A person cannot praise their country in peace nowadays. Having ended on this note last week: “On the other hand, join me next week as I conclusively prove that Ghana is one of the greatest countries in the world—oh, I am dead serious,” you would expect this piece to dive right into the praises. Anything short of that would make that statement, and precisely the ‘I am dead serious’ bit, come off as originally intended as a joke. Remember, we the Ghanaians are witty people, we are good with the jokes. But I wasn’t joking when I said that last week.
I was going to cite a number of White myths told us by the Caucasian during our very vulnerable times—years past. Lies which have with years, morphed into pseudo truths. One of such lies is that which pairs African countries with corruption. Utter nonsense. Yet, you are perhaps shocked by my calling this ‘truth’ nonsense because your response to it was, “Duh! But of course, we are corrupt people.” This week, debunking is what I intended to do. I was going to draw comparisons between us and the Caucasian, and most of the rest of the developed world. With case studies upon case studies, I was going to show conclusively how the White Man—the Caucasian is the original king of corruption. The Old Corruption—OG corruption; corruption that is so corrupt that it is unapologetic—apostatic.
But the discussions going on at the moment have caught my attention. “That’s why they die ‘by-heart’ ooo”. I heard one of them say. That got my attention—I had to listen. “Hoh! The ports and habour people they drop dead one by one every day. They be corrupt too much—greediness papa paa.” Another agreed in pidgin. I am not saying this. ‘They’ said it. So, if you disagree, or by chance know of any retired port and habour person who is still kicking it at age ninety-six, you may have to direct your retort at ‘them’.
Quickly, the discussions shifted. The new topic: their own selves. They complained about the economy, about the cost of petrol—uber, taxi and trotro fares (to each their own), the cost of living in general. Surprisingly, one of them says, “How I wish I could get some job at the port erh!” The rest agreed they’d want same. I cannot say for sure if what ensued was a bargain of life—you decide.
This talk of ports and habour reminded me of something, “Hey, does anyone know anyone who works at the port?” I chimed in mid-convo. They were a tad distracted, for they had shifted their attention from the port to the police. In the heat of their slights against the police, they ignored my question. I wasn’t going to give up. “Hey, does anyone know anyone who works at the port?” I said I wasn’t going to give up. I am planning on buying a vehicle and the impending duties had got me depressed all week, so I repeated once again, “Hey, does…” “Mmm no.” One of them answered “But those people can do nothing to help you ooo. It would be better if you knew a politician—an influential politician.” So, I begin sifting through my mind and my contact list. Finding none…hey, does anyone know anyone who works at the port or an influential politician? No, I wasn’t asking them, this time I am asking you. Yes, you, reading. If you do, kindly take a look at the top right corner of this page, that’s my email address right there. I will be waiting to hear from you soon.
So, what are they talking about now? Oh! the police.
“Corrupt, each and every one of them! The ‘Fix the Country’ demonstration should have started from there!” One of them said—I agreed with her. Because I had recently been to the police headquarters, you see, for a reference letter. And as you already know, there are processes (ahem! payments) involved. You already know this, so I need not mention them—erh? The Covid-spreading thumb-printing thing you have to do—with a policeman’s fingers passionately pressed against yours directing your thumb-printing. The bar soap you each have to caress and the rickety pipe you have to get water from to wash off the covid virus you (possibly) just contracted. The ‘basic’ figure you have to pay, and the subsequent one you have to add on if you want the process ‘fast-tracked.’; the go and come next weeks you have to bear if you are stubborn and don’t comply with the ‘fat-tracked’ process. What am I doing? You already know all this—I need not repeat them to you.
We the people gathered around this Monday morning having a passionate chat, some wanting to work for the greedy, corrupt port and habour, the other wanting a contact to help ease the duty-burden on their vehicle, we these people declare these above-listed people as corrupt, greedy—all the derogatory words you can think of.
The Law to Draw the Lines
Without the law, we are each beasts—to varying degrees that is. Some may out-beast others, but at the end of the day, that human urge to fulfil our needs will come to the disadvantage of others. But satisfying we must, so satisfying we would. Hence the law. To keep society sane, the law comes to the rescue. Political parties, the opponent and the incumbent are each beasts—the former in waiting; the latter, active—should the law not serve its purpose of restraining. Opposition is always loud powerless; give them power and see how silent they become—and how quickly they begin to seek their individual interests should the law fail at restraining.
Because not even God could stop his Words from being misinterpreted and misconstrued by humans for their own advantage. Not the Bible, not the Qur’an, none of these escape the human acrobatic interpretations—interpretations which at each point are to serve our own advantage. Left to our own devises we each easily resort to seeking that which we want—not ‘need’, but ‘want’.
