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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Comment: The Black Stars are a great team: Obama tells Shamima Muslim

Shamima asking US President Obama questions
Shamima asking US President Obama questions
The second most powerful being on Oboade’s planet recently hosted distinguished youth from fifty countries of the seemingly accursed continent of ours.

Yes, Obama is powerful!

I didn’t realize the magnitude of his power until he visited Ghana. Sweaty bodies and smelly armpits were huddled together in rickety trotro vehicles in many kilometres of traffic, while The Beast together with a fleeting motorcade, flying faster than the speed of light, owned the city.

Above them hovered a menacing helicopter. It was perhaps waiting for something untoward to happen before it emptied the deadly contents of its bowels onto our wretched city. It was a an enactment of the Jean-Claude Van Damme’s and Arnold Swarchenegger’s blockbusters I used to see at Mr. Akorsu’s house in Kete-Krachi Lake-Side. Indeed, it was a day we forgot that we had a man called Prof. John Evans Fiifi Atta-Mills.
Who say man no dey?

So Obama is very powerful, only second to Satan. I mean on earth. And it was this man who met with African youth. It was dubbed Town Hall with Young African Leaders. And I must add that American Town Hall meetings are places they discuss “serious” issues. I actually wanted to say sensible issues. The People’s Assembly here can be said to the Ghanaian version of Town Hall meetings.

But with the Town Hall meetings, people usually meet to grill public officers on issues ranging from economics, education, governance, health and every imaginable topic that concerns their wellbeing. But in Ghana, it takes a different dimension. The politicians take the floor to spew cliché-laden gibberish. This would be reproduced, word for word, in our newspapers the following day. The only additions are usually the thousand and one “he saids” which begin the paragraphs.

Besides the politicians are the political praise singers, who memorize their praise words like Sunday school memory verses. Two years ago, one of them asked if President Kufuor was a magician. To him, Ghana was so developed that it was strange an ordinary human being could be the architect of that development.

I had barely finished praying to God to forgive the praise singer when someone burst out, and like an agitated inmate of Anas Aremeyaw’s Mad House, pronouncing curses and challenging the president to swear if he was not corrupt. Where we beat the American town hall meetings is our love for formality. Dancers must usher the Big Man in, and drums have to throb to call him to read his speech.

But Obama was very informal. He stood throughout the meeting while the African youth leaders sat. And I like America’s definition of leaders, based on the caliber of people they chose. If it were here in Ghana, you would be sure to find the likes of Sammy Ablakwa’s, John Boadu’s, the “strategically placed” Jinapor Brothers; the self-seeking blokes in the cloaks of student activists. They come out once in a century to make neutral comments on “critical” issues. I mean the NUGS, GNUPS, GUPS… Name them! Must a leader not be someone who inspires a generation?

Ghana was represented by Anas Aremeyaw Anas and Shamima Muslim. Do they need introduction? No. Perhaps, if you’re reading this in Bongo or Kete-Krachi where Citi FM’s Eye Witness News and Metro TV’s Good Morning Ghana are out of coverage area, Shamima is a journalist. And need I say Anas is an “ace” journalist? That adjective has suffered too much in the hands of the Ghanaian journalists.

Obama moderated the meeting and it was so lively and refreshing seeing how casual he interacted with the youth and called them by their first names like his own children. I think the man reads a lot. No wonder he noticed the exploits of Anas Aremeyaw Anas in his “Accra Declaration.” That was a speech Africans hung on as if our very survival depended on the words that parted his lips. But there was something that perhaps made Anas and Shamima prouder than the other African youth.

They were Ghanaians! Period! If you doubt, this is how the meeting began when Obama entered the East Room.

Obama: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody, please have a seat. Have a seat.
Well, good afternoon, everybody.
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.

Obama: Welcome to the White House, and welcome to the United States of America. And that includes even our friends from Ghana, who beat us in the World Cup. (Laughter.) Where are you? Over there? That's all right.

It was close. We’ll see you in 2014. (Laughter.)
So if you were a Ghanaian there, wouldn’t you be proud.
And later when Shamima had the enviable opportunity to be among the very few to ask questions, that familiar voice which usually stupefies our politicians re-echoed the pride of being Ghanaian. She went back to the football. The discussion was miles away from football, though. It was about the “the future of Africa in an interconnected world and the role of the United States as a partner with African nations.”

