THE UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES OF THE FRUSTRATIONS OF DAILY LIFE
By CAMERON DUODU
If you want to study what is going on in real life in a country, one of the best ways of doing it is to study the crimes committed in that society.
For instance, we have all got stories to tell about ‘Dumsor. But are we all aware that Dumsor is creating a new type of criminal, who seizes upon our current frustrations to exercise his cleverness?
Please read this story from the Daily Graphic of 3 August 2015 for verification:
QUOTE: “Three suspects believed to be behind the theft of power generating sets at Spintex and Baatsona in Accra have been arrested by the police. They … use a truck fitted with a crane, to steal from generating-set dealer shops, on the pretext of being hired by the owners of the shops to fix the generators, which they claim have minor faults….At about 8 a.m. on July 27, 2015, the manager of Sulas Enterprise, a dealer in generating-sets, reported to the police that some men had used [this modus operandi] to steal two generating-sets, a 20 KVA and a 10 KVA Kipor, from the premises of his company …..The two sets were valued at GHc45,000 and GHc35,000 respectively. Police intelligence led to the arrest of [a man] who had displayed the generating-sets for sale at Lapaz, in Accra, for GH¢8,000 each.Police investigations showed that though the generators had been sold to a buyer in Kumasi who had paid through mobile money, the [suspects] were yet to transport the sets to the buyer…On July 26, 2015 between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m., [one of the suspects had gone] to the Kakari Shopping Centre, on the Spintex Road, where Sulas Enterprise was located, with a crane truck and told the security personnel that he had been hired by the owner of the company to pick up some generating-sets for servicing. [He] then sent the generating sets to [another of the suspects] at the Mannet Junction on the Spintex Road, who also called [the third suspect] at Agbogbloshie, informing him about the generating- sets which were up for sale.[A potential purchaser was then called] in Kumasi and told … about the sets… [This man] agreed on GH¢8,000 as the price for the sets…[The police further revealed that the the brains of the syndicate] was [already] wanted by them in connection with a [similar] case where he was said to have hired a Kia Rhino truck, fixed with [a] crane … to steal generating-sets on the premises of [a] Money-lending Company on the Spintex Road, on July 21, 2015. The truck happened to be the same truck used for stealing the generating-sets from the other companies. UNQUOTE
A bit of a rambling story, agreed. But you get the picture, don’t you? It’s an “opportunistic” crime created by the current Dumsor conditions. Criminals are adept at hitting the populace where it is most vulnerable and therefore least likely to be suspicious. Generators are the hot subject of conversation, so what’s strange if someone says he’s been told to collect generators for servicing?
Indeed, criminals can be even cleverer than astute business entrepreneurs, for whereas an entrepreneur takes time to identify a line of business that will earn him good profits, a criminal only needs to locate the current “demand” psychology of the society in order to profit from it.
When generators are selling for between C35 and C45,000 each, who is going to be too interested in the source of supply, if offered one for C8,0000? Especially, if it is delivered in broad daylight by “a truck fitted with a crane”? That is the normal business of the people, the prospective buyer will say to himself. They are not hiding anything.
So, even though the stuff is relatively cheaply-priced, it must be legit. Maybe the owner is short of cash and wants to make a quick kill. “God has heard my cries;” says the purchaser. “Now my family and I can go to bed in air-conditioned comfort and also keep the things in our freezer fresh.”
