Sunday, May 29, 2011

Miss Ghana 20xx

It was a hot, very hot and breezeless November noon. The great African sun hung in the cloudless sky as though in great anger. Its needlelike rays cut through the atmosphere with effortless ease to sear my skin. It was hot, very hot. I perspired intensely. The air was balmy; there was no breeze - the leaves were stilled as though in great mourning. It was one of those hot, windless afternoons when the heavens seem prepared to choke lives out of terrestrial mortals.

I sat at my usual spot, nursing a cold larger. By this time of the day, the No 1 Spot at Osu is just waking up to life. Clientele were coming and going in ones and twos. A well-graffittied bus disgorged a horde of European tourists. They must have traveled long distances for they were dirty, unkempt, shaggy and waggy. The seats of their trousers, mostly jeans, were browned from grime from far and wide. The men wore week-old beards and the women among them were disheveled, their hair hung on them without style. They giggled loudly, animatedly as though sharing a great joke.

The blue car raced up to the parking lot, Accra dust following in its wake. It screeched to a dramatic stop, millimeters away from the plank barriers. The driver was either showing-off or s\he knew his\her onions well. The door flew open, and a tall, bony lady scrambled out and melodramatically kicked the door shut. She raced to the bar, her populous hair, made up in the style of Whitney Houston when drug has not ravaged her life, flying. From the bar, she collected a glass of what looked like, from where I was sitting, Campari or Mandigo and a bottle of Soda. She made straight for the empty seat beside mine, the hard soles of her shoes abrading the dry ground. The scent of her expensive perfume wafted into my nostril - it had the fragrance of cherries.

"Can I take the seat?" She purred, looking at my face directly while pointing to the empty chair.

“You may." I replied, meeting her very steady gaze.

"Thank you." She crooned. She sat down, taking time to brush the seats of her dress. She mixed her drinks and took a long draught. Placing the glass down, she breathed very deeply, Yoga-style, and apparently felt better. She swept her populous hair back in a deliberate, almost sensuous movement. Although, she cannot exactly be described as crunchingly beautiful, she's nice looking and looked well polished. In the parlance of the fashion-industry, I think she'll be called a sophisticate. She has a slender, almost delicate physique, very flat buttocks, and a long face. Her small breasts were straining against the tight, chic dress she wore.

“Feeling better?” I asked, trying to strike up a conversation.

“Wow!” She intoned. “I had a thirst that would kill a donkey. Sorry, that phrase is overused, but I cannot come up with a better one.” She pouted her mouth, eye-lashes flashing. She was really over-made-up. Her face was like a rainbow - painted in different colors and shades. And I will be damned if she’s wasn’t flirting very openly.

“Nice wagon.” I said pointing to the car.

She smiled shyly, “Thank you. It’s a prize.” She added as an afterthought.

My interest in the lady was re-kindled. I gaped at her anew. I beckoned to a passing waiter pointing to my empty glass. He gave me a chauvinistic stare and went to an Arab, beefy and hairy like a pig. I ignored the slight.

“A Prize?” I wondered.

She smiled another of her airline-hostess smiles. “Miss Ghana.” She proclaimed watching my face for the inevitable shock.

I kept my face straight, “To what do I owe the privilege of hosting the most beautiful woman in Ghana?”

If she wasn’t so over-processed, the smile would have been Epicurean. “Point of correction, or of order as they say, you’re not hosting me. I paid for my own drink,” She accused, “Secondly, I do not believe in throwing my weight around.” She found herself witty and laughed.

The 007 driving style. The false smiles. The make-up that will fill the faces of many street-walkers, and she doesn’t believe in throwing her weight around. I decided to aggravate her.

“How does it feel to be the most beautiful damsel in Ghana?”

Another skittish smile. A dab at her psychedelic face. “By HIS grace, it is now handleable (sic). It was difficult to cope at the beginning. What with all the attentions! The press, the journalists, the TV lights, the dinner parties, the charity balls, the various visits to this and that do, the family pressures, the peer jealousies, the bad-wishers, the hanger-ons, the loafers who would like to take to take advantage. Not to mention the uncountable Valentines. The beginning was really, really difficult. Thank God, it is now copeable (sic). I can go on, but I will only bore you. I guess you’ve better things to do than listen to the wailing of a Beauty Queen. ”

“Try me.” I urged her on.

She called a passing waitress. My companion was either not well-known or not a regular, the service girl gave an insolent look before ambling to our table. Her tray held in front of her, she hovered over us like an Ijesa debt-collector. She ordered Campari and Soda. The steward was still engaged with the Arab. I asked the service-girl to bring a drink for me. I offered to pay, my table-mate refused, “Let’s go Dutch: You pay yours, I pay mine.”

“How did you get into the Beauty business?”

She laughed. “You made it sound so, how should I put it, lewd?”

“I’m sorry, but my English vocabulary is rather limited. Were you a professional model?”

“My God, no! I was, sorry, I am a student.”

“A student!” I was genuinely shocked.

“You may it sounds so awful. Yes, I was a student. Pedagogy and Child-Psychology. I came into the, I guess I’ve to borrow your expression, ‘Beauty Business’ by accident. I just entered for the fun of it. Imagine my astonishment when I was selected. The biggest trouble now is how to go back to the campus and become an ordinary student again. My term is almost over.”

“Are you regretting it?”

“Hell, no. Sorry, I guess that it is rather un-lady, rude thing to say. No, I don’t regret it one bit. I am having great fun. It has been a tremendous pleasure.” She took her drink from the waitress, mixed and took a sip.