But who can blame Shamima? Was it not Obama who started it and even went ahead to throw the 2014 challenge? I’m not Paul the prophetic octopus but I’m sure Ghana will meet USA at the quarter finals stage in Brazil 2014. And we’ll wear red jersey again. And this time, it will be our turn to be awarded a penalty. And we’ll beat them again. An emphatic 2:1 will remain the score line again.

So before Shamima asked her question, she warned the USA ahead of 2014. But she said it in an intelligent way. She pretended it was a listener who said it on radio show. Shamima is an intelligent girl, you know? Listen to what she said.

“Thank you, very much, Mr. President. And greetings from Ghana. We are looking forward fervently to 2014 -- (laughter) -- for a repeat. ... And we have a football pundit in Ghana …. And he said to me, ‘This is not war, it is football. If it were to be war, then maybe we should be afraid because the might of America is more than us.” (Laughter.) This is football.’”

She could not have said it better. And Obama had to interpose with a confession before Shamima went ahead with her question, which questioned the genuineness of America’s partnerships with weaker nations.

President Obama said of the Black Stars: “Well, they did an excellent job. They were a great team.”

Now about Ghana’s representatives at Obama’s Town Hall with Young African Leaders, I sincerely think Anas and Shamima represent a ray of hope not only for those aspiring to be journalists but also to the youth of Ghana at large, especially the youth of northern Ghana.
The weekend before they flew to the USA, Anas and Shamima were given special awards at the first ever Northern Journalists Award held in Tamale. The award was to honour journalist working in the three regions of the north. And Anas and Shamima were honoured for being role models to their kinsmen in northern Ghana.

It is important that the youth of Ghana, especially those in northern Ghana, who have become destructive tools in the hands of greedy politicians and litigious chiefs and elders, learn from these youthful achievers. After all, politics is not the only way to make it in life and my brothers and sisters in the north, especially those in Bawku, and Tamale, must learn to appreciate the extent to which they are ruining their future and that of others through their activities.

Poverty is not an excuse. Poverty is a tall and thorny hurdle one has to scale in life, but it is not too tall for a determined heart. In the words of Dr. Marcus Manns, the founder and CEO of the Chiropractic and Wellness Centres, “Nothing is bigger in life. Get the big idea and all the rest will follow.” Dr. Marcus, who is also an international motivational speaker, has his life to illustrate the power of having an idea about what one wants to do in life and staying focused in order to nurture it into fruition.

This was a man who, ten years ago, ventured into something many will consider “a crazy idea”. After opting out of a medical school and going to train as a chiropractic doctor, he conceived this weird idea. He wanted to make an impact in life so instead of practising in America, he wanted to go where his “service was needed most.”

But he had no faintest idea where to go and would close his eyes and spin the globe, saying where his finger touched was where he would go. And his figure landed in the middle of the sea. But he didn’t go there. An African-American, Dr. Marcus wanted to trace his ancestry. So he chose Africa. And to Ghana, he came. Armed with US$120 and a portable adjustment table he came to ply his trade in a land where chiropractic was alien to healthcare vocabulary.

And among the difficulties, nothing irritated him like he being referred to as Obroni. In America, he was in the minority, and when he came to his own people, he was called a stranger.
But “nothing is bigger in life. Get the big idea and all the rest will follow.”

Today Dr. Marcus’ Chiropractic and Wellness Centres can now boast of five centres. With a centre each in Kumasi, Takoradi and Cape Coast and two in Accra, thousands of people, have reclaimed their health and some continue to discover the amazing benefits of chiropractic healthcare. I witnessed testimonies from his patients at the Dzorwulu branch and wondered where all these people, some of whom had been paralysed and could now walk, would be if Dr. Marcus hadn’t taken a “crazy” decision when common sense could tell him that he was bound to fail.

Anas and Shamima have achieved a feat I envy. To sit down for Obama to walk around you, answering questions like a Sunday school teacher, is a feat I envy, if no one does. But they are just like you and me. The only difference is that they know what they want to do with their lives and they are doing it well. And this is what all Ghanaian youth must do.

By now, you may be asking if the boy from Bongo was in the USA “some.” I must be sincere the very first and last time I stepped foot in the airport was when I went to cover the arrival of Joshua Clottey (after he demolished Zab Judah) as a reporter for GTV.
I have not reached there yet, but I’ll get there.
Wishes are like donkeys and donkeys abound in Bongo where Albert Abongo is MP and where yours truly was hatched two and a half decades ago.

Credit: Manasseh Azure Awuni [www.maxighana.com]. Email: azureachebe2@yahoo.com The writer is a freelance journalist based in Accra, Ghana. To read more of his writings, visit: www.maxighana.com

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