Jun
08

TRIBUTE TO MUHAMMAD ALI, “THE GREATEST”

 

TRIBUTE TO “THE GREATEST” — MUHAMMAD ALI by CAMERON DUODU
WHEN “Cassius Clay” (as he then was) entered the ring to fight Sonny Liston for the World Heavyweight title in February 1964, I was afraid that Sonny Liston would kill him.
Although Ali had won the Olympic gold medal in September 1960, before turning professional, he was still only 22 years old in 1964. Not only that – he was handsome and physically unmarked. He called himself “pretty” (with justification!)  and in the weeks before the fight, he showed signs of suffering from unabated  hysteria, as  his mouth never ceased to utter words of self-promotion in an incessant blaze of publicity that marked him out to be a braggadocio. Many in the world believed that he was frightened out of his wits, and was “making noise” to gather “Dutch courage” for the fight to earn a lot of money and then – retire quietly into oblivion!
Sonny Liston, a much heavier man than Ali, gave every appearance of being destined to act as Ali’s executioner – or at any rate, the slayer of Ali’s career as a heavyweight boxer.
Liston was silent and moody. And he looked immensely fierce. He had made mincemeat of Floyd Patterson, a champion the world had come to respect. He also carried an evil reputation: it was alleged variously that he took illegal drugs, or that he was a Mafia operative, or both!
How could an innocent “pretty” boy like Ali, who had been eliberately provoking Liston by describing him as a “bum” and  an “ugly bear”, survive the vengeful assault of a guy who normally  looked as if he was a “bouncer” eager to swat away an intruder who did not know how to go away when ordered to do so?
One eye-witness who wrote about the fight in 1964 said that the mindset he had taken to the fight made it impossible for him to recognise that although Ali was, by the sixth round, “coming to Liston for the first time, even then, [my] response was not the hope that he was taking command, but the fear that he was growing rash! [Ali] was a little ahead when Liston quit. The dark tower had seemed about to fall on him just once, [when] Liston  caught [Ali] in a corner early in the fifth and gnawed him in a fashion one cannot imagine a fighter sustaining more than four or five times in one night. … One thought him done and asking mercy…And then one saw that [Ali’s] legs were as close together as they had been when the round started and that he was unhurt and Liston just wasn’t coming to him. That is where it ended, [but]… we did not know it…. At the end, there was [Ali] as fresh as ever”.
At the beginning of the seventh round, Sonny Liston refused to get up and go back to face Ali!
 
All hell now  broke loose. Muhammad Ali, aged 22, was champion of the world.
I told you!” a hysterical Ali shouted to the world. “I am the greatest…. I am the greatest!”
From then on, Muhammad Ali never gave the world one moment to forget him. The very next day after he won the heavyweight championship of the world, he brought a mountain of controversy over his head by announcing that he had become a member of the “Nation of Islam” religion (popularly known as the “Black Muslims”.) White America and even part of the middle-class African-American community was outraged. For the “Black Muslim” preached that they did not want to be part of an America ruled by “white devils”, but wanted a separate, independent territory in America, where they ruled themselves.
After this sensational start,  Muhammad Ali actively  constructed  a reputation around himself that rocketed  him to the position of being one of the most talked-about black people in the world. Within months of his winning the title, he had visited Ghana, then the Mecca of African liberation. He met Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah and the Asantehene, Otumfuo Nana Sir Osei Agyemang Prempeh the Second. Photo opportunities with these men enabled him to communicate to African-Americans back home that they had the support of the immense African continent, with its rich history and ability to govern itself.

 

