A Ghanaian minister’s suggestion that the country’s national anthem be changed from the original English version to a local dialect is enjoying a lot of media attention. Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, minister for water resources, works and housing believes the golden jubilee anniversary gives Ghanaians an opportunity to consider making some psycho-cultural adjustments, including changing the language in which the national anthem is sung.
If the proposal is accepted, it would make Ghana the only West African country with its national anthem sung in a local language.
Owusu-Agyeman told VOA that by changing the national anthem to a local dialect, the sense of nationalism would be greatly enhanced.
“It was about time we use this opportunity to whip up the sense of nationalism, commitment as a people to our nation...but there is this beautiful piece composed by Ephraim Amoo which says this is our land… that particular song is sung in all the major languages in the country. If you go to China they would sing their national anthem in Chinese and I thought it was about time we got to understand precisely what the message that is supposed to be carried across,” he said.
Owusu-Agyeman denied that his suggestion had ethnic undertones.
“What I was saying is that “Yen Ara y’asase ni’ (this is our land) written by a distinguished Ghanaian from the Volta region has got translation in each and every major language in this country…I think that this is only a contribution to a debate as to how best to rekindle that sense of patriotism that must necessarily exist as the fundamental for a people to believe in themselves and to move forward. It cannot have any undertones of ethnicity or ethnocentric undertones, no,” Owusu-Agyeman noted.
He said many countries have changed their national anthems from their colonial languages into that which the natives understand.
“At the time of independence, the majority of African countries sung their national anthems in the tongue or language of their colonial masters. But I think that life is not cast in concrete and why should we cocoon ourselves into a situation?” he asked.
Owusu-Agyeman said there was the need to inspire Ghanaians by using the language the majority could understand.
“If we have come off age and we believe that the people that we are supposed to be inspiring with the national anthem don’t even understand it, so are you inspiring anybody? In any case it was one of the periodic that are thrown into the public domain for debate. There must be pros and cons, but if there must be a change, it’s the good people of Ghana who would decide,” he said.