“Pleasure, “ I repeated. ‘Are you happy? There is a big difference between happiness and pleasure.”

“And I thought I was the pedagogue, or should I say the Pedantic.” She found humor in her sarcasm.”

“Beauty doesn’t last forever; knowledge is eternal.”

“You are a nut case.” She seemed genuinely horror-stricken by my presence.

“How so?”

“Most men would be dreaming about how to jump into bed with me, here you are philosophizing about my future. Your concern for my welfare is appreciated, really. You don’t imagine I get to where I am without been able to take care of myself, do you?”

She’s a good actress. No one watching us would imagine her volcanic eruptions. She kept her voice low, her arms swaying as though emphasizing important points.

“There’s more to life than horizontal jogging, aka sex. No, I am not imagining anything. I am just wondering why an intelligent woman will throw away a chance to get a good education for the transient pleasure of pretending to be the most beautiful girl in Ghana.”

She looked as though I’d slapped her. “Pretending.” She cried. “I am not pretending. I won it fair and square.”

“May I ask you a question?”

“I won’t cry.”

“Do you honestly believe yourself to be the most beautiful girl in Ghana. Pretense aside.”

“Pretense,“ she howled like an affronted Imam. “Why do you think that I am pretending? There was a contest and the experts say that I am the most beautiful girl. What have you got against that?”

“The experts,” I sneered. “What makes them the experts?”

“You seemed to be a supreme cynic. If they are not experts, how do they get into conducting the show. How do they get on TV and the newspapers. God, I won the contest fair and square. How dare you?”

“Getting on the TV or into the papers does not an expert make. What qualifies your experts to judge beauty - a most subjective thing in the world? What conceited egos moved your experts to declaring themselves the Solomons of Beauty Contests?”

“Why are you trying to aggravate me? If you are a woman, I’d say that you’re jealous.”

“Aggravating you is not what is on my mind. The whole system stinks, that’s what is getting my goat. See,” I bellowed, shaking with Yoruba emotions. “What’s exacerbating me is the whole gamut called Miss Ghana Show. Don’t take it personal, my dear. I have nothing against you personally. I am grinding an ax against those stupid jackets-and-ties with their moribund colonial mentality. Those who are perpetually under the tutelage of the Aryan Masters. Those who will sell their souls for dollars. Those dirty old men who runs the show are the people vexing me. Dirty old men who should be in bed with their wives staying up night to watch, admire and pass judgments on the legs and buttocks of girls young enough to be their grand-daughters. They and those cultural imperialists, those grinning Aryan bastards whose White Supremacists heads are filled with the notion that any stupid European idea should be universalized. Those colonial tricksters hell-bent on polluting the world with Euro-junks. I blame you not, my dear. You are just a victim, like the rest of us.

“Look,” I cried. Of course, she was looking. “It is not enough for the European to mis-educate us, he has to tell us who our gods are. He has taken it upon himself to lecture us on what political, economic and social systems are good for us. He now has taken over the function of determining for us what our notion of beauty should be. As in everything, the clever Aryan has chosen an image that best approximate himself. Our Jesus must be white. Our socio-political system must be Western. Look at you, the whiteman has decreed that our Beauty Queens must be those who look anything but Africans. You have bleached your skin, your figure is skeletal, you’ve got no backyard - to use our street expression. In fact, were you a fossil, no archaeologist will classify you a Black woman. And on your head has been placed the crown of our Beauty Queen. And your head is swelling with vain-pride. Instead of staying with your studies, you abandoned it to turn yourself into a whore. Whoring with the high and the mighty. What future do you see for yourself, ask those who had gone before you? Of course, they have to justify themselves, the rogues. They have to justify the gigantic fraud they call Miss Ghana Show. They threw you a car, made you attend endless parties, get you into radio stations, put you on the TV, made you smile like a cheap whore and your head is swaying with vanity. Why don’t you look around you? When it comes to beauty, I mean real beauty, however biased our opinions might be, do you think that you can hold a candle to the waitress over there?“ I asked, pointing to the girl who served us drink. The service girl saw us looking at her, said something silently and looked down.

Miss Ghana was astounded. Her face burned with fury. “Perhaps, your daughter or your girl-friend lost the contest. That’s the only thing that could explain your unbridled antagonism. I thought I was with a gentleman. Fancy the put-downs. I didn’t sit down with you in order to allow myself to be insulted like some street-walker. I am not a trollop.”

I was undaunted. My Yoruba blood, incensed by the burning heat and the haughty Beauty Queen, was boiling with rage. I met her gaze with gaze, matched her anger with anger. I was angered by her supercilious manners and was determined to provoke her further. “Me, jealous” I cried. The waitress cut the drift that things were not all jolly with us and ambled closer. She needed some gist to make the gossip circuits. I said nothing to discourage her. “I cherish intelligence far above good looks. I will not be caught dead with a woman stupid enough to participate in that vapid pageant. I will not have a daughter who feels herself justified by some dirty old men. No daughter of mine will expose herself to such public ridicule for the sake of being declared a Beauty by some lubricious, moronic old-men, however long their ties. No daughter of mine will dress up in those filthy, flimsy rags and sauntered up and down, shaking her ass like a low-priced quean to be admire by some mindless, unprincipled, amoral, wanton, coarse, unconscionable sugar-daddies who has lost all claims to human decency. No daughter of mine will have a need for the stamp of approval from some low-keyed, depraved, immoral parent who have time for such debauched, decadent affairs. No offspring of mine will have time for ancient sexual-perverts. I will not sire a daughter who will choose prostitution over a good education. I will have no daughter who will have such low-opinion of herself that what some morally-bankrupt and spiritually-decadent old men think will count for anything with her. I’d like to be the proud father of a daughter who knows that what is in her head is worth more than good looks. You know what is getting my goat?” I asked Miss Ghana.

