Friday, March 20, 2009

Nigerian comedians like Basket Mouth blaze the trail, Ghana don follow

When I went home to Ghana for Christmas in December 2005, I realised a new item on most shows/entertainment events - stand-up comedy. I never saw that one coming. Keysoap Concert Party had virtually disappeared from the scene, it didn't have the same appeal after Nkomode disappeared and Bishop Bob Okalla decided to play bad Roman father on unsuspecting girls in the Brong Ahafo Region. What we had was Agya Koo, but he had left the stage for the movie business and was making a name for himself. Do you know he's won a National award while Kwaku Sintim-Misa aka KSM has none. Atrocious, if you ask me. Anyway, we know KSM has been doing his full-house stand-up shows at the National Theatre for years now, but circa 2006, there were many more comedians in Ghana, and there were mostly from (guess where) Nigeria. One of my favorites has been Basket Mouth and he's the inspiration for this post.

Who wants to know Basket Mouth's real name? I don't really care either but I'll tell you. Ernest Essien is his name and no, he's not related to Michael Essien. The Bison is fully Ghanaian and that's not a controversy. That's all we need to know about MC Basket Mouth. I think. The dude is mad funny.

Watch a number of Basket Mouth videos, in fact there is a whole Youtube playlist dedicated to him.
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=43D3895BAFF45B5F

You can watch this classic Chop Puff Puff video featuring Basket Mouth
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAhKC8AiSAg



Nigerian comedy has become viral and it's not only popular on Facebook. It's popular on the pen drives (USB drives for y'all non-Ghana' lingo savvy people) of Ghanaian students. As a shout-out to these pen drives, I'll feature a video I got from one, about the genius of Naija's Klint da Drunk. Watch him make Nigerian reggae music.

Part 1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECqvBs0Qx_U


Part 2 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvGfsROHGcM


The emergence of these Nigerian comedians, at least on the West African scene, has spurned more people going into stand-up comedy. Some of these guys are Julius Agwu, Teju BabyFace, Okey Bakassi, I Go Die, Ali Baba, AY, etc. You can check out all these guys on Youtube.

There've been shows like Nite of a Thousand (and X) Laughs, amongst others in Ghana. Charterhouse's Stars of the Future featured comedy section which produced some stellar Ghanaian comedians. There is also the Toli Masters' Series. If you have not heard about Bukom Banku, google him now after reading this post. Don't forget people like Tommy Annan Forson and Fritz Baffour, who is now an MP. Fritz will make the Ghanaian parliament even more fun, I hope. In fact, our favorite political rapper, A-Plus, did some stand-up. There's also Kwaku Sintim Misa who deserves a whole blog post. Watch out for that one.

PS: I am hungry, so will leave the blog post here. :-) Yup, who remembers 'the impudence of a dying cockcroach' from the Ghanaian television series, Action Security? Am off to watch the BasketMouth playlist.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Africa Movie Academy Awards 2009 - Agony of the Christ nominated

So I never saw the Agony of the Christ. Frankly, I checked out the trailer and thought it may be like all the other 'traditional' movies that Venus/AA Productions have been trying to pull. I never really enjoyed the whole 'let's speak in English though the film is set in a Ghanaian village' type movies. But, Ghana's "Passion of the Christ" remake has picked up a number of nominations at the upcoming African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) so I have been forced to pay attention. I am going to watch this movie soon and hopefully write a review. Yeah, Esi, I got you, that is called support. The Ghanaian movie industry is on the up people. Ghallywood is arriving.

Before 'Run Baby Run' won at the 2009 Pan-African Film Festival, it had picked up 4 awards at the 2008 AMAA's in Nigeria. Jackie Appiah, star of the Sparrow productions' The Perfect Picture, won the best supporting actress award in 2007. Guess for which movie, she was nominated. Yes, the ever popular Beyonce - The President's Daughter. Trust me, Beyonce may be the most popular African film of the last few years riding the likes of Nadia Buari, Jackie and Van Vicker, but award-winning? I beg.

Agony of the Christ has been rated highly by various people who saw the movie. It was also premiered at the National Theatre. It is gunning for AMAA Achievement in Visual Effect, AMAA Achievement in Make-up, Best original soundtrack, and AMAA Achievement in Costume. Majid Michel is nominated for Best Actor and leading lady Nadia Buari (Mrs. Michael Essien) is nominated for Best Actress. Our favorite (committee of one) upcoming Ghanaian actress Lydia Forson is nominated for Most Promising Actress for her role in Scorned. Good luck to them. Also, I hope one of Agya Koo's movies gets nominated for Best African Language film next year since they failed to make the cut this year.