When we—in the positions of disadvantage or ‘no-advantage’—point fingers at those taking advantage of their positions, powers, etc. we must do so knowing that we are each potentially complicit. Should we, with just a wave of the wand of fortune, find ourselves in their positions, we would find perhaps ourselves doing same—the same things we are decrying. Hence, the law. At the end of the day, it is the law that does the disciplining—it is what keeps us at our best selves.
[“These politicians are greedy! Me kraa if I get First Lady, I go chop ooo.” One of them says these two contradictory things at the same time. Because you see, the conversation had shifted from the police to the First and Second Ladies’ emoluments.]
The Interpretation Acrobatics
It is because of this that we, the people, after having had a series of turbulent political regimes, sat down and drafted, once and for all, the 1992 Constitution—the Constitution to end all Constitutions. No other Constitution is to rise, as they have done in our past, to overthrow this existing Constitution. The 1992 Constitution is a living organism, the supreme law of the land that embodies the will, aims and aspirations, and intentions of the people. It emanates from the people not the government (ahem! Here’s looking at you, Transitional Provisions). It is to guide our every national move—be it legal, political, sociological. It steers the wheel of the nation. It appoints employees to act as servants of the people. Part of these employees are the President and Vice President. It just so happens that these people have to be necessarily married. And it just so happens that throughout the course of our history, these two have been men, and their spouses—women. This same Constitution, it directs to whom the people (the employers) owe money—salaries. The President, The Vice, they get paid—their wives, the Constitution made no such provision for.
Because as any employer of yours will tell you, he/she is not responsible for paying your wife or husband, salaries. The employer doesn’t mind that it is your husband or wife that cooks for you, or that it is they that wake you up in the mornings and get you ready for work. But you say, the role of the First and Second Ladies or Gentlemen goes beyond the traditional role of husbands and wives—and you would be right in so saying…
Ask any experienced borrower—there are some things you just don’t do. If you go to someone’s house to borrow money, and you find them in funeral cloth, their eyes blood-red, you don’t go ahead and ask anyway. Perhaps any other day, your request would have been moving, the reason behind your request, touching—perhaps you would have gotten that money—on any other day. But mourning people typically are not good lenders nor givers. If anything at all, they are takers—you go to a funeral to bor nsaa. The pandemic has gotten us, people interspersed worldwide, at our worst. Citizens barely have enough to keep themselves and families afloat. It is improper to ask them to watch on as exorbitant moneys are charged to the Consolidated Fund; Consolidated Fund of which is charged to their pockets through taxes.
A national request such as this can have a ‘let them eat cake’ connotation. It creates the impression that the nation’s leaders (employers, servants—if we are to go by the ‘technical’ terms) do not see the funeral cloths the populace are donning. Perhaps the man sleeping on the streets of Accra, under a bridge, to them, is, due to advancements of science and technology, in fact sleeping in an invisible mansion. Perhaps by ‘let them eat cake’, they believe we actually have cake to spare.
It doesn’t matter if your political party begins with an ‘N’ or an ‘N’, there are certain things that just border on ‘nonsense’. (Pardon me, I shouldn’t have said ‘nonsense’. I just wanted to play on the ‘Ns’.)
We are guardians of the Constitution; we are supposed to act as such. And as the preamble of the Constitution reads:
“We the People of Ghana, in exercise of our natural and inalienable right to establish a framework of government which shall secure for ourselves and posterity the blessings of liberty, equality of opportunity and prosperity… In solemn declaration and affirmation of our commitment to; Freedom, Justice, Probity and Accountability, the Principle that all powers of Government spring from the Sovereign Will of the People…”
And I particularly like Article 1:
“The Sovereignty of Ghana resides in the people of Ghana in whose name and for whose welfare the powers of government are to be exercised in the manner and within the limits laid down in this Constitution.”
These Declarations we, the people, made in our Supreme Law (the 1992 Constitution) are not to be construed along political lines. So then, initiatives of governments—past and present, and in this particular case, one that seeks to change the legal reality by exercising powers outside “the limits laid down in this Constitution”, must be so done for the ‘welfare’ of the people.
