He may not be really in any big trouble, if you know what I mean. The famous Haitian-American novelist and short-story writer and Creative Writing professor of New York University (NYU), at least the last time that I checked, Ms. Edwidge Danticat, has a favorite short story of mine whose title I cannot readily recall but whose sardonic narrator says somewhere in the story that: “You know you are in Haiti when a reckless driver runs his car over you and instead of feeling remorseful and apologetic, the driver gets out of the car and beats the heck out of you and curses you for spattering his car with your blood.”
Of course, this is not an exact quote from this long-forgotten story; but it pretty much captures the essence of the original quote. Well, it was this part of Ms. Danticat’s story that came to mind when I read the news report about a journalist working for Ghana’s Daily Express newspaper who was severely beaten up and arrested by a police officer that Mr. Fred Sarpong had caught red-handed in the criminal act of soliciting a bribe from a commercial bus driver and snapped a picture of.
I suppose Mr. Sarpong, whose age was not given, had captured the image of the bribe-taking police officer with his cellphone’s camera. Well, to add insult to injury, we also learn that the assaulting police officer took his victim in for detention at the Tesano Police Station, one of the busiest of its kind in the Accra metropolis (See “Journalist Arrested for Taking Photos of a Police Officer Taking Bribe” MyJoyOnline.com / Ghanaweb.com 9/5/16). Ordinarily, this story would be funny like a Jerry Seinfeld sitcom episode, were it not so outrageous, at least seen from the perspective of an outsider looking in.
You see, in Ghana, police officers actually believe that soliciting bribes from motorists is an inalienable right that comes with their job description. These officers often complain about the meager salaries and see the extortion of bribes, from both commercial and non-commercial motorists, to be their bounden obligation. Sometimes like children sent into the streets begging by shameless and unscrupulous adult relatives, these junior officers are known to share their loot with their precinct bosses. On this particular occasion, the extortionist is reported to have demanded the piddling sum of GH₵ 5, or the equivalent of $ 2.
What makes this story’s outcome one to avidly look forward to in the media in the near future, is that there was another reporter, a colleague of Mr. Sarpong, the victim, by the name of Mr. Raphael Apetorgbor, who also witnessed both the bribe-taking incident and the pulping up of his friend and colleague first-hand. Not many details are provided in the news report, but it well appears that it was Mr. Apetorgbor who, having escaped the anonymous police officer’s wrath, told the story to a MyJoyOnline.com reporter. And so we don’t know whether Mr. Sarpong’s cellphone or camera had been seized by Officer Koti Anonymous.
Anyway, what concerns some of us who have witnessed an exponential increase in the rate of fatality of road accidents in Ghana is the horrifying manner in which reckless motorists are allowed to get away with serious acts of criminality. For instance, the bribe-taking policeman may have decided to accept the miserly payola sum of GH₵ 5 in order to allow his prey to continue driving without a legitimate driver’s license or absolutely none at all. Then also, the extorted driver could have broken a traffic regulation. Unless this rather outrageous incident riles up the leadership of the Ghana Journalists’ Association (GJA) into mounting massive demonstrations and other forms of protest, this case is highly unlikely to end with the dismissal of Officer Koti Anonymous, especially should the culprit happen to be well-connected to powerful officials in government.
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Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York
September 5, 2016
E-mail: [email protected]