I have not been in a rush to take up the unspeakably barbaric lynching of Maame, not Madam, Akua Denteh because, even as the jaded old saying goes, “Charity Begins at Home,” plus I have been experiencing the donor-fatigue equivalent of constantly having to write and lament these clearly preventable heinous acts of human depravity. In Ghana, the “Kabonga” may very well be the most civilized of Ghanaian humanity. We shall revisit this subject in due course (See “GHȻ 2000 Reward for Anyone with Information to ‘Killers’ of 90-Year-Old Woman – IGP” Modernghana.com 7/27/20).
Yes, we need to blame former President John Dramani Mahama because the very primitive and persistent killings of elderly Ghanaians arbitrarily branded as witches, mostly elderly women upwards of 70 years old, is the direct result of an abject lack of public education, both in the classroom and our local communities. You know, my oldest living maternal uncle, a Congo War veteran, Staff-Sgt. Emmanuel Kwabena Okwaning Sintim(-Aboagye), of Akyem-Apedwa and “Sintim Brothers” local fame, just turned 90 years old last week. I have been wondering what would have happened to him if Wofa Kwabena had been born a woman and a Gonja native, instead of a bona fide native of Akyem-Abuakwa and an Akyem-Nkronso royal. Which, of course, is not to say or imply that each and every 90-year-old woman in Gonjaland is threatened with being lynched.
The problem is clearly one of pandemic proportions, which means that it is nationally widespread, although most of the killings of elderly women gratuitously branded as witches occur in the northern half of the country. The problem can also be clearly seen to directly correlate with the level of formal education or literacy and socioeconomic status. And since the literacy rate in the so-called Five Northern Regions and their economic status significantly lag behind those of the rest of the country, it can naturally be expected that such barbaric acts of criminality as that which culminated in the stoning death of Maame Akua Denteh would be more riotously rampant in the northern half of the country.
But, of course, the practical reality is that this need not be the case, not by any practical stretch of the proverbial imagination. You see, rather than take visionary and decisive action, such as imposing the death penalty or harsh and long prison sentences on convicted criminal suspects, during the lackluster tenure of former President John Dramani Mahama, Ghanaians saw First Lady Lordina Mahama scandalously court and coddle the barbaric sentiments of the witch-hunters and the witch-killers by facilitating the unsavory and morally and psychologically unhealthy establishment of witch camps and villages, under the farcical pretext of protecting these most vulnerable and maligned members of Ghanaian society.
It has also not helped matters that the now-Candidate John Dramani Mahama has been foremost among the ranks of those kleptocratic and cynical and elitist Ghanaian politicians who have vigorously campaigned against the Akufo-Addo-implemented fee-free Senior High School Education. Mr. Mahama’s rather grotesque argument is that the more restrictive access to the critical intellectual and psychological development that the Senior High School System provides, the more qualitative will Ghana’s public education system become. The stark and harsh reality is that under the 8-year tenure of the Mills-Mahama-led government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Ghana’s public-school system witnessed the worst quality of its kind anywhere in the world.
Indeed, it was during the Mills-Mahama tenure that the Paris-based and United Nations-sponsored Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranked Ghana at the very bottom of some 145 countries around the world. It has only been with the election of President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and the auspicious and unprecedented implementation of the fee-free Senior High School System and, in particular, the generous supply of teaching and learning materials, that the quality of our country’s public education system has, finally, begun to significantly reverse the negative trend incubated over the last 30 years by the Rawlings-Tsikata Diarchy of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) junta and the Rawlings-founded and chaperoned National Democratic Congress.
The barbaric lynching of Maame Akua Denteh comes as one too many but, it nonetheless, ought to also serve as a teachable moment for the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Children and Gender Protection, and the Ministry of Information, among others, to launch a systematically sustained public education program in order to immediately and radically reverse this Seventeenth-Centuryesque trend of cultural criminality that is fast swamping Ghana’s globally admired and acclaimed culture of conscientious hospitality.
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By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York
July 28, 2020
E-mail: [email protected]