In those mid ’90s, one had to do a year (Level 200—if from the old O’ and A’ level system) or two years (Levels 100 and 200—from the new Junior and Senior Secondary School system) to see who qualifies, per superior GPA, to be called for the University of Ghana Medical School interview.
If my memory serves me right, of the nearly 900 of us, only a third made the interview list; and of that, only another third were admitted to medical (and dental) school. Folks were so bent on making the final 100 who will don the coveted white coat and carry boxes of bones on and off the med school bus that the mantra was “medico or suicide!” It was a serious threat in those heady undergraduate days.
I personally don’t recall anyone who didn’t make the cut actually physically killing themselves but many died emotionally, mentally and even socially. That nonsense killed many brilliant minds. I know of some that had to take a year off to heal; some even left the country for a bit. I still meet people who seem to be a pale shadow of themselves prior to this deathly mantra.
CAREER = PROFESSION + FIELD
I hope that career and counselling services have improved for the current generation but I can tell you for a fact that most of us were too young, back in the 1990s, to even definitely know what we wanted, career-wise. O of course many of us thought we knew, just like we thought we knew who we wanted to marry. Probably 0.0001% of us ended up marrying who we ‘so sure’ about.
In fact, many of us mixed up the passion for the general field (healthcare) with a passion for a particular profession (medical doctor). I was fortunate to learn the CAREER = PROFESSION + FIELD formula from the What Colour is Your Parachute? publication and many in that biological sciences pool could’ve found use for it too. Take my friend Retha (true story but not her real name), for example. She was a couple of years behind me. She didn’t make the dreaded med school list. And you wouldn’t believe the kind of hell her parents subjected her to, as a result. Thankfully she weathered the storm and did great at her plan B: Psychology. She loved it and excelled at Clinical Psychology in particular so much that she continued with graduate studies and eventually landed a PhD in it, in the United States of America.
Think about it: she still ended up in the field of healthcare which she was passionate about but realised she didn’t need to have the profession of a medical doctor to pursue that passion. The competent psychologist she became satisfied the same passion and fulfilled her calling. In any case, she’s still called “Dr.” today in her practice and who the heck cares if she earned the “Dr.” title from med school or from grad school, especially if she’s doing one heck of a good job in the clinic.
THE NURSING DOCTOR
These thoughts above were provoked by attending a recent Doctors in Business banquet at the Holiday in Accra, Ghana. As a guest keynote speaker, I had the privilege of sharing the high table with a course mate from Level 100 at the University of Ghana, Legon. We were both introduced as “Doctor” but I could swear she wasn’t in med school with me. By the end of the night it turned out that both the MC and myself were right. She was not med school with our batch, and she isn’t a medical doctor (I was right); but she is a doctor alright, a doctor in nursing (the MC was right).
“So I did biological sciences with you guys at Level 100 because I came to Legon as a science student,” Dr. Lillian Akorfa Ohene (PhD, MPhil, PN, BSc) intimated to me, but fortunately she wasn’t of the “medico or suicide!” tribe. “I branched off to nursing after level 100 because nursing was my first choice.” I’ve been so impressed that she knew exactly what she wanted even back then (forget the prestige of med school) and went straight for it. It reminds me of a brilliant 4.0 (perfect GPA) friend of mine who could’ve easily made it to med school but also chose to do Nutrition and Food Science, in the steps of her food scientist dad. She’s doing well in the industry, a leader of leaders.
Beyond knowing what she wanted and decisively moving towards it despite the definite distraction of medicine, Lillian’s story is also serendipitous as “the road rose to meet her.” She continues the conversation thus: “…but it happened that at that time, the nursing program started at level 200.”
IMPRESSIVE CURRICULUM VITAE
Today, Dr Lillian Akorfa Ohene is a Senior Lecturer and the Head of Department for Public Health Nursing at the University of Ghana’s School of Nursing and Midwifery. She is a certified paediatric nurse, who holds a PhD in Nursing from De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, a Master of Philosophy and Bachelor of Science in Nursing, both from the University of Ghana.
Lillian has over twenty (20) years of practice and teaching experience in higher academic institutions. Her research interest focuses on holistic care of sick children and the well-being of women and their families. As a qualitative researcher, she has explored extensively, the concept of family-centred care among sick children in the Ghanaian context. Some of her findings have been published widely in both local and international peer-reviewed journals. She also serves as a reviewer for several international journals.
On the international stage, Dr Ohene is a member, and a faculty counsellor of Chi Omicron Chapter of the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) at Indianapolis, USA, a member of West Africa Postgraduate College of Nurses and Midwives (WAPCNM) and a foundation fellow of Ghana College of Nurses and Midwives (GCNM).
Dr. Ohene is also a Queen Elizabeth Scholar (QES) and serves as a mentor to her students, nurses and midwives locally and internationally. She has supervised over a hundred research projects, from undergraduate to PhDs. She is passionate about students’ academic success. The reason for our crossing paths last weekend is that she currently serves as a patron for three different student associations at the University of Ghana, of which Doctors in Business (DIB) is one. She serves on the board as well. Lillian is a family woman, married with three young adult children.
LILLIAN LESSONS LEARNT
Don’t die when life doesn’t go your way (death isn’t only physical); live to make so much of the further opportunity that rises to meet you that it’s a dis to that previous appointment (‘disappointment’). Through self-awareness, from introspection as well as feedback (take coaching and counselling seriously), know who you are and what you want and go for it. That’s where your future lies; don’t get distracted by the bling (even if its a shiny jewel like medicine). Yes, pursue your passion but be careful not to confuse the field and the profession. And remember that when you make a move, even when you don’t know what the next move after that step is, serendipity happens. Just make the move; it’s actually not moving at all that just might be suicidal.
66TH ANNUAL SPEECH & PRIZE-GIVING DAY, RIDGE CHURCH SCHOOL
SPEECH BY DR. YAW PERBI, Global CEO of The HuD Group
26th August, 2023
Chairperson, Guest of Honour, School Board and Management, Teaching and Non-Teaching Staff, Parents and Learners, Invited Guests, (all protocols observed), good afternoon. It is an honour to return to Ridge Church School to address you today after leaving here 31 years ago. And it is a double honour as this is the second time I’ve been invited to do so over the last two decades.
The theme chosen for this year is BE A GOOD EXAMPLE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES and we shall consider it in three simple ways:
- WHAT IS?
- WHO SHOULD?
- WHY MUST?
1. BE A GOOD EXAMPLE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES: WHAT IS?
You must’ve heard from my introduction that my wife and I are blessed with seven biological children. Well, on Monday morning, our delightful six-year-old daughter, our fifth child called Nana Ahomka, came to tell me, “Daddy, I should be a leader at AWANA,” a children’s Bible training program. When I asked who a leader is she said, “Someone who sets an example for everyone else to follow.” I replied, “You got that right girl,” and that gave me the essence of my message today.
