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10.11.2010 Feature Article

Ayi Refused Is Nigger

The one drop blood rule
The one drop blood rule is one of the most ridiculous and racist rules. Blue eyes and milky white skin was and is still no excuse; if that which flows in your veins has one drop of inherited black blood in it, you were black.

President Obama did check “Black African or Negro” on his census form. What if he had checked “White” because he is half white? Oh, the hoopla, much ado about nothing response if he had dared check it. ….“Now he says he is one of us, now Mr. Cool himself says he is uncool”? Or the response from his other blood “Now, he say he white, he not one of us, he be hanging out with them white folks, them change his mind.” Ask Tiger Wood his experience with those people after he dared claim his multiracial identity instead of limiting himself to his black blood.

Still, having a drop of black blood also gives you the honor of being able to use the word “N” word without it presenting an occupational hazard. Dr. Laura Schlesinger the no nonsense family counselor and straight talker found out that hard way thinking it was double standards if black people got offended by the use of the word by a non black person but let it go if a black person used it. Instead of biting her tongue, she went “nigger, nigger nigger.” 8 more times she repeated that abominable word just to prove a point, and was forced to apologize.

Why, because that word nigger was meant as an insult

Why would an African descendant prefer to be called black and not Negro, why would a seemingly harmless word corrupted from the word Negro which simply translated to “black” in Spanish be disapproved by black people? Why, because that word nigger was meant as an insult, derogatory. It was associated with the most dehumanizing practice ever wrought on a people, a race and still practiced surreptitiously today. It was the thought behind the seemingly harmless word that made it a taboo word.

A similar use of a harmless word or term undesired still rides icy tongues in Ghana. Once upon a time, there lived certain King Ayi in the southern part of what is now the Republic of Ghana.

The story was told that advancing slave taking forces from the north forced King Ayi to flee and crossed what is now known as the Volta River into the lands beyond all the way into Glidzi near Aneho in southern Togo.

It was a strategic move by King Ayi to seek protection from his own kind and retraced the path of migration followed by his people from the west. He also knew people of those lands have vowed never again to unite under one king and would do anything to maintain their freedom. Those people gave him the protection he needed from the aggressors.

King Ayi chose to remain in Togo
Now, in King Ayi's possession was a symbol of power, naturally a stool that he took with him in flight. That stool had united King Ayi's people, some of whom returned to their original final settled Ga lands in present day Ghana. King Ayi chose to remain in Togo and was already practicing assimilation, including no doubt, local fair young ladies and offspring to his households. Life was good, prosperous and peaceful.

In fleeing with the stool, King Ayi's story was one of heroism and vilification as handed down orally; the story diminishing or appreciating in value in relation to the story teller as we have grown to understand the Gold Coast's prehistory. The late comedian Waterproof and the former Linguist Okyeame AKuffo would have told this story with an easier effect on the ear and mind.

Yet no matter how many sides and perspectives were added or taken from the story, the central theme was how King Ayi handled the royal stool just before and aftermath of the war.

The King's Stool in the West African kingdoms
To understand the importance of the stool, the King's stool in the West African kingdoms was the ultimate symbol of power and many an innocent soul was sacrificed through fair and foul means to defend and or create a stool for a monarchy. That stool had to go through many rituals and the king's life was virtually bonded to it. There was a connection to the stool through the king from the people. Capture that stool and you have the people. It was the king's utmost duty including sacrificing his life to protect it.

Back now to Accra and everybody knows the story of how King Ayi's people had landed on the beaches and settled, long before King Ayi fled; how they kept disembarking from the canoes and boats, no end in sight. If one could imagine the wave of people coming from the sea one wave after the other, one would understand what went on in a certain people's minds when they made that famous remark “they are like ants (nkra).” My God, whence these people, they must have wondered.

Mi ya Ga
Still the name, “Nkra” stuck and was used to refer to the people until the pale skin people came to colonize and enslave us and corrupted it to Accra. We call the people; they like to be called Ga, that word according to some stories, also derived from the name of the red ant in the Ga language, “gaga”. And when we go to Accra from wherever, from boarding schools outside Accra, journeying back from the modern day Diaspora we talk about going to Ga. Mi ya Ga.

The Ga people having known peace wanted their stool back to reunite them towards prosperity. Yes, that stool in the possession of King Ayi now at Glidzi near Aneho in Togo. They sent emissaries for the stool. It is not known if they wanted the stool and its occupant or just the stool but the occupant thought the stool was safer with him where it was.

