Tuesday, September 9, 2008

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
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