There are hardly two Creatures of a more differing Species than the same Man, when he is pretending to a Place [position], and when he is in Possession of it.– Lord Halifax (1633-1695)
In a dispensation in which vocabulary such as ‘confident,’ ‘bold,’ ‘positive’ etc are becoming the mark of self-acclaimed achievers, giving an Old Man’s lessons on moral values may sound as stupid as dreaming about lotto numbers in today’s betting world and refusing to stake it. That’s the reason we have too many of our youth, including those from ‘good’ homes, gambling out their lives in downright buffoonery, instead of values that promote health and longevity in ways that are in line with our unique culture as a religious people.
Intriguingly, that may be why next-door Benin and its two-a-penny wooden and metal idols, some of which are sold in a particular nook in Keta, have become tourist attractions for these ‘live fast and die young’ politicos. When did we get to this, instead of the benefit of values that come from sharing lives with grandparents, fathers, mothers, aunties, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces and teachers and catechists, among others
All of a sudden, our role model has become the empty, noisy, acidly glib young politician from nowhere, except the desert, where hisses from vipers and barks from wild dogs are the sounds and sights of what they are told is ‘civilisation’.
‘When I grow up’
When we were kids attending Wireless 1 Primary School on the compound of what is now the Wireless Cluster of Schools, the role models for modest school kids like us were the teachers, nurses and the catechists. These, unlike doctors and lawyers etc, were very close to the community. So, Kwame Nkrumah, we are told, was a teacher; and so were Lt Generals JA Ankrah and EK Kotoka. Prof KA Busia too and, later, dozens of MPs I know in Hilla Limann’s Third Republic, including PNP MP Aboa Ayisi, who exited lately. As for the PNDC/NDC, the teacher caucus is too huge for mention – from lowly cadres to appointees like moderates Trade Minister Abodakpi and former Regional Minister Mike Gizo.
I also know that the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation had, since the 50s into the 60s and 70s up into the 80s, a huge chunk of its workers being original teachers – from newscasters, producers and hosts to announcers and anchor persons. Recruitment into banks, Customs, the military and several other MMDAs considered people with teaching backgrounds first, I suppose, because having a teacher’s spirit was key to being civilised and having capacity to deliver in any given field.
Little wonder, I caught the infection and became briefly one by circumstances, just to beat the biting Rawlings Chain in 1983. Indeed, I know one secondary school mate who passed out of teacher training college in the northern region a year before ‘lost-hope’ Psalm Ajetefio graduated from the Accra Training College, Legon. That mate (not Ajetefio) recounted a couple of days in 1983 when he was so hungry and had to sneak out late afternoon to credit some yo ke gari, only to be told that “it just got finished.” He hadn’t eaten since morning and was fainting from hunger pangs, after the first hectic two periods before first morning break.
When he returned to the classroom, all he had to do was put his head on the table and drop tears onto it, waiting till 4 pm to walk back home from that Tenashie School at Ako Adjei, Osu, to main town La and then Palm Wine Junction – when it wasn’t John and Charles Wesley’s Lent. In all of that, we had been religiously taught to sing ‘When I grow old, I shall be a teacher (or a nurse);’ ‘A teacher, a teacher, a teacher (not politician) I shall be.’
Politics as a vocation never existed. Ask JA Kufuor or the ghost of industrialist Dr. Safo Adu. Even for such distinguished citizens, it was service to God and country, though we had insignificant exceptions in the UP stock, like RR Amponsah, got caught by a Commission of Inquiry.
Probity and Accountability
When the Provisional National Defence Council was almost exiting, it lost a few of its top appointees to Emil Short’s probe. Colonel Osei-Wusu and koomini…Later, after the 2000 defeat, the number increased to include now ‘Saint’ Tsatsu T. By the time JEA Mills was being trailed and hunted from within, allegations of aircraft being bought and choppers flying in ‘Buy One and Get One Free’ were, for instance, doing the rounds…Then SADA, Subah, Gyeeda, the Keta Sea Defenc, Bus Branding etc…And then the Founder Papa J himself broke all sense of camaraderie, pointing fingers at NDC fingerlings who carried cocoa sacks filled with one hundred dollar bills to buy Legon mansions. They had not been told that their icons had carried cocoa from farm gates into haulage trucks and into warehouses at the Tema Harbour to be shipped outside Ghana for cash to pay hungry workers.
Today, the vogue is for self-styled award-winning and Ejura journalists to get into bed with the fat cats in unholy partying, oblivious of the values that had been held sacred by the Elizabeth Ohenes, Cameron Duodus, Adwoa Yeboah-Afaris, Kwesi Yankahs, Henry Oforis, Thommy Thompsons, Eben Quarcoos and our silent contemporaries into the close of the JAK dispensation. And we ask when the betting game and mercenary activity, lottery and unholy complicity between journalists and politicians would end.
Promotion and propaganda
I recall that when World Bank darling of the mid 80s, Kwesi B, decided to run against Prof JEA Mills in 2004, his aides went to one leading independent paper and dropped a promotional package that suited the editorial culture of that paper. That material, of course, came with some modest hamper, though it was Kwesi B’s profile that was compulsively appetizing content that compelled the paper to publish the material. That, of course, is certainly different from waking up one morning after meetings with a Sam Ampofo, or prompting a ‘Smart’ or ‘Ejura’ journalist to spike the President or former President Mahama, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Sam Jonah, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor or Prophet Adom Kyei-Dua and ‘Papa’ Duncan Williams.
Such habits and acts are clearly criminal and attract justifiable curses that must compel even our ‘dog’ doctors to react in righteous fury. The curse of the times is that we are under a siege from some demented politicians and their tin soldier allies in the loony social media – without clear content and vision; without a future and mission, except mercenary motive. Intriguingly, it is now no longer nokofioo, but gargantuan sums that elevate rats from the rat race to princely status.
Drunks and brawling wives
When we were kids growing up, you only heard such noises from market scenes and brawling wives without serious stations in life, lost-hopes and drunks. I recall one husband and wife who were always griping with other folk and fighting in other compounds, with their under-20 kids joining the fights over trifles. Later in life, I counted only the husband and father alive; wife and all five children, including one young soccer star who could have played Accra Hearts of Oak or Kumasi Asante Kotoko, exiting this life before 40 – eaten up by diseases like stroke and diabetes. But I also recall at secondary school a gossipy Form Two girl who had falsely reported a senior girl to a housemistress for hard flirting with the School Prefect. It turned out, when the headmaster investigated, that it was she who had gotten pregnant by a Form Two boy and was bleeding from a poorly managed abortion that almost took her life. When the school head decided to look for her Mum, it came to light that she had fled to Abidjan, drenched in debt from credit-and-abscond trade tactics. Like Mum, like daughter! (I’ve been trying to find out which baby-bags and homes dropped such scumbags on our society).
It is sad that those who gave us values to chew on at a time we accused ourselves of being a corrupt people who needed a gamut of values to push the nation to the next level became the very ones whose sons and daughters and grandchildren mired themselves neck-deep in acts that continue to dent the image of the nation. Sadly, again, it is these who are exploding their veins over lies and propaganda, while they plot to loot our treasury.
Do we have a future? Yes, we have, as long as the thieving, complicit community are retreating. What is important is that we appreciate that they are paying back what they have looted, without protests and appeals to higher Courts. Putting them in the cooler for three and four years, instead of fifteen and twenty, is the way to pamper them and encourage criminality. But we can stop them and some of our own, through application of tight, robust structures. They are few; we [decent Ghanaians] are many!
PS: Our honourable MPs must prove to us and our development partners that they are not all Tom Sawyers and Huckleberry Finns.