Monday, December 17, 2007

A Day at Cape Coast Beach

By Ololade Adewuyi

(first published by Graphic Showbiz, Accra, Ghana 13 Dec, 2007)

Fisherman Eugene and colleagues pull fish from the sea in Cape Coast. Photo by Ololade Adewuyi

A quiet old town with small winding streets, Cape Coast lies on the Gulf of Guinea, about two hundred kilometres from Accra. It is dotted by a large number of hills which the residents have found as a good abode for their homes. A first time visitor to Cape Coast will be astounded by the many beautiful homes set on the hills.

The town has traditionally been a fishing community due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. It also served as home for the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade with the many castles situated along its coastline being reminders of slavery’s cruel past. The most famous of them, the Cape Coast Castle, has become a World Heritage Site and a tourist attraction for many who throng its eerie slave cells daily.

But the town’s fishing community still thrives even to this day. Fishermen can be found at all times of the day dragging in nets filled with fish along the white sandy beaches of the town. Like egrets to grazing cattle, one can always find the pervading presence of fish mongers eagerly awaiting the next hoard of fish so they can go selling in the markets.

Cape Coast’s major market is located near the centre of town at a place called the London Bridge. It is so called because of the pride of place it held among the people during the colonial rule of the British. Near the London Bridge is the town’s symbol of a crab called Koto Kraba. It is to this market that all the fish, shrimps and crabs go to be sold to the town’s sea food restaurants and connoisseurs.

But the fish does come at a heavy price to its catchers. The fishermen spend more than twelve hours daily on the sea before making any considerable catch.

Fisherman John Dadzie, 36, spends all day on the sea setting his nets while his colleagues try to pull in the fish from the sea. He works six days a week and rests only on Tuesdays, a day considered a taboo by the Fante to go on the high seas. So he mends his nets. It is a folklore which has been made popular through a stage play titled The Lost Fishermen by Ghana’s foremost artist, the late Saka Acquaye. It tells of a group of men who set out for the high seas on a Tuesday and the trouble that befalls them.

Another fisherman who simply gave his name as Eugene is part of the group that pulls in the fish from the sea. He tells of how the fish have become rare to find these days, hence, the length of time spent at the shore. So when the fish don’t come to the shore they go after them.

“The fish no dey come so we take long here”, he told me matter of fact.

The men have to set their nets as early as 5 O’clock in the morning and wouldn’t be getting any fish until well past midday. It is a frustrating cycle for these men who have several dependants. Not least for the fish sellers who have to wait much longer than before for the fish to arrive.

Abigail Thompson, 22, is a seamstress but she comes out to help her mother buy fish from the men at the shore.

“Now we stay longer before we can sell at the market. The fish are scarce”, she complains.

When the fish is finally pulled in, a flurry of activity engulfs the beach. The many women who have been waiting to get their consignment and the more than two dozen men who have been pulling the nets all day all heave a sigh of relief. So too are the sea gulls that have been hovering all day to pounce on hapless fish through the broken parts of the nets. Everyone is happy to see the fish arrive on shore.

But the joy is short lived when it is apparent that the catch is little and the men have to throw back the eel caught into the sea. The sea has been milked dry of its most impressive assets in this part of the world.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

“West Side” is Music’s “Best Side”

West Side connection- P Square perform with Kweku T at Joy FM's Night with Stars. Photo by Ololade Adewuyi

By Ololade Adewuyi
(first published by Graphic Showbiz, Ghana on 6th Decemeber, 2007)

As he looked into the eager crowd, Paul Okoye, one half of the duo popularly known as P Square held the microphone to his mouth and told the audience in no mean words; “When I say West side, you say the best side, okay?”. Feeling he needed to make them realize the import of his words, he went on to regale them of some famous performers who had emerged from his new found idea of the West side, the west coast of Africa.

And as he mentioned the names of musical icons like Reggie Rockstone, 2 Face, Fela, Osibisa, Samini, VIP among many others, one could see the crowd light up with the excitement of knowing that all these people were West African products. Hence, when he next said “West side”, the capacity audience at Joy FM’s Night with Stars all screamed “the best side” in an attempt to pull down the roof of Accra’s International Conference Centre on that night of December 1.

It was a sentiment that melted the heart of the crowd as Nigeria’s P Square turned up the heat during their second ever performance in Ghana, home to a considerable number of their worldwide fan base. Their brand of Afro hip hop laced with Pidgin English has become quite popular since they released their first album Get Squared a few years back with the hit tracks Busy Body and Temptation becoming an anthem among young and old alike. Their rising profile has seen their latest album with the single Do me already selling upwards of two million copies since its release three weeks ago (according to artistes’ figures).

The almost identical twins, Peter and Paul, interestingly could not only sing but they had great choreographed dance steps as well. Armed with good looks and a great dance routine, they have wormed their way into hearts and homes with their quality music videos which are done by their brother, Jude who also doubles as manager. Talk about keeping all the money in the family!

The duo P Square is another addition to the incredible growth of West African music in recent years. They are adding their voice to a line up of music greats that have emerged from this side of Africa since after political independence in the middle of the last century. Though not claiming to be a music scholar, West Africa surely has produced some of the most profound musicians ever to come out of Africa. Names like Fela, Baba Mal, King Sunny Ade, Osibisa, E.T Mensah, Youssou Ndour, Angelique Kidjo, Prince Nico Mbarga, Lagbaja, Ismael Lo, Magic System, Femi, Daddy Lumba and so many others have become household names no matter the language divide all over the world.

In West Africa, music is a common ingredient of everyday life. It is the soul of our societies. No event is performed without the sound of music and drums accompanying it. From the ritual music of secret societies to the more popular rhythms of commercial singers, our music has evolved through time. Call it what you will, high life, soukous, juju, afro beat, hip life, afro hip hop, music has served in no mean way to keep our society sane.

From the home grown talents of Samini, 2 Face, D Banj, Tic Tac, KK Fosu, King Nee, P Square, Obrafour, etc to the Diasporan blends of Seal, Sade, BB Brew, Tunde Bayewu, Akon, Chamillionaire, Lemar, etc, it is obvious that West Africa is the home of quality singers, musicians and performers. Hence, it buttresses the point of branding West Africa as West Side if only one can remove that inner feeling of the realization that the phrase has been a part of the bigger American hip hop movement which is widely known for its gangster struggle for supremacy with the East Coast of the USA. A struggle which often turned violent and resulted in the untimely deaths of rappers Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace a.k.a Biggie Smalls.

West Africa has got a lot going for it in music at the moment with a lot of young people embracing the art and business of music production if only to see their videos shown on continental music channels MTV Base and Channel O as well as new entrants Soundcity. Superstardom beckons on so many with promises of good money no wonder the vibrant nature of the industry at the moment with artistes now making CD sales into the millions. But above all, good quality will stand out the best from the also ran, therefore, West Africa must continue to blaze the trail on the African continent with its unique musical traditions.

One looks forward to seeing greater collaborations between artistes of different countries of the sub region in the near future. Collaborations are one way of bringing cultures and singers closer to a wider audience. It was good to see P Square perform with Kweku T, Ghana’s representative at the recently concluded Big Brother Africa. It is the West Side connection already in progress.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A drop of greatness in every man

A drop of greatness in every man? Photo courtesy

Every once in a while, a television commercial (TVC) grows to achieve cult status among audiences with several people looking forward to watching it. If it happens to be in the form of a musical, one will see several people sing along its tune. One of the most recent TVCs that has achieved that esteemed status and has caught on everyone’s imagination is the Guinness Stout ad, Guinness Greatness.

The advert which says that drinkers of Guinness Stout have greatness inside of them opens with the reverent monologue from an elderly man, “My friend Udeme is a great man…”

The aim of every advert campaign is to grab the attention of its target audience and make them want to take action by purchasing such a product or taking a step in the case of a public service ad. Credit must be given to the creators of the Guinness Greatness concept for succeeding in capturing the attention of TV audiences with this campaign.

Unlike the Michael Power Action campaign that seeks to show the action in the drinker, which I personally believe comes after a drinking binge when you see a drunk’s antics as he makes his way home, the Greatness ad has more than a message for Guinness drinkers. Its pay off line “there is a drop of greatness in every man” is a classic idea.

Truth well told, that is the idea behind the marketing communications industry. They try to tell you, in your face, the qualities of their product. But the creators of Greatness went a step further by bringing out one sentiment that is present in every human, the idea that every human craves for something greater than themselves.

It is a fact that everybody on earth has been created distinct from every other person. Not even identical twins are the same; they possess differences in their anatomy and thought patterns. But as much as possible, every man or woman if prompted would tell you that they perceive they are on this earth to fulfill a destiny which they alone can attain.

This mission if pursued and not aborted is what will lead to greatness. This, Guinness has explored to create a successful campaign that has caught on everyone’s imagination. But then one might ask, must one drink Guinness to achieve greatness?

I don’t think so. There is a drop of greatness in every man means that there is substance in everyone that could lead to the achievement of great things in life. Like one of the parables of Jesus, the one about talents, it is obvious that there is something in you and you only need to look deep within yourself to find that special place you ought to fill in this world.

