At this point in Africa's lives, it needs visionary leaders, inspirational figures, uniting heads, iron men, super men, super heroes. Who will save us? Wanlov da Kuborlor thinks a 'Supa Chompia' will, and even describes his super powers in his song of the same title.

All the super heroes we know as Ghanaians are mostly from Hollywood. They include Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Ironman, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, etc. At least one of the Planeteers was called Kwame, the black representative, the son of the soil who could control the power of the earth. Why can't we create African super heroes in our movies, shows and literature that we can latch on to? Heroes who are more like us. 'Supa Chompia' is a Ghanaian slang term for super champion and in Wanlov's lyric lore, a super hero. Wanlov chooses the character of Kofi Babone as the chosen heir to this title. Kofi Babone in Ghanaian circles is a stubborn, disrespectful, 'can't do no good' boy. However, with great power, comes great responsibility. Kofi Babone is probably the last person who the job of saving the world would fall. You say why, we say why not? If Hollywood can give us Hancock, the all destructive Kofi Babone could be our saviour, that would be the first sign of saving our world. Super heroes have special powers; just like the love-child of a fetish priest and any regular African woman. He can sprinkle magic gari into the ocean to renew it after an oil spillage, fight HIV-AIDS with black panther condom boxing gloves, plant acres of corn and cause rain to pour, hand equipment to child soldiers so that they can farm, build schools, etc. Our Supa Chompia is so awesome that he lashes all of Africa's enemies with raffia. Now tell me that is not a super hero you'll love.

Africa has super problems. Our intellectuals have deep conversations about the state of affairs and never seem to inconclusively decide what the solutions should be. We've been discussing Ghana for a number of years now on the GhanaThink discussion forum and we haven't been able to get the hang of the fix. We've touched topics ranging from education to entertainment, politics to philosophy, and from the sciences to religion. I think the beginning of the solution to our shortcomings as a country and a people is leadership. I am not talking about J A Kufuor, I am talking about super leaders. People who hold in awe, surprise us, entertain us, and excite us. The kind of person who can sell snow to an eskimo and fish to an Elmina fisherman.

Wanlov describes some of the things his prototypical Supa Chompia does. There is no 'magic gari' to solve oil spillages but we can take proper measures to save our environment. We need super heroes in our policy organizations to draw up policies that will sustain our environment and other heroes to ensure that we follow these policies and laws to a 'T'. If industrialisation comes with added pollution, we should peruse the advantages and side-effects before we pursue major industrial projects. The prospect of oil in Ghana is great but we should learn and put in place measures not to repeat the mistakes of neighbouring Nigeria. We are being watched and the only people who would ensure we do the right thing are super heroes.

Forget about what you know about Kofi Babone for a moment, super heroes are 'good' people. They sacrifice their lives for the well-being of their communities and ensure a safe, secure present and comfortable future for their societies. They help all their people in times of need. They don't put the wants of their loved ones infront of the needs of their communities. Corruption is not their Kryptonite. They punish wrongdoers, they are sometimes brutal but they send the message home. In order to be a super hero, you have to be excellent. It doesn't leave much room for error. I have said time and time again that Ghanaians tend to settle for mediocre things. Super and mediocre don't eat at the same table; super has fufu and aprapransa for lunch while mediocre enjoys tofu and tofu alone. Excellence includes holding ourselves to higher standards and doing above and beyond our means. Heroes do not settle for less, because settling for more entails bravery, effort, fan support and hard work. We can run like Kunta Kinte, so why shouldn't we breaking world records? It's because we are not settling more.

We need major super heroes to take the reins of leading and governing our African countries. Our present day leaders are villians for too many people. Their decision-making proves useful for few and detrimental for many, many a time. We cheer for them when we want free t-shirts or renovated schools, this should not be the case. Our leaders should be the watchdogs who identify the problems of our society and take steps to address them. We shouldn't have to sound sirens for our super heroes when we are in danger, our super heroes should keep watch in order to avert the danger. Super-heroes must live and spend time amongst the people, should be street savvy, have street credibility and the ability to relate to every Habiba, Asumasi, Tettey, Ahmed and Eyram.

The onus of super-heroism doesn't only fall on the shoulder of Ghana's president, we can all be super heroes in our own small ways. We need to follow the super-hero prospectus like a 'homo' (first year secondary school student) in Presec or Aburi Girls if we are going to see changes in our lives for the better. Instead of sitting around discussing our problems and ultimately succumbing to the idea of not being able to do much, let's discover ways to bring out the hero in us. We can be heroes to our siblings, to our juniors, to disabled people, and to others who look up to us. We can even be heroes to our seniors and statesmen by the inspirational things we do and excellent achievement. If we all do and broadcast heroic acts, we shall identify the super heroes we need to lead us into the promised land. It doesn't matter where the powers come from, we just want responsible people to do responsible things.

Full Supa Chompia lyrics, audio.
Photo by Captain Planet Foundation

Friday, September 5, 2008

Smile, please, smile. I mean you no harm.

TGIF. When my boss (she is black) walked up to me this morning to give me a bouquet of flowers, I thought it was for a job well done. It turned out to be for someone else; she wanted me to deliver the gift to one of Stanford’s University Staff in another department. On the way to deliver the bouquet, I thought to myself – it will be nice to deliver one of these myself or have one of these delivered to someone I wanted to deliver them to one of these days. The day may not be far away. ☺

Anyway, so I arrive at my destination and I locate the office of the recipient. There are two ladies in the office – one Black and one Asian. They both stare at me wondering who is the object of this affection. I am sure like Sure deodorant that the recipient is the Black lady but I decide to ask for “Blah Blah” to be identified. My guess was right and a minute later, I am being showered with thanks and stories of how these flowers just brightened her morning. I haven’t stopped smiling since this episode.

