Tag: Stephen Atta Owusu


Is Rawlings really the founder of the NDC?

Former president Jerry John Rawlings has never been happy with the performance of the NDC presidents that came after him, namely Atta-Mills and John Mahama as regards to probity and accountability. He put excessive pressure on the two former presidents and accused them of incompetence. His criticisms drew him apart from the presidency. Those who benefitted from the corrupt and administration of the two presidents saw Rawlings as an enemy. Most of the time, the party held national and executive meetings and conferences without inviting Rawlings. Sadly enough, such attitudes of hatred by the top brass of the NDC have compelled Rawlings to do what he is doing. Observers from other parties felt that it was unfortunate to treat the founder of the party this way. But do his party members consider him as a founder?

Rawlings is generally considered as the founder of the NDC but, now and then, there are voices which challenge this view. A chief proponent of this view has been Obed Asamoah, a long-time member of Rawlings’ governments in their military and civilian incarnations. In an exclusive interview with Emera Appawu of Joy News, Obed Asamoah explained that when it was time to file the registration of the NDC, Rawlings was still in the Ghana Armed Forces so he could not have represented any district as a founding father. However, Dr Obed Asamoah explained that after the party had been set, a clause was fixed in the party’s constitution to recognize the contribution of Rawlings to the ideals upon which the party was founded.

Obed Asamoah made this position even clearer in his memoirs: The Political History of Ghana

Obed Asamoah

(1950-2013) – The Experience of a Non-Conformist published in 2014, where he stated that the idea of founding the NDC was a collective one taken by a group to which Rawlings was not part of. The group saw Rawlings as the best person to lead the new party and approached him with the idea. Rawlings accepted. It is, therefore, clear that the initiative of forming the party did not come from Rawlings. This can be compared with the formation of the CPP where the idea for the party germinated in the mind of Kwame Nkrumah who brought it into being, provided it with much of its ideological direction, singularly led it from its beginnings through all its glorious years and eventual demise. Today the CPP has been struggling without its revered founder. The NDC, on the other hand, has won elections even without Rawlings leading it.

The issue of who founded what can be a tricky one as we are seeing in the current debate about who founded Ghana. Even though Rawlings did not himself initiate the idea of forming the NDC from the remnants of the PNDC, he was the very personification of the party, at least in the initial stages. The party was built around him. It is doubtful if the party could have won the first two elections in the Fourth Republic without Rawlings leading it. That is why people generally regard him as the founder.

The same argument can be tweaked to apply to the foundation of Ghana. Even though the Gold Coast may have been in existence before Nkrumah burst on the political scene in the colony, the fact of our independence became personified in him. He was the very face of our independence and, by extension, the new nation. That is why people associate the founding of the nation with him. It does not mean they think there were no others in the independence struggle. Nkrumah’s contributions were unique and it is easier for people to connect with an individual and accord him a symbolic status than with an amorphous group of persons each of whose contributions cannot be accurately gauged.

Valerie Sawyer

And so Rawlings is likely to continue being regarded as the founder of the NDC in the popular mind, no matter what Obed Asamoah says. The question then becomes: is Rawlings trying to destroy what he created? It can be said that all of Rawlings’ bad-mouthing of his own party shows him in character. The pointing out of the ills of our society and the condemnation of others have been Rawlings’ trademarks as a public person since his first coup day speech on radio. The party and Ghanaians, generally, have endured his antics. Now and then, they try to give it back to him. Now, it seems a section of the party hierarchy can take it no longer. Valerie Sawyer’s outburst a few weeks ago is symptomatic of this feeling. Obed Asamoah quickly came to Sawyerr’s defence while others attacked her. Alhaji Bature has gone so far as to suggest that Rawlings should be sacked from his own party.

What particularly irks a section of the party hierarchy is what they think is his dancing with the ruling party when he gives Akufo-Addo a clean bill of health when it comes to corruption, and threatening that his own party would not regain power even in 2020 unless it changes its ways. They point out that the NPP itself, under the Kufuor government, was very corrupt and Akufo-Addo was part of that government and that Rawlings’ own life is not beyond reproach. His wife has become rich from deals that are tainted with corruption, all his children received higher education abroad at great expense, he lives a lifestyle far above that of the ordinary Ghanaian who he claims to be fighting for and he received what is clearly bribe money from Abacha. He has also exhibited the greed that is characteristic of all African leaders and the political elite: becoming rich through the acquisition of political power. Rawlings has been calling on his party to return to its founding principles but he may not agree that the erosion of those principles started under his watch.

Of late there is the belief that he is losing his influence over the party and therefore his deliberate scheme of blame and vituperations are meant to destroy the NDC party.

The Rawlings family felt very much disturbed and frustrated by the kind of treatment meted out to them

Nana Konadu Agyemang

by the NDC top hierarchy. Mrs Rawlings took a bold step to move out of NDC and through her admirers a new platform called Friends of Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings (FONKAR) was created. She later did everything possible to form a new party. Even though she craftily chose a party name whose letters (NDP) were intended to confuse the illiterate voter because it sounded midway between NDC and NPP when they are pronounced or seen. It is believed that her intention of forming the party was not to win but to split the NDC votes. Did she succeed?

It is difficult to predict what the intentions of Rawlings are. Does he intend to obliterate the name of the party with which he has been associated from the political map of Ghana, or is he just trying to make himself still relevant in Ghanaian politics? What he really intends to do lies within the womb of time.

By Stephen Atta Owusu

The Power of Fabrication and Hoax on Social Media

The potency of hoax and fabricated news has been prevalent in WhatsApp and other social media. From India alone, not less than one million messages and video news are sent to WhatsApp and other social media every month. Only about 150 messages and videos are said to be true. The rest are fabrications and hoax. Such news items have a wide reach. Depending on the news, readers and viewers who fail to see them as hoax either get scared, startled or experience a feeling of insecurity. Not many are able to determine very early that the news items are just fabrications. Almost every country, including Ghana, has had its share of such hoax news on social media.

We all woke up one day to read on WhatsApp that former president of Ghana, Jerry John Rawlings had passed away at 69. The news spread quickly on all social media. When the news of the alleged death reached Rawlings he was upset about this fabrication which did not help anyone.

Michael Essien, former midfielder of Chelsea and Black Stars, was reported dead. The news was on WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media that Essien was involved in a fatal accident in Indonesia where he plays for a local club, Persib Bandung. Sadness engulfed Ghanaians and lovers of football worldwide only to find out that the news was a hoax.

Ghanaians were shocked when they heard the news of the disappearance of Ghana’s rap artist, Castro, and another lady. As Ghanaians were trying to come to terms with the mysterious disappearance, news came around that Castro was still alive. The one that took WhatsApp and other social media by storm was the confirmation of a lawyer who was interviewed at Adom FM that Castro was under intensive care in a hospital in Lomé, Togo’s capital city. A funeral that was supposed to be held by Castro’s family was halted. A group was sent to that particular hospital the lawyer was referring to. Castro was not there. The news was a mere fabrication and a hoax.