By finding one’s destiny, one stops being an occupier of space and starts being a giver of life. And like the Udeme the character in the ad, one’s sojourn on earth would be one in which many people will benefit from. Greatness comes from within and only an individual can find that for themselves.

Therefore, one’s task should be about discovering their strengths and applying them in a way that in their absence someone can say, my friend Nana is a great man. That is the mark of greatness.

Of Death and Hope

Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Nothing in the world really prepares one for the sudden loss of a close friend. It was heart breaking news for us in the office last week when we learnt about the sudden passing of our friend and colleague, Edem Edward Cudjoe. It was a rude shock when the news broke in the office on Wednesday, 8th August. He was just twenty six years old.

Edem was with us in the office on Monday and we all mostly had a great time. He was studying at one of the IT schools in town and was working with us as an intern in our graphics department. He was one very hard working lad who always had the eagerness to learn new things.

Edem’s passing has brought home the sad reality of the fickleness of human life. He had not reported to the office on Tuesday citing stomach trouble. We, well I personally, felt it was just one of those days when a worker reported ill because he needed some extra rest. It was even said that he had been up and doing on Wednesday morning before suddenly giving up the ghost as he prepared to come to the office. It is sad how such an agile young man would just pass away with all the great potentials imbued in him.

I still can’t make sense of it. Words are not enough to describe how I feel at this moment. I remember the last time I saw him on Monday when he was about leaving for the day, he had asked for my pages to lay but I had told him that I was yet to finish. He had enthusiastically replied that he would be expecting them the next day so as to plan the pages. I didn’t know it was going to be the last time we would ever talk to one another. Because he never returned!

Rumuors would filter into the office on Wednesday morning claiming Edem had died. But it was hard to confirm because we called his number and nobody would pick it. I even sent him a text message asking him to drag his behind to the office as we had work to do. It was all jokingly couched thinking that he was playing pranks. But who would play pranks about dying?

We should have known then that there was something amiss. For when someone finally answered his ringing mobile phone, it was confirmed that he had actually passed on. It was said that he had not suffered any pains on the morning of Wednesday. His family said he was as fit as a fiddle and had not complained of the previous day’s pains. It was greater shock to them because they saw him hail and hearty that morning.

The young Edem Cudjoe I knew loved life. He was so much in love with hip hop music that one could instantly feel the vibe around him. He always wore t-shirts and baggie trousers, the epitome of any hip hop aficionado. He was so full of life that anyone who came around him picked up on it.

Well, life is a journey which we make alone. After one is born, we instantly begin our journey over life’s uneven terrain. Sometimes we fall, and then we rise. As long as there is breath in our nostrils we can move on and try again. But all ceases when there is no more breath. By then we face our creator for that final music.

Life is such a beauty even with all its troubles. How many people have tried the dying option just because things are tough? The majority of us always hope for better things at the end of the dark tunnel. It’s because of the way we have been made. Our anatomy is such that hope is the greatest characteristic of the human race. To give up hope is to be a living dead. For we who are still alive have hope of a greater future. But we need to make up our minds to live a life worthy of our stay on earth.

My heart felt condolences go to the Cudjoe family. We share in their great loss. Young men are not meant to die. They are the hope of our nation. But as Edem leaves us to become a part of the Ancestry, I hope he has on his cloth end a coin to pay Kutsiami the benevolent ferryman as he makes his way home.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sekondi: Where the Super Eagles will Triumph

Last Saturday, I was in Sekondi, in Ghana Western Region, the town which will play host to Nigeria's Super Eagles during the upcoming Nation in Ghana. Nigeria has been seeded in Group B, alongside Cote D'Ivoire, Mali and Benin, in what many call the group of death.

I was in company of my friend Jide Alaka, from The Game in Lagos and we had a splendid time checking out the town and the stadium which I must say is very beautiful, see photos.

I look forward to seeing the Nigerian team triumph over new rivals Cote D'Ivoire in January and to go ahead and lift the trophy later in February.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Long live Hugh Masekela

Recently, I had the opportunity of meeting South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela at an event in Accra. We spoke about an interview but he couldn't adjust his busy schedule to accomodate it before returning to SA.

He had come in to perform at a charity fund raising organised by my friend, ex-beauty queen (Miss Ghana 2002) Shaida Buari. He auctioned off one of his trumpets whch was snapped up by Mike Adenuga for $35,000!

He performed some great hits like Fela's Lady and one other song by Orlndo Julius Ekemode plus one of his own great songs. I had looked forward to hearing my favourite of his, Chileshe but he didn't do that.

Anyway, big ups to a great African. Long live Hugh Masekela

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's the end of October!

How time flies when you're having fun. Na so dem talk, n'est ce pas? Hmmm. October has gone with the wind. Yeah, it did blow some terrible flames that burnt most of San Diego though. The winds of life have a way of making us realise our humanity.

Sometimes we forget about our frailty until something nasty happens. And then we remember the Almighty.

Personally, October has been tough for me. But it has made me stronger and tougher and wiser.

Therefore I say goodbye October. Welcome Novemeber of good tidings. I shall ride on your wind of change till I see the distant shores of which Odysseus wrote about.

Have a great November my friends.

Bon chance.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ade Bantu Treats Ghanaians To Fufu Sound

Dede Mabiaku at the concert in Accra with Ade Bantu supported by dancers. Pix by Ololade Adewuyi


(First published by The Guardian, Lagos on 28-10-2007.

NIGERIA's neighbour, Ghana, is home to a huge community of Nigerians and this was made very evident during the week of the celebration of the country's 47th Independence anniversary as many Nigerian performing artistes took to the stage in the capital city, Accra.

First were superstar twins, P Square and Koko master, D'Banj (a last minute replacement for Tuface Idibia who had been unfortunately shot in a car jacking incident a few days earlier) at a concert aptly dubbed Night With Naija on Friday October 5, at the National Theatre.

The two acts had been supported by fellow MCs Mode Nine, Azadus and Baba Dee who all thronged Accra in what is fast becoming 'the invasion of the Nigerians' according to locals. It is not far fetched why Nigerian artistes have found a second home in Ghana. The cultures are similar and their works have become massive hits here. In August, three Nigerian stand up comedians, Julius 'D Genius' Agwu, Basketmouth and I Go Die headlined a sold out night of comedy in Accra which was sponsored by telecommunications company, MTN.

The popularity and general acceptance of Nigerian pop culture, her music and comedy is very evident when one turns on the local TV and radio. And for an increasing number of Nigerians, Ghana is becoming more like home with each passing day. If one can enjoy all the best of Nigerian culture right here in relative peace, why go back, they ask.

But Afrobeat musician, Ade Bantu, who was invited by the German Goethe Institut to perform in Accra answers this his own way.

Adegoke who seeks to provide "conscious music to create solutions" believes that "a lot is expected from us (Nigerians) to promote originality and not mediocrity in Africa".

"One out of four Africans is a Nigerian, so our arts cannot but be generally accepted," he said, minutes before he took to the stage to dish out his 'Sound of Fufu' to a mixed audience of expatriates and Ghanaians at the W.E.B. Du Bois Centre in Accra on the night of Saturday 7th October.

Ade Bantu, who is of mixed Nigerian and German parentage, grew up in Ogba, Ikeja, listening to the music of abami eda, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. He speaks Yoruba, English and German fluently.

"My father played Fela's music all the time and it helped awaken my consciousness", he said referring to his choice of Afrobeat even though it is laced with some funk, hip hop and dance hall elements.

"My music is based on Afrobeat but I want to be Bantu because I cannot beat Fela at his own thing.

"I want to enlighten my people to contribute to the dialogue between Diaspora and Motherland. I want to celebrate Blackism".

Bantu, which stands for Brotherhood Alliance Navigating Towards Unity is the platform on which Ade aims to reach the world with his positive mental attitude (PMA) message.

"I was raised with love. I took the best of both worlds as my ideology", he says referring to his tolerance which he got from living in an inter-racial environment which built a lot of patience in him.

Ade Bantu came to Accra with half of his multinational band (which consists of an American, a German and a Burkinabe) and assisted by a local cast, to promote his music. In 2005, he won KORA Award (Best Group West Africa and Best Group Africa) for his collaboration with Fuji music legend Adewale Ayuba. Prior to his arrival in Accra, there had been a massive promotion of his single 'No Vernacular' on TV and it was no surprise to see the huge turn out of fans on the night.

Afrobeat life timer Dede Mabiaku also made a guest appearance, as he is wont to do in anything that involves Afrobeat music. Dede has become a household name due to his role as a judge on the hugely successful West African Idols talent show. He performed Fela's all time greatest hit 'Lady' to the delight of the crowd who chanted 'Yea yea' at his beckoning.

It was to be Ade Bantu's night of baptism into Ghanaian groove as he held the audience spell bound with his athletic dance moves on stage which belied his imposing lanky six feet five inches frame. The 'sound of fufu' belted out all night accompanied by his beautiful back up singers.

As the revellers made their way home after a massive week of Nigerian Independence celebrations, Ade's final words reverberates; "We need to discover our heritage, we have forgotten to value who we are, our culture, our music... it is what makes us unique."

