Feature Article of Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Columnist: Antobam, Kobina
By: Kobina Antobam
About five years ago in Ghana, we began to name many things Jubilee. How did it come about that we suddenly decided to tag many major structures and events Jubilee? I can’t grasp the broad Jubilee paint across Ghana. We have Jubilee Oil Fields, an empty Jubilee Presidential Palace, Jubilee water wells, Jubilee singers, Jubilee kiosks, and countless Jubilee names. I wouldn’t be surprised to come across a Ghanaian child named Jubilee.
What is Jubilee anyway? The word first appears in the Bible. In Leviticus 25:10, God speaks to Moses, “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.” There are also Jewish and ancient Egyptian interpretations and celebrations of Jubilee.
I also consulted the dictionary in order to get expanded reasons for Ghanaians’ sudden broad adoption of Jubilee. The dictionary defines Jubilee: (1) a specially celebrated anniversary, especially a 50th anniversary; (2) a season or an occasion of joyful celebration; (3) jubilation; rejoicing; (4) Bible: A year of rest in the historic land of Israel when land is to be left untilled and slaves are to be freed and alienated property restored; (5) Rom. Cath. Ch.: A year during which plenary indulgence may be obtained by the performance of certain pious acts.
So far, I understand Jubilee to stand for event celebration. The Roman Catholic Church celebrated the millennium’s Great Jubilee at the beginning of the year 2000 to ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness of our sins. And the Catholics moved on. As recently as June 5 this year, Queen Elizabeth II of England celebrated her 60th year on the throne and dubbed it the Diamond Jubilee. And she moved on. Five years ago in 2007, Ghana hit the 50th year landmark of independence from Queen Elizabeth’s Britain and we decided to throw a huge party. In order to be proper, we named our extravagant gala the Golden Jubilee. How about that? Just like the foreigners do it, we were also going to have a Jubilee. Ha, ha, ha! It was very expensive and dripped with overflowing graft, but we organized and threw that humongous Jubilee party. The excitement and enthusiasm displayed by certain Ghanaians in 2007 were in contrast with the spiritlessness and scorn exhibited by the forebears of the same Ghanaians in the 1950s for the intense struggle for independence.
Knowing who we are, and unlike the Catholics and the Queen, we did not stop there. We had suddenly found an exciting new word in 2007 and we were going to show the whole world how smart we were and squeeze every drop out of that word; so we began to name things, events, and many activities Jubilee. Now that the dust from our 50th anniversary stomping and hootenanny has settled, we are stuck with trite Jubilee this and Jubilee that. Jubilee has now become a tasteless and nauseating Ghanaian appendage that cannot be easily excised. I would have excused, to a greater extent, those who organized the Ghana’s 50th anniversary events had Kwame Nkrumah been celebrated and proclaimed louder as the one and only essence of the country’s colonial freedom.
Anyway, I strongly believe that some of us Ghanaians, who use English as our principal language when English is our second and learned language, are deficient in our fluidity of expression and vocabulary. Our unsophisticated developmental experiences, our limited and inflexible frames of reference, our cultural imperfections and our inadaptability to universal vocabulary do not allow us to be as creative as we want to be. Therefore, our linguistic rigidity makes us look unrefined, awkward, and boorish. So when we come across a new English vocabulary or expression that sounds pleasant and “dignified” we go haywire and repeatedly beat senseless our new discovery with an ugly stick by its overuse [pun intended]. I believe that those in charge who decided that many prominent achievements and events in Ghana had to suddenly be titled Jubilee were definitely inflicted with that rhetorical blockage that I have just described.
Due also to our linguistic handicaps, Jubilee has become Ghana’s hackneyed and unwieldy albatross which we have to live with for generations to come. Does this mean that in just five years when Ghana hits the 60th year landmark, we are going to resurrect our Jubilee naming penchant and tack Jubilee on to more things? The excessive proliferation of Jubilee did not even escape that hideously and poorly designed and overpriced eyesore of a vacant palace that no right thinking President wants to move into. Those in charge were on a naming binge and couldn’t shake off the web of entrapment of their newfound miracle word Jubilee. Lastly, despite the shameless and pompous intoxication with the display of academic credentials of prominent and even obscure Ghanaians, the superfluous adoption of Jubilee makes all of us, especially those who named the oil fields and the ugly presidential palace Jubilee, look poorly schooled, incompetent and developmentally challenged.
It is also beginning to make me sick the many times I have used the word Jubilee in this article.