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22.10.2010 Feature Article

Mr. Adams and the parable of the tea bag

With the waters of the Atlantic literally boiling under the sun this past season, the sweet phenomenon of the sea breeze fast disappearing under the onslaught of atmospheric temperatures ran riot, and the heat threatening to barbecue all of us living in Accra and Tema, I feared that meningitis might hit the north of the country this year, and it has!

One of the worst meningitis epidemics ever in this country hit Bawku in 1958 or 1959. I recall seeing scores of people being rushed by the hour to the Presbyterian Hospital near our school. When the hospital could take no more into its isolation wards, “zana” mats were used to construct improvised tents outside the main hospital buildings to take in patients.

People died like flies and if there were television in those days, Ghanaians outside the Savanna would have been more than horrified by the devastating power of meningitis at its worst.

Our epidemiologists may well start assembling the arsenals they will certainly need in coming years to fight the greatest microbiological and viral wars of their professional lives:

Thanks to climate change, viral pestilences and contagions we thought had long disappeared will be returning with a vengeance along with fast and erratically changing phenomena of floods, drought and extreme heat…

I have never heard it said or read anywhere, that Rudyard Kipling had ever been a particularly religious man. The man was just a poet, and if you discount Jesus, who ever spoke truth more profoundly from the depths of the soul than poets?

I have always been struck in particular, by Kipling's counsel in his epic poem “If”, regarding how we might respond with maturity, to the attitudes of those who hate us, lie about us or tempt us to anger:

“If you can wait (for God to act) and not be tired of waiting; of being lied about, don't deal in lies (yourself); of being hated, don't give way to hating (yourself)…The capacity of any individual to take Kipling's counsel to heart, is easily tested in the acrimonious turbulence of partisan politics, where the pursuit of power can blind people to the dangers of opportunism.

Like warm water drawing the flavour from a tea bag, there are those very unexpected events in partisan politics, which draw out from people, the kind of things about them which the public would otherwise never have known: Dishonesty, insincerity, opportunism, pride, arrogance, pettiness, intolerance, violence, capriciousness and so on and so on…

No one seemed to know his age. Some said he was 24 and others 27. They all called him a boy and sure enough New Patriotic Party activist Nana Darkwa has the face of one over his skull.

The story is that this political activist nearly started a third world war here by declaring on a radio programme that former President Rawlings himself started the fire that destroyed his residence recently! If for no other reason than the ludicrousness of his claim he had been ignored, this is what would have happened: NOTHING.

What happened next unfortunately, illustrates the warm water and teabag effect: Mr. Kofi Adams, a Rawlings aide, called the cops who moved in with indescribable haste, grabbed the chap, dragged him before a judge and had him behind bars so fast it all looked line a scene from a play by kindergarten school children.

Some appeared worried that it was an aide of Rawlings who set the tone and the pace of the events that followed, and thought it appeared that Rawlings, who has a lot of influence in the government of the party he founded, could soon be running a parallel system of law enforcement to the existing one, if such show of authority were allowed.

A higher court granted Rawlings's accuser bail in a matter of hours whereupon, activists of the political opposition showered him with the traditional hero's white talcum and carried him along some streets in celebration.

Some said it was quite appalling that for sake of partisan political advantage, people who should have counseled the young activist against “hate political commentary” on radio, rather goaded him on.

I guess in these matters it is a matter of conscience: It is tempting not to care two hoots or give a damn when an opponent whose guts you hate like poison, is being lied about or denigrated.

As if all that were not bad enough, the Minority in Parliament boycotted the business of the house insisting they would not return to Parliament unless the trial of the accused was discontinued.

What? The nation's lawmakers virtually trying to take a judge hostage and hold the judiciary to ransom? People are calling for the withholding of all remunerations due the MPs who boycotted the business of the house over the arrest of a commentator on radio.

What do you make of MPs who take their representation of their constituents and law-making duties so lightly?

Take a political activist with the apparent profile of an agent provocateur; add another activist in close proximity to political power who does not suffer pranksters gladly; top them up with a bunch of cops who are as quick with handcuffs and they would probably be on the draw…

Next, add leading elements in the political opposition who are quick to spot a golden chance to make huge capital out of a misguided official response to provocation by a political activist and Members of Parliament who boycotted parliamentary sittings in protest over such a matter. What do you get? A democratic dispensation as mature as unfermented wine straight out of the wine press, yah?

It is lesson about hate radio that is begging to be learnt: Hate radio refers to radio broadcasts designed to encourage violent activities, tension or hatred between ethnic, social groups and other groups for the attainment of political goals and for fostering conflict, by giving one-sided and biased views and opinions, and resorting to deception.

When they are criticized, owners of such radio stations respond angrily about their rights to freedom of speech. We stand in need of an independent national broadcasting body to regulate radio broadcasting, if you ask me.

There is one reason why hate talk shows and commentary are very dangerous in our particular circumstance: It would seem from past experience, that the two leading political parties have their own networking codes for summoning their activists at short notice to gather at any location.

What happens if on hearing a radio broadcast about the alleged maltreatment on a party member, one party summons its supporters to a location and the other party does the same and two meet head on?

George Sydney Abugri is a prolific, multi-award winning, Ghanaian newspaper journalist.

Read more of his articles at or email him at [email protected]

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George Sydney Abugri
George Sydney Abugri, © 2010

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

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