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27.04.2002 Feature Article

The Jewel In Voluntary Service To Our Motherland

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In my years growing up in beloved Ghana, the surrogate mother that nurtured and returned me to the land of my birth here in the U.S, there was one person I learned so much from. My father. My father had worked hard, academically, especially as he was not from a wealthy family, to win a scholarship to study in the U.S. in his time. But above all he ever did, there was one symbol that bound his achievements and continues to inspire me up until this day. What was this symbol one might ask? The simple dedication or love one has for one’s humble beginnings or roots to want to give it all even when there is nothing but the self to give. It is one thing that is dearest to my heart, one thing, I hope to polish like a family jewel and pass on down his family tree. I once asked a dear friend of mine this question:
If the family house where you were born and raised springs a leak, do you move into a neighbor’s house hoping to stay permanently or do you make every effort to restore your own house, perhaps even tearing the house down and rebuilding it with the hopes of returning to live in it?
The better choice in the end will be to find a home in your leaky abode with no lingering feelings of not being wanted in your neighbor’s house, by first finding the leak, fixing it or like I said, if finding the leak is like looking for needle in a haystack, pulling the entire structure down and rebuilding the house over again and making it home. One never abandons the family heirloom completely with the hope of “obi” or someone else fixing it magically for you. This fixing one’s own roof , no matter how bad the leak, is the symbol or lesson I found in what my father did.
Well, I have never asked him if the decision to go back to Ghana after his post-graduate studies had been inspired by the action of the leaders of his time or that the mere sight of Ghana’s delicate skeletal and apparitional frame, post-colonialism had frightened and sent him straight home to help rebuild or re-nourish her. One thing I know for certain is that the man for whatever reasons amid my mother’s sometimes violent protests, simply wanted to return to Ghana, with nothing but his wealth of knowledge acquired through education, to go better his tiny village of Akim Achiase in the Eastern Region, and perhaps if he succeeded at this little endeavor, venture out to help build the rest of the nation. Perhaps he saw, and on my recent trip to Ghana, still sees the rich unexplored opportunities he believed he could apply his then newly acquired skills, to help restore Ghana’s glory and fame before slavery and colonialism. If we had seen our mother Ghana’s maiden beauty when she was rightly named and famously known as the “Gold Coast” wouldn’t we be running back to her to restore her just like my father was in a hurry to do? After all was it not her extraordinary beauty and wealth that had enticed complete strangers to her shores to invade her privacy and strip her belly off her human and material wealth? Haven’t I, who was only nurtured by her goodness, returned many times to her? Can we forsake her forever even if we think her beauty and wealth are no more and replace her laboring for another?
Then again back then when I hadn’t felt like my father knew, even after my mother endlessly harassed but lovingly followed her husband into the uncertainties of rebuilding Ghana, his children had picked up their mother’s grudges where she had abruptly settled them from sympathy for all my father’s pitiful laboring under the heavy corruption and the brutal African sun. It served my father right for abandoning the cool weather, and the lofty positions he would have snagged with his newly-minted degrees. Think about the money and their retirement home in Ghana from all the money they would have saved. Well all that went into feeding, schooling and raising the children in Ghana and now my father is still working at sixty-something to save up for his dream retirement now that the children are gone. He will catch up one day. It served him right for making her taste the sweetness of life in America and then making her leave it behind. How could the tropical weather in Tucson, Arizona not have hypnotized my father into thinking this was home after all. Tucson, Accra, what’s the difference? I have questioned and continue to question my father about the sanity of leaving the heaven and haven of America to go attend to what was left of Ghana and the often bloody battles among her own to govern and steal from her. The other fact was the little slang we spoke was fast fading with us sitting in Ghana and my siblings and I had to listen to endless stories told by my mother of her active social life, my godmother and the doctor who delivered me at birth. I guess all of us except my father missed the awesome experience of being in the United States.
The thing is my father still sees a jewel in Ghana, still chipping hard at her economic soil and making it somehow productive, even after many failures and disappointments, often obstacles placed in his productive path by his own people and countrymen. He brought schools, he brought banks, he decided to replace the rivers whose waters the people drank and in which our revered gods lived, with pipe-borne water but he was damned. It was a taboo. Tradition said it was an abomination, so he complied where he couldn’t beat the system. The ringworms made their way into the bellies of those who drank the river water, my father still didn’t run back to America. He boiled his water instead. He run for politics. It ruined him. He quit politics unable to bear the abuses and lack of understanding on the part of the people, for whom he had returned but who did not appreciate his vision one bit. Who did he think he was trying to scare everyone stiff with his foreign education and that vision for growth and development? And why bother striving against the abundant grain of corruption sown deep down in African soil