In this part of a twelve-part series, the author recasts some of the memorable statements he made in tribute to the Ewes. The purpose is to reaffirm the uniqueness of a tribe that truly represents our national character and which faithfully reflects a template of our national achievements from the very beginning of our nationhood.
Wherever I went to school, the Ewes showed class and took home the honors grades. The best professors were also Ewes, and I dare say that the best of persons with the best character- the most honest, the most loyal, the most beautiful and the most creative-were all Ewes. In the end, whenever an Ewe took the lead in my class, I would always give up and watch in sheer wonder and admiration. Finally when I finished school at the University of Cape Coast, two Ewes had taken a firm lead in front of the class of one hundred and eighty students while I struggled to maintain a third position.
I have learned to love, respect and be proud of my Ewe siblings because they set the standards for me to aspire to and they have cherished me as one of their own……And my association with Ewes has been of immense inspiration and benefit to me. This is because long after my attempt to buy wisdom at age eight, there are people in my town who still question why my rich father ran Atta out of town: they believe firmly that the man did as he promised, but to me the secret lies with my mother’s insight about the Ewe food, the Ewe friendship and the Ewe inspiration.
The response I received from Part One of my article sufficiently distinguished those who live in the real world outside of Plato’s cave and those still chained to its floor. The Parable of the Cave is an allegory used by the Greek philosopher Plato in his work The Republic to illustrate our nature in its education and want of education. Socrates describes a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows. According to Socrates, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not constitutive of reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.
But many commentators have been gazing at the wall forever, and there is no hope for these lost ones. Some of them are chained to the cave floor by their pathological hatred, unfounded accusations, outright lies and baseless assumptions about other tribes. They are the benighted ones whose dumb comments are coextensive with their linguistic halitosis. (There are sufficient reasons to link tribalism with rotten language and rotten teeth!).
One day, Wuda, my Ewe friend, decided to test my intelligence for a reason unbeknownst to me. My father was in the cocoa-buying business. Wuda told me that he had decided to manufacture a plane, and that he had all it took to make one, except the bundle of string needed for the plane’s flying parts. I quickly volunteered to provide him with a bundle of string from my father’s stock. When I got him the bundle, Wuda produced a toy plane and asked me to follow him to the school field. There, Wuda wrapped the string around the plane and set it between his legs. He then asked me to sit behind him in order to experience wonders. Excited to fly, I sat behind Wuda who had pushed the little toy plane out of his thighs to enable me find space on it.
Wuda began to recite some incantations while I closed my eyes to enjoy the levitation. I was all ready to soar into the clouds when Wuda finally burst into a hilarious laughter. I was furious!
Then Wuda said, “Come on Sarfo; you are still dumb in spite of your improved school work! I was just kidding with you. Morgan told me that you once stole your father’s money to go and purchase smartness. I did not believe him at first, but now I do. You are still dumb anyway. If you don’t take care, somebody is going to sell you off for sixpence. Come on…you cannot accept whatever somebody says without asking why. You’ve got to ask questions man; otherwise you will always be hoodwinked!”
“What is “hoodwinked?” I asked Wuda.
“ Come on….eh never mind. Find the meaning in the dictionary.”
“What is “dictionary?”
“Go and find out what it is, and then after that, find the meaning of “hoodwinked”. Come on, I am not your dictionary!” Wuda said impatiently. After this experience with Wuda, I resolved never to believe without questioning, and to accumulate as much vocabulary as Wuda, so that I would not be humiliated again for my lack of understanding. To achieve this latter aim, I started to read voraciously………At the end of fourth grade, Wuda’s father was transferred, and I never saw nor heard from Wuda again.
Oh Amewuda, the friend of my innocent years, my champion, mentor and teacher, wherever you are, I salute you. It has been nearly two score years since I last saw you, but your face is still fresh in my mind. Write back if you remember this account, and let’s share the moments of fun and friendship together, for you also represent the best in the Ewe character and genius. It is true that today, the days of innocence are long gone, and masqueraders and mountebanks have cast their long shadows upon the real Ewe character, obscuring its intrinsic quality with a penumbra of roguish utterances and unfounded insinuations. They are chained to the bottomless pit of Plato’s cave, from whence they gaze eternally on the wall of distorted shadows. But you, Amewuda my childhood friend, you and others like you represent the true character of the typical Ewe: intelligence, courage, honesty, sincerity, perseverance, creativity, independence and distaste for oppression……….
Amu is one of the greatest Ghanaians that ever lived, and he was also a true Ewe……..Amu’s “Yen ara asase ni” served as the living metaphor for one nation, one people, in a covenant of loyalty, incorruptibility, diligence, progress, and love. Amu’s ways at Akropong continued to be suspect. But to him, fads were slippery creatures; and imported fads that created lifelong dependency, were likely to be more slippery than most. To him, the by-heart copying of all things foreign were silver-lined absurdities he’d rather avoid (and hoped his compatriots would too), and stay African, pure and simple.
Other rebellions lay in his way. He questioned the need for “the warm European clothes with starched collars and tightly knotted ties” worn by the so-called educated who should know the tropics better, and wondered why the elite saw nothing strange in the situation. So stuffed for church, he queried, how could priests lift up children in faith, and embrace them like Jesus, the great teacher himself? Given that the pastors could, understandably, not walk on water, nor convert water into wine, nor heal lepers, but the miracle of hugging little children they could perform; could they not?
He asked yet again, why the learned lawyers and judges not appear professionally and comfortably in the local ntama at High Court, instead of the hectic cloaks and the monstrous wigs of medieval Europe? What sticks were the elites and the church waiting to part the seas with? The time was out of joint, and he was determined, a humble son of the local river, to set things right. His fame preceded him as one not about to be thrown off his freedom horse and be re-shackled, and one who would not suffer his essence to be diluted by some holier-than-thou pranks. The large support he was gathering opened up a question for a sweeping survey of the country. He thought aloud that while the local elites looked to bourgeois Europe for their religious and social examples, the threads of native wisdom could knit the Gold Coast together. Ephraim Amu, true Ewe, true Ghanaian, I salute you!
The Ewes have shown over time that they are true Ghanaians whose contribution to our national development is second to none. That is why it is an archetypal irony that pimple-heads question their national identity and origin. But the fact of our history and culture denote the converse of this renegade insinuation. Ewes are no less Ghanaians than any true Ghanaian. In fact, if nationality were quantified by loyalty and patriotism (as it should), then the Ewes out-Ghanaian any Ghanaian. But nobody should be threatened by their status and stature; every Ghanaian tribe has the potential to equalize the Ewe achievements. But before we can emulate any such achievement, it is imperative that we recognize it, respect it, and honor it. None is capable of any greatness except in the recognition of the greatness of the greater other. And I, Sarfo the Black, I also represent my tribe well.
Through me, my tribe is honored, and so are many individuals from other tribes who speak with the voice of wisdom about the ills of the society and the way forward for our great nation. If we are confident, an elevation of a tribe will not be construed as a denigration of ours. Rather, it is a great challenge to those who drag the name of the elevated tribe in the mud to begin to ask themselves, “Are we truly representing our tribe in the best light and leading in the quest to emulate the achievements of the forebears?” This is the challenge of every true Ewe. This is the challenge of every true Ghanaian.
Source: Samuel Adjei Sarfo
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