Even Fela would be happy to see that the music he created has not been restricted to the immediate family after all.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lucky Dube

Rest in Peace Man.

Damn the evil doers, may the Almighty forgive them.

More on this Later.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Black Pride

I love poetry. I enjoy the cool, quiet moments by myself just reading elevated words from the pages of a book. My favourite poets have always been Gabriel Okara and Taban lo Liyong. I have also enjoyed the poetry of Toni Kan.

Why do I like poetry even though some have said it is a dead art form? I can't probably tell an answer but I recently got some poems sent by my friend Aderemi Adegbite, a young award winning poet. One of them struck me instantly, it is titled The Black Pride. It is simply a poem about a parent telling their child about black consciousness. I believe Africans need to keep the message of this poem alive.

Be proud of who you are. Black and proud. Enjoy the poem.

The Black Pride
Be proud my child, be proud
Of your endowed black shining skin,
Glistering like the sparkling stars
Above in the glooming sky
At arrival of the glowing moon.

With pride my child, with pride
Must you display your beauty
Along city streets
Of Africa, land of bounty and beauty,
From coast to coast in the wider world.

You are black-skinned my child,
Yes you are dark-skinned,
Yet the sparkling makes it lovely
Whilst gleaming with sprinkles of adoration
Across the vast coasts of nations.

My child, be proud with your pride,
For black, dark shimmering skin,
To the world is symbolized as power,
Strength, manipulation of creativity,
Is an unquantifiable paragon of beauty.

(c) Aderemi Adegbite, 2006.

I hope to feature more of Adegbite's poems on this blog as time goes on.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bravo Eaglets!

All Hail the Golden Eaglets! They have made the Black race proud again. I watched with great pride as they made us happy on Sunday morning.

Thank you guys for doing your country proud. You deserve all the adulation you're getting. I wish you all a successful football future.

And to my boys in the Starlets, I'm sure you guys are going to make brilliant sportsmen. All is not lost.

Vive l'Afrique!!!

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Photo: Chrisanthus Macaulay celebrates his second goal against Haiti. He's got 5 goals now making him the leading scorer in the tournament. Courtesy

Sorry I haven't been around for a while. I'm quite busy these days and can't find time to write. It's a quiet Saturday here in Accra and I'm just looking to have it go pretty cool. Earlier today, the Golden Eaglets pummeled Haiti 4-1 in Korea and I enjoyed every little bit of the action. Except the first five minutes when I was in the bath after having done some running and weight training.

Sure I gotta stay in shape for my modelling prospects.

I hope the Eaglets and the Starlets can go all the way to the finals and only God knows who I'll be supporting when that time comes. My loyalty will be divided between both teams I tell you. Having met the Ghanaian boys shortly before they traveled to Asia, I must say I have grown close to them and just love their humility. I hope they do better after the disastrous defeat to Germany.

Here's wishing you a great weekend and hopefully next week I'll do better by putting more photos and even videos on here for your viewing pleasure.

Peace out!

Friday, August 17, 2007

C'est mon anniversaire!!!

**This is my latest photo. It was taken this morning by my colleague Mudirat.

Bonne anniversaire did I hear you say? Thank you. My birthday came early this year. I almost forgot about it until I got an early email from a university classmate yesterday evening just as I was leaving the office. Wakeel, my classmate, had sent me an email from Abuja letting me know that he appreciated my own message on his birthday last week. He in turn wrote about how we August-born folks are meant to be leaders. Great talk I must say. I've always believed that Leos are born leaders and all.

Anyway that's by the way. My first text message was from my lil' bro Lawale and I got it around 11:05 pm. It was already after midnight in Nigeria so he thought I was already in my new year.

Next was a call from Akua at about midnight. And then more SMSs from Lagos. My sisters all sent congratulatory messages and then my Mom called at about 5 a.m to pour some words of heavy prayers on me. It was refreshing getting such heavy words. Then Pamela sent a message.

And then I got a message around 6:30a.m from Sekalia who asked me to turn on the radio and listen to Atlantis FM. Immediately afterwards, the presenter, Rudy Kwakye's voice, boomed out my name in a thick Ghanaian pronunciation that if I had not been alerted, I wouldn't have believed it was me he was referring to. Anyway it was a first for me, getting congratulated on the radio and getting a song dedicated to me. I didn't get the title anyway as it was one old school song which I didn't really dig.

But it's been fun having a few friends call me. Some people who I assumed would have forgotten about me even sent messages and later called me. If I was a party person I would have said we would be hitting the dance floors tonight. But seeing that I'm tired and a little broke, I'll just sit in my house and watch TV tonight. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

But I got myself a list of things to do before I turn 28. Ten things I want to achieve when I look back next year. I'm going to write it here for you to read so you can follow up on it. And make sure you ask me about it next August.

1. Get a Masters degree
2. Get a qualification in Broadcast Journalism
3. Host my own radio show
4. Get a job with CNN as a reporter (would like to be side kicks with Christiane Amanpour or Richard Quest. I just respect them for their professionalism)
5. Write a best selling book
6. Travel around the country by road (more like on bicycle or motorbike for more adventure) and write about it. "The Adventures of Sinbad in the land of the Twis"
7. Become a top male model.
8. Become an authority on making the impossible possible.
9. Buy my own professional camera equipment.
10. Think about getting married.

Now that's a long list and I bet I can do them all before my next birthday if I set my mind to it. Well, just to lighten things up, I saw this taxi today with this legend on it: What is written is written, only not in those same words.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Lush Green Onion Fields of Accra

Story and Photos by Ololade Adewuyi

On the Motorway link between Accra and Tema at a small village called Agyingona lies many hectares of beautiful green fields dedicated to lovely rows of onion plants. A set of brothers from Bawku in the Northern Region have found it an arable piece of land to cultivate lovely onions.

When Abubakar Mohammed discovered the piece of land a year ago, it was a bushy plot that was always giving the local authorities a hectic time to trim. The men from the Metropolitan office were planting tree seedlings at the site when he approached them about helping to clear the bush while also growing some plants for subsistence.

“I asked if I could use the place for farming and they said yes”, says husband and father of three Abubakar.

Since last year, he has cultivated maize and peppers and is about reaping his onions this year. What began on a small plot has been extended to over one hectare of luscious green onion bulbs that would be ready for the market in late August.

Abubakar has brought in more hands to assist him in his growing venture. His younger brother Mumuni and another friend Muhammed Yakubu have all come from Bawku to help cultivate the many rows of onion bulbs on the farm.

As they sit under a small tree to have a lunch of mashed beans and rice in palm oil under the sweltering heat, Abubakar narrates his interesting family history. He and his brother had never been to school because their father never believed in education. They had all been sent to the farm in Bawku at an early age like many northern kids. He had worked hard at his farm and came visiting his brother in Accra where he fell in love with the city. He would then bring his farm produce all the way from Bawku to the markets in Accra, a process that meant he lost a large quantity of the perishable goods on the long journey.

But now he can easily ferry his goods to the market where he is assured of good profit due to his proximity to Accra. He hopes to harvest over a hundred sacks of onions this year and sell them for between c350,000 and c500,000 depending on the forces of demand and supply.

Onion bulbs grow beneath the soil and take three months to mature. They are of the family Alliaceae and are generally used as spices and as vegetables. China is the largest producer of onions as it had 19,793 tonnes in 2005 (FAO figures).

The plant does suffer from a number of plant diseases with leaf variegation one of the major problems farmers in Accra are experiencing. The leaves of the onion plant become yellowish with longitudinal segments. This disease makes the plant’s bulb not to grow big.

“We need government’s help to give us chemicals that we will use in treating our farm”, Abubakar says.

“We also need more land so that we can expand. If they can give us more land we will be happy”.

The onion farmers of Accra have shown dedication to duty and one can be sure they will prove themselves better if given the necessary resources. They really seem to know their onions.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Mid-week blues

It's the middle of the week and things have been going so so. Attended a conference for entrepreneurs yesterday at the National Theatre where Kweku Sintim-Misa, Chinery-Hesse and Dr. Mensa Otabil spoke on entrepreneurial dedication in an information-based society.

Don't we hear it all the time? My high point of the day was getting the venue wrong and having to go on the back of a free trip off a photographer who saw me carrying my own camera. I had taken a taxi with my last dough to the Conference Centre only to find that I had gotten wrong info. The photographer colleague then helped me across to the ok venue. Thats what I call trade benefits.

My embarrassment was just veiled under a veneer of confidence. Deep inside I was seething. How can one spend his last kish and still go the wrong way? Beats me.

Will be going back there today as I got a call by the organisers to come handle their photo shoot.

Been broke this week, this should bring a little respite...

Peace out for now.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The English Premiership Begins Again!!!

As the Premiership returns this weekend, it brings with it plenty of excitement and nail biting suspense. As a Gunner, it is only natural that I wish Arsenal triumph. But there will be trying times in the next ten months.

I want to dedicate this to the greatest fan in the world, my friend Titi Ademola. We are on opposing sides but I acknowledge her passion for her team. Back in June, the Chelsea team was in Ghana to support some charities. Titi is so enthusiastic about her team that she made her way to the airport to catch a glimpse of the team on their arrival at the airport. Even though she isn't a journalist (she's a fasion designer), she found her way among the press corps into the VIP lounge just to get to meet her favourite players.

