By Jessica Campbell
His name is OB Nartey.
But I call him OB the Brave.
We were colleagues for two months at Pravda Radio in Accra, Ghana.
Pravda recently hosted a conference to celebrate the African Union’s 50-year anniversary. In respect to the Union’s mandates, organizers invited guest speakers and people from the community to discuss ways to mitigate the barriers between African countries, and better yet, unite the continent.
At the conference, OB proved why and how he is different. His mentality far surpasses the average in Ghana. In fact, it surpasses those of many. He believes in something that can change the world:
Sounds corny, doesn’t it? You might have even laughed. But please, come take a seat next to me at the conference, and you will soon see why this might be the secret to overcome all development issues.
Dressed in his traditional African gown standing at the podium, Osofo Kofitse Ahadzi points to a tall vase of artificial flowers sitting on the floor. He asks the crowd why they are in the room.
“They were only made for places with cold weather,” he says. “Where flowers can’t grow.”
He then asks why the room is air-conditioned. It wouldn’t be necessary if “we didn’t dress in suits like the white man,” he says. It’s Friday evening. The sun is down. It’s 30 degrees.
As common as they might seem, the guest speaker from the Afrikania Mission, a research group encouraging Africans to live traditionally, says fake flowers and air-conditioning symbolize how much the West, and other foreign countries, subliminally control Africa. Amenities such as these would otherwise not be here.
These influences, says Ahadzi, are worrisome.
Kwasi Pratt, the editor-in-chief of Insight Newspaper in Accra, takes over the podium and shows, like Ahadzi, he is skeptical of the West.
“Europe and North America have become what they are because of Africa,” says Pratt. “They stole our resources, and we need to protect them.”
To do this, he says, children need to be conditioned: “Schools de-emphasize our history. It’s a huge flaw.” Teachers need to remind students how the West treated both this country, and continent, he adds.
Ahadzi nods from the front row.
In the 15th century, Ghana was colonized by the Portuguese and used as one of the main ports in the slave trade. The Dutch and British were also involved. All profited selling Ghana’s gold.
Meanwhile, Ghanaians and other Africans were shipped to the West as slaves. Their free labour was the catalyst to the West’s 18th century Industrial Revolution, the inauguration of Western financial domination for centuries to follow.
Today, Ahadzi and Pratt base their developmental approaches on these catastrophic events. As a result, they seek to unite Africa externally, and not internally. Defense and security from foreigners will aid Africa’s development.
“You have to know where you’ve come from to know where you’re going,” says Ahadzi. Adding, foreign exploitation is still very much an issue in Africa.
Since May, for instance, the Ghanaian government has arrested almost 200 Chinese visitors for illegal gold mining. And in other African countries with profitable resources, similar cases aren’t hard to come across.
But as paradoxical as it might seem, this, right here, is why OB Nartey says when it comes to African unity and development, thinking defensively is actually not the answer.
Let’s watch what happens next.
The speakers conclude their talks and open up the discussion to audience. People, fueled by the lecturers’ comments, stand to ask questions about “the white man.” One goes as far to conclude, “Haven’t they done enough?”
“I would never date a white woman,” a colleague says to me when I ask his thoughts on the conference.
Angst, as a result of fear of the West and other foreigners, isn’t bringing people together. It’s furthering segregation.
“We’re looking back, not forward,” says a disgruntled OB, standing at the microphone just left of the audience. “History is in the past. It is time to get over it.”
Looking forward would allow Africa to build, not resent, relationships. Relationships that could benefit all parties involved if formed respectfully. And, unify not only Africa, but the globe.
“We all bleed the same blood,” says OB.
A dream, but a possible one.
OB says development shouldn’t focus on security, or even countries or continents. Instead, it should focus on the individual: the development of people’s psyche, mindsets, and attitudes. Children shouldn’t be bombarded with teachings of past, but rather, taught to be a good person through their “relationship with themselves.” Their awareness.
“It should be about how we all are as people,” he says.
If development became about relationships, and not security, approaches would shift from the defensive to the collaborative.
Which, right here in Ghana, is already happening.
Dressed in his military uniform, Francis Palmdeti, head of public affairs at the Ghana Immigration Service, leans back in his office chair as he crosses his arms behind his head. He shows great ease as I ask him about the 200 Chinese men arrested for illegally mining Ghanaian gold.
“The Chinese have investments in Ghana,” says Palmdeti. Focusing on illegal miners over their beneficial support, like the Chinese-built theatre, gas plant, and the Bui dam, would be a shame, he says.
“So I can tell you the Chinese are supporting us fully to get them out.”
Together, they are collaborating to overcome wrong doings done by individual people, not a collective place. People that just have to wake up a little bit. Just like cataleptic that operated the slave trade so long ago.
Some think it’s silly to dream of oneness.
But I say, oh be the brave one fearless enough try. First with yourself, and then with others. Out of love, respect, and awareness.
Like OB, OB the brave.