Category: Nigeria and Ghana, 2013

Revival, Arrival and Great Weavings

September 1-2

Final breakfast at the Four Villages, then a debrief of yesterday’s meetings with the chiefs and district officials and discussion of next steps. General agreement that meeting was very successful. Sola has already done a draft of an RFP to Alex Eduful regarding inspections and recommendations regarding existing wells.

Pack and load the cars to head for services at Dr. Annie’s Pentecostal church. On an earlier trip, Carol and I had attended another Pentecostal church with the Kipharts and Peter Eduful. Dr. Annie’s was much larger and more modern, highly amplified music blaring and two large screens flashing words. I got busted for taking pictures, though I’d cleared it with Dr. Annie, but not before I took a few.

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For attendees, who are very moved by the words and music, the message is of a very personal savior, reflected in hymns with words such as:

Amazing love
How can it be
That Thou my Lord
Should die
For Me

Sung repeatedly at high decibels, led by a woman, with much hand waving and other movement among the congregants.

When the pastor takes over he referred to the events of this week and the court decision upholding the election. Some people stocked rice and food, some made plans to leave the country, he said, but peace had prevailed, not because the politicians brought peace, but because The Lord brought peace. Many amens and hallelujahs. His sermon involved a rather obscure passage of the Old Testament, book of Samuel, in which the crippled son of Jonathan was restored to his inheritance by King David. The pastor managed to construct some 45 minutes of preaching around this story. Not my cup of tea, but the congregation seemed to like it. Dr. Annie, her daughter, Saint Anne and Joe and Ida were clearly into the service, but as to the Chicago group, not so much.

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We left for Accra at about noon and drove for almost five hours on roads that sometimes were very good, and other times not. Overall, the road is decidedly improved over what we encountered several years ago. We passed through many towns with their familiar assortment of foods and wares for sale. I got lessons from Sola on the operation of the pharmaceutical industry and the roles of CROs ( Contract Research Organizations) in that process. He and Dick have talked about forming a CRO for West Africa.

Arriving at the airport at 4:45, four hours early for our flight, we checked our luggage and walked to the Landings restaurant, not far from the airport. Service was extremely slow, but the food was quite good. We went there to meet a friend of Funmi (whose name, the Kipharts and I learned after two years, is actually pronounced,”Foomi”) who she had taught at the U of C and who was practicing at the largest hospital in Accra. Funmi’s friend arrived late, with her 10-year old daughter, so we could spend only a very short time with them.

Walked back to the airport, cleared immigration and went to the business class lounge for a while (the Kipharts and Olopades snuck me in). Flight to Frankfurt took off just a little late, and I’m doing my last post now, in steerage. I think I’ve concluded that the main reason to fly business class may not be the roomier, more comfortable seats, but the special, shorter lines for everything, and club access. When you travel with Funmi, though, you get into clubs anyway, so that advantage disappears. After a 3-hour layover in Frankfurt (again admitted to the business class club), we fly United to Chicago, arriving at 10:30 tomorrow morning. Wish I could have slept like these guys.

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Now for a few reflections.

Overall, amazing. Best of four wonderful trips to Ghana, in large part because it included Nigeria, for the first time.

Nigeria. Going there with the Olopades was fantastic. On the one hand, we had the royal treatment of being escorted guests of the Governor of Ekiti State. On the other, we had the very personal experiences of meeting both Funmi and Sola’s mothers and seeing their homes. We met fascinating people, ranging from young professionals to friends of the Olopades to university professors to governmental officials. We saw market women celebrating and kings given SUVs. We made contact with people with whom the Kipharts and Olopades (with us as minor participants) probably will have continuing contact/projects. Barbara, from Root Capital, certainly falls into that category.

We began to get a sense of the power of Nigeria, as the largest country in Africa. It’s been said that if Africa is shaped like a gun, Nigeria is its trigger. And we saw, up close, the governor of Ekiti State, who has the potential to emerge as a national force in Nigeria. He uses his initials, JKF, which for slightly dyslexic old farts evokes memories of JFK. JKF even has an attractive, bright, fashionable wife in Bisi. This may be jumping the gun a bit, because Ekiti State, at 2.7 million people, is a very small part of Nigeria (but it is larger than the country of Botswana in population; had to sneak one last fact into this reflection). We emerge with a more realistic picture of the country as a whole than that portrayed in the US press. The violence in the North does not pervade the whole country. There are areas in which Muslims and Christians live together in peace, including in Lagos.

Ghana. Seemed odd going to Ghana and not being under the constant guidance of Peter Eduful. We all missed him. It was wonderful to see old friends–Joe, Ida and Daniel Kwarteng, Dr. Annie and Saint Anne, Alex Owasu, and the two chiefs we met with from Bonkwaso and Abesua. Witnessing the growth of the pineapple farms was very impressive, but I definitely missed going into villages the way we have on our prior trips. Because of the focus that the Olopades provide, the trip was more productive than prior trips, especially connecting with new partners at KNUST and KATH (most notably Dr. Daniel Ansong). It’s always a pleasure to meet new people, like Dr. Annie’s son, Robert, and Emily, the U of C med student who is doing a project with Dr. Annie, and to get unexpected surprises, like connecting with the Taylor family. For me, it was also a great pleasure to spend time with Peter’s oldest son, Alex, who I’d met only very briefly before.

I enjoy the photography I’m able to do on these trips and, from that standpoint, the trip was okay, but definitely not great. The more productive a trip and the faster the pace, the less opportunity for the kind of photography that I enjoy. Taking pictures at or after a meeting is, well, dull, but I do recognize the need to do some documentation of the trip. And, as photography was not at all the primary reason for the trip, in any case. I’ll be quite content with whatever limited number of decent photos may emerge.

We all come away from this annual trip enriched by the tremendous amount we learn, both substantively (most of which I’ve already forgotten) and about life (at least some of which I hope to retain). Funmi referred to her Chicago family and her Nigerian family on the trip. And we all certainly feel that we have a Ghanaian family. It’s this strong, palpable sense of family that makes these trips so special. The Kipharts, Olopades and Kanters just plain have a good time together.

Susie often talks about the Great Weaver, a reference to whatever force has made all of this happen and develop as it has over ten years, and brought everyone together. I have to admit, Susie, that I’ve felt that this was a bit corny. But I also have to admit that I’m now in serious danger of becoming a believer. When you think about, see and feel the remarkable set of circumstances and connections that has made all of this possible, it’s hard not to believe that there’s some force at work. Carol and I are incredibly grateful to be a small part of this beautiful tapestry.

2 comments to Revival, Arrival and Great Weavings

  • Barbara

    Nice words, Arn, at the end of this very satisfying trip. Glad you enjoyed the variety of experiences Nigeria and Ghana offered. Of course enhanced greatly by the people surrounding you. (And the benefits of free business class travel.)

    Absorbing all the details of your trip, included in part for documentation, is a bit daunting. But I love that you shared your thoughts and observations, these textured experiences awakened in you. Commentary gives richness to the facts and a rare peak into what fuels that multi-layered brain of yours.

    Welcome Home,
    Your Little Sister (BTW, what did ya get me?)

  • Eve Lecvine

    Arnie,
    Thank you again for sharing you terrific experience. As always, I loved it.
    Safe travels. Sweet, healthy, safe and peaceful New Year!
    Eve

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