She was ‘sitting her sitting place’ (as do sometimes say) at her home in the village. Suddenly a wagon pulled up in front of the house. The occupants of the wagon disembarked and saw her sitting under a shea tree closed to the house, preparing ‘kponkpovaare’ for the family’s evening meal. Her younger siblings were sitting right by her roasting, and eating, fresh groundnuts. The total strangers walked up to her and asked, “are you the girl they call Numbu?”. She responded in the affirmative but in great surprise as could be seen in her facial expressions. She said to them, “please my father is still on the farm, when he returns I’ll inform him that you people came to look for him.” The strangers replied, “oh noo, it’s not your father we came to see ‘woo’. We came for you. We want to take you to Accra and make you the most beautiful girl in Ghana. Please leave whatever you’re doing and let’s go. There’s no time! We will leave our telephone number behind, when your father returns he’ll call us and we’ll get to explain everything to him. Don’t be afraid okay, we are good people, messengers of the gods. We won’t harm you, okay. Just let’s go. And you don’t need to take any personal belongings, we have made sufficient provision for you in Accra.” And that, hypothetically, was how our exquisitely beautiful Numbu got into the Ghana’s Most Beautiful contest for 2017 (#GMB2017). So as you can see, she was simply the favoured and the chosen-and-anoi
nted one of the gods. She didn’t play any active role in getting chosen, it was purely the work of the gods. If you don’t understand or can’t accept that, go ask the gods. And be careful the things you say about her, else you incur the wrath of the dreadful gods. But let me let you in on a little secret: the gods do love Kponkpovaare a lot. So if you ever happen to become an unfortunate victim of their wrath, just make plenty Kponkpovaare soup with Kyi-sao and take it to the shrine to ransom yourself. Thank me later, what are neighbours for? On a more serious note, my people, you see, those of you who said that if anyone had issues with Numbu’s participation in the GMB they should seek answers from only the organisers and leave Numbu alone, the above Ananse story is the kind of narrative you want us to accept and believe. In fact you want to force it down our throats. You want us to accept and believe that Numbu didn’t, and couldn’t have, played any active role in getting selected to the GMB. You want us to accept and believe that at the time the gods sent for her, Numbu wasn’t aware that 2 of her Upper West sisters had been auditioned and shortlisted to the finals, and that the “offer” from the gods was necessarily at the expense of those two sisters of hers. You want us to accept and believe that Numbu wasn’t even aware that there had been an audition and she hadn’t been part of it. And finally you want us to accept and believe that Numbu was just there minding her business when, out of the blue, the messengers of the good gods arrived and whisked her away to GMBland. Of course we’ll accept and believe all those Ananse narratives without question.

After all aren’t we Upper Westerners? We are, and we’re supposed to accept anything thrown at us without question. But, if that is the new meaning of being an Upper Westerner, then as for me, I refuse to be a “new” Upper Westerner! Instead, I choose to remain that old Upper Westerner of yesteryears who refused to accept and tolerate the slave raiders and so put up the defense wall at Gwollu (not Tumu) to defend and protect his community, his people, and his own dignity and pride.

I choose to be that old Upper Westerner called Hilla Limann who refused to be stopped by poverty and deprivation, and by dint of hard-work and determination (not by sitting and waiting for the gods’ favour) rose to become a president of Ghana. I refuse to accept anything short of fair treatment in our dealings with one another and with ‘outsiders’.

I refuse to accept any attempt at redefining ‘Upper-Westerness’ to mean, as it were, ‘the people who accept just anything without question’. And by the way, our honourable regional minister has recently demonstrated what it means to be a true Upper Westerner, when he took a decisive action to stop the raid on our Rosewood reserves. We all ought to take inspiration from him and refuse, both collectively and individually, to condone any attack on our collective interests, and our collective conscience. God bless the Upper West Region and make it’s people great, strong and united.

Augustine Yirideme (a social development and social policy specialist) ayirideme@gmail.com‎

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