These days many funny sayings shared on social media have been attributed to Robert Mugabe. In the beginning, people believed that Mugabe actually said those things since the man is used to saying controversial but brilliant things. But when they were becoming too many, people realised they were false news. Zimbabwean government officials formally issued a statement denying that Mugabe said such things. Here are two of my most popular “Mugabe sayings”: 1. Girls who are called Monica like money and cars. 2. Dear ladies, if your boyfriends did not wish you a Happy Mother’s day or sing sweet Mother for you, you should stop breastfeeding them. Of course, Mugabe didn’t say these things. Dear reader, what is your favourite Mugabe saying?

Such social media fabrications are sometimes used by industrialised countries to undermine the progress of other countries’ economy. A devastating news item was carried on WhatsApp claiming that China is now producing and bagging rice made of plastic material. Many were fast to authenticate the claim on videos to demonstrate how the rice looks like when it is cooked. The Chinese contend that if what people are claiming is true why is the World Health Organization (WHO) silent?

The Chinese claim this fabrication was designed by the Americans who, according to the Chinese, are obviously scared by the fast rate of development and progress of the country. The Chinese decided to pay back in the same coin and put the Americans to shame. Soon a video that shocked the world was making rounds on social media. The video showed a truck loaded with human cadavers in front of a McDonald’s outlet. The Chinese claim the dead bodies are mashed in machines and used for the burgers which are distributed to all McDonald’s restaurants. When this horrific video came out, about 25% of visitors who patronized the restaurant, it was reported, stopped eating at McDonalds. The directors denied this claim as a mere fabrication.

There was another video claiming the Chinese were now eating aborted babies and even full babies who are sold by their parents. According to the narrator, foetus and embryos have been made into soup for human consumption. It is believed the Chinese are eating this to increase health, stamina and sexual performance. The media war between America and China is still going on. This fits well in the Ghanaian parlance, “if you do me, I do you”.

Immediately after the 2016 US election, the potency of fabricated and hoax news came into focus. Fake news on the elections began to appear on social media during the run-up to the ballot. The first put Mrs Clinton in a comfortable lead. When the reality of the election dawned on Americans, another news item that was clearly fabricated appeared on social media that Donald Trump had hacked into the electoral commission’s computer system to add more votes. This news drew more attention than any other news in the major news media in the United States. This turned out to be mere fabrication.

Often, people make up their own wisdom words and attribute them to famous persons. One of the most serious ones appeared a few years ago about the last words of Apple founder, Steve Jobs, in which he regretted having spent all his life looking for money but not having time to spend it. The passage was so long and detailed that nobody on his dying bed, in the throes of pain, drifting between life and death, could possibly have said those things as his last words. It was purely fake news.

WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media should be used with much care and circumspection. Not all news published in these media can be taken as true and authentic and therefore such news that smack of fabrication and hoax should not be shared. Some are true but many are not.  There was a humorous message I received some time ago telling me the food items that are dangerous to my health. It was a very long list that contained all the food items that I can possibly think of ever eating in my life. It was when I was going to complain and ask which food items are left for me to eat that I realised it was a joke – no food item is good for your health so the best thing is not to eat anything at all and starve to death! I appreciated the joke. But what about those who don’t see the humour?

Because of advances in picture and video editing programmes, it is easy even for amateurs to create false pictures and videos. We have to be careful about the things shared on social media and how we believe in them. Often, when you read something that is asking you to share it with others, you must be suspicious. You must check and check again to see if it is genuine. Fortunately, there are many websites that are devoted to debunking false social media messages. Anytime you have your doubts, just go online and check if it is not another hoax to make your life terrible. Never share a story you are not sure of.

By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads

Diaspora Ghanaians, A Clear Opportunity to Invest in Ghana

Many diaspora Ghanaians are eager to return home and invest when the economy and political situation are good for settlement and business. In 2001 when former president, J.A Kufuor, wrestled power from the revolutionary turned democrat, J.J Rawlings, he met an economy that was impoverished and highly indebted to donor countries. Kufuor was able to put things in place. He was able to inspire Ghana’s parliament and gave hope to the citizens to cherish the innovations and systematic development of his government which attracted foreign investors and diaspora Ghanaians. What is more, the judiciary at that time inspired confidence and trust among the citizenry and this made the diaspora look at the judiciary as the epitome of fairness.

The NPP regime under Akufo-Addo has begun to create conditions that are suitable and convenient for diaspora Ghanaians to return home to invest. The situation will gradually be like what happened under Kufuor when hundreds of Ghanaians abroad came home with different projects and investments. Banks were going from door to door asking people to come for loans. The condition to invest was perfect. However, when the NDC came to power, the economy sank to its lowest ebb; the value of the cedi went low against the dollar. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the intermittent cut in electricity which became known as dumsor. The situation was so unbearable that many businesses had to fold up and the diaspora Ghanaians who came down under Kufuor had to return abroad.

The Ghana Diaspora Homecoming Summit 2017 was held at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) from the 5th to 8th of July 2017. The aim was to announce the vast investment opportunities that are going to be available under Akufo-Addo’s regime. In pursuance of the agenda of one village one factory, Ghanaians at home and abroad were urged to seize the opportunity to invest since the government was ready to support any Ghanaian who is ready to start a viable project. In this connection the government got a loan of $10 billion from the Chinese government to fulfil the campaign promises of one factory in every district and a million dollars for every constituency and other needs.

The money will be deposited in five strategic banks for anyone, including diaspora Ghanaians, to present projects and apply for funds from those selected banks. Ghana, like most African countries, has for long been classified as a virgin land and a land of opportunities. However, for the last decade, due to misrule, corruption and dumsor, diaspora Ghanaians were hesitant to come down and invest in Ghana. Existing companies were folding up due to dumsor, high cost of living and massive poverty. The political climate, the insightful governance of Nana Addo and effective policy implementation have convinced many diaspora Ghanaians to take advantage of the investment climate in Akufo-Addo’s Ghana. A call has already been made to Ghanaians to be part of the one district one factory agenda.

What are the best and most viable business ideas and investment opportunities in Ghana for investors and Ghanaian entrepreneurs abroad? Ghana has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. With all the plans this present government has put in place, it is potentially and fundamentally viable and worthy to do business in Ghana. President Akufo-Addo has consistently and repeatedly appealed to Diaspora Ghanaians to take advantage of the strong and vast mineral resource sector, cocoa industry, consistent government policy, oil discoveries, steady power supply, friendly business environment and a free trade zone for foreign companies. With Nana Addo and his effective ministers in place, Ghana will definitely be a country to beat in future.

There are certain types of businesses that can easily be managed profitably by diaspora Ghanaians. The first is waste management. Many have gone into this waste management but the filth and garbage keep on mounting and these have overwhelmed the existing companies. Moreover, there are so many towns and villages whose wastes are still not managed. Diaspora Ghanaians can seize the opportunity to start waste management companies in Ghana. Telecommunications is also another business that can be looked at. There are several branches under telecommunication. One can specialize in the repair of mobile phones and the sale of accessories. Ghana is in need of such services across the entire country especially if one can combine these with effective distribution of internet to homes and offices.

Agriculture and food production is one of the best options for Ghanaians abroad. Everyone is aware that food is an irreplaceable need in our daily lives. The demand for farm products keeps on increasing and anyone who goes into food production is sure of an unending demand. In addition to food, one could also go into teak plantation which also generates money when harvested. The products on the farm can easily spark off a food processing factory. Indeed Ghana is waiting for entrepreneurs and investors. Nana Addo’s arms are open to receive and financially support abroad Ghanaians who present feasible project proposals.

