On Being Ghanaian – Gamma CORE

The third of four shared core attributes of our Ghanaianess; the Rule of Law.

GH crestOne of the symbols of our nation, our coat of arms, bears two key words; FREEDOM, JUSTICE. I think it most thoughtful and visionary that both words were included in the design of our coat of arms. The FREEDOM part is pretty much covered under the Alpha and Beta CORE attributes.

No, we don’t exactly go to war for trivia like Yor ker gali anymore, for the most part (bet you didn’t know that Gameh call gari gali). It used to be quite fashionable to war over an indignity, but that’s fallen out of favour, for most of humanity. Nevertheless, men have been known to leave their wives behind to be impregnated by the Gyasehene, as they go to war over unresolved injustices, or inequities. Therefore, to deliberately build a nation out of the collection of peoples from the former Gold Coast and Trans-Volta; a viable, coherent, peaceful and prosperous community desirable for living and thriving in, let us aspire and strive to deal justly and equitably with each other, just as we proclaim in our coat of arms.

Again, just for emphasis, peace isn’t evidenced by the mere absence of war, but also and more importantly, by the pervading and sustained presence of goodwill. The will that is good deals justly and equitably with the subjects of its attention. That will leaves no room for bitterness and resentment to fester, because of ignoble conduct. So, rather than busy ourselves attempting to put out fires we start through insensitivities, let us commit to one another in our National Pledge, to deal justly and equitably with each other at all times and to be held accountable to plant our feet where our mouths go, as our Gamma CORE attribute.

Now, that’s easier said than done. Its hard to uphold that with any degree of consistency in Ghana. Let me illustrate with an experience I had in a foreign land. You have a minute? Get yourself a drink and let’s chill.

On Thursday Sept. 1st, 2016 I walked through one of those experiences which sadly, I can’t look forward to in Ghana. I received a partial refund on an item I’d purchased on Aug. 8th; an item which I continue to possess and use. A sales clerk at Best Buy made the refund to me under her company’s Price Match programme. In simple terms, Best Buy has voluntarily committed to refund the difference, if the price of purchased merchandise falls during the 30 day return period. Price discounting usually occurs during promotional sales. Thursday Sept. 1st was 24 days from when I’d grudgingly purchased a new shredder, so I matched to the shop with intent, as my former headmaster once charged two consorting students with.

For background, I went to Best Buy on the morning of Aug. 8th purposely to buy a shredder and was greeted at the entrance by a sales clerk of Sub-Saharan African descent. Now, knowing as I do that there’s an isolation quotient attached to skin pigment in that country, I responded warmly, accepted the discount sales flyer he was offering and for small talk, asked whether they stock paper shredders in the particular shop. When I’d selected the model I wanted and was proceeding to the checkout area, I again run into the same sales clerk, which prompted me to ask somewhat pointlessly, “When are you guys going to place this model on sale? I’ll use it infrequently and don’t want to spend this much to acquire it?” He answered very properly that he wasn’t privy to information on their promotional sales programme, but there certainly would be a big sales event on Sept. 1st. I could check online to find out if the item was being discounted on that day and bring my receipt with me for a refund under their Price Match policy, if I chose. I decided not to forget that precious bit of information.

Come Sept. 1st, I happened to need an ear phone from the same shop and remembered the precious bit of info, but for the life of me, couldn’t recall where I’d saved the receipt for my disdained shredder. Well, I matched to the shop anyway and after I’d settled on the earphone I wanted to buy, I walked up to a sales clerk at the checkout counter and asked if I might return with the shredder’s receipt at a later date for a Price Match refund and how late that date could be.

“Its best to settle that today, because none of us know for how long an item will be offered at a discounted price. Do you have the payment card you used in purchasing the shredder?”
“I do.”
“Well then, let’s first settle the transaction on your new purchase and I’ll see to your refund.”

And true to her word, when I’d paid for my new purchase, she again swiped my card to retrieve and reprint the receipt for the dreaded shredder and proceeded to refund the price difference, simply because it was the company’s policy to make such refunds on demand. Now, shops don’t offer Price Match policies in Ghana, whether voluntarily or otherwise and if they did, I’d argue anyone any day and at anytime of that day, that I’d enjoy the benefit of the Price Match under special circumstances only, because Ghana isn’t founded on the rule of law; Ghana is founded on a regime of patronage. Ah ah; don’t pout now. Remember, its chill out time.