The AMAAs is an offshoot of the African Film Academy. The Academy is founded on the best film tradition, geared towards research, training and propagating film making in Africa. Behind it are film producers, directors, designers, writers, critics and scholars who share in the belief of a renaissant African film. It's Nollywood inspired and pretty much is their version of the American Oscars. The 2009 edition of the awards billed to hold in Yenagoa, the capital of the oil-rich but politically volatile Niger Delta state of Bayelsa on April 4 2009.

Here are the full nominees, thanks to my good friend Bella Naija.

1. BEST DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)
Per Second Killer (Nigeria)
Coming of Age (Kenya)
Santos the survivor (Kenya)
Lost in the South (Rwanda)
Congo my foot (FAR)

2. BEST DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)
Private Files – Egypt
Shit on the Rock – Nigeria
Grandma’s not Home – South Africa
For the Best and for the Onion – Niger
Malcom’s Echo – Dami Akinnusi

3. BEST SHORT FILM
Pamela – Kenya
Who is Best? -Zimbabwe
The Sharing day – Cameroun
Killer Necklace
Love Is …

4. BEST ANIMATION
Lolo (Burkina Faso)
Leila (Burkina Faso)
Little Learning is different – Kenya
Manani Ogre – Kenya
Cheprono – Kenya
Wanuri Kahiu - Kenya

5. AMAA ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND
From a Whisper
Battle of the Soul
Seventh Heaven
Gugu and Andile
Grey Focus

6. AMAA ACHIEVEMENT IN EDITING
Cindy’s Note
Reloaded
Modupe Temi
Battle of the Soul
From a Whisper

7. AMAA ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION
Small Boy – Michelle Bello
Five Apostles – Ifeanyi Onyeabor
Agony of the Christ – Jude Odoh
Gugu and Andile – Kay Tickerman
Revolution – Eddybongo Uka

8. AMAA ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKE-UP
Agony of the Christ
Live to Remember
From a whisper
The Assassin
Ase n’tedumare

9. AMAA ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECT
Five Apostle
Battle of the Soul
Smoke and Mirrors
Agony of the Christ
Revolution

10. Best ORIGINAL IN SOUNDTRACK
Arugba
Beautiful Soul
From a whisper
Agony of the Christ
Jenifa

11. MOST PROMISING ACTOR
Litha Booi – Gugu and Andile
Mavila Anthana Keriario – Battle of the Soul
Ruffy Samuel – Dead End
Segun Adefila – Arugba
Sherrif Ramzy – Seventh Heaven

12. MOST PROMISING ACTRESS
Bhaira Mcwizu – Cindy’s Note
Bukola Awoyemi – Arugba
Lydia Forson – Scorned
Lungelo Dhladha – Gugu and Andile
Mfouemon Bea. Flore – Ma Saah Sah

13. BEST PERFORMANCE BY A CHILD ACTOR
Celia Greenwoood - The Assassin
Richard Chukwuma - Small Boy
Shanlar Kirunga – Battle of the Soul
Samara Milgwi – From a whisper

14. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Godfrey Odhiamba – From a whisper
Mike Ezuruonye – The Assassin
Michel Majid – Agony of the Christ
Peter Badejo – Arugba
Farouk Alfishawi – Seventh Heaven

15. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Stephanie Okereke and Nse Etim – Reloaded
Stella Damasus-Aboderin – State of the Heart
Corine Onyango – From a whisper
Nadia Buari – Agony of the Christ
Funke Akindele – Jenifa

16. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Femi Adebayo – Apaadi
Abubakar Mvenda and Ken Ambani – From a Whisper
Neil Mc Carthy – Gugu and Andile
Yemi Blaq – Grey Focus
Joel Okuyo Prynce – Battle of the Soul

17. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Aggie Kebirungi – Battle of the Soul
Mercy Johnson – Live to Remember
Mosunmola Filani – Jenifa
Daphney Hlomoku – Gugu and Andile
Chika Ike – The Assassin

18. BEST FILM IN AFRICAN LANGUAGE
Gugu and Andile – South Africa
Arugba – Nigeria
Mah Saah Sa – Cameroun
Uyai – Nigeria
Apaadi – Nigeria