This incessant smiling reminds me of the times where I really hoped people would smile instead of frowning. Do you know it takes 72 muscles to frown and 14 to smile? Do you also know laughing can add 8 years to your life? Take a chill pill my people, why so serious anyway? I wish I had a magnificent smile I could flash to up the happiness level of everyone I meet. Never let me see you down, smile while you’re bleeding. One smile doesn’t always beget another through.

Too many times, I come across people (especially Black people) and I wish they would just smile at me. The other day, I was at the soccer field recuperating after a game and this Black lady was walking past me. She had a cold look on her face and I just kept on hoping she would look at me. You know me, I am the bearer of sunshine. I kept on looking at her till I could see her face no more. Why wouldn’t she even establish eye contact with me? I mean how! We are both ‘black’. I meant her no harm, I just wanted to say hi. If that didn’t work, I just wanted her to acknowledge my smile. My 14 muscles better not waste the effort, you know. A few minutes later, my sister is chatting heartily with some white coursemates/friends/colleagues/housemates/similar-interest people. Apparently, she doesn’t talk to strangers.

I don’t understand why some Black people are so cold toward other Blacks. Second episode is as follows. When I went to LA recently, I went to visit a friend at UCLA with some of my buddies. When we got to her apartment, her neighbours were pre-partying and as game recognizes game, we approached them to acquaint ourselves with the festivities. We ended up taking a couple of Tequila shots and introduced ourselves. This neighbour crew numbered about 7 men one of which was Black. For whatever reason, I never got the chance to say hi to this ‘brother’. I really wanted to but this dude just wouldn’t let me. When ‘brothers’ assimilate into hanging with whites all the time, do they forget to know how to relate to black people? Do they refuse? Do they think those of us Blacks who are in the midst of Blacks all the time despise or hate them? Sometimes I wonder if I repel these kind of people sef.

I’m not being racist by directing my ‘furore’ against Blacks, I also say hi and flash smiles at all races. They are not obliged to smile at when I smile at them but I just think my brothers and sisters should acknowledge me when I am trying to reach out. The smile drowns under those frowns and it downs clowns in gowns. Chaa. Let’s radiate positive energy towards each other. Oftentimes, if someone doesn’t open up so I can be nice to him/her, I tune him/her out. From today, I am going to try my best to invade people’s private space to smile, say hi, get a phone number, make their day, yadda yadda yadda. Great men achieved greatness by making bold moves, taking risks and daring disappointment in its face. You have nothing to do lose if you just smile.

PS: Listening to Smile by K'Naan -

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I don't know how to name this blog entry, but it's about Obama

Whew! I almost missed my flight back to the Bay after a jolly good weekend in the surrounding areas of LA. Well, I didn't go to Universal Studios like I always wanted to, to try and get a cameo in the next big movie, but I went partying in Hollywood. The other big pieces of news other than my trip to Tinseltown is news of Hurricane Gustav (I thought all hurricanes had female names?), transfer deadlines in Europe, and the national political party conventions in the US. Needless to say, Obama has been on my mind lately.

I really like Barack Obama. He's a breath of fresh air, he's the kind of leader I adore. He is inspirational, he gives great speeches (would be nice if he threw in a couple of Latin quotes once in awhile), he is young and ambitious, he is a writer, he craves change for the better and he seems concerned about the average Joe and Joana. When I grow up, I want to be like Obama. Totally. We all know he's black (like me) but he also has an African father. As if Kenya couldn't get lucky with great performances at the Olympics, now they have a chance to claim they own a piece of a man who may lead the free world. I mean, Obama is also a baller, how couldn't you like him?

I don't like to talk about US politics, but Obama has made me more interested because of his messages of hope, change and belief. When I think of Obama, I think of the great leaders who've come before us, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, MLK, Bob Marley; people who have caught the imagination of the masses for good causes. To me, Barack Obama must win this upcoming election, cuz I'll like to see a 'great guy' win out, for once. A common man who came from an ordinary background and is doing extraordinary things; a success story. I have claimed that sometimes I wished I grew up in a village. You know, then I'll be the village boy who braved the odds to get into quality schools, do some awesome things with zero 'connections' and inspired people from similar backgrounds to be better. Being born with a purple spoon in your mouth, growing up in a wealthy family and first-class system and ending up in Harvard or Oxford is boring. We want something 'exciting' but something uplifting as well.

On my flight, I finally tried reading Obama's latest book, 'The Audacity of Hope' which I have owned for a while now. I made it through the first chapter in the midst of a beautiful lady seated next to me and finally I settled on doing sudokus throughout the flight. Hmm, priorities. I shall finish the book eventually, but there is no timetable. However, I strongly believe an Obama presidency would be awesome for our world and the average Jack who had to sell food on the street that I never was. There is a timetable for an Obama presidency, it has to be sooner than later. McCain is a nice guy, he chose a beauty pageant ish governor from Alaska as his running mate to draw votes, but Obama MUST win. Because people like Obama come once in a while, and even if Obamania doesn't last forever, when we do benefit from it, it shall be documented for a long time to come.

Yes we can. Fired up and ready to go. Change we can believe in. Obama is about all of us, he is just the propeller. I claim to be conservative, I am no Democrat or Republican or communist or capitalist or some other 'ist'. Where have these 'isms' gotten us? We can't stay polarized, we must be able to settle on the best option for the times we are in. I believe the better option is Obama, and regardless of who we support, or if we even care, Obama should be a role model for all of us.

PS: Listening to 'The Last Jesus' on Kirk Franklin's 'The Fight of My Life' album.
PPS: Oh, you should see this video of Ghana's Blakk Rasta for his 'Barack Obama' song.

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