She gave me a withering look, threw a dirty look at the waitress who ambulated away quietly. “I thought you were never going to stop your insults.”

“What’s is irksome is that otherwise intelligent ladies like yourself, on whom parents and society has expended so much energies, financial and otherwise, should allow themselves to be bamboozled by cheap vain-glories and all the show-biz glitters to abandon their studies. Once again, the whiteman has succeeded in turning Africans into a caricature of himself. Have you read ‘Soul on Ice?’

Miss Ghana pouted her mouth, “No. Why?”

“I was just reminded of what Eldridge Cleaver wrote about the white man and his woman. The white man is launching an assault to turn our women into what he’s made of his own woman.”

“And that is?”

“According to Cleaver, ‘The white man has turned the white woman into a weak-minded, weak-bodied, delicate freak, a sex pot and place her on a pedestal.’”

Monday, May 23, 2011

Killing Osama, Again!


Hello, yes. Who is calling?

Hello. Femi, wake up, are you still asleep?

Yes, can't you see what time it is? Why shouldn't I be asleep?

Ah, my friend, get up. How can you sleep at a time like this?

What happened, what time like this are we talking about?

You can't be serious, Femi. Don't tell me you can sleep at a momentous, historic time like this. I am dying of pure excitement. I could die now and go straight to heaven and feel very fulfilled. Femi, this is too good to be true. What! Don't tell me that you've not heard the good tiding?

Don't tell me that you woke me up to peddle your version of piety. Let me get back to my sleep. Some of us have to earn our daily bread.

Come on, man. Turn your TV on and see and hear the glorious news.

What, Jesus came back?

Don't be blasphemous, my friend. They got him!

Whom did they get? Who got whom?

Turn on the TV, Femi, and stop asking silly questions. CNN, BBC, FOX, al-Jazeera, Deutche Welle, France, China, Ghana, Burkina Faso, every television station in the world is running live commentaries, and you're sleeping. I am lucky that I have this satellite thing; I am switching channels like crazy.

I don't have a television, I told you that several times.

Yeah, I forgot you live your hermitic lifestyle. Now you have missed the biggest news of the century.

Come on, tell me now. They got whom?

It is now you want to know? American Special Forces have got their man...and in Pakistan, of all places.

I thought they always got their man. Whom did they get this time around?

Don't be daft, my friend. Who have they spent the past ten years searching for? Who is the world's Terrorist Numero Uno?

I would say Tony Blair or George Bush, Jr. Now, we can add King Sarkozy and maybe Emperor Obama.

You really think that this is funny or that it's time for wise-cracking?

No, I am not wise-cracking; those guys top my list of wanted terrorists.

Who cares about your puny and insignificant list? Who cares about any list you care to draw up?

So, now that you have managed to disturb my sleep, can you tell me what all the excitement is about?

Osama bin Laden is dead. He has been killed in Pakistan. He was killed in "Operation Geronimo" by the US SEALs in Abbottabad, near Islamabad.

Says who?

The news circulated for hours but now we have heard from the horse's mouth. President Obama just gave a speech at the White House. He has confirmed the deed. Wow, the man is good. The delivery was flawless. A real Commander in Chief! Do you know what Geronimo means?

How would I know and why should I care?

Geronimo is a Chiricahua Apache leader who resisted the US government policy to consolidate his people on reservations and led series of raids against Mexican and American settlements in the Southwest. Ah, I Googled it up, my friend.


For your information, the terrorist leader was killed in a lavish mansion near a huge military base. Americans are good, terribly good. We need their type of "can-do" spirit in Africa. Wow!


Is that all you have to say, hmmmm? Are you not going to join in the huge celebration? The world has seen the end of a mass murderer! Crowds have gathered and they are dancing around the White House and all the streets of America. America feels tall and proud as it rightly should. This is a good time to be an American.


Come on, Femi; learn to give credit where it is due. I know you don't like America, but at least on this occasion they did the world a tremendous good.


Why all the hmmmms, Femi?

I was just wondering how many times you can kill a man...


Friday, May 20, 2011

The Mills Gambit

"A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent." – Nicole Rae Lewis

“If you bite the hands that feed you, you will go hungry.” – African proverb.

The supreme military strategist, Tsun tzu, gave this advice: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?”

It is not an advice the president, Professor John Atta Mills, seems to have ever heard. Whatever his other attributes, no one can accuse the president of being a consummate politico, a decisive leader, a brilliant political Strategist or even a Tactician.

It is said that if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for everything. It is pretty difficult to know what president Mills stands for. Two and half years into his presidency, the professor has not come out to boldly articulate his vision for his nation or his party.

The president looks increasingly like a man who is just swimming with the current.
Not being able to able to rise above the common hoipoloi is not the hallmark of a true leader.

Whatever one says about presidents President John Jerry Rawlings and President John Kufuor, they are decisive leaders. It is difficult to imagine either man crying himself hoarse to collect his party’s nomination paper. It is equally difficult to imagine someone having the temerity to challenge them for supremacy in the party they led. The image of an Executive President hectoring Customs and Excise officials is also not very re-assuring.

If our good-natured, humble, god-fearing president commands no respect within his own political party, how does he hope to be respected in the country at large?