19. AMAA ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
From a Whisper – Marius Van Graan
Seventh Heaven - Ramses Marzouk
Cindy’s Note – Izu Ojukwu
Gugu and Andile –Greg Heimann
Battle of the Soul – Stephen Njero and Tony Matomi
Saad Hendawy - Egypt

20. AMAA ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME
Agony of the Christ
Apaadi
Live to Remember
Arugba
Seventh Heaven

21. HEART OF AFRICA AWARD FOR BEST FILMS FROM NIGERIA
Cindy’s Note – Izu Ojukwu
Arugba – Tunde Kelani
Beautiful Soul – Tchidi Chikere
State of the Heart – Kingsley Omoife and Richard Mofe-Damijo
Jenifa – Funke Akindele

22. BEST SCREENPLAY
From a Whisper – Matt Bishanga
Seventh Heaven – Zainab Aziz
Through the Glass – Stephanie Okereke
Reloaded – Emem Isong
Beautiful soul – Tchidi Chikere

23. BEST PICTURE
From a Whisper – Kenya
Arugba – Nigeria
Gugu and Andile – South Africa
Battle of the Soul - Uganda
Seventh Heaven - Egypt

24. BEST DIRECTOR
Wanuri Kahiu – From a Whisper (Kenya)
Tunde Kelani – Arugba (Nigeria)
Minky Schlesinger – Gugu and Andile (South Africa)
Matt Bish – Battle of the Soul (Uganda)

Now that the nominees are through. How isn't Jerusalema nominated? I've not even seen the movie before but I am its biggest fan. This awards seems to have movies from all over the continent which is great. I wonder what the nominees for the last FESPACO was.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sparrow Productions' back with The Perfect Picture; trailer inside



Two of my favorite Ghanaian movies ever are Life and Living it and Scorned. The folks from Sparrow Productions have done it again. No, I haven't seen the movie yet. It's not even been premiered yet but I am excited. The third installment in Shirley Frimpong-Manso's forage into Ghanaian theater is called 'The Perfect Picture'. Will it outdo the first two? I sure hope it does. I called for Sparrow to feature Agya Koo, Nadia Buari, Jackie Appiah, Majid Michel or Van Vicker in one of their movies and they've done it. Ladies and Gentlemen, in the spotlight, Jackie Appiah (Agyemang), is the lady in the middle, the center of attention, in this new movie. Did I say I was excited?

For the folks in Accra, you can catch the premiere at National Theatre on the 3rd of APRIL @ 5pm and 8pm and then at the Accra Mall's Silverbird Cinemas. The National Tee tix are GhC 20 (quite expensive actually) and are available at Shell shops, Koala, the Silverbird Lifestyle shop and the National Theatre itself. It's probably going to take awhile until a VCD DVD version is available but that's good. You know how movies come out in US theaters and then after a couple of months are on DVD? That spells disaster for that production. The longer 'The Perfect Picture' is unavailable for our home LCD giant screens, the better. I am being really selfless here because I cannot watch the movie in Ghana anytime soon. All I am doing is giving a hint: We want to see this movie premiered at the Apollo Theater in New York, Staples Center in LA, and the Kresge Auditorium at MIT. Maybe not these places, but those of us abroad shouldn't have to miss the action. Besides, Sparrow better do it before the movie becomes viral online and they can't earn a pesewa on that.

Here's a movie synopsis: "In what seems like a perfect life, three beautiful women who are pushing thirty make bold attempts to change their lives even when destiny plays its joke on them. With a marriage that seems almost doomed from the beginning, to an affair with an unlikely candidate and the endless pursuit of love, three friends will learn the harsh lessons of life, the challenges of marriage, the fatality of falling in love and the rewards of having a good laugh in the midst of sorrow." This sounds like a great story. Why is the movie rated 18 and above? Is Sparrow unable to make movies that minors can watch?

The movie is about relationship challenges so why is it titled Perfect Picture? The movie's three leading female characters all have different kinds of relationships so the movie should make sense to more people. Unlike 'Life N Living It', we'll hear the female point of view. 9ice 9ice. The film is about love, laughs and lies. So where is the over-18 part? Oh, there's a sneak peek in the trailer. Sparrow Productions' boldness is unforgiving. Why do I feel like I should liken them to Tyler Perry or Spike Lee? "We too we can do some."