Today, the word “leader” is overused and abused. But for a moment, forget about all the 360 plus official definitions (yes) and consider this: a leader is someone who sets an example for others to follow. A good leader sets a good example; a bad leader does the opposite. Seeing it that way, a lot of so-called ‘leaders’ are really not good ones, even if they are in powerful political positions, are sensational speakers or even have top professions and enviable riches. Recently, we have seen our parliamentarians insulting and throwing physical blows in parliament. That is bad leadership. And it needs to be called out for what it is.
So WHAT IS being a good example in all circumstances? Good leadership or Godly leadership.
2. BE A GOOD EXAMPLE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES: WHO SHOULD?
Everyone of us, especially you, young ones—YOU ARE NOT TOO YOUNG TO BE AN EXAMPLE.
The Little boy Samuel was only 12 years old and could hear God’s voice at a time when “the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.”  He heard God’s voice and told the ‘Papas’ of the land what to do. Ghana could use some Samuels right now—YOU!
That is what Paul the mentor meant when he said to his teenage mentee Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”  In fact, sometimes it’s the adults that actually encourage us to do the wrong thing: I shall never forget my BECE experience in 1992 when a female invigilator who noticed I had completed my work, suggested to me to write the answers on an eraser so she could give it to another person who was struggling! Imagine that. An invigilator! I said, “No Madam. That is not right.” She was shocked.
Sometimes people don’t like us for not following their bad example or for calling out their bad example. But in a good society, good examples are reward. For example when I went to Achimota School, my good example was observed by the staff and I was selected to represent Achimota in exchange programme in America. It is also good examples who are selected to be prefects here, right?
Even at the university, I had to resist cheating in exams and started an organization called The HuD Group (The Human Development Group)  to help young people to become good leaders. When I got a national award for this, handed to me by then then Vice President of Ghana, Hon. Aliu Mahama, as the Newmont Ghana Highest Achievement Award winner at the Millennium Excellence Youth Awards in 2006, our Minister of Health then, Major (Rtd.) Courage Quashigah, wrote me a congratulatory letter, part of which read:
“We in the health sector are very proud of you and urge you to continue to be an Outstanding Achiever… It is my hope that you will bring your charisma and devotion to bear on every youth you encounter and they in turn will emulate your leadership example. On behalf of the entire health sector and on my own behalf, please accept my congratulations.” 
So WHO SHOULD be a good example in all circumstances? Everyone, especially you young ones!
3. BE A GOOD EXAMPLE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES: WHY MUST?
In 1792 King Louis XVI (16th) was taken from his throne by some rebels and imprisoned. His young son, the prince, was taken by those who dethroned the king. They thought that inasmuch as the king’s son was heir to the throne, if they could destroy him morally, he would never realize the great and grand destiny that life had bestowed upon him. They took him to a community far away, and there they exposed the lad to every filthy and vile thing that life could offer. They exposed him to foods the richness of which would quickly make him a slave to appetite. They used vile language around him constantly. They exposed him to lewd and lusting women. They exposed him to dishonor and distrust. He was surrounded 24 hours a day by everything that could drag the soul of a man as low as one could slip.
For over six months he had this treatment but not once did the young lad buckle under pressure. Finally, after intensive temptation, they questioned him. Why had he not submitted himself to these things why had he not partaken? These things would provide pleasure, satisfy his lusts, and were desirable; they were all his. The boy said, “I cannot do what you ask, for I was born to be a king.” 
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are all born to be kings and queens, princes and princesses, in the kingdom of God. WHY MUST you be a good example in all circumstances? You were born to be royalty.
In conclusion, be a good example in all circumstances. “The time is always right to do what’s right,” as Martin Luther King told some (Oberlin) students. Be an example, be a leader. As young as you are, even if everyone is doing the wrong thing and adults are pushing you to, be a prince/princess because:
1. that’s who you are—you were born to be a leader, to be king/queen
2. that’s what God’s word says and God expects
3. it’s for your own good (there’s no law against being a good example or punishment for it)
4. society needs it today and will remember you in history
5. Almighty God will reward you. Say, “Heaven backs me when I do the right thing!”
Be a good example—whether you are 6 or 60! Be the king and queen you were born to be. Be a good example in all circumstances, BE A GODLY LEADER!
 1 Samuel 3:1, NIV
 1 Timothy 4:12, NIV
 See www.thehudgroupglobal.org
 Portion of letter by Hon. Minister of Health in 2006, emphasis mine
 Sean Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens (and other sources)
It’s been a very busy few weeks. The last one in particular was the kind that Nelson Mandela would call “‘impossible’ until it’s done.” The very morn of the dawn I arrived back in Accra from Kenya, the first day of the work week, I had to be speaking at about 10am at an African Young Professionals Conference. That same week my team at PELÉ and the Ghanaian contingent of the African-wide BCA Leadership hosted the power-packed, two-day Made in Africa Leadership Conference (MLC) from June 13 to 15. Then there was a Youth Rally in the vicinity of the University of Professional Studies (June 15 evening) where l was billed to speak as well. And then to crown that week, The HuD Group, which I founded with eight of my friends in 2003, held a press launch of our twentieth anniversary and simultaneous launch of three legacy projects.
In all of this business and busyness, one thing that has come through very clearly is that leadership is absolutely important–that everything does rises and falls on leadership. I tried to make that point in my opening remarks to the distinguished ladies and gentlemen convened at the Marriot for the aforementioned MLC 2023. Even this morning, as I was training the executive team of one of our PELÉ clients, a tech start-up, Maxwell’s Law of the Lid came to the fore: leadership is the lid on their personal level of effectiveness as well as the organization’s impact that it would ever make.
Leadership is so important that every professional must have it, everyone in every sector of the economy must possess it, and everyone at every level of society must have it but especially leadership is too important to leave it to politicians alone. “Leadership is cause,” as one other leadership expert puts it, “everything else is effect.”
As we celebrate 20 years of The HuD Group, we can testify that God has done amazing things in, on, with and through The HuD Group. We started in Ghana, moved to Cote D’Ivoire, then to Nigeria and Canada and now have a presence in 24-25 countries on all continents, having incredible impact on people in every sphere. In fact, at the anniversary launch last week Friday, several VIPs like celebrated, young, award-winning journalist Manasseh Azure Awuni, shared how The HuD Group had impacted them. But I shared with the audience my one regret: that in all this 20 years of The HuD Group we did not give enough attention to the political space in particular. Of course, it is not that we did nothing at all but knowing what l know now and seeing how successes in all these other areas of life have literally been eroded by what has happened in the political space, especially in Ghana, that really breaks my heart.