The notable effects of the rule of law on my visits to Best Buy started when I encountered the Sub-Saharan African sales clerk on Aug. 8th. He was under obligation to disclose relevant and authorised information which would make my visit rewarding and, in conformity with his employment contract, he didn’t hold back. The Ghanaian sales clerk might have given me an Ntsu, unless in his eyes, I was somebody, but more on somebody-ness in a moment.

The sales clerk I met on Sept. 1st was of South-East Asian descent, probably Pilipino. Her ethnicity has no relevance to my shopping experience in the foreign country where I was, but is in every way relevant to our shopping experiences in Ghana, as I’ll demonstrate in a moment. Like the 1st sales clerk, she too was under obligation to disclose all authorised, relevant information and assist in making my shopping visit rewarding and like the 1st sales clerk who happened to be Sub-Saharan, this presumably Pilipino lady applied herself to meet the terms of her employment contract.

Now, here are some of the special conditions under which I may, just may have received comparable service in Ghana (assuming of course, that the employer is implementing a Price Match policy):

  1. I’m a known relative of the sales clerk;
  2. I’m a known schoolmate, or fellow church member of the sales clerk;
  3. I’m a friend of one of the sales clerks, or a known friend of their own friend or relative;
  4. I’m known to the sales clerks as sharing ethnicity with them by birth, or less favorably, by marriage;
  5. One or more of conditions 1 – 4 apply and importantly also, I’m in the good books of the sales clerk;
  6. I offer a monetary incentive to them, or have been known to tip sales clerks generously during past visits and am therefore a favoured customer;
  7. I’m known to be a person of influence (somebody of influence) who might dispense patronage to them in a different setting; such as a Lecturer who might put in a word to have their ward admitted into the tertiary educational institution where I work;
  8. I’m known to be a medical doctor, or official of high standing (somebody to be feared), who might dispense patronage to their person or relative at some future date, or cause them extreme discomfort, if I’m displeased with their service;
  9. I spoke to them in their native tongue, however falteringly, as soon as I knew their ethnicity;
  10. The sales clerk saw me walk in and simply took a liking for me;
  11. I was extremely and hypocritically polite in addressing them, using such appellations as Chief, Master, Madam, Sister, or Ma;
  12. Now, here’s my favorite by far; I took on the fight in their behalf, in a dispute with another shopper, even though the sales clerks were in the wrong. I did, because the shopper was doing something too much.

I’m certain you get the drift of ways in which we procure patronage in Ghana and can add to this list till Christ comes, but the list isn’t the point of my rant on this matter. Irrespective of what protestations we make, this is how our society operates; this forms the foundation of our interaction with each other. It defines the fabric of our society. We may have solemnly declared and affirmed our commitment to the rule of law in the preambles of our Constitution. Parliament may enact what laws it wills. Local governments may script what by-laws and regulations they please. Employers may insert whatever conditions they fancy in employment contracts. All of those are but opportunities for the persons charged with implementing the laws, regulations, or terms to dispense patronage to who they please, or extract rent (a bribe) from persons they provide services to. If you happen to be a nipa boni, too bad for you. If you happen to be Mrs. Nobody, who cares? And you are doing something too much, ah, if you insist on your rights as a customer, or citizen. We’ll make certain obaa fo la.

Yet that too isn’t the point of my rant on this subject. So what is this about? When God …; of course, I was going to come round to the Beginning. When God created the nation Israel, one of the 1st things He did was to give them a body of laws; laws which have since become the foundation for modern liberal jurisprudence. That must be because He designed man to live in communities governed by the rule of law, not by patronage, because He pointedly taught Israel to deal justly with both the Jew and the sojourner among them without differentiating who is and who isn’t entitled to justice.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8; NKJV)

Including the rule of law as a CORE attribute of our Ghanaianess is asking much. The rule of law doesn’t come to us naturally. Indeed, we resent it, because it introduces a rigidity which inhibits the flow of our 10%, kalabule, ways and means, cola, something for the chief, noko fioo for the boys, kpakpakpa …; you know what I’m referring to, don’t you? Or perhaps you’re not Ghanaian enough. I’m of course, alluding to those activities which are in fact, our preferred ways of maintaining ourselves. Call them anything you please, except the bribes and corrupt means that they are. How else shall a man remain competitive in maintaining his daughter’s peer as his mistress in a local university, while paying the fees and maintaining his daughter and son in universities abroad and all the while, financing the construction of his mansion without a mortgage loan, if he’s prevented from collecting facilitation fees? As the saying goes, no one works for Kingsway, yet collects his pay from UTC! Where you work is where you chop, both formally and informally.

