On Saturday, December 19, the Upper West Region will stand up to salute an outstanding son who takes the woman of his heart to the altar in what will be a showpiece marriage ceremony in… Wa-a-a-a-a-a-a.
Abdul-Salam Abdul-Rafiq, better known as Rafiq Salam, Joy FM’s long serving self-styled rural reporter, will enter into holy matrimony with Shahida Seidu, a daughter of elder statesman, Gulinaa Seidu Braimah, who is the current Upper West representative on the Council of State.
The event may qualify for a royal wedding by the standing of the soon-to-be-couple, but even in their modest description of “formalising a romantic relationship,” it has become a must-witness event for many travelling from far and near to be part of what is expected to be a memorable occasion.
It is the least the society could offer a youthful member who has turned ears and heads towards the Upper West Region with his unique news reportage before signing off with the unmistakable refrain “Wa-a-a-a-a-a-a”.
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That buzzword is a single act that has advertised the youngest region of the country and its capital, and developed its creator into a virtual tourist attraction to the extent that he is the first to be enquired about by visitors and non-natives whenever they visit or meet persons from the region.
Rafiq Salam, still waiting to clock 40 on earth, is relatively young for the profile he has built for himself over the years, but he told The Mirror in an interview that “it has not gotten into my head at all. Just as many hail me in the open, so will many despise me on the quiet. That is how life is”.
“Not all people will like me for whatever reasons since we are mere humans, but the positives must outweigh the negatives,” he said.
Very much immersed in the culture of his native Wa and Wala kinsfolk, his language is rich with proverbs and laced with philosophies about life, friendship, ethics, morality and whatever is virtuous. Yet, he speaks with the humility of a rural African, a custodian of a proud cultural background that belies the richness of his heritage.
As the 24th among 27 children of his father, and the sixth of eight children of his mother, Rafiq had to literally battle life to survive.
His crave for survival includes remaining neutral and professional to his calling when close relations are almost equally torn between and occupy very top positions in the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and opposition the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Having schooled at both basic level and senior high in the Upper West Region, a job with Radio Progress in Wa sufficed as the perfect platform to build a career in media work.
Despite making his name within local circles, he agrees that his signing-off refrain has brought an unexpected fan base and a career-boosting profile that he – and many others – could only dream of previously.
“I needed to be unique because there were reporters from Upper West before me and there will be reporters from here after me. The coinage of Wa-a-a-a-a-a-a made me different from the rest.
“It has brought me a lot of opportunities, including requests for adverts and voice overs. Essentially, it portrayed how far Wa and Upper West are from the country’s capital, Accra, where Multimedia broadcasts from. So anytime I say Wa-a-a-a-a-a-a, I portray the challenges of reporting from difficult circumstances to the rest of the country.”
Even he, blessed with an ever-expanding source base that includes particularly girls and ladies from diverse backgrounds in society, admits that reporting from rural and natural surroundings of Upper West has not been easy.
“Lack of resources is an over-used cliché. But radio is new to the people, and so it is sometimes difficult to convince people to speak to you. Besides, in Wa and Upper West, the people are one another’s keeper so it is difficult for someone to expose another for a bad act,” he said.
Despite these challenges, he recalls a news story on a child labour project when his reportage helped to salvage a nine-year-old child from selling sachet water to cater for herself and the grandmother. That child is today in regular school, courtesy some benevolent institutions.
We are used to his signing-off refrain, but on December 19, Rafiq will sign-in to a new life; the life of a married man, a life that may restrict him from the unrestrained rapport with a wide range of females!