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As editor of the Ghana edition of Drum Magazine at the time Muhammad Ali visited Ghana, I asked our then Women’s Editor, Beryl Karikari (later to be my wife) to interview Muhammad. A splash in the magazine entitled “The King and I” ensued. Muhammad told Beryl that he was pleased to come to Ghana from an America where black people had to struggle for their ordinary human rights, to find back people running their whole country “beautifully”. Americans, he said, were being “misinformed that Africans were eating each other and climbing up and down trees.”
Black people everywhere now began to take Ali seriously as a person who artifulated what black people felt in the world. He cemented his position in history when he refused to be drafted into the US Army in 1967. He knew he would be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for refusing to be drafted, but he did not mind. In his unique way, he enabled every person who was willing to understand him to get his message. “No Vietcong ever called me nigger!” he said. That “N” word, is of course, one of the most insulting words ever hurled at black people by racist whites everywhere. In using it to formulate his message of refusal to be drafted, Ali was saying, “You call me a …. and then you want me to go and kill for you, brown-skinned people who would not only not call me a …. but who probably will regard me as a brother?”
The vengeance of the white power structure in the US against Ali was immediate and decisive. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment [later lifted] and fined $10,000. But worse, he was stripped of his championship and his boxing licence was withdrawn. This meant that his source of income dried up.
Now, the remarkable thing about Muhammad Ali was his tremendous courage. It was that courage that took him into the ring to beat Sonny Liston twice, and it was that courage that sustained him in his years of adversity after he’d refused to be drafted into the US Army. So when the ban on his boxing career was lifted, he did not duck out of fights with the good boxers who were standing between him and the heavyweight title of the world that had been stripped from him — the incredibly powerful Joe Frazier  among others.
And then, in 1974, a very strong George Foreman took on a similar position in Ali’s life that had been occupied by Sonny Liston a decade earlier. President Mobutu Seseseko of Zaire, anxious to put his country on the world map, and with money pouring out of his ears, decided to promote a world heavyweight championship fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Known as “The Rumble In The Jungle”, the fight – the first-ever world heavyweight title fight to take place in Africa — became the talk of the world. And again, Ali, using tactics that would have been regarded as suicide material if  employed by lesser men, leaned on the ropes and allowed Foreman to hit him repeatedly in the body until Foreman grew tired. Ali then knocked Foreman out.
In later years, Ali was afflicted with a debilitating disease known as Parkinson’s. Some other person would have hidden from the world in order not to destroy the image of a handsome, virile young man that he had presented to the world in his good years. But not Ali: he accepted invitations to world events, and lit the flame at the Atlanta Olympic Games.
Eventually, the American power structure came to appreciate Ali, and he was awarded some of the highest honours the country has to bestow upon exemplary citizens. But to him, perhaps the best honour ever given was a vote, by listeners all over the world to the BBC, that earned him the title, “The Greatest Sportsman of The Century”, in 1999.
The outburst of grief all over the world that has marked his passing is eloquent testimony that he was indeed, “The Greatest”. May he rest in peace.

 

Apr
02

March 2016 has been a bad month!

MARCH 2016 HAS BEEN A VERY BAD MONTH!

By CAMERON DUODU

Well, it’s been a bad month for me. First was the funeral, on 10-11 March 2016, of my cousin, Mrs Comfort Akua Agyemang (known to all her relatives and friends as “Akua Fio”), who passed on 3 December 2015.

Akua grew up in a house directly opposite my grand-mother, Nana Afia Korang’s house, at Asiakwa. So I saw a lot of her as a child.

But our ways parted – as they always do. I next found her in London, married to my friend, Kwaku Agyemang (known to our age group as Kwaku Danso).

Kwaku and I were old friends who called each other “Joe”. The “Joe” had passed to him from one of my greatest friends, Kwaku’s brother, Kwasi Ampofo. Kwasi Ampofo was great fun, for he had spent his early years in Accra before coming to settle at home at Asiakwa, and he had a great number of stories to tell, to someone with as great an ear for stories as me.

As is often the case in a village, if you had a friend, all his brothers and friends became your friends, too. So I played table tennis with “Joe” and his brothers, and when I encountered Kwaku again in London, we immediately resumed calling each other “Joe”.

Amazingly, his wife, Akua, also began calling me “Joe!” Not only that – she played a great part in getting me to become less homesick of Ghana. They lived in Notting Hill Gate and she introduced me to Portobello Road Market, where, at that time, one could buy a lot of the things that West Africans like to eat – especially, smoked fish and ripe plantains. It was she also who taught me how to mix potato flour and “Farina” into something as much like fufuo as possible.

I need hardly say that I was very often in their house, and that Akua never failed to provide me with a super-Ghanaian dish which, for the moment, transported me back home.

When I heard that she had passed, after a short illness, I couldn’t believe it. She was so full of life, and, of course, was the very soul of kindness.

Her burial service was held at a very posh church in Kensington Church Road, St Mary Abbotts. It was very well attended – for a Friday morning when a lot of people wee at work – and the singing, by the Kensington Parish Church Choir, was exquisite.

Among those who attended was my old friend, Ken Wiwa, son of the famous Ogoni writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was executed by the barbarous Abacha regime in November 1995.

