I was away for three weeks, if you count Easter, and was privileged to go on a tour of parts of Ghana during the period. I am serving as a Chemical Engineer under training with Ghana’s energy giant, the Volta River Authority (V.R.A) and this year marks 50 years of the Authority’s existence.Many programmes and activities were lined up for the commemoration of the anniversary and I was glad to find that Professor Atukwei Okai’s name had been tucked in the middle of the programme list for the grand durbar held at Akosombo on the 29th of April, to read a poem titled “The Bond of 1962.” I was elated. Professor Atukwei Okai is the General Secretary of the Pan-African Writers’ Association and has served in some capacity as Ghana’s poet-laureate. He has been part of a new effort to whip up exuberance on poetic headlines here in Ghana and has appeared at several state functions in recent months, reciting one or other, or talking about poetry, basically. I hadn’t listened to him live until this day at Akosombo.
Okai’s poetry is merciless on the non-native Ghanaian and even sometimes to outsiders of certain Ghanaian languages. He has shown time and again that his poetry is for performance and he loads his lines with countless native words that make non-speakers lose the understanding of his work. But even listening to the words as they roll and drum and hum will make you appreciate the power behind his lines.
In December 2010, he had been with V.R.A at Aboadze, Takoradi where I presently am. I wasn’t there yet and his recital on that day has left a catch-phrase among the company’s circles to date. His poem was replete with repetitions of “It Was Awesome”, (stresses on the Awwww), that have left everyone quoting and repeating those lines during the company’s events. He made his mark.
So, at Akosombo, where he read to us “The Bond of 1962”, I was listening for a phrase to keep after the poem had been done. In a resplendent blue three-piece robe, he took us on a journey of the sealing of the deals that brought Ghana’s 1020MW hydro Akosombo dam to life. And in the trip of those words he said, “We conjured rain” which has served as our lifeblood as an industrialising economy.
I don’t know if I’ll listen to Professor Atukwei Okai again but if I don’t, I will be content to have ever heard that man live, who wrote my favourite Ghanaian poem of all time, “SUNSET SONATA.”