The honest truth is that the president is being badly served by those close to him and has his ears. Increasingly president Mills behave and look more like the former Nigerian President, Shehu Shagari.

Like Professor Mills, Shagari was touted as a humble, god-fearing and deeply religious man. Whilst all these could be useful attributes in someone aspiring to a position in the priesthood, they are hardly sufficient in the rough and tumble, shark-infested world of modern politics where it is all about barracuda eating the small fishes.

It is not the ideal; it just happens to be that way.

The problem with Shehu Shagari, and also increasingly with president Mills, is that both are men of very little vision or competence in public administration, and very sadly they surrounded themselves with sycophantic advisers, who refused to tell them unalloyed truth. Both are not leaders who could galvanise men into greater heights.
In countries like the US with very strong national institutions, bumblers like Bush jr. can ramble their ways through their eight years term, but a country like Ghana needs a confident, decisive, inspired and inspiring leader. It needs a leader with both passion and vision.

President Mills ill-articulated Better Ghana Agenda contains no vision to move the country forward and not even his most partisan supporter can accuse the president of being a passionate man.

Like President Mills, Shagari advisers also confused meaningless perambulations for great momentum. While the lots of Nigerians sank into the abyss, Shagari traveled around the world and embarked of sod-cutting and other exercises that should not at all engage presidential attentions.

To cap it, Shagari officials were insanely corrupt. Whilst Shagari pontificated about good governance and a fight against corruption, his officials looted the treasury to extent that left Nigerians stupefied. Many Nigerians danced on the streets when General Buhari and co terminated the kleptomaniac rule of Shagari on 31, December 1993.

President Mills cannot claim to be unaware of the monumental rot that is taking place under his watch. He shouldn’t just glibly dismiss the allegations, some of them well-documented, of corruptions against his officials.

President Mills, luckily, is not likely to meet Shagari’s fate; he nevertheless faces challenges of almost cosmic proportions.

On July 8, his ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) will organize a congress to its elect officials and presidential candidate for the 2011 elections.

This is serious business which also represents a gross slap in the face for Professor Mills. His is the ruling party and to have someone within the party challenging his candidacy is serious indictment on his type of leadership.

Whatever the outcome on 8 July, 2011 NDC elections, president Mills is not going to come out smelling like roses. It is for the president a situation of head he loses, tail he cannot win?

Although national elections are still more than a year away and that a day is eternity in politics, but by allowing the situation within his party to deteriorate to the extent that he was openly challenged leaves open several questions about competence, judgments and a serious question mark on the president’s political astuteness.

An astute politician is one with good radar to detect potential troubles and nip them in the bud before they turn to calamity. This was not the case with President John Atta Mills.

Everyone knew that all is not well within the NDC, and for the president to have left it unattended leaves serious question mark on his political judgment.

Surrounding himself with sycophantic ‘yes-men’ also reveals the president as a man with deep character flaw. Men with self-confidence hardly have time for feeble-minded palace jesters.

Whatever we think of him, President John Jerry Rawlings is a titan of both the Ghanaian and NDC political landscape. To have conspired to marginalized and antagonized such a man rather than seek ways to accommodate and massage his ego leaves the president’s political judgment open to serious questions.

There is no way that President Mills will come out of the congress looking good. And should he emerge victorious, it will be a pyrrhic victory as the Friend of Nana Konadu agyemang-Rawling (FONKAR) faction in his party is sufficiently aggrieved to sabotage his re-election efforts.

All these are sweet music to the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).

For the FONKAR group, the president has committed the gravest sins in politics: betrayal and ingratitude. Their belief that the president was ‘Rawlings –made,’ was valid as far as they are concerned. And to have him treat their hero with such huge disdain and ridicule is a sacrilege the President John Jerry Rawlings partisans are not likely to forget in a hurry.

The spectacle of the president deploying the likes of Ablakwa to flay President John Jerry Rawlings is enough to send the FONKAR group ballistic and rumours are already rife that the group would leave the NDC should the president wins.

Not to be discounted is the perceived marginalisation of the ‘foot soldiers’ that helped the NDC prosecute the electioneering war.

The foot soldiers consider the president and his team a bunch of ingrates. The insults rained upon them by member of the government and threats to ‘deal’ with them are sufficient to move the foot soldiers to thwart the president’s ambitions.

There are also those within the NDC that believe that the monumental corruption in the Mills administration has betrayed the core principles of their party. They are not likely to be moved by from their position that their party needs a change in its leadership.

For all these factions within the NDC, nothing but a massive purge of their party will do after the congress. We might see enough blood-letting on 8 July 2011 to make Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives look like a child’s play.

Then there is the big question of why? Why did president Atta Mills allowed the situation in his party descend to this gutter level? Why didn’t the elders of the party use internal party structures to help stabilized the situation before it got out of hand?

It would have helped if the president has come out openly to fight the Rawlingses and state his case against them robustly and clearly.

This would have endeared him greatly to a large section of the populace who are fed up with the Rawlingses and would love to see a courageous president that is proving to be his own man.

But, alas, the President refused to show his face. He allowed political charlatans and opportunists like Ablakwa, Haruna Iddrisu, Boateng and his other minions to do his dirty works for him.

The question is: which of these stomach politicians count for anything in Ghana politics? Who born dog, indeed!

When it matters the most, President Mills refused to come out swinging and this leaves him open to ridicule as a coward. Little wonder the cartoonist had field day caricaturing him as a mindless child.

With the authority of his office as the Executive President, the president is invested with awesome power and authority to firmly stamp his authority on the nation and, especially, on his party. He’s the leader of the party, for crying out loud!