That process didn't work so she went to the press conference the next day. Most unaccredited journos didn't gain entrance but my friend Titi did. Such is her passion for football that she arrived earlier than usual to claim a seat. At the end of the day, she got a worthy photo time with Chelsea coach Jose 'the special one' Mourinho. What more can one say? She is the dame!

During the coming season, our interests will clash a couple of times as our teams play against one another but after the game we would share the usual banter. Such is the life of great fans.

Soccer makes Saturdays worth looking forward to again. Therefore I say, Let the games begin!

Go Gunners!!!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Just Do It!

Photo: The lure of the open road consumes the lonely traveler. Courtesy

Yeah, so I did it. I seem to be hooked on the message of popular consumer brands these days. After my Guinness Greatness write up last week, I woke up on Saturday morning and felt like I could do something exciting with my free day which doesn’t come too often. I decided to take my usual walk around town, only this time a little bit farther.

I jumped into my China-made Tommys (seeing these days China gets all the knocks) and bolted out of the house with no definite destination in mind. On getting to the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange I suddenly felt the urge to run to Tema! Tema is a town almost 30 km from Accra. In my mind I never knew how I could achieve that feat. Something told me just do it and I started jogging as I made my way past Game and then Action Chapel. As I approached Action Chapel on the Motorway, I suddenly felt my throat dry up, it was the first sign of dehydration.

After Kelly Rowland’s collapse on stage in Lagos 2 weeks back as a result of dehydration, I decided it wasn’t wise to go on without making plans for liquid so I stopped at the Action Chapel to see if I could find a shop to buy bottled water. I had observed a few worshipers emerging out of the building obviously from early morning prayers so I thought there might be a few shops open that early. As I walked down the slope to the premises, I met a young man who politely informed me that the shops had not yet opened for business but that I could get water from a school on the other side of the Motorway.

It seemed like a good advice until I got back onto the Motorway only to realize that on the opposite was a huge forest. What to do? I couldn’t go further without water nor did I want to return home without having achieved my aim of getting to Tema. Then I saw a bus slow down not too far from me to drop off a female passenger so I got in it and headed for Tema. I figured if I got to Tema and bought water I could then make my way back to Accra on foot.

On alighting at Tema, I quickly searched for a shop to buy a bottle of water and some biscuit. Luckily, I had taken some money with me. I guzzled the liquid like someone who had been lost in the desert for days until saturation. Afterwards, it was all go as I found my way back to the Motorway and began my return journey to Accra, this time with a bottle of water in hand and a pack of biscuit in my pocket.

It looked daunting at first but something kept telling me that I could do it. I started jogging and after a while I stopped to rest by walking and would later break into jogging again. That process offered me an opportunity to see at close range some of the very interesting sights by the roadside. Things one never takes notice of while in the comfort of a car.

I saw the rolling hills and the undulating plains that make Africa so beautiful to the eyes. I also saw a couple of homeless people sleeping under the shelter of the bridge. They wrapped themselves up in thick polyester sacks to protect themselves from the night’s biting cold. On the hilly part of the bridge were a herd of cattle. They were feeding on grass while their minder stood close by wielding the big stick at the erring ones.

I noticed a church with strange lettering on the other side of the Motorway. The letters looked like Korean. But how would I know, most Oriental languages are written in like manner. I made a mental note to check it out sometime.

I kept on jogging and after about five kilometres I felt my legs no longer able to take it so I stopped to take a rest beside a milestone. It was Kilometre 19 on the road to Accra. I had done more than ten kilometres. At that moment, several scenes of my life flashed across my mind. I thought of the past, the present and what the future holds. I was pretty tired and in such a state, gloomy thoughts could really creep up on one. But I saw the bright side of things. I saw the reports that I’m going to be filing, I saw the books I’m yet to begin, the people I’m yet to meet, the woman of my dreams, the beautiful children we’re going to have; I saw this moment that I’m going to be writing this account and I said to myself, “You can’t give up now, what story will you tell?”

I picked myself up, like all great people have done all through the centuries and dusted myself up and returned to my journey. Slowly and painfully, I trekked the long road from Tema to Accra. Thank God that the sun hid itself behind the clouds for most of that morning. I passed brooks and springs, crossed bridges and was overtaken by many a moving vehicle all speeding away to the city.

Then it occurred to me, life’s journey is a lone road. We might be lucky sometimes to get a companion that would make it with us but as much as possible we do it on our own. The measure of each man is to make life’s journey as bravely as they only can for the shoes will hurt several times and the strength will fail, but we need to always stop and rest to regain energy and plod on because nobody ever received a prize for quitting.

I trudged on until my pace slowed down to a snail’s. And suddenly out of nowhere, I saw a billboard over a hill which led me to think that Accra was just on the other side of the hill. My hopes rose and I quickened my almost dead pace only to get to the top of the hill and realise it was a mirage. I sat down on a concrete slab to rest my aching feet. I had just taken my last drop of water from the bottle and was tempted to hail down cars to ferry me back home. I did hail them but none stopped to carry a weary stranger in the middle of nowhere. So I continued determined to make it on my own.

And just then I saw a sign post which read “End of the Motorway”. It was such a huge relief that broke over me. I screamed “Yeah, I’ve done it” with my parched mouth. Such personal fulfillment that no words can explain filled me up. I felt nothing can take away this experience from me, ever. When I tell people about it I’m told that it was a crazy idea.

“What if something had happened to you? Who would have helped you?”

Well life belongs to only the crazy. You need to be crazy to achieve anything in this world. The lure of the open road is so huge in me now. I can’t wait for Saturday to start another trek. I am all healed up now and this time I’m going to walk to and fro Tema. Consequently, I’m thinking of trekking Ghana. Something in my mind keeps bringing back the Nike pay off line: Just do it, it says. Sure I’m crazy enough to think it can be done.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Yetunde gives birth to baby girl!

My elder sister Yetunde was safely delivered of a baby girl in Jos, Nigeria yesterday. It's her second baby. Her husband David is presently in Burundi working as a medic in a tecnical aid corp team. He's been gone for three or four months now.

The news comes as my colleague in the office also died today.


While some rejoice some cry.

Started reading Brian Tracy's Many Miles To Go last week. I've read a couple of Tracy's books in the past and I think this is good. I hope I can finish it soon. I never seem to finish all the books that I buy. Is it just me or does it happen to everyboy? I don't know.

Edem Cudjoe Dies!!!

My colleague Edem Cudjoe died suddenly this morning. He had not reported ill so it's kinda very strange to hear such news.

There had been rumours of his passing but we just dismissed it as lies "from the pits of hell" but the news has just been broken by the family and everyone in the office has suddenly grown quiet.

We had thought Edem didn't want to pick his call maybe he didn't want to come to the office or something... I had even sent him a text jokingly. It read

"Hey Edem heard you're dead is it true? Come on send God a shout out 4 me. Better get ur butt in d office now I got pages for you to lay".

See Edem was on attachment with us as a graphic designer and he was always eager to help out with the work. he would always come up to me in a funny swagger because he loved to wear baggy jeans as a hip hop adherent. He would say "Mr Lolade when are you giving me your sports stories to lay?"

I don't only write sports but he was very cool with my sports pages and even when I lazy he'd remind me about it.

"Okay Mr Lolade I'll help you lay your sports pages tomorrow" and I'll go like okay just nodding my head but not liking the intrusion.

I still don't know whether to believe it. I feel he's gonna come back tomorrow and ask for my sports pages. I need to prepare them before he returns. Sure I think he's gonna come back. He must surely come back.

Hey man it's too early to go. I can't believe it. He was so full of life. He lived rap music and with every breath he lived it. He was such a good man.

Now see how you're making all of us cry. Don't do this man. No not now.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Big Brother Africa 2

It has begun!

Didn't catch the opening show but I've been getting a few glimpses of the show and I think it's gonna be exciting as time goes on.

I remember like yesterday when BB Nigeria held last year. It happened to create a turning point for my life.

Just a little fluttering of the wing of a butterfly and you get a massive ocean surge. Hmmmm.

Anyway I'm a sit tight and watch but not too much. Enjoy the fun folks.

Peace out on a lovely Tuesday evening.

My Photo in BBC Focus On Africa Magazine July-Sept 2007 Edition

I finally saw this photo entry that I sent to BBC Focus on Africa Magazine today. It's been more than six months since I sent it to them. It was taken at the VIBE FM Street Carnival celebrations of of Ghana's 50th Anniversary on Oxford Street, Osu.

Don't know who the girls were but I think I might have made them famous. BBC should pay me, don't you think? I'm gonna go out and buy me a copy tomorrow.

Check out the original page here

Monday, August 6, 2007

What a day!

What can one say? This Monday is not like any I've experienced in a long time. All my bones are aching and I was just so tired in the office and felt like sleeping there on the table. But you've gotta respect institutions.

The office is not a sleeping place. Anyway I wasn't the only one as many other folks experienced fatigue too. I wonder what the cause is.