And don’t get me wrong, I understand, first-hand, the harsh economic effect of the pandemic. I can understand because I had, prior to the pandemic, never had Indomie before. I said I found the smell nauseating—those were my exact words. Nauseating (mbrofosem) but as the pandemic heightened and we found ourselves camped in our individual homes, I walked to a shop nearby and asked, “How much is Indomie.” She responded, “1 Cedi-Fifty Pesewas, 2 Cedis-Fifty Pesewas…” I didn’t let her finish, I said, “Please give me one—of the 1 Cedi-Fifty Pesewas.” So, I can understand how the Presidential Committee on Emoluments for Article 71 Officeholders, perhaps feeling empathetic towards these distinguished ladies—the First and Second, came together to decide on lending them a hand. After all, didn’t a group of Americans start a Go-fund Me to financially support Meghan and her husband Harry, when they came on TV complaining that they were no longer getting paid for being royals? I wouldn’t presume that it is Indomie the Committee intends to help the nation’s First and Second Ladies with. If it is, I would like to humbly point out that one does not need that much for Indomie.
You can tell from the statement released by First Lady Rebecca Akuffo-Addo that she understands the funeral politics. Not only is she desisting from borrowing from the aggrieved, but she’s also planning on booying nsaa.
Pardon me, but all this talk calls to mind the nation’s premier mouths and bellies—always requiring feeding. These pastors who whenever they find themselves almost broke begin to hear the Holy Spirit—directing them to take offerings and pledges from congregants. The nation’s Presidents and Vices—present and future—should never aspire to be like the preachers. Presidents and Veeps, beware; you are barking up on the wrong tree. Because these pastors, their boss is God—supposedly. Yours is the people. God’s judgement comes in the afterlife; yours comes now—while you are ‘wide-alive’.
But I must say that I seem to be on the right track. If the people make a mistake of becoming dormant as guardians of the Law and allow for just about anything to happen on their watch, the President and Preacher lines will become even more blurred, and the citizens will begin to pay taxes like offertories. You know how sometimes you go to church, and you are surprised with not two, but three rounds of offerings—that is exactly how taxes would become. If this scenario is to prevail in the country, then I, being in the Business & Financial Times, Prophet Yao Afra Yao and having some two or three congregants here, can quickly, after adding Dr. to my name, go the ultimate mile, and shoot for the Presidency. After all, wouldn’t it be different names, same office?
The Joke Becomes Truth (Permit me to wax philosophic)
The world is yet to see the development of a norm—of women Presidents, Prime Ministers, Head of States. The narrative, to this date, has been this: the man is the President, and by his side, a woman, an accompaniment. It doesn’t matter how brilliant and successful this woman is or was in her field. This woman is always at his side, well-dressed, smiling dutifully—his wife. Even in the supposed sociologically and politically far-advanced world—a country like United States of America; the country that is always on a worldwide tour, telling other nations how to live their lives, even in that country, this narrative has unfolded for 232 good years.
The endless women empowerment, girlchild education, and the general women/girl-targeted initiatives First Ladies upon First Ladies have undertaken and are expected to undertake during their spouses’ terms in office, this is what it is for—to enable women rise to the occasion traditionally earmarked for men. And one of such ‘occasions’ is the Presidency and Vice Presidency of our nation.
Let’s take a look at some jokes this Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee has necessitated. “So, Parliament of Ghana wants to pay the First Lady for cooking for the President?” One person tweeted. “It was only a matter of time before we were made to pay for the dresses, make-up, and photoshoots of our hardworking First Lady [and Second Lady].” Another tweeted—as though that’s all women use their moneys for. “Apart from giving us nice styles of clothes, what are the roles of being a First Lady?” Another said. “First Lady has pressured Nana Addo to pay her for being his wife from our country’s money. You still don’t have a reason to fear women?” One said in pidgin.
And so, it begins—our one-step-forward-ten-steps-backwards has begun, with a national occurrence as eventful as this. The ‘traditional female-second-place jokes is being made against the First Lady—not any lady, but the first. What becomes of the rest? A new narrative—one that borrows from a long-held, backward societal narrative—one that places women as secondary bystanders, always only taking the supportive role is re-unfolding. With these jokes the ‘woman equals First Lady, never President’ ideology is concretised in the Ghanaian brain. These jokes are going to morph into a societal commentary, a bias against women. Future First and Second Ladies now have enormous work on their hands with this women/girl-child empowerment thing, I guess. And parents with their wards, will begin wishing for their daughters, and their daughters for themselves, the positions of First and Second Ladies—the Presidency and Vice Presidency, they are going to leave for the men. And there you have it, yet another lie morphed in pseudo truth.
Now that anger has been released, and part-apologies received, we will have to take time next week, to take ourselves through the Committee’s thinking when they made these recommendations.
And yes, I had to give away the conclusion of this article in the title—I cannot handle anymore drama. I believe neither can you.
[Published in the Business & Financial Times (B&FT) - 14th July 2021]