Help me help Ghana, says new Bermudian chief of African town
In Ghana, Graham Nesbitt sits among the kings.
As far as Bermudians go he might just be the first to achieve the honour. His focus, however, is on helping plot the future of Nkumkron, the community he now calls home.
“Ever since I was young – my sisters, brothers, everybody related to me, whoever worked with me – everybody has known that it has always been my desire to take whatever I've learnt in Bermuda, or any part of the west, and return to Africa and give back,” he said.
“Particularly in Ghana, they have been asking people in the diaspora to return home. And some, based on their qualifications and their experiences, if they can help develop Ghana then [the Ghanains] give them a position that will make it easier for them to help move this country in the right direction.”
It is how Mr Nesbitt became First Nkoschene (the king/chief of development) in Nkumkrom, a small town in the mountains near Aburi.
The community is banking on the knowledge he picked up in industrial and labour relations in the 35 years he was involved with the Bermuda Industrial Union and his 15 years at the helm of the Bermuda Credit Union.
At the United Nations conferences he attended during 12 of his years with the BIU, he was a member of several committees.
Mr Nesbitt also served as co-chair for the southern region trade union caucus for the commission of sustainable development and hosted the national conference for sustainable development here in Bermuda.
With Pauulu Kamarakafego, he was one of five permanent trade unionist representatives for the Pan African Movement.
“So I’m quite suitable for the position [of chief],” Mr Nesbitt said. “This is my way of giving back.”
He was installed in the post in an age-old ritual last month that saw him covered in powder for “a couple of hours” and isolated from all other members of the Nkumkrom community save Nana Kwabena Ayeri, a Ghanaian he befriended on his first visit to the country 22 years ago.
To signify his stature he was then carried through the town on the shoulders of tribesmen to the home of “the main chief”, where the installation ceremony took place. Mr Nesbitt was also given a new name: Nana Amon Kwadjo.
“The installation goes back hundreds and hundreds of years. It’s a way of warding off evil spirits or any bad omens; making sure people come in with a pure heart,” he said.
“I wasn’t the only one that was installed as a chief/king that day. There were eight of us and each of us had to be kept separate except for me and my very close friend of 22 years. I can understand the language, but I don’t speak it as fluently so it was helpful to have him there and translate a lot clearer.”
For anyone interested in following his path, being willing to relocate to Ghana isn’t enough.
“It’s not automatic,” he said. “Mine is unique. Not everybody who comes from the diaspora will be made chief. Mine is unique because of the number of years [I’ve spent there] and what I’m bringing to the table, some of the things I was doing prior to that.”
He moved to Nkumkron on the invitation of Nana Turkson, a good friend from Ghana who worked for the Bermuda Government and was impressed with an apprenticeship programme Mr Nesbitt led.
“He asked me if at some point I could bring my knowledge, in this case construction knowledge, to Ghana to help masons, carpenters, electricians to build houses straight and square. So initially that’s the reason I came … but it took a while to put things in place.”
On a visit to Bermuda in July he began assembling a list of construction workers here that might be interested in the project, but was unable to do anything more because he hadn’t yet been installed as chief.
“The problem was that I didn’t have enough land to make it worthwhile, because every mason, carpenter, electrician that comes down has to have a Ghanaian underneath them to train.”
As a chief he has access to “acres upon acres upon acres of land” to develop.
His plan however is to start with just five. Mr Nesbitt is looking for investors to help establish schools, hospitals, whatever is necessary, on it.
“Any chief in Africa is a king. I am not a super king, I’m just a king, a chief of that town. I have other chiefs that fall underneath me that I will help to direct how we can develop this town into a modern facility.
“It’s not just me. It's not me alone. I have a team and I just use my knowledge and set the perimeters and then put teams together to, first of all, look at the plan that I bring to the table, see if it's feasible; see what's required. So it’s not just me. My job is to plan and see how I can develop this area as best I can.”
He estimates there are a few thousand people currently living in the area. There is no deadline for completion, only Mr Nesbitt’s eagerness to get the job started.
“It’s like having a blank sheet. I have looked at the land and I have ideas in my head and I have put out feelers and asked for anybody that wants to invest in a medical clinic, a school.
“Once the information starts coming back, then I’ll have a general idea of how I’ll develop it and where certain things will go in this plot of land.”
In anticipation of that he will teach Ghanaians how to build Bermuda houses; our water collection system will be particularly appreciated, he believes.
“Down here, the houses, they don’t catch the water. The water runs off. So I also want to introduce them to the benefits of a tank and how to build a house straight and square.”
His hope is that his story will encourage other people to get involved in the future of Ghana.
“Not just Bermudians - but anybody that wants to come out and invest and help build up Ghana. I’m open to it. I can't do it all myself.
“It is a daunting task for one person. There’s a lot of responsibility and I’m trying to move fast and get some things started, get something on the table.”
The plan is also to build “some turnkey houses” for people considering relocating, Mr Nesbitt added.
Because of the sliding scale of costs, he doesn’t know exactly how the prices will run, but people should expect the cost to be “about 25 per cent of what you would pay in Bermuda”.
For more information on Graham Nesbitt’s Ghanaian development project reach him by WhatsApp, 534-9466, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org