Monday, June 29, 2009

The Talking Drum--To Kofi Ghanaba, the Divine Drummer

The drumbeater beats his drum
pam pam pata pam pam
calling upon the bold ones
pam pam pata pam pam
with encrypted messages
pam pam pata pam pam
thundering through the land
pam pam pata pam pam
the Kilimanjaro-conquering quantum soul of Nkrumah
pam pam pata pam pam
the Akwapem-meandering mountainous mind of Madiba
pam pam pata pam pam
the Tanganyika-twirling titanic tunes of the drummer
pam pam pata pam pam

not all gatherings of clouds
lead to rains
not all deaths
are honoured by termites
adept fingers alone
do not make good music

pam pam pata...

his flesh is consumed by fire
his soul consumes the fire


the drummer stops
the beat stops
the dance is over...

PS: The indentations are not working properly. This is not the original structure of this poem.

Copyright 2009 by Nana Fredua-Agyeman

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Of Elections, Rigging and Protests

For some time now, every election which has been conducted has in one way or the other been alleged to reek of rigging and fraught with voter intimidation and oppression. It is not uncommon to find sitting governments complaining of rigged elections (as occurred in Ghana). However, complaints from oppositions have dominated the gubernatorial and parliamentary electoral scenes. One cannot forget so easily the Orange Revolution that shook Ukraine, which led to dioxin poisoning of the main opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko. There was a re-run of the election and Yushchenko won, but not without complaints from the government in power.

Similarly, one can talk about the civil unrest that brought Thailand to its knees. These occurred in three phases. First there was a coup on September 19 2006 and led to the overthrow of Thaksin Shinawatra. During this period, supporters of the the ousted Prime Minister--The 'Red Shirts'--frequently held rallies and protests against the military regime. The problem was resolved when in the general election of 2007 pro-Thaksin groups led by Samak Sudaravej was declared the winner. However, his time as a Prime Minister was to be fraught with protests, rallies and demonstrations by the then opposition group known as the 'Yellow-Ribbons'. The unrest and demonstrations whose object was the overthrow of all Thaksin-affiliated parties, went into full force. In the end, the judiciary bowed to the excessive pressure and Thailand's Constitution Court dissolved the ruling government and parliament and a general election was held. This election brought to power Abhisit Vejjajiva (the minority candidate of the 'Yellow Ribbons). Again the Red Shirts claimed that the elections were unfair and began to protest.

These vacillations of power and anger show that in most elections, unless in situations where there is a clear popular majority, there would be at least two groups of people struggling for power. It happened in Ghana, and praise to God, Allah, Buddha, Infinitum and the other Supreme Beings, we solved it peacefully (something which the newsmakers of the world blatantly failed to report on because it does not fit their agenda for and description of Africa--a land of struggle, war, hunger, atrocities, conflicts etc. It clearly remained inconspicuous in their newspapers and news bulletins).

The main point of this article is that the fact that Moussavi has supporters does not necessarily means that he won the election. The fact that he can point to rigging does not mean they occurred or even if they did he would for that matter win. Don't get me wrong. I am no fan of Ahmedinijad or the Khomeinis and Khameinis. I am no fan of the abuse of human rights and the slaughtering of innocents protesters such as Neda (the voice) on the altar of power--something which we cannot outlive. However, there is one question we fail to answer. Should the table turn presently, wouldn't we have on the streets of Tehran, the numerous, presently silent, supporters who voted for Ahmedinijad? They would pour onto the streets like crude and would flow to overtake the country. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that each candidate obtained 50 percent of the vote would be clear from this that each candidate has the men to support his cause, to demonstrate against any government and to bring government to its knees if it chooses to do so.

Hence, let's not be the judges and claim that for every election for which there are protests and accusations of rigging, the opposition or the accuser is right. No! In any election, even in America, there would be some aggrieved persons. Even if one candidate pulls only 20 percent of the votes and the remaining 80 percent goes to the winning side, there would be 20 percent of the total voters who would feel aggrieved. Assuming that there are 10 million eligible voters, this would give 200,000 voters. These voters can surely make their voices heard in any protest and demonstration. Thus, somebody is bound to ask 'Where is my vote?' as was shown in CNN. Your vote is part of the 20 percent. What do you expect? That you single vote should let your candidate win? This is the rubrics of democracy that the people have still not got it right. It is the rule by the majority not by the boisterous minority.