THE SKY ISN’T THE LIMIT; POLITICIANS ARE
This has been a season of lots of graduations. I’ve seen flashy photos from Harvard to Fuller, and been physically present at inspiring commencements like Ashesi’s about three weeks ago. First, I’ve been excited about all these amazing graduates bustling with energy and vision and drive, some having done some earthshaking capstone projects and all. Yet all these amazing people formally graduated by our best academic establishments and semi-formally by The HuD Group in the last 20 years—and yes, some of us have been though all kinds of fellowships from Aspen and Eisenhower to Tutu—are restricted by what happens in the political space because everything rises and falls on that leadership. Political leadership is the lid over all our collective effectiveness and greatness.
If anyone told these graduands that the sky is the limit, that isn’t wholly true; our political leaders are. No I’m not a whiner; I am precisely the opposite of that, which is why I’m a serial entrepreneur. So I believe in creative ways around ‘the system’ but as the august chairperson of the HuD anniversary launch, Madam Yawa Hanson-Quao, had earlier said at the MLC, “We cannot entrepreneur our way out of bad governance.” Political leadership is the lid over all our other attempts at leadership.
Political leadership is the lid over all of our collective effectiveness and greatness in all of our fields of work and spheres of influence. We’ve got to get up and take the political space seriously and not let anyone who is not a selfless, authentic, transformational leader make their way there! Because then, it doesn’t matter how the collective brilliance of all of us is, there would be a lid over the rest of us. A good illustration is the proverbial army of sheep led by a lion versus or an army of lions led by a sheep.
At the end of the day, every sector, and every level of our society needs at least good leaders, even better, great leaders! Otherwise like John Gardener aptly puts it, “The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy [or politics for that matter] because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”
Co-founders of Perbi Cubs sandwiching Kanéval partner-influencer, Nana Aba Anamoah, media personality & General Manager of GHOne TV/Starr FM.
This year, the capital city of Ghana where my wife hails from and where I was born has been named by UNESCO as its twenty-third World Book Capital. Accra takes over from Guadalajara, Mexico (2022) and will be handing the baton to Strasbourg, France come April 2024. Since ‘kané’ is the Ga word for read—and Ga being the language of the Accra people—Perbi Cubs Library services creatively replaced the near-homophonic ‘carni’ in ‘carnival’ with ‘kané’ and coined the word ‘Kanéval’ to bring fun to reading, which is otherwise unfortunately perceived widely as a bore and a chore.
As official partners of UNESCO Accra World Book Capital 2023 (AWBC ‘23), Perbi Cubs will be organizing Kanéval as a fantastic year-long program, a traveling fun fair transitioning from place to place with lots of amusements intertwined with lots of reading. You will find a fuller history of the UNESCO AWBC’23 partnership and details of the year-long fiesta here.
RESCUE FROM KANÉBALS
We are of the conviction that this Kanéval social service campaign needs to involve key influencers from all walks of life, from CEOs to Black Stars players to musicians, to consistently show that reading is fun and leads to success. The campaign will consist of various events in-person and online, including book fairs, storytelling sessions, and community outreach programs. By making reading fun and accessible, we can encourage more people to read and ultimately improve literacy rates in the community.
When we began approaching various influencers to join us on this reading revolution campaign, a massive behavioural change intervention, some of the stories we heard about the generally poor reading attitudes and habits of Ghanaian society were stupefying. We found kindred spirit in Nana Aba Anamoah (photo above), media personality and General Manager of GHOne and Starr FM, who unbeknownst to us had years back initiated a reading campaign known as ‘Raising Readers.’ She too had involved several influencers, including former Ghanaian president Jerry John Rawlings, to read with the children in a certain deprived area of Accra. Book donations in their thousands to the cause were a shot in the arm.
At some point it was clear parental involvement would bolster this behavioural change campaign. Some parent did accompany their children and wards to the reading sessions. Mostly reluctantly. In spite of these mostly illiterate parents sucking their teeth after only a little while, thinking of all the other more ‘productive’ ways they could be spending their time, Nana Aba and team pressed on. In fact, at the height of her intervention they had decided that once a week was not enough for the pace and profundity of the transformation they sought so they decided to leave books with the families and replace them when they returned the week after.
All seemed well and good until the following week when some medical doctors on the Raising Readers campaign team who had gone down the road to grab some snacks returned with horror on their faces. When Nana Aba relates this story, she might not be aware but her face betrays the pain of the let-down she felt. The snacks that the team mates purchased in the catchment area had been nicely wrapped in freshly torn out pages of last week’s books! Kanébals (do you see what I’ve done with ‘cannibal’ and ‘kané’?) had dismembered the hitherto living literary friends, ripping them from their saddle-stitched and perfect-bound spines and repurposing the cadavers as food packaging. Ah!
When we related this story to another influencer on our bill, Kafui Dey (photo above), author and Breakfast host on GTV, he told us worse. Sometimes it’s pages of even the Bible that are Kanébalized for wrapping food!
WANTED: KANÉVORES IN THE KAPITAL
Perbi Cubs, convinced that readers are leaders and leaders are readers, has from inception sought to raise lion-leaders, hence the referral to our 10,000 young patrons as cubs (the young of lions) rather than the typical ‘kids’ (the young of goats).
By the end of the year-long Accra World Book Kapital, we seek to have enrolled an army of at least 100,000 cubs who are voracious readers, Kanévores. If carnivorous lions are the king of the jungle, we imagine that Kanévores rule the world.
KALL TO ACTION
According to UNESCO, as of 2021 only 6% of children in classes two and three in public basic schools could read and understand anything they read. Lack of sufficient reading resources and very large class sizes are among the root causes of the problem, but the overarching root cause is that society does not value reading. Reading is seen as a chore, a punishment or even a necessary evil! Yet per credible research, the love for reading is a stronger indicator of a child’s success in school and their future career than even their parents’ level of education and their socioeconomic status.
Join us in promoting the joy of reading and improving literacy rates in the community, particularly among children in public basic schools, by becoming a partner for Kanéval. Together, we can make a real difference in the lives of our community members and future generations. Let’s celebrate and make the most of Accra’s selection as UNESCO World Book Capital 2023.
Accra has been selected as UNESCO World Book Capital 2023 and Kanéval is a one-year social service campaign organized by Perbi Cubs, as official partners of UNESCO AWBC 2023, to celebrate this achievement and promote the joy of reading and improving literacy rates in the community.
The success of the campaign depends on a coalition of all stakeholders in the book industry, influencers, and strong partnership with the media. Together, through massive Kanévals all year, we can raise Kanévores and end apathy towards the written word that results in Kanébalism and the like. May readers rise and leaders come to light to transform society and impact the world—from Africa to the Rest.
Exciting news! Perbi Cubs Library Services is teaming up with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Ghana Book Development Council, among others, to celebrate Accra World Book Capital (AWBC ’23) as official partners. Accra, the capital city of Ghana, in West Africa, is the 23rd city in the world, and only the fourth in Africa, to have the honour of this title which UNESCO initiated in 2001 to promote literacy globally. This is akin to a literacy World Cup title, only it is bestowed annually.
