Friday, October 11, 2013

The Academic, The Monarch and The Spirits

Dear Brutus,

There is a good reason why I joined the PAMBASS in my teens.  Fighting was forbidden for a PAMBASS. Too many of the neighborhood chaps along the corridors of Accra New Town and Kotobabi were too eager to settle  misunderstandings with their fists. In these circumstances, you must be well equipped to dish out blows and take them in equal measure. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t endowed with those muscles and tissues that thrive in such environments. Wearing my PAMBASS cap was a dignified way out of a duel. When I receive the first blow, I simply walk away, ostensibly, because I am a PAMBASS. I am spared the follow-up punches which graduate in severity as the number increases. I learnt very early not to use being a Christian  as the reason for not fighting back. If I do, the dude will demand the other cheek for the second slap to fulfill scripture.  

Even fools understand that they must pick their fights. It is sheer idiocy to pick one with a spirit. The great Chinua Achebe in the book, Arrow of God, told the story of a chap who beat every wrestler in town and threw a challenge to the spirits. They sent him his Chi (personal god) and he was floored one time. I don’t know what came over that smart dude, Jacob, in the book of Genesis. He struggled with an angel all night and left the battle ground with a crocked hip. Sadly, you do not always pick the fight, the fight picks you. That is the situation confronting the Ghana Institute of Languages in Accra. The learned director of the institute Dr. John Rex Gadzekpo, told a radio station “We have been having very serious nocturnal strange happenings at the Institute of late. It’s becoming very alarming, threatening the life of security guards. I am talking about ghosts and evil spirits who have been coming, banging doors and struggling over doors with the security guards and at times strangling them…”. Brutus, this is no laughing matter. The erudite gentleman consulted all the knowledge that earned him a permanent head damage (PhD), and came to this conclusion, “…We do not know what is happening. It is exoteric and cannot be handled normally…”.  So for what his long years of education hid from him, he got a traditional  priest, who I suspect has wasted less time in the classroom, to expose and exorcise the spirits. Some guards told reporters that the ghosts have asked for a fowl, but Dr. Gadzekpo went a step better. He has  sacrificed a whole goat to quench the insatiable appetite of some bad ancestors who still demand meat from the grave. I don’t envy the Institute’s accountant. How will he describe this transaction in the books? What will be the reaction of auditors if he opens a ghost account? Parliament’s account committee will be livid at the sight of that entry.

Brutus, while Dr. Gadzekpo was working hard to extricate his Institute from the grips of the spirits, some loonies have unwittingly walked into a big fight with all manner of deities. It all began a few weeks ago when an obscure online publication called the New Free Press made a ludicrous accusation that the great traditional ruler of the Asantes, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II was a conduit for a 5 million US Dollar bribe to sway the verdict in the supreme court ruling that affirmed President Mahama’s victory over Nana Akuffo Addo in the 2012 election. If you rule out mischief, anybody with a modicum of common sense should realize that the publication wasn’t worth the bytes it occupied on computer memories. But some chaps in Kumasi (capital of Asante Region) of all places, went on radio, obviously possessed by Gbeshie, and elevated the online thrash into a publication that was worth a discussion.  After doing what we do best in Ghana- talk, talk, talk- the original authors of the publication remain unknown and cannot be held to account.

 I am particularly pained by the fact that with all the IT knowledge in Ogyakrom and the coercive power of the state, we cannot smoke out some un-savvy cyber hoodlums who manifest mischief by sending emails to Ghanaweb. Some have even suggested that these chaps are ghosts. But the great monarch is having none of it. The power of our traditions and the richness of our historic culture are vested in our traditional authorities. If anybody should know a thing or two about spiritual kokonsa, the glue that binds our mindsets to ancestral thinking, it is our traditional authorities.  You see, Ogyakromians have always been suspicious about technology. The highlife musician AB Crentsil believes these iron birds that fly people across oceans is nothing short of white witchcraft. The telephone is a lying rope (ahomatrofo).The monarch will not allow miscreants practicing white witchcraft to get away with it by parading as ghosts. So he tree-struck (duabor) them. It has widely been reported in Ogyakrom dailies that the Powerful One has summoned these chaps before three different spirits- The smaller gods, the golden stool and the Omnipotent himself. My brother, these chaps are finished. Their path to appeal a verdict has been blocked because different hierarchies of spirits were co joined to arbitrate at the same time. I strongly suspect that common law will frown at this behavior, probably describing it as triple jeopardy, which is not fair to the cyber kubolo boys.

That is the difficulty in relying on the gods. The rules are spiritually discerned and the human brain has no capacity to rationalize them. We will not even know it, when a verdict is given. This is unfortunate because I want to see justice done. Nonetheless, I will keep my ears to the ground. After the date of the tree-strike, when I hear that the fingers of a man are withered without cause, and that man once used a computer or other devices to send an email, I will know that the gods have struck.

