Feature Article of Thursday, 23 September 2010
A GNA feature by Mohammed Nurudeen Issahaq
Accra, Sept. 23, GNA - One of the frequently played Ghanaian pseudo-gospel songs goes, "Osambarima, la-la-la-la-laa- laaaaa.." Then the chorus: "Igwe. Igwe!" We in Ghana, interestingly, seem to be suffering from a chronic dependency syndrome in our approach to most aspects of life, all our talents and intelligence notwithstanding. The spirit of cherishing one's own continues to elude Ghanaians, giving rise to the craving for things foreign. Exalting anything and everything that emanates from outside, while downgrading/devaluing anything local.
This tendency is manifested in the way we dress, the way some of us walk, the kind of food we prefer to eat, the music and other works of art we appreciate and invariably the way we think and act. For those who wonder why campaigns by successive governments to popularize the patronage of "Made in Ghana" products fail to make the desired impact, this is your answer. Consequently, we have become a nation of consumers providing good market, employment and wealth for other nations that continue to flood our country with their products.
It is common to see a Ghanaian youngman smartly dressed up in a pair of jeans from the United States; a designer shirt from France; a pair of shoes from Italy; a belt from Brazil and an imitated 'Rolex' wrist watch made in China, while he continues to lament about unemployment in the country. In contemporary times, primarily as a result of the emergence of "Nollywood" (the Nigerian film industry) and the influx of Nigerian movies into Ghana, Ghanaian society and culture have begun to assume a new dimension.
In what may be described as a 'Nigerianisation' of our society, one cannot fail to notice the rapidity with which certain aspects of life from our sister West African nation, both desirable and undesirable, are gaining roots in the Ghanaian society.
This phenomenon can be seen in our local movies, our music (both popular and pseudo-gospel) in the way we speak even from our pulpits. Words like "Chineke", "Orga", "Wahala" and "Tufiakwa" have gained currency both in our music and in ordinary conversation. It is common to see some Ghanaian young men trying to imitate the Nigerian Pidgin English on our campuses and at workplaces. On the negative side of this influence, some observers this writer spoke to in the streets of Accra cited instances like '419' fraud, while others also point to endemic violent robbery as having been imported by Ghanaian hustlers, who returned from "Agege" following their expulsion by the Nigerian authorities in the 1970s.
Of course this is not to say that those vices did not exist in Ghana, or that this country was populated by angels prior to the advent of Agege. The crux of the argument lies in the intensity, frequency and sophistication of such crimes. On countless occasions the Nigerian High Commission in Accra has had to come out with caution notices for citizens of that country resident in Ghana. The inclusion of people bearing Nigerian names among armed robbers that are often nabbed by the Police has contributed in strengthening this perception. Far from being negative alone, it must be acknowledged that the Nigerian influence referred to herein also has some positive sides.
The growing popularity of the "agbada", "kaftan" and other indigenous African attire/fabric in Ghana today can be attributed to the Nigerian influence. Like them or not, no one can take away the credit due our Nigerian brothers and sisters for their dedication to indigenous culture/tradition. On a normal day, a Nigerian Chief Executive Officer (CEO) would go to the office in a three-piece "agbada" or gown, crowned with the customary indigenous cap, rather than a Western suit and tie. To a large extent, this cultural uniqueness of the Nigerian has been the underlying secret of the Nollywood success story and which we in Ghana must copy.
Today, Nigerian movies sell like hot cake not only across the African continent, but also in Europe and the Americas, thus generating employment and wealth for thousands of young men and young women in that country. Chinua Achebe's book "Things Fall Apart" has won global acclaim as a classic because of its originality and the vivid manner he portrays indigenous Nigerian/Ibo culture in the book Another development from the Nigerian influence worthy of commendation is the collaboration between Ghanaian and Nigerian actors, which has undeniably brought a cast improvement in the Ghanaian movie industry so far.
The fusion of different ideas can only enrich creativity and yield immense benefits for the two sides involved. It is on this score that the two governments (Ghana and Nigeria) need to encourage and support such collaborative efforts in the interest of cultural cooperation, which both the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union Charters seek to promote.
Throughout history, societies and nations that have made it are those that have taken pride in their indigenous way of life, maximized the use of local resources while curtailing the taste for foreign goods. Check it from China, India, Malaysia and Japan, among other countries. Therefore, if it would take the influence of our Nigerian brothers and sisters for us to rediscover/revive our rich cultural heritage, foster a strong sense of belonging and eradicate the foreign taste from Ghanaian society, so be it!
The opinion of this Writer with regard to the subject of imitation is that even though it may not be an entirely bad practice to pick an idea or two from foreign lands, it should not become a permanent habit as that could kill indigenous initiative/creativity and give rise to a dependency syndrome and lead to some form of mental/cultural colonization. In instances where one adopts a foreign idea, especially in the literary and entertainment spheres, the smart thing to do is to modify or improve upon it rather than applying it verbatim, thereby exposing oneself to sanctions under existing Copyright Laws. It is heart-warming to note that the directive requiring Ghanaian civil servants to wear indigenous attire to work on Fridays is yielding positive results, but there is still room for improvement. The objective of that policy would have been achieved when Ghanaians in both the public and private sectors come to appreciate our locally-made products, and don themselves in rich African fabrics each day of the week rather than Fridays only.
Let us Ghanaians take pride in what we have and express without apology for being Ghanaians and Africans on every convenient occasion.
Having said that, it must, however, be emphasized that the logical starting point for nurturing a sustainable citizenship consciousness and national pride is right from the pre-school level, through primary to junior and senior high schools. The concept must be enshrined in the school curricula, with parents lending a hand of support in the homes.
It is not too late yet, and the earlier the relevant Ministries took up the challenge the better it would be for both the present and future generations.