THE POST-MORTEM by CAMERON DUODU
CHAIR: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Board of Enquiry.
You all know the reason why this Board of Enquiry became necessary.
In short: a bridge that had not been officially opened was used by a heavy motor vehicle. The bridge collapsed. The truck fell into the river,. And 23 people were drowned.
It might have been thought that this was an open and shut matter. But in this country, there are always 25 million opinions waiting to be expressed on any issue that has the slightest controversy attached to it. No-one ever accepts responsibility or blame for anything. So we have to formally establish what actually happened. The secretary of the Board has passed me some notes which illustrate the point I am making:
The driver of the truck blamed the bridge-constructors for only putting tree branches and palm fronds at the entrance to stop traffic from using the bridge. He said the tree branches were too easy to move aside.
But the bridge-constructors countered that by saying that they had actually stationed men at both ends of the bridge to stop traffic from using it.
3. The men stationed at the entrances to the bridge said that they were summoned to attend a political rally on that day, and fearing that if they did not attend, they would be dismissed, they went to the rally. But after the rally they could not return early to their stations because a brass band began playing good hi-life music. And since the men could only hear hip-life music on their radios nowadays, they got nostalgic and danced until the wee hours of the morning. They blamed the women who sold akpeteshie for enabling them to become “high”.
4. The akpeteshie sellers blamed a chap they called “Minister Inflation” for causing them to sell their stuff to whoever wanted to buy it, no matter how drunk he already was. “Money is the root of all our troubles!” they protested. “We can’t buy Blue Omo because it’s so expensive. We can’t buy torchlight batteries. How are we supposed to brew aps without ogogoro ingredients?”
5. “Minister Inflation” also but the blame on “Minister Depreciation.” One paper quoted him thus: “Look, in this country, most products have inputs bought with foreign exchange. So when the Cedi does its yo-yo-callisthenics-local prices also dance kpanlogo! Rent, transport costs, yo-ker-ari and Kofi Brokeman all take their cue from the Cedi’s Olympian performance, and dance as if some Dwarfs had invaded their pubic hairs!”
6. I could give you more examples about how the blame-game is played here. For instance, “Minister Depreciation” said that the inconsistency of the Bank of Ghana’s directives to the banking sector had been giving him a feverish onslaught akin to what he imagined Ebola might produce, only that he knew not what Ebola was really like since it had only attacked Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and why was Ghana getting all stirred up about it for? And so on! You see? So, our MD is sure that the buck will be passed to him in no time at all, unless he produced a report in exactly 23 hours dead!……
1st MEMBER: Sorry to interrupt, Mr Chair., but this obsession with the number 23 interests me! First it’s the number of people who died on the truck. Now, it’s also our deadline for producing the report! Why?
CHAIR: It was our MD’s idea. He says that 23 is a special number. In hours, it almost marks a full, complete day. So it conveys an idea of urgency: he didn’t want to delay by wasting even one single day on it! Twenty-three hours! Right? And, if you like, I shall take you into in occultism too — 3 comes after 2 in numerical order. Right? And yet if you try to divide 23, you find it is – indivisible! Next, you ad-mix it with – as has been pointed out – the number of people who died in the truck! Was it a mere coincidence that they numbered 23? Huh?
2nd MEMBER: But all that was accidental? Fortuitous?
3rd MEMBER: But some accidents are ordained from Heaven? Why had Zacchaeus climbed a tree, in the Bible, when our Lord Jesus Christ was passing by? Why was Zacchaeus so short that he needed to climb a tree to be able to see Jesus?
4th MEMBER: So if you drink too much whisky on an empty stomach, whilst you are on medication, and you end up getting a stroke….?
2nd MEMBER: Please don’t let us get personal. Anyway, it was my high blood pressure….
CHAIR: Gentlemen! Gentlemen! We’ve only got 23 hours! And you are using the time bickering over metaphysical imponderables….?
3rd MEMBER: Ah? Ose dien? [What’s he on about?]
4th MEMBER: He likes to use big English words. Don’t mind him!
3rd MEMBER: But what does it mean? Metameta-ponderable-physics?
CHAIR: SILENCE! Usher! Call the Chief Engineer.
(CHIEF ENGINEER IS CALLED AND SWORN IN)
CHAIR: Chief, welcome. You know why you are here. Why did the bridge fall?
CHIEF: Stupidity was at the root of the matter.
(LOUD GASPS OF ASTONISHMENT )
CHIEF ENGINEER: The bridge fell because the concrete had not fully set when the truck was driven over it. We had blocked the road five miles away from the bridge and stationed guards near the bridge itself so as to make it impossible for anyone to drive a vehicle near the bridge. But someone wanted to hold a political rally in a village just three miles from the bridge. One truckload of the people he wanted to bus in was late. And his staff called the truck’s driver on his mobile phone and directed him to where he could take a short-cut by driving over the blocked bridge!
CHAIR: But the driver said that….?
CHIEF ENIGNEER: Do you expect anyone to tell you the truth in this matter? Especially if the truth makes him out to be a fool or an incompetent person?
No! What happens is this: First, everyone finds someone else whom he can plausibly blame. But having blamed one another, they will join together to put the entire blame on “Unfortunate, Unexpected Circumstances.” And “Unfortunate Unexpected Circumstances” will inevitably be traced to God Our Father Almighty. And when it gets there, everyone will be happy. For they will just say, “It was unfortunate but it was was God’s will. And we, as obedient children of God, must accept God’s will”.
CHAIR: Hey stenographers, you can’t write that down! That is both a religious, political and sociological rationalisation of what happened. The MD will never accept a Report based on such factors. Her wants us to establish THE FACTS. The full facts and nothing but the facts. We cannot be making political inferences or religious prognostications about such an issue.
CHIEF ENGINEER: I beg your pardon? Are you suggesting that the mindset of people does not have any relevance to their actions?
CHAIR: Mr Chief Engineer, you are trying to annoy me. I had heard that you are too known (you think you know better than anyone else) but I didn’t think you would be so brash as to bring it here to show us in public. A full report of your conduct will be made to the MD. And I am sure he will pass it on to the Board of Directors. A lot of people in the company say that you are arrogant and that you think that you should be the MD, because the MD only studied Architecture, whereas you studied Construction Engineering….
CHIEF ENGINEER: I object to that statement! It is a lie! Anyway, I am not on trial here! You are a crony of the MD and you are using this opportunity to attack my integrity so that your friend will not have any rivals in the firm….
CHAIR: Objection overruled. You can be as impudent to me as you like! We shall continue with the enquiry and write our report — without your input.
(THE CHIEF ENGINEER WALKS OUT. SOME MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC SHOUT “OUTRAGEOUS!….DELIBERATE PEROVOCATION!” AND FOLLOW HIM OUT.)
HAIR: (COVERS MOUTHPIECE OF MOBILE PHONE AND WHISPERS) He has just walked out! Ei, you know human nature paaaa! You predicted everything! Get your company lawyer to write the dismissal letter so that it will be waiting for him when he arrives back at his office. Yes – all the radio stations have been alerted and his walkout will be the main story of the say! He walked out! That will be sensational enough for them and they won’t worry about anything else. Anyway, he won’t give them an interview even if they ask him for one!…Oh you’re so kind! With the two of us working at the helm, 2 can be transformed into 3 – and then become 23!