Ken Wiwa told me her family and that of Akua had been friends “for decades.” Small world, I said to myself. Who would have thought that Ken Saro-Wiwa, about whom I’d written thousands of words, would have an unknown mutual friend with me, called Akua Agyemang?

The “proper” Ghanaian funeral for Akua took place the next evening at the Old Town Hall, Chelsea. Again, very posh. And again, loads of people one hadn’t seen for years (such as my old friend, Kumi Agyei) and others whose existence one wasn’t even aware of (such as a lady who introduced herself to me as the daughter of my brother, Opanin Akrasi, otherwise known as Agya Kwaku Nsuaapem!

So Akua did not only have a very nice send-off; she also brought a lot of people together as she embarked on her final journey. This would have pleased her a lot, for she loved bringing people together. My condolences to all members of her family, who have incurred a loss such as a few privileged people like me are capable of sharing fully.

NEXT, I heard that Jake [Otanka] Obetsebi-Lamptey, former National Chairman of the NPP, ex-Minister of Information, and ex-Minister of Tourism, had also kicked the bucket.

Jake? Larger than life Jake? How could that be? Apparently, he had been receiving treatment for leukaemia in South Africa and was flown to London when he didn’t improve. Sadly, the hospital in London to which he was taken, couldn’t help much either. And Jake passed.

His passing now is a reproach to his political opponents, some of whom floated cruel rumours some months erlier, that he had died, when he was in fact still alive. It must have been with a very heavy heart that he had to tell some radio stations that he was still alive. Indeed, our politicians and their “rented media” need to re-examine their consciences about some of the things they do.

Politics is only a small part of a human being’s life. Why should it be so elevated that it destroys all the decency to be expected of a normal human being?

I ask: what kind of human being peddles false rumours about the death of a fellow human being, when he has no evidence that such a death has actually occurred? Who on this earth will never die? If we shall all taste death, then why should another person’s death delight someone else so much that he would hurry to invent the death, when it has not yet occurred? Can these people not realise what pain it must cause someone else for him to be made to feel that other people would want him to die?

I last spoke to Jake when he came to London with Nana Akufo Addo, just before the election. He was, as usual, very debonair, very cool. I’d also seen him when he was Minister of Tourism under President J A Kufuor. He hit upon the a brilliant idea of launching what he called “The Joseph Project”, through which he wanted to invite Africa-Americans to come to Ghana in large numbers, to get reunited with their roots, by attending festivals and creating organic relationships with the people of Ghana.

The scheme didn’t take off, for want of financing. It would be a very good thing for someone to revive the idea in future, for we are inextricably linked to our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, and nothing but good can come from an organised reunification of our two societies.

Finally, my condolences to the family of Squadron Leader Melody Danquah, who is being buried this weekend (2-3 April 2016). I remember vaguely that she did a short stint at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, when I worked there, before she joined the Air Force as the first-ever female pilot of Ghana. She was extremely popular with journalists, all of whom wanted to do a feature or two about “The First Female Pilot” of Ghana. She handled it all with decorum and didn’t allow the publicity to come between her and the serious business of keeping her aircraft and its passengers safely in the air.

My condolences to all members of her family – and especially to Ken Ofori Atta, who was related to her by marriage.

Mar
22

WHY THE OBAMA-CUBAN RAPPROCHEMENT OUGHT TO SUCCEED

Why The Obama-Cuba Rapprochement Ought To Succeed
By Cameron Duodu

President Barack Obama has shown remarkable courage in visiting Cuba and holding frank discussions with the Cuban Government on how to improve relations between the two countries at a practical level.

Cuba and the US used to be very good friends. Havana harbour was once the “yacht-parking-lot” of the rich and famous in America. Ernest Hemingway wrote The Old Man And The Seawith the salty air of the Cuban beach in his nostrils.

But beneath the glamour, there was enormous corruption, and one young man and his band of guerrillas decided that the regime of Fulgencio Batista must go. This was Fidel Castro, and he launched a revolution from the Sierra Maestra mountains that propelled him to power on New Year’s Day in 1959.

Despite the “romantic” manner in which Fidel and his little band of revolutionaries achieved power, the bearded cigar-smokers meant business. Seriously. American companies that had served as Batista’s pay-masters were given short shrift. But they had clout in Washington, and they got President Dwight Eisenhower to impose a trade embargo on Cuba.

