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05.04.2005 Feature Article

Washing Dirty Linen in Public

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I intend to contribute one article a week either on SIL or as a feature article on this web site. Each such article would be a critique on our failure as a society. I hope it would serve as splash of cold water on own selves as well as our irresponsible political leaders. My task is not to offer any suggestions. I am like a witness or a visitor. Or I could be likened to a soccer fan. I can appreciate a good soccer match but I do not know how to play soccer. I can critically appreciate a poem by William Shakespeare but I know not how to write a stanza correctly I hope no-one one would consider me to be self-sanctimonious. It is not only the saint who is obligated to magnify our consciousness of sin. Neither is it the preserve of a political elite to urge to be patriotic.
I was in middle form two when Ghana obtained independence. I walked from La to the airport road to welcome the Duchess of Kent who represented the British Monarch for our independence celebration. I remember faintly, educated Ghanaians voting to select from two competing tunes, what became our national anthem. I still remember when the present coat of arms was selected.
Prior to independence, the only chance I had of meeting white men was at La Beach and the Giffard Camp (now Burma Camp). White kids of my age always had toys. We had to improvise our own toys. We were made to understand that all that the white folks had belonged to us and with their departure; we would re-inherit our own things.
It was then rare to see a Ghanaian woman driving a car as the number of highly educated women was few indeed. The top of the line secondary schools were residential and were run by foreign missionaries. This group of schools was collectively known as Assisted Secondary Schools. Accra was unfortunate. There was not a single missionary school in Accra that was classified as 'assisted'. Accra Academy and Achimota were assisted secondary schools but each with its own uniqueness. Accra Aca was privately founded; whereas Achimota was the brain child of the colonial administration. Immediately on attainment of self-government, a precursor to independence, Nkrumah abolished tuition fees in primary schools.
Streets were few but most of them had gutters and culverts. There were sanitary inspectors that made periodic rounds to ensure that our communities were cleaned. Public latrines were daily cleaned. For a fee, one could solicit the fumigation of an entire household by Accra Town Council. Those who sold mutton and meat would have to have daily certification. Accra had dumping grounds for refuge. Mails were collected daily and punctually even though most towns did not have post offices. When I was growing up, La had what was called a postal agency administered by the then La Mantse. The present La Post Office was opened by Kwame Nkrumah on March 2, 1952.
Most of commercial activities were dominated by a number of Syrians and major firms like UAC, UTC, CFAO and SCOA. Even bridges and launches were the preserves of these giant foreign companies, especially UAC. As every child should by now know, there was only one deep sea port at Takoradi; however, all these coastal towns served as ports: Accra, Cape Coast, Winneba and Keta. Akuse and Senchi served as inland ports. There was no bridge across the Volta River.
Then independence was achieved on March 6, 1957. The squandered opportunities started.
The first dirty linen.
In La for many years, there was a merchant who specialized in buying and selling stolen goods from Tema Harbor and other government and private organizations. Every knowledgeable resident of La knew this outfit. The police knew. The military knew because military vehicles frequently sold portions of their daily gasoline ration to him. The neighbors knew. Nobody bothered to report him. His house was like a mini warehouse. Nobody then was courageous enough to report him because there was a consensus that he was in league with the La police. It seems every person ascribed to the policy of safety in silence. For it was believe this merchant he could sentence one to underground imprisonment. In plain English he could cause a complainant's death by spiritual means. Though this particular villain is now dead, many towns and cities in Ghana have his type. We may not connive with such villains, but our failure to report the criminal activities of such villains cost all us. Many Ghanaians know people who accept bribe. We tolerate them. It could be argued that our failure to report such criminal activities is solely due to the fact that we would do the same when we have the opportunity.
The impact the specter of instant reporting of evil or wrong doing would have in our society is unimaginable. Let us be courageous and patriotic enough to report such crimes. For, in the final analysis we foot the bill for all such anti-social activities. The fact that I comment on this incident does not mean I have reported all those who I come across as perpetrating anti-social or criminal activity. There was an occasion that I reported my own uncle. My uncle a prominent owner of fleet of trucks that hauled imported goods from Tema Harbor. In the early 1970's he started buying gasoline stolen by drivers of military trucks. I did not like it neither was his son, a younger cousin. We realized how imprudent the actions of our senior relative were. To us he was leaving to hazard his own reputation and that of the entire family. I contacted a senior military officer friend of mine at the Recce Squadron. To instruction to my friend was that my uncle was not to be arrested; my goal was to terminate the supply of the gasoline. Within twenty-four hours, my uncle received a code message that the driver had been apprehended and in a 'guard room'. The apprehended soldier instructed my uncle to remove all the paraphernalia of their illicit trade. These included jelly cans and tubes for siphoning the gasoline from the truck. I actively participated in complying with the soldier's instruction by concealing these paraphernalia in my own fenced residence. To this day, I do not know what happened to the soldier. His supply of gasoline stopped. I took a calculated chance and it worked then
Two years ago however, when a clearing agent at Tema Harbor gave me a receipt for 46 million cedis for a total amount of 86 million for custom duties on imported commercial truck and industrial sewing machines, I failed to report him on the excuse that I did not have time. It is excuses like these that have made corruption so institutionalized in our country.
Even though I failed in my civic duty to report a blatantly bribery situation, I expect our President Kuffour to sanction the Central Regional Secretary on hearing of his escapes. Big or small, high or low, we all have a role to play in cleaning this Aegean stables called Ghana of filth. We should be asking more of 'what must I do about issues'. A lot of us wish well to any good cause but very few of us care to exert ourselves to help it and still fewer still would risk anything in support. 'Some one ought to do, but why should I' is the ever re-echoed phrase week-kneed amiability. “Some one ought to do, so why not I?' is the cry of some earnest servant of society, eagerly springing forward to some perilous duty. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.


Nikoi Kotey
Nikoi Kotey, © 2005

The author has 23 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: NikoiKotey

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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