Hope this week doesn't go like Monday as I can't afford to laze around.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Donnie McClurkin at Joseph Project Concert

American gospel singer Donnie McClurkin headlined the Joseph Project Concert held in Accra on the night of August 4 at the Independence Square in Accra. It was one beautiful event where the spirit of God moved. It was the final lap of the Joseph Project/Emancipation Day/PANAFEST 2007 celebrations.

DOnnie was preceded by Princess Ifeoma, Alabaster Box, Sherwin Gardner and Dilys Sellah. Sherwin Gardner's act was one very energetic performance that sent the whole crowd up into Caribbean praise. I saw former minister Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey and his daughter (don't know her name) grooving to his rock/ragga gospel music.

Dilys Sellah also wowed the crowd with her vocals. Man that lady has got a-s-s-e-t-s.

But it was Donnie that the crowd waited to see and he didn't disappoint them. They suged forward to the stage when he asked why a huge gap had been created between him and the audience. One could see tears of joys falling down some faces as people spoke in tongues. An American photographer beside me also burst out in tongues and I was like hmmm 'let the spirit come down on us all'.

Left the event before it finished as I had to get my head deserved rest after one full week of traveling up and down Ghana, first it was Prampram, then Assin Manso and then Cape Coast(Elmina).

Julius Agwu, Basketmouth, I Go Dye & Kojo at Y'ello Comedy Accra

New entrant MTN brought comedy kings Julius Agwu, Basketmouth, I Go Dye and Kojo (UK) to Accra for a beautiful night of laffs last Friday at the National Theatre in Accra. It was one hilarious evening of back breaking laughter as only the dead did not laugh.

After the show I got a couple of photos with the guys and Saturday morning was with them at Erata Hotel where I got interviews with the three Nigerians as my colleague had already done one with Kojo earlier in the week.

Funny how comedy has become a huge money spinning activity for these guys and the new found fame gets all the girls crooning over them. Countless number of girls came back stage to ask them out to a party and I was like hmmmmm...I go like o

Sunday, July 8, 2007


Last week, I wrote about my thoughts on being an African and how I would love for my children to learn about their Africaness when I do have them. As you see, I do not yet have children of my own but I am already preparing for the future. I’ve selected some probable names. That would do for now.

Well, talking about my African heroes, I met one of them last week in the most interesting of circumstances. They say big things come in small packages and so truly is this hero of mine.

Standing more than five feet seven inches tall or there about with hair the colour of grey, he is one man that has seen it all and in the course of a brilliant career as a public servant has wined and dined with the high and mighty all over the world.

Notwithstanding his small size, he left a tremendous physical impact on me when I shook his hands. I was forced to grimace at the firmness of his grip when he held me. I had to commend him on him on that.

Like I wrote last week, dreams do come true. And no one has it happened to more than me. Here I was standing in a room packed full of seasoned diplomats, reputable public servants and private business owners awaiting the arrival of such an accomplished fellow. It never occurred to me that I would meet such a person this early in my life. But meet him I did and we even exchanged a few words.

I tried to get him to grant me an interview but he excused himself referring to a busy schedule. I had told him of how his life has inspired and keeps inspiring young people like me to wanting to live above mediocrity. He, like a man who hears such remarks all the time, nodded in a practical manner. I was awed by his mien. He looked so much at home in the presence of an ordinary citizen as he would be in the presence of the American President or the Saudi King.

I was drawn to him. I put forth the question. “Sir, can I get to interview you so you can tell young people about how it was you made it this far?’’, I asked.

He looked me in the eyes, genuinely, and said, ‘’well you know my schedule makes me to travel all the time so I cannot really stay in one place’’.

I was shattered. Disappointed. In my mind I had already started to think of my great fortune. Not only would it have been a big hit getting an interview with the man but just the thought of hearing him tell story would have made an everlasting impression on so many young people who aspire to his kind of greatness.

My disappointment was only for a moment though as the sincerity in his voice soothed every pain, I dipped my free hand into my pocket and brought out my card. I gave it to him and he collected it. I asked if he would be kind enough to give me a call some day soon when he would be opportuned to grant me an audience. He said he would. I thanked him and left to return to my place allowing him to respond to other guest.

One of the organizers of the event who had already told me he hardly grant any press audience walks up to me and commends me on my bravery. I told him that there is no harm in trying and that being a journo has taught me to never imagine impossibilities. He pats me on the back. The party comes to an end.

I see my hero walk away with his wife beside him. I walk out alone into the cold. I flip open my mobile phone and dial home.

‘’Did you know whose hand I just shook? You guess’’, I tell my friend just then realizing the enormity of what had just happened to me. I walk into the car, taller than my six feet one inch frame.

As the car made its way home, all I could think of was, how cool would it be if Mr. Kofi Annan has one of his aides call me for an in-depth interview. I know that dreams do come true. I’m waiting.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Kumasi’s Best Brains Unveiled

Photo: from left Thelma Ohene Agyei, Manuel Gadogbe and Kwesi Boadu Mensah

At the recently held 41st Congregation of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Kumasi, a lot of students shone like a million stars among their peers. I was there and bring you a profile of some of Ghana’s future newsmakers.
Report for STAR, Accra.

Thelma Ohene-Agyei, 22

Pharmacy First Class
In the stormy field of Pharmacy, Thelma beat all comers to the title of best Pharmacy graduate. She went on to grab the title of best graduating tudent in the College of Health Sciences.

22 year old Thelma in her own words is “not the typical smart student”. So how did she do it? She says she only studied for three hours everyday while making sure to attend all her lectures.

The beautiful cum brainy lady’s childhood ambition dream was to become an engineer like her father but decided on Pharmacy later on. An outgoing person, she never allowed her studies to get in the way of her social commitments. Her friends say she is very loyal and loves to go out.

The future for her is in the academia. She is set to do her national service as a teaching assistant at KNUST. She also wants to write.

Manuel Gadogbe, 22

Chemistry, First Class
In his valedictory speech, 22 year old Manuel Gadogbe said, “Irrespective of our class of degree let us do whole heartedly whatever we find our hands to do”.

First class graduate and best graduating student in the College of Science, Manuel is the quintessential intellectual. There were times he says he felt like giving up but always took solace in the words of his father who told him that with determination he could achieve his aim and purpose in life.

Manuel believes it is not how much one tries but how much love one puts into one’s work. He would definitely be in the academia for a long time.

Kwesi Boadu Mensah, 23
Pharmacy First class
What else could a young man ask for after bagging a first class in Pharmacy? But for Kwesi Mensah who has an elder brother that graduated with a first class in Accountancy, success means being at the very top of the pyramid. The 23 year old missed the top notch by less than three points.

He wanted to study Medicine but was offered Pharmacy instead. The lad’s life consists in books, football and more books. The next step for him now is to make money.

He is also passionate about agriculture and would want to own a big farm someday.

Naa Okailey Adamafio, 22
Pharmacy First class
Brainy. She does come in a very beautiful package too. 22 year old Naa made good of what the system threw at her and bagged herself a first class in Pharmacy. She claims prayers; hard work, discipline and determination saw her through.

The Accra born young lady has set her sights on the world and as things look, she seems destined for the top.

Albert Akpor Anteh, 23
Integrated Rural Arts & Industry, Second class upper
Suave artist Albert Anteh made hay during his sojourn at Kumasi. He set up a successful clothing design firm called 2kpin with a friend. He recounts that it was not easy combining the busy schedule of arts with business but is glad that it is now all over.

23 year old Albert has decided to defer his national service by a year to see his fashion line take proper root. The Textile major has already seen much progress in his life and would surely be a force to reckon with in future.

Samuel Annoh-Quarshie, 24
Biochemistry, Second class upper division
Confident Samuel had to stay tough and focused in his quest for ivory tower honours. He described his lowest point on campus as his second year when he thought he was going to “throw” a course having not performed up to his own high standards in the exams.

Luckily, he passed the course and is today smiling as he looks back at the tough times. Samuel hopes to get a PHD but would like to work in a multinational. He doesn’t count himself as very social. He likes to watch a lot of movies while hanging out with his girlfriend.

Oladayo Idris Bolaji, 22

Mechanical Engineering, Second class upper division

This young Nigerian brother felt strangeness when he first came to Ghana. He said he was baffled by the new culture of his host community when he arrived in Kumasi. But four years down the road, Dayo has come to cherish the beautiful experience which KNUST has given him.

He plans to go home to get a job with any of Nigeria’s several oil exploration companies.

Doreen Adoma Antwi, 22
Law Second class upper division

Newly armed with a Law degree, Doreen says her first year was the most difficult. For someone who wanted to become a newscaster, her father’s preference for Law led to a new path for her.

She says she’s now in love with her chosen field as she can count herself among the few “learned” ones in society.

I am a shy guy- Omar Sherif Captan

He’s been described by the media and avid TV fans as one of the sexiest men to grace TV screens in Ghana. A lot of young men crave his good looks and smooth flow. Omar just describes himself as a simple everyday dude who goes about his daily chores diligently.

After almost two decades doing movies and soaps, this young father of two has resorted to doing what many others like him with a famous face have done in times past, corporate marketing. Well, it is not hard to figure that a familiar face like his would throw open doors easily.

