Nii Armah Josiah Aryeh: Fare thee well valiant warrior for the GaDangme Cause – Ade Sawyerr

 

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My friend, Nii Armah Josiah Aryeh, has returned to the ancestors, too soon, and we mere mortals are left to bear the pain of losing him.  In his relatively short life, he did a lot to inspire numerous Gadangme people on a path of consciousness. He provided the opportunity for like-minded people to rally behind a cause of projecting, yet again, the unique position of Ga people in nation building.  But he will be better remembered as a politician, who rose to high office within a political party through his force of ideas and his competence, but who could not sustain his position because of political intrigue.

Though Nii Armah proved adept at handling press conferences and gave many television and radio interviews, he was perhaps more comfortable when drafting these documents, probably because he was an academic. He wanted to be viewed as more than just another ordinary politician.

I got to know Nii Armah in the mid-1990s when he had just completed his PhD study in Law.  He had accompanied a friend of his, Robert Trebi Asafoatse, to visit my good friend Joshua Nii Attoh Quarshie.  Nii Attoh, who had been instrumental in the setting up of Gadangme Nikasemo Asafo, telephoned me and suggested that I meet with this young man who had refreshing ideas and fire in his belly, for the projection of Ga culture within an urbanised Accra, the capital of Ghana.

I invited him to join us at the monthly meeting, the start of a fruitful association that ended up in his becoming secretary of the organisation, for a brief period.  Our association continued with the formation of the GaDangme Foundation in London and resulted in other important developments in the Gadangme Diaspora that gave a voice to the GaDangme Council in Ghana. He had been involved in other Ghanaian groups such as the Black Stars for the World Cup and Gadangme Think Tank which incidentally included luminaries such as Numo Nortse Amartey, Nii Nortei Omaboe, Albert Johnson, Sally Baffour, Dr Jo Blankson who became the Ga Mantse King Tackie Tawiah III and one of the present Ga Mantse, Nii Adama Latse II.  He was also associated with some Ghanaian Socialist Group and with the Liberated Nkrumaist Brigade in London

Though our discussions were about how to move our organisation forward to achieve our goal of influencing the psyche of the typical cosmopolitan and detribalized Gadangme from a civil society perspective, they always took a political framework.  We discussed the importance and achievements of the likes of AW Kojo Thompson, Solo Odamtten, FV Nanka-Bruce, Tommy Hutton-Mills, Obetsebi Lamptey whose legacy had been largely forgotten and observed how the likes of Tawia Adamafio, Sony Provencal, EC Quaye, Paul Tagoe, Ako Ajei, Kwatelai Quartey, Boi Doku had galvanised the Ga into national participative politics.  It was clear that he had an interest in politics and felt that he could play a useful role in shaping the destiny of Ghana.

But our immediate task remained trying to get the GaDangme polity interested in civil society activity that will  push them to contribute to and participate in regenerating the urban community with the purpose of lifting them out of poverty.  We considered several issues: the language under threat because of the onslaught of in-migration, the culture under assault from the charismatic churches, our institution of chieftaincy convoluted because of a lack of a written constitution and decided that perhaps the best hook would be to rekindle an interest in the history of the Ga people.  That was his forte because he had reviewed several documents during his doctoral dissertation and he still had access to the libraries.

This period coincided with the decision to rehabilitate the burial grounds of King Tackie Tawiah I in Accra. A group of us set up the King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Trust that together with the Union of GaDangme Associations, eventually metamorphosed into the Gadangme Foundation.  Nii Armah offered to research the history of the Gadangme people with an emphasis on the leadership of King Tackie Tawiah during peace time.  The high point of The King Tackie Tawiah Memorial lectures in July 1997, was that the prestigious Brunei Theatre at the School of Oriental and African Studies was filled to the brim for each of the three lectures and the content received resounding acclaim from the large mass of Gadangme and other people who attended.

I was grateful to Nii Amarh when he actively supported my candidacy to be chairman of Ghana Union London, helping to organise and recruit several members and advising on an agenda for action after the elections.  I, in turn, had introduced him to several of my older friends in Ghana who would assist him both in his career in the law and in his involvement with the Gadangme Council.

