Tribute to the late Sowah Obuadaban Botswe – A call to the Gadangme Diaspora

I pay this tribute to the memory of Sowah Obuadaban Botswe who was the first president of Gadangme International in America and who died earlier this year.  I did not hear of his passing but when it was brought to my attention I could not fail to write a tribute to recognise the sterling work that he did in mobilising forces across the world in support of Gadangme.

Obuadaban was a stalwart of the Gadangme community who during the most trying times managed to unify the Gadangme Community Organisations in America and then seek to find common cause with organisations in Europe, specifically London and to discuss some issues of concern for Gadangme Diaspora organisations and committees to determine a way forward for priorities and implementation strategies.

The best tribute that I can pay to him is to recount a meeting that he requested with the  Gadangme UK Foundation when as President of the Gadangme International in America, he travelled to England for the sole purpose of delivering a message.

This message was delivered in person to an executive committee meeting of the GaDangme Foundation on Monday the 29th of October 2001 at the offices of Ghana Union London, 431 Caledonian Road, London N7 2LT at 7.00 pm.

For the purposes of this tribute, I have restructured the message in the hope that those reading will realise his passion for Gadangme causes and his foresight in asking for the issues to be addressed in a formal way.  20 years on the message is as relevant as it was when delivered and this must be the spur to action for those involved in the Gadangme organisations in the diaspora to act on the main plank of the request that remains unfulfilled.

Sowah’s introductory remarks

The post-independence period has seen an influx of people of other tribes into Accra, the capital.  These people are looking for their share of the national cake that they feel is being distributed in the national capital.  They have settled comfortably and are increasingly taking over large swathes of farmland that is the natural heritage of the GaDangme people.  Other problems have surfaced because of urbanisation, and in addition to the problems of the economic wellbeing of the urban poor, there are issues around the dilution of the culture and especially the language.

There are some concerns that the culture of the Gadangme is being marginalized in its own heartland.  The danger felt by several GaDangme is that our culture may not survive into posterity and we may be known only as people who once lived in a certain place in Ghana.  It will soon be impossible to let our children and grandchildren experience what was a rich culture that we were exposed to. At this rate of marginalisation, we would have no evidence of our existence save what would be in the history books.

 Though we believe and feel strongly that we have been successful as a people and that our civilisation must survive; it is clear however that it will not survive if we do nothing about it. If we are relegated into the history books as the only fact of our existence, it will confirm that we have not been successful as we feel in protecting our own culture.

Sowah’s reason for the need for intervention

The GaDangme people in Ghana are aware of the problems, they are in their own small way trying to find solutions, but they may be ill-equipped.  As someone put it, they are ill and need some medicine.  As another will put it, it is as if they are in a fight that they are losing and are desperately looking for their older brother to come to their assistance.  If their older brother agrees, it gives them more courage to get on with the fight.  But they still need their older brother to show their face to the opponent because they are confident that the opponent will be scared.

He posited that we in the Diaspora must be that ‘older brother’ who must shoulder the responsibility for addressing these issues of marginalisation. He is convinced that the responsibility rests firmly on the shoulders of those of us in the Diaspora.  We can only resolve these issues through proper planning and harnessing of resources.

Sowah’s request

His request was twofold:

  • He is impressed with the efforts of GaDangme in Britain to assist with OBONU FM.  He asked that he be allowed to take back to American the pledge forms that have been developed so that they in American and GaDangme International can assist. He wants us to continue to support Obonu FM, a powerful instrument that will give us back our voice and it can be used to redress some of our problems.
  • That we agree to become the central spearhead in any movement that would seek to provide solutions for the problems of Gadangme at home and for the implementation of our plans.

He felt that the lead must come from a single central source that will spearhead the strategy. Britain is chosen because of our colonial heritage and closer links with Ghana.  The GaDangme from Britain cannot do this alone and must be endowed with resources from the whole GaDangme community worldwide: from Canada, from Europe, from the United States, from Australasia and from Asia.

Sowah’s proposal for a planning retreat

The GaDangme Foundation is already established as the umbrella group of all GaDangme organisations operating in Britain.  It has the support of the organisations and the GaDangme community in Britain.  It also has stronger links with the GaDangme Council and the GaDangme Traditional Council than most other organisations in the Diaspora and therefore it must agree to spearhead the strategy.

