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Opinions of Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Columnist: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw

Here Comes Homowo Again

Yaw Opare-Asamoa oasamoa@gmail.com

The Bible says to everything under the sun, there is time and season for. There is a time to celebrate and a time to mourn; A time to make merry and a time to reflect and take stock. To me, it presupposes that to be able to celebrate during time of celebration, one must be able to also ‘reflect and plan’ or even mourn when it is required. Therefore if one decides to celebrate all the time there must be something wrong. We do have a wonderful tradition as Gas. I am not the very traditional type but I do admire certain aspects of our tradition and culture. One is our system of naming. I also believe that no other language in Ghana is as ‘expressive’ as Ga. One would find adequate words to express anything-and I mean anything-that one wants to say. The Ga language also provides one with the ability to convey one’s thoughts and imaginations without any ambiguities!!!

Homowo is here again. We will parade our ‘sacred twins’ across town; we will enjoy our kpoikpoi and good palm-nut soup. We will sing and dance till the wee hours of the night. And yes, we will surely take over certain public access roads within the metropolis. The stretch from Las Cala to “Mobil” and beyond would definitely be inaccessible. Forget about the fact that there would be hundreds of Ghanaians who would need to get home from work. For this particular day, they can look for alternative routes. Look, afterall ‘shiekponn wo no ni’ We can do whatever we want on our land. But Homowo does not last forever. It will go away the same way it showed up, and then we will be back to square one. Do we ever think of what would happen to Homowo if for a particular year, farm produce do not come in from the farming areas? What would we use for our kpoikpoi and the soup?? What do we do after the celebration?? We will be back to walking to the seaside to take care of our toilet needs. In fact the beach area just beyond the Peniel Presbyterian Church in Teshie is one mass “KVIP” for the inhabitants of Teshie. Except in this instance the ‘K’ is ‘A’ and there are no buildings and no pits. It is open free range. It is open to the very young as well as the very old. It is demarcated though so that male and female do not squat next to each other. But those on the male side can stand and look across and see those on the female side. What a way to live in the 21st century!!!

Nobody should take this wrongly. I realize that in Ghana it is a ‘no-no’ for one to criticize one’s own tribe or group; and it is most certainly ‘taboo’ to take issue with another’s tribe or group. In the former instance, it is considered as washing one’s dirty linen in public and the latter constitutes gross ‘disrespect’. I don’t agree with either. I believe in open and frank discussions that lead to solutions. The issues that would be raised in this article are not peculiar to the Ga State. In fact lack of in-door plumbing is a major problem all over the country, and I believe the scenario illustrated vividly above could be anywhere in the country-be it coastal or forested. Those who have traveled on the Kumasi-Yamoransa junction road would testify to what goes on by the roadside, especially within the Assin areas. A visit to a place like Esiama in the Western region would also reveal the level of deterioration of our once pristine coasts and shorelines. Esiama, a place with such rich tourism potential but just like Ghanaians, we are allowing such rich resource to go to waste due to ‘filthy and unhygienic’ methods of waste disposal. This is the place where the River Ankobra (I believe) meets the sea. It is such a refreshing spectacle, but any venture to the coast is a battle to keep your shoes (or feet) from stepping into ‘something’ Yes, these issues are nationwide but I am talking about the situation in Ga because I believe the time for us is now. We have lived with this mess for too long and nobody is coming from anywhere to take care of these problems for us. We need to wake up and deal with them ourselves. By the way, it is not the government’s business to provide toilet facilities for people!! If you sleep in a house, you should have access to toilet facilities within the house. If you sleep on the street, you have no business being there in the first place.

Sometimes I wonder how Accra would have looked like had the capital been elsewhere. It has been a charge against us for a long time and it is true that almost all the plush areas of Accra are not indigenous Ga areas. But remember the lands belong to us and we sell them to others. What do we do with the money from the land sales?? Let me give you an idea of what use we put the money. As a little boy growing up, I heard my elders talk about ‘building storey buildings in our stomachs’. I asked my mom about this and she told me that was something that we teased ourselves with and that it was not entirely true. Having grown up, I have come to one conclusion and that is, whatever was said is very true. Otherwise how do we explain the present situation of all indigenous Ga areas?? We have sold lands upon lands over the years but nothing to show for it. The Nnuumo Mmashie family of Teshie won an injunction over a parcel of land being contested by another family. I said an injunction, so it was not even about the substantive case. That was yet to be decided. Guess what the family decides to do: they go ahead to sell another parcel of land and buy a cow with the proceeds. A big celebratory party is organized for everyody to eat and drink. That was just for an injunction that had ruled in their favour, so can anybody take a guess as to what might have happened after the case was won? So when the ‘shiekpontsemei’ decide to spend proceeds from land sales this way, is there any justification for the same people to turn round and ‘blame’ others for taking over their lands?? I have always been fascinated about that line of logic. These other people did not steal the lands; they bought them with hard cash. By the way why is it that it is only Akans who are blamed for this? When one goes to any part of Accra (before that area opens up and becomes develop) the people one usually finds as early settlers are not Akans. But for some reason this group of people are never mentioned as having taken away our lands. Why can’t we also put up nice properties on these lands?? Why don’t we invest the proceeds into productive ventures? Why do we still have so many of our young men sitting under trees or in so-called ‘clubhouses’ doing practically nothing all day?? Well except for drinking, playing cards or draught. Once the money is gone, it is time to look for more or other sources for money. So either they sell another parcel of land or they re-sell the same parcel of land to a different person. In recent years, some have resorted to violence through the ‘menace’ known as ‘landguardism’. It is becoming increasingly dangerous for people to develop plots that they’ve paid for. Why should we allow such a situation in a civilized society?? So-called landguards go to the sites and demand money from the owners/workers; they attack them otherwise.

If you are not naturally endowed with entrepreneurial skills, there is another way to acquire them-you learn!! How many Gas are entrepreneurs in Accra?? How many can we find in Abossey Okai, or at Katamanto or even involved in ‘market gardening’? I mean the growing of cabbage, lettuce, green peppers and the rest for the market?

Going about shouting ourselves hoarse about how other people have taken our lands will not solve it. We sold those lands; nobody took them away from us. One might argue that government also took some parcels of land from our people for government infrastructure. That is true but privilege comes with responsibility. Out of the ten regions of Ghana, we have the capital of the country. That privilege means that we will get the best of all government programmes and projects. There would also be the need for some sacrifice from us. Hosting the capital has its own unintended consequences. We cannot choose one and refuse the other. Gas happen to be among the few groups of people who have a festival that the entire tribe identifies with and celebrates together. Wouldn’t it be a perfect opportunity for the Ga Traditional Council to outline set development projects at every Homowo and review such goals year after year??

The Kwahus have nothing like Homowo but they take advantage of their ‘Kwahu Easter’ and organize series of fundraisers for the development of their communities.

In Ghana, we should learn to appreciate the nicer things in life. We should learn to acknowledge when others are better at something than ourselves. We should be ready to copy or learn what we secretly admire about others. Spending our energies on jealousy and envy and anger would not give us what we want. It is only when we wake up and undergo a mental re-orientation, and put ourselves to productive work, that we can realize our dreams. So I will join all the people of Ga State at this Homowo celebration and say ‘afi oo afi’ to all. Let this year be a new beginning for us.

Written and submitted on May 4, 2009