A year later Nii Armah left London to take up an appointment as a senior lecturer in law at the University of Ghana.  Nii Armah continued with the sterling work when he returned to Ghana; organising within the GaDangme community, helping to energise the Gadangme Council with the lectures that he delivered, and assisting with outreach work amongst the GaDangme community.   He also ended up as the liaison with the chiefs and elders.   He started to help write that constitution of the Ga people which he felt, left unwritten, had been the cause of much of the disputes amongst chiefs and families owning land.  He attributed these disputes to the disunity and total breakdown of a system of governance that had left our traditional rulers at the mercy of politicians and civil servants at large, who were controlling the lands that had become the main source of income for our chiefs.

The pull of politics was probably too strong for him and he left the Gadangme Council without achieving the goal of uniting the Chiefs with the people.   He himself could not win the seat he contested though eventually by dint of hard work and merit he rose to become General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress as they went into opposition.  He was not treated very well by his party and became mired in some controversy betrayed by friends and close allies within the party and within the wider political community.

In a perverse sense though we had often discussed the fate of Ga politicians such as Ako Adjei and Tawiah Adamafio and Owula Kojo Thompson, who had climbed high but ended up being marginalised by their own parties, he did not escape that fate despite his many celebrated press conferences that he organised to propagate the social democracy ideology of his party.

Most thought that he had left politics behind to concentrate on his academic career. He had such a sharp and incisive brain with attention to detail, and he was thorough as a researcher. He wrote well and was an ardent and persuasive orator but he was impatient with those who did not readily see his point of view and who maintained other positions.

His autobiography ‘Inside Ghana’s democracy’ largely sought to justify the events of his departure from the NDC but he also wrote some academic books – ‘Property Law of Ghana’ and another ‘Islamic Customary Law in Ghana’ as well as the ‘Law of Wills in Ghana’ that he autographed for me.

But Nii Armah was not done with politics completely, and he bounced back as Chairman of the breakaway National Democratic Party led by Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings and persisted in trying to get back into the party from which they had deserted.  He had to give up that position when his health started failing him early last year.

We have lost him too early, he had a lot to offer the people of Ghana and he was diligent in the causes that he championed, but perhaps unable to form the necessary alliances to see these to fruition and to maintain a dispassionate perspective.  He certainly was ahead of his time considering some of the innovative strategies that he espoused as an activist for the Gadangme concern.

The caucus of the Gadangme community in London will certainly miss you and the legacy you leave – your unpublished King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Lectures will find their way to a blog in your memory.

May your soul rest in perfect peace in the Lord

Anyemi Nii Armah, yaa wo ojogbann

Ade Sawyerr

London June 2017

 

Explaining Christianity – a continuing journey by Ade Sawyerr

Explaining Christianity – a continuing journey by Ade Sawyerr

“Why do you worry when your Lord never sleeps…..prayer for forgiveness, should be our guiding staff, and we will sing Alleluia and never never lose our way!”

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Two holiday periods are celebrated by most Christians across the world: Christmas and Easter. Christmas is a period of good cheer and goodwill amongst men and has been widely accepted by both the secular and religious world as a time for festivities. People go on shopping sprees, exchange cards, gifts and greetings as we usher in a New Year that we wish will be filled with hope and prosperity. It also evokes debates amongst the various sects on the true meaning of the Advent and whether indeed the date chosen is correct or merely a convenient one. This long period of nourishment of the body, soul, and spirit always gives way to Easter and its more profound symbol of a Christ who lived a life of example and teaching but who was tortured and crucified and yet rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven.

These festivals present an opportunity to reflect on various interesting schools of thought surrounding Christianity. So, after these festivals, I felt that after several years celebrating these holidays it is time for me to consider how I might explain why I profess and attest to Christianity in the hope that those with a deeper knowledge of this faith will share with me their understanding and help strengthen mine.

Born and nurtured within a Christian family, I was baptised an Anglican and dutifully followed my grandmother to church at St. Mary’s till I was old enough to follow my older siblings to Sunday School at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Accra, to learn about Jesus Christ and the other stories of the Bible. For a while, I lived with my uncle Mr. Mensah, who led the daily devotion for the whole household at the crack of dawn. I also had the opportunity to attend Brother Lawson’s ‘The Lord is There Temple’ at Korle Gonno the Apostolic sect to which he belonged at the time. When we moved to Accra New Town, because there was no Anglican church in the area, I attended the Presbyterian Church.

