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Opinions of Thursday, 9 July 2015

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Mothers Have Always Told Good Stories

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
June 24, 2015

We are an incurably copycat people, so I am not surprised that Ghanaians, including avowed anti-Western socialists like President John Dramani Mahama and his so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC), have gotten deliriously caught up in Mother's and Father's Day celebrations. The one therapeutic aspect of these largely commercial fiestas, though, is the chance that it gives for the rich and famous to publicly talk about their relationships with their parents and guardians. The latest celebrity to open up about her poor relationship with her father is Christian gospel singer Ms. Patience Nyarko. In a recent interview, Ms. Nyarko bluntly confessed that there was absolutely no love lost, whatsoever, between her father and herself (See "I Don't Love My Father - Patience Nyarko" / 6/24/15).

Ordinarily, in a society culturally dominated by polygamy and single-mother homes, this would be no instructive revelation, for absentee fatherhood is more the norm than the aberration. What is also fascinating is the fact that adult children of absentee fathers invariably carry the bleeding-heart narratives of their mothers as the sole authentic explanation of what caused the fathers they never knew to abandon their mothers and themselves. In Ms. Nyarko's case, for instance, the singer claims that her absentee father played a quite significant role in her professional apprenticeship. And yet, the quite successful Ms. Nyarko still finds it morally righteous, and even dignifying, to publicly assert that she has absolutely no affection for her father. She does not seem to be the least bit bothered that her mother's plight may very well have been squarely determined by the sort of choices that she made in life, including the choice of the man/men she chose to share he conjugal bed and favors with. And also to what extent her mother's defiance of parental counsel, for example, may have ended her where she ultimately found herself.

In the case of Ms. Nyarko, one wonders why she never bothered to hear out her father's side of the story, however warty such narrative may have been; and yet, find it desirable to appropriate his critical assistance towards the development of her quite successful musical career. She says that by age 15, her mother had transitioned into eternity, almost as if her birth father's alleged neglect may have significantly contributed to the early demise of her mother. I am intrigued by this story because my own father grew up with in a similar situation and occasionally retailed this self-same pedestrian narrative of paternal disaffection. When I finally decided to probe and find out the unvarnished truth, I discovered to my wistful delight that the reality, while not exactly edifying, nonetheless, was remarkably different from the dominant narrative handed down to me by the old man.

Today, even as I write, none of my siblings bears the name of our paternal grandfather of "Gyimah." Instead, we bear the name of Nana Kwaku Agyeman-Okoampa, the legendary Asiakwahene who is, in fact, our paternal great-grandfather. In other words, had truth and balance prevailed, our original surname would have been "Okoampa-Gyimah. Instead, my father ended up writing "Ernest Ayim-Adu Kwame Okoampa" (actually E.A.K. Okoampa) on my baptismal certificate; and then later when the neo-African nationalist bug bit him, he would settle on the surname of "Okoampa-Ahoofe." Well, the second part of this hyphenated surname has its origins from Asante-Mampong Technical Middle School and a bitter quarrel that the old man allegedly had with one of his colleagues. We shall find time to discuss this aspect of my nominal identity in due course.

On occasion, while I wrote for the New York Amsterdam News, from 1987 to 2002, I would byline an article "Kwaku Gyimah." Now I learn that "Mr. London Opinion" was, after all, "Kwadwo Gyimah" and not "Kwaku Gyimah." In essence, what I am trying to suggest here is that we can sometimes get so convinced and carried away by what we deem to be the immutable authenticity of a factoid that we end up unwittingly and, perhaps, unwisely canonizing the patently apocryphal.