There are several businesses in Ghana and as Ghana continues to enjoy a serene political climate in a true democracy, diaspora Ghanaians who decide to return home will discover to their joy that apart from fund support which will readily be available, they will be exposed to more ideas in the oil sector, estate management, service industry, education and many more. Indeed the progress and the positive achievements that will be made by Nana Addo and his NPP government lie within the womb of time.

By  Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads

Ghanaians Tortured and Killed in Arab Countries

When Gadhafi was president, Libya was one of the preferred and favourite place for Ghanaians, not only because it was easy to get a job but also because Libya was a gateway to Southern Europe. Things have changed a lot after Gadhafi’s overthrow and death. Most Africans now run the risk of being killed in Libya.  These past years, some travel agencies have lured innocent boys and girls to travel to some Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Lebanon, with the promise of receiving office jobs, factory jobs, driving top executives etc. With massive unemployment in Ghana, the offers look attractive. But those who travel to those countries realize that the persons who accompany them there have sold them into slavery. They hand them over to agents and receive the total amount in exchange for these innocent Ghanaians. Most of them are girls who are sold further to become maids or house-helps. This is where all their problems and frustrations begin.

Once in the homes of their masters and mistresses they work several hours most often with little or no salaries. The intention is to make them work to make up for the amount they paid to buy them from the agents. They are treated as slaves in the various households in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Lebanon. The hardship and torture these girls go through are very serious and regrettable issues that have flooded the social media. The audios and videos appearing on social media in recent times are heartrending. They are helpless and urgent cries for help. The narration of the hardship and torture these Ghanaian girls are going through are brutal and shocking. Ghanaians are not alone in this. There are other Africans in similar situations. Many have lost their lives.

One particular audio that will send shivers down the spine of anyone, is a calamitous narration from a Ghanaian girl in Saudi Arabia. She looked through the kitchen window and found to her utter dismay, fear and shock, that the maid in a neighbouring house was hanged on a ceiling with her own sponge by the master of the house. Before her unfortunate and untimely death, she had spoken to the narrator on a mobile phone. According to the narrator, both husband and wife were driving out so the maid in the house had to rush out of the kitchen to open the gate for them to go. She went back to the kitchen. Meanwhile the three children in the family, walked towards the gate. The youngest child put her fingers between the gates in an attempt to open it. The older child saw this and quickly banged the gate, smashing her little fingers inadvertently, breaking the little bones in her fingers. This incident precipitated the hanging of the Ghanaian maid.

In another extremely strange, horrifying and sad incident which happened in Kuwait, the maid had forgotten the rice to burn on the stove. The man and his wife were highly infuriated when they saw the burnt rice. They locked the maid in a room for two days without food. The girl managed to escape through the window and reported the issue to the police. The police called the family to report to the police station. Surprisingly, the girl was handed back to the man and his wife to take her home. When they arrived home they beat her severely and hanged her with her own net sponge. When she finally died, they cut her into pieces and packed the remains in a sack and threw it away. How wicked! In another development, a maid who was serving a family in Lebanon, refused to listen to the instructions of her host family because she had not been paid for a year. They tied her hands and legs and poured hot water on her. Does this Ghanaian maid deserve this?

The government is fully aware of the inhuman treatment being meted out to Ghanaians who are lured to seek greener pastures in the Arab countries. Action is being taken to track down the agents who sell these girls into slavery.  Right now as I write, one of these so-called agents has been arrested with five innocent girls in Madina in Accra as he attempted to smuggle them to Saudi Arabia. They all had in their possession Ghanaian passports with Saudi Arabian visa. This has been a very lucrative business for the agents because they charge the girls a certain amount, and they still receive payments from the Arab agents when they hand over the girls to them.

These girls go through sexual abuse and physical mutilation in the very houses where they work and these abuses can become daily occurrences. Very often these girls are locked in the house with no chance of seeing the sun. Such girls have no access to radio and no way to communicate with the outside world. So assuming the government of Ghana brings an aeroplane to take the girls back, many of them may not even be aware of such an opportunity. Such girls die and no one hears about it. A Kenyan girl was lynched by the master and mistress of the house. Quite surprisingly, the master of the house called the Kenyan embassy to report that the girl had hanged herself. The ambassador ordered the body to be flown to Kenya for autopsy and burial.

I want to suggest few solutions to this problem. The first solution is that the Foreign Affairs ministry must send strong directives to the ambassadors of those Arab countries in Ghana not to give visas to agents who come to them with passports belonging to other people. Also travel agents who are involved in this slave trade business must be fished out, arrested and jailed. The ministry of information must launch a campaign towards warning Ghanaians of the dangers in travelling to find non-existent jobs. The ministry must do this aggressively through the mass media (newspapers, radio and television) and social media. Lastly, to the government of Nana Akufo-Addo, please heed to the cries of Ghana’s innocent youths who are suffering and wailing in the Arab lands where hundreds die needlessly.

Is Mecca not in Saudi Arabia? Is it not considered a holy place where Muslims from all walks of life, both black and white, go on a religious pilgrimage? Then why this double standard on part of the Arabs? Why the hatred for African workers? Will help ever come from the Ghana government? Time will tell.

By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads
Email: stephen.owusu@email.com

Massive Inter-party Applause as Nana Addo relegates Galamsey to History

Governments have come and gone, presidents and heads of state have come and gone, ministers responsible for lands and mineral resources have come and gone but none of these were able to stop galamsey or relegate it to the abyss of forgetfulness. Indeed Nana Addo has done what all the others could not do. The reason why this illegal mining could gain roots, thus becoming untouchable and unstoppable was that, influential people including top executives, politicians, chiefs and even top police and military officers, all had a stake in the galamsey by condoning, and conniving with young boys to do illegal mining for them.

Galamsey which was a crude form of the statement, “gather them and sell,” is an illegal mining activity by both young and old with the full support and connivance of big and influential men in the society. This illegal activity started long before Ghana gained its independence. Ghana happens to be the 10th leading producer of gold in the entire world and 2nd in Africa. This illegal mining activity became a blessing and a curse and this will be explained in detail in the article. The curse far outweighed the blessings due to health hazards, environmental degradation, the destruction of farm lands and the indiscriminate pollution of water bodies.

Mining itself is a major economic activity in many developing countries. In Ghana, small-scale mining was once a respected traditional vocation. In the late 80s, the government officially legalized small-scale mining. This decision brought to the fore some challenges, including the mechanism by which the government granted concession to peasants. The process was very cumbersome and slow, thus compelling many to mine illicitly. Galamsey began in earnest and boomed from regime to regime, only to intensify during Mahama’s regime. Since then galamsey became a source of livelihood for those who live near the legal mining communities. They were motivated to enter the illegal mining due to unemployment, poverty and increase in price of gold in the world market. As a result many people including the jobless have swarmed the mining areas to engage in galamsey. Even those whose cocoa trees could not yield much, have abandoned farming and joined the galamsey business.

