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Opinions of Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Columnist: Akoto, Akwasi A. Afrifa

An Epistle to the Asantehene....

AN EPISTLE TO THE ASANTEHENE, OTUMFUO OSEI TUTU II: CONCERNING FUNERAL CELEBRATIONS.

Dear Otumfuo,

I respectively lower the cloth off my left shoulder, remove my right foot out of my “chaw chaw” and humbly bow and request your attention. Nana kindly pardon me, in advance, if I err.

A few years back, Nana, you expressed concerns about the rise of extravagant funerals in Asanteman and Ghana as a whole. And, just recently, Nana, Ejisuhene has issued a proclamation banning the serving of food and alcoholic beverages at funeral celebrations in Ejisuman.

Nana, Otumfuo, my father, my inspiration, your Excellency, Dasebree, I, your humble subject ,with the strongest conviction, believe that, we are treading on a path that will lead to the total collapse of Asanteman’s domestic economy and Ghana as a whole if, Nana Ejisuhene’s proclamation is allowed to stand and become widespread.

Your Excellency, kindly indulge me with your patience while I cite an example to illustrate my fears.

Nana, in Small town, Wyoming, USA, on a given day/weekend, Matt will celebrate his birthday party; Jane will take her work mates to dinner; Jason and best friend Dave will watch a football/baseball/basketball/ on TV. Others will watch these games at a bar. Others still, will go the stadium or arena. Jason’s cousin will attend an opera etc.

Nana, in all these situations, and at all these events, services ’d be provided in various forms. Servers ’d be employed; cooks ‘d cater for patrons.; cleaners for the bars, halls, houses after the events; decorators; advertising of these events etc. Services that enable these events to happen include: such as, demand for alcoholic/soft beverages. The distributer of the beverages, in reaction to the demand, would employ extra hands, and maybe buy an extra truck. The manufacturer of beverages, in turn, would hire more hands in light of the increase demand for his goods. The newly employed, as result, would be able to buy an extra dress for his wife. The dressmaker, in turn, ‘d demand more material; the material provider, with extra money in hand, might want to renovate his house; the painter ‘d earn more money because of extra work and so on and so forth. Every part of the economy is positively affected in a cyclical form.

Your Excellency, as it has been shown above, the economic wheel of Small-town, Wyoming, USA, keeps turning constantly. The wheel perpetually turns by the acts of these individuals, who in reaction to their cultural and social demands, are necessitated to act; thereby generating the fuel needed to feed the wheel.

Nana, 200 years ago, the Addae was celebrated lavishly almost every 40 days, accompanied with all the now discontinued rituals. On these occasions, and because of its significance in our history, Asanteman put on their best. Kings/queens needed new clothes and ornaments etc. So did citizens, in order to keep in step with and emulate their kings/queens.

The demand for “stuff;” which accompanied these festivals, sparked the impulse for trading (“the famous Kumase market”-Bowditch), to acquire silk, leather etc. These elaborate festivities virtually involved, socio-economically, the whole citizenry; pine wine tappers, umbrella makers and blacksmiths; drum carvers, with their apprentices, for new and to repair old drums; the farmer, to cultivate an extra acre etc. Aside from contributions from other parts of the economy, - war, gold, tax on trade and trade routes -, these celebrations kept the wheel turning. But this is no more

Your, Excellency, in modern Ghana-Accra being the exception and in a minute sense- , on any given day/weekend, Kofi, in Tweabodom has no plans to attend a birthday party; Musa, in Yendi, ‘d not be going to a bar to watch RTU play King Faisal in Kumasi, on TV; Edem, in Hoehoe, has no invitation to attend a lavish executive promotional party. In Kumasi, Yaw ’d not be going on a cooperate retreat at Lake Bosomtwi. Yet, every weekend, an Ama, a Yaw, a Kofi will hire tents and chairs, buy drinking beverages, provide music and invite family and friends to come help celebrate a dearly departed;

Trucks are hired and petrol is bought to transport chairs and tents; caterers are contracted to provide food; new clothes are acquired, sandals are polished by shoeshine boys. Alcoholic beverages are bought and served. Nana, in fact, without our celebration of funerals, Guinness CO. and KBL, would not been able operate at the current capacity, thereby resulting in job lost and hurting the local economy.

Your Excellency, there is, at the moment, no event in Ghana, which consistently generates and stimulates the local service industry, creates a chain reaction and touch on every aspect of our socio-economic structure, except funeral celebrations. It keeps our spirits up through activity, encourages civility through the constant interactions among citizens and helps maintain the motion of the economic wheel.

Your Excellency, if Nana Ejusuhene’s decree becomes widespread, the expected and only consequence will be the total collapse of the our local economy. Rather Nana, you should encourage more lavish celebrations as a tool to inject more money in the economy. The cliché “cut your coat according to your size” has always been and should be the wise man’s guide.

Your Excellency, I will, with humility, suggest that, you advice Nana Ejisuhene to withdraw the proclamation. Rather, our funeral celebrations should be treated as a tourist attraction and be promoted as such. Otunfuo, every Asante ( and indeed, every one) psychically and consciously, aspires to be king. But since that is impossible, it is, rather befitting that, although one did not live as a king, one should, at least, be buried as one, if one ‘d afford it.

Yours faithfully,

A concerned citizen of Ghana,

Akwasi A. Afrifa Akoto.