November 28, 2017

Keynote Address of Tɔgbi Xemalordzo Dedu II on the occasion of his 15th Anniversary as Dufia of Atito

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I was in my hometown last weekend to attend a durbar for our chief Tɔgbi Xemalordzo Dedu II who celebrated his 15th anniversary as Dufia of Atito in the Volta Region, Ghana. Here is his address.

Chinua Achebe the great Nigerian author wrote:

“A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own homes.
When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound.
We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.
Therefore let us continue with the team spirit and enjoy the power of togetherness. Let's smile, not because we don't have problems but because we are stronger than the problems."

On behalf of the people of Atito, I am delighted to welcome you to commemorate the 15th anniversary of my installation as Dufia of Atito. I want each and every one of you to know that I cherish your presence at this event. That is why I am glad we have all come together to share in the joy of this occasion.

To borrow Chinua Achebe’s words, we have come together because it is good for kinsmen and kinswomen, the young and the old to do exactly so. As our theme declares, we have come together in love and in unity to seek the development and advancement of Atito. What do love and unity really mean and how can they help us overcome our problems?

I love the Eʋe word for love: lɔlɔ̃. In Eʋe the practice of weaving is expressed using the same word for love: lɔlɔ̃. What is the link between love and the art of weaving?

Consider this. How does an expert weaver start with reeds and end up with a beautifully crafted basket? There are various materials used in the craft of weaving: shoots of various sizes, a knife, even water. There are many processes involved: preparing the base, weaving the base, weaving the sides and making a handle. In all these processes, you must interlock the shoots securely otherwise the basket will fall apart when you put an object in it.

In other words, weaving together or uniting all the materials and processes will result in the creation of a useful product, a basket that can be used for various purposes. The love we have for one another must be expressed in the way a weaver makes a strong basket. We are different people and we play different roles. But we can act as one, as the Eʋe word for unity ɖekawɔwɔ literally means: the making of one.

To become one united community capable of carrying us all just like an expertly woven basket, we must interact with one another and support one another.

So in love and unity, I want to borrow once more the words of Chinua Achebe by urging us to continue with the team spirit and enjoy the power of togetherness. This is the only way we can smile even when we are faced with problems and challenges.

Our ancestors faced challenges similar to the ones we have today. In F.K. Fiawoo’s novel Tɔkɔ Atɔlia, the author paints a picture of them through the exhortations of Paramount Chief Tɔgbi Sri. Permit me to quote some of them:

Vinyewo, migaŋlɔe be o,
Nuvɔwɔla la dugbãla wonye
Migbe nya na mia viwo
Eye miahe wo le dzɔdzɔenyenye
Blibo me. Wo tɔe nye du la
Elabena egbea koe nye mia tɔ
Ke etsɔ la míegali o
Mida wo ɖe mɔ dzɔdzɔe dzi
Bena du la natsi ɖe dzi
Le ŋuse kple lɔlɔ kple kale me
Atsyɔnue vi setonu nye
Na dzilawo kple dukɔ siaa
Gblotsi kple suie wònye
Eganye adzagba kple sika
Duwo ƒe lekewɔnuwo
Eya nye nunya si doa
Dukɔ sia dukɔ ɖe ŋgɔ
Eyae nye dzidzɔ le agbe sia megbe
Eya ta vi dzeagla netrɔ kɔ
Eƒe agbenɔnɔ nesɔ
Fenyila nedzudzɔ ŋku gã toto
Alakpatɔ nesrɔ nyateƒetoto
Ke fiafiwo, amesrɔxɔlawo
Kple amekudolawo ya la
Gomea ɖeke meli na wo
Le Aŋlɔ ƒe kesinɔnuwo dome o
Nye dukɔ kple ame siawo
Maɖu hotsui nyui o
Negbe dzaa ɖe wotrɔ nɔnɔme
Ke vi si gbe tonu masemase la
Miakpɔ nɔƒe ne le Tɔkɔ Atɔlia.

Tɔgbi Sri urged parents to train their children to be upright citizens and warned them about the dangers of antisocial behavior. He underscored the importance of moral education to create responsible law-abiding citizens. He also reminded offenders of the punishment awaiting them if they broke the law.

Tɔgbi Sri’s words are still valid for us today. For Atito to develop in love and unity, we must remind ourselves daily of the relevance of his exhortations to society. His words are indeed tools that parents can use at home in training our children to become responsible citizens.

It was Nelson Mandela who said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

So the moral education that Tɔgbi Sri was advocating is a potent force for change. But citizens must not only have a sound moral education. They must also gain knowledge beyond the classroom and be equipped with practical skills to function in the 21st Century.

Today we live in times which have extra challenges in addition to the ones that have persisted since the days of Tɔgbi Sri. Preparing our people for the future also means equipping the next generation with extracurricular knowledge and information technology skills. Does Atito have the tools to do provide this kind of education?

Atito has 300 schoolchildren. These children represent our future. If we give them the right mix of moral, extracurricular and practical education, they will be a powerful force for change not just for Atito but for Ghana, for Africa and for the world.

Let me quote the words of the late Isaac Asimov, American writer and biochemistry professor:

“I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it.”

I am sure a lot of us who came from poor backgrounds can identify with these words. We know the power of good books. Atito has the land but we are yet to put a much-needed public library on it. This library will be open to all citizens of Atito and not just the schoolchildren. I am asking for partners to help us build a library and stock it with good books.

What about the practical, information technology skills I talked about earlier which are an essential part of a 21st Century education? I am happy to say we have made some progress here in Atito. We already have an IT lab. It was built to connect our children to developments beyond our community, indeed to the rest of the world. But the lab lacks computers, the very tools needed to make that connection.

Once again I am asking for partners to help us equip our IT lab and make it functional. When we provide the tools for the complete development of our society, we will have played our part in shaping the generations that will take over from us.

These are but a few of the challenges we face in developing Atito. We will tackle them one by one until we have overcome them. As Chinua Achebe told us many years ago, “let's smile, not because we don't have problems but because we are stronger than the problems.” Together I believe we can achieve much more than we dreamed of. So let us all continue to develop in love and unity.

Once again, on behalf of the people of Atito, I thank you for spending your precious time with us to celebrate the 15th anniversary of my installation as Dufia.

Long live Atito!
And may God bless us all!

November 25 2017
Atito, Volta Region