Ghana is naturally well endowed with fresh water sources. The abundance of water sources was an envy of most countries that have no such water sources. Sadly enough, these illegal miners are busy polluting and destroying our enviable, fresh and drinkable water sources right under the very noses of governments, local authorities and concerned Ghanaians. Environmentalists and climate scientists have consistently warned the local population that if the destruction and pollution of the water sources persist, within the next 20 to 30 years, water will have to be imported from other countries. These shameless and illegal miners do not think or are even conscious of any precautionary measures to be taken to abate the nuisance. The mighty river Supong which runs in Asiakwa in the Eastern region is a pathetic example of continuous pollution. Supong River which once provided cool, clean and extremely refreshing water to drink has now turned smelly and yellowish. The river is now filled with mud, algae and weeds.

The situation became worse when the Chinese travelled to Ghana in their numbers and directed their journeys towards the gold mining areas in the Ashanti, Western and Eastern regions. Their presence was much felt during the rule of former president Mahama. Majority of them joined the illegal mining. Some of them were fronted and aided by Ghanaians to register small scale mining companies. Since they had a lot of money, they were able to pay the local chiefs for land to be released for their mining activities to begin. Even cocoa farms were sold to them to be destroyed for gold mining purposes. Heavy machines including excavators and tipper trucks were brought from China to help in their search for gold. Soon they began to destroy more farms and water bodies with cyanide and other dangerous products used to fish for the gold.

Concerned Ghanaians protested against the Chinese involvement in galamsey and small scale mining. The Chinese met the anger and protest of Ghanaians with force. So far not less than ten Ghanaians have been shot dead by the Chinese and not even a single Chinese was put before court. The gaping holes created by illegal mining have trapped and killed many children, women and farmers. Yet they are heavily protected by police and retired soldiers in military uniforms.

Small scale mining and not galamsey could have been an important source of livelihood for relatively low-income Ghanaians, as well as highly significant for the economy as a whole. Sadly enough, this area has been taking over by Chinese in contravention of the Mineral and Mining Act 206 and Act 703. These Acts outline clearly that small scale mining is strictly reserved for Ghanaians. If the law says so, why then do we allow Chinese citizens to enter and completely take over small-scale mining? The Chinese are smarter. They put Ghanaians in the fore-front to register the companies on their behalf.

The situation in the mining areas had gotten out of hand. Cocoa trees and other crops were being uprooted and destroyed by the Chinese to give way to galamsey and small-scale mining. The environment was being destroyed, water bodies were being polluted, gaping holes were being abandoned in the forest, abandoned holes have ensnared and killed many and the Chinese are gunning down and hacking people down at random. Several complaints and protests were launched by concerned Ghanaians for an effective leader and government to emerge to save the mining areas from illegal miners.

Happily in January 2017, a courageous leader, a visionary, a disciplined and an incorrupt man, Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo was sworn in as the fifth president of Ghana. One Friday in

galamsey ‘queen’ Aisha Huang

Kumasi, few months after assuming power as a deputy Minister for lands and mineral resources, Madam Barbara Oteng Gyasi disclosed in Kumasi that the NPP government would soon apply force and technology to fight illegal miners and warned those involved to refrain  from the practice.

Her message fell on deaf ears. Military men and police officers were deployed to the mining areas and with the help of detective devices they were able to drive illegal miners away and all their excavators and other equipment were seized. A die-hard, stubborn Chinese woman named Aisha was arrested three times for illegal mining despite the government’s ban. She was released three times because she blackmailed the powers that be with tapes and videos she commissioned Chinese women to have sexual encounter with Ghanaian power brokers. After her startling revelations, she was arrested for the fourth and this arrest may probably be the last and she may either be imprisoned or repatriated to China.
Already majority of Ghanaians are applauding Nana Addo for his determination to relegate illegal mining into the abyss of forgetfulness and to ensure that small scale miners conform to the laws. The government has a great job on its hand to clean the polluted water bodies and to fill all the gaping holes to prevent further accidents.

By Stephen Atta Owusu

Greed and corruption as corporate bodies and top executives in Ghana siphon off state funds

During the Atta Mills-Mahama led administration, there was massive back-log in non-payment of salaries of workers in Ghana. More than ten thousand nurses and teachers remained unpaid for more than two years. Doctors and pharmacists were also victims of non-payment of salaries. Many more workers are weeping for similar reasons. There is a problem of non-payments of monies meant for national health insurance scheme (NHIS) drug providers and also service providers and food suppliers for school feeding programme for so many years. Yet huge salaries paid to top executives each month get to their accounts without fail.

Indeed under the previous NDC government, a lot of financial wastage occurred in the system. Millions of Ghana cedis spilled like leaked oil and no action was taken by Mahama’s administration to retrieve these monies squandered by individuals and companies.

Former CEO of Cocobod Dr Opuni

Mahama’s government voted GHc1.8 billion to Cocobod to purchase 800 tons of cocoa beans. Dr Opuni, who was then the Chief Executive Officer, bought only 300 tons. He was never queried about what happened to the rest of the money until the NPP came to power. He was immediately relieved of his appointment and corruption charges were preferred against him. His dismissal led to a startling revelation of amazing salaries received by certain CEOs in Ghana. Some of these are more than three or four times the salary received by the President.

The CEO of Cocobod, Dr Opuni takes home a whopping amount of GHc77,000 which is 770 million old cedis monthly! This does not include allowances, free fuel supply and free accommodation. The CEO of Bank of Ghana earns GHc89,000 every month, allowances and other benefits excluded. Let us see the monthly salaries of other CEOs in other corporate organisations: the CEO of Ghana Revenue Authority takes home a cool GHc85,000 each month plus allowances and other benefits. The Boss of SSNIT is paid each month GHc76,000, while the Director and CEO of Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) pockets GHc85,000 as his monthly salary excluding allowance and other benefits. The boss of National Investment Bank (NIB), takes home GHc65,000 and the CEO of BOST receives GHc62,000. The list continues with the boss of Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) also receiving GHc52000. The CEO of Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) is paid “only” GHc55000. The list is just endless. These above-mentioned CEOs have top security men in their homes who are either policemen or staff from top security companies. They have three or four cars at their disposal. They have cooks, drivers, gardeners and cleaners. This group of people are paid by the companies. I believe you all agree with me that with such huge salaries allotted to top executives, it is not surprising that the government was unable to pay certain groups of workers like doctors, nurses, teachers and others who have not been paid for more than two years.

Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) is a licensed distributor of petroleum related activities in Ghana. It is an agency responsible for the importation of crude oil and petroleum. When the GNPC was established to replace the Ministry of fuel and power, it was the objective of the government of Ghana to supply reliable and adequate supply of petroleum in Ghana and the discovery and exploration of crude oil in its territories. GNPC grew steadily in the area of oil production. However, after five years of the corporation’s existence, there was vast misuse of Ghana’s oil revenue on a large scale. There was complete absence of transparency and accountability in awarding oil blocks among others and denying Ghanaians the full use of the oil resource. A big chunk of the money accruing lands in the pockets of top executives. The top executives turned GNPC into a den of robbers, grabbing whatever money that came handy. Consequently, the chief executive of the corporation was arrested and tried at the fast track court on three counts of wilfully causing financial loss to the state to the tune of GH¢230,000 which he, on behalf of PNDC guaranteed a loan for Valley Farms a private company, and one count of misapplying public funds. He is said to have misappropriated GHc2million of GNPC funds to buy shares in Valley Farms. He was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to five years in prison.

