“Writers don’t give prescriptions. They give headaches,” Chinua Achebe, the great literary wizard of all time, once said.
It was not until last Saturday, September 3, 2016, that the true meaning of Achebe’s assertion hit me like mangoes hitting a wall in a torrential storm.
On that Saturday, the Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy (CEGENSA) of the University of Ghana had gathered for an awards night. The awards night would see an Ama Ata Aidoo Short Story Competition held as part of CEGENSA’s 10th anniversary celebration.
However, like the boy whose football two teams have gathered to play but would catch it and run home with it, for being pissed off, Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo did not hesitate walking out of the ceremony with her ‘ball.’
Yes! News reports suggested she was pissed off. Prof. Aidoo’s beef was simple but it was, enough, a headache to whoever read the story.
The organisers of the Ama Ata Aidoo Short Story Competition had spelt her name on both the banner and programme cover as “Ama Atta Aidoo” instead of “Ama Ata Aidoo.”
This, the celebrated Ghanaian Author’s daughter briefly explained on social media what happened and later on justified the walk-away.
“My mother walked out of a CEGENSA event today meant to celebrate her and winners of a short story competition.
“Both banner and programme cover had her name as ‘Ama Atta Aidoo’ and not ‘Ama Ata Aidoo,’ which is the correct spelling of her name,” wrote Kinna Kintu.
Indeed, I bear Ama Ata Aidoo no grudge for getting worried over her name being spelt wrongly. An interesting tale is told of a man who went for treatment at the then Sunyani Municipal Hospital.
When [Opanin] Kwasi Nnuro got to the hospital that very day, the patients on admission had been served porridge. Out-patients were excluded of this breakfast and the man had taken notice of the apparent segregation. Then, after consulting the doctor he would be told to go for his medicine.
“Nnuro Kwasi!” called a nurse.
There was yet a dead silence. Then, the patient sitting next to him asked; are you not the one the nurse is calling?
“My name is Kwasi Nnuro [and] not Nnuro Kwasi,” he replied. “When they were sharing their porridge did they invite me? Why, then, the medicine?”
Certainly, getting one’s name pronounced/spelt right is as important as anything else. Failure to get this done, we see a man shivering to death refusing to take his medicine or an Author walking out of a ceremony meant to honour her and some budding writers.
Indeed according to 3news.com, CEGENSA said the short story competition was in honour of Ama Ata Aidoo for her multiple roles as a pan-African feminist, an author, poet, playwright and academic as well as her contribution to Africa’s renaissance.
So, was Ama Ata Aidoo walking out of the ceremony because a “t” had been added to her “Ata” justifiable? On at least three populated WhatsApp platforms that I am on and on Facebook, people fiercely shared their views. For most people, she did the right thing.
In the subsequent lines, I give you reasons why Ama Ata Aidoo must apologise to the CEGENSA and the University of Ghana as a whole.
Many were those who equated CEGENSA’s “Atta” as a show of mediocrity. Their argument was that university students could have done better by doing due diligence.
For a friend like Fred Darko Effah, getting the name spelt wrongly in one’s documents at the embassy amounts to being denied a visa. All are genuine concerns and I must admit to it.
However, inasmuch as I cannot independently defend the students, if we are to go by what we all read, then I see no need tagging CEGENSA’s possible mistake as being a subject of mediocrity.
If the so called mediocre-students were reasonable enough to have sat down to choose Ama Ata Aidoo to honour her, then, I strongly think they don’t deserve our bashing that much. We should not act as holy apostles of due diligence. Yes, at times we commit mistakes before realizing we have.
I have on a number of occasions screenshot headlines and stories riddled with mistakes on some news websites including the BBC, Myjoyonline and my own 3news.com among others. As well, friends have pointed out to me one or two mistakes in my write ups.
Yes, mistakes do happen. CEGENSA’s blunder could have been a sheer mistake which was/is pardonable.
When Ama Ata Aidoo walked out of the ceremony, she walked out with the courage that the budding writers need to confront societal issues.
Ama Ata Aidoo could have taught the students their lesson the hard way. She could have told them to postpone the ceremony to get her name right on the next occasion.
Indeed, it could have also been the ideal ground for her to register her displeasure of her name being spelt wrongly and take the opportunity to advice the young writers to pay attention to what they write.
It is rather unfortunate Ama Ata Aidoo failed to recognize these only for her daughter to lament on social media.
It will, therefore, not be out of place Ama Ata Aidoo, first, deeming it important CEGENSA’s award named in her honour and apologise to them for her walk-out.
Such a walk-out discourages the youth from honouring their heroes for the fear of possibly stepping no their toes. This is does not mean condoning the youth’s wrong.
Our elders say it takes a village to raise a child and our elders must have the heart to raise the youth.
The writer is a broadcast journalist with 3FM 92.7. Views expressed here solely remain his opinion and not that of his media organization.
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