that reproduced improved strains with the passing years. Strains that terribly regressed the nation? On his way to politics had he not picked up pig-farming and bakeries? The fishpond in our backyard where he experimented on mass-producing tilapia for the local markets to outwit the local fishermen, who depleted the rivers and never researched how fishes got into rivers in the first place to begin to replenish them, was now bare and dry with elephant grass. The last time my father drove me to Osu Castle because I had a major complaint, as big as a migraine, for President Kuffour, against outmoded and inefficient technology in our government offices, airports and businesses, he was busy thinking about networking the whole of the Eastern Region to supply its villages with more efficient sources of energy, besides his dried fish and starch export ( mind you not import) and his gas station business. I understood by then.
In all these endless processes and pursuits my father had taught me the real value of a foreign education or even traveling abroad. It was to see and learn from others, of the ‘hows’ to fix your own. My father ingrained in me the symbol of learning abroad and returning to one’s own broken down home, to the roots, to apply one’s knowledge and skill to direst circumstances and conditions to breed life and prosperity. My mother asked me on my recent visit to Ghana, “ When are you and your siblings coming home to help rebuild Ghana, just like your father and I did?” I was stunned. The years had repented my mother and now she was on my father’s side against my siblings and I who had made our homes in America. I told her I had filed for permanent residency instead for her and my father in the U.S. and that the U.S embassy needed them to come in for an interview. She cursed me out that she wasn’t a dog or a slave to be shipped off to America. If she wanted to be in America with its clock-tampering seasons, she would be there by now. In Ghana, the sun rose at six and set at six and she didn’t want to miss this daily miracle God himself had well-intentioned in Ghana. Now it was my turn to be baffled. There was only one condition she would stay in the same place with her children. The condition that we all return to Ghana to work and stay and help rebuild with what we each had. Some blackmailer she is!
I once read somewhere that jewels show off their beauty the most in the darkest places. I only have to find a place that had lost its luster, not one that was already gleaming, and begin to shine it through my efforts to bring out its beauty. The dark place is the continent of Africa. Ghana is one of its jewels. The place I found that I along with others out there can make shine.
We have often heard or read of how other nationalities; the Americans, the Chinese, the Indians and Europeans have generously shared their prosperity with Ghana through debt relief and various numerous charities. Of how Cuba and Russia helped train some of our physicians. Now it is our nurses running everywhere in the world with our physicians to render services where they can be best paid for all they are worth and in the process draining the nation of its human resources. In a recent New York Times article, the Chinese and Indians having learned and prospered from their adventures here in the U.S. are now returning to their homelands in droves to start-up businesses and spread their knowledge and wealth among their people to better lives and livelihoods. The Indians have even gone outside the perimeters of India to begin building a technology center in Ghana called the Kofi Annan Technology Center? Michael Thoyer, an American Attorney and a former visiting professor at the University of Ghana Law School has founded “Friends of the University of Ghana” and is looking for much needed funds from us all to help rebuild and equip our tertiary institutions and where are Ghanaians to aid in this well-meaning endeavor? The list of well-wishers go on and on.
My question is: Are we all helping Ghana or are we leaving that role to someone else? I say again that every other nationality is helping Ghana to become prosperous except Ghanaians. We prefer to run where the pasture is greener and microwave ready and complain later when we have the time to spare. I ask myself often, “What have Ghanaians done for Ghana lately?” and most times find intangible answers. I have found a partial answer immersing myself in running Ghana Cyber Group. It is a step in the right direction. A beginning that can have a very successful ending if all Ghanaians can come together and be a bit generous with their time, skill and money.
Before being introduced to Ghana Cyber Group, I had searched for viable means to help serve Ghana for the sake of my parents who continue to struggle to make things happen. They may never return to America to live, but perhaps my little effort here can trickle down to help them live comfortably in Ghana so I will not have to sedate them and migrate them here against their will to live with me as they age. It wasn’t until Fall of last year that I found this vessel, Ghana Cyber Group, through which I could send my beloved surrogate mother Ghana my warm and thoughtful regards and little gifts, like I do for my parents, until I finish collecting the necessary knowledge and skills and return to her in person to serve her for nurturing me for my birth mother. It is not much, but imagine if you and I and everyone else got together to find and patch, oh forget about patching, but tearing our home down to rebuild and restore her ancient beauty. What a home we would have!
To learn more about Ghana Cyber Group, please log on to www.ghanacybergroup.com or read the attached Brochure. Ghana Cyber Group is also in the process of organizing the First Annual Ghana Festival, a joyful mix of fun and fundraising to help build and restore roads, hospitals and schools and encourage entrepreneurship. Be part of this effort.


Ruth Peprah
Ruth Peprah, © 2002

The author has 9 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: RuthPeprah

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