Yet look around you at the nations of the world today. Which ones are achieving sustained and stellar performance in economic growth, social welfare, etc; measures which progressively enhance the dignity of their citizens and visitors? Almost invariably, its the likes of Singapore, South Korea, UK, Germany, Denmark, Finland; those nations which emphasise certainty by promoting the rule of law. Its not the likes of Italy, Greece, Ghana; the so-called soft states, where the rule of law is at best, restrained. The regime of patronage won’t get us anywhere near becoming a functional and high performing nation-state. We’re up against the grain of nature and we’re losing. Our regime of patronage cannot compete against the rule of law, so we’ve been losing by choice.

Let’s begin by owning our failure, start the engine of our drifting ship of state and turn her around, because it hasn’t exactly been going any place at any pace. Let’s begin to pledge to ourselves and strive to uphold the rule of law in all things, at all times and in all circumstances:

I promise on my honour to be faithful and loyal to my fellow Ghanaian.
I pledge to defend his right to remain different.
I pledge to uphold his constitutional rights at all times.
I pledge to treat him justly and equitably at all times. ©


Yor ker gali : a dish of boiled beans, gari and spicy sauce or palm oil;
Nipa boni : literally, a bad person; an antisocial person (an Akan phrase);
Obaa fo la : literally, tears of blood; tears of frustration (a Ga phrase);
… doing something too much : Ghanaian phrase for a fusspot;
Kalabule : devious dealings, especially overcharging for goods and services;
Noko fioo : a tip, or bribe of low value (a Ga phrase);
Kpakpakpa : same as kalabule.

On Being Ghanaian – Beta CORE

The second of four shared attributes of our Ghanaianess; Constitutionality.

Ghana-FlagI’m Ghanaian, because the Constitution categorizes me as such and I, of my own volition and following accepted practice, subscribe to the supremacy of the Constitution on the matter. Now, just for the benefit of us the ordinary and mortal, I’ve reproduced the third chapter of our 1992 Constitution below in its entirety. Its the portion of the basic law of the land which defines who is Ghanaian. Oh, its my pleasure and you are very welcome. This service should keep us all equally informed on the subject during this conversation.

The Constitution imposes specific obligations on me, defines rights I’m entitled to by reason of being Ghanaian and indicates basic privileges I can enjoy for the same reason. The community of Ghanaians is right in expecting me to discharge those obligations without fail while I identify as a Ghanaian. By corollary reasoning, I’m entitled to expect the community of Ghanaians to uphold all my constitutional rights and privileges, at all times. Let us aspire to and make every effort to keep faith with each other by virtue of our common citizenship, as our Beta CORE attribute. It will profit us immensely. In large part, we won’t have to guess what our neighbour will, or will not do in specified circumstances but rather, can insist that he adhere to the unequivocal provisions of the Constitution he pledges to uphold.

I promise on my honour to be faithful and loyal to my fellow Ghanaian.
I pledge to defend his right to remain different.
I pledge to uphold his constitutional rights at all times.

Our Constitution certainly isn’t a perfect compendium of basic laws for Ghana. No constitution is, which is why they get amended from time to time to reflect altered circumstances, changed attitudes and so on. Thankfully, the Constituent Assembly which framed the 1992 Constitution included provisions for amending this basic law of the land. Therefore by implication, we have agreement on specific procedures for amending the basic obligations required of me as a citizen of Ghana, as well as curtailing, or augmenting my basic rights and privileges. The procedures are specific and clearly expressed in the document. There’s no uncertainty about when and to what extent my obligations, rights and privileges as a citizen should apply. In any case, we are agreed in promulgating the Constitution, that the Supreme Court shall have the final say, where clarity is needed in interpreting the document.

That offers me certainty in the specific matters covered by the Constitution, if I wish to carry myself about proudly as a Ghanaian, following as it were, the example of our President. However, I can possess that certainty only if members of the community of Ghanaians keep their part of the bargain, by upholding my right to be treated as a bona fide Ghanaian within the framework of the Constitution. And that is the reason why I should pledge to uphold your constitutional rights at all times and you, mine. There can be no uncertainty, for example, as to whether you are indeed a Ghanaian and therefore, entitled to vote in an upcoming election. To the extent that you satisfy the conditions for citizenship defined in the Constitution, I must stand ready to defend your right to be treated as such. Equally, there can be no uncertainty about my citizenship on the basis of the shape of my nose, or the amount of skin pigment I’m endowed with by nature, when the Constitution says nothing in regard to those physical attributes.