'The Perfect Picture' stars Jackie Appiah (woo-hoo), Lydia Forson and Naa Ashorkor Mensah Doku (both from Scorned), Sparrow regulars Chris Attoh and Nana Kwame Osei-Sarpong, Adjetey Annan aka Pusher (Life N Living It), etc. The best part about this movie may be the introduction of Kwaku Sintim-Misa. Seriously, has KSM been in any Ghanaian movie? What is his role? Isn't this exciting? I sound like a kid in the candy store or an Ashanti man on a Sunday at an emo-tuo joint or a bunch of Legon boys about to watch some blue blue blue get some past exam questions. Sorry, Legon boys, am just playing. Maybe Agya Koo will have a cameo appearance. Or Mac-Jordan Amartey? Or Psalm Adjeteyfio (Taxi Driver)? Or Kwaw Kese getting a chance to say Abodam? Or a scene whereby the lovebirds go to a jazz club and Becca or MissJane is singing? Or maybe Pappington Papa Nii Papafio will officiate Jackie's wedding? After all, the movie does have the word perfect in its title.

Here's the trailer for the new movie
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7B8KJPQp1s


Watch the video for the movie soundtrack, Kwabena Kwabena's Do ne bi here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uH-KUTjeZJc


You can also check out the movie's website at http://www.theperfectpicturemovie.com

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Built African cities/capitals, is it possible in Ghana?

A few years back we had a discussion in the GhanaConscious community about potential new capitals for Ghana. Personally, I love Sunyani. It's in the middle of the country, if we ever had to go to war or something, it will be difficult to capture our fortress. Well, I have better reasons than this one, but I used to think this way lol. Sunyani is also very clean and planned for the most part. Why even think of a new capital? Because Nigeria built one in Abuja and it's really good. Neighbouring Ivory Coast has Yamoussoukro too which ain't bad.

Here is a video of Abuja, Nigeria.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvGgMLmMvow

Here is a bonus video detailing a Nigerian Ultra Modern Railway Network Project, estimated to take 25years to complete.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_QsDmtU2ms


Olusegun Obasanjo did have some good ideas I see.

It's not a crime to think big. At all. This Think BIG video showcases Ghanaians with big aspirations and big plans. It's a 28-minute documentary now available on DVD. See Youtube link for details

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hl5Ss3MM57w


Does anyone know of any more designed capitals or cities in Africa or similar ones across the world?

Is it realistic for Ghana to even think of building a new capital or city or something of that sort?
I am hoping so.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

English teams' dominance in the UEFA Champions League

Matches for the round of 16 for this year's UEFA Champions League came off this week. The juiciest matchup was my favorite Manchester United versus Inter Milan. The champions of Europe and England against the champions of Italy. Sir Alex versus the Special One, Jose Mourinho. Cristiano Ronaldo versus Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Man U emerged victorious over the two legs, shutting out the Inter attack and joining fellow English teams, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. For the second year in a row, the big 4 teams in England can be counted amongst the top 8 in Europe. Why are the English teams dominating? I'll try to answer this in today's blog entry.

One major knock against the Premier League is the weather in England. Compared to Spain, Italy or even France, the weather in the UK makes it not such a great place to play. Cristiano Ronaldo would surely love to play in the sun and many of the top Brazilian players have not gone to the top English teams for this same reason. It is safe to say a good number of the world's top players stay away from England even though the salaries there may be higher. Until last year, the world's best player has never been plying his trade in England. It's a crime Thierry Henry never won it in his Arsenal days or David Beckham somehow missed out when Man U picked up the unprecedented treble in 1999.

I could also argue that more of the world's best players play outside of England. The middle tier teams in Spain and Italy seem to be better than those in England. Just look at the UEFA cup results and follow some more La Liga, Serie A matches. You hardly hear of the top players in the La Liga or Serie A moving to England. The few exceptions are Robinho (Real Madrid to Chelsea Manchester City) and Andriy Schevchenko (AC Milan to Chelsea). Most of the foreign players in the EPL came from France (Ligue 1) or the Dutch Eredivisie. For those who moved from the Serie A or La Liga to the EPL, most of these 'stars' were young or unproven. Case in point: Thierry Henry. Henry wasn't getting the time at Juventus, or Patrick Viera for that matter, they moved to Arsenal and became superstars. There's also Juan Sebastian Veron who moved to MAN U in his prime, but he was never really the same.

