Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Tragedy of undiagnosed Madness

On the Campuses of Legon sometime in the 90s, the student body was excited by the appearance of a claimant to the SRC presidency. Even though the election was a semester away and most students were struggling to come to terms with the newly introduced grade point system which had already classified many students as average performers, news spread quickly of a midget whose pre-occupation was to let everybody know, he was the SRC president in waiting. He underlined his presidential credentials by formally adding the official title and name of a former European leader to his beautiful Ghanaian name. The student body thought he was eccentric or funny, few really gave him a dog's chance of winning an election in Legon , but as we approached election period proper, the final year students thought it would be cute to vote him into office and throw the university into chaos and they made this known especially at the observatory of the Vandal city. Even though he didn't win the election, he gave a good measure of scare to the other aspirants (ask one of President Mill's deputy's) and came a respectful second.

About a decade later, a UK based University in which the young man had gone to further his study had him checked into an institution because he was mentally sick, a claim the young man still strenuously contests. Since the claims were first published in a Ghanaian newspaper, I have wondered if the young man was a sick man begging the system for help through those unorthodox antics on campus, a situation we took for comic relief as we cheered him on to entertain us with his unimpressive additions to the English language. If that was the case, then the system failed him massively.

It is unfortunate that in Ghana and many African countries, mental illness is ignored or trivialized until the sick man strips and takes to the street in protest. Even then, you will only see the consulting room of Dr. Allotey if your family thinks the family name is worth protecting by throwing you out of public view or if you threaten the rest of society with mortal danger. The situation is no different from the way children with learning disabilities are thrown in together with the others in the same classroom with one verdict from our society- 'wa bong' or 'e sha' (he is a dunce ). But unlike their colleagues with learning disabilities, people with undiagnosed and ignored mental diseases who don't make it to the streets have an equal chance as anybody to be successful in our society with the problems intact and locked in the brain. In the past few weeks I have been convinced that if we run the rule on some African leaders , we will find one or two who belong this group.

How else can one explain the sickening craze with which guys like, Yoweri Musevini (Uganda), Teodoro Mbasogo (Equitorial Guinea), Paul Biya (Cameroun), Blaise Compaoré (Burkina Fasso), and Yahya Jammeh (Gambia) try to outdo the longevity of monarchs in their executive offices? Why does Lauren Gbagbo think his personal ambition overrides the safety and unity of Ivory Coast? Ghanaians have for many years put up with the incoherent ramblings of a revolutionary leader who pretends he is God's gift to Ghana. He seems totally oblivious of his own bloody past as he constantly accuses others of human rights violation and calls for justice. How does the octogenarian Mugabe manage to comfortably live in the past totally oblivious to present day realities? Even when he is voted out of power, he craves relevance through violence on his own people whiles pointing fingers at Britain.

When I watched the ex Egyptian president in his last address to the state, I wondered if he is one of those guys who escaped the attention of a psychiatrist. It was clear to every observer that Egyptians had had enough of this guy who had monopolized power for three decades. He couldn't stop the internal revolt by sending security forces to murder some of the protestors. When he had the chance to make a graceful exit in his last broadcast as president, he read out his CV to the people, reminded them that he was their grandfather, recounted war stories that were four decades old, and promised to deal with the people, who he had sent in the first place, who murdered the protestors. He even tried to convince the people who had massed up in the now famous Tahrir Square that they were being manipulated by foreign elements. The impudence of a dying cockroach! Ex president Mubarak was the only one who believed his address and the people made that very clear to him as he was seen off to Sharm El-Sheikh to live with his personal demons out of the public eye.

Muammar Gaddafi is another guy that never ceases to amaze me. After sponsoring revolutionaries in West African countries including Ghana, he embarked on two parallel projects to extend his dynasty. He attempted to revive Nkrumah's dream of a united Africa with him as the champion, and then he had himself crowned King of Kings of Africa by traditional rulers. Not long after, Gaddafi called for the division of Nigeria into Christian and Moslem States . I struggle to understand how a champion of African Unity can be professing for a split of one of the States he wants united. At the time of writing this piece, he has been busily killing unarmed demonstrators in the hundreds for embarking on an Egypt styled revolution to bring an end to his dynasty. Amazingly, he came out to blame Osama Bin Laden for the turmoil in Libya. Is he so naïve to believe that he can court the sympathy of the West and the rest of the world my invoking 'Osama'? Or it is the case of the demons in his head toying with him? May the Almighty strengthen the people of Libya to throw off this yoke of madness that has festered for more than four decades, Insha Allah.

Maybe Africa could be saved from leaders who operate on the fringes of lunacy by improving the mental health delivery system.

1 comment:

  1. While your categorization offer some grounds for bundling all these individuals you mentioned together, you seem to be treading on a not-so-clear path to diagnose these people.

    You didn't mention Houphouet Boigny when you mentioned Gbagbo. You didn't mention Idi Amin when you mentioned Museveni. You didn't mention the late "Emperor" Bokasa of CAR or Mobutu of Zaire, now DRC. Similarly, you didn't mention Hitler, Stalin, the architects of Apartheid and their collaborators who kept that system going. You didn't mention other Heads of State beyond the borders of Africa that would lie to send their young to War to die in thousands.

    So, I find it difficult to accept our lack of proper Mental Healthcare as the basis for the behavior you alluded to in governance.

    If such diagnosis is of any prime importance in preventing the afflicted to ascend to Power, then we would not have ever encountered any of the other Heads of State beyond Africa who acted similarly.

    Does that mean when anyone aspires to become our Nation's President, we ought to have him or her fully scanned for any previously undiagnosed Mental Health problem?

    What could as well be causing this phenomenon among our leaders could be more of a certain built-up belief of the type of people we are, what our Cultures allow, and how feeble our Social and Political Structures remain. It could as well be certain influences from outside the individuals' core identity that might have nudged him or her in that sordid path. Many a good men or women could be inculcated to behave in similar ways as you pointed out.

    We may well have an undiagnosed Mental problem. But certain other things from without might be the triggers for the behaviors you mentioned as shared symptoms.

    The diagnosis may have to continue and reach farther than you suggest.

    Long Live Ghana
    -GK Berko on Ghana Web


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