I gladly look forward to the 6th of March every year so I can relive a simple ritual of nostalgic value. It is a ritual of ‘dedication’ – I dedicate a whopping 6 hours to watch the Independence Day anniversary parade on GTV. That’s about a half of my total television-viewing time for a year. This year, in keeping with the old ritual, I slumped into the sofa and assumed a slouching pose in front of the Television by 8:38 a.m.
As though the sofa was the ‘activate’ button for a backward-journeying time-travel machine, my slump instantly ushered me down Reminiscence Avenue. I remembered veteran broadcaster Edward Faakye, the man whose voice always added more life and richness to an already spirited event. It was from Uncle Eddie that I first heard the word resplendent, during my early-teens. He had used the word to describe the appearance of marchers on parade. The memory rekindled my admiration for his communication prowess. My lips gently slid sideward as I silently paid homage to the ace broadcaster.
The homage-paying mood soon faded away. Then like driftwood on agitated waters, my thoughts began to move back and forth on the ocean of years gone by. After a while, the waters sobered and then stilled – as though rebuked by the Nazarene Master. The stillness triggered another memory. I fondly recalled a well-trained, well-groomed white military horse called Majestic. For years majestic Majestic was the star horse mounted by the Parade Commander at the national Independence Day Parade.
I loved that equestrian beast. Majestic lived its name. A dignified quadruped, it moved with such intelligence and grace – endearing itself to me and to many others. It was not only exciting to watch Majestic at the Independence Square; it was somewhat awe-inspiring. As a boy, I was always puzzled by how a horse would remain so well-composed amidst the loud, melodious military music and a large, noisy crowd. I recall that in my childish wishful thinking, I had wished Majestic would never die. Curiosity would later lead me to the knowledge that Majestic had a military rank higher than some of the soldiers I knew. Imagine my joy and shock.
And oh, the Perpetual flame – that thing had also been a childhood puzzler. If it was called the perpetual flame, did it remain lit in perpetuity? If it did, why would the Head of State reignite it every year? Amidst the intermittent shortage of LP gas in Ghana at the time, was it wise to keep the flame always lit? Did it have an inexhaustible supply of gas, perhaps from Nigeria? If the supplier-nation lost a football match to Ghana just days prior to the Independence Day celebrations, would they not sabotage our Independence Day celebration by turning off the flow valve? – Childish fears borne out of real childhood experiences of the time.
Back then, the lad in the neighbourhood who proudly owned the football was almost a demi-god worthy of patronage – not to be provoked to annoyance – not to be on the losing side in a football match, lest he could catch his ball midway – often when the game was peaking; place his enviable asset firmly beneath his armpit and with stiffened, elongated lips, briskly walk off with a Taadi Seaman trademark walk. In my blissful childish ignorance, I had applied the same philosophy to my musings on matters appertaining to the Perpetual flame.
The old vehicles used by the Commander-in-Chief to review the parade have been de-commissioned – to use military parlance. I loved those old review vehicles. My love for antiques predates the onset of my puberty. Not only did the old but pristine military vehicles have the effect of connecting me to the past, they also connoted a sense of careful preservation. And when the PNDC Chairman would mount the open-back vehicle to review the parade, I would wonder why the Chairman would be chauffeured to the Independence Square in a supposed bullet-proof vehicle, only to expose himself to a large crowd upon a plain field. School children don’t have guns, I would often answer myself in a silent monologue. If the fear-instilling stories I had heard were true, I could be whisked away in a blinding flash to Osu Castle, if I said it out loud.
Talking about PNDC, the child in me had even entertained the silly thought that ‘Provisional’ as the letter ‘P’ represented in PNDC, related to the control of the supply of ‘provisions’ – Ideal milk, St. Louis cube sugar, Milo, Guardian soap, Pepsodent, Rose toilet roll etc. And it made real sense to me. After all, I had heard many times that when JJ assumed the reins of power, basic consumer goods aka ‘provisions’ became very scarce at a point and its supply was regimented. The PNDC Chairman, by my logical extension, was the Chief Controller of ‘Provisions’ among other powers. But I always heeded the dictates of my survival instinct which said to strictly observe the culture of silence in such matters.
I always loved the appellations which heralded the delivery of the Head of State’s Independence Anniversary address. The lads on the talking drums always did real justice re-echoing the appellations on the talking drums. They made the drums speak so eloquently. Those were the days when, under the leadership of the Chief Controller of Provisions, talking drums were used in our Primary and Junior Secondary Schools instead of tolling bells. That must have covertly and overtly deepened my sense of appreciation for the drummer boys and the privileged girls who did the recitation of the appellations.
My favourite marching song was and still is “Arise Ghana Youth for your Country” albeit, as a boy some of the words in the great song eluded me. This year, the Mass Band played it as the first marching song for the school pupils, students and other civilian groups. As I pondered the words of the song – having duly filled up the potholes in the lyrics, I could not help but ask myself whether the youth of Ghana was heeding the clarion call of JTM Dosoo, composer of this ever-green patriotic song. In the spirit of freedom of speech, I say your guess is as good as mine.
God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong.
Laud E. Nyampong Freeman
The writer is a Communications, PR and Marketing Consultant with close to two decades of professional experience across several industries. He may be contacted on Tel: (GH) 0268811122 and Email: firstname.lastname@example.org