Look at the other scenario. David Beckham and Ruud Van Nistelrooy moved to Real Madrid from MAN U and did well. Henry moved to Barcelona in his prime as well. England's big teams have never really been able to get the top players from La Liga or Serie A's top teams. When the La Liga leave, they go to Italy and when the Serie A top guns leave, they go to Spain. Example: Ronaldinho - Barcelona to AC Milan. Fat Ronaldo - Barcelona to Inter to Real Madrid to AC Milan. Figo left Barcelona for their bitterest rivals, Real Madrid and then went to Inter. When Juventus was marred in the Calciopoli scandal, their players didn't go to England, they went to fellow Serie A teams and Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The major reasons why the English teams are doing better in Europe have to do with the squads these teams possess and their coaches/tactics. Jose Mourinho went to the Serie A and proclaimed that it was more tactical league than the EPL. That may be true for the whole Serie A but I believe the best coaches in the world are working in England. Ancelotti or Rafa Benitez? Guardiola or Arsene Wenger? Juande Ramos or David Moyes? Chelsea recently had Mourinho himself, the famous Avram Grant and Luis Felipe Scolari and now have Guus Hiddink. The best tinkermen reside in England and when they meet the top teams in Europe, it shows. Sir Alex outcoached Mourinho in both legs.
Mourinho ditched his 4-3-3 formation and couldn't figure out what Sir Alex threw at him. Juande Ramos versus Rafa Benitez was a mis-match. Luciano Spalleti couldn't find a way to get his experienced team past a young Arsenal squad that somehow finds ways to lose to all the City teams in England (Manchester, Stoke, Hull, etc). Arsenal is the weakest English team in Europe and they still managed to upstage Roma.

The English teams have better squads, but not necessarily better players. Their teams are much more balanced and they are able to adjust to different situations and formations. People may argue that these teams have more money and so can build bigger, better squads. That's not entirely true. Look at MAN U. John O'Shea, Park Ji-Sung, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick. These names won't scare anyone. Carrick can't even crack the England XI. Giggs and Scholes are in and out of the squad and are like 40 years old. One thing MAN U enjoys is consistency. They don't sell 4 players and buy 4 new players every year. They play a certain system and their players fit around it. Chelsea has had the same spine for about 3 years now, so even though they've recycled coaches, they have a great unit. Cech, Terry, Ashley Cole, Essien, Lampard, Drogba are all top players in their position so no matter who lines up alongside them, they can win every single match they play.

The pace of the English game may also help their teams in Europe but as I mentioned before it's not helped the middle-tier ones in the UEFA cup. The squad pieces make all the difference. The top Serie A and La Liga teams, maybe apart from AC Milan, have youth as well and players who should be able to run all day. Their coaches have failed to maximise their strengths and hide their limitations. Look at the Real Madrid-Liverpool clash. Marcelo should have started that game to put pressure on Liverpool's fullbacks. Robben was not fit but he still started. Granted, they were missing Nistelrooy and Huntelaar (which shows how even better these La Liga teams are stacked) but Ramos failed to put a formation winning side on the field.

The English teams' will continue to dominate Europe until other teams work on building squads instead of signing all the world's best players. The EPL may be more profitable but the salaries are relatively equal across the board in the top European teams. They also need better coaches, scouts, tactics and team training techniques.

Manchester United is gunning for an unprecedented quintuple. We have the FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League to go. Who will bet against us? Barcelona is looking very strong, as well as Chelsea, Liverpool and don't sleep on the Franck Ribery-led Bayern Munich either. With a water-tight unforgiving defence, a great squad with countless chess pieces, versatility in midfield, different attackers, the world's reigning best player in CR7 and the master tacttican in Alex Ferguson, the outlook is really good. Glory, glory, Manchester United.

Friday, March 6, 2009

It's about time - Ghana Independence Day poem

I wrote this poem for March 6th, 2007, on the occasion of Ghana's golden jubilee. I made a slight modification for the occasion of Ghana's 52nd. It's titled "It's about time". Happy birthday Ghana and Happy Independence day to all Ghanaians!

