“IF SOMEONE SHOWS YOU WHO THEY ARE, BELIEVE THEM THE FIRST TIME!”
By CAMERON DUODU
THE GHANAIAN TIMES 17/03/2015
The above quotation is attributed to Maya Angelou, the African-American writer who lived in Ghana for some time.
It is couched in the same language as our proverbs, and it is therefore possible that she got the inspiration for the saying from Ghana. For while she lived with us, she mined our culture and philosophy and sometimes put it to very good use in her work.
I am quoting Maya to make the point that at last, we seem to be getting to know why things have come to such a very bad pass in our country.
All around us, we can see signs that our elected rulers care very little about the public welfare. Dumsor dey; bad roads dey; lack of water dey; galamsey done turn rivers into mud; rundown schools dey; hospitals na turn into mortuaries.
Yet who cares? Even as we ponder what could bring this situation about, we hear that our President has told an audience of Ghanaians abroad that he has got “the dead goat syndrome”: if you cut a dead goat with a knife, it can’t feel any pain!, he is reported to have stated.
Before this, it had also been reported that our rulers believe that they’ve become like “the chicken and the hawk; no matter what the chicken does, the hawk will never be satisfied with it!”
And then, there was the video that went viral on the Internet, which showed two of our most powerful citizens dancing to a tune called, “Yenntie obiaa!” (We shall not listen to anyone!)
Now, all the sayings quoted above are symbolic of a turn of mind that borders on a fatalistic approach to life. If one is a dead goat, why should one try to fulfil the expectations of one’s fellow-citizens? All they can do is to talk. They would talk, anyhow, performance or no performance. So let them talk. Election promises? Election manifestos? Who born dog? What does a dead goat care about election manifestos?
So galamsey is destroying the sources if water? So what? Even if one brought engineers from the advanced countries to de-silt the rivers and re-align them so that they could flow freely and provide clean, potable water once again; even if one restocked the rivers with fish; even if one positioned solders at all the access points which the galamsey operators could use to go and carry out their wrecking activities in the rivers, would the residents appreciate it? When did the hawk ever appreciate the fine dancing of a chicken?
Religious ministers say they can solve the dumsor problem in 3 months! People are calling on the Attorney-General to appeal against the Woyome acquittal. Others claim that some former party bigwigs should have been charged alongside Woyome and that Woyome was acquitted because these people were not charged with him. Shall we listen to all this? If we listened to everyone, what time would we have left to govern the country? Shrug. Shrug. Shrug.
Ei, na so, eh? So because your little child cries every morning until it is fed, you will not feed it? If you feed it today, it will cry again tomorrow morning, right? So why feed it today only for it to cry again tomorrow morning?
That is unwise, isn’t it? If anyone treated a child on the basis of that philosophy, he or she could be reported to the police and I am sure they would charge him under the law that prescribes punishment for the cruel treatment of an infant, not so?
Or – because a motor vehicle can be involved in an accident, you won’t travel with one – no matter how urgent it is for you to travel? Then, how could you keep your relationships alive? Fulfil your duty to members of your family who might not be resident where you live and yet who need to see you from time to time?
If your father and mother had approached life in that spirit, would they have been able to earn enough money to feed you and look after you, until you reached adulthood? Even when you became an adult, didn’t your parents keep an eye on you, offering you advice here and there, and buoying up your self-confidence by patting you on the back whenever your performance rose to, or even exceeded, their expectations?
But family matters apart, there is an even more important concern: and that is the issue of leadership. To be at the head of a government is a great responsibility. In certain countries, politicians cannot move up the ladder just like that – without having experienced the art of governing at a lower level. Many MPs in the UK and Congressmen in the USA start their political careers at the local government level by becoming councillor in their local government area or precinct. If they work hard, they become popular in their communities and then catch the eye of the political power-brokers at the local level. It is then that they are then sponsored for positions at a higher level, from city mayor, right up to the national stage.