However, some in the Eisenhower administration did not think the trade embargo went far enough and they authorised the CIA to assemble an army, recruited mainly in Miami, Florida, and trained in Guatemala, to invade Cuba. The invasion occurred on a beach called Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs) on 17 April 1961. But the operation was monumentally botched by the CIA. The anti-Castro band found itself marooned and about 1200 of them surrendered. 100 were killed.

The Bay of Pigs attack convinced Castro that the US would not rest until it had overthrown him. So, willy-nilly, he signed up to a full alliance with the Soviet Union. In 1962, he agreed to station Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.

The US hit the roof. It sent an armada of warships to quarantine Cuban waters. Their orders were to turn back Soviet ships that were en route to Cuba with missiles! This created the worst confrontation between the two world super-powers since World War Two.

It looked indeed as if the world was headed for World War Three – a thermonuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union. However, at the last minute, good sense prevailed. The Soviet Ambassador in the US got together with President John F Kennedy’s younger brother, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy, and made each other understand that neither country wanted war. An agreement was hatched that saved the faces of both countries. And thus, the “Cuban missile crisis” came to an end – not one minute too soon.

But from then on, the US tightened the economic noose around Cuba’s neck. It prevailed on its allies to join it in imposing a more hefty trade embargo on Cuba. The Soviet Union did its best to help Cuba out, but the provision of consumer goods had never been a priority in the USSR itself, and Cuba ran short of many essential goods that had previously been imported from the US and other Western countries.

Nevertheless, despite the hardship it was enduring, Cuba provided military assistance to many African liberation movements, including the MPLA in Angola and FRELIMO in Mozambique. It was Cuban assistance to the MPLA in Angola that enabled the party to claim power after Portugal withdrew from Angola in 1975. On the surface, the MPLA was fighting for control of Angola against Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA movement and Holden Roberto’s FNLA. However, these two organisations were actually the creation of the US and the South African Defence Force – the apartheid government’s regular army. So, in fighting them, the MPLA was fighting both South Africa and the USA.

Eventually. the South Africans began occupying Angola towns. Castro reacted by sending a huge number of Cuban soldiers – estimated at 36,000 altogether – to help the MPLA. In November 1987, a fierce battle occurred between the Angolan/Cubans, and the South Africans, in the southern Angolan town of Cuito Cuanavale. The Angolan/Cuban side won.

On his release from prison on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela recalled hearing about the Cuban victory in Angola. He said: “I was in prison when I first heard of the massive aid that the internationalist Cuban troops were giving to the people of Angola….. We in Africa are accustomed to being the victims of countries that want to grab our territory or subvert our sovereignty. In all the history of Africa, this is the only time [that][ a foreign people has risen up to defend one of our countries.”

For the great feat of putting the South African Defence Force to flight alone, Cuba would merit the undying gratitude of the people of the entire African continent. But that is not the only service Cuba has rendered to Africa. An American publication gives perhaps the best testimony about this aspect of Cuba’s relationship with Africa.

According to Time Magazine,
http://time.com/3556670/ebola- cuba/

QUOTE: “As the first nation to dedicate hundreds of health care workers to West Africa, Cuba is an unlikely hero in the Ebola outbreak.

“In spite of not being among the wealthiest countries, Cuba is one of the most committed when it comes to deploying doctors to crisis zones. It has offered more than 460 Cuban doctors and nurses to West Africa, and currently,[November 2014] 165 are working there under the direction of the World Health Organization (WHO). More than 50,000 health care workers from Cuba are working in 66 countries around the world.

“Cuba is world-famous for its ability to train outstanding doctors and nurses,” said WHO director Margaret Chan in a Sept. [2014] press conference announcing Cuba’s surge of health care workers.

“But why is Cuba so uniquely prepared to treat Ebola? It comes down to a national priority that even has its own name, coined by academics:“Cuban Medical Internationalism.”

“Cuba’s global health crisis response system is a Doctors Without Borders-like program, but instituted by the government. When Cuban doctors graduate medical school, they are given the opportunity to volunteer to be called upon for medical missions, like an Ebola outbreak or a natural catastrophe. Often, these are one to two-year commitments. To prepare for something like Ebola, health care workers not only undergo aggressive training for the specific disease they are treating, but they also take courses on the region’s culture and history as well….

“Gail Reed, co-founder of Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba (MEDICC) says: “It’s coming from a commitment to make health care a universally accepted right. …. It started around 1960, shortly after the Cuban Revolution. A massive earthquake killed up to 5,000 people in Chile, and Cuba sent health care workers into the disaster aftermath. A few years later, a medical team of more than 50 people went into war-torn Algeria….