A meeting is called of representatives from GaDangme organisations worldwide to plan the main strategy and the modalities for implementing these.

The meeting need not be a large meeting, but a meeting of 9 or a maximum of 15 representatives.  The suggestion is to have two or three from the UK, Canada, Europe, Asia, and the United States to this meeting.

The meeting can deliberate over a long weekend and must be hosted in The United Kingdom.

The meeting will be used to plan strategies and policies and work out the modalities.  The agenda for the meeting will be dictated by the constituent organisations that will send the representatives and though it may be wide-ranging, it must recognise that there will be limited time for the discussions.

The meeting will conclude with a communiqué that will be sent to all GaDangme organisations for adoption.

Sowah’s proposed agenda for the meeting

Whilst the strategy will call for resources that will be used to implement plans in Ghana and whilst there are clear calls for doing something to arrest the current decline in Ghana and to shore up failing infrastructure, the strategy must be seen in as a long-term planned effort to get a better future for the people within the context of a modern Ghana.  The sort of issues that we may need to take on board will focus not only on the culture and language but also on economic development.

The main task of the retreat group would be to plan how we can adopt a three-stage strategy to reassert ourselves.  The stages would be:

  • Organisation of resources
  • Recruitment of personnel
  • The strategy in Accra
  • Organisation of resources
  • What resources, human and capital, will we require to implement our policies.  We need to be able to cost the strategy fully!
  • Where we are likely to raise these resources: who will contribute to our cause, how do we raise funding from international, bilateral, and corporate sources as well as from individuals to build long-lasting funds and how we invest wisely?  How do we connect with organisations with a presence on our land and how do we get them to participate in our programmes?
  • Recruitment of personnel
  • How do we recruit personnel to implement the plan?  This will involve convincing GaDangme in the Diaspora that the time is ripe for taking our skills back to Ghana
  • But this convincing should also ensure that despite their being asked to sacrifice, whether for a short or longer period, the effects of their initial stay will be cushioned by extra resources from abroad.  Other people who need to be recruited will be friends of GaDangme and friends of friends of GaDangme who though they may not be GaDangme or not Ghanaian may empathise and have some conviction in our efforts to progress the fortunes of our people.
  • How do we recruit personnel from the Diaspora and retain them?
  • The strategy in Accra
  • What GaDangme in the Diaspora intend to achieve by the move into Ghana: the key to development is a healthy environment and an educated or skilled workforce, but the preservation of our culture and heritage will also give us great pride of place in modern Ghana.
  • What are the policies that we intend to develop? What can we do to supplement what has been put in place by district, regional and central government that will benefit GaDangme?
  • How we intend to implement these policies; we need to determine what activities are required to ensure that these policies will work.  The programmes and projects must be formulated at least in outline format.  What form and structure the organisation will take on the ground?
  • How we intend to direct and sustain the initiative. Who will direct and what systems do we put into place for monitoring, evaluating, and reviewing our performance?

Sowah’s proposed strategy for the push into Accra

The push into Ghana should also be properly planned. Stepping into Ghana requires a strategy that must be informed by the interrelationships that we will have to deal with.   If our agenda is to be successful, then we need to manage this issue with as much tact as we can muster so as not to alienate people already there who may be doing good work. We must also ensure that those who may wish to interfere with our plans will be deterred.

As part of the deliberations, the retreat group must consider a three-stage approach to our push into Ghana. To reassert ourselves, there are three main groups that we will need to engage with who will also ensure that we achieve our objectives with the minimum of obstacles and barriers.  We will need to manage our relationships with these people.

  • Our traditional leaders
  • Politicians and government
  • The Gadangme intelligentsia and civil society organisations
  • Our chiefs – GaDangme Traditional Councils

The chiefs now present a problem.  They are not as influential as they used to be in ages gone.  They cannot assert their authority in such a way that the people or even the government would listen to them.  And yet they are still a reservoir of potent authority that must be exploited.  They may have tried to redress the problems but to date, they have not been successful.  Some in the Diaspora who come into direct contact with them in relation to purchasing of lands for projects even think that they are part of the problem.

They are however important because despite their failure and though they may have not been able to assert themselves in the face of our problems, they are still a reservoir of authority.

The push is not about marginalizing them but about supplementing whatever efforts they are making.  We must explain our intentions to them and ensure that they are with us.

