The Misplaced Priorities of 'HOGBETSOTSO ZÃ' - My Restrospection & Introspection
On the first Saturday of November of each year, the people of Anlo celebrates a traditional festival known as Hogbetsotso Zã. It is celebrated to commemorate the migration of the Ewes from Notse in Togo. This festival brings all the people in the 36 states of Anlo together. Government officials and other dignitaries are never left out of the celebration.
However, having done some retrospection and introspection, I dare say the significance of this festival has been lost on us. Significance in this context is not about our traditional values/culture nor has it to do with just commemoration. Festivals are important occasions to lure government, development organizations and businesses to help bring development to the area by showcasing what (resources) we have that can create wealth. Yes we have failed to do so! So each year, we dress nicely, and gather ourselves on the durbar grounds to watch cultural displays and listen to well composed speeches and then depart home with smiles all over our faces claiming that that year's celebration is the best! I ask: best in which way? Your guess is as good as mine.
Celebration of this festival, as it were, must focus on developmental projects and plans that have been put in place to achieve them. This is what we need. It should not be about fanfare and merry making and reading of nicely written speeches. It should be a period to take stock of what has been achieved from the previous celebration and what is to be done before the next celebration. Indeed the celebration is done around a theme put together by what is called the Festival Committee. But what is the essence of coming out of with a new theme all together when nothing or very little has been achieved after the previous celebration? I think the theme for each celebration must necessarily draw a link with that of the previous one.
Over the years, Presidents who are often special guests of honour during such occasions, come and read excellent speeches that receive a lot of applauds. Soon as they leave the Festival grounds, they forget the content of those beautifully crafted speeches. Perhaps they say things that never really meant.
The Anlo State is not blessed with any natural resources. The people of Anlo are peasant farmers and fishermen. These two economic activities are seasonal. Therefore, out of season, out of work!
But recent rumours has it that there is oil somewhere in the Anlo land and plans have far been advanced by the government to start exploration. If this rumour is true and is something to go by, then questions can be asked as to why we are not seeing any signs years after that discovery has been made?
For the first time all my life, I was at the 2014 Hogbetsotso festival and very well remember the president made reference to exploration works for oil to begin in the speech he read at the durbar.
I believe not much has changed in Anlo in the previous celebrations and no change is expected even after the just ended one. The Hogbetsotso Zã has not brought any pragmatic development.
We still have townships or villages that do not have electricity. We also have deplorable road networks in certain areas. We equally have issues with proper accommodation for teachers in the remote areas. The issue of portable water cannot be left out. Even the durbar grounds has remained the same as was bequeathed to us. The Torkor Atorlia (The 5th Landing Stage) should have been preserved to serve as a tourist attraction site. This is one way of preserving that history while generating revenue for us. The Asante have preserved where Okomfo Anokye had planted sword into the ground. People go there and pay money just to see that important part of the history of the Asantes.
The Avete Park (Hogbe Durbar ground) where the celebration takes place each year, should have by now been developed into a stadium or a very attractive park like the Jubilee Parks we have in each regional capital.
Even the new trend of farming which my people refer to as 'irrigation farming' receive inadequate support. This venture is a bit capital intensive to undertake. In fact a lot of tomatoes is produced during the 'tomatoes season' and the greater part of it goes waste because there's no readily available market for it. For me, these are the things our traditional leaders should be talking about; how to create market for our produce so that there would be value for money for our farmers.
The fact is, we have to start with what we already have - market for our produce - before thinking about exploring the oil beneath the ground. If we had indeed started this way, we would have gotten somewhere!
The next time you go to Hogbetsotso Zã, ask about what has been achieved from the previous celebration.