A career that started with the movie, My Sweetie and built up over time with big parts in hit soaps Tentacles and Broadway, Omar reveals that he used to be a shy guy but that acting has made him come out of his shell.

Interview by Ololade Adewuyi for STAR Accra

How did TV and movies begin for you?
I started as a production hand in 1989 with one William Akuffo. He actually started video production in Ghana. He was the first person to make a video production.

Do you mean music videos?

No video production. You know we were shooting on celluloid in times past but he was the first to shoot with a video camera. When he started it was really tough but today it’s everywhere. I started as a production assistant.

So how did you get into acting?
After being a production hand, I then became a soundman and later a cameraman and then an editor. That was in the space of two years. I started real acting in 1991. My very first movie as an actor was My Sweetie.

What role did you play?
I played the role of a lover boy (laughs).

Is that how you became typecast in the lover boy role?
Yes, you know us Africans, when they see you can do something very well they tend to just give you that same role all the time. It is typical of African casts. Once you’ve performed a role well, they feel they must as well give you the same kind of role to perform.

But gradually you’re emerging as a bad boy.
The first film I played a bad boy was Dark Sands in 1997. It was my first lead role as well as first bad boy.

How would you describe your love making roles? Are they as intense as you portray them on the screen?
Some of these girls are not actually experienced. When you’re playing a love scene with them and you want to kiss them, they think you’re taking advantage of them. A lot of things go on through their minds. So what I normally do is to sit them down and tell them we’re making belief. It’s impossible to do anything because the crew are there, you know what will you feel? So I tell them that it’s just make belief and after that, it’s over. Then they’ll end up coming out of their shells. Most times my colleagues ask how it is that my love scenes come out very well. It is because of the pep talk I give to my love opposites.

Which one of your opposite ladies would you say has been the best kisser and that you liked.
I wouldn’t even go there because the kissing on screen is not like passionate kissing. There are no emotions involved.

Which love interest would you choose as your favourite?
I don’t have any favourite, not at all. It’s just acting and there are no strings attached.
Have you ever had any bad press in your career?
Not exactly, but I had an interview with a lady from one of these press houses which I asked her not to publish because she was rude. She went on and published it. I didn’t want to take the matter up because of personal reasons. If I had taken it up, it would have blown up beyond proportions so I decided to leave it.

Do you feel the pressure to live up to your image as a lover boy in real life?
In real life, as an actor, people think you play the same kind of role outside of the movie. Come to think of it, wherever you go, you’re seen. So you can’t pick on this girl and that girl. You don’t have the privacy to be yourself. What’s the use? Sometimes, I’m in the car, I drive in the night and people stop to wave at me. When they mention your name you try to hide but you can’t do it. You don’t even have the chance to do certain things. We’re rather protected, you understand me.

Are you in any relationship?
Yes, I’m married.

Do you have children?
Yes, I have two children. I’ve been married for seven years now.

What particular aspect do you enjoy most about making movies?
I like directing.

Have you directed any movies before?
I’ve done one but it’s a documentary. I did it for the AIDS Commission.

How much does acting pay you?
It’s nothing you want to know. (Laughs)

Would you say it’s comfortable?

I’d say it’s picking up. It’s not something to write home about but I can say it’s picking up.

Tell me about your personality on set.
I’m the type younger actors can approach on set. They look up to me and ask me if they portrayed their roles properly because I like advising them. I have the passion for teaching my fellow actors.

What or where do you derive your inspiration from?

It’s God.

You must be very religious.
Yeah, I’m a religious person. I believe everybody is religious. I believe in God so much. And even when I’m about to act, I pray to God for everything.

What has been your greatest achievement in acting?
To me I haven’t gotten there yet. I always look at my mistakes and try to correct them. That’s what I look out for in my movies so that I’d not repeat them a second time. I tell myself I shouldn’t have done it this way. There are some things in your normal life that you don’t have to portray in movies. I’ve seen several mistakes of that type in my movies.

Is there anything you would like to achieve as an actor?
Everyone wants to act in Hollywood or let’s say foreign movies. That would earn you good money and at the end of the day it might earn you fame. People would know that this guy is also good. Apart from that, the situation in Ghana is very terrible.

I see that you’re not into acting full time
I was in it full time but I just switched. I just added more work to it.

What are you doing now?
I’m into corporate marketing.

But you still do soaps.
Yes, I still do soaps. I’m doing Broadway presently.

How has acting changed your life from being a normal every day person to being a famous face?
It has really helped me. I used to be a very shy person. If you watch my early movies like My Sweetie, Outrage, Scholarship and Beast Within you would see that I was a very shy person. But now I have really picked up. People had invited me to host or be MC for their events but I couldn’t because I was shy. But now it has helped me so I can stand in the presence of crowds.

What would you like to be remembered for?
I haven’t even gotten halfway of where I’m looking at right now. I have a lot of things to do and I know at the end of the day by His grace I’ll reach there. I won’t even talk about it. You see, I personally don’t even talk about what I do or let people know that I’ve done this and that. You talk about it, tell me I’m good or that I should try to improve on this aspect. If I’m wrong or I didn’t do it right, tell me these are my mistakes. In fact, my dad also guided me because sometimes he just insults me and says “my friend look at what you did. Is that the way to act”? And I’ll say next time I’ll correct it. And that’s how I became better.

Were your parents in support of your acting sojourn?
Not at all.

When you started?
Forget it. They weren’t in support of it.

So when did they begin to like seeing you on TV?
When they saw that I was on the screen and I was picking up. And people were like “your son is good” and they kept telling my dad. So he said he’d rather advise me to do whatever I’m doing, well. That was when he began to build an interest in my job. Even my sisters weren’t fond of it at first. But all that has changed now.

So would you allow your children to do acting?
It depends on what they want for themselves. But I won’t force them to do anything.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Lepacious Bose: Large and In Charge: Big Lady Cracks Ribs in Accra

Story by Ololade Adewuyi for STAR Newspaper, Accra

“I don’t know why slim girls are so insecure,” she says as she pauses on the stage all the while making the audience kill itself with laughter.

Then she continues in the manner of a broken hearted girl; “He’s cheating on me, I can’t believe he’s cheating on me. What more does he want? I’ve got all it takes”. Still more laughter. Then the punch line; “Me I get three times extra, they still dey cheat”, in obvious reference to her round waist. Then the audience looses it and erupts in loud applause.

In a world where slim is the fad, Bose Ogunboye makes fat sound cool. She is not your average fat chick as she’s got a big mouth. Standing at 5’7 inches and weighing in at almost 200 pounds, she is a comedienne who knows how to throw her weight around. She rocked hearts of comedy lovers in Accra at the recently held Laugh and Rock show. Such was the power that the comedienne a.k.a Lepascious wielded over the crowd making them laugh throughout her ten-minute act.

A trained lawyer, Lepascious said in an interview with The Star that she has been doing stand up comedy since her undergraduate days at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. While no longer practising as a solicitor, she takes to the stage in the vibrant Nigerian comedy scene alongside her male colleagues like Basketmouth (who was the emcee for the event), Gordons, Malekem, and so many others.

In a business dominated by men, how does she survive? She says she decided to personalise her act to talk about her size due to “personal experiences” of hers. Some of those experiences have been less than amusing and would have weakened the faint hearted.

“As a fat person”, she explains, “I always get fat jokes thrown at me so I’d rather take it out of your mouth (audience) and say it for you to laugh”.

“I was wearing a curvaceous dress when a group of boys in the crowd started chanting H-I-P for the hip…for the hippopotamus”, she remembers thirteen years ago when she was still in college.

And did she feel embarrassed?

“For a second it was shocking. But you know the fun of stand up comedy is that you can always have a comeback. And so by the time I finished with them, the boys were all quiet and the crowd was behind me solid”.

She says it is harder for women making a head way in stand up comedy citing the sex appeal that the male comics can sell to their female audiences.

“As a woman, you need to have materials whether you’re good or not because it’s a very difficult terrain. There’s a lot of creativity required and there’s no one out there to hold your hands down the road. You have to fight your way through”.

How about her constant dissing of slim girls? Does she have anything against them?

“I have absolutely nothing against slim girls, neither am I insecure about being fat. Sometimes I just wonder what is wrong with them. They’re beautiful and gorgeous but they still feel insecure. On the other hand you see fat girls who really are comfortable with their bodies”.

Bose plans to make people laugh even into her old age.

The Laugh and Rock show brought together established funny men from Nigeria and Ghana to spice up the Independence Day celebrations. Live music was provided by Afro legend Orlando Julius and Latoya Aduke alongside the Afro Hi-Sounders. Obrafuor and Mzbel also performed to the delight of the crowd.

The show was organised by Nigeria’s comedy merchant Opa Williams of the Night of a Thousand Laughs fame for Point Blank Media.

My fight with Kufuor's Government - Prince Kofi Amoabeng

Interview conducted by Ololade Adewuyi for STAR Newspapers, Accra. All photos by Ben Dzaka for STAR Newspaper

You were recently quoted by a paper to have said that the Ghanaian economy is worse than it was at independence in 1950, What do you believe are the solutions to Ghana’s problems?
First, do you agree with that statement that I made?