Greed and corruption by the board of trustees at the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) have put the future of both formal and informal workers in jeopardy. According to the Association of Accountable Governance (AFAG), they foresee a bleak and miserable pension benefit for retirees. This is because the current board of trustees of SSNIT have sold and are aggressively selling off what is left of their investments. Where a chunk of the money will go is anybody’s guess.

Not long ago, workers shares in First Atlantic and Merchant banks were sold. The Trust hospital was sold and SSNIT Guest house was also put for sale. It is a known fact that National Trust Holding Company (NTHC) is a company that has been blacklisted by 2007 auditor’s report as unfit to manage public funds. It is, however, very unfortunate and disheartening that SSNIT has sold the scheme of the informal sector to NTHC, a blacklisted company. AFAG organized the workers in a mammoth meeting to protest against the board at SSNIT who are selfish and self-seeking at the expense of workers livelihood.

Indeed greed and corruption among top executives and corporate bodies have condoned corruption for a very long time. Ghanaians are waiting to see if greed and corruption will persist under Nana Addo‘s government or be relegated to history. Bribery, over-invoicing, gargantuan salaries and sole-sourcing are difficult problems hanging on the heads of Ghanaian governments like the sword of Damocles. Those guilty of such greed and corruption includes DVLA, the Police and customs and passport office. Very often, monies paid at these places are not backed by receipts. This means such monies land in the pockets of the personnel. A survey conducted by Ghana Integrity and anti-corruption consortium confirmed the afore-mentioned bodies as worst off when it comes to bribery and corruption. DVLA and the passport office deliberately delay the issue of driver’s licenses and passports. They have created around the offices those they call, ”goro boys.” These boys are working for the top officials. A driver’s license that will take you three months or more to get is obtained for you within a day or two by a ”goro boy” at five times the normal cost. Guess who gets all these monies. The top officials, of course.

Will the surprise visit by Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia to the passport office help to reduce corruption? Is Nana Addo eager and fully prepared to fight greed and corruption? Is he willing to prosecute the corrupt officials of the past government? Nana Addo’s government is just three months old and I believe all he can achieve or do to get all stolen monies into state coffers lies within the womb of time.

By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads

The term Tsoo-boi and the Early Akan Settlement in the Volta Region

In the year 1732, when the Ashanti Kingdom was ruled by Otumfuo Opoku Ware I, the Ashantis, mainly from Kuntenase, in an attempt to expand the kingdom, moved towards a place that is now part of the Volta region and to a place called Worawora. They fought the Chokosis and drove them out from their land in 1734 and occupied it. They spoke their Twi language and maintained their culture and traditions. From then on many Akans from many Akan-speaking areas moved in to settle at different places including Jasikan, Donkorkrom and Avetime.
Something interesting happened which led to the creation and popularization of the compound word, “Tsoo-boi”. Many people and groups have used this compound word, “Tsoo-boi” without knowing how the word came about, and from which language it originates. Eighty percent of the people I interviewed said “Tsoo-boi” is a Ga word. Only twenty percent said it was an Ewe word.

“Tsoo-boi” is a word largely used in Ghana by many people including students, workers, demonstrators, pastors and Imams. When that word is mentioned, the resultant reaction is the same. It is a shout for action, attention and coordination. Furthermore the shout of “Tsoo-boi” creates a sense of belongingness, oneness, enthusiasm and victory.
In a fishing community in the Volta region, lived two fishermen and their families. They were not on talking terms. One family was Ewe and the other was Akan. The children of both families always had to cross a stream in a canoe to go to school. One day, on their return from school, a strong wind blew the canoe to overturn in the full glare of by-standers. In an effort to get help both the Akan and the Ewe boys began to scream for help in their local languages. The Ewe boy shouted, “tsoo,” “tsoo”. The Akan boy also screamed urgently, “buei,” “buei”. These were shouts for help and attention. The onlookers jokingly combined the two words, spelling the Twi word according to how they heard it. This marked the genesis of “tsoo-boi.”

The Akans in the Volta Region have their settlements in areas like Jasikan, Donkorkrom, Worawora and Avatime. The majority of the Akan settlers were mostly from the Ashanti Kingdom. They got permanent settlements in these areas through conquests. After living in the Volta Region for more than a century, they still considered themselves as Akans. The Ashantis paid allegiance to the occupant of the Golden Stool. Their Chiefs also swore the oath of allegiance to the stool.
At a press conference in Accra months after Otumfuo’s visit, the Omanhene of Worawora Traditional Area, Daasebre Asare Baah III, confirmed that, even though Worawora is located in the Volta Region, they will still remain Ashantis. The Omanhene was compelled to react to a “Times” London newspaper headline story which came out after the Asantehenene, Otumfuo Opoku Ware’s visit to Worawora traditional area in the early part of 18th century. The front page story was an angry reaction by the chiefs in the Volta Region after Otumfuo’s visit. They reiterated that Worawora cannot be under Asante. During the press conference, the Omanhene, his subjects and well-wishers were all clad in black funeral clothes which the Ashantis call “kuntunkuni.” This was to protest to the VR chiefs that no Akan chief will swear an oath of allegiance to any VR chief.

The Avatime are another group of Akans who live in the Volta Region. These are Ahanta people who migrated to the place known today as Volta Region during the 18th century, almost at the same time when the Fanti fishermen from Elmina migrated to Togo and finally continued to Dahomey (Benin). More than a century ago, a mystery pot was found hidden in a cave at Biakpa in Avatime. Critical and investigative study of the pot and its content revealed that the Guans have been in Avatime and in Ghana since the Stone Age. Kwame Ampene, a folkloric historian and founder of the Guan Historical Society, depending on oral history, claimed that it was not the Ahantas who migrated to the Volta Region but rather the Igbos who lived among the Ahantas for so many years who later migrated to Avatime. Kwame Ampene admitted that the Ahantas may also have migrated to the Volta Region, asserting that the original homeland of the nuclear Avatime has become a difficult problem which has so far defied any satisfactory solution.

So far there has been very much cooperation and peaceful co-existence among the Akans and the Ewes in the Volta Region. When the new president, Nana Akufo-Addo, hinted that some regions including the Volta Region will be divided into two regions and the likelihood is that the Akans may have their own region and the others, including Ewes, will also have one region, many concerned people in the region have stood up against the idea. They will still want to be together as one people in one region. The peace and love existing among the various tribes in the region is superb and phenomenal.
By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads

Child-naming and its Impact on the Ghanaian Child

Babies born in Ghana come with one permanent name depending on which day in the week the baby is born. Ashantis may decide to skip their child’s day name and choose a different day name. This often happens when they name the child after a special person, a hero/heroine, a friend or a business partner. They often adapt the full names of that person. A parent who lived in Kumasi named his child after the first president of Ghana. The child was born on Tuesday but he was named Kwame Nkrumah, instead of Kwabena Nkrumah. This tradition or practice is common among the Ashantis in Ghana.

The other names given to the babies reflect the parent’s beliefs, wishes or preferences. The baby has no say in this matter. However, when the child grows up, she can decide to cast away the name the parents give her and choose her own.

