“We face neither East nor West; we face forward!”
– Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
For a man of his stature, Nkrumah naturally evokes a lot of admiration, and no one can take that from him. He seems to resurrect and outlive his pallbearers; they say “Nkrumah Never Dies”. For this “Man of the Millennium”, as adjudged by listeners of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), so much could be said; but that isn’t the thrust of my submission. I intend to draw attention to a matter of
deep personal interest drawing from certain unique actions of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
In recent times, my thoughts have turned to Ghana’s first President more frequently than usual. Apart from his ‘immortality’, I suspect that this recent inclination of my mind is traceably in part to the successful chairmanship bid of Hon. Samia Yaba Christina Nkrumah of the Convention People’s Party (CPP).
Samia is the daughter of the great Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, and currently the sole CPP Member of the two hundred and thirty (230)-member Ghanaian Parliament. She won the bid, a victory which influenced her brother Sekou, to leave the ruling party. As much as I am happy to see the revival of the CPP and the broadening of Ghana’s political options and space – a true representation of what we voted for in choosing multi-party democracy – these are not my worries.
A fellow blogger, Derry Dean Dadzie brought to my notice something about Nkrumah’s view of marriage and family life of a public figure. In his post titled, “Dr. Kwame NKrumah’s Conspiratorial View on Marriage”, a reproduced copy of Dr. Nkrumah reveals he would rather keep his family away from the prying eyes of the media and the gossips of the public. But I am interested, not in how Samia would sit on his lap watching the pan-African read or how Fathia worried about his frequent absence from home and seeming disinterest in personal wealth or property acquisition. I am interested rather in what informed his specific choices vis-à-vis a wife and names of his kids.
Osagyefo, forgive me if I am not minding my business. I have no proof with respect to Nkrumah’s reason for choosing former Miss Fathia Rizk for a wife, but I am inclined to think it had to do with uniting the predominantly Arab North with the rest of the continent. His kids with Fathia Gamel, Sekou and Samia were all named after prominent African Leaders or people. Gamel for example was named after Gamel Abdel Nasser, the second Chairman of the defunct Organization of African Union (OAU) and one time President of Egypt, birthplace of Fathia. Sekou Nkrumah was evidently named after fellow pan-African and first President of The Guinea, Ahmed Sekou Toure. Toure it would be recalled hosted Nkrumah upon his overthrow and subsequent exile in Guinea and made him co-president. Samia, I suppose got hers from the minority Samia tribe of the Bantu ethnic group of Kenya.
I do not subscribe totally to the philosophy that “…that which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet”. There is something in a name. A Name is a unique identification, a SIM or PIN if you like. They are the It troubles me a lot that as Africans, we appear to have lost or are losing our identity. Westernization is swallowing us up wholesale. If you consider this trivial, allow me seethe for a while, and hopefully you’d understand.
Culture should be dynamic but unique. It isn’t consistent with globalization to lose your identity. Globalization means everybody is identifying with everybody, not one set of people being assimilated by another group. Africans, and Ghanaians are surrendering their dressing, eating habits, language and everything about us for a Western or even Eastern alternative. How sad!
In my interaction with some young folks, I was completely taken aback by their reaction each time I asked their native names and suggested they brandish same. The look on the face of a particular girl surprised me. She looked upon her native name with such disgust, you’d think, looking at her, that she was being forced to watch a dog take back its puke. I heard her say with respect to her name, “It’s not nice”, and another remarked “It’s not sexy”. Just how sad!
It has become fashionable to hear a good number of Ghanaians, younger ones in particular mention their names beginning with a so-called ‘Christian’ name. You hear something like Emelia …., Abigail …., Dimitri ….., Felix ……, Samuel ….., etc. But I wonder, what is Christian about ‘Emelia’, ‘Abigail’, ‘Felix’ and ‘Samuel’? That a name appears in the Bible doesn’t make it good, holy or Christian. If this were so, not a few would bear the names ‘Jezebel’, ‘Judas’, ‘Lucifer’ or ‘Satan’ – they are all in the Bible, aren’t they? And by the way, you do not have to be ‘Wahid’, ‘Sharifa’ or ‘Umar’ to be Muslim.
