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Opinions of Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah

Oko Dagadu: A Ga language colossus


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The only time I met Oko Dagadu, the veteran broadcaster, was an uplifting moment for minority languages anywhere in the world.

The details.

One early Homowo season in 2017, Alhaji Ahmed Salim Sowah, my preferred aide de camp at Radio Latenu 96.1MhZ accompanied me to North Ridge, Accra.

We entered the home of Amatei Akuete, president of Ga Adangbe Council who succeeded the venerable KB Asante.

The Ga Adangbe Council was founded as an independent think tank to promote Ga language and culture.

Inside the house we also met Oko Dagadu, the legendary Ga language broadcaster/producer who worked with Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) for many years.

Nuumo Akuete, a former Ghanaian diplomat who worked at the UN told us that in continuing the vision of KB Asante, he had invited Oko Dagadu, who had also suggested Alhaji Salim and I.

Nuumo Oko Dagadu told us the Ga language should be promoted by bringing on board other media houses, especially where the latter needed editorial assistance.

Oko Dagadu felt that just the four of us could snowball the agenda, and especially cautioned that if Radio Latenu championed that agenda, it would cause Obonu FM, a predominantly Ga, Dangbe and Ewe language radio station, and even other non Ga media houses to disassociate themselves.

He explained that Obonu FM came about through hard lobbying over a spare frequency of GBC’s, not via a direct National Communications Authority (NCA) licensing process.

Thus, Radio Latenu is the only operating Ga language electronic media house licensed by NCA.

As the discussion wore on, the ever smiling Uncle Oko told me: “I am the one who preferred you for the station manager position”.

I was overwhelmed but not entirely surprised because I had been told some consultants preferred me from among the shortlisted candidates.

And since I am not a Ga, this showed great faith though not at all unexpected on account of the Ga accommodation for people of other descent.

Uncle Oko had a parting message for Radio Latenu: we should stop the wrong transliteration of “honourable”.

“Your presenters, guests and callers repeatedly say ‘Anumnya? gb?m?’ for honorable member but anumnya? means glory.”

He insisted that the proper thing to do was to mention the person’s name and then follow with ‘woo sal?’ meaning ‘he deserves honour’.

Anumnya?, meaning glory is reserved for God alone.

This exposé made perfect sense.

Back on air at Latenu, Alhaji Salim and I introduced the concept on a programme hosted by Papa Israel.

The phone-in segment was heart-warming until one “third rate grandstander”, apparently a member of KB Asante’s Ga Adangbe Council (GAC) phoned in and suggested that he did not accept Amatei Akuete’s leadership.

But more importantly, going on with his contribution, he did not think any promotion of Ga language should involve bringing in other ethnic groups, adding “We the Ga can do our own thing”.

As my mentor will say, “Even Jesus had his Judas”.

In honour of Nuumo Oko Dagadu, who passed away early this year aged 77, writersghana.com shall promote the underserved Ga language and culture – and other minority languages – through logical analysis and robust critique; in short, through enlightened public discourse.

Uncle Oko had for years been on air where he established the gold standard for pure unadulterated Ga.

His enunciation, vocabulary and turn of phrase in Ga was pure music to the ears.

He elevated the language to its rightful place in the world patrimony as a truly loaded treasure capable of expressing the most sublime thoughts and the loftiest of ideas.

Uncle Oko’s, appropriation of the Ga worldview “Ablekuma abakuma w?” meaning “May guests come and join our cause” through media collaboration is worth emulating.

Ga language and culture has lost a peerless exemplar, a true colossus.

Nuumo Oko Dagadu, rest in peace, assured that we will stretch every sinew to continue where you left off.

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