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The Dodi Princess I saw – A personal experience

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It was a fine Tuesday but an unlikely day to observe as a holiday.

But it was – a day designated as a holiday by the sitting President of Sikaman, Agya Atta, to mark the birthday of Sikaman’s foremost President and proud son of the Black Race – Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

And come to think of it – maybe the day was not a strange one after all, for Nkrumah during his time, was one of a kind – forget about the politricks that some politricians are already playing with the day set aside to celebrate a great son of the soil (Some are asking for a Founders’ Day Holiday and not Nkrumah’s Birthday Holiday).

Although nobody is disputing the fact that Kwame Nkrumah could not have done it alone, it goes without gainsaying that he showed such exemplary leadership during his time that Ghana has since his time been hailed as the Star of Africa and a worthy leader of and on the continent of Africa, such that many African states still take inspiration from Sikaman in all sorts of endeavours or fields.

So why shouldn’t we celebrate Osagyefo? We must learn how to celebrate our own. To me that is long overdue. Nkrumah is long gone but no single leader – President, Prime Minister or Head of State has even left half of the legacy that Sikaman’s foremost President left behind. Do I have to go into that? As a matter of fact, most of Sikaman’s leaders after him have rather undone what Nkrumah did during his tenure.

Anyway, enough of the Osagyefo stuff. Though a strange holiday since it was the first time that it was being observed in Sikaman, the entire family, a very close family and few friends looked forward to taking advantage of it to see the famed Princess Dodi on the second largest man-made lake in the world, which was personally supervised by the Osagyefo (sorry I couldn’t help bringing this name up again) – the Volta Lake.

The largest man-made lake in the world is the Mekong River, which can be found in China.

So on that fateful morning – September 21, 2010, everyone woke up very early for the long drive to Sikaman’s power town – Akosombo so we did not miss the Princess (we were told the cruise would begin at 10:30am.)

Having set off in a two-car convoy at 7am, we reached our destination (the Akosombo port) safely just after 9am without any hustle and proceeded to the pier.

And there she was! The Princess Dodi or is it Dodi Princess? Whatever!

Did I hear someone ask – where is the Dodi Princess? Well it was right in front of us and it was the inscription on it that gave it away.

From a distance, it looked like a house and indeed even at close range it did not look like a structure that could move, let alone cruise on water.

Nonetheless, we got on board and soon a loud and long horn was sounded, which I later understood was the signal that the cruise was about to begin – we were then seated on the middle deck. Our decision to stay there was actually informed by the musical equipment we found mounted there. Hmm hmm we could not wait to see and hear the band come alive.

And we got what we bargained for.  After the bandsmen had tuned up their instruments the band struck some tunes just as the Princess finally left the pier at Akosombo.

The feeling was ecstatic and we looked forward to a fun-filled rollicking cruise. I learnt many years ago that “ecstasy is a feeling you feel, when you feel you are going to feel a feeling you have never felt before.” And that captured the mood at that moment – perfect description.

The Kings Anchor Band

The resident band – the Kings Anchor Band from New Akrade in the Eastern Region, led by J. K. Asamoah, played different genres of music, to which many passengers in that mid section of the boat danced enthusiastically, during the two-hour cruise to the famed Dodi Island and only stopped when the boat docked at the Dodi pier.

There was also enough to drink, chew and eat on board, courtesy the Volta Hotel (boat managers) catering staff.

It was the same story, when the cruise boat set off again on a two-hour return journey to the Akosombo port, after about an hour on the island.

The Dodi Island

The Dodi Island became one of the displaced settlements when the Akosombo Dam was constructed in the late 1960s and covers approximately 55 acres of space.

I had already heard that the trip to the island was like an anti-climax of the cruise, because the island had no attractions and was more or less, bare – so I was already psyched up. In fact, after being on water for two hours, we were all itching to get back on land.

But the Volta River Authority (VRA) and the Volta Hotel say they have plans of developing the Dodi Island into a world class tour site, which plans are receiving serious attention and will be rolled out in the next few years.

What we met on arrival, somewhat livened us up, though it could have been better. There were people on the island to welcome us with a traditional cultural dance, agbadza from the Volta Region, whom we later learnt were from a village close by, because they knew we would be coming.

Whereas some productive women were there to sell some smoked fish and some youth decided to beg for alms, the main attraction upon arrival, was an array of music talents who had lined up a walkway to the other side of the vast island.

We first encountered a mix of singing women and men playing drums and some percussion instruments – maracas, and it felt good to be welcomed with such music, although most of us did not understand the words of the music – they sang in Ewe, the local dialect of the people.

Moving further, we also encountered some girls singing with just the maracas. There was also the bamboo musicians – three little boys making music with just some bamboo stumps – and that was intriguing.

We could count as many as six music groups along the concrete slab walkway and mind you, you could not enjoy their music without dropping in some coins. Many of us though, were not ready for that and so could not meet such expectation.

Our stay on the island was not so eventful, aside the fact that some of the cruisers undertook a canoe ride at the other side of the island for a few bucks, though that was not part of the cruise programme and the boat officials had to stop it before any calamity struck.

Hey, man must live and some ingenious locals had come up with a fast way to make a few Ghana cedis from the visitors by offering them a ride on their canoes and letting them have a feel of paddling.

I must not forget to mention too, that a family on the cruise brought along some used clothing and other items for the indigenes whose major occupations are farming and fishing. Specifically, the items were presented by two children, Enyonam and Kwame.

The items were presented to one of the community leaders – Samson Akorsu, who welcomed us to the island the moment we arrived – you may consider that anytime you decide to go on a cruise on the Volta Lake – take along some clothes for the indigenes.

In a short interview, Akorsu divulged that the indigenous farmers mainly cultivate cassava and maize, saying that the indigenes number over 350.

Stating that their ancestors settled on that island long before the Akosombo Dam was built, Akorsu disclosed that the indigenes drink directly from the lake water because they do not have any boreholes or any other potable water, but insisted that they do not fall sick from drinking the Volta Lake water.

Soon it was time to return to the boat when the loud horn was sounded once again by the captain.

The return journey was not so different from the first lap, save for some interesting sites along the lake that were pointed out to the passengers as we cruised on the very serene lake.

Some of the spots pointed out to the cruisers were a tilapia farm, a smaller island – the Dwarfs Island, the community where our welcome party on the island came from, Gyameni, a big market town, Dodi Asantekrom, where the children on the Dodi Island attend school and adults go to vote during elections using canoes.

Others were the Anum Secondary School, snippets of the Kwahu mountains, the Akosombo Dam, Presidential chalet where Dr. Kwame Nkrumah stayed whenever he was at Akosombo to personally check on progress being made during construction of the Akosombo Dam and the Akosombo port.

We finally docked at the Akosombo port around 15:00hrs GMT, almost at 4pm and disembarked onto the pier and then into our vehicles for the return trip to Accra.

Click here to see more pictures of the Dodi Princess

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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