Wogbejeke…our history told in style
As a media person, I have heard countless times about the Wogbejeke show, but I have not really been interested to watch. I felt it probably may be one of those things that has been hyped all around the country but may not even be as nice as people described it.
This year, I got an email from the organisers, saying, the event was coming off on the 4th and 5th March at the Amphitheatre in the University of Ghana. So, I decided to give it a try this time, especially because the weekend was going to be long as Monday, the 6th of March would be a holiday, in commemoration of Ghana’s independence. And thankfully, I had a free ticket from a benevolent work colleague. I chose to go on the Sunday, the 5th.
As usual, because of my previous doubts about the quality of such shows, I was not too sure what to expect, but still went with high expectations, just to assess whether it will live up to its name. Then, minutes after I had arrived, the MC announced the start of the show. With wide eager eyes, I sat quietly alongside my two brothers to see what will ensue.
The show opened with the civilisation of Egypt, Africa under King Pharaoh. Then, it went on to show how various empires took over the African continent, without missing the famous story of Mansa Musa, the medieval African ruler and fourteenth emperor of the Mali empire, who is said to be the richest person ever to walk on the surface of the earth, maybe after King Solomon in the bible. He made his fortune by exploiting his country’s salt and gold production.
Then, the show shifted focus to Ghana; just where my interest was. I wanted to see if it will match the little history I had read in my Social Studies lessons in school.
The story centred on how and where each ethnic group migrated from. All of them seemed to have very interesting and rich history. I particularly learned for the first time, that the Akans migrated from Bonoman, which we now know as the Brong Ahafo Region.
That was when I also learned, for the first time, the meaning of ‘Fantefo’ (people of the Fante tribe). The story is told that the Fantes had their name when they broke away from the Bonos and settled along the coast, hence, they were called “Fa a, ate won ho”, which literally means ‘the part that has separated itself’.
The Ewes were not left out. The story also highlighted how they freed themselves of the wicked claws of King Agorkoli in Togo and crossed border to settle in the Volta Region of Ghana, led by Torgbi Tsali and Torgbi Sri.
It also touched on the brotherliness and love between the Akuapems and the Akyems, a bond that has lived on till this day.
Then, the Gas came and its six distinct states were evident in unity and when they couldn't unite anymore, they were defeated by the Akwamus and Nii Ashamo took his people to present day Togo until the Akwamus were defeated and they returned to their homes.
But, the ethnic migration story cannot be told without the war between the Asantes and the Denkyiras. Denkyira was a very powerful tribe at that time which ruled over the Asantes. In time, the Asantes became fed up with the lack of respect and dignity with which they were treated.
So, under the leadership of Osei Tutu I, with the spiritual backing and help from the famous Okomfo Anokye, they fought and eventually gained their freedom.
Okomfo Anokye, who is believed to be the most powerful fetish priest ever in Ghana, later chanted a golden stool from the skies. That scene received a rowdy cheer and applause from the audience. The golden stool has since been the symbol of the Asante kingdom and their unity.
In fact, one thing that caught the interest of me and everyone present was the fact that, while telling the specific stories of each distinct tribe, ethnicity and region, the cultural references were not missed. From their foods to their songs to their dressing were all portrayed in richness.
At a point, I was wondering the amount of time and money that were invested in the drama to give it that Ghanaian and African touch and feeling. In fact, at this point, the drama had already exceeded all my expectations!
Slave trade era and colonialism
Prior to colonial rule, the show portrayed the era of the slave trade where able-bodied men and women were forcefully abducted into slavery and were exported to Europe to build the economies of other nations.
It highlighted the role the brave queen of Ejisu, Yaa Asantewaa played in leading the Asantes to reclaim the golden stool which was forcefully taken by the British.
Then colonialism followed. Ghana, then Gold Coast, was under the British colony for years. All the country’s resources were controlled by them.
The story showed how patriots like J.B Dankwa, Paa Grant and Ako Adjei who were founders of the UGCC, met and discussed how progressively they can take over the affairs of the country. That was when they decided on bringing someone who would act as a secretary to run the affairs of the party full-time. They finally settled on Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who lived in London at the time.
One beautiful thing about the show was the costume and how the various characters were impersonated to reflect them. When the character that represented Nkrumah appeared on the stage for the first time, the whole theatre was thrown into ecstasy! His hair and face was just like the Kwame Nkrumah we have seen from our TV screens and books!
The show touched on the various happenings in the UGCC that occasioned the breakaway of Nkrumah to form his own political party, CPP, which eventually won him the elections as Prime Minister.
Then it moved on to how Nkrumah and his men fought for the country to gain independence from the British. Truly, speaking, those scenes in the show imbued in the audience a sense of nationalism, as they stood up to sing the national anthem when it was played.
The show later narrated how Nkrumah was overthrown and when military rulers took over the reign of the country.
Then, came the fourth republic which saw the beginning of the era of the “Johns”. —John Rawlings, John Kufour, late John Atta-Mills, and John Mahama, all contributing their quota to the development of the country. And then, it got to President Akufo-Addo’s turn to continue the ‘journey’
I cannot narrate this story without talking about how in the past, the world was dancing to Ghanaian music from Osibisa, and then from Burger Highlife from Goerge Darko and co. Those of us who know the songs, sang and danced along as we enjoyed the show.
The show also reminded us of some of the entertaining things that happened within the fourth republic. This period saw the arrival of the music of Amakye Dede, Daddy Lumba, and co, while our sportsmen, in the likes of Azumah Nelson, Abedi Pele, and Tony Yeboah raised the flag of Ghana on the world stage.\
Films and other television shows were also ruled our screens, with ‘Inspector Bediako’, ‘Ultimate Paradise’, ‘Who Killed Nancy’, among others.
The show climaxed with how Ghanaians would sarcastically celebrate electoral victories with songs of opposition parties. The 2008 and 2012 electoral victories of John Attah-Mills and John Mahama respectively, saw their supporters jubilate with the NPP’s campaign song, “Nana ye winner”.
Then, when Nana Addo also won the elections in 2016, the NDC campaign song “Onaapo” was used by the jubilant NPP supporters to celebrate their victory.
In fact, those final minutes of the show put all present, irrespective of their political leaning, into a cheerful mood that, I believe, will remain in their memories forever.
Never have I seen the history of Ghana enacted in such a superb style and manner. The costume, lighting, the sequence, dance, drumming, and songs (both past and contemporary), all contributed to the beauty of the drama.
And I think the organisers should be sponsored to help produce this creative work in videos to be distributed to across the country to aid learning especially in schools.
Yes, Ghana has a rich history, and Wogbejeke told the story of 60 years in about 2 hours in such a great style!