The World Book Capital is an initiative of UNESCO which recognizes cities for promoting books and fostering reading for a year, starting on April 23, World Book and Copyright Day. UNESCO adopted the 31 C/Resolution 29, in 2001, establishing the World Book Capital (WBC) programme. Cities designated as UNESCO World Book Capital pledge to carry out activities with the aim of encouraging a culture of reading and diffusing the values of literacy, lifelong learning, copyright, and freedom of expression in all ages and population groups, both within and beyond national borders. The first city to be awarded was Spain in 2001 and Accra’s turn is sandwiched between Guadalajara, Mexico (2022) and Strasbourg, France (2024).
The UNESCO World Book Capital Advisory Committee, which evaluates bids to win the title, comprises representatives of the International Publishers Association (IPA), the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), the International Authors Forum (IAF) and UNESCO. Past capitals include Madrid (2001), Alexandria (2002), New Delhi (2003), Anvers (2004), Montreal (2005), Turin (2006), Bogota (2007), Amsterdam (2008), Beirut (2009), Ljubljana (2010), Buenos Aires (2011), Erevan (2012), Bangkok (2013), Port Harcourt (2014), Incheon (2015), Wroclaw (2016), Conakry (2017), Athens (2018), Sharjah, (2019), Kuala Lumpur (2020) and Tbilisi (2021).
THE GHANA JOURNEY
Accra’s first attempt to win the 2019 World Book Capital title, after the idea was mooted in 2016 and working towards that, failed. Accra relaunched the bid in April 2021 and won it. The executive board of UNESCO, at its 215th session in Paris, France, on September 22, 2021, named Accra the World Book Capital 2023, following evaluation by the World Book Capital Advisory Committee. This was no mean achievement for the ten-member bidding team representing the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Ghana Commission for UNESCO, Ghana Library Association, Ghana Publishers Association, Complementary Education Agency (formerly Non-Formal Education Division), Ghana Association of Writers, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration and chaired by Mrs Ernesticia Lartey Asuinura, the Executive Director of the Ghana Book Development Council (GBDC). Several internal staff of GBDC were behind this successful bid and must be applauded.
According to UNESCO, “the city of Accra was selected for its strong focus on young people and their potential to contribute to the culture and wealth of Ghana. Accra’s proposed programme seeks to use the power of books to engage these young people, as an effective way of skilling up the next generation.” Earlier this year, on April 11, the Minister of Education of Ghana, Dr. Yaw Adutwum, held a press launch of AWBC’23 at which Perbi Cubs was represented by the Founder and CEO, Mrs. Anyele Perbi. He explained that Accra was selected ahead of other cities because the Education Ministry’s programmatic focus was on young people and their ability to contribute to the culture and wealth of Ghana through the power of reading. “Research shows that reading improves the learning outcomes of students in schools,’ said the Minister. “That’s why in certain schools around the world, they’ve implemented and employed the ‘Drop Everything And Read’ – ‘DEAR’. So if it’s 15 minutes, 20 minutes a day, children are made to stop everything and read,” he illustrated.
Dr. Yaw Perbi, Global CEO of The HuD Group and Co-Founder of Perbi Cubs, and Mrs. Anyele Perbi , Founder and CEO of Perbi Cubs, were invited and did attend the grand opening of AWBC ’23 by the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and the Director-General of UNESCO, Madam Audrey Azoulay Ayoub, at the Accra International Conference Centre. The theme for the occasion was ‘Reading to connect minds for Social Transformation’. It was encouraging interacting with school children as well as top academics at the Perbi Cubs booth, including members of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. Visiting the exhibition booths of other players in the literacy space was also invigorating but nothing beat the joy of seeing the attending school children flock to the Perbi Cubs stand to sample for a few minutes the thousands of books on their online platform.
Under the theme ‘Reading to connect minds for social transformation’ the programmes planned for the title year will focus on particularly the youth and vulnerable groups in Accra (and Ghana at large) such as children, underemployed women, head-porters (kayayei) and persons living with disability, to equip them with literacy and employable skills, while promoting the rich Ghanaian cultural heritage and the book industry in Ghana.
THE PERBI JOURNEY
Both Yaw and Anyele Perbi (née Ampa-Sowa) come from homes full of books. In fact, they got to know each other as children of professors at the University of Ghana campus. Anyele’s dad was an Economics lecturer and Yaw’s mum, a history lecturer. In their growing up years Yaw’s own dad, being a long-time member of the board of Challenge Bookshop, would receive loads of books every year, feeding their home library fat.
Tracing the history of books even further, Yaw’s maternal grandfather was not only an author and professor of African Studies and Ethnomusicology at the same university, but also together with writer and educator Dr. Efua Sutherland organized the first international book fair in Ghana in the early 1970s and proceeded to come together to found Afram Publications a couple of years later, incorporating it in February 1973. Emeritus Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia was his name.
The Perbi household buzzed with books and moments like when the floating bookshops, the MV Doulos or Logos ships, would berth at the Tema Harbour were fun galore. Meanwhile, Yaw did not like reading as much as Anyele in their early years on the Legon campus. Anyele LOVED reading to the point that the rate of buying books for her and her two brothers was threatening to bankrupt her parents. When she was missing from the house you could be sure she was immersed in a book somewhere!
Two jerking statements changed Yaw’s attitude towards books. The first was, “If you want to hide something from a Black people, put it in the book.” You may read the full story here. Fascinatingly, by the age of twenty-three, Yaw would write and publish his first book, What Every Fresher Should Know about University, and as an internationally-recognized author of some twenty books and several book chapters, journal articles etc. now, as they say, the rest is history. Today, one of his punchy books called Read! is subtitled: “You are ‘illiterate’ if you can read but don’t.” Dr. Perbi’s 2015 Thinking Outside the Window was even an Amazon bestseller in its category. His latest book, co-authored with a Kenyan and published in March 2023, is entitled Africa to the Rest. In it, Yaw stresses the need for Africans not only to read but also to write. “Until the lion learns to write,” he reminds us, quoting an old African wise saying, “every tale of the hunt will glorify the hunter.”
When Yaw founded The HuD Group in 2003, one of its first divisions was a library called The Mine (it still runs at the Staff Village of the University of Ghana). So for at least two decades now, Dr. Perbi has been a fierce reading campaigner. And now in tandem with the erudite Anyele, he likes to say “my wife and I have stepped up by stepping down.” What he means by that is, they’ve enhanced their reading campaign (stepped up) but decided to go further down to the age where humans are most pliable: childhood (stepping down). And they began with their our own seven children in the French city of Montreal, Canada which happens to have been the UNESCO World Book Capital in 2005, four years before they would dwell there as a family for the next dozen years. Their own children’s love for reading, the generous 40 books per person supply of the Pierrefonds municipal library across the street from their West Island home and an imminent eight-month visit to Ghana that threatened to stifle this Perbi reading culture combined to birth the Perbi Cubs Library Services. You may find the story and philosophy behind Perbi Cubs here.