05fbd6d427a1dcb5facaa365a558cc33There are several ways of giving a surname to babies. The most common one is for the father to give his surname to the baby. As said earlier on, the father can also name the baby after a hero/heroine, a special friend, or business partner.

Most names given to babies have some meaning. Nobody chooses a name that means nothing or has no significance. Sometimes names are given by fetish priests to parents who consult them to solve their child-birth issues. When their issues are solved, the fetish priest gives the child a name. This article will partly be discussing the effect of such names on the bearers.

Some people think or believe that certain names, by their definitions, carry with them bad luck and, very often, curses. Things may not go well for those who bear such names. However, it is not wholly true that all those who bear such names encounter bad luck.

I had a discussion with an elderly man when I visited Ghana last year. The man took his time to explain to me that there is no curse in the names per se but in most families, bad and destructive spirits, including witches and wizards, capitalize on the meanings of the names to shape the child’s destiny and to bring hopelessness, hardship and destruction on the child at the very incipient stage till the child reaches adulthood.  He further explained that not all Akan names can be brought under curse.

Some names given to babies by the Akans have obvious meanings. Berko is translated as a

fetish priest

fetish priest

person whose life is full of hustle and bustle, Abebrese (a sufferer), Bediito (a glutton whose preference is mashed plantain), Kokooto (mashed plantain in red palm oil), Bosompem (thousand gods), Asuo (a gift from the river god), Nkwantabisa (ask at the junction), Bediako (a fighter and a hustler), Diawuo (a murderer).

Names with funny meanings do not exist only in the Akan culture. The Anlos have names which sound humorous, interesting and thought-provoking. Ex-president J.J Rawlings named his first daughter Zanetor. It is said that this child was born while Rawlings was in jail awaiting trial for treason. The name means, “let the darkness stop.” The birth of the girl expressed Rawlings’ wish for the dark days to stop, and it stopped too (at least for Rawlings). Indeed, many Anlo names are full meaningful sentences. Mawuenyega means God is great, Kugblenu (death destroys things), Delanyo (the Saviour is good), Mawunyo (God is good), Dzigbodi (Patience), Edem (the Lord has saved me), and Delali (the Saviour is there).

Interestingly, there are some terrific Ewe names whose meanings, for the sake of decorum, I will not provide here. (You may ask your Ewe friends to tell you…) What will you say about names like Avugla, Amemornu, Fiadigbor, Avudzivi, Agbetsiame, Datsomor, Avagah, Kumasenu, Gamor, Degodia, Gbormitan, Avadzi, Gbortsu, Agbogah, Gasor or even Woyome? Every ethnic group has such names but my digging around the subject revealed to me that the Ewes may lead this league of “special” names. Some of these names may have started as nicknames, names by which the bearer boasts of some personal prowess or “drinking names” taken at the nsafufuo grove or ogogoro bar but which gradually become bona fide names that are passed on to offspring.

In an epic song, Highlife Maestro, P S K Ampadu, described the disastrous effect of how one day-names-colorname brought untold hardships on the bearer. The person in the song was called Yaw Berko. Berko means a person who came into this world to fight it out or struggle in life. In the song Yaw Berko was hit hard by the uncompromising arms of life. Penniless at forty, he tried to find jobs in almost all the regions of Ghana to no avail. Yaw Berko’s destiny was a sad one.

Bosompem, Bonsam, Asuo and Brekune are all names that are easily manipulated by the spirits to implant in the bearers of such names elements of fetishism. Most of the time, a child with such a name is donated by a river god. Brekune is the name of a fetish god. All these names affect the destinies of these individuals.

Ghanaians are now careful in choosing names for their children. They choose names that inspire, bless, and motivate. The common ones among the Akans are Nhyira (Blessing), Obrempong (a mighty royal), Adom (Grace), Oheneneba (Prince), Ohemaa (Queen), and many more. The Ewes and the Gas also use motivating and inspiring names like Born-great, Prosper, Fafa (Peace), Destiny and many more.

All what Ghanaians need to do is to wise up. We must all commit ourselves to constant prayers and to make the fear of the Lord a top priority. If God intervenes, no matter what name you give to your child, no bad spirit or witchcraft can turn a name to curse the bearer.

By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads
Email: stephen.owusu@email.com

Ineffective and incompetent leadership in Ghana, result in a weak, non-performing institutions

All the leaders who have ruled Ghana, apart from the military dictators, had university degrees. All of them either lived or studied abroad. The current president, John Dramani Mahama, for example, attended Achimota College and Ghana Secondary School in Tamale where he obtained the Ordinary and Advanced level certificates respectively. He continued to the University of Ghana where he got his first degree in History. He further did a post-graduate course in Communications at the School of Communication Studies at the University of Ghana. He travelled to Moscow where he pursued a post-graduate degree in Social Psychology. I have taken time to describe the prestigious education of our president and his travel experience. He is not alone in this. All our former leaders had similar experiences and education abroad. They all returned to Ghana with certificates to commit crime and corruption against the state, while rendering the ordinary Ghanaians poor, unemployed and miserable.

 

galamseyAll the leaders that have come and gone and the present government are guilty for not attending to the problem of illegal mining. This appalling and condemnable practice has gone on for many years. Illegal miners and people around the mining areas dig up holes and search through the sand to gather gold and sell. “Gather them and sell” gradually became known as “Galamsey.” There are serious problems connected with galamsey which call for the government’s attention. Either due to deliberate lack of interest or pure, active and selfish interests and gains in the galamsey business, the government has either chosen to keep quiet or done little to stop the offenders. The reason for my argument is that, any serious government can easily relegate galamsey into the abyss of forgetfulness, by sending the military into all the areas where galamsey is taking place, chasing them out and seizing their machines. This action must continue for only a month and galamsey will die a natural death. What is happening is that this illegal mining is destroying water bodies which the people living in the surrounding villages depend on as a source of drinking water.

The situation has worsened with the influx of Chinese into the country who are getting actively 4249901896446_5495566304152involved in the illegal mining business. Apart from the destruction and contamination of water bodies that serve as sources of drinking water, there are other problems connected with galamsey. The gaping holes have become traps killing children and adults alike. The Chinese brought complex machines to the forest and destroyed cocoa farms in the areas they operated. Many farmlands belonging to the residents were taken away and sold to the Chinese for galamsey purposes. Foodstuffs and cash crops are being destroyed at random. Despite protests and demonstrations, no leadership in government has ever planned and released a permanent solution to the problem. If a solution was found, the farmers would congratulate the government rather than the daily wailing and moaning.

 

Due to lack of control, measures and unwillingness to wipe out galamsey from the system, the illegal mining has moved to another dangerous level. In Konongo in the Ashanti Region, the residents believe that many houses have been built in areas where they assume the ground is rich in gold. You will not believe this: galamsey has now moved to houses. Many halls and bedrooms of houses in Konongo have been dug and dynamited, all because they want to gather gold and sell. Neighbours are horrified by the noise created by these dynamites. The local authority look on helpless and unconcerned with no desire or power to abate the nuisance. The leadership of this country can easily stop galamsey, but will they?

