The other side of Tuobodom

One purpose of songs is to entertain people by conveying messages that have been carefully thought out and are aimed at changing people’s attitudes for  the better.


The society therefore does not take kindly to songs that intend to deride or promote bad habits.
In the light of the above, the composer of the song, Yefri Tuobodom,  Nkasae, might have intended to entertain his listeners and fans through his lyrics but many Bono-speaking people did not take kindly to the song; particularly, the video clip, which depicted the people of Tuobodom at the time as ‘backward and not exposed to any form of development’.

The song, to some extent, made mockery of the Bono language. The Bonos do not have any ‘jovial’ relationship with other tribes, such as pertains between the Dagaaba and the Frafras, and the Walas and Moshi. It is, therefore, difficult to understand why Nkasae composed his lyrics.

Worse of all, the group went further to indicate that Tuobodom’s capital is Jinijini, displaying its ignorance of history.
The people of Tuobodom and Jinijini belong to two different traditional areas therefore there is no way the latter could be the capital of the former.  However, the twist in the song is that it did happen at some point in time that some people from Tuobodom went to Kumasi for a singing competition.
The lyrics of the song are beautiful and when it is played, even those who bear the composer a grudge may dance to the tune.
When one takes a second look at the song, one may learn something positive and constructive.

To my mind, instead of people becoming emotional, let us re-examine the status of the Bono language in the midst of other Akan languages.  What is happening to the Bono language and what is its stance in the midst of other Akan languages?

Languages, over the years,  have been used as the channel of communication by human beings and through it, socialisation is effectively carried out, making it possible for human beings to pass on their values and cultures to generations. It, therefore, distinguishes man from other species that act basically on external stimuli.

Protect languages
Societies that have made strenuous efforts to protect their languages have assumed great relevance in human endeavours.  English, French, German, Arabic, Spanish, Asante, Swahili, Dagbani, Ewe, among others, can be cited as examples.
Societies that have lost their languages due to colonialism have suffered a great loss  of culture since they have been forced to adopt other languages instead of their native languages or mother tongue. 

That has also deprived some members of such societies of their confidence and pride, which could entire generations.
In recognition of the relevance of native languages, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has declared February 21 of each year as a day for the observation of international mother languages around the world.

As noted by UNESCO, many of the languages spoken by minority groups in the world are gradually fading out and if efforts are not made by various governments around the world, cultures will be lost and the world will lose its cultural diversity.

In Ghana, the Akan, Ewe and Ga are the largest tribal groups. Linguistic classifications of African languages place the Akan, Ewe and Ga languages into the KWA group and Mole-Dagbani into the GUR group (Nukunya; 1992). Ghana has many languages, some of them having similarities. 

Among such similar languages, starting from the North are the Dagaare, Wali and Lobi. Those who belong to the three tribes can understand whichever of the three languages is spoken, but anytime a Dagao (I.e. Dagarte man) meets a Waluu (i.e. A Wala man) he speaks his language and not Wali and vice versa. Mention can also be made of the Mamprulli and Dagbani languages.

In Southern Ghana, Asante, Akyem, Fante, Akuapem and Bono share some similarities. Whereas most languages in northern Ghana that have similarities are used  interchangeably by their native speakers for communication, that is not the case for those in southern Ghana.

The exception to the rule is the Bono language. Whereas majority of Fantes and Akuapems speak their languages in the midst of Akans, most native Bonos who live outside their traditional area would not speak the Bono language when they are communicating with other Akans.
They prefer speaking Asante.

This observation was confirmed in a research conducted in the Brong Ahafo Region by the writer in 2010.
Out of 65 respondents drawn from Techiman, Nkoranza, Wenchi, Dormaa and Berekum in the Brong Ahafo Region, 69.2 per cent agreed that many Bonos are not comfortable speaking Bono outside their traditional area, particularly those who have acquired formal education.

This, though is not entirely the reality, since there are some personalities who pride themselves in speaking Bono irrespective of where they are. Mention can be made of the Amanhene of Dormaa and Techiman; the former Deputy Minister and Member of Parliament for Dormaa, Hon. Kweku Agyeman Manu; and Kofi Manu of the GFA.
As we listen to the lyrics of the song, Yefri Tuobodom, let us think about what contribution we can make to the promotion of the Bono language. How come that in this 21st Century, sermons are not delivered in the Bono language in the churches and mosques in that traditional area?

How come that Bono is not taught and learned as a language in schools in that area? How come that some Bonos, particularly those living outside Bono Ahafo, shy away from speaking Bono, even at their own meetings?

This is unacceptable and cannot continue. We must all make efforts to turn back the clock, not withstanding what happened in the past.
Many Bonos of blessed memory have contributed to the development of this country. Prime Minister Busia stands tall among them. Another person  worth mentioning is A. A. Munuifie.

The man who has organised three successful elections in Ghana and Africa, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, is a Bono. A former First Lady, Mrs  Theresa Kufuor; the current First Lady, Mrs Lordina Mahama; Professor George Benneh, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana; and Mr Asiedu Nketia, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) General Secretary (alias General Mosquito) are some prominent Bonos who have played tremendous roles and made impact in all spheres of our society.

They should not, therefore, allow our language to die gradually. I call on all Bono chiefs, opinion leaders, academics, professionals, politicians, Bono citizens, students and our in–law, the President,  John Dramani Mahama, to help save the language from extinction. 

In the words of Kofi Annan,a  former UN Secretary-General, “our language is shedding tears all over because its own children are deserting it, leaving it alone with its heavy burden”.

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