I would not have an opinion on that.
Ok let me explain what I meant by that statement. As part of our ten-year anniversary celebrations at Unique Trust, we organized a seminar to empower SMEs (small and medium scale enterprises) who are our main clients. At that seminar, we got the services of EMPRETEC, which Unique Trust paid for, to give them expert insight into how to manage their small businesses. We had to chat to that group about our own experiences at Unique Trust and where we are coming from and how we have been able to reach where we are in ten years. Therefore, I had a special session with them at the closing and told them about my three principles for guiding anyone doing business. The first principle is the fact that one needs to be realistic, seeing things as they are and take away all the fantasies and emotions that go along with it and see things as they are. In addition, under that topic, what I said is that for example, with the redenomination of the Cedi, we say one cedi to replace ten thousand cedis the value is the same. When in life did one become ten thousand or one become the same as ten thousand? It is not true. We can say the value is enhanced, what do you mean by the value is the same? If we were changing one-cedi note to another one-cedi note then you can say the value is the same. However, this is something Ghanaians are living with and we sing it all the time. In addition, I said under the same breath that our economy has deteriorated because the major measure of a country’s performance is the GDP capita. I said it is a fact that our GDP per capita was around $400 at independence fifty years ago. Point number two is that $400 fifty years ago in today’s terms is about $2,500. If you want to challenge that fact, you can go ahead and challenge it, otherwise I am telling you that our present day GDP of between $400 and $500 means we have deteriorated. It is a fact.

The government has not disputed that.
Nobody can dispute that fact except that Ghanaians themselves do not even see it. That is one aspect of not being realistic.

So seeing all the negative facts on ground, how would you change Ghana if given the opportunity to become leader seeing how easy it is to criticize other people, how do we make things right? Can you give concrete measures?
If I should become leader, that is extremely hypothetical. I would not be in a position to change things because I would never venture in active politics but the problem has everything to do with our culture. I believe the most important ingredient for development is having respect for all. Our culture is a culture where you respect somebody because you feel you can get something from that person or you think you need that person in your life. Giving respect for all is not an African thing. Africans believe in worshipping the authorities even bothering on the edge of sycophancy and raising those in power to the highest level in order to get what you want from them. In Africa, the moment somebody enters a room, everybody is trying to find out ‘who is he?’ and if they do not see that you have some power of influence or they need to cultivate your good side then they just trample on you. I am saying that does not bring development. That leads to retrogression. That is the reason for Africa’s lack of development. By saying that we do not give respect for all, the question should be what would ensure that we have respect for all in order to bring development. That is putting in place systems and procedures that are quite transparent and enforceable in its totality. It does not matter who you are the laws should apply. For example, we have broken all the systems that we have down intentionally. Our police system is steeped in corruption and cocaine deals; our court system is not delivering justice on time even though we are making efforts to improve it. Our public sector has broken down and our state institutions are not working. If anything would happen, it is selective. If the government does not like you, you can be sent to jail in two weeks. If the government likes you, you can be hanging around for several years for worse crimes. That is not justice for all. It is not respect for all. Furthermore, what selective respect as the African culture wants is that you appoint people into places based on their connections with the authorities. This means it not the best of the capable hands that gets there. Therefore, the person who gets there does not know the job and feels that he is being pursued or undermined by other people because he has inferiority complex, as he knows he is not the best for the job. Instead of doing the job and being measured by palates, his relationship and not his performance is what ensures he stays thereTherefore, it brings everything down. Whereas if you put the right person there with targets to meet, to be evaluated and judged, he then delivers and everybody gets a benefit out of that. For me, it is very clear why we are not developing.

So what must we do?
Well, that is very difficult. The culture of the people is their way of life. Moreover, even though we want to believe that it is dynamic, it changes very slowly more so in Africa where we still chew chewing stick and kocha. We have not changed from that way. Our chiefs will sit atop twelve people and be dancing. We have not seen a need to replace that with donkeys and chariots. The worst thing is that if you should try to change that system for the benefit of the so-called ordinary person, that same ordinary person will be the same one who will revolt because it is their way of life. So the solution even though you can talk about it, its implementation is very far off.

Let me take you a bit backwards to when you said the whole economy has gone backwards, there is progress as there is sufficient evidence to prove that the banking sector has grown.
The banking sector has grown by relation to twenty million people compared to independence when you had about six million people. It is only one sector. The sectors that have grown in Ghana are the telecommunications sector only because the technology was not there at the time of independence because we did not have the colour TV and the mobile phone technology that we have now. The banking sector also has ridden on the back of technology to grow. If Unique Trust is doing well then what would we mean by depression in the banking sector. Look at education; it is the vehicle for development. When I went to university in Ghana, I got a letter in my village; got there, was received and given a room, three meals a day, ice cream, tea, coffee, exquisite lecture rooms and allowance to study. Final year I had one room to myself. Now what does the Ghanaian who enters university have? The very room that I had to myself now has about eight or ten students to that room and it is for ‘in out out and out’. No meals, student’s loan is hard to get and now we have people going to school under trees even in Kumasi. A mate of mine teaches in a school in Kumasi where the blocks have been blown off so the students learn under trees. Here in Accra, there are places where you have fifteen JSS schools in one compound. So education has run down. Under transport, what do we say? The rail transport is non-existent. Where is Ghana Airways? Black Star Line, which Kwame Nkrumah brought about, is gone. We constructed a few roads but look at the majority of our roads presently; they are in dismal shape.

It is possible to go on and on counting the inadequacies of the system.
Now do you see how far backwards we have come? I just want you to have a better glimpse of why I said those things. In industry, we used to have a match factory, a corned beef factory, a tomato factory, a glass factory, etc. they are all gone.

Do you not think that most of the problems Ghana is experiencing like other developing countries are because of the economic policies of the stronger western powers?
No way, absolutely no way. I genuinely believe that the advanced countries would want to see one or two African countries develop so that the attention of African immigrants going to Europe will be redirected to West Africa. I believe they genuinely want to put money down so that one or two West African countries develop.

You think the West is sincere enough to want us to develop seeing that there have been revelations as to how Europe engineered Africa’s underdevelopment and its policies today still entrench for our lack of forward movement.
The whole world is about exploitation. If you expose yourself, people will take advantage of you. It is up to you to know what is happening in your environment then strategize to improve your lot. Then people will respect you. When Singapore, Korea and Malaysia were developing, they were not stopped by the advanced countries. The West did not become poorer because they became richer. So it’s not true. We are the cause of our own failures. Do not look anywhere for your own problems. We should blame our leaders. When the black man (Ghana) woke up to demand for independence, they accounted for their governance and packed up leaving our country to us. They handed over to us railways, universities and so many other things that were working. They also handed over to us reserves running into millions of dollars with no debt. That is a foreigner running your country for you. Since the white man left, every that has come government has accumulated more debts for us. Then the NPP declared an emergency enabling us to have our debts written off, which is quite disgraceful. We have started piling them on again. If you talk about the woes coming from the white person, I personally will say no, it is not true. We gave them some opportunity to abuse us a bit but what have we done for ourselves since independence?

You do have friends in influential places, politicians and ministers…
(Cuts in) No, I do not.

You don’t.
I know them but they are not my friends.

Oh well, when you meet them what do you tell them?
I do not talk to them because they always misconstrue what I say. If you do not say something in their favour then you are against them. Ghana has now been polarized everything is looked at in political terms. When I started Unique Trust in the 90s and people saw we were doing well, they began to say, “He’s NDC. He’s coming from the military and they gave him some money with which he’s now doing business”. Then the NPP came and they said, “Now the man’s NPP”. Others said “no he’s NDC” then the NPP began to come after Unique Trust. Even in football, Hearts of Oak is supposed to be NDC while Ashanti Kotoko is NPP. What kind of a country is this? I do not waste my time talking to politicians because it all is ignored. People ask me why I even talk when I have built a company and I am okay and things like that. I am not after bread and butter. It’s when you leave your house in the morning, you meet the first traffic light, and you see your fellow human being begging among the traffic. You see the look of desperation in some of their eyes. You look around and see filth and you imagine the opportunities that we have. You can’t just say you won’t do anything. Your hearts bleeds for the people. That is why some of us talk. Unfortunately, for some people if it’s not in favour of the government of the day then you’re against the government. It is sad. Ghana is even better than some other African countries because I know their cultures are worse and they abuse their people more than we do ours. Nevertheless, ours is still very bad.