I love nice names, and believe names have great significance and influence. Samia for example is of Aramaic/Arabic origin meaning ‘exalted’ or ‘elevated’. Is it any wonder therefore that Samia Nkrumah was on Saturday 10th September 2011 elevated to the Chair of the CPP? But it isn’t only the current naming system of Africans and Ghanaians that worries me; it is our foreign-biased psyche that worries me. But let it be on record that I believe that even in naming, there should and must be African equivalents to these Western and Middle-Eastern nomenclature.
Jesus and Joshua are Anglo-Grecian of the Hebrew/Arabic Yeshua (Yushua in some cases). All of these names mean “salvation”. The Akan version of this would be Osagyefo. ‘Samuel’ for example has its Akan version in the name ‘Nyamekye’ while a ‘Wahid’ might as well remain ‘Danso’ if he’s an Akan-speaking Ghanaian wishing to be identified as a ‘unique or peerless’ – even if he is of Islamic persuasion. I insist culture is dynamic but should be unique. Uniformity isn’t synonymous with unity, neither is assimilation the same as globalization.
My argument is simple: let us be proud of who we are, even if we cannot be proud of what we are. The Chinese, Arabs, English, Indians, Germans and Italians for example have stuck with their names, cuisines, dressing, and all you would consider their fundamentals in spite of being dominated and even colonized by other people in their individual histories. Africans and particularly younger Ghanaians are disdainful of their identity. This is more than vestiges of colonialism! What is wrong with us?
Religion isn’t antithetical to tradition, neither is it the opium of the masses as Karl Marx would like us to believe. However, I see the damage misrepresented and misinterpreted religion has done to us. Missionaries of the continent’s dominant faiths either demonized our names and traditions or glorified theirs at the expense of ours. They were supposed to be ambassadors of God; they ended up as political officers and brainwashers. Ubuntu is Africa’s beautiful worldview; we have no use for formalism. Our names are good so long as the meanings are. Our chows are great, we should be proud of them. Our clothing is unique; workers should not be penalized for not looking like Jack or Jill.
Before I am misconstrued, I do not hate Europe or America. In fact, I see myself primarily as a member of the Human race with a constituency among the Black-African race. I have an English name; one I am seriously contemplating giving up. I have come to appreciate a lot about other people’s culture and hope that my African kinsmen appreciate what is unique to us. No one, not the Whiteman, Redman, Orangeman nor Yellowman would ever be able to look down on us for who we are or what we have unless we so permit him. By the way, they aren’t the ones looking down on us, we are our own enemies.
While we make effort to change what we are, let us never be ashamed of whom God in His infinite wisdom has made us.
When a local street in New Jersey (US) was on June 24, 2011 named ‘Ghanaian Way’, Ghanaians and indeed Africans in the locality jumped onto the streets in jubilation. In their opinion, an honor had been done to the Black Star of Africa. I do not begrudge them, only I moan our perception of ourselves. Come to this country Ghana, and whole localities are named after tiny hamlets in the UK and US. We refuse to be truthful and faithful to ourselves so we call for international ‘observers’ during our national elections. Are we ever invited to do same between ‘George Bush’ and ‘Al Gore’? Africans! We need to re-view and re-assess ourselves. A dear friend of mine, currently resident in Sierra Leon, forwarded a mail to me. See the post titled “The Prayer of a Black Person”
In many instances, it would be unnecessary to move for wholesale reversal of things. I am not asking us to go the way of Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga (a.k.a Mobutu Sese Seko) who besides changing his name (Joseph-Désiré Mobutu) and that of his country – from Congo to Zaire – forced citizens of his country to do same, and killed or imprisoned anyone who thought otherwise. That was just not right. I am not advocating xenophobia or racism of any sort. I am saying: Africans, look at what you have, take away the dross and let us have fine silver for the finer.
We have a great continent in Africa. The continent and its people are rich and beautiful.