President Mills failed to do so and his advisors thought the best way to sell him is to have him travel across the land cutting sods here and there like a common mason!
The presidential time should be more productively deployed than having him cutting sod for bore-holes, toilets and eateries at universities.

A president can be excused if he’s shown cutting sods for large-scale agricultural project, big industries but lavatories, ah - that’s not something that should engage the attention of even a minister!

In July last year, I wrote a piece entitled, ‘President John Jerry Rawlings is getting his comeuppance,”

Here is an excerpt: “Post mortem: Every patriotic of Ghana should be concerned about the inner wrangling in the ruling party. No, it has nothing to do with whether or not we support one faction or the other. Self-interest makes it imperative for us to show our concerns. As the party entrusted with running the affairs of our nation, it is our concern to know what is going on.

President Mills is a human being and according to biologists the first concern of any organism is self-preservation. Whatever he professes Professor Mills is a politician, period. He cannot pretend not to be concerned about his re-election. This concern will, of course, translate into ensuring that he uses some of his time on tackling the problems besetting his party. He knows that he cannot launch a new party and hope to win the next election. It is also inconceivable that he will join the NPP or any other party. So, he‘s stuck with his NDC party. Given the formidable opposition of the Rawlingses (they won quite a sizable chunk of the party executive posts contested at Tamale), they cannot be discounted.

All these mean that our president will be a very worried man, indeed. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that any time our president spends on intra-party squabbling is time that could have been put into productive use in solving some of the problems facing our nation.

This precisely is the President Mills Dilemma.

How did President Mills get himself into this fine mess? It’s difficult to imagine President Rawlings or even President Kufuor facing the same problem in their parties.
Unlike President Mills, both men do not come across as one whose authority is open to questioning. Methinks that is the hallmark of a true leader.

Leaving the Young Turks (Rawlings ‘greedy bastards’) in his party to fight his battle for him also portrays the president as a coward.

So what are the options open to him? Methinks that he should come out boldly and confront the problem head-on. He should let one and all know where he stood on any of the issues confronting his leadership style and the way forward for the party. He has the whole authority of his office to back him up; it is time he uses it. These are not the times to be meek; these are occasions for decisiveness.

It is said that if you do not stand for something, you will fall for everything. As things stood, no one knows where our president stood. He needs to come out candidly and forcefully to declare his stand. Anything less would not jell.

Alas, I am not his advisor!

President Mills Comedy of Errors

Were President Atta Mills to know what is good for him, he will fire all his advisers.

The sad truth is that the good professor does not appear to have been the recipient of good advice from those that are close to him.

The president’s advisors have done little but badly mis-advised him and this has led to the high office of the presidency been reduced to a huge joke. It is a crying shame.

There have been too many unnecessary gaffes and faux pas that should normally not have reached the presidency, but which the president has had to deal with. The presidency appears increasingly to function more and more like a fire service department than being an effective, proactive and dynamic institution.

The current crises engulfing the ruling party, the National Democratic Party, NDC, is just the latest unnecessary national embarrassment to a president whose appointed (well-remunerated) aides lack the capacity to shield their chief.

The president must also share in the blame. There is a saying that: “Show me your friend and I‘ll know the type of person you are.”

The type of company you keep, says a lot about your character.

The question ought to be asked why any intelligent man would surround himself with an incompetent crew. The president’s appointed crew was of such low caliber that it was promptly and appropriately dubbed Team B. What are men like ET Mensah doing in any modern cabinet? Even the president’s men joke about it like it was a laughing matter.

Ok, they are Team B, but at the level of the presidency, where ponderous decisions that affect the destiny of the nation are crafted and implemented, a country deserves to choose the best available brains. Ghana has a large pool of highly competent professionals so the president must give an answer why he chose to go for low-grade aides.

We would never know whether the president's own inadequate psychological make-up makes him uncomfortable with talented professionals.

The depth of the incompetence of president Mills’ men was laid bare for the whole world in that unsavory public masturbation the public was treated to on 5 May 2011.

Whoever advised the president to block traffic, inconvenient the people he pledged to serve and have the state-owned GTV run live commentary of his going to pick his party’s nomination paper, deserve a tremendous kick in the ass. Whoever dreamt that asinine plot up deserve an immediate sack.

What an un-presidential farce! What a mindless abuse of state (even party or private) resources on a useless enterprise that does nothing to elevate the politics of the nation, or enhance the office of the president.

What an unedifying spectacle to see the president of a nation that aspires to become middle-Income in five years reduced to blocking traffic, having his police, soldiers and security details manhandle people, all because of he wants to appear strong in his party’s internecine war?

Sorry, but that was a very unedifying spectacle! I didn’t see a strong president; I saw a charade, a circus.

Some things just do not appear right no matter how much gloss we paste over them. Does a president, in two and half years of his four-year term, need to self-flagellate himself before the public in order to secure the loyalty of his party members?

It is inconceivable to imagine former President John Jerry (JJ) Rawlings been reduced to the level of puppetry president Atta Mills exhibited on May 5!

It is doubtful if anyone in his party would have dared challenged JJ, to begin with. Whatever accusation we might tar him with, president Rawlings simply has the gravitas to firmly stamp his authority on his party that leaves no one in doubt of who is in charge.

We also witnessed how former President John Kufuor firmly and robustly stamped his authority on his party when voices of dissension arose. A chairman and a secretary-general were casualties when they crossed the Gentle Giant.

That is the mark of true leader.

Among the qualities necessary in leadership are boldness and decisiveness. It is said that a ship cannot afford to have two captains, and it is equally clear that two chefs cannot coexist peacefully in a kitchen.