The Constitution


(1) Every person who, on the coming into force of this Constitution, is a citizen of Ghana by law shall continue to be a citizen of Ghana.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, a person born in or outside Ghana after the coming into force of this Constitution, shall become a citizen of Ghana at the date of his birth if either of his parents or grandparents is or was a citizen of Ghana.

(3) A child of not more than seven years of age found in Ghana whose parents are not know shall be presumed to be a citizen of Ghana by birth.

(4) A child of not more than sixteen years of age neither of whose parents is a citizen of Ghana who is adopted by a citizen of Ghana shall, be virtue of the adoption, be a citizen of Ghana.


(1) A woman married to a man who is a citizen of Ghana or a man married to a woman who is a citizen of Ghana may, upon making an application in the manner prescribed by Parliament, be registered as a citizen of Ghana.

(2) Clause (1) of this article applies also to a person who was married to a person who, but for his or her death, would have continued to be a citizen of Ghana under clause (1) of article 6 of this Constitution.

(3) Where the marriage of a woman is annulled after she has been registered as a citizen of Ghana under clause (1) of this article, she shall, unless she renounces that citizenship, continue to be a citizen of Ghana.

(4) Any child of a marriage of a woman registered as a citizen of Ghana under clause (1) of this article to which clause (3) of this article applies, shall continue to be a citizen of Ghana unless he renounces that citizenship.

(5) Where upon an application by a man for registration under clause (1) of this article, it appears to the authority responsible for the registration that a marriage has been entered into primarily with a view to obtaining the registration, the authority may request the applicant to satisfy him that the marriage was entered into in good faith; and the authority may only effect the registration upon being so satisfied.

(6) In the case of a man seeking registration, clause (1) of this article applies only if the applicant permanently resides in Ghana.


(1) Subject to this article, a citizen of Ghana Shall cease forthwith to be a citizen of Ghana if, on attaining the age of twenty-one years, he, by a voluntary act, other than marriage, acquired or retains the citizenship of a country other than Ghana.

(2) A person who becomes a citizen of Ghana by registration and immediately after the day on which he becomes a citizen of Ghana is also a citizen of some other country, shall cease to be a citizen of Ghana unless he has renounced his citizenship of that other country, taken the oath of allegiance specified in the Second Schedule to this Constitution and made and registered such declaration of his intentions concerning residence as may be prescribed by law, or unless he has obtained an extension of time for taking those steps and the extended period has not expired.

(3) A Ghanaian citizen who loses his Ghanaian citizenship as a result of the acquisition or possession of the citizenship of a country other than Ghana shall, on the renunciation of his citizenship of that other country, become a citizen of Ghana.

(4) Where the law of a country, other than Ghana, requires a person who marries a citizen of that country to renounce the citizenship of his own country by virtue of that marriage, a citizen of Ghana who is deprived of his citizenship of Ghana by virtue of that marriage shall, on the dissolution of that marriage, if he thereby loses his citizenship acquired by that marriage, become a citizen of Ghana.


(1) Parliamentary may make provision for the acquisition of citizenship of Ghana by persons who are not eligible to become citizens of Ghana under the provision of this Constitution.

(2) Except as otherwise provided in article 7 of this Constitution, a person shall not be registered as a citizen of Ghana unless at the time of his application for registration he is able to speak and understand an indigenous language of Ghana.

(3) The High Court may, on an application made for the purpose by the Attorney-General, deprive a person who is a citizen of Ghana, otherwise than by birth, of that citizenship on the ground.

(a) that the activities of that person are inimical of the security of the State or prejudicial to public morality or the public interest; or

(b) that the citizenship was acquired by fraud, misrepresentation or any other improper or irregular practice.

(4) There shall be published in the Gazette by the appropriate authority and within three months after the application or the registration, as the case may be, the name,. particulars and other details of a person who, under this article applies to be registered as a citizen of Ghana or has been registered as a citizen of Ghana.

(5) Parliament may make provision for the renunciation by any person of his citizenship of Ghana.


