Eko Encounters: Why Sweat Elsewhere?

27 June 2012

Pro Patria!

As I made my way to work this morning, my thoughts turned, as usual for this week in particular, toAfrica. I have been musing this week aboutGhanaand today I added the country I consider my second home –Nigeria.
I have been working here in Eko permanently for almost three months now. I am not new to Amalaman. Since I started working with Unilever after school in 2000, I have been visiting here for about fourteen times before moving here permanently. My first visit to Amalaman was in January 2001, and it was for a conference in Ogere. Interestingly, my first trip out ofLagosin April this year was toIbadanand we went by Ogere and right by the conference centre – nostalgic. In 2009, I stayed here for a full month.
I have been telling my colleagues at work, Mr O and Mrs B especially that when I read the papers, especially The Punch which is what I subscribe to at work, I find too many negative words being used, to much pessimism.
Just as an example, I have now picked, randomly, the Thursday June 14 2012 edition of The Punch. The words and phrases that jump at me: scandals, bribe, suspicion, rot, stinks, emergency, warns, recession. This is just the front page, I have not opened it yet. There is, however, one positive story – Man, 80, bags B.Sc in Sociology (that was so inspiring).
I ask my colleagues why.
When I come to work during the week and also move about during the weekend, I never regret being inNigeriaor working here. I love it. Challenges nevertheless.
Another argument I always have with my Nigerian friends – I tell them they have a romantic view ofGhana. Usually when I hear such statements as ‘Oh, it is not like this or that inGhana’, I challenge the speaker and ask ‘Have you ever been toGhana?’ Three times out of four, the person hasn’t been. It is not all that rosy in my homeland, we are all on this road to development, and have our challenges.
After my first degree and my statutory (second) National Service, I worked for five years in Ghanabefore going to the UKfor a year’s masters program. This was between September 2005 and September 2006. I submitted my dissertation on the 15 September, stayed for two weeks to help with the Welcome program for International Students and to tidy up a few issues and I was back in Ghana on the 2nd October 2006. I had resigned from Unilever before going for my studies and as at the time I returned, there was no firm offer from Unilever to take me back. A Ghanaian friend based in theUK asked me why I was returning toGhana, and why I didn’t like it in theUK. As a typical Ghanaian, I answered him with a question, querying him in return why he was in theUK and why he didn’t like it inGhana. I will state my reasons for returning home so soon, later in this piece but before that, allow me to share a statement a senior colleague made to me.
I had got a Chevening scholarship to study atNottinghamUniversity. As I considered my options, I went to consult with Adlai Opoku-Boamah, a senior manager at Unilever who had just recently returned from theUKon a similar scholarship. His advice was simple: “Nana, if you want to be a big man, come back home.”
I saw the development in theUK, I have seen the development inSouth Africaand since returning from my studies, I have been to other countries where the level of advancement is far above what transpires inGhanaand other African countries. I saw how hard people, including many Africans, are working in theUKto make that country prosper and become what it is. And I asked myself, Why sweat somewhere else?
Why sweat my youthful years away building someone’s village and not mine? Why put my shoulders to a wheel that turns another economy whilst the one that has my umbilical cord tied to it travels south? And in returning toGhana, I was returning toAfrica, to the continent that needs the resources to grow.
We berate the whites for slavery and argue that the slave trade took away all our energetic and productive young men and women. Are we not practising a voluntary trade today?
One of the issues that tickle in the wrong places is when my brothers and sisters living abroad visit home for a week and lament about everything and see nothing worthwhile to commend. Who should stay behind and build?
I was in school with a number of Nigerians, who stayed back. Try telling them to come back home to help, and it will be like selling amala to a Chinese man. How else canNigeriagrow if all the top brains are going out for studies and not returning? How canAfricaimprove if we don’t want to stay, sweat and swim against the tide of under-development and turn our economies around?
Who is to give the hope back? Who is to change the language we use? Who is to enervate us, inspire us, bring us the va-va-voom? It will not be the politicians, I can guarantee you. It will be us, the ordinary citizens.
Why sweat elsewhere when I can sweat on the continent, and stay in a betterGhana, a betterNigeria, a betterAfrica?
Why sweat elsewhere?

10 Responses to Eko Encounters: Why Sweat Elsewhere?

  1. Nana Mensa-Bonsu says:

    Nana, I asked these same questions of my friends who wanted to know why I wanted to return home to Ghana after my masters in the US. I told them that they, the students who got 1st Class and 2nd Uppers and had got scholarships to the US to develop themselves had refused to return home with all the new knowledge and cutting edge technology they had acquired in the US, leaving those with limited exposure, 3rd classes and co to run things back home. How then did they expect things to develop? They went quiet.
    Each time I asked people this question, they went quiet. A senior colleague actually called me aside to dissuade me from coming back home. I saw no sense in putting up with cold winters, running after the bus, dealing with racism, the loneliness and individualism that I’d experienced over there.
    I agree with your friend who says that if you want to be a big man, you should return to GH. I always say that for the educated African,Africa’s the place to be, because no matter how learned or educated or successful you become in the whiteman’s land, the moment you step out of your office building and onto the street, you’re just another black man on the street. Even worse, you have an accent! Once you step onto the street, even the ignorant white high school drop-out with less than half the education you’ve got gets more respect than you do!
    Thanks, but I’d rather live right here in GH. Here, I can get the quality of life I desire and need. I can spend quality time with my children and watch them grow. I can actually take time to “smell the roses” instead of running around all day everyday and at break-neck speed!

  2. jakob says:

    great article and an example

  3. Ben says:

    Hi Bro,
    You have a very valid case in many respects.
    If we look purely at the short-term economics then who will ‘sacrifice’ so things will be better for tomorrow’s children? Useful point.
    BUT BRO, let’s look a little deeper.
    We talk about putting shoulders to the wheel. That’s fair enough if you can get some space on this wheel and contribute some.
    Today, many Ghanaians abroad are making contributions to Ghana that they could not have made whilst in Ghana. That has to be worth something too.
    Look at our own Kofi Annan. Who would say his efforts working abroad haven’t helped Ghana significantly and actually encouraged many people to show the world ‘we too can make it’?
    If Kofi Annan was a local politician, do you think he would have gotten opportunities to show the world what he could do and end up commanding this level of respect and authority?
    I have friends like you who have gone back to Ghana. I understand the urge to do the same. I do. I however do not want to make the move because of guilt. I’d make this move if I believe I could do more whilst physically in Ghana than I am able to do not physically present.
    Nice interesting thoughts. Well written.
    @papabedo on twitter

  4. zxeesha says:

    Exactly. Very true

  5. Albert says:

    You are so right my bro but then those in Ghana and the rest of Africa especially the senior citizens in politics need to start changing their mentality. Back home, it’s all about ‘me’ and what ‘I’ get. That is really keeping our motherland at a standstill which discourages those outside from coming down. My question is, when one goes back home, will one be allowed to apply what he or she has learnt here. The answer is most often NO which then leads to fustration,

  6. Brilliant post wise one. Africa is the future. Hope to join the boat soon as soon as I get my hands on this paper we call degree

  7. spot on. who should build for ‘them’ to enjoy.
    lets work very hard for someday-very soon ‘Africa’ would be the new USA/UK

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