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19.01.2010 Feature Article

Ghana Good

Ghana Good
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It's been twelve years since this Kwesi Broni left his home country of England to come and live in the Gateway to Africa; the Land of Peace; the First Independent Sub-Saharan Nation; the Shining Star of Africa; the Nature Lovers' Paradise; the Country of Scenic Beauty; the Centre of the World; the Land of Gold and the Friendliest Country on the Planet.

For a country which boasts so many flattering epithets, one might be forgiven for thinking that Ghana is a place where Ghanaians are happy to live. However, this appears not to be the case. I wish I had one Ghana Pesewa for each time a Ghanaian who wanted to get out of the country has asked me for a visa or invitation letter to London. I would probably have enough now to buy my own Presidential Palace and private jet.

Yes, if you manage to get “inside”, you may well receive a better education, earn more money, or have access to improved facilities. But in the long term, will we see our children and grandchildren forsaking all things Ghanaian and seeking the same foreign pastures, or are we going to try to raise them to be proud of their homeland so they will want to stay here and help the country?

There are currently more African engineers and scientists working in the USA than in Africa: a brain drain which does not bode well for the development of the continent. Didn't Barack Obama tell us that the future of Africa lies in the hands of the Africans? His posters are still up all over town, but we seem to have forgotten his words.

Turning on the radio or opening the newspapers in Ghana these days can often be a depressing, pessimism-laden experience, with countless complaints, accusations, scapegoating, prayers for salvation, and sorrowful laments from people who are no longer “Fine, by God's Grace”, but rather “managing”, “hot” or “suffering”, and who are praying without ceasing for a successful outcome of their application to the American Embassy or British High Commission.

But here's a question for the visa-seekers: if aborokyire abrabo is so sweet, why do I love Ghana so much and why have I left my well-paid job and comfortable British house to stay in a country which everybody is complaining about and trying to escape? Let me try to change the minds of the would-be “been-to's” and offer a few reasons why the obibini does not always need to travel to the obroni's country, or rely on him to “teach us everything we know”. To the contrary, there are many delights in Africa unavailable in aborokyire, and numerous aspects of African life which teach valuable lessons the white man would do well to learn.

So, let's forget the “Travel and See” and concentrate on the “Sankofa”. Please put the poor sanitation, bad roads and “no money in the system” out of your mind for the next few minutes, while you consider my ten reasons for arguing that the West is not the paradise some of you seem to think it is, and that, actually, “Ghana Good”.

1) Everybody in Ghana is so nice and friendly, and always happy to greet and talk to a stranger. We don't have that where I come from. If I approached a passer-by in London and gave him a big smile and a “Good morning! How are you?”, he'd either ignore me because he'd think I was crazy or run away because he'd think I was trying to rob him. England could well win the award for the unfriendliest country on the planet.

2) Ghanaian food is sweet o! You're more likely to catch me at “Don't Mind Your Wife Chop Bar” or “Two Sisters Waakye Special” than Frankie's or On The Run. We have so many fresh, healthy and cheap delicacies here, which can give us both vital sustenance and much-needed export dollars. You can't sit in your garden overseas and pluck fresh coconuts and mangos or take a stroll to the nsa fufuo seller. Feel free to go to my country if you can eat potatoes every day. Whoever came up with the saying “Chips with everything” to describe the English diet wasn't far wrong.

3) “Go To Church”, as well as being a tro-tro inscription I regularly see around 37, is also another important lesson I have learnt in Ghana. Coming from a country which forgot the Bible here when they came to take the gold, and where religion was recently described as “eccentric beliefs pursued by oddities”, it seems that it is now left to the African to teach the white man about the true Omnipresence and Omnipotence of God. “Obi nkyr abɔfra Nyame”, unless the abɔfra is born in aborokyire.

4) The strong communal ties and extended family support of Ghanaians put Europe and America to shame. There's always a brother to share a calabash with, an uncle to “borrow” you ten cedis, a sister to relax your hair, or a parent to look after your baby. Compare that to the sad story of a certain old man in the UK who lived alone and received no visits from family or friends. Even when he died, nobody knew until the postman smelt his decomposing body from outside some weeks later.