These miscreants have successfully united an academic and a monarch in the palace of the gods. Perhaps the meeting place is more important than the union.  Our ancestors have been there several times before us. Those visits were a powerful line of defense against invading colonizers from Europe who sought to enslave us on our land. The outcome is enshrined in our history. But the similarity between the visits and my behavior in the eighties at Accra New Town is not lost on me. Just as I joined the PAMBASS to abdicate my fighting duties, a visit to the gods is a perfect alibi that excuses us from finding human ways to overcome difficult challenges.

Soo long


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bayiee kɔɔɔɔɔ V - Gbeshi, the demon of the airwaves

Brutus, my brother from another mother,

My posts on the operations and activities of Ogyakrom bayiesphere have remained dry after death visited my house and took away my beloved Mum right in my face ten months ago. I have spent those months trying to decide if her demise was orchestrated by the wicked witches of my hometown. I’m happy to report that I haven’t seen a single old lady in the village worthy of the bayie title, they all look like Mama, full of love and bearing the scars of the sacrifices they made for their families. Far from this wonderful report, what really jolted me out of literary stupor are events in the Apex court of Ogyakrom where a demon was unmasked in broad daylight.

Brutus, It is understandable that   Tony Abbott,  the aspiring  prime minister for Australia, became the butt of jokes all over the world when he hit a bum note on the campaign trail bydeclaring that the most intelligent chaps on earth are not “suppository of all wisdom” . After all, what has wisdom got in common with agitations of the rectum? But for political watchers in Ogyakrom, Abbott’s vocabulary accident sits well with our observations. When it comes to the functions of the mouth and the butt, there is no grey area, but this fact seems to be lost on our politicians. Listen to them on radio and you get the impression they are sitting on their mouths and talking from their bums. They are so messed up that when they suffer diarrhea, it is in the mouth, and they flaunt the product on the airwaves like Ussain Bolt will show off his gold medals. So when NPP challenged the results of the 2012 election at the highest court of the land, party apparatchiks got into their elements, they threatened fire and brimstone if they didn’t get their way, they descended like a ton of bricks on people who shared contrary views, state institutions were not spared the vile of their tongues, and just as always, they were a law onto themselves. They come from all political parties, they are old and they are young, they are rich and they are miserable paupers angling for opportunities, they are experienced professionals and they are fresh graduates from the political mill of our tertiary institutions, they are well known and they are nondescript members of society, but once they have access to radio and other media, the value is the same.

The NPP General secretary affectionately called Sir John is unquestionably one of the heavy weights of the Radio Lords. He is knighted in vituperation. His claim to fame is being a rural champion in the company of nobles. He misjudged badly when he decided to take on the president of the supreme court of the land. In impeccable Twi on radio, he dissed the court and took the man to the cleaners in ways that till date, no orator have found words to justify. The law Lords responded by moving the radio Lord out of his radio habitat to their court room for a show down. Brutus, it wasn't a great sight to behold. The venue was not strange to Sir John, he is a learned man of more than thirty years at the bar  who has been summoned to appear before nobles to defend rural activities. He was challenged to defend his effusions before his peers, and that was an impossible act. “How can you sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” Yes, he is an amphibious animal with presence both in the village market square and the King’s court, but his defense is in the square not the court.  He was caged. He couldn't fall on his rural friends, many of whom were holding vigil and interceding with the almighty on his behalf.  There was only one strategy, shut up and allow one of his friends from nobility to deal with the nobles, while he takes every blow that comes his way without a single response. It wasn't in his DNA not to talk back, but if he wanted to be at his daughter's wedding the next day, that was his only chance.

In Accra New Town where I grew up, if you mess with the wrong crowd and you hear ‘buga’ it means you were about to get a good beating. With this knowledge, I didn't understand why Sir John will want to mess up with a name that sounds like buga,  no matter how those four letters are arranged, even if it is preceded by Atu. When the Law Lord was through with Sir John, Oh my God!  As it is said in twi, “nipa nse hwee” or in pidgin english  “Man Never Is”. The sight of the arrogant, cut to size and brought down to earth where we all belong reminded me of the message to Belshazzar in the Old Book, “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting”. In fact his lawyer, Mr. Ayikoi Otoo, who literally begged to deny him an official number in Nsawam prison, admitted that Sir John had seen his real size. It was in one of those moments of pleading that one of the Law Lords got inspired and asked Ayikoi Otoo if he has found out from his client, what besets him, when he gets transformed from a human being to a loose cannon tin god on the airwaves. That is when the revelation happened. Lawyer Otoo immediately got filled with the spirit of discernment, and he named the demon- It is called Gbeshi! The revelation took spiritual watchers by surprise and they asked, Is Lawyer Otoo also among the prophets? Vagalas Kanko is a preacher who specialized in identifying and naming demons. I recall when he visited us in the Vandal City and got chaps like Egbert Faibille and Clement Apaak upset by calling the names of the demons that drove them to glorify Bacchus.  Not even Vagalas succeeded in naming Gbeshi before he was jailed for fraud. If it glorifies God to reveal through lawyers and not the Seers, Praise Be to God!

