Prof Kwesi Yankah writes: Celebrating Alata With Caution

President Elect-Bola Ahmed Tinubu
President Elect-Bola Ahmed Tinubu

Current happenings in Nigeria caution us to rush and position cold water beside our beards. When the time comes, there should be no excuses by our Fire Service about faulty water hydrants, empty water tanks, and no petty cash for petrol. If our neighbour’s beard is on fire, let’s head for extinguishers today.

It could be scary because, between the two countries, we have been incurable copy cats.

In 1966, Nigeria probably introduced us to the game. Soon after their army misbehaved in January 1966, we followed suit the next month, February, ousting Kwame Nkrumah.

When our J J Rawlings established his revolutionary AFRC on his first coming in 1979, our Alata neighbors in 1985 called their uprising by the same name, AFRC. If you teased them about a possible imitation of Ghana, they said, “It is not J J ‘s Armed Forces Revolutionary Council; “ours is Armed Forces Ruling Council.” Earlier an SMC, Supreme Military Council, had shaken Nigeria’s civilian order in 1966.

When Acheampong ousted Kofi Busia in 1972, he borrowed from his neighbours, and also renamed his own, Supreme Military Council, after toying with the word redemption. In 1983, Buhari also called his military junta, SMC, looking over the shoulders of his predecessors and copying. In the late 1990s, while Ghana was praying that Our Jerryship would end military rule in 2000, we got worried when a General Abacha kept visiting him ‘behind closed doors.’ Was he persuading our Father to imitate him?

Between us and our neighbors, we are often the best of friends, until it comes to soccer, when a single blast by Asamoah Gyan’s right foot, could drench the Green Eagles, and weaken their currency the Naira. Since then the Black Stars have been careful deciding whether or not to win a match in Nigeria.

To any faithful Ghanaian, Alata simply means Nigeria. Every Nigerian is then Alatani; if you want to add Yakini, Funso, and Meemuna, call them Alatafo. Stories of our joint escapades in the mid 1960s at home and at Winnesec will later be told. For it could easily be said, there was an Alata in every town, school or village seriously trading or going to school. Intermarriages set in and produced several Ghanaians of Nigerian origin, leaving indelible traces. My own father’s side of the family tells the story with names like Alimatu, Hawawu, Saka. A controversial aliens compliance order by Busia in 1969 fouled the friendly air, and sent most of our colleagues packing back home. Suburbs like Lagos Town in Accra narrate the story more eloquently, and point to original immigrant concentrations on our landscape, but also our own sense of hospitality.

When the tide turned from the 1980s and beyond, it was the turn of Ghanaians to make Alata their home at various times, until a ‘Ghana must go’ order was bellowed from above. That directive got so popular, it mutated into the name of a hand woven bag fondly used by Ghanaians for packing before departure. Returnees rushed home with ‘Ghana Must Go’ bags bobbing their knees. That bag later acquired the label Kufuor.

But current economic hardships should stir the Alata in us all. In the midst of haircuts, who does not go Alata at meal time? The younger ones should listen. To go Alata in your meals simply means, not cooking a fresh meal each time. Even those days fridges were uncommon, you simply warmed a left over soup or stew, and there you go the next day! Today, this is happening in all homes including mine. Alata nkwan simply means recycled or left over soup. Avoid fresh meals if you cannot afford. Manage to eat a pot of soup three times at least; simply warm and stir it thoroughly the next day. That is Alata. The third time the soup is taken, it is no longer soup; God has turned it into stew. The thick residue at the base is best for rice, or etsew for us Fantis. That is Alata. Fresh stew each day is great; but don’t allow that to subvert your budget. Do Alata. Indeed Alata should be every Ghanaian’s watch word these days.

But there was more. Alatafo were retail traders of a meticulous order. Detergent soap, Omo or Surf, sugar, ‘blue,’ needles, matches, were all repackaged in tiny bits to meet the lowest budget and sold, yielding minute profit margins at a time. Wealthy Alata traders shunned a get-rich-quick mentality, and got wealthy in slow progression. Hard work, judicious resource management, modesty, avoidance of waste, small margins of profit, were the legacies Alata immigrants left in our lives, our business and our foodways.

Ghana 2023, these come handy; so lets’ go the Alata way.

The two countries share similar political histories. That is why most Ghanaians have been glued to their TV sets monitoring political events in Alata this week. In following the fortunes of Alata, we seek to identify the Atikus among us, the Tinubus, and the Obis in our midst. Let Obi win, and all young presidential aspirants in Ghana will be Obi, smiling with a gap in their upper front teeth. They are ready to rally the youth to action and change Ghana. Let Atiku win the day in Alata; it will tell the story of Ghana’s biggest opposition party. ‘It pays to be patient in the midst of economic turmoil.’ Then should Tinubu win the day, it simply means Breaking the 8 has worked in Alata. The old man Buhari is exiting with his old age troubles after two terms. Here comes Tinubu from the same party who has broken 8 in Alata. Tinubu has broken the 8 in spite of severe economic hardship, and so therefore listen, Ghana.

It probably means no need for elections in Ghana next year. Our twin brother Nigeria has spoken for itself and for us too. Indeed Nigeria is probably voting with Ghana’s thumb saving us all the trouble and expense.

Unfortunately it may also mean, getting ready with our Ghana Must Go luggage, each and everyone of us.

In our case, however, there will be nowhere to go, but into the Atlantic ocean.

Ghana, let’s imitate Alata, but with abundance of caution.

Source By Kwesi Yankah

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