AND NOW, KANÉVAL
According to Perbi Cubs CEO, “We are excited to inform you that Perbi Cubs, in partnership with UNESCO Accra World Book Capital 2023, will be organizing a fantastic year-long program. Watch out for Kanéval as it moves round throughout the year, to your school or community. Stay tuned on the various Perbi Cubs social media handles like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram for more updates.” Kanéval by Perbi Cubs, a season of fun, inspiration, and BOOKS, is launching in Accra on May 11, 2023.
As long as reading remains a chore, we’ll have a problem promoting it. But who doesn’t love a good festival, a carnival? What if we could think outside the box and bring together the idea of a traveling amusement show with merrymaking sideshows, rides, etc. with reading? What if face-painting or getting on a swing was a reward for reading a book? These are some of the disruptive ideas that incubated and eventually hatched Kanéval. The idea of Perbi Cubs in general and KANÉVAL in particular, is to bring FUN to reading while strongly brandishing the connection between reading and success in life.
In the spirit of innovation and creativity, Perbi Cubs values, the coined word Kanéval was inspired by the word for read in Ga, the language of the Accra people, Kané. So combining ‘Kané’ with the English word ‘carnival,’ here we are! There will be lots of fun, reading and other educational activities. Perbi Cubs is grateful to several Ghanaian influencers like Nana Aba Anamoah (media personality and General Manager of GHOne TV and Starr FM), Bernard Avle (Citi Breakfast Show host and General Manager of Citi FM), Kafui Dei (author, speaker and GTV Breakfast host), Portia Gabor (TV3 hostess and Ghana Journalist Association’s reigning Journalist of the Year), Gwen Addo (entrepreneur, author and CEO, The Hair Senta), Giovani Caleb (media personality, radio and TV), Gifty Anti (author, media personality, celebrated journalist) and others who are synergizing with them to take the culture of reading to the next level to transform the fortunes of Ghana and Africa.
Perbi Cubs’ Kanéval is scheduled to take off on 11th May, 2023 at Alpha Beta Education Centres and then to all their partner schools and other communities, particularly deprived ones badly needing a literacy intervention. Kanéval is not just for our Cubs but all our stakeholders including you. There are many activities you can join in with exciting prizes. Kanéval awaits you for a Kanévalistic experience. Kanéval – Reading is fun!!! The amazing part is that in collaboration with various partners, Perbi Cubs is offering huge discounts on their subscriptions so that every Cub in their partner schools can read this year!
WE HAVE A PROBLEM
Kanéval is fun about something serious. And Ghana in particular has a problem that isn’t funny. As a society we do not value reading enough. If research has proven that the love for reading is a stronger indicator of a child’s success in school and prosperity in life than even their parents’ socioeconomic status or level of education, then we should be worried that only 6% of Ghanaian children at classes two and three can read and understand what they read (UNESCO 2021). Meanwhile the World Book Capital Network (WBCN) acknowledges and reminds us of the power of books and reading as cornerstones to more inclusive, peaceful and sustainable societies. Thus as they rightly put it at Perbi Cubs, “Success is just a book away,” be it personal or national.
Let this be the year we all got dead serious about raising the tide (the general level of literacy) that lifts all the other boats, all sectors and subjects, including STEM. O that the confluence for influence between Kanéval by Perbi Cubs, influencers like those cited above and all other players in the UNESCO’s Accra World Book Capital 2023 space will do the trick. Let’s get on with this serious business, having fun along the way. Kanéval it is!
At Easter, I threw a challenge to the leaders in my network: lay down yourself for someone else’s uplifting. This challenge was triggered by inspiration I received when I had just returned from a college graduation the week before Holy Week. Although it had been a season of graduation ceremonies in Ghana across many tertiary institutions, this was a special one, a very special one.
About six years ago, our family travelled to Ghana from Canada on furlough. We had planned to stay the entire period at my parents-in-love’s residence in Accra. Being a reasonably big-sized big family (the children weren’t even seven yet!) we obviously needed some domestic assistance. We were glad to welcome a promising young lady, Benedicta, as our new house help after a couple of failed trials.
As we lived with her and observed her initiative, diligence, smartness, humility, kindness and care we took an extra interest in what her ultimate dream was. She had the potential to be like any one of us high income, high impact professionals and not necessarily having to be confined to a vocation of domestic assistance her entire life. We found out about her high school final grades and thought they could be improved. And so we (my wife and I, parents-in-love and other family members) decided to invest in her, everything from extra classes through re-sit examinations. Even when she was finally given a shot at college my mother-in-law would get her books and do mock interviews with her to prepare for the entrance interviews. Long story short, she made it into nursing college.Now, that is the graduation we went for that day.
Today, Benedicta is a nurse. She graduated from the Nurses & Midwives Training College in Teshie, Accra, Ghana. From house help to nurse; and that is what brought me to the Easter challenge because at Easter, we see the ultimate leader Himself laying down His life for the people He saw value in. At the risk of sounding holier-than-though, the previous family she left to serve ours was just about to invest in her to be a fried pork seller by the street.
Everybody knows John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But what a lot of people who are not schooled in Trinitarian theology don’t realize is that this scripture is basically saying that God so loved the world—God so saw value in you and me—that he gave Himself for us, because God is Father-Son-Spirit. The ultimate leader laid down Himself for our uplifting.
This giving of Himself or laying down His life for us is spoken of by St. Paul’s to the Church in Philippi in such humble and humbling terms. He begins in Philippians 2:5 by exhorting that “your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Let’s take Eugene Peterson’s contemporary version:
5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” 
Wow! God becoming a man was not just humbling, it was humiliating. Yet even when formed and found in appearance of a human, he could’ve been a very proud man but no! He was down-to-earth and mingled with tax collectors and ‘sinners’. In fact, it was on the night he was betrayed–during Holy Week–that He washed his own disciples’ dirty and stinky feet and wiped them with a towel around his waist.
The way up is down, for because of this humble attitude and action, “God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.”  Even those who are not voluntarily honoring Jesus now will bow one day, compelled. All shall bow to the one who first bowed the lowest and is now raised the highest.
As a leader, I want to challenge you to choose one person, choose one thing to do this month (we’re still in the month of Easter) that involves laying down your preference, time, or money, sacrificing something, dying a little so that someone can live, graduate, have a better life etc. I challenge you to do that because that is the essence of ultimate leadership. Leadership is not about us, it is about those who take inspiration, follow, and learn from us who we get to empower and guide; those around us.
