Though the Nzema are a matrilineal society, they are also a patrilocal one which means I am from my father’s village of Bonyere while belonging to my mother’s family/clan (Ezohile). Confusing, no?
The first time I remember going to Bonyere, I was 11 and we were going to spend Christmas with the family after having lived the prior several years outside of the country. My father had bought a Nissan pickup “for going to Nzema” and I was none too pleased for you see a pickup was no vehicle for a lady to sit in. But it didn’t take long to figure out why.
The year was 1990. The road from Accra to Cape Coast to Takoradi was fair enough. Good old Nkrumah times road. With the exception of the huge lorries, articulator[sic] trucks, and GTA buses threatening to run us off the road it was a pleasant enough ride, stopping now and then for coconut and other refreshments. We spent the first night in Esiama and I believe we even spent a few days with my mother’s family in Tikobo #2. Hmmm, but the road that took us to Bonyere was another matter all together. You couldn’t even call it a road. It was a wide clearing between the plantain trees filled with the typical red African soil and dangerous potholes. Dangeous potholes that formed ponds when it rained. Maneuvering that “road” was no small matter. I even wished we were in an army tank rather than a mere pickup. We stayed on the family compound where there was no electricity and no running water; where we filled an iron with hot charcoal to crease our Sunday best clothes, and where I got chastised for using my left hand and not knowing to greet the elders from the right of the gathering to the left.
The last time I went to Bonyere it was 2007. My mother and I took a taxi from Half-Assini. Again the roads all around were tarred except THAT “road” leading to Bonyere. The taxi got stuck in the sandy soil and we walked the rest of the way (not too far at this point) arriving at grandmother’s place with a fine layering of red “powder” on our skin and clothes. What trouble?!
And now it’s 2010. Oil was re-discovered off the Nzema shoreline in 2008 and THEY want to come and drill. A multi-million US dollar gas processing plant has invited itself to Bonyere. And already rumblings of oil-related
conflict disagreements and demands have occurred. It’s not that I believe the crude oil and the natural gas belongs to Nzema but don’t a significant part of the gold, the copra, the cocoa and the timber that form Ghana’s economy come from the Western region already and what do we have to show for that?
I guess I’m uneasy because I’m not sure who this venture is a revenue maker for. Time will tell though how this one plays out. We already have a suspect number of dead whales washing up on shore, and oil spills. Obviously, any lofty ideas I had of my father’s village serving as an idyllic escape from the world are now effectively squashed.