In the end, if Moussavi had won there would be protesters of Ahmedinijad on the streets as there are protesters of Moussavi on the streets of Tehran. We should therefore not be prejudiced into thinking that the masses of Iranians are supporters of the opposition candidate. There have even been reports suggesting that the object of these demonstrations is at best inchoate and diverse with no homogeneity of purpose. There are some who are genuinely supporters of the 'reformer' Moussavi and there are those who do not support either candidate but are willing to see 'absolute' change in Tehran. Let Iranians solve Iranian crisis...simple. The manoeuvrings of the west in such issues which borders on the personality of Ahmedinijad does nothing to change the situation...if anything at all it escalates and raises tempers. For Iran as a state can decide to own whatever they deem important in the protection of their country and their people. As a matter of fact Americans own nuclear weapons, Israel own nuclear warheads, and many other countries, so why not Iran? Why not Ghana (I am not joking)? Unless each country is prepared to declare and destroy its nuclear weaponry, there is no philosophy that says 'you can have this but not you' except that which exists in the novel of George Elliot and has oft been quoted by equal right activists.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

2. Harmattan Rain, A Reading at Cuppa Cappuccino

Title: Harmattan Rain
Author: Ayesha Harruna Attah
Genre: Novel
Publishers: Per Ankh
Pages: 434
Year: 2008
ISBN: 978-2-9119928-12-1
Country: Ghana

At the beginning of the year I decided to read more books than I did last year. My readings have been sporadic with more readings when I am away from academics and virtually nothing when I am in school. In spite of this, most of my readings have been fraught with western authors. Until last two weeks, my readings had included Mervyn Peak's Trilogy (Gormenghast etc); J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy); Dean Koontz (False Memory, Darkfall, Whispers, Cold Fire, etc); Stephen King (Salems Lot, Needful Things, Dreamcatcher, Wizard and Glass, The Running Man, Different Seasons, Four Past Midnight, etc); Sidney Sheldon (Morning, Noon and Night, Windmills of the Gods, Master of the Game, Blood line, If Tomorrow Comes, The Sky has Fallen, etc), Dan Brown (Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons), J.K. Rowling (The Harry Potter Series) and many others. And my readings of African authors had included Ngugi wa Thiong'o (Weep Not Child), Chinua Achebe (No Longer at Ease & Things Fall Apart), The Elechi Amadi (Concubine), Amu Djoletoe (Stranger) and Francis Serlomey (The Narrow Path). However, my limited reading had prejudiced my mind against African authors, since I read almost all these stories during my Junior Secondary School period. I thought most of their writings are are too stereotyped and do not define the progress Africa has thus far made. However, with maturity comes realisation and hence a new beginning. Hence, I decided to balance my mind with renewed readings from African writers.

I had, as a matter of fact, promised myself that should I get a job (a paying one of course) I would litter my bookshelf with African authors. The main purpose of this is to help shape my poetry writing. However, like most of us I have been gainfully employed for almost a year and have not purchased a single African writer's book. This is a wrong I set out to correct early this month (June). I went to the Silverbird bookshop after close of work. I saw 'Harmattan Rain' and having heard of its launch decided to purchase it but instead found myself purchasing 'Faceless' by Amma Darko. Two days later I came back to purchase Harmattan Rain because it was haunting me in my dreams. I began reading it immediately I finished Amma Darko's Faceless. I was hooked on from the first page. I therefore informed my friends on facebook what I was reading, I have been doing this ever since I joined that networking platform some few weeks ago. It was on this platform that a friend-Nana Nyarko Boateng-invited me to the reading of 'Harmattan Rain' by the author at Cuppa Cappuccino, at airport residential area.

Three things worked out to uproot me from my usual night slumbering, noting the fact that it was a Friday evening, and as usual I had nowhere to go. The first was, it has always been my dream and deepest desire to attend such literary functions but have lived in the darkness of it for so long a time. So the invitation piqued my interest and I was moved. The second was meeting the author. At least I would have an autograph of the author to boast to my future children, and it would be my first (and definitely not the last). Last but not the least, I worked in the same vicinity as the reading place (Cuppa Cappuccino). It was less than fifteen minutes walk from my office. Thus, in effect there were no excuses. I have to attend the function.

I got there at almost seven in the evening and met one or two people. I hazard a guess that the place would not be filled. I was later to be proven wrong and I was glad. By seven o'clock pm, the place was filled: about three-quarters of the guests were Whites, and the rest were young Ghanaians. This again compounded my happiness. At least the future of the arts is assured and as a poet, with the intention of publishing my manuscript, I was happy that there is a growing market for the arts. The rains did their best to disrupt the programme but the united will of two is capable of moving mountains and there is nothing that they set out to do, which they cannot. So we moved into the main coffee shop.