(1) A reference in this Chapter to the citizenship of the parent of a person at the time of the birth of that person shall, in relation to a person born after the death of the parent, be construed as a reference to the citizenship of the parent at the time of the parent’s death.

(2) For the purposes of clause (1) of this article, where the death occurred before the coming into force of this Constitution, the citizenship that the parent would have had if he or she had died on the coming into force of this Constitution shall be deemed to be his or her citizenship at the time of his or her death.

(SOURCE: https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.ghana.gov.gh/images/documents/constitution_ghana.pdf&ved=0ahUKEwiTutbEubHSAhVIyGMKHSUlCl4QFgg3MAg&usg=AFQjCNFjoJu7bS8b_Y5sBUEgdR4HWcC4cA)

On Being Ghanaian – Alpha CORE

The first of four shared attributes of our Ghanaianess; Diversity.

Ghana-FlagIn large part, we’re accepting of each other. We know we’re different in terms of language and other cultural traits and don’t mind too much. In truth, we prefer to tease each other about our differences, rather than go to war over them. Would you really kill and maim and destroy, because your neighbor wraps his piece of cloth on his bear torso and not on a jumper shirt, or because he opts to wear a smock, rather than wrap a piece of cloth around his body? Or more delicately, shall that attitude of his towards another mortal of your choice be the basis for your leaving town to go to war? Come on, let’s get real. Who cares that I eat Waatse every morning and not Komi ker kenagn? Fetredetsi may not be my thing at all, perhaps because I simply don’t get the navigating bit right and unfailingly soil my shirt, much to Davi’s annoyance. I may call Fufuo Fufui, but why should such trivia form the basis for schisms between us, rather than options to chose from and impress visitors with?

Last time I looked, some Fantis were holding their own on a verandah of the third floor, in the Ministry of Finance, there in Accra and didn’t seem too concerned that there’s a whole world around them. And if an Ewe sought to join in, he was welcome, even if he spoke faltering Fanti, Pidgin or Queen’s English, or some intelligible combination of them. Who cared? All they required was that Apetor have a sense of humour and therefore, be able to give and take at short notice. This defining attribute has held true over the years for many, in spite of ourselves. Indeed, come to think of it, the lyrics of Yen araa ye asaase ni was written in Twi by an Ewe, Ephraim Amu, who also composed the music! We’re accepting of our diversity and that’s a good thing; a thing to be cherished and nurtured, because its a source of strength and not weakness.

We cherish diversity in the flora and fauna around us, because it makes for beauty and the different species occupy different niches in a delicately balanced ecosystem which wouldn’t work otherwise. We’ve learnt that diversity within and between populations work to the advantage of a species of plant or animal life forms. The population as a whole is better positioned to survive changes in its ecosystem, when there is sufficient diversity in it. What constitutes strength in an individual specimen of the population today may become a weakness tomorrow, because of an extreme and challenging change in the ecosystem. With diversity, there just may be other specimens within the population who possess what have been weaknesses hitherto, but constitute the right traits for surviving the challenges of the reconfigured ecosystem. Diversity of itself introduces strength in any population, so let’s cherish and take advantage of it and not be fearful of otherness.

How then shall we manifest our Alpha CORE attribute through daily conduct? In the last 60 years, we’ve been vowing to do honourably with regard to our collective called Ghana, through the National Pledge in its various iterations. When we’re able to stumble through its lines at all, we congratulate ourselves as very knowing, forget what we just pledged and then get on with our lives as if nothing significant had happened. I’m certain you’ve seen and perhaps been entertained by clips on TV, or on the Web in which an interviewer presses a subject to recite the National Pledge, with ridiculous, even hilarious results. Just so that we both know what I’m referring to, here is the current iteration of our National Pledge:

I promise on my honour
To be faithful and loyal to Ghana my motherland.
I pledge myself to the service of Ghana
With all my strength and with all my heart.
I promise to hold in high esteem
Our heritage, won for us through the blood and toil of our fathers; and
I pledge myself in All things to uphold and defend the good name of Ghana.
So help me God.