He knew himself before they knew him
He moulted into the face they wanted for him
But inside he wanted to remain the same
He fought as he reddened
He sold as he yellowed
He destroyed as he greened
He shined as he blackened
He paced as he faced occupation
He led as he fled domination
It was about time

Pregnant with positive action
United as one at one
Completely free at three
Borders were not very sexy at six
Divided came to a head at ten
Went to pride land at twenty
Happened to be thirsty at thirty
Life had already began at forty
Showing he is nifty at fifty
About to be about that time

It's kind of funny that
He shaped his movement to Jacko's steps
Before he knew what made Daddy move
It's kind of funny that
He first knew Skeletor as He-man's nemesis
Before he knew his own skeleton
It's kind of funny that
He watched out for red, gold, green
And followed the red, white, blue
It's kind of funny but it's about time

We were high on life then
Flying on the waves we played
Now, we live it from the hip
Partying the sounds we learnt
We started to write our own gospel
Inscribing our local culture globally
Now others write the gospel for us
Because of our scribes are global and not local
It's about time we eat what is homegrown
Because we are homegrown

Our life has been like the canopy walkway at Kakum
Others have done it but we feel we can't
Our journey has been like the door at Elmina Castle
Leaving home and not knowing when we will return
Our culture has been like the Kintampo Falls
Beholding beauty we struggle to embrace
Our years have been like the Volta Lake
Everytime it doesn't rain, we are in crisis
This time, our growth calls for a golden jubilation
It's about time our jubilation called for growth

We fought for Akosombo at Ho
We gardened Wa at Kumasi
We dug Elmina at Obuasi
We built Tamale at Takoradi
We welcomed many people in what became Nkran
Nkran congregated people in what became Accra
Accra welcomes many people in what becomes Greater Accra
Accra is emptying into what is becoming the Diaspora
And we waited to see if Accra would give back
Maybe it's about that time

I see her and I see you
You see him and you see me
I don't know you and you don't know me
But it's a big party so let's dance
Because when the Black Stars shine
You are known to me and I am known to you
Because you celebrate what I agitate
You agitate me to celebrate you
It's about time you celebrate what I create
Because I create it for me and you

It's always been about time
And it will always be about time
Because time keeps on slipping
Into the future
As we turn into the sleeper
And wake up for the future
But before we remove our slippers for bed
Let's jubilate and celebrate
Because today I love you and you love me
And we love the anniversary that connects us

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Letta to Osagyefo: The Founder’s Day debate - what date and what name?

My alter ego, Maximus Ojah, has a few things to offer in the Founder's Day debate as he writes to the man at the centre of all the attention.

Felicitations Osagyefo,

The last time I wrote to you, your daughter, Samia, had become a Member of Parliament. Now, she is in the news again praising Ghana’s new president, Asomdwoe Hene Atta Mills for proposing a Founder’s Day to honour you. This national holiday would commemorate your 100th birthday, September 21, 2009 and would be a yearly affair just like Martin Luther King Day in the USA. I don’t know why this bit is not surprising, but the folks in the New Patriotic Party (NPP) have opposed this proposal and getting this legislation to pass is going to be a battle in parliament. This opposition is being branded as a feature of the “Mate me ho” folk, which dates back as far as you emerged on the scene as Ghana’s leader. The National Democratic Congress’ majority will probably chalk another democratic victory so felicitations again, Osagyefo, it seems you are about to chalk another feat.

Do Ghanaians need an extra holiday? We seem to have a lot, thanks to the many religious holidays. We have one for the workers, and one for the farmers. Does the African Union holiday still stand? What comes to mind when you think of holidays? No, not the chance to throw a party or social event, but the opportunity to give the nation’s brick builders a break. That’s why these holidays make a whole lot of sense. We also have the penchant for declaring holidays for major national achievements, especially when the Black Stars do the nation ‘mega-proud’. Are we going to get a Black Star Day when they win the World Cup? After Kenya declared a holiday for Obama’s presidency, nothing is impossible. Maybe if the tides were turned, we may have declared one for Kofi Annan after he was appointed UN Secretary-General.

One issue that is arising with this Founder’s Day proposal is whether we haven’t already honoured you enough. Osagyefo, you have a whole roundabout in your honour. Well, J.B. Danquah and Tetteh Quarshie have some too but yours seems to be the busiest and close to a tourist attraction. Our nation’s flagship technical institution is named after you. You’ve been named Millenium man of the century, you have a whole mausoleum, and your daughter was voted as a first-time MP when she’d been resident in the country for about 2 years. Isn’t this all overwhelming? I know you didn’t ask for it, but this is borderline greed. What about K.A. Gbedemah, Ebenezer Ako Adjei and Kojo Botsio? What and where are their honours?