5) Ghanaian children are fantastic. Teaching here has been a wonderful experience, thanks to the polite, well-behaved and diligent pupils. A far cry from my experiences in British and American schools, where I have witnessed children as young as four years being abusive and disrespectful to their parents, attacking other children, smashing classroom windows, and telling their teacher to “Fuck Off” while stabbing him in the leg with a fork. The kids in aborokyire are crushing all the tortoises; I'd much rather stay in Ghana where they only crush snails. Your expertise in child-rearing was recently celebrated in a BBC television show; “The World's Strictest Parents”, where badly-behaved British kids were sent to stay with an upstanding Ghanaian family to set them straight. It was a life-changing experience for them.

6) What a peaceful country! As long as I'm not mistakenly drawn into any “mob justice” and accidently get a burning tyre put around my neck, and I'm careful about going somewhere like Osu or Labadi at night, then I don't fear for my personal safety at all in Ghana. It's a different story back home, where crime, anti-social behaviour and violent drunkards make me want to stay under the protection of my own roof every Friday and Saturday evening. And before you apply for that visa, have you read about the prevalence of senseless racist attacks against blacks, especially in London?

7) Although I should really heed the advice of Daddy Lumba (“Some Girls are Dangerous”) and another of my favourite tro-tros (“Fear Woman, Live Long”), I cannot write about Ghana without mentioning your beautiful, dutiful, God-fearing and respectable ladies. Who would you prefer to marry? A smooth and sexy black beauty who will always keep herself looking good and your belly feeling full, or a dowdy, badly-dressed white girl who, after returning from her smoking and binge-drinking sessions, will ask the husband, “What's for dinner?”

8) Your weather is much better than ours! Even if it's sometimes so hot that I'm sweating as soon as I step out of the shower, and sometimes don't even leave the house between 10 am and 4 pm in order to avoid melting, there's nothing better than spending Christmas Day on a beautiful warm beach while my compatriots are freezing to death in their rooms and having their roads and airports are blocked by snow. Another advantage is the perfect growing conditions here for all kinds of plants and herbs.

9) Sika asm. Yes, the average wage in aborokyire is several times higher than here, but the living costs are also much higher. A beer costs the equivalent of 8 Cedis, a packet of cigarettes 12 Cedis, and the tro-tros in London cost more than the dropping taxis in Accra. And you can't grow your own aburo or bankyein the garden. Also, once you become a “bogga”, be prepared for the many friends and family eagerly awaiting their Western Union money transfer every month, and asking “den na watɔ br me?” every time you come home.

10) Although it's an activity for which many of my Ghanaian friends don't share the same enthusiasm, I love walking in the bush and looking at the nature. I don't know anywhere else in the world where I can bathe under a 100 foot waterfall, have a monkey come and take a banana out of my hand, sit on a live crocodile, walk through a rainforest canopy, play with the elephants, or swim in a magical crater lake. I just hope the forests are still there when my children grow up.

There you have only ten of many reasons why I love living in Ghana. Of course, I have presented some very extreme examples here, and I am in no way suggesting that all things Ghanaian are perfect and all things foreign are wicked. As Lucky Dube teaches us: “Not every Black Man is my Brother. Not every White Man is an Enemy”

However, I believe that those who are blessed to be Ghanaians, and those who, like me, have been given the privilege of visiting this great country, have reason to give thanks and afford ourselves a contended smile now and again. Despite its various problems (which are not being addressed by all the graduates travelling overseas), I still thank God for bringing me here. And you, what reasons do you have for saying “GHANA GOOD”?

The writer is the author of “Culture Smart! Ghana, the Essential Guide to Customs and Culture”

email: [email protected]
Development / Accra / Ghana / Africa /

Ian Duncan Utley
Ian Duncan Utley, © 2010

The author has 7 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: IanDuncanUtley

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