Brutus, do you know how many people have tried to exorcise this demon from our society? Some radio stations tried walking people out of programs to whip them into line, Media foundation for West Africa tried to name and shame them, The peace council tried talking peace into their conscience, the Ghana police tried the law of fear and panic, the attorney general’s office even tried the law of terrorism, but the radio lords only got bolder and more outrageous. But since the day Gbeshi was unmasked, the airwaves have been enjoying some serenity we have yearned for in many years. Now all a radio presenter has to do to sanitize his program is to say, In the name of Buga, Gbeshi come out! And he is gone.

I know that demons occupy a higher position than witches. They are more difficult to get rid of. I have a strong feeling that Gbeshi will bounce back with fury and vengeance after the Supreme Court gives its ruling. Didn't Jesus Christ say they come back seven times stronger? I fear that in those days to come, when you say ‘Come Out, Gbeshi!, it will respond,  ‘Atu I know buga I know, but you, who are you?’ Our challenge as a nation is, how do we get rid of Gbeshi for good? The answer is in the heart of Men where the powers of demons are curtailed.

So long my brother….

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Avoidable Debate

Tuesday 30th October 2012 was another landmark in the development of our democratic process. On this day, in the northern regional capital, Tamale, the sitting president squared off with three other ‘perspirants’ for the right to occupy his seat for the next governing cycle in the IEA Presidential Debate (I). Millions of Ghanaians had the chance to assess the candidates as they were pressed to take off the propaganda veil from the beautiful manifestos.

The alumni of University of Cape Coast (UCC)  must have been proud on the day that the presidential debate was moderated by two of their own, Professor Naana Opoku Agyemang, a former Vice chancellor of the university, and Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, the host of Joy FM’s flagship super Morning Show. The Prof wielded the big stick to whip organizers, candidates and   sometimes unruly audience into line, and Kojo brought his experience interviewing subject experts on radio to bear on the discussion with great follow-ups. It doesn’t look like the UCC is exploiting the marketing value of the occasion as there is no mention of the event and the role played by their alumni on their website seventy-two hours after the debate.

Beauty they say lies in the eyes of the beholder, but I also discovered that a debate lies in the colour of the party flag. It is easier to convince a London health inspector that grass cutter meat has nothing to do with rats than to get party people to accept that their candidates didn’t fare well in the debate. The only un-contested outcome of the debate is the abysmal performance of the PNC candidate, Hassan Ayariga. In fact, some party people have sought to ridicule candidates of rival parties by placing them squarely in the Ayariga bracket.

 I do not believe there can be any impartial ranking of candidates’ performance by sampling views from Ghanaians. Many minds have simply been made up, their candidates won before the debate began. Ironically, the only winners in this debate are the small minority of Ghanaians who approached the debate with no winner preconceived. Even among this group, there cannot be unanimity on who won the debate, because different people seek different outcomes in such contest.
For me, it is lamentable that the candidates for such high office do not accord facts and figures, their proper place in such an exercise. This failure makes the debate “avoidable” (apologies to Hassan Ayariga)

Not surprisingly, President Mahama was the best candidate in the numbers department. He provided solid numbers in answering questions on debt financing, education, and the economy. It is a peck of incumbency that he would have access to all the nation’s numbers, but he still had to put them together to make his points. However, the mess with how much it costs us to train doctors in Cuba is yet to be resolved conclusively. But that is the great thing about putting the facts out in figures- we can always interrogate your ideas and hold you to account. The President also failed to give projections when he stated how much they will invest in agriculture. The investment is only justified by the outcome, and it is only proper to give us the expectations underpinning the investment. Again in the area of Agriculture, he seemed to have misunderstood what percentages represent. He attempted to justify the fallen growth rate in agriculture by providing nominal figures that didn’t help us to appreciate the decline, a fact that was pointed out by Dr Sakara. In any case, the President told us not to get worried about the decline, because it is a fishy matter. Perhaps we will adjust by switching from fish to bush meat but unfortunately the other negative contributor he mentioned is forestry, which may suggest that we may have problems with bush meat. , Blaming God for the energy crisis rather than poor strategic planning took some shine out of the eloquence with which he delivered the work in progress to fix the problem.   