Many commissions and organisations that are supposed to be agents for change, development and industrialisation have all become white elephants. This is all because our governments are not eager to implement the results of research by certain institutions and organisations in order to speed up development and progress. In Finland for example, the use of bicycles during summer is an obsession. One out of five persons you meet has a bicycle. These bicycles are parked in hundreds in the cities especially near underground stations. Very often many of them are stolen. This created a serious problem for the citizens. A Master’s degree student took upon himself and wrote his thesis on how the government and the municipal authorities could provide bicycles near subway stations describing in detail how this system could work. The government and the metropolitan authorities studied the thesis and approved it. Today you don’t need to have your own bicycle. You only slot your travel card and a bicycle is ready for your use. Alarm will sound very hectically if after three hours the bicycle is not returned to the nearest subway station. This is what I call positive and unselfish thought by leadership to the masses. This system can also be found in many cities in Europe who have also researched into the benefits. What are our leaders doing with all the research works that are gathering dust in archives of forgetfulness? The cost of research is expensive and time consuming and therefore due to government’s unwillingness to implement these research findings and results, many research-proven academicians like engineers, medical officers, lawyers, statisticians and pharmacists have given up and many have found their way into parliament where the salary is much better.

 

Council_for_Scientific_and_Industrial_Research_–_Ghana_logoThe Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is a science and technology research centre which has several institutes operating under its umbrella. The most important of them is Food Research Institute (FRI). The main task of this institute is to provide technical, analytical services, contract research and consultancy services to governmental agencies, micro-medium and multinational agro-food processing industries and international development agencies. Yet we don’t see Ghanaian food products, but West Indian bananas and coconut, Kenyan tea and cashew nuts flood American, Canadian and European supermarkets. Is the institute interested in research that could increase the lifespan of our farm products in order to make them attractive for export and is the government even interested in funding a research like this? FRI intends to engage in research that give rise to increased food products with healthy and long life-span and attractive to international markets. When this is done, it will go a long way to strengthening the institute’s goal for providing income security for farmers. There will also be food security and foreign exchange earnings. The institute has good motives but will support for their various research works come soon? Indeed the institute has very nice and heart-warming strategies and plans but when are CSIR or FRI ever going to put any of their research into action for all Ghanaians to see and applaud?

When Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah assumed power as the first president of Ghana, his main vision was to make sure Ghana is powered by atomic energy because he foresaw the dangers that could be posed by the water level of the Akosombo Dam, thereby causing interruption in electricity supply. At least that was one of the reasons he put forward but it became known later that he had secret nuclear technology agenda too. He created a commission to regulate the Ghanaian Atomic energy programme. With Nkrumah’s vision and drive, Ghana had massive nuclear plant_1confidence of bringing the atomic energy Project to a victorious end. Nkrumah always thought ahead and in one of his addresses in 1964, he revealed his intention of going into nuclear technology. He explained that with the erratic supply of energy from hydro and thermal sources, the country must focus on a more reliable means of power generation. To prove his seriousness he put Robert Sogbadji, an expert in charge of nuclear and alternative energy at Ghana’s Ministry of Energy and Petroleum. This man had high hopes for the Project because he knew that when it was completed, it was going to be so cheap that we wouldn’t need to pay so much for electricity. The Americans became suspicious of Nkrumah’s nuclear technology plan and all these fine ambitions of 1960 were stalled when Nkrumah was overthrown.

 

After Nkrumah’s exit, none of the leaders who came after him even talked about atomic or nuclear energy as an alternative source for the erratic power supply that has hung permanently on our heads like the sword of Damocles. Those leaders who talked about atomic energy could not do anything about their plans. The atomic energy commission is no longer remembered or considered by any Ghanaian leader as a potential source of energy. Sadly enough such an important monumental centre is now used to denote a junction: Atomic Junction. Are our children learning anything? If it is the intention of governments to break every institution including Atomic energy commission, no matter what they do, Ghana will continue to remain in Dumsor.

 

made-in-ghanaPresident Mahama, in one of his addresses, announced that it is both important and necessary for Ghana’s industrial growth, if we patronised “made in Ghana goods.” To show how serious he was with the campaign, he began to wear Ghanaian traditional jumpers and boubou and admonished his ministers to do the same. He revived the shoe factory in Kumasi and promised that made in Ghana boots would be made for soldiers and the police and even school children would get their shoes. It was everyone’s wish that the president will continue this noble agenda. It turned out to be wishful thinking, a nine day wonder and a mere propaganda! Ghanaians woke up one day to find out that the president had bypassed local industries and carpenters and ordered for parliament seats from China, costing more than 1.5 million dollars. Interestingly those seats began to sag in and anyone who sat in could not easily be seen by the Speaker. The seats had to be replaced and despite public outcry and protests, the president had no regrets and ordered new furniture from the same source.

 

As if to add salt to the injury of Ghanaians he gave a contract to a Burkinabe to build a wall 1.8867529around a plot Ghana has purchased in Burkina Faso and got himself entangled in a scandal dating back to 2012. The president is reported to have received a gift which is undeniably a bribe, of a vehicle costing several thousands of dollars from a Burkinabe contractor. In return Mahama offered him the contract valued at more than 600,000 dollars. A job which a Ghanaian mason or building contractor could have taken less than a tenth of the amount? In the case of the bus branding, the contract had to go to a foreign Company. WHY?

Our leaders have made the job of being a  president so cheap, no doubt illiterates like Akua Donkor and Kumchacha are also vying for similar positions in Ghana. God help Ghana! Our institutions will continue to die and research works will continue to gather dust if our leaders continue to show interest in foreign products.

By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads

Pɛpɛɛni, ntaafuo, eblutor and the prejudices we have of each other

A few weeks ago, there was an interesting discussion on Ghanaweb following Charles Agbenu’s article in which he castigated all Ghanaians who regard themselves as not being northerners for looking down on people of “northern extraction” in Ghana. Agbenu’s article was a politically motivated one but the issues it raised concern us all as Ghanaians and the way we think of each other.

One of the points of contention in Agbenu’s article had to do with the true meaning, or otherwise, of the Twi terms PƐPƐƐNI and NTAAFUO. This follows another ghanaweb columnist, Kofi Ata’s argument that the two terms did not, originally, have any negative connotations. Kofi Ata had written an article in which he said his mother had told him that PƐPƐƐNI came about as a result of Akans who perceived Northerners who had come south in search of employment as people who were truthful and did things “pɛpɛɛpɛ” (exactly or fairly). He added that they were referred to as NTAAFUO because they always moved in pairs like twins”.

regions of Ghana

regions of Ghana

Many commentators saw this explanation as very illuminating. This led to a rejoinder to Agbenu’s article that appeared the day after. Kofi Ata’s explanation of how the two terms came about was, indeed, interesting. But it had a few problems. In the first place, there was no way of establishing the fact that what Kofi Ata’s mother told him (Kofi Ata) constituted the unvarnished truth and was, indeed, how the terms came about. Other commentators said their mothers and grandmothers told them different stories. Some said pɛpɛni came about because these migrants were perceived as miserly (“pɛpɛɛnfuo”) and they were called ntaafuo because they bought similar items in the market as you would buy similar dresses for twins. What this shows is that it is only a properly conducted research work that can establish the correct etymology of the terms. The only thing we can be sure of is what their current usages denote in Ghanaian society.

Another fact is that no matter how the terms originated, they came about as nicknames for a group of people who never called themselves by those names. These people, having lived long in their new areas, came to know the names by which their hosts called them. They either did not like these names or did not care. Then there is this thing about nicknames. Even though they can be given to denote positive traits, they are most often given to denote negative traits.

