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Opinions of Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Columnist: Albion, Kojo

The Ethics Of Our Ancestors

“When you are about to remove a fence, ask why it was put there in the first place.” (Ravi Zachariah)

What a joy it is to know that many of you are reading my pieces that take us back to our ancestors and it pleases me to know that some of my readers are critical thinkers. Critical thinking is a virtue and as you ponder over what I write, please go to the next level of change and educate others. The solutions are in our hands.

Some readers attacked my name from my last article about -”The Culture of our Ancestors- the outfits.” I liked that. I, myself, resent having a British name but Egya Ekow Bedu convinced me that it is an honor to my ancestors to maintain that name because it serves as a reminder of their legacy under colonialism plus “never again should we allow our children and grandchildren to be blinded by “Massa.””

In my last article, many of the responders missed the fact that I never mentioned the kente cloth for a reason. We have many PRACTICAL OUTFITS that will suit the environment and promote local industries, if some of you thought that I was writing about the use of the kente cloth as a work place attire. Please think with me critically and accept the fact that African Civilization, according to Dr John Henrik Clarke, existed long before European’s came into existence. When we embrace who we are firmly then we have a foundation from which we may be able to choose the best from the rest of the World to our advantage. Reject who you are and others will help you to do it very well. (Ask someone in Ghana today about Valentine’s Day and that will illustrate my point.) A generation may even grow up that will reject the concept of “ebusua” and adopt the Western concept of individualism. In our ethos, “No one walks alone.” We are communal people who seek the highest good of the whole community. In other words, “we are our brothers/sisters keepers.” “Baakofo nndzidzi”- no one eats alone, Nananom said.

Why is Africa so rich and yet so (cash) poor? Africa gave the World a lot and we still continue to give. Until the present generation embraces its Africanness, we will continue to wander in the Wilderness of Corruption, Mismanagement, Diseases, Devaluation and Misery. According to Ekow Mensah, we ought to value what we have and nurture them to maturity ourselves. We can not export raw cocoa or gold and expect to gain much.

Dr George Ayittey talks about “African solutions for Africa’s problems,” and many of his hearers think that he is talking about wearing grass skirts and farming with machete alone. People, our past is in conflict with our future and since the “solutions to the problems of Africa are in Africa- we need to challenge the duality of our cultures, find a happy medium and move forward. Each Continent has a lot to offer the World. We need to embrace who we are and then we add the good from the outside. With these, we will be formidable at the market place of ideas and technology. “Forward Ever,” an ancestor said.

Now to my topic- “The Ethics of our Ancestors.”- Once again, please think critically with me. Do not assume I am writing that we should go back to the old ways ONLY. This is a call for us look at what was good way back then and add what we can claim today in other to help us to advance in the 21st Century. The ancient past has a lot to offer us and if we will look critically, we can take some things from those years that may help us in dealing with many ethical issues confronting us today. Right is right and wrong is wrong for we serve a God who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Nyame is still Nyame regardless of what we think.

Do you remember when we used to call a branch of Police Officers- “Master Say?” (These officers did not accept any bribes and no pleas persuaded them.) What about the Night Watchman who fought to his death saving his master’s family and property? Do you remember Aban? He was the Policeman at Mankessim Junction in the 60’s who did not accept a bribe but he told offenders that they should go and pay that money to the Government (Aban). What about those who fought for our independence?

What about- “Dzi nsew” (Swear an oath) and then at the Naming Ceremony of a child, what did Egya Ekow Bedu say thrice to the child: “Let your yes, be yes, and let your no, be no.” What about the Akan (may be others do that too) tradition of sending a delegation with gifts of produce, chicken, eggs and schnapps to the Boss for hiring a son/daughter to the establishment? Do I need to go on? This was done AFTER the hiring to express gratitude. Our ancestors institutionalized the act of expressing “Thank You.”

We can minimize bribery and corruption, some of the killers of Africa’s progress, if we remember that our ancestors knew how to say thank you AFTER someone rendered them a service but not before the act. Do you know that Nigeria with all her oil money is among the bottom 20 poorest countries in the World? Yes, the Western Oil Companies are exploiting Nigeria but what do the Administrators do with the percentage of their share of the oil money? What about Equatorial Guinea? Our ancestors were not saints but we can learn from them, although some of our headaches today are from some of our cultural mores.

Why is Africa so rich and yet so cash poor? May be we need to evaluate ourselves and go back to some of the ethics of our ancestors. Nananom died and left us with a great legacy but now their descendants are “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Many are hungry and desperate. Our past is in conflict with our future and we are searching for solutions. Many of Nananom’s ancestors have forgotten who they are and some are serving in places unimaginable and they are not looking back. Nananom left us “Sankofa.”

“Godly ancestors make good teachers.” What did they teach us? Before we disregard some of the fences that our ancestors built, let us question why they put them there in the first place. Sankofa.

I rest my case. Your witness.

Kojo Albion. (Paa Kodwo)