In secondary school, I spent my Quiet Time reading the Bible, especially the compelling stories of the Old Testament: the story of the creation, God’s relationship with man, the books of the Judges, Kings, and Prophets. These stories were about how living a righteous life would lead mankind to prosperity and yet despite those teachings, man broke all the covenants with God and strayed onto the path of sin that always ended in adversity and destruction.

Continue reading “Explaining Christianity – a continuing journey by Ade Sawyerr”

James Barnor JamesTown Revisited – Ghana@60 a community photographic exhibition

James Barnor JamesTown Revisited – Ghana@60 a community photographic exhibition

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James Barnor has returned home and we must applaud this young at heart, 87 year old son of James Town, who still active with more projects and things to do, and who in recent times, has consistently put Ghana and Africa right at the top of the world’s attention with his iconic photographs of Ghana in its formative years.

He has been excited from last October 2016, when he held another exhibition in France at Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière where his photographs were projected all over the Metro stations and streets of Paris as publicity for the exhibition.  This exhibition was also used to promote a book of his photographs and he had an opportunity to present one to President Mahama who was then in France to attend a conference at Unesco.

Continue reading “James Barnor JamesTown Revisited – Ghana@60 a community photographic exhibition”

The Outdooring, Dedication and Naming of an African Child – A Ceremony of the GaDangme People of SouthEastern Ghana – Ganyobi Kpojiemͻ Vol 1 Book Review by Gyau Kumi Adu

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BOOK REVIEW: THE OUTDOORING DEDICATION AND NAMING OF AN AFRICAN CHILD: A CEREMONY OF THE GADANGME PEOPLE OF SOUTHEASTERN GHANA – Ganyobi Kpojiemͻ  Vol 1 by Ernest H.C. Tetteh (London: Ophelia Vanderpuye On-line Publishing, 2016).

By Gyau Kumi Adu (joewykay55@gmail.com/ https://joewykay.wordpress.com/)

Reflections on the Book

The primal purpose of this book is to explain three interwoven cultural practices of the Gadangmes: The outdooring, dedication, and naming ceremony of Gas. Although there are writings on Ga naming ceremonies, there is no book on the Ga culture that extensively deals specifically with the depth of Ga names this way the book does. The author’s exegesis and mastery of Ga names is incredible.[1] In fact, after reading the book I realized that if you take away a person’s indigenous name, you take away a person’s distinct cultural identity and heritage. Our names partly define us. Can Ghana be said to be Ghana after all the local names have been erased? Am I still a Ghanaian when I have a totally Western name? Can my lineage be traced if I adopt a completely Western name? Can I be an indigenous Ga and still be a Christian? These were some of the lingering thoughts on my mind after I finished reading this classic book.

The outdooring ceremony is principally one in which “a baby is brought outside for the first time (usually occurring eight days after birth).”[2] In the words of the writer, the “beautiful ceremony [is] to symbolically introduce a new-born baby to God… as well as to the mysteries of the seen and the unseen world…”[3] E.A Ammah, looking at its Ga equivalent word, kpojiemͻ, notes the following: Itis made up of three words. “Kpo” is “yard”, “dzie” is from ‘dze’ “come out” or “appear”, and “mͻ” is person[Therefore it] means to “take or bring the child out into a yard.”[4]   It is at this outdooring ceremony that the baby is dedicated and given a name (family identity). Hence, a child is not recognized as part of the family without the ceremony.

Continue reading “The Outdooring, Dedication and Naming of an African Child – A Ceremony of the GaDangme People of SouthEastern Ghana – Ganyobi Kpojiemͻ Vol 1 Book Review by Gyau Kumi Adu”

New Opportunity Ghana – Welcome President Nana Addo

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Ghana has another opportunity to move forward as our democracy deepens. it must be a joy to all Ghanaians that we can now use the ballot box to effect change in government and not resort to the barrel of the gun. The fact is that military governments have done too much damage to the social, economic and political fabric of our country, more than most care to admit. change in attitudes cannot be enforced by well-intentioned decrees without the approval of the representatives of the people. accountability must invariably be to the people who appoint their representatives. there is hope for Ghana yet, many more years of democracy will gradually bring us to the point where each change in the colour of government must applauded and not celebrated as something historic. that is the guarantee of multiparty democracy. Nana Addo deserves all the goodwill from all Ghanaians for his elevation to be head of state. let us hope that he has vision that will be the compass that will direct his moves. he will make mistakes, he will make many mistakes, he will have to admit and learn from those mistakes; for was it not an american president – i think it was Roosevelt, Theodore who said – He who makes no mistakes, makes no progress! What we must pray for is some sort of continuity amid all the resolve to turn the country around. Ghanaians deserve the best and i hope that Nana Addo will deliver. i wish him well

what do you think?