“In 1998, Cuban medical teams discovered that they were treating a lot people who had never before had access to doctors, and they decided that leaving the health care systems as they found them was irresponsible. So Cuba founded the Latin American Medical School (ELAM), which offers scholarships to low-income students from around the world with the expectation that they will graduate and return to their home countries as health workers…. More than 23,000 physicians from low-income communities in 83 countries (even the U.S.) have graduated from ELAM, and nearly 10,000 are currently enrolled.

“Not surprisingly, Cuba’s leadership in the current Ebola epidemic has become political in the U.S.—Republicans are angry that a CDC worker recently went to Cuba for an Ebola meeting…… “The very fact that Cuba is the only other nation than the United States to contribute human resources to the Ebola crisis in a big way, creates enormous international political capital, especially when most nations are unwilling to send their own people into the centre of the calamity,” says Robert Huish, an assistant professor of international development studies at Dalhousie University in Canada.”UNQUOTE.

Altogether, Cuba has more than 50,000 doctors and nurses posted in 66 countries around the world, including more than 4,000 in 32 African countries.

To continue to benefit mankind in this way, Cuba has to become economically strong and that can only be done if she is able to trade without any restrictions. Apart from consumer goods for its people, Cuba must import the machinery necessary to turn it into an industrial power. For if Cuba can do what it has done while fettered by an embargo, what can it do when it engages in industrial production without hindrance?

That is why the world must encourage President Barack Obama to work hard to achieve success in his discussions with the Cuban authorities during his visit to Cuba. Success at the talks will be one of the legacies he can leave to the world as the first black President of the United States. For why should a country’s internal social policy be used to prevent it from contributing its utmost to mankind? No-one can question Cuba;s credentials in that regard — as recognised by Time magazine.

 

Mar
09

ON 6 MARCH 1957, I WOULD NEVER HAVE BELIEVED THAT….

ON 6 MARCH 1957, I WOULD NEVER HAVE BELIEVED THAT….By CAMERON DUODU

When I stood at the New Polo Ground in Accra at midnight on 5 March 1957, within earshot of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, as he whispered to Mr Krobo Edusei, “Bepae ma me!” (Come and do the opening salutation me!) and heard Krobo respond by yelling with gusto: “CHOOOOOBOI!”….. “CHOOOOOBOI!”, to be greeted with probably the loudest YEEEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIII!! ever uttered on earth, I would never have believed that 59 years later, we would have a regime that would pack journalists into a tipper truck for them to cover the independence anniversary of their  own “beloved country”.

On that most auspicious day in our country’s history, members of the Press were given special buses – all new and shiny. A special stand was erected for photographers to stand on and be able to get the best shots possible. All I myself needed to tell the police officers near the special dais on which Dr Nkrumah and other CPP leaders stood, was “Reporter!” They gave me immediate access by pushing people away to allow me to pass.

For I lived in a country where people really understood their duty. The police were there to prevent harm being done to our leaders, not to show anyone where “power lies”. Had they prevented me from getting access to the dais – and thereby being able to tell successive generations what it felt like to be present at the Polo Club at that midnight hour – I would have just walked away with my head held high. But the reporters of the current era do not seem to have any pride.

They are thus treated with very little respect by those who organise public events. Indeed, some of them were violently assaulted whilst covering – a similar independence anniversary parade in 2013. The army’s PR department initially lied about what had happened, but later apologised. But no-one was punished as far as the public knew. The sequence was this year’s tipper truck!

No; 59 years ago, I would never have believed that the journalists of independent Ghana would be among the most servile elements of our society, or that the rulers would look on unconcerned if and when humiliation was inflicted on journalists. After all, Kwame Nkrumah was a journalist! Would there ever have been a “Ghana” had The Accra Evening News not existed?

And which politician could become known to the electorate without the reporting of his speeches to the world by journalists?

I would not have believed, either, that Chiefs, whose predecessors had competently and courageously organised their people to resist foreign invasion after foreign invasion,  mounted with superior weapons – sometimes led in their resistance by women (one of whom, Yaa Asantewaa, has become a shining icon in our country’s history) – would today sit down and expect the agents of a disinterested Central Government to be the only people  to beat off gangs of local and Chinese galamsey gold-diggers-cum-fortune-seekers, who use toh-toh-toh-toh machines to dig for gold in the rivers from which human beings get the water which they must drink in order to live!