Mr. Machiavelli rightly informed us that it is better for a Prince to be feared than loved. Maybe it is time someone lend President Mills a copy of The Prince.

Our elders have many wise sayings to support the position that a good leader must show strong and decisive leadership attributes; one of them is that two rams cannot drink from the same bowl.

There are enough warnings about the rumblings in the NDC that the only surprise is why the president left thing to degenerate to the gutter level without doing a darn thing about it.

Political survival instincts alone should have informed the president to stamp his authority on the party as soon a she was elected. His political antennae should have long picked up the threat posed by former President John Jerry Rawlings’ and his gang, he should have either reined or roped them in.

For whatever reason, President Mills did not do this, he is today reaping the harvest of his indecisiveness and the country is the worse off for it.

Expensive presidential time that should have been utilized to address the nation’s myriads of problems is now devoted to solving inter-party bickering.

President Mills appears like a leader who is afraid to rock the boat, and want to sit on the fence and be liked by all and sundry. This is not good enough. Leadership is not a popularity contest.

In the management of human affairs, there will be occasions when the whip needs to be swung and heads cracked; a leader should not shy away from doing so.

Human interests being what they are, it is simply impossible to please all the people all the time. It should not be the leader’s job to be Mr. Nice Guy. At the end of the day, it is results that count. It is through their achievements that leaders are judged.

What are we supposed to think of a president who needs to drag party and state officials from their duty posts to come and pledge allegiance to him on national television? C’mon, we are not in the Soviet era? Why should a leader need public declaration of fidelity from his appointees?

This was a badly scripted act that did little to enhance the president’s stature! President Atta Mills needs to do more. He needs to sit up and raise the bar of his performance. Whether or not he wins the party’s nomination, the president needs to crack the whip. He needs to change the perception that he’s an effeminate and indecisive leader with no mind of his own.

Who needs the sycophantic declaration of political jobbers? Mr. President should start to credit us with some intelligence. By dragooning his cabinet and party hacks to swear public allegiance to him, the president more than declared that all is not well.

Public declarations of support for a president are disgusting sight to which we should not be treated. Those are not what we want to see and they are not what we should be seeing from our Executive President.

We are not interested in the president’s ruckus with his party members. A wise man does not bring his family palaver to the public square. The president should solve his party’s problem at his own time; his time with us should be spent on addressing our pressing national issues.

We have enough brain to know that political jobbers owe their bread and butter to the president, and will do anything and everything to ensure that their positions are not threatened, so what exactly is Mr. President telling us?

Was he hoping to surprise us that his ministers support him publicly? I just cannot get the message the president’s handlers tried to send to us.

It is indeed sad to see the governance of Ghana reduced to such spectacle. 5 May 2011 mark a new low in the political life of the nation. All these bring us to my biggest beef with president Mills.

The president’s handlers never lose any opportunity to remind us about his academic accomplishments. A professor at twenty something, they keep on telling us.

The question is thus beggared why a professor who get elected to lead his country appear so bereft of great ideas on how to move his nation forward in giant leaps and bounds. What is the point in brandishing one’s intellectual pedigree if it is not to think big?

More importantly, why would an intellectual giant surround himself with mental Lilliputians who are incapable of generating any useful ideas or raise the level of any intellectual debate?

A great mind will surround himself only with like-minded people and will have no time for lickspittles and sycophantic hanger-ons.

Truth be told, President Mills have not enunciated any big and bold action plan into which we can sink our teeth.

Did the president handlers expect us to be enthused by the sight of Ghana’s Chief Executive cutting sods for KVIP toilets and canteens in universities?

We expected our president to cut sods for giant industrial, scientific and agricultural projects, not one that takes great pride in cutting tapes for primary and secondary schools.

We have many public and private universities in the country. We also have lots of town planners, surveyors and architects, yet we cannot fathom how to build affordable and decent houses for our people. Our president is reduced to a mere sod-cutter and we are expected vibrate with happiness and gratitude.

The job of our president is to utilize the human resources of the land to improve our lives. It is duty to think and dream big and make us part of his big ideas.

Alas, the people that surround our Chief of State cannot fathom the need to raise the standard. They are contended to trumpet the building of KVIPs as solid achievements for their over-flogged Better Ghana Agenda!

I sometime try to imagine what type of brains some of our officials are endowed with! Rather than think of how to build houses with toilets, they are thinking in terms of public toilet in the year 2011 and beat their chests in triumph!

Why on earth should our people in this age and time still build houses without toilets? That should be question to agitate our minds.

Again we are told that Mr. President sleeps and breathe with the gods, and we often see him parleying often with priests.

But why can’t he find the time to call the scientists and engineers in the land and gave them very SPECIFIC NATIONAL ASSIGNMENTS to solve within a specific time frame?

Let us take electricity as example of a major problem that requires bold leadership. Despite lots of noises, we still cannot generate and distribute enough electricity for domestic and industrial needs.

But for the foresight of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana Inc. would have grounded to a halt by now. The Akosombo Dam built by the Osagyefo continues to sustain us.

The Osagyefo also established the university that today bears his name at Kumasi. It is a university of science and technology and was set up to help with the nation’s quests for scientific and technological breakthrough.

Sadly, not much has been achieved as we continue to import all our technical needs. We can take solar lantern as an example of a specific problem we can set our minds to solve within few months. KNUST should be given a marching order to develop and get affordable solar lantern on the GH market within two years.

