A ‘moveable feast’, and the day Tamale hosted Ghana

BY: Ajoa Yeboah afari

I have been reflecting on the themes of two commemorations that have taken place this week, in Ghana our 62nd Independence Anniversary and, globally, the International Women’s Day (IWD). Intriguingly, there seems to be a connection.

The theme for the Independence Day observance on Wednesday, March 6, in Tamale, was “Celebrating Peace and Unity”; that of the IWD, yesterday March 8, ‘#BalanceforBetter” – explained as “Let’s build a gender-balanced world.

“Everyone has a part to play - all the time, everywhere … Balance drives a better working world. Let’s all help create a #BalanceforBetter.”

The IWD slogan, for what is a year-long campaign, is accompanied by a pose of both hands stretched out, palms open, to symbolise balance or the scales of justice.

Briefing the media ahead of the anniversary, Deputy Information Minister Mr Pius Enam-Hadzide had explained that the choice of Tamale, the first time that Independence Day was to be marked outside Accra, was to consolidate “the success … in achieving peace and unity among the people of the North”. He was of course referring to the historic settlement of the protracted Dagbon chieftaincy dispute earlier this year.

On Wednesday, watching the splendid parade on Ghana Television, seeing the veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of guests arriving at the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium, I could only conclude that it must have been almost magical for the Northern Region capital, Tamale.

No wonder it was reported that the crowd outside was even bigger than the 20,000-capacity stadium. The singing of Ghana’s second National Anthem, ‘Yєn ara asaase ni’ and the drum appellation in Dagbani were particularly touching.

Without a doubt, no matter which regional capitals are chosen to host subsequent ones, moving the National Independence Day Parade to Tamale will from now on become a reference point, being the first such observance outside the national capital in the more than six decades of the event.

I found it also significant that this year, the year of this innovation, coincidentally, March 6 fell on a Wednesday, which happens to be Ghana’s birth day. March 6, 1957 actually fell on a Wednesday, so Ghana is an Akua (Wednesday-born) although, inexplicably, some people have been calling Ghana ‘Ama Ghana’ (Saturday-born).

If those people must use a pet name or a nickname for the country, it should be ‘Akua Ghana’.

Another reason to back the ‘Akua Ghana’ argument is that the day of the signing of the historic Bond of March 6, 1844, from which the Independence date was derived, also fell on a Wednesday! (The Bond, signed with some Fante chiefs, is said to have “signified the first official moves by Britain to assure herself of control over the Gold Coast”.)

Regarding the IWD theme of gender parity, clearly it has resonance with the 2019 Independence Day theme as symbolised by the celebration being taken outside the national capital and evolving into a rotational event or a ‘moveable feast’. In our context, the emphasis is on ‘unity’ or ‘balance’, ensuring that all regions in the country are made to feel that they, too, matter. As some put it, “Accra is not Ghana, and Ghana is not Accra.”

Thus it was that on Wednesday, March 6, 2019, Tamale schoolchildren, too, experienced the thrill of having the President in their midst, taking their salute. And the many days and hours the children spent at rehearsals paid off as legs and arms swung in admirable unison.

President Akufo-Addo’s speech was powerful, inspiring and well-delivered. However, I was disappointed that he said little about the contribution of women to the Independence struggle, as he has done in the past, when citing the role of the heroes of the struggle. After all, this week is also International Women’s Week.

Also, I wish that the interpretation of the speech of the Guest of Honour, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger had been complete. Inexplicably, the simultaneous English interpretation from French stopped soon after it had started and one wonders if it was a transmission fault only in some parts of the country. Whatever the reason, it was regrettable.

Interestingly, there seems to be general agreement that President Nana Akufo-Addo’s decision that the Parade should be held in Tamale was fair and right. Secondly, it appears that there is also support for making the Independence celebration venue rotational from now on.

However, apparently one unforeseen aspect of the move to Tamale was that, incredibly, not everybody was aware that this year the National Parade would not be in Accra!

As reported by Joy News on Wednesday evening, some people, including tourists and schoolchildren, had turned up at the Independence Square, Accra, hoping to enjoy the parade! They told Joy News that they had no idea about the move of the event to Tamale!

With the tourists I can understand. But with all the publicity and media discussions following President Akufo-Addo’s announcement about the change in his State of the Nation address on February 21, I’m struggling to understand how the news escaped some Ghanaians, Accra-dwellers. This must surely alert the Ministry of Information and media managers not to take anything for granted.

There they were, those peeved people, at the desolate Independence Square, bewildered that this year there had been no parade there for them to enjoy!

But this is a pointer that it should also have occurred to the organisers that having created a vacuum at the Square on March 6, there should have been an activity there for the benefit of those who have been used to starting their Independence Day holiday at the Square. This oversight definitely needs to be corrected in the future!

I believe that the decision to have Tamale host Ghana will continue to bolster phenomenally the confidence of the Northern capital. Furthermore, it will not be surprising if lobbying for the selection of the next regional capital to host Ghana has already started.

My suggestion is that in the name of fairness, the selection should be done by balloting. And evidently the expertise of the Department of National Lotteries would come in handy for such an exercise. After that, a chart could be drawn up and published, so that each regional capital knows when, and how, to prepare to host Ghana.

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