Thursday, 11 August 2011

Roasted Plantain, Ongayo and the Sogakope “Vandals”?

The Great Volta in full majestic repose
Obesity may yet become one of contemporary Ghana’s key public health challenges. The post-industrial world has sprung upon us-while we napped- with its fast foods, canned stuff and sedentary life style. And it is the obese little ones who give me distress. My wife Sylvia and I refused to allow our little boy to stuff up on what children tend to crave and then get hooked on: fizzy drinks, candy and junk food. Thank goodness he is like a reed now and taking tae kwan do lessons too to keep those muscles working.  I make a conscious choice to eat our local foods regularly. I am not one of those who think eating greasy food every lunch time is hip or bourgeoise. I love my roasted plantain and crisp groundnuts. In the Accra afternoon when one pauses a while to savor life, the feel of roasted ripe plantain and groundnuts on the tongue and palate is heavenly for me.
And so lately I made a bee-line to this spot in Labone where I get my roasted plantain and groundnuts fix. I have become friends with this middle aged lady. We make small talk about family, life and Ghana’s future. She is not happy about her son who is good with his hands but not his brains at school. She wants my advice. I proffer some: Ghana has potential; the industrial machine will soon hum; craftsmen and women will be in high demand; there will be work and happiness; God dey. Woman marshals the sliced bits of plantain over that great fire sweetly and delicately; almost caressing those pieces with a sensuous artistry; she moves one there; shifts the other there; she is the overlord of a bewildering tapestry of smoke, live coal, searing heat, soot, gold, white and black. As I talk she shepherds her charges over the great fire. Then she paused momentarily. She lifted her head slowly revealing the strain pocked face and stared at me. Then she spoke slowly and with such feeling and intensity. I froze. “ Those big men and women never think about us. Do they? Here I am. A commoner. I sell this stuff. Been at it for years. Never travelled out of this country. These big wigs have seen the world and all they could give Ghana is this wretchedness?” I left with my stuff and an appetite that had gone gaga. Ordinary folk know that the Ghanaian elite have taken them for a ride. Failed them. It is a big pretense and a circus of power play, self aggrandizement, materialism and fork tongued deceit. I have been pondering her words ever since. Thought I will share it.
And share Ongayo’s too. A fellow academic from Kenya studying in Utrecht, Amsterdam. He is in Accra doing some fieldwork for his doctorate. His commentary on Accra is chilling. While we sat at lunch recently he thought he saw a country made up of two separate worlds: foul opulence in the face of grinding poverty. He said Kenya had reached that point and surpassed it. Ghana was getting there. In Kenya dudes with a Masters degree were mates in the matatus( their version of tro-tro). Crime executed with sophisticated weapons was rife in Kenya; G3s and others in that category were the weapons of choice. The rich live in barricaded enclaves with towering walls; beyond dare not go out on some frolick. Ongayo has been in Accra several times and in the rural parts of Ghana too. Word.
And talking about Accra and beyond my first encounter with Sogakope was through the Hotel Cisneros some years back. This hotel rubs against the Volta literally. The Volta is so majestic and almost haughty. I still remember the boatman riding the Volta in that canoe. I waved. He returned my gesture. I admired his courage; tiny-tot upon this watery vastness. I think the reported destruction of some property of Sogakope Secondary School recently by some irate citizens was very bad publicity for a place I fell in love with. Hard earned national resources from the GETfund just went to waste because of some grievance. And the irony of it all was an elderly gentleman caught on camera justifying what took place. That senior citizen insulted us all. Where are the police? And the regional minister and the Regional Security Council? I want to see some arrests on this matter and swift punishment. After all these “vandals” also threatened to poison the water of this school. Such arrogance!!!! Impunity anywhere in our Republic cannot be allowed. I am watching closely.         

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