Another example is the dirty waterways in the nation’s capital, Accra. Legon should be tasked with coming up with solution that will breathe life into the dead waterways. The water can become arteries for transportation, agriculture and pure leisure.

Those who argue about how we are going to get the money should ask themselves where other people get theirs. They can also ask what could be done with all the money the telecomm companies waste on their useless jamborees or what we waste on parties.

A friend told me something few years back that still leaves my head reeling: He said we should remain grateful to our forebears because without them he cannot imagine what we would have done with our lives. He gave examples of the cutlass, hoe and the mortar\pestle. He said without formal schooling, our ancestors invented those useful things. Thousands of years later and with many universities, polytechnics, SSS, JSS, we have not improved upon any of them.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why can't we also dream BIG?

Why can't we also dream BIG?

"The future belongs to those that believe in the beauty of their dreams." - Anon

For some unfathomable reasons while I enjoy producing TV programmes, I seldom sit behind a television. Yesterday was different; I actually sat down and watch two TV programmes for close to five hours.

National Geographic is one of the channels available to Cable television subscribers in the Dutch city of Amsterdam, and the programmes were ‘Big, bigger, biggest,’ the other was ‘Building the future.’

The programmes show how human beings compete to build the tallest buildings, the largest dams, the biggest wheels and that sort of things. They were very engrossing and well-produced programmes – otherwise it won’t have consumed five hours of your truly.

What struck me the most was that none of the projects was in Africa; none of them was conceived by Africans.

From the Cape to Cairo, from Algeria to Zimbabwe, no African nation is thinking big; none is engaged in any big idea. In none of Africa’s 53 countries are the people mobilized to solve one of the myriads of problems confronting the people.

The pungent question that immediately agitated my mind was: why can’t we Africans also dream big? What exactly is it with us that our minds are not also agitated to build big things. Why are we no longer participating at the highest levels of science and engineering? Why do our cities lack eye-pleasing parks; fountains, swimming pools, libraries, monuments and other imprints of our passing through this life?

Our ancestors left their huge imprints in the sands of history. We have their Pyramids in Sudan and Egypt to attest that they did great things. What are we leaving behind?

If it’s true that the future belongs to those that believe in the beauty of their dreams, why are we Africans not also dreaming big? We are we not following our dreams? Why are we not agitated to leave behind solid legacies of achievements? Why are those leading us not mobilizing us to aim higher? Why our lives still consume by the mundane, the inanities, the senseless and mind-boggling pettiness.

Let’s get something straight: I am not in any way advocating that we copy European’s path of irrational development, or that we pursue the mindless rat race of the West, or turn our habitats into concrete jungles like they did in Europe. But there are some very basics things in our lives that our intellect should challenge us to improve.

Most part of Africa enjoy all-year round sunshine, why then do most Africans lack access to cheap solar energies. Why can't all the universities and polytechnics in Africa come up with dirt cheap solar lanterns for our people? Why can't any leader in Africa simply determine that enough is enough and give a challenge to African scientist to come up with a solution. Why are all the rich people in Africa uninterested in solving a single problem?

Mr. Mo Ibrahim generously give a grant to encourage good governance in Africa, why can't other African businessmen emulate him and start encouraging science and technology on our continent?

Over fifty years of self-government, there is no reason whatever why our folks still live in houses without water, light and, wait for this, bathroom and toilet.

It should be a national shame to us when we see families trooping to thick forest, braving snakes, in order to answer nature’s call. We should bury our heads in shame when we see our women folks squatting by the roadside to do their thing. And why do we not die of embarrassment when we see our beautiful beaches continue to be defaced by human faeces? What type of brain do we possess when people can still, in this age and time, build houses without toilet facility?

The sad part is that it wasn’t like this few years back. Then houses are supposed to be equipped with a toilet facility, however primitive. There are health inspectors in their khaki khaki and pilt helmets that goes around every week to ensure that the ordinances on health are complied with.

Sadly, we have jettisoned this very good idea.

There is also the question of our inability to feed ourselves. Our leaders, without a sense of shame or irony, keep telling us that we are spending about US$600 million to import rice.

Now, rice is really a very simple plant to grow and harvest. It takes between 3 to 6 months from planting to harvesting. And with modern methods, it can be grown virtually everywhere in our beautiful country. And what we have in some abundance is arable land, especially in the north and the Accra plains, where rice can easily be cultivated. We also happen to have another critical ingredient in abundance: dirt cheap labour.

Any intelligent leadership would have married these two together to make us a world leader in rice production.

But sadly, our elite, slaves to their masters at the IMF and the World Bank, continue to short-change us.

While our youth cry out for employment, we continue to use our hard-earned income to keep American and Asian rice farmers in business. We are doing the same for Italian and EU tomato farmers. We are doing it for Brazilian and Argentine beef and chicken farmers.

Our leaders, like mindless obedient children, continue to follow the instructions of their masters in London, Paris and Washington.

Just few years ago, the IMF admitted that three decades of their diktat ruined our economy, yet today our leaders are asking for more of the same.

It is sad really when we see that those who are today embracing the IMF were the same guys who just few years back (when they were in opposition) were loudly vociferating against the Bretton Woods institutions!

What is truly terribly galling is that western countries continue to pursue policies that are contrary to what their institutions are prescribing for us. Do our leaders follow the news and current affairs at all? When their own economies crashed, we saw all western countries frantically printing money or borrowing huge sums to keep their economies afloat and their people in work. Yet IMF and World Bank officials have the audacity to come and tell us to remove subsidy to our distressed economy, and our leaders are not putting a fatwa on them or calling upon us to lynch them!