Gabby Okyere-Darko, our friend at the Danquah Institute, seems to be one person in the Danquah-Busia tradition who entertains the Founder’s Day idea. Except he wants the date to be changed to August 4. Kwame, what comes to mind when you think of August 4? Wake up Nana Akufo Addo and ask him if he knows what significance August 4 holds in Ghana’s history. August 4 stands for August 4, 1947, the day Ghana’s Independence struggle ‘really began’ according to the Statesman newspaper man. Turns out this date was the inauguration date of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC). Apparently, this day would honour all, including the CPP founder. Hence, it will be a Founders’ day (note spelling). Chei! The NPP folks want to steal your spotlight. The NPP people do not want to be left out of anything, it’s like a day to honour you is an insult to them. Why will it be? They brought you to the then Gold Coast anyway.

I understand the significance of having a Founder’s Day or Founders Day to honour the forefather (or forefathers) of our nation. It’s different from Independence day. Look at the difference between MLK Day and America’s own independence day. Last time I checked, Abraham Lincoln didn’t have his own day, neither did George Washington or even Malcolm X. However, there’s President’ Day. As much as I admire you Kwame, I think it’s unfair to honour you alone. That begs the question, if we do call honour ‘everyone’, what should this day be called and what day should be it on? President’s day – we all know we’ve not had the best presidents, so throw that out the window. Who are our nation’s founders? The Big Six? The three faces engraved in our memory from 6th March 1957? I think we should have what we call a Patriot’s Day, because if there’s anything missing from our calendar, that is the one. Have a day that honour people from all walks of life (not just our politicians) who have contributed to make Ghana a better place, and made us proud to be Ghanaians. Use the day to honour Ghanaians, not Kufuor’s 50 Cent bling bling gold medallion style tho. This will take care of all the impromptu, impulsive, whimsical holidays that will be declared here after. The name even bears resemblance to the NPP’s name. Isn’t this the most brilliant idea ever? I know you agree, Osagyefo.

Now that we have settled on the name, we need to decide a date. This is the hardest one. I am tempted to agree with Mills and go with the original Founder’s Day idea because it’s a clear cut September 21. What is the most patriotic day of all in our nation’s history? How about January 8? On that date in 1950, you and your crew declared Positive Action. Ah, Kwame, why is everything about you? This ‘Positive action’ has to be the most ‘patriotic’ thing Ghanaians have done ever, in tandem. That day kickstarted our independence drive and involved not just politicians, but the average person as well. Think about those words; positive action. Every four years, this day would also cut close to inauguration of our nation’s leader, an added bonus. So when we inaugurate new governments and statesmen, we’ll be doing it in the spirit of unity, patriotism and purpose.

Besides, September 21 is just your birthday. In some circles, it is believed it’s not your actual birthday. September 21, 1909 is a Tuesday (for Kwabena), you were christened Kofi and you are called Kwame. Confusion ayÉ› basaa. I am sure Mills thought this proposal through before making it but the debate is just getting started and it’s about to get confusing. People found and start things all the time but nothing speaks more than being patriotic, being true to a cause and acting upon a mission. Maybe we could get a better day than January 8. Speaking of holidays, Happy Independence Day in advance. This year’s March 6th is bound to be celebrated with the national parade, and countless independence bashes just like all birthdays are celebrated. You know how the birthday boy/girl is exempted from the expensive birthday dinner? Who’s going to pick up the tab for this one? Ghana will and always does. Though it’s our birthday, we’ll probably lose more money than we gain. This Founder’s/Founders/Patriot’s Day holiday can be different.

Till next time,
Maximus Ojah

Read more letters to Osagyefo at this link

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A letter to the West – Sending the right messages and signals to our African leaders

Originally posted on GhanaConscious

a-plus kwame hiplife hip-life west africa peace war

...Sounds on da ground and seens on the see-ins

I was at the recent Harvard African Business Conference. Why did I go? I went just because it was an African business conference and I had been attending as long as I knew it existed. I went because credit is crunching and it would be nice to pay some more attention to what I could do back home and it became absolutely necessary (to go back home). I went to network and identify partners for various undertakings in the future. I went to identify the leaders of the future as well. As you know, most of our African presidents are not the best people to write home about, especially with Barack Obama front and center in leadership chatter. A-Plus chastised a whole lot of African presidents in his 'A Letter to the West' song, likening their reigns to horror movies. One president who is turning his own horror movie story into a feel-good one is Rwanda’s Paul Kagame. In fact, this last weekend has made me a huge fan of his. People, Obama is not ours but we may have one ourselves, and he’s called Paul Kagame.