Traditions and Customs of the Gadangmes of Ghana: Descendants of Authentic Biblical Hebrew Israelites – Book Review by Gyau Kumi Adu

 

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 Book Review: Traditions and Customs of the Gadangmes of Ghana: Descendants of Authentic Biblical Hebrew Israelites by Joseph Mensah (Houston: Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co., 2013.)

By Gyau Kumi Adu (joewykay55@gmail.com/ https://joewykay.wordpress.com/)

 

The thesis of the book is to demonstrate that Gadangmes are of Jewish origin. A careful distinction is made in the book between Jews (from the tribe of Judah) and Israelites (all the 12 tribes). Although, all Jews are Israelites, not all Israelites are Jews. Mensah writes “Most people have come to incorrectly to associate the term Jew with Israelite…  an Israelite is a descendant of Jacob… The term Jew (Hebrew)… means a descendant of Judah.”[1] This distinction is important since in the history of the Israelites, Judah became the southern kingdom, and Israel the northern kingdom. The central theme of this book is that the Gas hail from the Jewish stock.

One of the important discussions that no one studying the Ga culture can ignore is the whether they are from the Jewish stock or not. Mensah agrees with Ga oral history that the Gas are of the Hebrew stock. He further advances this perspective by pointing out that Gadangmes could possibly be from the “Gadites” tribe of Israel using linguistics. He writes.

They [i.e. the Gas from oral tradition] believe they are descendants of ‘CUSH’ or perhaps, Gad and Dan from the twelfth tribe of Israel. It’s fascinating to note the name of their King who led them to Ayawaso in Ghana is Ayi Kushi (Cush); and this lends support to their claim that they are Jews… It will appear that the letter “d” became omitted from the word Gad over several centuries. What we now refer to as Ga people is rather GAD people or people from the tribe of Gad.[2]

In other words, the Ga are Gadites as the word Gadangme suggests. Probably, during interactions between this Gadite stock of Jewish Gas and other cultures, a transformation occurred within the culture. Eventually, a suffix was added to the word Gad: “angme”, making it Gadangme.

Another interesting thing about this linguistic historic analysis of Mensah is that it seems the meaning of Gad and Ga has a strong semblance. The Ga historian, Rev Carl Reindorff notes that the word “Ga” is coined from the expression gaga[3], “connoting black-ants or a marching army of termites which form military troops devouring everything that comes their way. History tells of a similar conquest by the ancient Gas. They destroyed armies that crossed their path.”[4] Hence, the meaning of the word Ga connects to a military soldier. Interestingly, the Hebrew word ‘Gad’ can be also translated as fortune or soldier.

Continue reading “Traditions and Customs of the Gadangmes of Ghana: Descendants of Authentic Biblical Hebrew Israelites – Book Review by Gyau Kumi Adu”

This is no way to treat a former first lady! In praise of Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings

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Whilst reflecting on the reasons why the American electoral college system rejected the former first lady, Hillary Clinton at the polls though she won the popular vote, I have been wondering whether it is just because people do not like former first ladies to succeed their husbands in the highest office of state despite their experience and capability.

It is certainly true that political campaigns do not always reward the most qualified candidates and in Ghana which goes to a general election on December 7 2016, another former first lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings attempts for the first time to win office as president several years after her husband Jerry John Rawlings stepped down as president. But in these days of ‘fake news’ and ‘post truth’ politics, the vision and clarity offered in the message of the smaller parties have been drowned under the campaign noise of the larger parties in but the traditional and social media.

The journey by the NDP candidate Nana Konadu in getting her name on the ballot paper has been long often thwarted many times by officialdom.  In 2012, after she had formed her own party, the National Democratic Party and been selected as their presidential candidate, the Electoral Commission disqualified her because the forms had not been properly completed.  In this coming election, she was again initially disqualified by an overzealous Electoral Commission but that unfair disqualification was overturned by the Supreme Court against an appeal from the Electoral Commission.  So, she stands as qualified and competent and indeed capable candidate in this election.

Continue reading “This is no way to treat a former first lady! In praise of Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings”