His Excellency

March 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.

I had a meeting yesterday with the managing director of a school in Cantonments. I can’t say much about this director, but it seems people in higher places in this society relish in reminding others of their titles. As I waited to see her, a scheduling assistant reminded me “don’t forget to address her as Managing Director…” Seriously? I don’t even call our president anything more than Atta Mills. Yes, I’m rarely impressed by people in power. Barack is now just a speech maker, and you won’t want me to start on W. But over here, people almost seem to insist you always address them by their job title: Honorable XYZ; His Excellency … It doesn’t matter that they could be and almost always are some of the most corrupt leaders who continually bilk from their constituents much needed development funds.

When I was growing up, one of my uncles always seemed bothered when you address him as bra (brother) Alfred instead Uncle Alfred. The word ‘uncle’ just never really flowed with him. My nieces and nephew call me by my middle name, Yaw Go. I have never really cared to be called Uncle. I once watched my brother-in-law insist that my then 11-yr-old niece call him Uncle James like somehow that word really conferred some special meaning. Does it really make that much of a difference? Are you less of a person if someone calls you by just your name? I’m their uncle, and to probably the chagrin of all others, their ONLY uncle, and I don’t insist they call me uncle. Whatever happened to just being happy that the child knows you by your given name? I spent part of my childhood in a compound house in Alajo here in Accra, and there were several toddlers who were fond of me (I wasn’t much older than them), and they all had their own version of my name. I never got bent over their mispronunciations. All my nieces and nephew had their own versions, and it was always cool to see them try to use it as they learned to speak. If a child not related to me calls me uncle on his/her own, I feel honoured and want to really earn that title.

Anyway, the meeting went very well. I think the lady seemed to take to my liking, although I tried to look and sound as “professional” as possible and not make it seem that I was aware of it all. On my way out, a porter stopped to ask in Twi “boss, would you need anything else?” This man had to be in his mid 40s, and I’m only 30. I must have heard Masa (Master) 10 times when first arrived in Ghana- and that was just at the airport! I still cringe and wince a little even when I’m addressed as Mister. Michael works just fine.

Yaw: Akans are ethnic group comprising of several subset groups speak slightly different dialects of Twi (this includes Fante, which isn’t a totally different language as some like to think) and often name their children by the day of birth ( ), by order of birth (including twins and child following twins), and sometimes by circumstances behind birth. I’ll try to give examples later.Yaw means I was born on Thursday; Yaa is the female version. I don’t know enough about Go, although I think it’s a title given to the first male Thurday-borns. Somehow, my family seems to have a lot of males born on Thursdays.


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§ One Response to His Excellency

  • Chris says:

    My dad’s family is really insistent on titles and positions. My dad insisted we call him “daddy” which really always bothered me. My mom’s family, on the other hand, is very relaxed about this. I call my mom “Auntie Anna”, never called her mom or mama or anything. All her sisters are the same way; their children call them Auntie ______. The only exception is the eldest aunt, who EVERYONE calls “mama”. I don’t want to tell my kids what to call me. I would like them to pick a name out of affection, and not because they are commanded to do so. My only requirement is that they are not disrespectful. I always say, Ghanafo p3 post!

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