The most noticeable thing about Asiakwa, the Akyem town in which I was born and brought up, was the genial nature of its people.
Because the ethnic groups living there had become so integrated with us, it mattered little that my best friend was called Amusa Joseph. He had Yoruba origins, but because he had been born at Asiakwa, he spoke better Twi than Yoruba.
Funnily, it was he who taught me how to approach a beautiful Ewe girl in her own language! I also had an Ewe friend called Gasimon, but it never occurred to me to ask him how to address the girl. Because my friendship with Amusa went deeper. So trying to help me make a conquest came naturally to him.
Another funny thing was that there were other boys in our school whom, one would have thought, would gravitate towards Amusa more than I did — boys like Raimi (another Yoruba). But that was not the case. My half-brother Kwasi Kwaakye also had a close Yoruba friend – Raimi’s brother, Tafa. As we all went about, no one could have torn us apart. Yoruba, Akyem, what was that?
At home, too, my father imported a nubile beauty from Krobo! But try as my mother would, we kids refused to apply the same resentment to her presence as she did. My father actually had a son with the Krobo woman. Then, out of the blue, she took herself off to Krobo and never came back. I don’t know to this day, what transpired between her and my father to make her go do this. I’ve often wondered what became of her son. Somewhere in Krobo, is there a pack of DNA, nearly identical to mine, walking about? I can only hope that he doesn’t ever commit a crime and set forensic experts on my trail, because his DNA matches mine!
My eldest brother also imported a lady from the Volta Region to be his love bride. Again, very beautiful she was. Nobody knew her surname – it wasn’t necessary. We just called her “Auntie Abenaa”. She stayed with us, even when my brother passed away.
But the greatest hero as a child was a man called Maama, from Mossiland, whom my grandmother had employed to look after her cocoa farms. My grandmother was the queen mother of our town, and lived in one of the few houses which had a cemented compound. Everyone would have loved to live in such a posh house, but it was to Maama, whom she loved to bits, that she gave a room there, while his fellow “strangers” lived in the Zongo.
That’s how I had easy access to Maama, and often went into the bush with him. He knew how to get the best-tasting apem plantains (those that had fallen down but had deliberately not been “de-bunched”.) When such plantains that had spent time on the ground matured, they acquired a taste quite distinct from that of plantains that had matured before being cut down. How did Maama know this? I worshipped his knowledge! These apem, when eaten with fresh cocoyam leaves mixed with okro and “scented pepper”, taking care to ensure that the vegetables were only half-boiled (Maama’s recipe!) put a different complexion on the term, “a meal made in heaven”!
Another of my very best friends in school was Kwadwo Koto, who had a Mossi father who often visited Maama. Kwadwo Koto was forced to change his name to Kwadwo Afoakwa when he was enrolled into school. I don’t think he was too pleased with having two names, just because his uncle was a pompous presbyter who thought it was more “dignified” to call him Afoakwa than the Koto which everyone knew him by. As I said, Afoakwa had a Mossi father and an Akyem mother, but no one ever treated him any different. In fact, personally speaking personally, he was the nicest of the friends I had in school.
You see, Afoakwa’s doting father gave him money. So he could buy things like chalk, toffee and “bofloat” [doughnuts] for me! This was in exchange for a private help I gave him with his lessons. He was quite big when he enrolled in school, and reading and writing did not come easy for him. He thus entertained the fear that the children would laugh at him behind his back for being an “opanin toto” (big in physique but tiny in the brain area.)
I am telling you all this because the Akyems are currently at the receiving end of some particularly nasty insults directed at them not as individuals but as a group. Of course, individual behaviour can never be guaranteed by anyone. But to abuse a whole group of people because someone had been offended by a member of the group is crass behaviour.
Do the NDC members who have been abusing the Akyems realise, for instance, that in the 1950s, when Akyem Abuakwa and Asante were at the forefront of the “Mate Meho” movement (NLM), one of the most spectacular examples of political “detribalisation” occurred in Akyem Abuakwa? The Okyenhene of the time, Nana Ofori Atta II, was a staunch NLM member. But many of his own “stool sons” were CPP adherents. One of these was Aaron [later Kofi Asante] Ofori Atta, who became Kwame Nkrumah’s Minister of Local Government and later Speaker of Parliament. He stood against, and won a seat– the Akyem Abuakwa Central Constituency — from his own father’s brother, the redoubtable Dr. J B Danquah!
So by all means, NDC guys, don’t spare individual Akyems if they annoy you. But don’t lump all Akyems together and invoke fire and brimstone upon their heads!
BY Cameron Duodu