...Sounds on da ground and seens on the see-ins
As if "Yefri Tuabodom" wasn't enough controversy for one summer, Sidney (Rap ninja) reminded everyone who the most controversial hiplife artiste was. His latest album gives us "Obia nye Obia", a song which preaches equality across the breadth of Ghana, in terms of respect, education, money and class. He argues that we all came from the earth and shall return to it, and so no one is above any one. In essence, everybody is nobody because a somebody is anybody/nobody after all. This statement doesn't sound too harmful until you hear a shoeshine boy telling his customer who works in an airconditioned office, "obia nyÉ› obia, wonyÉ› obia, me nso menyÉ› obia".
I hadn't paid too much attention to the subject of classes in Ghana and Africa and the importance of such a statement like "obia nyÉ› obia" till the recent Thanksgiving weekend. I found myself at a Ghanaian party in a Bronx (New York) club on 11/25, which had a lot of my peers; unlike the one I had attended the night before which had 90% of its party people over 30-40. When the DJ (@ this Bronx party) played "obia nyÉ› obia", the partygoers danced and boogied to it and I found myself singing it. No, "obi yÉ› obi", the popular song released to counteract "obia nyÉ› obia" was not played at the party. It sounded and felt a little strange to dance to this particular song, due to its lyrics.
"Obia nyÉ› obia" is the lead single off Sidney of Nananom fame's 6th album, Wukuno Kotibea. "Wukuno Kotibea" sounds controversial just by hearing/seeing the words, but since I am not familiar with the song, let's leave that for another time. "Obia nyÉ› obia" basically carries the message that no one is more important than another and therefore there is no need for anybody to feel superior than his neighbour. Yes, I know you can't imagine being a coequal to the hawker on the street, when you have climbed the academic ladder and gotten your MBA from Harvard and run a big business in Accra. It's the same way you would feel superior to someone riding in a VW beetle car (affectionately called 'ApotrÉ” car) while you cruise in your Benz, but Sidney categorically states that you are on the same level with that someone.
Since we are in a Western democracy where freedom of speech reigns, it was only appropriate that a few other hiplife artistes made use of "obia nyÉ› obia's" popularity to make money and set the records straight. ObeyiefoO and Joe Frazier/Roro released separate tracks debunking Sidney's point of view and proposing that "obi ye obi"; people are indeed superior to others and no one is equal to the other. Æ†beyifoÉ” recounts how Ghana's health service has a 'cash and carry' system, hence, if you have the money, you have the upper hand when it comes to service. Somebody is indeed somebody, and that's why people wake up and form "logologo" lines at 6am just to vote for an (important) Member of Parliament on election day. He also takes a swipe at Sidney making him aware that if everyone was equal, he would have to make his own beat to finish his "obia nyÉ› obia" track.
Both schools of thought offer good arguments about the class levels in society and the respect (or lack of it) that comes with it. I think both statements work hand in hand though. For instance, people get ahead in society, due to their economic or academic standings, but the urge and responsibility of society to provide a level playing field for everyone to go to school or earn a living, just shows how everyone is equal in that regard. The idea of us all returning to the earth (with nothing) faces opposition when you meet people who believe that some people would have eternal life (heaven) and others, eternal death (hell). Hence, we can't also look to the equality of us all to stay mediocre hoping that a great statement would level us off, we have to become excellent at what we do. But, there is a but, as we climb the ladders, we should not fail to bring our neighbours up it with us.
Being a student in a five-star prestiguous university, I probably should feel superior to a Joe who's trying to finish his Diploma at a Ghanaian polytechnic. After all, at some point in my life, we were of equal standing, but I excelled in my classes and had better grades, and ended up here. Then again, I probably lived in a 5 bedroom house and could buy all the textbooks and didn't have to spend my out-of-school time selling chewing gum on the streets and walking for kilometres fetching 'sanitized' water. Hence, we were in an "obia nyÉ› obia" situation and the different opportunities and facilities available to us created an "obi yÉ› obi" situation.
How about this scenario? You probably have heard about the Ghanaian MP who was caught in the US for drug dealing (innocent until proven guilty, but the harm's pretty much done). This MP was probably superior to some of his accomplices (a car mechanic doing drugs to get rich, for instance) but if the former gets imprisoned, he'll share a jail with the car mechanic and the everyday thief who lives in his constituency. "obia nyÉ› obia" eh!
The subject gets pretty serious when you have kids disrespecting their parents because they believe "obia nyÉ› obia". This is where subtle messages in songs become serious and important. We have to discuss such issues, and if we are too busy to notice, our musicians are. Come to think of it, the shoeshine boy actually becomes a somebody when a rich man needs him to shine or repair his shoe. Hence, everyone does a role to play in society. Leaders have their bands of followers behind them, and even though the leader carries the torch, he still needs people to do the legwork and give him support.
In conclusion, I think the various arguments work in different scenarios and occasions and none is a more superior concept. I am not trying to be politically correct, but I think for the good of Ghana and beyond, we have to incorporate some of the "obia nyÉ› obia" principles to make life better for our people and provide opportunities for people to better themselves (become an "obi").
PS: The picture just shows the Okyenhene taking an AIDS test. Permit me, there are many pictures I could have chosen, but with World AIDS day just the other day, I chose that. Even the Okyenhene is not exempt from AIDS (testing), how much you?