Agbenu Charles also equated the terms “pɛpɛɛni” and “ntaafuo” with what he termed as their

Ewe dancers

Ewe dancers

equivalents in the other major Ghanaian languages. He said the Ewes call Northerners “dzogbedzitor” and the Gas say “senu”. The Ewe commentators went up in arms against Agbenu arguing that the Ewe term was not equivalent to the Akan terms. They said the Ewe term only denotes people who come from the grasslands or Sahara or a dry place and no abusive connotations are involved.

The Akans have a word for Northerners that can be said to be neutral: ESREMFUO (ESREMNI singular). The literal meaning is the same as the Ewe equivalent: people from the grasslands. Nobody who uses the term “esremfuo” can be accused of trying to look down on people from the North unless the person intentionally gives it a twist that makes it so.

The Ga term for Northerners, “Sanu” is said to be the shortened form of the Hausa greeting: “Sanu kede?” (How are you?) It is not, exactly, neutral.

13616_2014_12_MOESM1_ESMThe thing to be noted here is that any term used to denote some other people as different from us can, very easily, degenerate to a notion of “different and inferior”.  This is often so when it is the dominant and more powerful group that is marking the difference. That is why people have fought segregation (separate development) everywhere. And that also explains why the whites who come to live among us in Ghana do not quite like it when we call them “obroni”, “blofo” or “yevu” until they come to realise that we do not mean anything offensive by those terms. Even so, the supposed original meanings of the terms may not exactly be complimentary to the white man. The Twi term “obroni” begun as two words “(a)bro ni” (wicked man) and the Ewe term “a-yevu” means a cunning dog “the one who feigns niceness and bites you”, as Yaa Gyasi puts it in her much praised debut novel (HOMEGOING). I have not been able to find out how the Ga “blofo” came about. But, as with pɛpɛɛni and ntaafuo, the true origins of all these terms may have been lost.

There are other terms we all use to refer to each other whether for good or for bad. In Kumasi, there is Anwona. This is a corruption of the correct pronunciation of Anlo which is beyond most Twi speakers. The “nw” is a nasal sound as in the Twi “anwanwado” (amazing love). It has no negative connotations…

The Ewes call all Twi speakers “eblutorwo”. I have not been able to find out how this term came about. It seems the Ewes themselves don’t quite know how they came to call all Akans “eblutorwo”. If you ask any Ewe if the term is derogatory, they are quick to say it is not. But, again, from the contention of denoting otherness explained above, any term a people use to denote another people can easily degenerate to the regard of those other people as inferior. But, surely, Ewes do not regard Akans as inferior! Or, do they?

“Eblutorwor” seems to be the counterpart of “ayigbefuo” which many Akans will tell you is not

derogatory. Ga legend has it that when they were migrating to the present day Ghana, the chief

Homowo festival of the Ga people

Homowo festival of the Ga people

who had the royal stool in his keeping lost his way and gradually settled in what is now Anecho in present day Togo. When the Gas realised this, they sent emissaries to the “lost tribe” to retrieve the stool. But the chief of the “lost tribe”, known as Ayi, refused to hand over the stool. The emissaries came back to report this as “Ayi gbe” (“gbe” being the Ewe word for “refuse”). They said Ayi said “megbe” (I refuse). The combination of “Ayi” and “megbe” came to be used to refer to Ewes as “ayigbe”. Since the chief refused to hand over something that did not, technically, belong to him, he was said to have stolen it. This gave rise to “ayigbe dzulor” – a negative epithet that clouds all Ewes in the imagination of some non-Ewes. Whether this story is true or not, today, Akans join Gas to call Ewes “ayigbe”. Indeed, and one is more likely to hear “ayigbeni” or “ayigbefuo” than “ayigbenyo”. Perhaps it may be that the Akans, finding it almost impossible to correctly pronounce the word “Ewe”, took to the relatively easier to pronounce “ayigbe” even though the sound produced by “gb”, common in many West African languages, does not naturally occur in Twi.

Today, it is more politically correct to refer to the people of the Volta Region as “Voltarians” in an

Northerners of Ghana

Northerners of Ghana

effort to prevent the mistake of regarding all citizens of the region as Ewes when only about half the population are Ewes. The term also clouds the myriad differences among the Ewes just like pɛpɛɛni and ntaafuo disregard all the differences among the peoples of the three northern regions of Ghana. The use of the term “Anlo-Ewe” to refer to the coastal Ewes does seem to be of recent origin and employed mainly by non-Ewes. The Anlos call themselves “ANLOS” (nothing more) and their fellow Ewes also call them ANLOS (nothing more). Even so, there are still many Akans who think Ewes are a homogeneous group all of who eat “akple and fetri-detsi”. But many Ewes are aware of the broader differences among the Akans – Asante and Fante in particular but also and Kwahu and Akuapem.

An instance of the majority laying claim to what is normal can be found for the term that Akans have for minority (?) languages they do not understand. The people who speak them are said to “potor” and the languages known as “potorkasa”. Some people say the term is not derogatory and refers to all non-Twi languages including even English. Others say there is a derogatory tinge to it as it originally referred to Northerners who had come to Ashantiland and who spoke poor Twi– “wonmo potor kasa no”.

There is an Ewe equivalent, especially among the mid-Volta Ewes. The speakers of the minority languages there (Likpe, Buem, Akpafu, etc) are called “fiafialawo”. These people do not speak: they “fia”. The Ewe term is somewhat derogatory and is not used for major languages like Twi, Ga or English. There is a historical example in the ancient world. The Roman and Hellenic civilisations regarded non-Greek languages as unintelligible. They sounded “baaa baaa” to “civilized” ears. This is how “non-civilized” tribes became known as –  barbarians!

Ashanti Chief at Akwasidae Kese celebrations

Ashanti Chief at Akwasidae Kese celebrations

There are other prejudices the various ethnic groups hold of each other. Akans think Ewes like juju, they have low self-confidence, and they are envious of Akans. Ewes think Akans (especially Asantes) like money too much and like to boast of it. But the Asantes think it is the Kwahus who worship money and will do anything for it. Ewes frown on the display of wealth and will prefer the rich to keep a low profile. Akans say Ewes hide their wealth because they are afraid of being “jujued” by their fellows. The two prejudices fit each other and give rise to some cyclical reasoning. If Ewes dislike the way Akans boast of, and flaunt, their wealth, it stands to reason that they (Ewes) should keep a low profile with their wealth. And if the Akan prejudice about Ewes is that the latter like juju, then the only reason why the Ewe person will not flaunt his wealth is the fear of being done in. Of course, times have changed. Everyone likes material wealth and wants to boast of it when attained. Who lights a lamp and puts it under a bed?

Prejudices, psychologists tell us, are ready made schemas we employ to meet what we do not know. They are normal to the human race and found in all societies. Since they are often formed prior to any supporting evidence, they can lead us astray. It is when we base our behaviour on them that things can go wrong. And using them for political advantage can be detrimental to the effort of building a strong nation that benefits all of us.
By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads.

*I want to express my deepest sense of gratitude to my Ewe friend who provided immense information on the Ewes during the writing of this piece.*