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Opinions of Monday, 11 April 2016

Columnist: Antobam, Kobina

What do we call our president?

By: Kobina Antobam

Since the British only relaxed their colonial stranglehold over us when we gained our independence, we have had native Ghanaian Presidents and Heads of State with straightforward and easily pronounceable names. We began with Kwame Nkrumah. That’s an easy, dignified, digestible Ghanaian name. Among others, we have also had Kofi Abrefa Busia, Hilla Limann, Jeremiah John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor, John Atta Mills, and John Dramani Mahama.

Those are names Ghanaians and foreigners can easily wrap themselves around. Moreover, most earthly citizens have simple and acceptable combinations of names. For many centuries, America, for example, had been ruled by WASP-ish (White Ango-Saxon Protestant) men with easy names, from George Washington all the way down to George Bush, until an unorthodox U.S. citizen of American-African descent, or half African, called Barack Hussein Obama, took everyone by storm and became the newest President of good old U.S. of A.

Barack Obama. What a beautiful digestible simple name.

Everywhere else you go, you will discover that numerous past and present prominent people have names that everyone can easily identify, names that are simple, and easily recognizable, such as, Nelson Mandela, Vladimir Putin, Mao Tse Tung, Kofi Annan, and many more. Most prominent names are not tongue twisters.

Now, here in Ghana, we will wake up a day in November this year with a new President or the same one we have now. The more likely alternative to the current President of Ghana is the presidential candidate for the New Patriotic Party. The NPP candidate, if he becomes our newest President of Ghana, would definitely be an interesting change. How about that? If would like, pause and put that thought of a new President Akufo-Addo in your bong, smoke it and ruminate with it while floating in your hog heaven.

The NPP candidate was born seven-two years ago and was christened William Akufo-Addo. Over the years, the man’s name has expanded to the point where it is difficult to settle on a moniker that would be acceptable to that fine gentleman and for the country. In an attempt to recollect the many names Mr. Akufo-Addo has had the honor to be called, the current string that I have read and heard, I believe, goes like this: William Nana Katakyi Kyeretwie Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. That definitely is a mouthful. A couple of names given at birth have now expanded to six or probably more. Readers may fill in any other names missing from the list that I am not aware of or replace what doesn’t belong in the string. In the meantime, we can safely drop off Katakyi and Kyeretwie since, I sincerely believe, they were meant as adornments only to butter Mr. Akufo-Addo up.

Another interesting observation is that for a good while Mr. Akufo-Addo’s original first name, William, has completely disappeared and has been replaced with Nana. I have to make it clear that I do not begrudge anyone for changing his or her name. But it has to be understood that Nana is not a name. It is just a term of endearment for Ghanaian chiefs and older grandparents. Mr. Akufo-Addo’s official website lists him as Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. For Ghanaian chiefs, Nana is just an encomium. For grandparents, Nana is just a respectable age-appropriate fond title by little grandchildren. I don’t know what Nana does for Mr. Akufo-Addo. I really don’t care now what the man calls himself, but I will definitely care if he is my President.

The four names on the website make a reasonably nice string of names but still a mouthful. I only want to make sure that I or other Ghanaians do not inadvertently nudge awake any sleeping pit bull enforcers in the NPP in the wrong way or incur anyone’s wrath by making the faux pas of calling him differently from what will be expected of Ghanaians if he becomes the next President.

Will Nana be part of the official name of a President Akufo-Addo? And, will we also be allowed to revive his very original first, or Christian, name, William, and add it to the current string of his names in order to complete the process of determining our newest President’s official name? Exactly what will satisfy Mr. Akufo-Addo and the proud NPP members? I am not sure. Will it be His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Ghana, Mr. William Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo? Or, will it be His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Ghana, Mr. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo? Or, His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Ghana, Mr. Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo? Or, His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Ghana, Mr. William Akufo-Addo? There could be ten more combinations or variations of Mr. Akufo-Addo’s names. And, what is the significance of the two Addo’s in the string anyway?

By the way, the names we carry often contribute to our personality attributes. Just as many readers have hilariously ridiculed my name by suggesting that by being an Antobam is because my father died before I was born. To disabuse those funny readers of that gross misinformation, not all Antobams were fatherless newborns. My well-read adoring nurturing father saw me through my primary, middle, and secondary education in Ghana, assisted with my further education in the U.S., and met his grandchildren before he died. He lived to the ripe old age of 93. I was named after a smart successful uncle who, I understand, was also named after a family member before him. Here in Takoradi, everyone knows me as Kobina Antobam. That, I believe, is a simple and easy name to digest.

But pause one more time and consider another Ghanaian who now lives in the U.S. and who, maybe, was a cute baby when he was born but grew up differently. I was a cute baby and I’m still cute! But I am still Kobina Antobam! This guy may have heard when he was growing up that his family members claimed that he was a cute baby. In his local language that native word translates into the English word Beauty. So, what does this boy do when he grows up? Like Mr. Akufo-Addo, he adds this local word BEAUTY to his name. He knows that Beauty was never part of his family name. But inferiority complex and arrogance will make some Ghanaians do strange things, such as adopting a strange convoluted tongue-twisting string of names. Hello, Mr. Beauty!

So, my fellow Ghanaians, let consider in advance of the results of the next elections what we will officially call Mr. Akufo-Addo, just in case he becomes our newest President. Or rather, he should be the one to tell us, prior to the elections, what his official name will be. And, will this name string include Nana? I personally hate to call him Nana. I think a President William Dankwa Akufo-Addo sounds reasonable. Goodbye Nana and goodbye the extra Addo. What do you think?

Good day.