The programme started with the introduction of the author by someone I suspected was the owner of the coffee shop. Ayesha Harruna Attah, the author of 'Harmattan Rain', introduced herself and we interacted by asking her questions concerning herself. This arose because she humbly refused to brag on and on about who she is and where she's been, recognising the fact that she's a 'been-to'. But not an arrogant one, as most 'been-tos' are. She went ahead to read portions of the book and after that we discussed the book.

The story is not your typical African novel set in the spear age where wars are fought with bows and arrows and spears. Where men, to gain the love of a young woman, enter into a wrestling contest. It was far from that. Yet, it began with that. This is the broad nature of Ayesha's book. It starts from the village in post-colonial Ghana with Nkrumah as the Prime Minister. The story is about three generations of women Lizzie, Afriyie and Sugri, with the same mind-set (to be free) but through different means. The story has planes, shopping malls, parties, and almost everything an average Ghanaian could identify with. I found myself in the story and I am glad I read it and participated in the reading. Side by side, it is different from the few African writers I have read, whose setting is purely a village scene and justifiably so because of the years in which they were written and the situation at the moment. For instance, I don't believe that a present day Kenyan writer would fully focus on the Mau Mau movement if he is to write a novel about present day Kenya. Hence, it is absurd for critics to require of Ayesha that supposed 'Africanness' in writing which some people think has become the status quo, which I think should be done away with. Now I want to see guns, robbery, office complex, malls, a trip home, and such events that have come to characterise our daily living in present-day novels. With these I think Ayesha has come thus far.

The reading ended with questions. Some men wanted to know why the book seems too feminine and why were the men portrayed as evil and the women as free-spirited individuals. But as Basho said if you want to know the ways of the bamboo go to the bamboo. She is feminine and could write bet from the feminist point of view. This was her explanation. It inspired us (the men present) to also tell our story. This was the general conclusion from most of the participants. If you feel sidelined, write your story. So we shall gird up our loins and write our story. The event ended with the favourite book purchase and signing. Since I have bought mine already I had it autographed (my first book to ever be autographed).

All in all, it was a success, an evening to remember, at least by me and more importantly the development of the arts was given the necessary boost. The market is there, just write something interesting. This is a development I would very much support willingly. Let's tell our story by ourselves. He who feels it knows it more--Bob Marley. People can only sympathise with you but they cannot feel what you feel. This is a young writer who is developing, let's not push her down (PHD) but let's lift her up to replace the aging Ama Ata Aidoos and the Efua Sutherland.

Ayesha, ayekoo...I can't wait to read your second novel.

ImageNations Rating: 4 out of 6

Notes from Our Actions

Last Friday, heaven opened its doors and there was a torrent. Though, relatively this can hardly be described as a torrent because it poured for only two hours. It cannot be compared with the countries that had experienced three days of continuous downpour such as Brazil and Madagascar. However, the report that followed in Monday's edition of the Daily Graphic (DG) indicates that this event, which portends bumper harvest for farmers and for which they have earnestly prayed, has wreak havoc on parts of the Accra, to a scale that is somehow comparable to hurricane Katrina or hurricane Ike--A hurricane from a two-hour downpour. Only in Ghana!

Accra's perennial flooding has come to stay, yet it leaves the confines of our thoughts the very moment the sun unwillingly dries the waters. As the muddy clay dries up and erases every vestige of the havoc the rains wreaked so the memories of its devastation leaves our mind and our actions that caused the problem continues unabated, with renewed eagerness. To pollute and dump indiscriminately comes in vogue again.

It is a pity to see households dumping their rubbish into open drains. Where then do we expect the rains to flow. It is said that you can never eat your cake and have it and you reap what you sow. If we choke our gutters, it is only fair that we get flooded and our belongings get carried away in the flotsam. It is a matter of cause and effect. It is as simple as that. What were we expecting when we were eagerly choking our gutters and drains? That we fill our drains with waste and expect the rains to remove these wastes before they run through or what? I cannot come to terms with our thinking and our actions. If the gutters get choked, they would breed mosquitoes and we would be bitten and we would die; there would be a cholera outbreak and we would be infected and we would die; there would be typhoid outbreak and we would get infected with the bacteria and we would die; there would be floods and we would be carried away together with our prized possessions. Simple. Finito! We can pray five thousand years and we would open our eyes to see that our problems have been multiplied five billion times because we failed to acknowledge the simplicity of the problem. The DG showed pictures of individuals crying over their lost possessions, yet these cries would last only as long as the water level is high. Their tears would soon recede and they would go back into that same house and carry out the very activities that cause the flood to turn their bedrooms into waterways.

