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Amewu Gets a Rock Star Honor in Gbi

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

By Antoinette Herrmann-Condobrey

This past weekend in the Hohoe area of the Gbi State, something spectacular happened: A son of the land, John Peter Amewu, got the highest respect anyone has seen in the community in recent years, if not of all time.

This follows Amewu’s appointment by the Akufo-Addo government right after the president took office in January 2017. 

Johnny, as he’s affectionately called by family and friends, had earned the reputation of an astute politician as a former District Chief Executive and Volta Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party. 

Amewu had a successful vetting and became the substantive minister – presiding over lands and natural resources.

But for the Gbi Traditional Area (Gbi Dzigbe), it goes deeper even. This is the first time a son of the land was duly recognized by any government for the top position in a ministry. They couldn’t hold back the feeling.

Word about a formal celebration of Amewu by the Gbi Traditional Area however came with mixed feelings for some.

The man just got appointed and had barely started working; so what is the community about to “crown” him for?

Other questions had political undertones though not unreasonable – like: How come the community never gave any formal recognition to its current Member of Parliament, Bernice Adiku Heloo, who had been a deputy minister in the previous government.

Others feared the formal celebration was premature and dangerous for the new and relatively young minister because it might attract unwanted attention toward him.

Some expressed shame that a mere appointment to a cabinet position could merit a hero’s treatment for the appointee by any community. Others worried that the act might understate the area’s real needs in the eye of government.   

The counterargument also struck a chord with many:

Wouldn’t such an act motivate the first-time minister to work his heart out, give nothing but the best to his country and make his community even prouder?

The celebration came off without a glitch. It was a weekend long program that lasted through April 28 to 30 – packed with activities including a welcome home ceremony, tree planting, a durbar, traditional and musical performances.  Those who graced the occasion were chiefs and queens, politicians, everyday people, young and old from within and outside the Gbi community. They included Gabusu VI: Fiaga of Gbi Traditional Area, Afede XIV: Agbogbomefia of Asogli State, Vice President of Ghana: Mahamudu Bawumia and many others. Kojo Antwi was the guest artist, performing at the reception held at Majestic Ville Hotel, Hohoe. 

Son of the late Simon Amewu of Gbi-Bla, and mother from Wli, Johnny emerged from humble beginnings to his present status. Politically, he wasn’t just a trendsetter but a brave one who dared to join an unpopular political party among his people and ran for office on that party’s ticket.

Many didn’t think beyond the race he was running at the time in 2004 on the New Patriotic Party’s ticket, which even a day-old-chick could tell he wouldn’t win. They thought Johnny was out of his mind, knowing he had a far better chance on the ticket of the most popular party in the community, the National Democratic Congress. 

Amewu lost the race to parliament but his party won the presidency and he earned the chief executive’s position of his district - Hohoe.

The NPP was defeated by the NDC four years into his term as Hohoe’s DCE, ending that position. But Amewu didn’t fade into obscurity like many politicians do. He specialized in additional areas of study, established in new professional fields and remained attached to the NPP. Then he emerged as NPP’s regional chairman, Volta Region – a position he held leading to his party’s stunning victory in the December 2016 election.  

Many have credited Amewu’s leadership for the 2016 gains made by the NPP in the Volta Region, a stronghold of the party’s main opponent.

Gbis have a history of celebrating people from their community spanning decades. And yes, they have celebrated people for merely attaining heights and not necessarily what they have done for their community. The main idea is to motivate these people to continue making their community proud and to inspire others.

In a town whose traditional ways are fast eroding, values weakening and giving way to increasing acrimony, one cannot rule out the celebration of a son of the soil as a refreshingly positive example for all.

Ironically, politics is the least unifying subject in the Gbi community – a situation that corresponds with the national atmosphere. 

It is not surprising therefore for many to read politics into the celebration of a community member based on his political appointment.

Different feelings aside, the following questions may be worth asking:

Did the Gbi Traditional Area capture government’s attention by this move? Could the move affect how governments treat the Gbi community going forward? Would it inspire Amewu to work even harder for country and community?  If these are all correct, then could Amewu’s celebration be viewed as strategic for Gbi and one that sends a direct message to government?

Antoinette Herrmann-Condobrey is a journalist / digital media & communication professional. She specializes in political communication, digital media, & arts & culture,  from Johns Hopkins University, Rutgers University, University of Massachusetts, & Ghana Institute of Journalism. Herrmann-Condobrey is the editor of The Gbi Voice. 

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