So by the time a person becomes a national legislator, he would have been involved in politics for quite some time. He would have garnered experience that teaches him that although success in politics requires a tough skin, it also demands quite a bit of subtlety. He watches what he says in public, for it can be quoited back at him and make him look bad to the electorate.
In the more mature democracies, the political parties have “”elders” who are essentially “watchmen” or “guardians” at both the local and national levels, and who will call one of their legislators to order if he/she makes unwise or indiscreet statements.
It is true that in the advanced democracies, too, money plays a large part in determining who may, or may not be elected to higher office within a political party. But it is in each party’s enlightened self-interest to ensure that its elected officials stay acceptable and present a good “profile” to the public, because if a party’s candidates continually makes outrageous statements or misbehave in public, the parties would get tainted with the brush of their inept officials and be punished at national elections.
So it is up to the elders of each party to call the party’s leadership – from Assemblymen, District Executive Officers to Members of Parliament, and from Deputy Ministers to Ministers and the President himself – to order all the time. Those who are inept and are always slipping on “banana skins” must not be allowed to ruin the chances of those who are better at the game of politics.
When a party is in power and is in charge of national resources, it may think that the “war chest” it may have built up secretly to fight the next election will be adequate to ensure its return to power. But that often turns out to be an illusion. The electorate may take a long time to make up its mind, but make up its mind it will. In due course. Remember how Winston Churchill was booted out of office after heroically leading Britain to win World War Two?
The metaphor which our President used in his most recent speech abroad – the “syndrome of the dead goat”, is a singularly unfortunate one. For dead goat – or dead sheep – is also the term used to describe children who are very dense in school. I remember one teacher of mine constantly shouting “Human Goat!” at classmates of mine who could not answer his questions satisfactorily. Even a living goat was bad enough, as far as this teacher was concerned. What would he have said of a dead goat?
As Maya Angelou’s aphorism, quoted above, illustrates, the terms used by people to define themselves are important in helping us to understand them. We don’t need to go into the theories of Freud to dig out what he said about what lies buried deep down our sub-conscious minds and which may impel us to do things, some of which we ourselves are surprised by and cannot understand.
We do things without know why we do them? If you don’t believe me, go and book an appointment with a psychiatrist. He would confirm to you that the “real us” is hiding somewhere and always trying to come out through our actions! And Maya Angelou spotted that through her various relationships with men and women and distilled a truth out of it, which she has shared so magnificently with ut.
Our President can tell us that he “misspoke” when he said that he had got the “dead goat syndrome”.
Better still, he can demonstrate to us that he has NOT got the dead goat syndrome!
How? He could quietly call the church minister who said he could solve the dumsor problem in three months and listen to him outline his ideas. For all he knows, the church minister may have some ideas that could solve the problem not in three months but in six months.
That would still be better than what the Government has done about the problem in the past two or three years. Anyway, the President ought to perceptive enough that the church minister may not necessarily be talking about himself, but that he’s merely relaying a message from a member of his congregation, who has convinced him, through private discussions, that a good knowledge of engineering, married to sound economics, can solve the dumsor problem easily.
Even I, the quintessential non-engineer, can ask this question: what were we doing before Akosombo came on line? Did we not have adequate power for Accra, Kumase, Takoradi and the mines (for instance)? Not everything should be taken literally. So the church minister could be called or even visited and asked to outline his ideas, instead of being ridiculed.
The President could also re-energise the Anti-Galamsey Task Force and ask it to work in tandem with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Lands and Water Resources Commission to revive the rivers and streams that have been destroyed by galamsey operators throughout the country.
And he could breathe fire to the Minister of Education with regard to broken schools and schools without toilets; whilst offering assistance to our hospitals to do their work better than they are doing now.
For if he takes ownership of the “dead goat syndrome” it will only lead him and his party to one place – a dead-end.
Dead goat/sheep (odwanfun in Twi) equals dead-end.