It’s sad to see so many places in the world, especially in Africa, where government official think it is all about them. Unfortunately, even in the church there are a myriad instances where pastors are doing extremely well socioeconomically and there are congregants who are not faring well, at all. Sometimes these leaders are literally fleecing the people, milking them dry till they bleed. That’s not leadership at all, and certainly not servant leadership. Leadership is laying down our lives, laying down our gifts so that others will be blessed. It is going down to pick the downtrodden and lifting them up.
Cecelia Chan poignantly put it this way: “Instead of laying a red carpet for yourself to walk on, lay a bridge and let the young people walk over to you.” This is my challenge to you, at Easter and beyond: lay down yourself for someone else’s uplifting. God bless and honour you too as you learn to lead like Jesus.
 Philippians 2:5-8, The Message
 Philippians 2:9-11, The Message
Just before one of my recent trips out of Ghana, I asked the driver who usually takes me to the Accra airport if he would like to go with me for the experience (he’s never been airborne). His response wasn’t what I expected. I admired him for his brutal honesty and was deeply saddened at the same time. He said, “Dr. P, I won’t lie to you. If I go with you, I’m not coming back.” And he is not alone.
As I’ve been interacting with young people in Accra mainly, but in Ghana generally, it seems the Ghanaian dream is: to get out! i.e. to get out of the country to seek greener pastures. The Ghanaian dream is to exit the nation and l find that so sad on many levels. At the same time that excites me. Let me explain.
THE BAD, SAD & MAD
l find it sad in the sense that whatever the push factors are, they are potent enough to drive a collectivist society that is really keen on kith and kin, in other words one in which friends and family mean so much, to want to leave spouse and children, or parents, to go and struggle in another land just to keep body and soul together. What would make many of our people expire in the wilderness, literally die in the deserts of the Sahara en route to Libya and such, or be buried alive in the Mediterranean Sea between Africa and Europe in desperate attempts to get a better life?
Shame on the fathers and mothers who are making life impossible for our young people. I can totally understand why five hundred (500) years, or even two hundred (200) years ago, we would be forced to get into ships to sail to the Americas but today if anybody brought that same ship people will voluntarily fill it en mass and say, “Take me to the Americas, take me to the Caribbean, take me to Europe, take me to wherever. l want to work for whoever, for whatever; just to get out of here.”
I remember being in a conference last year at Cape Town, South Africa when someone did an incredible presentation on what Ghanaians and other Sub-Saharans go through in wanting to reach Europe by all means, literally. It was revealing how a revived craze is trying to go around the Senegambia coast to the Canary Islands, an Atlantic maritime route largely considered “the most dangerous sea passage for Africans trying to reach Europe.” Regarding the Sahara route, one of the funny but sad question was: “How many Africans can fit into the bucket of a Toyota Hilux pickup truck?” They say, “One more!” One more!! They keep filling and filling and filling these truck buckets with human beings and carry very little fuel and food supplies so they can travel light and transport more people. Whenever there is a breakdown or some delay, people die like flies. The dream becomes a nightmare. O WHY?
On the other hand, what good can there be in all of this, legitimate and illegitimate attempts at migration alike? Why is there some excitement in my heart? There is titillation because God is a global God and he calls people whenever He wants wherever He wants them to accomplish His eternal purposes. Yes!
One day Paul of Tarsus, the lawyer-turned-preacher, was in Athens, Greece and delivered a ‘TED Talk’ at the Areopagus. Luke the doctor-turned-investigative writer records in parenthesis how “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21). “Ideas worth spreading,” TED would say. But I digress.
One of the things Paul shared was that God who made us all from one original man, Adam, is the one who determines our boundaries, where we live, and in what period or era in history (Acts 17:26-27). People movements are actually God movements. You see that throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. A personal attestation to this scriptural reality is how I never wanted to leave the land of my birth, Ghana, to be domiciled in another land, especially outside of Africa. I had no such plans. And I married a woman with a similar mindset. We were doubly resolved. Ironically, my wife, Anyele, was born in Canada and moved to Ghana when she was barely two years old but had no desire to return to the land of her birth. In fact, she had never used that Canadian passport to get back to Canada. Two dozen years later.
One evening in August 2006, God spoke to me so clearly. This was barely three weeks after we were married. I was in a Lausanne Younger Leaders conference near Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia when I heard this in my spirit: ‘It’s my world and l send you where I want you.” Huh! Then in January 2008, the LORD spoke very clearly to us both from Genesis 12. It was just our ‘usual’ morning devotion on an ‘ordinary day’ when these words literally jumped off the pages of scripture: “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household. And go to a land I will show you.” With no such prior plans of ever leaving Ghana to school or work, in a dramatic fashion our lives were turned upside down. By June I was serving with the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (peacekeeping soldier) as a military captain and medical doctor to the U.N. staff and troops mainly, and some local Ivorians. By July, Anyele had been ‘kicked out’ of Ghana too to Montreal, Canada, going to pursue her master’s in economics at McGill University. The first time she was back in two-and-a-half decades.
So that’s the exciting part, that God may be calling people to fulfill His grand purposes in the Arab States, Europe, in another Africa country, the Americas, Australasia… wherever. But l pray that we would be able to help those who are going to go well. And also let our contacts in their destinations receive them well. It behoves on the Church in Ghana, in particular (which accounts for over 70% of the population), to find a way to prepare people well, including blessing them with a healthy diaspora missiology, so they may go well and thrive. It cannot be overemphasized that merely getting to America, Europe or China, is no guarantee one will be successful. We give money to poor people in Canada. There are homeless beggars who have come to squat on our property in America. And the poor in the West are not of only one colour of skin.
Having said that, surely we can do more, much more, to help whoever longs to, or is called to, stay in the land of their birth and make it in Ghana, Nigeria or anywhere in Africa, to be able to make it well also, and very well for that matter.
WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU
Find out what God’s great purpose and plan, position and place (including geographical location) is for your life, for the One who made and redeemed you is a global God. It might not be what you thought. Bottomline: You are only going to prosper where God has purposed and planned you to be planted. Make sure you are planted by God in that place–whether it is in Africa or elsewhere–and in that particular period, where and when you will prosper. Think on these things.
Call me weird but the smoothest airplane touchdown of my life, today, is my most precious birthday gift. This was Melbourne to Sydney on Jetstar JQ502. I couldn’t help but literally clap my hands in my wing seat (I have said my autobiography just might be titled “Wingman;” I’m almost always flying on the wing!). A few others applauded too. Then as we deplaned and I approached the cockpit I noticed the captain who had performed the magic had his door open and was standing right in front of it, interacting with some passengers. Again, I couldn’t pass by without verbalizing my appreciation of his masterly act. “That was a great landing, sir,” I blurted out. The captain half-smiled, almost embarrassingly, and managed to mutter under his breath his appreciation of my applause.