The story reminds me of the kalabule days (from about the mid-1970s to the early 1980s). My young children were about to go back to their boarding schools at the end of their long vacation, and, like other parents, I was thrashing about everywhere, looking for soap, tinned fish, toothpaste and other things that they could store in those ubiquitous “chop-boxes” and use as needed.But there were long queues everywhere. Sometimes, even when one managed to collect a “chit” from a storekeeper, there was nothing to collect with the “chit” when one got to the warehouse to which one had been directed! Imagine driving in the traffic to a warehouse, queuing again, presenting one’s chit, and being told, “Sorry, we are out of supplies. Try next week!” Next week? The kids are going off in two days’ times!After one such unrewarding run-around, I was, of course, in a grumpy mood, and I just unloaded my frustrations onto a respected guy with whom I happened to be talking.He gave me the sympathy I needed. He did more: he immediately volunteered to ask his wife to get me something called, I think, “Tom Brown” (porridge powder made from roasted corn, I believe).“My wife knows a shop owner. She can get you a bag.”A bag?A bag of anything was worth its weight in gold in those days when there was a shortage of everything.I asked, “How much would a bag cost?” (I had never bought the said “Tom Brown” before in my life!)The guy went downstairs to talk to his wife and he came back with a figure. I eagerly produced the money.,That was the last I ever saw of the money.But no “Tom Brown” was ever produced either!I was too ashamed to tell my wife that I had been “had”.
Bad mistake. For almost simultaneously, a very good “friend” of hers (she used to sit up all night, sewing very nice clothes for this ”friend!) told her she knew someone who could get us a bag of rice.
What? A bag of rice?
She thanked her lucky stars!
Without telling me, my wife promptly gave her the money. Again, neither rice – nor money – was ever produced.
I shook my head when my wife related the story to me later. I understood what had happened only too well.
Two friendships had thus been destroyed in the course of a single holiday period. Was it any wonder that the country soon encountered serious political difficulties?
Our shattered inter-personal relationships bore eloquent witness to the way things were falling apart in the society. The ruthlessness we were experiencing at the personal level was to be reflected at the political level, in a manner that few of us could ever have associated with “peaceful Ghana.”
Even in our worst nightmares.
Just imagine what could have happened to the people who defrauded us if we had been stupid enough to report them to some of the sadistic “revolutionaries” who rampaged all over Ghana in later years, preaching “justice”? How could wed have lived with our consciences if something terrible had happened to them — at the instance of we, their victims?
Yes, fraudsters and confidence-trick artists thrive best when a society is undergoing unusual stresses.
But, indeed, it isn’t only in the area of crime that frustration can cause acute vulnerability. Stress can also undermine our intellectual and moral standards. And thereby, our self-confidence.
Right now, for instance, some sensible people I know are cheesed off over a report that Kenya is to construct a 900-kilometre railway line to link Nairobi with the Kenyan port of Mombasa. A branch line will also hook Uganda into the system. It will cost over $13 billion.
Guess who will be financing and building the railway?
Yes – the Chinese.
What my fellow Ghanaians who have been discussing this issue want to know is this: how could the Kenyans, who got their independence six years after we had got ours, have crafted such a complex plan and convinced the Chinese of its efficacy to such an extent that they have agreed to finance and build this railway, when we in Ghana can’t even get the Chinese to complete a mere section of our main arterial road – the Accra-Kumasi road – for us?
The answer has nothing to do with the number of years either country has been independent for. If you get the Chinese to agree to finance a project, and you renege on paying the Cedi counterpart funds which you had agreed to make available for the project, and instead, spend money on political projects such as GYEEDA or SADA, how can the Chinese take you seriously?
If you show that you are not committed to your own development, why should they be?
Go to China and see them at work on their own projects. Then you will understand what real commitment is.
Come to that, if you ask the Chinese for a new loan, and they look at your Annual Financial Statement, and conclude from it that you are already overburdened by debt (which constitutes over 60% of your annual GDP) will they provide you with new money? No – they will deduce that you do not know the meaning of fiscal discipline.
Yes, other people take you seriously when you plan seriously and execute those plans with single-minded commitment. That is how the Chinese got their train system, part of which is among the fastest in the world.
With all that experience, the Chinese have convinced themselves that the Kenyans have the required level of commitment to enable the system to be built for them, just as the Tanzanians and the Zambians demonstrated enough seriousness to get the Tazara Railway built for them by the Chinese in the mid-1970s. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TAZARA_Railway )
With us, the Chinese probably look at us in sheer bemusement: how can we be taken seriously when we are not even able to present the Chinese with a realistic, workable plan that they can back, to end the ghastly galamsey nonsense that is destroying our rivers, farms and environment, and threatening the future of cordial relationships between our two countries?