Kwame Asare Obeng, aka A-Plus, has always been someone to speak his mind. His ‘Letter to Parliament’ track drew ire from political circles and he faced a few death threats. He’s cut his teeth as a Ghanaian political rapper and when his ‘Letter to the West’ track surfaced, he had decided to take on African politicians, presidents, etc as well. He wants to be in Africa (you can’t say that for many Africans in Africa these days) but he wants life to be easy as A-B-C-D. He believes African leaders deserve most of the blame, accusing them of greed. For once, Ghanaian leaders can breathe a sigh of relief since he doesn’t criticize them. He’s not received any threats for this song and here’s my hypothesis, his song is stuck receiving airplay in Ghana and is probably not going to get the needed audience in other African countries until it gets in the MTV Africa or Channel O rotation. It’s obscure in Ghana anyway, so it is a far cry from being played next to a Nameless, D’Banj, Dama do Bling or Lira song.

He starts the song telling Larry King (USA), David Beckham (UK), Yao Ming (China), Jeff Fenech (Australia) that anytime they file their taxes, their money could end up in the hands of some corrupt African leader to fund oppression, corruption and dictatorship. Who’s Jeff Fenech? He’s a cult villain/victim in Ghana who happened to be on the receiving end of one famous boxing victory by Ghana’s own boxing professor, Azumah Nelson. He implores them to encourage their own Western leaders to pressure Africa’s own to use their aid money judiciously. Why should this be news? It’s because most of Africa’s wars have been funded by various elements in the West. Even Rwanda.

Africa is really a rich continent, like my brother Paedae will say. Why haven’t we been to make use of these resources? The blame should fall squarely on our leaders. Maybe as we write letters to the West, we should also ask their leaders to give us a fair chance and not tie our hands with their subsidies and unfair trade agreements. Timber, gold, diamonds, oil, we have them all. Life for be easy as A-B-C-D. APlus attributes our problems to leaders like Iddi Amin, Fode Sanko, Charles Taylor and Farrah Ahin. Some of these leaders who were seen as revolutionaries turned out to be nightmares because they got power drunk. Some of them did it to resist Western influences but for whatever reason, the victims were their own people. Two elephants wrestled, and the grass suffered. Look at the case of Zimbabwe, how Mugabe has turned from hero to villain.

A-Plus asks African leaders, in particular Zimbabwe’s Uncle Bob and if they cannot be like Nelson Mandela. How did Mandela do it? He gave up power when it was time, that’s what. Above all the sins African presidents continue to commit, their biggest flaw is their will to hold on to power. Joseph Museveni tried to extend his presidential term and though he’s been doing a great job in Uganda, he is not the savior of all Ugandan problems. He has to be able to identify successors to continue his good work. I know we have the chieftaincy systems in our culture but governing our countries is a different ball game. Our leaders have grown up in Western civilization, where people are elected and serve their terms, hired and fired, appointed and made to step down. We need institutional constituency.

We have people fighting over diamonds, diamonds they haven’t seen in their lives before. The colonizers left African countries in bad states but not in bad hands. Even where the state was ‘good’, opposition flung up from different circles to challenge the leadership, destabilizing whatever peace we enjoyed. The times are changing but if you listen to A-Plus’s song, there is still a lot wrong in Africa, even today. People say T.I.A (This is Africa) and things happen. We’ve come to accept the worst and become indifferent to problems that don’t affect us. I asked a panelist at the Harvard African Business Conference about how his country functioned when it was in a civil war. He assured me that business and activities went on smoothly even in the midst of the war and people in the cities were not affected. We shouldn’t celebrate the fact that we have only isolated incidents of conflict and disturbances. The fact that our houses’ aren’t on fire shouldn’t leave us oblivious to the problems of our neighbours.

My man sums it up and we can’t say it enough, “We need peace in Africa, We need schools, we need education, We need houses, we need peace, Make this place a better place for us, For our children, and our children's children”. I’d love to say we can take ownership of these things but increasingly, we can’t do it without our leaders. Discussions about Africa always boil down to infrastructure, legislation, leadership. It’s been the same as long as I can remember, so why is nothing changing? We have had terrible leaders. But we’ve also had Mandela, Kagame, and ….. help me here. What can we do? We have to continue the discussions and write letters/petitions to the leaders in the West who are wronging our continent in many ways. We have to change the outlook people have of Africa, we have to counteract the negative images with positive images. We may not the financial and broadcast power of the Western media and propaganda, but we have the power of social media, the power of our relationships with other people and the power of democracy and freedom of speech.

Full A Letter to the West lyrics, audio, video.
Photo by The Seminal

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