My biggest problem with the NDC campaign strategy is that they spent too much time scrutinizing NPP’s free SHS promise that they forgot to market their own message. The message that free SHS is impossible is louder than any message they have put out. So great was his focus on free SHS that president Mahama at a point in the debate confessed that he believed in free SHS, while debunking its usefulness.

 The NPP’s Nana Akuffo Addo made perhaps the most audacious promises, but he must pay a little more attention to the numbers. On BBC Hard Talk program, he would not mention the number underpinning the free SHS promise because it was an epiphany whose glory can only manifest in Ghana to Ghanaians. Since then he has failed to make the numerical revelation glow as bright as the eloquence with which the promise is delivered. At the debate, he claimed the money for the program will gash out of the oil fields in the western region of Ghana. I’m beginning to suspect that Nana was a reluctant student who was dragged to the Math class kicking and cursing, but that would be quite strange for a graduate of economics. What is even more curious is why an astute lawyer of his caliber will place such low premium on referencing. When the President questioned the source of some of his figures, he said they were caught in the global web called the internet. He failed to tell us the source of his unemployment data that suggested that one –sixth of unemployed people have stopped looking for jobs. With the right figures and proper sources, he would have made the debate between him and Mahama on NHIS and Cuba funding for doctors more exciting. On a couple of occasions he wandered away from the questions seeking solace in the failure story of the NDC government. 

To many neutrals, Dr. Abu Sakara won the debate, but he has seen enough spectacular failures of his beloved CPP at the polls to understand that at these debates, he must far out-perform his brilliant viva voce that earned him his PhD  if he will make any impact in this year’s election. He was forceful with his ideas and particularly brilliant on agriculture, but on the other hand, he sounded naïve. He has so far proven that he is a fine academic with great theories about the social contract that lack practical foundation.  He blamed the frequent changes in democratic governments for slowing down the pace of our development, and attributed Malaysia’s success story to continuity in government. For that reason he wants the NDPC entrenched in our constitution to ensure continuity. He seemed to have forgotten that around the period of Malaysia’s development, Ghana also had one government for almost twenty years but it didn’t reflect in our development. He almost swore that Ghana needed free education but here again, the numbers were missing and the sources of finance taken for granted. He is not a fan of the maxim, “private sector is the engine of growth”, and seemed ready to rebuild state enterprises all over again but said little to convince anybody that they will work this time round. He eloquently expressed what we should have done with regards to energy in the past years, but here again, the figures were locked out of the debate.  I would have been impressed with some background research that would explain why we failed, and some ingenious plans to energize our energy supply and distribution system and more importantly how much is required. Such detail will make him a more credible candidate, especially because there is a suspicion that small parties like his, lack the expertise and people to run the country.   If Mahama or Nana wins, Dr Sakara will be a great addition to their cabinet with responsibility for agriculture. That will also fill the practical gap for Sakara for the future.

If Hassan Ayariga intended to make a case for the youth in our politics, he failed woefully. When it was pointed out to him that he performed terribly at the earlier presidential encounter, he reserved a few choice words for the critics and awarded himself 85 %. I hope the mega flop  in Tamale has now convinced him he is not yet ready to be president of Ghana. He simply hasn’t got it, at least not yet. If he still insists that he is good enough, then the problem is bigger than I thought. He has a part to play in Ghana’s development, but not as the president, that would be “avoidable”. At least we know he hates free education with a passion, even though that is not what his party stands for. I am still at a loss why the PNC replaced Dr Edward  Mahama with Hassan Ayariga. Change for the sake of it?

On numbers and facts, my personal ratings are as follows:
President Mahama:        B
Nana Akuffo Addo:         B-
Dr Abu Sakara:              B-
Hassan Ayariga:             NG (Not gradable because he didn't turn up)

These grades don’t flatter our efforts to join the true middle income economies, but it will not matter too much.  The Ghanaian president is like a parent who cannot fulfill a grandiose promise to his son, so he goes to the neighbor for support. Just take note anytime some ambassadors from the other worlds visits our presidents. You won’t miss the phrase, “we hope you will continue to support our development…”. To dignify this begging process, we call the neighbors development partners. With these performances, we have put the Japanese ambassador, Chinese ambassador, British high commissioner, India high commissioner (how far will we beg?) and the others on notice. We are not sure how much we need, but with the gargantuan nature of the promises we will soon knock on your door, not cup in hand but basin on head, because these promises, they are big ooo.

PS: The IEA must think of limiting the debate to the two biggest parties in parliament. It will give candidates more time to explain their choices and the moderators more opportunity to draw attention to spurious claims. I don’t think the candidates had to stand for all those hours, they should have the liberty to stand or sit to connect to the audience.

My Blog List


Create a Website