You seem to have a feeling for the underprivileged, what have you done to alleviate suffering among the underprivileged populace.
I don’t think there’s much that I can do. Most times, I’m not even sure I’m doing the right thing. One of the few things that give me pleasure is when I look at the faces of my staff and see that the about two hundred and fifty people who I employ have a means of livelihood, self-respect and are able to feed their families and relatives. I look at the investments that we’ve made and the interests that we’ve paid higher than treasury bills. We’ve paid pensioners and organizations we know that we’ve added more valuable to them. I look at the people we have given loans to and the numerous businesses that we’ve saved not withstanding what anybody says. And I know the individuals who are benefiting from our services so that gives me some satisfaction that I’m putting something back into the system. I look at the taxes that we’ve paid; for 2005 we paid c10 billion in taxes that were supposed to go into the Consolidated Fund to help the government disburse as it deems fit. Even though I have my problems as to how it is disbursed. I look at the corporate social responsibility work that we do whereby we give to orphanages. If you look at what the average person is suffering, then the underprivileged people need to be pitied. Even those of us who have jobs are complaining then I say what about those who are crippled, blind theirs would be pitiful. So we try to give something to them in the special homes. We went to the National Trauma Centre where people are lying on the floor and spent about c600 million trying to rehabilitate it. We also adopted it because it’ll be rundown again before you know it. How much can one company formed under just ten years do? There should be more companies like us if the system is functioning properly so that there would be lots more taxes for the government to collect and take care of its citizens. But there are only a few success stories.

Let me take you up on that. You started ten years ago and are now the second best indigenous company in Ghana, how then did you develop so well if you accuse the same system of being so unruly?
You might say I’m a bit crazy but I teach people and say be realistic. Don’t listen to what people tell because that’s not the truth most of the time. Our upbringing in Africa is even wrong because we were brought up to fear authority. The father is coming to the house and the children have to run and hide. The father is never wrong even when he’s being stupid. Moreover, even if there is any misunderstanding you have to beg your father. You see that we grow up fearing authority, not challenging the status quo and being timid. This is our way of life. When I was growing up people believed I was a truant who didn’t respect authority and all supposing things. But the good side is that if the boss is wrong I can say so. He can fool all of us but even though I can’t do anything I’ll tell him that he’s wrong. Most people take it that the government is trying but I believe the government is doing absolutely nothing. If you want to develop a people you start with information about the people. This is a country where we don’t even have addresses so the government doesn’t even have a clue where the people live. How do you say you develop such a people? So the tax man is limited and the government doesn’t know what is required where; it doesn’t know what to take from where and therefore is not capable of developing the people. I was realistic about the country’s situation so I did my own investigations by going to the markets and knew how they were suffering when it came to accessing loans. My own experience put me in touch with the banks and I knew that the banks weren’t treating clients properly and were not responding to the needs of the people. It hit me and I said I’m going to do what the banks are supposed to do in a different efficient way. In those days you had to listen to people and try and solve their needs because business is about trying to satisfy the needs of people. If you don’t respect people you can’t even think of what is worrying them to determine what their needs are. When you look at someone, you should be thinking about how to improve his life. That is when business starts nurturing. We started with these goals in mind. I said I was going to do loans for 15% a month and people thought I was crazy but I knew that people were given loans in the market at 30-50 % a month. So I said if I can give loans to people at 15%, I’ve saved them something. People said nobody would take a loan at 15% but I knew it was possible. I started giving out money at 84% per annum and I knew that with discipline I would still have a margin. As situations improved, I narrowed down interest to a situation where we now give out loans at between 3-8% per month. You have to be realistic and stay focused on the job. The problem is that our culture will always take you away from your job. As soon as you start making some money, employing one or two people, everybody will zoom on you. They will want to make you chief, there is a funeral here you should attend, you want to look after your brother, your mother wants this and the money you have to invest in the business is being frittered away. You have to know this culture is wrong. I would not spend the money that is supposed to grow the business to do something else. People even borrow money to satisfy cultural demands or societal pressures. That is wrong. That is how we have been brought up. Only a few people would be realistic and say “what is happening to me is wrong and I wouldn’t go that way”.

Do people come to ask for loans to do burials?
Yes, people come to take loans for so many frivolous things. A guy came here to borrow money because every summer he has to go to Europe for summer with his wife, three kids and a help. Therefore, that year he came here to borrow money to buy tickets because his money was not ready. It was what was expected of him so he needed to take a loan to fulfill his obligations. I asked myself what are their priorities. We always want people to see us in a certain respectable light. I do not care what people think about me. I just focus on my goals. The society makes unnecessary demands that people unfortunately cave in.

How difficult is it retrieving loans from defaulters?

It is very difficult. However, in giving loans, you just do not give money to everybody who walks into the office seeking one and then you go after them after a month to collect the money, no. it requires understanding the person, getting the truth about the need for the money and if they will use the money for that. Once you establish contact with a client and he/she tells you exactly what their situation is, and then you are at the beginning of trying to give a good loan. Then you have to use your better education and knowledge of the business to evaluate the business the client has told you about. Factor in the cost of the interest to the business and ensure that the client will make a profit or his position will improve. You have to agree with the client that this will be the result if he agrees to do what we say we will do with the moneys. The client says yes I am happy with it, I will abide by it thank you very much before we go into giving the loan. There is some mutual understanding about how much money we are giving out, what the money is supposed to do and the probable problems that will occur. Many people after doing the type of business they wanted to do and making the money start having ideas different ideas. Therefore, you have to be there to monitor and pick up the money when it comes in. if your monitor and evaluation is good, you will do good loans. However, you still have people in the system who will come in and lie or people who tell the truth but as soon as they leave the office, they turn around as need that is more urgent arises and they divert the money. In that situation, I really do not have a problem. My issue is that when they have disrespected you and the cause for which you gave them the money, they should come back and tell you that something went wrong and I could not stay by what we agreed. The typical Ghanaian would put off their phone and not stay in their house trying to avoid you. I have put my telephone number at all of our offices saying if you have a problem, you should call me directly. You do not call me; we call you but get no response, we have a responsibility to the owners of the money then we come after you.

So you enforce retrieval of the loans.
The point is that these very disrespectful crooks and cheats in the system know that the system can be manipulated, because if you take them to the police station they can bribe their way, the court system is slow and adjournments can last up to three years. They misapply the money and try to use the weak system to their advantage. we have our own problems but I believe we are one of the companies who deal with them better than the others.

How do you go to bed at night knowing that you have taken away a family’s livelihood while retrieving a defaulted loan?
I sleep very well. I am a very happy person. The only time a relationship will start between a client and us is when we have analyzed the client’s desperate situation and taken other people’s money to give to this client. For such an action, nobody can say we are bad people for giving money fast to people in desperate situations with feeling and respect. Ninety five per cent of the people pay back and are grateful. The other 5% who lack respect for civility want to abuse our trust and say we are bad people. However, I sleep very well at night knowing my God is behind me. When people walk in here and ask us for a loan bringing along a guarantee, they are simply saying you can liquidate this thing if do not pay you.

At the end of the day if this person cannot pay and they ask for a little more time, what do you do?
I am saying that come back and tell us you have a problem. I welcome all of them. I respect people because I have a soft side that most people do not know. I want people to be truthful about their conditions. If you come back and tell me about the situation then I am ready to help you figure something out.

People respect you for what you have achieved in the country because you have turned adversary into something great. Don’t you think that people like you ought to stand up for positions of leadership in this country? Why are the good men standing down when they should be counted?
You need to listen to some opinions about me before you make such conclusions.

The young people look up to you because you inspire them.
They are in the minority. Ghanaians do not like the truth. If you say the truth too much and you are disrespectful and do not like the party or the big man, they take you as the enemy. I would not venture into politics by myself, ever. I know that the way I talk and say the truth, majority of the people will not want to vote for me. I am smart enough to know that. In a situation where the majority of the Ghanaians cannot stand the truth, I know it will be a waste of time. If I have to put myself up to serve the people, I know I will put in my best so you bet that I will never bribe anybody to vote for me. You cannot win elections in Ghana without paying and telling them lies.

In essence, you would run for president if a party adopts you.
No party would adopt me. I do not think like them. I have found it refreshing that somebody like Professor Frimpong Boateng will put himself up for president. I’m praying and hoping there will be some miracle from somewhere to see that he’s a genuine guy who can change Ghana.

Many people were surprised that you supported him.

He is the only person worth my support. People are not realistic anymore. Here’s someone who has excelled in the medical profession, in the cardio surgical field, with a high IQ and he says he wants to replicate his success for his people. he’s been named a bad person because Ghanaians always call a good person bad. If we’re realistic, there’s not another candidate who can stand up to him among the lot. We say we are developing so we don’t need him but if we realize we’re not developing but going backwards then we’ll realize we need a different person and not the usual breed of politicians because they have only succeeded in bringing us backwards.

You think the political jobbers are just wasting our time.

I will not say they’re wasting our time but that they don’t know what it takes to develop people and they get side tracked by the cultural demands on them. For example, the president has to go to a funeral every weekend. We have only 24 hours in a day, how can you go and spend hours at a funeral? I do not get it. In addition, he has to go with a convoy of about 40 cars in a show of strength because that makes him popular.

In essence, you are not friends with the president.
I have not met him before and have never shaken hands with him. I only see him from afar.

What if you had an opportunity to have an audience with him, what would you tell or advise him?
The presidency is an institution you cannot but respect. I am a trained soldier and we take seriously rank and position. I do not think the president will need my advice because he has many people around him who he has trusted for so long and would not now come to ask for my advice. One thing I assure is that if he ever asked for my view, they will not be dressed up at all. They will be as raw as I am talking to you.

So if you ever came into a position of authority, how will we know that you would not sing another tune?
Then they would have to listen to hard truth all the time. Moreover, I know I will not last because they would probably sack or kill me.