People build their houses anywhere and woe be unto any government that muster the courage to bring such houses down, in a sane demolition exercises. That is when we 'human rights' activists begin to rear their ugly heads and begin to define what rights there are. Why then should I pity you if you are the cause of your own problem? We have politicise every event, every activity and have morphed governments into puppets pulling them anywhere we want, and they, power-drunk as they are, would follow suit because in the end they would not be affected by such an atrocity. We bribe our way through even if that parcel of land on which we are eager to raise our mansion is a course for flowing water. The public would question any government that makes it his duty to instill sanity into these activities. Some, whose knowledge of rights and privileges surpasses the propagandists, would start to talk about the right to shelter and the insensitivity of the governments. But should one individual's enjoyment of his right bring destruction and loss to a group of other individuals? Until we staunch that politicisation haemorrhage that has firmly gripped our thinking, development would be as elusive as the fabled alchemists stone reputed to have the ability of transforming every object into gold. Simply put we would not develop; we would move in the circles of inactivity-destruction-talk until the whole country is one day carried away by a great deluge.

In ending, I believe it is high time we spent our time taking action. Let's leave the politics behind us for once. Let's behave like rational human beings, who when faced with problems tackle it from its roots, but not the fabled grasshopper who always procrastinate the building of its home. We need to act as a people with one destiny and not as political animals with as many destinies as there are interests. It is only when we see the suffering of a brother or a sister as ours and think of ourselves in terms of others and of others in terms of ourselves that we can progress as a people--collective development. Let's know that posterity would never leave us alone if our present actions jeopardise their common future.

1. Musings from 'No Easy Walk to Freedom' by Nelson Mandela

Title: No Easy Walk To Freedom
Author: Nelson Mandela
Genre: Current Affairs/Politics
Publishers: Heinemann, African Writers Series
Pages: 189
ISBN: 978-0435907822
Year: First published in 1965; this edition published in 1990
Country: South Africa

"... Africans had no vote, no freedom of movement or civic rights, and they were being steadily deprived of their land. Africans (called 'kaffirs') had to take off their hats when passing White men and they were pushed off the pavements into the gutter if they did not know their place..." Editor's Note (page 17)

"The Minister of Native Affairs, Dr Verwoerd, has been brutally clear in explaining the objects of the Bantu Education Bill. According to him the aim of this law is to teach our children that Africans are inferior to Europeans..." Nelson Mandela, NO EASY WALK TO FREEDOM, (page 26).

The world looked on, unconcern, when the deprivation of the basic human rights of shelter, education, food, were constitutionally implemented in South Africa. Though there were some whites who struggled on behalf of the coloured (Blacks and Indians), it is difficult to understand why people who claim to be Noble like Verwoerd, could institute such barbaric measures against their fellow human beings. And to think that all these nefarious orchestrations of unfathomable proportions were blessed by America make it even more repulsive and disheartening especially when they pretend to be the champions of human rights.

What exactly do they know in terms of human rights and which right have they defended apart from American Rights...or where they have vested interest...we are back in a once upon an Elliotian story, where all animals aren't equal. How do you equate the life of an Afghan, an Iraqi, or any other to that of an American. Else why aren't Bush and Blair standing trial for human right atrocities just as Taylor is standing trial and Bashir has been indicted. Why were they eager to threaten and force countries to sign the Non-Surrender Treaty, where their citizens would not be handed over to the ICC if they commit human rights atrocities anywhere in the world but would be returned to the United States, whereas at the same time trying hard to push leaders of Africa to the ICC. Are their ordinary citizens better than our leaders?

After the events in the British Parliament, where Honourable MPs could lay claims to the payments of such funny activities as changing of doorhandles and planting a flower, Africa and for that matter Blacks shouldn't lay claim to corruption. They are as corrupt as we are. After all, when they come to invest and 'we' ask for bribes don't they pay? Aren't the taker and the giver both corrupt in a corruption case? Now we have Madoff and Allen Stanford and their corruption is perhaps greater than the total GDP of Africa.

This world is too fair.
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