Is this the country whose people used ancient kyirem [asafo] formations to prevent their cocoa trees from being cut down, ostensibly to fight against ”swollen shoot” disease? Is this the nation in which the sounding of gong-gong and drum alerts would send men into the bush to look for women who had not returned from their farms and had disappeared (believed raped and killed); and who would also organise night-time patrols to deter burglars from attempting to rob their towns and villages? What has happened to the spirit that once reigned at Aboabo in Kumase? Where are the Amantuor-Mmiensa in Akyem Abuakwa? Where are the ”Asafo Companies” – with their picturesque flags – that taught valour and honour to the young men of the Western and Central Regions?

No, I would never have believed that our people would all be sitting down and watching their rivers die. Birem, Densu, Offin, Prah, Tanoh, Butere, Supong and many others are all at risk of dying completely.

One brilliant TV journalist who made a film about the tragedy, Edem Srem, wrote in heart-breaking terms about the lack of concern in the country over this tragic situation:

QUOTE: ”After our documentary [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6qaiPSbZsQ ] was aired, the president and his ministers visited some of the areas where we had shown illegal mining activity to be on the rise…But galamsey is still taking place in various areas, including Twifo Praso, Bempong Agya, Appiah Nkwanta, Kyekyewere, Diaso, Bawdie and Dunkwa-on-Offin.” – UNQUOTE (See more at: http://newafricanmagazine.com/ghana-murky-world-galamsey/#sthash.cR4X48KE.dpuf )

NO! On 6 Match 1957, I would never have believed that our independence, which we deemed so valuable that Dr Kwame Nkrumah was  bold enough to say that it would be “meaningless unless it is linked up with the independence of the whole African continent!” would rather so emasculate us and rob us of all common sense that we would sit down and watch with our hands tied behind our backs whist the source of our VERY LIVES – our water bodies – were being violated AND KILLED by foreigners and the local traitors who assist them – for money. And, of course, I would never have believed that one day we would have a President in this country, who. having sworn to safeguard all our lives, tells us, regarding galamsey, that those who destroy our water bodies do so because “they want to earn a living!”

If, on 6 March, 1957, anyone had told me that we would place education so low on our agenda that one day, children would be going to school under trees — without desks, blackboards, books or chalk, whilst we made propaganda about supplying schools with laptops, I would have said the person was crazy. Ghana which had introduced fee-free education even before independence? Especially not with a University Professor as Minister of Education and the son of an Nkrumah Minister as President?
No – I would have laughed if someone had told me that we would have radio and television stations that are so intellectually shallow that they would disgrace our entire country by publicising the delusional verbal ejaculations of the likes of Bishop Obinim and Kwaku Bonsam. At Radio Ghana, we didn’t publicise religion in the news bulletins. We gave them a slot once a week or so and that was it. So Obinim can turn into a snake or a vulture? Did these fools in the media not see a a sharply-dressed Obinim in a video clip, repeatedly kicking the stomach of a pregnant woman with his shoe? Were they incapable of observing from that slip that Obinim might be a deranged sadist? The poor woman might have believed that the kicks to the stomach would drive witchcraft or an evil spirit out of her unborn child. But what about our radio and television publicisers of Obinim? Is this the sort of man who deserves national attention?

And I would never have believed that in a Ghana that has been independent for 59 years, and has developed relations with Interpol, the FBI, Scotland Yard and many other first-class detection agencies,in the world the police would be so toothless and unprofessional that when an old woman suffering from dementia is burnt alive publicly for merely mistaking someone else’s bedroom for her own, they would not be able to bring the offenders to book in five years and four months! I refer to this report in the Daily Graphic of 26 November 2010:

QUOTE: “Grandma Set Ablaze To Exorcise Witchcraft
A 72-year-old grandmother [Nana Ama Hemmah] suffered one of the most barbaric of deaths when she was burnt alive by a mob at Tema Site 15, after being accused of being a witch…..
Five people who allegedly tortured and extracted the confessions of witchcraft from Ama Hemmah before drenching her in [kerosine] and setting her ablaze have been arrested by the Tema Police…….
Two of the suspects are Samuel Ghunney, a 50-year-old photographer, and Pastor Samuel Fletcher Sagoe, 55, [an] evangelist. The rest are Emelia Opoku, 37, Nancy Nana Ama Akrofie, 46, and Mary Sagoe, 52, all unemployed.
Briefing the Daily Graphic on the incident, the Tema Regional Police Commander, Mr Augustine Gyening, Assistant Commissioner of Police, said [that at] about 10 a.m. on November 20, 2010, Samuel Fletcher Sagoe visited his sister (Emelia Opoku) at Site 15, a suburb of Tema Community 1, and saw Madam Hemmah sitting in Emelia’s bedroom at a time Emelia Opoku had sent her children to school.
… Samuel [Fletcher Sagoe] raised an alarm, attracting the attention of the principal suspect, Samuel Ghunney, and [other] people … The suspects claimed that Mad. Hemmah was a known witch in the area and subjected her to severe torture, compelling her to confess [to] being a witch. …After extracting the confession,… Ghunney asked Emelia Opoku for a gallon of kerosene and, with the help of his accomplices, poured it all over [Madam Hemmah] and set her ablaze. …. A student-nurse, Deborah Pearl Adumoah, who chanced upon the barbaric act, rescued Mad. Hemmah and sent her to the Community One Police Station, from where she was transferred to the Tema General Hospital, but she died the following day.
In their [statement made under caution], the suspects denied the offence and explained that they poured anointing oil on the old woman and [that] it caught fire when they offered prayers to exorcise the demon from her. UNQUOTE
http://www.Graphic.com.gh /news/page.php?news=10378
Anointing oil? My backside!

Buck up, Ghanaians of 2016. A lot of confidence was invested in you in 1957. Do not let those who believed in you as the future builders opf the nation they won back for you from the British colonialists, gnash their teeth and wring their hands with sadness, as they watch you from that far-away place they have now gone to, from where they can never return.

Feb
27

ACHIMOTA AGAIN?

ACHIMOTA AGAIN? By CAMERON DUODU

In February 2010, Ghanaians were stunned to hear that Achimota School, in its day, the most prestigious educational institution in the country, had fallen on hard times to such an extent that excreta was leaking from its sewerage system into the campus:

QUOTE: “Achimota School’s entire sewerage system collapses

Accra, Feb 4, GNA – The health of students of Achimota School in Accra is under threat, as its entire sewerage system [has] collapsed, forcing human excreta and other hazardous materials to gush out… on [to the] campus. Since the emergence of the problem [a] few months ago, students have had to spend two days out of the five studying days, to tidy up the campus…

A tour [of] the school showed the severity of the problem; the stench and sight of raw sewage emanating from a broken central sewage processing system…..

Human excreta and raw sewage from the dormitories which was [supposed] to pass through the underground sewerage, had spilled into the open [ground] on campus, posing health danger to students, police officers stationed there and a hospital which is on the campus. A cursory look at the periphery of the campus shows the development of sprawling neighbourhoods made up of state of the art mansions, which have undoubtedly contributed to the collapse of the underground sewerage network.

Most of these structures are said to belong to well-connected persons in society, … [They] have encroached on the school’s land, covering about one-third of it. “UNQUOTE

As soon as this news reached the Internet, a petition – signed by thousands of people – was organised by Old Achimotans on their website. These thousands were from both Ghana and the Diaspora. They called on the Government to halt the ruination that faced this important institution. The connection between Achimota and many potentates – from Sir Gordon Guggisberg (who founded the school in 1924) to Dr Emmanuel Kwegyir Aggrey and Dr Kwame Nkrumah – was recalled. Indeed, by a happy coincidence – or so those of us who vigorously supported the campaign thought – the President of Ghana at the time was Professor John Attah Mills, an old boy of the school. Surely, as an “Akora” [Old Achimotan] he would leave no stone unturned to save his alma mater?

It was at this  stage that Achimota proved to some of us that “education” does not necessarily free men and women from an inability to think through their problems to their logical conclusion. Some of the erudite products of Achimota concluded that a petition presented publicly to the President by the former students of such an elite institution would cause “political embarrassment” to him, an old “Akora”!!

So instead of exerting maximum pressure on Mills and his Government by a publicly-staged naming and shaming, session at which the petition would be presented to the President, a clique of “influential” Akoras intercepted the petition and arranged a private meeting with the President to convey its contents to him. Reports of the secret meetings are sketchy, but the upshot of it is that the President told them that he was President of the whole of Ghana and that he could not therefore single out Achimota for special treatment. Very correct, of course, but quite asinine. Just because you cannot feed every person in the world, must you starve your child?

But a few years later, a far more insidious danger threatens the school. This is the deliberate encroachment, by well-heeled land/estate developers, of Achimota school lands. Information seeps through about this in driblets: a well-known leader of a charismatic church is an encroacher; others are powerful enough to threaten the school’s staff with lawsuits and/or political action.

