By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
You see, in journalism, there are thoughtful and rhetorically deliberate commentators – I count myself among this group, of course – and then there are those “ambulance-chasing” commentators who all they care about is to simply count themselves among those who were the first to arrive at the scene of an accident and blindly feel their way about the body of the proverbial elephant. They are primarily interested in “scoops” which they jejunely pass off as “analysis” or “critical examination” of events that they often know next to nothing about.
Well, when the Akyem-Ofoase “Boko Haram” story broke a week or so ago, I knew right off the bat that whatever streak of violence the reported incidents contained paled far in significance to the gruesome stories of rank savagery we have been hearing about and seeing on television and other visual media occur in northern Nigeria, for the most part. I was also very certain that whatever negative influences might have infected our Zongo brothers and sisters, they knew far better than to fatuously presume to set alight the very communities and hosts they have peaceably been living with these past umpteen generations. But even more significantly, I was convinced beyond any reasonable iota of doubt that Akyem-Ofoase was no Hohoe. We definitely may not be perfect as a people, but we surely appreciate our common humanity, and the imperative need to love and respect one another.
Those of our readers who may not understand what I am talking about may want to compare notes with Ghana’s former Drug Czar, Mr. Yaw Akrasi-Sarpong, in order to draw up their own judgments and conclusions. About the only aspect of the incidents that disturbed me in no small measure, was the alleged torturing of a young Muslim woman from Ofoase Zongo Community who was reportedly accused of buying an unspecified food item from a Christian resident of an unspecified gender. This part of the story did not make sense to me, because Christians and Muslims have always harmoniously lived together and interacted with one another in Okyemamu amicably, be the latter traditional state of Abuakwa, Kotoku or Bosome.
What is more, over the course of generations, we have even inter-married. I personally had an uncle, Wofa Yaw Gyeemi, of Akyem-Asiakwa and Asante-Dwaben, who married a bomnshell beauty of a Muslim woman of Kano-Nigeria parentage and eventually converted to Islam on the same account. Wofa Yaw Gyeemi, a transport owner, has been dead for some twenty-odd years now. My siblings and I used to laugh at him during the Ramadan season, when he would visit the main Asiakwa Mosque which was located adjacent to our house at Zongo Dadamu (The Old Zongo Quarter). The basis of our laughter was that not being able to read and writer Arabic, the linguistic mainstay of Islam, how was Wofa Yaw Gyeemi going to communicate intelligibly with a God whose alleged language of choice was Arabic?
Now, quite refreshingly, it turns out that the so-called Akyem-Ofoase Boko Haram posse has absolutely nothing to do with the globally infamous Nigerian terrorist organization but is, in fact, a well-intentioned community watch-dog organization legitimately charged by the zongo chiefs and elders of Akyem-Ofoase to ensure the drastic reduction in the percentage of school-age children who have been routinely indulging in truancy or hooky-playing, as New Yorkers are wont to say. At night, this watch-dog group is encouraged to ensure that the youth would not engage in any quality-of-life nuisance activities. It well appears that it was during the course of the performance of their community-sanctioned duties that the group became a little over-exberant and violated this mandate.
As of this writing, the chiefs and elders of Ofoase Township were reported to be negotiating with the local police in order to have the latter supervise the activities of the community watch-dog group, rather than have it completely disbanded. According to Superintendent James Safo Peprah, of the Ofoase Police Command, short of the unauthorized use of violence and the summary breach of the civil rights of community residents, the watch-dog group appears to have a positive aspect to its activities:
“We are not against any particular group. We know that there was the existence of a neighborhood watch [group] and the fact that the neighborhood watch members were mandated by the leadership of the Zongo community to ensure that the classrooms which were virtually empty would be filled…but we are against the abuse. Under this [country’s] democratic dispensation, nobody has the right to take the law into his own hands and issue lashes to anybody. What we are against is the abuse and its excesses.”
For at least one “scoop-chasing” social commentator (he prefers to smugly style himself as an “analyst”), the Ofoase people’s decision to healthily improve the quality of their lives is a veritable national security threat. Insha ‘llah!