On the jet bridge a sense of regret began to creep over me. Ah! I should’ve asked to take a photo with him! A little weighed down by that remorseful thought I still, slowly but surely, made my way into the terminal and headed for the place people empty their bladder. Guess who I spotted when I returned to a cafe in the terminal to grab some breakfast: the first officer of the flight, looking to make a purchase. And the captain! Yipeee!
I was happy to repeat my admiration and appreciation and ask for his name and a selfie this time. He graciously obliged. So I gave him some context: over the last eight days I had taken 10 flights–Accra to Amsterdam, to Detroit, to Montreal, to Toronto, to Houston, to Auckland, to Gold Coast, to Adelaide, to Melbourne and now to Sydney–and no landing could compare. I could’ve had a hot cup of tea sitting on my lap during that landing and it wouldn’t have spilled!
WHAT DO YOU DO?
By the time I had shared my itinerary above with Captain Phil Peatfield, he had to ask: “What do you do?” To which I immediately responded, “I am a preacher.” Usually in the marketplace context I would mention something more relatable like leadership consultant or executive coach but it felt so good to say “I am a preacher,” even if it meant I would be canceled (as in today’s ‘cancel culture’). “I used to fly preachers around,” Captain Peatfield responded, to my surprise. Apparently he served with Flying Doctors Australia, a non-profit organisation that “provides emergency and primary health care services for those living in rural, remote and regional areas of Australia who cannot access a hospital or general practice due to the vast distances of the Outback.” I didn’t tell him I’m a doctor too. And well, that I was once a captain as well, a military one.
The irony is that as a little boy I had really wanted to be a pilot. I was fascinated by planes and impressed with pilots’ uniforms. I was starry-eyed when I saw my professor-grandfather’s itinerary as he jet set around the globe lecturing on African ethnomusicology. In a moment of annoyance at a friend in junior high who wanted to be a pilot too (he was too enthusiastic about it for my liking) I snapped out of it and decided becoming a medical doctor would be the way to go.
“PEARL OF GREAT PRICE”
As I celebrate my forty-fifth birthday today, as a preacher I am thankful for this unexpected pilot gift from God. Educationists like Parker Palmer encourage parents to take seriously what early manifestations and proclamations their children make about what they want to do when they grow up. Palmer says in, “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling the who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live–but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life.”*
As I think of that thing that was triggered in me whenever I heard about or saw my grandpa flying the world, I think of Parker Palmer as a grandfather today.
Watching my granddaughter from her earliest days on earth, I was able, in my early fifties. to see something that had eluded me as a twenty-something parent: my granddaughter arrived in the world as this kind of person rather than that, or that, or that. She did not show up as raw material to be shaped into whatever image the world might want her to take. She arrived with her own gifted form, with her shape of her own sacred soul. Biblical faith calls it the image of God in which we are all created. Thomas Merton calls it true self. Quakers call it the inner light, or ‘that of God’ in every person. The humanist tradition calls it identity and integrity. No matter what you call it, it is a pearl of great price.*
Now that I know what I know, I’m eagerly looking out for what my children, nephews and nieces and young mentees were born to be. God creates no one for nothing. We need to find the clues and lead people in the way they should go–they way they are bent.
BORN FOR THIS
I now know that traveling the world was my calling, even from childhood, although I didn’t get my first plane ride till my late teens. But when it rained it began to pour so much that by age 18/19 I had been to every continent in the world except Australasia/Oceania. What a birthday present to have finally made it ‘down under’ to New Zealand and Australia, a quarter of a century later. And it wasn’t being a pilot or physician that brought me here. It’s the preacher I was born to be. Even the pilot was impressed by the preacher’s itinerary. “Wow, what do you do?” The clue all along was that I was born to travel the world preaching the gospel and raising leader-labourers for the Kingdom of God. I know now that I wasn’t meant to be in the cockpit per se but to enjoy the ride and views–the planes’ and the Lord’s.
Whether a pilot like Peatfield or Perbi the preacher or physician, Palmer’s point is one worth profoundly pondering: “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent… Is the life I am living the same as the life that wants to live in me?”* Good food for thought on my birthday.
*Palmer, Parker J. 2015. Let Your Life Speak : Listening for the Voice of Vocation. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass.
An exhortation on not allowing circumstances and people who know no better rob you of the wealth of intercultural relationships in our diverse, complex and globalized world.
MYSTERY OF THE MISSING BAG–WHY ME?
I was the last one to walk out of the airport arrival hall at Gold Coast in Australia. I had all the customs and immigration officers to myself, nearly a dozen, yet I gave them absolutely nothing to do. I not only had nothing to declare, I had no bag! Apparently, my only checked-in bag on the three-and-a-half hour NZ 179 flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Gold Coast, Australia had never been loaded onto the plane in the first place. I had waited and waited in vain for it until when nearly everyone on this very full flight had left the baggage hall and Carousel 6 was literally bare, I approached the Baggage Counter to complain about my missing travel companion.
The chap at the Air New Zealand counter was very nice but his assumption that I was going to be in Gold Coast ‘forever’ fascinated me (I’m surprised I wasn’t annoyed).
“Oh sorry sir but your bag will be delivered to you at home tomorrow,” said he.
“Tomorrow? Who told you I’ll still be here tomorrow,” I quizzically retorted.
It was obvious he felt he was doing me a great favour by offering me special at-your-door delivery but I was not amused. Not only did I need the items in my bag today; I was not going to be in Gold Coast in the morrow. This was a 24-hour meet and greet and off to Adelaide, another two-and-a-half hour flight to the western half of the Australian subcontinent.
By now my mind had begun to formulate various plausible permutations why I alone (for I saw no one else approaching the Baggage Counter to lodge a complaint) had my bag delayed. Why me? What was so unique about me that my bag would be singled out for NOT delivery? The only other thing I knew made me different was that I was the only Black African on the flight. Did this have to do with anything?
Interestingly, as I passed through the Auckland airport earlier I had taken a photo in front of the All Blacks memorabilia shop and tweeted “I wonder why I feel so #welcome. #AllBlacks vs #WhitesOnly. How the times have changed–this one, for the better. #NewZealand rocking it!” Did someone spot that and nab me? Was I too quick to praise New Zealand for progressive race relations? Did this bag saga really have anything to do with my Black skin at all? It is easy to read racism into nearly everything once you’ve been a victim of that dehumanizing attitude and act, I must admit. I resist that. I resent that, even.
MYSTERY OF INTERCULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS–SO WORTH IT
All those thoughts and feelings totally dissipated once I set eyes on the last two people left in the welcome area: Julia and Billy-Jo, two of my special friends from the 1997 cohort of the World Vision Youth Ambassadors! Sooo worth the hustle! I had had the privilege of being a World Vision Youth Ambassador for Ghana in 1996 and had the additional honour of returning in Julia and Billy-Jo’s year as a staff intern, together with Claudia from Colombia.