But there is a need for us to be independent or else we will get drawn into their disputes and our efforts will be mired down in the same conflicts that have prevented GaDangme from making progress.  We will supplement their efforts without necessarily being part of them.

  • Our politicians and government

We must also engage with our politicians of whatever party.  We will need to support our politicians on all sides of the political divide.  We will empower them to ask for what they must do for their constituency.  We will assure them that we are fully behind them and they can always call on support from us.

We must also engage the government if not only to assure them that we make no economic demands on them, but we intend to assist them in the development of our place of birth and city.  We must, however, be independent of government otherwise this will conflict with the support we intend to give to our politicians on all sides.

The government need not be threatened by our concern and our activities.  Accra is the capital of the country and in the eyes of the government it may be the capital, but for us, it is our only land, our only heritage, our ancestral home.  If we want to do something to rehabilitate the area and our people, the government should be pleased about it.  We do not intend to initially make any demands of the government for assistance, but we hope that in supplementing the efforts of government we should be able to redirect resources to our people.  We also would explain to the government that they should leave us alone to work for our community.  We come in good faith and we expect that in advancing our cause the whole country will benefit.

  • The existing intelligentsia – GaDangme Council

The third group to engage with will be the intelligentsia and those existing associations on the ground.  These we need to be part of us and together we will implement things.

We need them and they will also need us with our newfound vigour and our new dimension.  We can build new structures, but it will be important to repair existing channels that already exist and transform them into something viable.

But it will also be about the commitment that we feel is necessary to transform the fortunes of our own people and to ensure that the gains that are made are sustained.

They have already started operating on our behalf: we must empower and endow them.  But they already have their own objectives and agenda that we must not interfere with.  They will continue to represent the GaDangme.  Our wish is that we can work side by side with them. A memorandum of understanding will define our relationship.

Our task in Gadangme is not only about culture and language.  It will be about economic development, it will also be about the new leadership of our people within a united Ghana, it will be like coming to take our rightful place at the table to think about how we can all reap the benefits of good government.

It is not like we will exclude GaDangme back at home, but the stark reality is that this is our agenda and our move.

 

Our conclusion

It is the government of Ghana that has created Accra as the capital. People from other regions and tribes may see Accra as the capital, but for us GaDangme is our ancestral land.  The other tribes keep their customs and culture.

Why should our culture be sacrificed on the altar of the country when the benefits of that country accrue to all?  Should we exchange cultural annihilation for economic advancement?

We in the Diaspora must answer these questions. Doing nothing about it amounts to an abdication of our role as joint leaders of our community who left the country in other to be successful, acting hastily on the problem may also not resolve it; it will amount to fire fighting the symptoms of the problem.

Despite all the passion and sentiments, we must keep wise counsel and adopt a strategic a long-term approach to the resolution of our problems, the solutions must be grounded in sound strategy backed by policies, programmes, and effective projects.

Our recommendation

  • That all organisations in the Diaspora must deliberate this proposal
  • That all organisations in the Diaspora must adopt these proposals
  • That all organisations in the Diaspora arrange to send mandated delegates to the proposed retreat

GaDangme eku shi egbekoshi

Tswa, Tswa, Tswa! Omanye abla wo

My comments

Sadly, a lot has happened during this period.

  • The chieftaincy issues still plague us in Gadangme and are far from being resolved conclusively.
  • Gadangme Foundation in the UK has gone through changes and are not as strong as they were in 2001.  The Gadangme Council is also struggling
  • The relation with GDI developed
  • The conference to deliberate these issues has not been called.
  • Other organisations such as Gadangme Europe has emerged and may be able to assist in the cause.
  • With the advent of social media, there are more groups operating in cyberspace who all are intent on finding a resolution to our problems
  • New technology has changed the way people meet and communicate with each other and in these days of Covid-19. There are ways in which we can work smarter
  • The issues raised by Sowah are as relevant now as they were when he raised them 20 years ago

On behalf of all Gadangme, I must applaud Sowah Obuadaban Botswe for thinking up this strategy, it certainly showed the mark of the man on a mission of searching out the best for his people; sharing the vision showed his dedication.  Gadangme is poorer for this irreplaceable loss and we must all mourn with the family.

May his soul rest in perfect peace in the Lord

Sowah, yaa wɔ ojogbaŋŋ