Ayi Refused loo
It must have been a tense moment when the emissaries arrived from Ga. Everybody was on edge, how would King Ayi react? Wait here it comes; King Ayi REFUSED (gbɛ). One report said King Ayi suddenly lost his ability to say words like kɔ mi kɛ kena (kenkey and fried fish) He expressed himself in the language of his other people, saying “mɛ gbɛ” (I refuse) end of discussion. Talk of tricky diplomatic expressions. If a diplomat told you he had a cold, it was likely he never wanted to see you anyways.

King Ayi chose to use language as a barrier to discontinue any further discussion on the matter. Mayhap, a dose of okro soup, staple of the people would have helped lubricate the emissaries' mouth.

Pictured state of affairs then; the arrival of the emissaries, the tense situation, how would King Ayi react? But soon as Ayi refused, the report quickly spread like fire; “Ayi refused, Ayi refused oo, Ayi refused loo.”

In the absence of Twitter and Facebook updates which would still have read , “Ayi refused,” in the absence of breaking news, telegrams, text messages, e mails and modern telecommunication methods, the town Crier with his conga perhaps took up the mantel. As the town crier had many distances to cover, his message had to be short, concise and specific “ayi refused oo tong tong tong, ayi refused oo tong.” In a scene change, even Pheidippides the man who ran 42 kilometers from Marathon to Anthens nonstop to bring news of the war between the Persians and the Greeks before collapsing to his death would have said those same words “Ayi refused!”

Those two words spawned some of the most wicked jokes

The honor had been established and those two words spawned some of the most wicked jokes and cruelest of stories, most of them dead on humors; others, spot on mean about a people. Ten people in a room, someone asks, “how many people in the room”? Instead of just saying ten people, the reply, “8 people and two AYI REFUSE persons.” It is difficult to write some of these jokes and still be politically correct about but here is another, God created “Ayi refuse” people and cats went on the endangered species list” Actually that last joke is partly true.

Even in God's own house the use of the word in a demeaning way was not spared. It was common for groups to be organized along ethnic lines using a saint as a patron in Ghanaian Catholic churches in metropolitan areas. Queen of Peace Catholic church, Madina comes to mind. Every major ethnic group had an organization in the church i.e, St. Paul Dagomba Society. There was this silver collection in which all the organizations in the church donated in a healthy competition to help build the church.

It was time to announce the results and when it came to one group, the lady announcer strangely did not mention the real name of the group but said, “and now to “Ayigbeys” (Ayi refuse). Jaws dropped, the grumbling, the mumblings that started from the congregation; she had to quickly apologize. See? those stories and or jokes could be mean and cruel but cannot compare in meanness to that word translated from; “Ayi refuse” and people know that and still use it. Not the majority of people but a significant number.

Wait for an “Ayi refuse man”.
A former good friend Lt. Anthony Suka Gbadago had just been accepted into the Military Academy circa 1992. One had to report with quality clothes to the academy and one of the best places to go for affordable and quality clothes was folksline, corrupted to fossline, a.k.a bend down boutique, a.k.a obroniwoawu.

We trouped to folskline at the Accra Railway station where I spotted a pair of worn out red trousers not pleasing to the eye on a vendor's hanger and asked who on earth would buy that. Yes you guessed right; his reply, you just wait for an “Ayi refuse man”. Anthony ever the peacemaker quickly put a restraining hand on me the hot headed one as the vendor put a fist into his open mouth.

There he was facing three “wrong” people, the third person, Robert Dzandu and the urchin made that statement. Bless Anthony; he actually bought something from the vendor just to keep the peace. 1st Lieutenant Gbadago died two years later at the hands of his fellow Ghanaians fighting for tribal superiority up north. He was there to keep the peace.

Still some Black Africans in the Diaspora may have found ways to recycle the meaning of the word “nigger” or “nigga” by referring to themselves as such. It still is offensive. In Ghana there is Ayigbe Edem and some who refer themselves as such trying to poke fun at themselves; their right to exercise that but it is still offensive. Maybe the present King Ayi of Togo a descendant of the original King Ayi of Ghana needs to come out with the full story. But right now, “Ayi refused” is REFUSED

Originating at dzifahhiatsi.blogspot.com

Richard Dzifah Hiatsi
Richard Dzifah Hiatsi, © 2010

The author has 26 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: RichardDzifahHiatsi

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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