Hawkers, Pentecostal Churches and rubbish disposal practitioners of all types have also turned parts of the Achimota Forest – a well-conceived facility meant to teach the students that there is life outside the classroom – into such a waste-dump-plus-wayside-free-for-all heap of the undesirable, as is usually sighted in the slums of our moribund towns and cities.

This has happened to Achimota Forest? It is a slap in the face of the elite of Ghana, who are so obsessed with the personal advantages to be gained by them as individuals though cliquishness and “networking” that matters of a public concern take a back seat with many of them.

But why not? If the famous  swimming pool that had delighted countless students for decades could be allowed to dry/crumble; if the sewerage system could be neglected to such an extent that it disgorged stench on to the campus; if teachers’ bungalows were being walled off by encroachers, without action from the Government that is supposed to care for the school in trust for the public, then what could not be done?

Well, it is not fanciful to suggest that this deliberate vandalisation of the institution was done with a purpose: namely, to pave the way for commercial operators to claim that Achimota is being ruined because it is a “state-owned” institution! Therefore those of its possessions that have a commercial potential, such as the Forest, should be hived off and sold. Developers, unlike the Government, do need to turn a profit and so will operate the resultant projects “efficiently.”

But have we not heard that before? Water facilities? Communications? Electricity supplies? All the public utilities our Governments have sold off have performed to absolutely satisfactory standards, no?

Well “privatisation” has pounced again: on 20 Feb 2016 – almost six years to the day the Achimota excreta story was published, we read that:

QUOTE: “The Forestry Commission has signed an agreement with a development partner, Aikan Capital Limited, to convert the Achimota Forest into an international eco-tourism facility.

At the signing of the agreement, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Nii Osah Mills, said the Achimota Forest Reserve … was under serious threat. That, he said, was due to encroachment for settlements, the construction of roads and its use as dumping sites for various waste materials, leading to the initial coverage area of the forest of 500 hectares being reduced to 360 hectares…. The conversion of the Achimota Forest into an eco-tourism facility is, therefore, a timely intervention to save the forest from further destruction”.UNQUOTE

Now, I seek answers to a few questions:

  1. Obviously, the waste dumps, churches and hawkers’ enclaves, will all have to be removed – by whatever means – before the proposed eco-tourism can be accomplished. If a clean-up can be done to pave the way for the new project, then why can’t it be done to PRESERVE the Forest as it was originally conceived?
      1. Is the Minister not aware that the Achimota Forest is on land that was acquired by the Gold Coast Government in 1927 for a public purpose under colonial laws, and that such acquisitions clothe the acquired property with the status of a public trust that cannot be arbitrarily abrogated and turned into acquisition for a commercial purpose – without new legislation?

        3. Why are the Minister and the Lands Commission disposing of a public asset without prior public discussion, or consultation of any sort whatsoever? Are they not aware that the current Government has only about nine months of life left and that without public consent, the project might be jettisoned by the next Government? Has the Minister not heard of a ”lame duck ” administration?

        4. Does the company venturing into partnership with the Government to develop such a controversial site not realise the danger into which it is placing its proposed “investment”? Does the company not know that following the Woyome case, Ghanaians have become acutely suspicious of the way public projects are handed to hand-pickled individuals and companies? Does it not know that the inconsistencies that can arise in the relationship between the Government and private companies like Woyome’s can have dire consequences – such as the rampant demands for compensation from the Government, often leading to questionable ”judgement debts”?

        5. What is the background of this company anyway? What projects has it executed elsewhere which it can point to and say, “We did this” and so, you are safe if you enter into partnership with us”?

6. Even if – I repeat if – everything about the project was devoid of controversy, would be it wise for the Government to offer participation in it to a single company – without any tendering process– given the amount of disquiet that has been expressed about

the fact that the ”Ameri” contract (recently concluded to supply Ghana with electric power) was “single-sourced” to a foreign company?

Of course, the Government can ignore these questions, under the illusion that Ghanaians “like to make noise” but that they have shortmemories. So any fuss made now will “blow over” soon.

But I maintain that that is not true!

My proof?

I refer the Government to the sections in its libraries entitled “Commissions of Enquiry”. I invite members of the Government to read, especially, the verbatim reports of the proceedings at these enquiries.

I also invite them to remember the adage that “Those who forget their own history are condemned to relive it!”.

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