Beggar-Life: A True Ghanaian Nature?
Walking through the streets of Kumasi, specifically the supposedly managed Kejetia Bus Terminal, with no space to turn as hawkers, pedestrians and passengers battle with vehicles for space, you are bound to crash into a beggar.
They may come under the pretext of having known you somewhere (probably confidence tricksters), or being in dire need of food, or medication for whatever disease they may be carrying, or even as preachers of the Christian gospel. However they may come, I still call them beggars.
Frankly, I get surprised when people approach me, supposedly men of God (as they are popularly called), and the only message they almost always have from God for me is to give in help to the work of God. They are actually begging for alms under the pretext of spreading the 'word of God'.
Some seem actually in need, others you cannot really tell. But most of them may be consciously lying to the knowingly hospitable Ghanaian, and playing on our intelligence to have their way.
Most beggars would tell a story that may get you to tears. But how genuine really are these stories. If they ask for a fare, ask them to join you in the same bus and they would refuse. If they ask for food, attempt to buy some for them and they would still refuse. Give them cash, and they will never refuse.
I once boarded a bus (a 'trotro'), and one beggar sadly narrated his story, if indeed it was true, of how his hand was chopped off by some machine at a workplace. According o him, he is from Obuasi, which was the destination of the bus I was in, and that he needed money for a fare to Obuasi since he had spent almost everything he had on him in treating his hand. His whole hand, bandaged, was apparently incapable as a result of the accident, according to his doctor.
The bus driver quickly offered to take him to Obuasi for free, and he, unbelievably, asked for money for food before he could join the bus.
You may say they are bugging, and I would agree. However, they are not alone in this. There is another form of begging I would like to draw your attention to. I call it 'Yessa-Massa-ism' (Yes-Sir, Master-ism).
I define begging as continuously living off things (such as money) we have not honestly earned, out of our own hard work, such that we may think our life depends on them. By this definition, if you think the only way you can exist is to live off what others give you that they do not actually owe you, then, I'm sorry to say, you are a beggar.
'Yessa-massa-ism' (another form of begging) may be defined as the act of feigning subordination, even when it is not being demanded, in expectation of a favour (mostly money).
A citizen meets his Member of Parliament, or a Minister, and would almost always expect some cash from them (mind you, whether you are thinking it or actually asking for it makes no difference), and yet we cease the least opportunity to call them corrupt.
Some people have tagged others as rich, while labelling themselves as poor, as if to admit that they would remain so forever.
The subordinate will always expect the boss to deliver some cash from time to time, outside regular allowance or salary payments. In some workplaces, for instance, this is like an accepted hierarchical custom. Whenever two workmates meet, the relatively lower rank is likely to ask for something from his boss.
The average Ghanaian, instead going through procedure, may choose to see whoever is in charge and plead (which may be another form of begging) for a possible shortcut. It happens in recruitments, in schools and examination, in hospitals, in queues at the lorry station, and the list is endless.
And there is a third class of beggars who may force others to 'yes-sir-master' them before attending to their own job responsibilities.
The police officer who takes One cedi from the driver, the banker who takes money from clients before endorsing the withdrawal of their own money, the Journalist who takes money from the interviewee, the procurement officer who gives out contracts based on how much he may have received from whoever, under whatever pretext, are all beggars.
Most of us, at one time or the other, have been begging, one way or the other. In most institutions, workplaces, and even government agencies, 'beggar-life' is real.
Most, if not all, of our governments depend on grants, at some points in time, from other countries. I'm afraid to say, but such governments are doing nothing more than begging.
In my humble opinion, these 'yes-sir-master' attitudes kill initiative, breed idleness and increase tolerance for corruption. Man should begin taking responsibility for our own actions. And most of all have faith that our own initiatives will bear fruit.
We should be able and willing to work and live off our own earnings, and appreciate what we have, however little they might be. For all begging has ever brought us is a seemingly incurable state of corruption, bribery and nepotism, and unwarranted servitude, to mention a few.
The family should be more concerned about the sick, disabled and the mentally challenged, instead of organizing unnecessarily extravagant funerals after their death.
Some disabled and mentally unstable citizens of this country have been left to the mercy of the streets. The few lucky ones get to be cared for by some philanthropic institutions or some government homes, sometimes without visits from so-called family members.
We as a society can provide hope, not necessarily by giving out every day (sometimes out of what we do not really need) or receiving everyday, but by teaching ourselves and others to be responsible and self reliant, and to live life in honesty and dignity.
You earn respect by working honestly for what would otherwise have been termed a favour.
We must know that all we will ever deserve is all we have duly earned, in honesty and in dignity, and that is all we should ever accept from others.
N ATTA KUSI ADUSEI
A Broadcast Journalist & Internet Entrepreneur
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."