Julia had represented Canada back then and for her, this was our third in-person meeting since 1997 (Prague 2015, Ottawa 2021 and now Gold Coast 2023). But Billy, I had not seen in-person at all since our teenage years! Billy-Jo (yes, she was the first lady I met called Billy–she was way ahead of the gender conversations today!) was the Youth Ambassador from New Zealand. Again, the first Pacific Aboriginal I had ever met, a beautiful Maori, inside and out. Billy’s since become a senior nurse, married to Matt (great guy!) with whom she has three children and migrated to Australia. Interestingly, both Julia and Billy-Jo’s husbands are called Matt. Julia’s Matt is American while Billy’s Western Samoan.
What an incredible day of food, fellowship and fun we had all day, at home and at the Burleigh Beach. The unadulterated love, the open-hearted learning, the deep laughter… What a precious gift we received from Dr. Jerry and Mama Ruth Chang of World Vision Taiwan a quarter-of-a-century ago, a gift that keeps giving, even today.
Now I’m glad our children are getting to know each other as well. The gift ripples on. Just before my family permanently headed to Ghana after a dozen years of being resident in Canada, Julia’s two girls and my brood had a whole day together at their home, right outside of Ottawa, Ontario. In fact, even in the midst of the jamboree we made a WhatsApp video call to Ghana for my older girls to say “hi” to their Canadian sisters. And now that I’ve met Bella and Asher, Billy’s last two (the oldest is away playing rugby and doing school in New Zealand), we have already started conversations about getting them to visit Ghana!
MYSTERY OF INTERDEPENDENCE
Friends, that’s how it ought to be. People are people, made in the image and likeness of their divine Creator, and made to link up with that source, live, love, learn, and lead, leaving a good legacy. Becoming a World Youth Vision Youth Ambassador was a life changing experience–50 young people from 50 different countries. That opened my mind a lot and opened the world to me. As I’ve said before, “My heart expanded and has never been able to shrink again.”
Back to the mystery of the missing bag. For sure I felt very special, having been singled out for some (or no) reason. For good or ill, that’s a conversation for another day. Suffice it to say, this has been a fascinating week, beginning on Monday March 6 in North America (Toronto, Canada and Houston, Texas, USA) with a celebration of the land of my birth’s Independence Day and her renaming from ‘Gold Coast’ to Ghana. I was now ending the week in another Gold Coast, of Australia. The same chaps christened and colonized both; on either side of the equator. What we really need in this world, from individuals to nations, is interdependence; not dependence or independence per se. We were made for this! And we all ought to live the way we were purposed to in order to flourish personally, as families and communities, in the corporate world and among the commity of nations.
In the mean time, you can have my bag but you won’t rob me of the richness of interdependent, intercultural relationships. Never!
Ghana is neither worth living for nor dying for. That’s how many feel at the moment. Honestly. Think about this: I’ve known Uncle Kweku since his graduate student days on the University of Ghana campus. I was only a lad then. He would later complete his graduate studies, an MPhil in linguistics, and top it up with a PhD from Oregon, USA.
After an illustrious career as an academic (see his brief bio here on the University of Ghana website) he not only retired as a full professor but even served as Pro Vice-Chancellor of Ghana’s premier university. What do we find the illustrious son of Ghana doing these days? Picketing on the premises of Ghana’s Ministry of Finance to demand that the government exempts his and fellow pensioners’ bonds from being sequestered in the dubious Domestic Debt Exchange (DDE) programme. I know for a fact that virtually all of Prof. Kweku Osam’s pension monies are in these bonds. Ei! A former Chief Justice also picketing alongside the other day is reported to have said, “I am over 70 years now. I am no longer government employed, my mouth has been unguarded, and I am talking, and I am saying that we have failed.”
“BACK TO THE FUTURE”
When Uncle Kweku overtly verbalized to the media in an interview on one of the picketing days that he would dissuade his children from ever investing in the Government of Ghana’s financial instruments because “they are risky,” he seemed to have read my mind. Seriously. For while I agree that it is despicable to draw the aged into this DDE debacle and punish pensioners who have planned well for their future and lent their own monies to government to work with, I have an even greater concern for the young people of the country who might take decades to recover from this rude shock. It has taken years to grow a savings and investment culture in Ghana.
As previously started in an earlier article on this matter, “I am pained that, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’ (Ezekiel 18:2). For over 20 years now, The HuD Group and I have championed a culture of savings and investments in Ghana, and had the JOY of seeing thousands heeding the call, especially young people.” I recently met one of the young men I used to travel the country with to inspire and teach young people to form investment clubs and start investing. He’s currently the managing director of a major investment company in Ghana. He intimated how this whole DDE disaster made him shed several kilograms over a month, being at the receiving end of verbal and other forms of abuse from frustrated and fearful investors. At the time we spoke, people were withdrawing an average of 100 million Ghana Cedis each day from his outfit. He had already dispatched 2.5 billion Ghana Cedis when we held our conversation.
BACK TO THE PENSIONERS
So what exactly are we working for? The calibre of pensioners-turned-picketers is disheartening: doctors, engineers, civil servants… If retired professors and chief justices are protesting, what about the no-namers and the many who are too old or too ill to hit the streets? I am privy to a WhatsApp message Prof. Kweku Osam sent that was meant to be just informational, but ended up being very transformational for me:
The last time I took part in a public demonstration against a government of Ghana was in May 1983, as a fresh graduate student. That was when students in the country rose up against Rawlings and his PNDC. Today, God willing, I’ll join fellow Pensioner Bondholders to protest at the Ministry of Finance. The government should leave Pensioner Bondholders alone. Touch not the Pensioner Bondholders.
Think about it: Uncle Kweku began his working life protesting the government. Forty years later, he is ending his working life with yet another anti-government protest. Virtually all his lifesavings is now being held at ransom by a government that has misled and mismanaged her affairs, Covid-19 and Russia-Ukraine notwithstanding. After forty years of wandering in the wilderness between the 1983 protest and the present one on the eve of our sixty-sixth independence commemoration, Ghana itself is a pensioner by age, without much to show for it. We’ve got to do better for our people, old and young alike. Seriously.
Prof. Osam’s generation–my parents’ generation–is the same one the current Finance Minister, Uncle Ken, belongs to. It is the same crop of people who plotted military coup d’etats a generation ago in their youth. Now they won’t exit quietly either, not without a financial coup de grace. With trepidation, dare I call them the lost generation? And they did not only lose themselves and their way, they lost money–theirs and ours.
But to what will my generation and those following rise, having clearly observed that Ghana is not worth living for and Ghana is not worth dying for? That’s how many feel at the moment. Honestly. Think about it.