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06.03.2007 General News

Welcome To Ghana

Today I address this column to our visitors, whether tourists or delegates and the 50th independence anniversary sightseers.

Dear visitor, Ghana will whet your appetite for the study of humanity. It is unique in many ways. It is the only country where you will find your companion or guide telling you “I am coming” when he or she is really walking away from you.

You will find life at its most sophisticated as well in its raw unadulterated state.

In fact, those who have mastered the way of life among the elite of the global village have to live two or three lives.

You will hardly recognise the erudite eloquent Member of Parliament when he or she sits among the village folks holding palaver.

We are a noisy people and noisy vans may wake you up advertising their wares. It is annoying when you do not understand what is being said. But have patience and listen.

The advertiser may break into English. You will be told how one's preparation will cure all the diseases of the modern civilised world.

Even drugs or cures which by law are not to be advertised are rather promoted loudly. You will be told of preparations which are more powerful and effective than expensive viagra.

Ghanaians love life and your stay may cure you of unnecessary worries when you observe how the poor Ghanaian enjoys himself or herself on so little.

Yes, Ghana is a poor country. It needs not be so. Ghanaians are religious and the Bible says that we have the poor always with us. And so we do not try to abolish poverty for fear of incurring the wrath of the Most High.

We try to reduce poverty and we have elaborate measures to achieve this great feat. The studies, seminars and round-table conferences designed to reduce poverty satisfy our love for talking and pointless argument and for much ado about nothing.

And if we get a few dollars for these activities, we thank the Good Lord for his mercies.

In case you are becoming supercilious, dear visitor, please be reminded that you encourage what we do.

Your government may be among our “development partners”, who top up our budget and fund the studies, conferences and dialogues which keep us running happily on the same spot.

No Ghanaian will blame you or your government. The Ghanaian is not noted for his or her ungratefulness. If the present system keeps most people happy so be it. You may crowd the good life out by esoteric philosophical and economic debates and measures.

A handful of Ghanaians concern themselves with such abstruse inquiries. Most Ghanaians believe that life is to be lived and not investigated and moaned.

Ghanaians are not selfish. They share what they have with the rest of the extended family. Family ties and assistance are at once our strength and weakness.

Article by K. B.Asante

These ties help most to keep body and soul together. But they also make it difficult to take appropriate action against those who offend the law.

Pleading and begging authority by the influential of the family make it difficult for those responsible to act or leave the law to take its course.

We know corruption impedes development. We know that if we cannot punish and disgrace the corrupt, the odious practice will continue.

These are some of the real problems which we believe are worth spending sleepless nights about. But we love peace and so we leave all alone.

Fortunately, you dear visitor will not experience the unsavoury aspect of life in Ghana unless you engage in shady deals.

You cannot, however, avoid annoyance with our inability to keep to time. I think it was in Peru that the authorities recently decided to combat lateness which sometimes is bizarre.

Official functions were reported to start two hours late. I am afraid we are not much better in Ghana. So you take it easy when official functions start late.

Amuse yourself with the spectacle of confusion which parades around. Frankly many of us do not like it when functions and ceremonies proceed smoothly.

We relish a little confusion now and again. So you relax and enjoy the fun with us at our official functions and ceremonies.

We are a very hospitable people. Despite hard times we do invite visitors or what we call strangers to meals. But if you are invited, know that we do not keep to time.

I used to advise diplomats on our customs and way of life. I advised them when they were invited to lunch at 1.00 p.m. on the weekends to have a little meal about 12.00 p.m. and rest. They would do well to arrive at the luncheon between 1.30 and 1.45 p.m.

If they were lucky lunch would be served at 3.00 p.m. And it would be a massive lunch with many dishes and all manner of drinks served without much order.

They would need no supper and should give the cook a day off. I am afraid the practice has not changed much.

Dear visitor, you should be patient in trying to understand us. The official language is English and we used to speak it well. But not now.

I stayed in bed the other day debating whether to get up to draft this article and turned on the radio of the nation-GBC. I thought the newsreader at 7:00 a.m. on March 1, 2007 had constipation.

She had a good voice and her pronunciation was good. But apparently she was trying to get her breath back. She had not read over what she was reading and did not seem to understand it.

And so if those paid to read English cannot do it well, you should not think you are hard in hearing when you find it difficult to understand our English.

Pidgin English used to be widespread and there were dictionaries of some sort in it. We have replaced our brand of English by a language which is best understood if you understand the local languages.

I am sure you will agree that we should assert our independence by thinking not in English but in Twi, Fante, Ewe, Ga, Dagbani and so on.

We, therefore, render the language in our own way. If your stay is short and you like to understand a lot, you will do well to engage a local interpreter.

You should not find this strange. There are places where English completely disappears. As an American observed, in America they have not used English for years.

We have been having problems with water and electricity lately. So far as water is concerned, you should insist on perfumed rice which we import, in spite of our poverty.

Your inside would then smell good to offset any odours which the body may emanate, because there is no water to wash it.

With regard to electricity, our President himself has assured us that it would not be turned off as happens frequently while you our august visitors are here.

We believe him, but we cannot forget another Head of State saying that he was not God and could not be held responsible when he could not keep his word or deliver the goods.

Some of us are, therefore, racking our brains for the solution to the electricity problem. I am placing my hope in new developments as foretold by Jonathan Swift in “Gulliver's Travel”.

We should seriously work on the project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers. The beams placed in vials hermetically sealed would be released to work the generators of those who are clever enough to be rich to afford the machine which would banish darkness from the inner recesses of bedrooms and brains.

Once again, dear visitor, you are welcome to the most hospitable and exciting country ever revealed to mankind on March 6, 2007—50 years ago. Forget all the trivial things you worry about and enjoy yourself.