(SOURCE: http://www.ghana.gov.gh/index.php/about-ghana/the-national-pledge)

So there; no need to continue fumbling and mouthing nothings when asked. Four beautifully phrased and undoubtedly, noble promises and pledges which ought to guide our everyday decisions. Yet do they really guide our choices? I suspect that if an interviewer cared to ask, he’d receive some pretty weird and inexplicable responses about why we call Ghana our motherland, rather than our fatherland. Worse than that, I strongly suspect that we most of us are unable to relate with the somewhat abstract entity called Ghana as intimately as the word motherland elicits. As a result, a disturbing discord between the pledge and the choices we make pervades our way of life in … yeah, our motherland.

Indeed, I suspect that if we tried, we many of us would have a really hard time assembling sufficient evidence to convince our grandchildren that we’ve been faithful and loyal to our motherland, rather than our fatherland; that we’ve rendered service to the nation with all our strength and heart and not to our own selves only; that we’ve held our heritage in high, rather than low esteem and, or that we’ve upheld and defended the good name of Ghana consistently and nobly, rather than pursued personal well being first and only. No, I’m not making accusations here, though I may sound that way. Rather than take a guilt trip after 60 years, let’s turn this ship around and head somewhere, by pledging to our neighbour from now on. The nation-state is an abstraction introduced to us by the European colonizers and we’ve been struggling to own the concept for 60 years with ahem results. I don’t suggest we throw the concept away altogether, but rather, that we take a different approach to building that larger and diverse community called Ghana.

Permit me to pledge to you, fellow Ghanaian and do pledge to me in return, as we live together in the region called Ghana and beyond. Let’s pledge to each other to conduct ourselves in a particular way and hold each other accountable for the pledges we make. That way, we can have community together, however diverse we are ethnologically, in religious beliefs, or in any other measure of sameness. That way, we can have a common CORE which transcends the provisions of our Constitution in fact and differentiates us from other nationalities. Here’s what I suggest we pledge to each other, with regard to our Alpha CORE attribute:

I promise on my honour to be faithful and loyal to my fellow Ghanaian.
I pledge to defend his right to remain different.

Let’s keep it simple and straight forward. In pledging to defend our Alpha CORE attribute, we’re pledging to stay together and reassuring each other that we have nothing to fear about our neighbour’s otherness. If he holds fast to that promise daily, then he’s not going to rise up in the middle of the night and come at you, merely because you’re of a different ethnic background, or religious persuasion; which more likely than not, you are. And since you have the same disposition towards him, hey, you enjoy community together. Of course, it takes more than reciting a pledge to build a nation from people of such diversity. We’d have to teach our grandchildren from kindergarten upwards how rewarding it is to belong to a common nation and how disadvantaged they would be without nationhood, using role playing games and other devises. And there are a plethora of additional instruments we’d have to employ to assure success in deliberate nation building.

By the way and just for the avoidance of doubt, an Alpha CORE of the sort I’m suggesting has nothing to do with xenophobia. Being accepting of each other does not require or imply hostility towards non-Ghanaians. Indeed, it is in our best interest to remain welcoming and hospitable to friendly foreigners. For, which of us doesn’t have a nephew, or niece; an auntie or uncle; a brother or sister resident in a foreign country, who sends money from time to time in response to our pleas and text messages asking for immediate help in paying school fees, settling hospital bills, discharging bloated funeral debts, or reroofing the dilapidated ancestral home? It cannot go well with our expatriate communities across the globe (and I mean across the whole globe), if we are perceived to be xenophobic. We had a good record of hospitality towards foreigners until promulgation of the Aliens Compliance Order (1969). Its inhumane execution in 1970 arguably earned us the equally inconsiderate Ghana Must Go expulsion from Nigeria in 1983.

Pledging our Alpha CORE attribute is intended to help us be more deliberate in building community of a specific kind with our neighbour who is identified as Ghanaian by our Constitution. That doesn’t prevent, or excuse us from building other kinds of community with the rest of humanity. ©

Glossary of terms:

Waatse : rice boiled with beans and served with spicy sauce and other condiments;
Komi ker kenagn : fried fish and chilli, served with boiled, fermented thick corn dough pressed into a ball;
Fetredetsi : rich, spicy okra sauce, served with boiled, fermented soft corn dough;
Fufuo / Fufui : boiled cassava, plantain or other starch source mashed into a thick, smooth bulb. Served with rich, spicy soups;
Apetor : affectionate Ewe title for an adult male;
Yen araa ye asaase ni : the title of a patriotic song. It translates to ‘This is our land’.

On Being Ghanaian

What common attributes make us distinctively Ghanaian, when we’re so different ethnically, by religious beliefs and other expressions of culture?

