• June 6th, 2020

Do you speak the language small?

In October 2018, I was part of a Namibian government delegation that visited Ghana. I went there in my capacity as then board chairperson of Air Namibia. 

During my visit to Accra, I greeted one of the locals in Pidgin English by saying: “…how far Oga?” That means ‘how are you boss’? He responded by asking: “Do you speak the language small?”  I have thus decided to have that as the title of this opinion piece.

Being an ardent Pan-Afrikanist, for me the trip to Ghana was like a spiritual journey of sorts. Ghana is the cradle of Pan-Afrikanism in more ways than one.  

I was thus deeply moved to visit one of the sites from where black slaves were transported across the Atlantic Ocean, namely the Cape Coast Castle where we were, inter alia, shown “The Door of No Return”. 
Over the years, leading African-American figures have visited Ghana to re-connect to that part of our common history; some have even settled there.

Ghana is also the birthplace of the legendary Kwame Nkrumah, who was one of the early pioneers of Pan-Afrikanism until his tragic overthrow in 1966. 

Need I mention that we also visited the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, which is now a tourist site and where he is also buried? For me, the visit to the Cape Coast Castle and the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park were emotional moments. Ghana is, of course, also the birthplace of Kofi Annan, the first UN Secretary General to have come from Sub-Saharan Africa and who left great foot prints on the world stage.

Our visit was also crowned by a courtesy call on Jerry Rawlings, the former President of Ghana. Given my leftist bent, I have always had a soft spot for Rawlings. During our brief encounter with him, I realised that his mind was still razor-sharp and he was still on top of his game, regarding African politics. 
He seemed to hold the Namibian dry dock at Walvis Bay in high esteem and, according to him, Ghana had a lot to learn from Namibia in that regard. 

He had an easy manner about him and took a keen interest in each and every one of us, thus making us feel at home.  Knowing that our late revered Ghanaian lecturer at the then United Nations Institute for Namibia (UNIN), Chris Hesse, was a close ally of his, I made reference to him.

I watched this great man closely as he almost lost composure at the mention of the name Chris Hesse; but being a strong military man that he is, he immediately gathered himself.

 You could not have been closely associated with Chris Hesse without holding fond memories of him. As a refined African intellectual with strong leftist leanings, Hesse was well-read and extremely resourceful. 
When the Rawlings coup happened in 1981, he told us in class in his heavy-accented English and in his typical mannerism of moving his heavy frame slowly about that: “Rawlings have people behind him; and I am one of them!” I was reliably informed that Hesse was not only a huge influence on us as his former students, but he had a commanding intellectual presence in his native Ghana too.

Among the many places that I visited in Accra during my free time, was of course the famous Mutala market – Ghana’s biggest informal market - where they sell anything and everything. Ghanaians are very proud of their attire and cuisine. 

For me it was a pleasant surprise that school kids wear their traditional attire as school uniforms - a very strong Pan-Afrikanist statement indeed. In Accra, the Ghana-Namibia Friendship Association is a vibrant civil society organisation; thanks to the efforts of Ghana’s former High Commissioner to Namibia, Abdul-Rahman Harruna. Regrettably, however, the association does not seem to have any visible presence in Namibia. For obvious reasons, I would not want to touch on Air Namibia’s short-lived Windhoek-Lagos-Accra route, which was my main reason for going to Accra. 

Commenting on that might be perceived as sour grapes, now that I am no longer on the Board of Air Namibia. The new Board is trying very hard to salvage the national flag carrier and they need our support.

*Gerson Uaripi Tjihenuna is director in the office of the Speaker of the National Assembly and a commissioner for the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN). He writes in his own capacity.

Staff Reporter
2019-08-02 07:53:29 | 10 months ago

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