Two months ago at my inauguration on these grounds, I urged that we renew the sacred compact that comes with being able to call yourself a citizen. I am proud that I am able to say without equivocation, I am a Ghanaian citizen” – President Nana Akufo-Addo, Independence Day address, Mar 6, 2017.

Ghana-FlagThis is a good time to reflect on who we are, as we bask in the 60th anniversary of the founding of our nation, Ghana. Sixty years is a short time with respect to nation building, although some may hold the view that we’ve long come of age and ought to be much further down that path than we are today; that there really is nothing worth celebrating. Whichever view you hold on the matter, one fact remains; that we, being different in significant and diverse ways, have held together for 60 years and that is worth celebrating. Considering that we never sat to initiate a union, but were amalgamated as a colony for the administrative convenience of a foreign people who had no understanding of what divides us, I’d say we’ve done pretty well in maintaining the fragile union called Ghana.

Data from our 2010 census indicates that, taking ethnicity and religion for illustration’s sake, we are quite a hodgepodge of peoples. Akans made up 48% of the population, Ga-Dangme 7%, Ewe 14%, Guan 4%, Gurma 6%, Mole Dagbani 17%, Grusi 2%, Mande 1% and various others (including naturalised Ghanaians) 1%. Looking at our demographics from the perspective of adherence to religious belief, 5% professed no belief in particular, 13% identified as Roman Catholic, 18% as Orthodox Protestant, 28% as Pentecostal or Charismatic Protestant, 11% as adherents of Other Christian beliefs, 18% adhered to Islamic beliefs, 5% to Traditional Religious beliefs and 1% to various other beliefs; such as Buddhism (see diagram).


Our being able to hold the union together for 60 years despite this degree of diversity among the 27 million who regard themselves as Ghanaians is noteworthy, particularly in this age of revived fascism (now fashionably reconfigured under the banner of Identity Politics). Yet the absence of open and sustained hostilities cannot pass for the presence of unity, as the UK’s vote to exit the EU demonstrates. So, as we reflect on the 60th anniversary of our independence (or, as I suggest here; the anniversary of our union), let’s take a moment to consider the CORE attributes which make us one people, despite pronounced diversity in ethnicity, religion and other indicators which now serve as qualifiers for inclusion, or exclusion in some countries.

Clearly, outward measures of sameness like common language, common traditions, common garments, common foods won’t cut it, in defining our CORE. We’re commonly different in all of those outward expressions of culture. Indeed, I’ve often heard compatriots speak of the Ghanaian accent, in reference to our country’s official language; the foreign English language. Yet when we care to listen to each other, we invariably acknowledge that there isn’t one Ghanaian accent in speaking English, but rather many, because we’re able to discern the ethnicity of a speaker to a good degree of accuracy by his accent and that, without linguistic expertise.

What then makes us distinctively Ghanaian, other than the geography of our birth place, which is entirely accidental, because it was appointed by a foreign power for its own ends? (Even then, we‘d need some tweaking of the description, because persons who are born elsewhere may legitimately demand inclusion as Ghanaians, because of descent, or choice through naturalisation, for example). What is that CORE which qualifies us as Ghanaian and won’t go away, even when we choose to adopt additional, or substitute nationalities? I suspect we’d argue about the nature of our CORE attributes till the cows come home, if we tried and then lose it all and call each other names and go to bed no better off than we were the day before yesterday, or when the third chapter of the 1992 Constitution was written; the chapter which defines who are citizens of Ghana. So, rather than take that route, let’s maintain the constitutional definition as sacrosanct and keep the peace between us.

Of course, carrying a copy of the Constitution about is somewhat clumsy, so I’ll suggest four distinguishing CORE attributes; some factual, some aspirational, in the four posts which follow and then leave my fellow Ghanaians room to become totally annoyed or otherwise, just as we tend to become when discussing local politics, the prospects of our preferred soccer club, or in the worst case, the performance of the national soccer team; the Black Stars. Just take a deep breath and hold it for four seconds. Now exhale slowly. See? The world didn’t end when you paused for a moment. So chill out and be entertained, then get mad at me after the four attributes if you will. Lom na va, otherwise Onaapo, which I prefer to render in English as, come if you will, or the blessings I carry will continue to elude you. ©

An earlier version of this post and portions of what follow on the same subject were published on modernghana.com on March 4 & 5, 2017.