From the Greece, through Portugal, through Spain, France, the UK, to the US, the whole capitalist economy is in tatters. Capitalism is truly discredited and western nations have intervened massively to shore up the casino economies that unbridled capitalism created, yet our leaders continue to listen to western officials giving us lectures!

Can’t we be original, for once? Can we think original thoughts?

Some time ago, it was announced that there were plans to create a Dry Dock port at Ghana’s second city, Kumasi. The question is why Dry Dock? The distance between Accra and Kumasi is 270 km or 168miles. Why cannot our minds conceive of a large canal to link the Garden City to the Atlantic?

If human beings were able to link the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal (a daunting engineering feat by any standard), why can’t we be able to build an ordinary water channel?

More than four hundred years ago, the Dutch people conquered their lands from the sea, and they successfully build large canals to enable them move up and down their below-the-sea-level country. They successfully connect many large rivers to the sea. And some few years back, they successfully created a brand new province, Flevoland, from the sea.

Again we have the human resources, but we lack the imagination. Those leading us are too pre-occupied with little silly things to think on grand scale. They lack the minds to dream big ideas and challenge us to accomplish them. They continue to think low scale, as though the creator forgot to adequately equip them in the brain department. They continue to operate as though rest of the world is still waiting for us. A president of our dear land, a former professor, happily commissioned public toilets and expect us to dance for joy!

Iran has successfully mastered nuclear and space technology; China will soon be sending a Chinese to the moon and the Indians are leading the world in software engineering, and our president is calling on us to pray and fast!

Our president is asking for a national day of prayer. He conveniently forgot to tell us what all our prayers all over the years have accomplished for us. He disingenuously forgot to tell us which country on earth has solved a single problem by praying.

Actually methinks that we should be affronted by that type of talk from anyone ruling us. No one campaigned on the premise that we would require heavenly intercessions to solve our basic problem.

Our parliamentarians each took US$50,000 as car load without bending their knees in supplication to a god. That is addition to generous salaries and allowances they are receiving.

Our ministers continue to enjoy good salaries, emoluments and other freebies without offering prayers. We do not see our officials offering prayers when they are looting our treasury or selling off our national assets to their friends in the West. Why on earth do they then need prayers to provide basic services for us?

Basics things like water and electricity are no longer considered hard-to-master Rocket Science, yet they continue to pose serious challenges to those ruling us.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are individual Africans brilliant enough to participate at the highest summit at NASA, the ESA and other hallowed institutions. So, we know that it has nothing to do with race or color.

What is easily noticeable is that whilst individually we might excel, collectively we continue to flounder. We can also easily see this wherever we go in this beautiful continent of us. We have individuals who are brilliant enough to perform well and run their own companies competently, but in our national life, everything is still topsy-turvy. We have the incredible situation recently whereby the company providing water for the our capital city had to go all the way to South Africa to look for an engineer who could help them fix a broken down plant.

The news has died down and we have forgotten it until next time when we encounter the same problem. This, sadly, continue to be the way we run our national affairs. No one was fired for the water corporation fiasco. No queried was issued to anyone over the national embarrassment. No effort was expended to ensure that the same thing will not happen again. Few days later, like little children, we have moved to other things.
Let’s take a look at the perennial flood causing havoc in our national capital, Accra. Like acting some macabre rituals, our leaders yearly troop to our Alajo and Asylum Down and Sahara and the other numerous ghettos sandwiched within our nation’s chief city. There, our leaders will look their grimiest, make the same sanctimonious, ritualistic promises and depart with their expensive motorcade (foreign made, of course). End of story.

I saw President Rawlings during his long years sympathizing with flood victims in Accra. President Kufuor followed exactly the same script and President Mills have also started doing the same thing. Nothing, absolutely nothing will be done to put proper structure in place to ensure that the same flood does not happen the following year. Maybe our leaders are afraid that it’d spoil the macabre fun they thought we are enjoying with their visits.

Our lives continue to be consume by politics, religion and gossip.

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors built high culture in Axum; they build pyramids in Sudan and in Egypt; they built the great Zimbabwean walls, yet today we cannot mobilize to feed and, clothe and decently house ourselves.

It is a crying shame.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

African Albinos: a threatened specie

This article was published in the February 2010 edition of the New African Magazine.

No one can accuse Africans of not being very funny creatures. Travel the length the breadth of this very fantastically beautiful and hugely blessed continent and you will notice how people of the European Stock (apologies to Baffour Ankomah) continue to be treated with huge respect.

In Nigeria, children will be seen running after the scaliest of European wags screaming, ‘Oyinbo, oyinbo.’ In Ghana where a European face will open any door, they are called ‘Obroni,’ with great affection. In Eastern and Southern Africa, the very complimentary appellation is ‘Mzungu.’

By a very curious but yet unfathomable logic, whilst Africans continue to worship human beings with white skins that came from Europe; the same people continue to kill human beings with white skins if they happen to be Africans.

Lamentably, in this globalized age of internet and things, there are still people whose prejudices against Albinos are as long as your arm. Some of the myths concocted by these jaundiced and totally bigoted people include such nonsense that:

I. Albinos do not die but only vanish after some stage of their lives.
II. Albinos can see only at night.
III. Albinos do not attend nature’s call on Friday.
IV. When Albinos whistle ants do not sleep in night.
V. Albinos are born only when there is a failure in an attempt to abort a baby.
VI. Albinos will become blind halfway through life.

It matters little that these are purely jejune nonsense. Albinos do not vanish; no one does. And certainly not all albinos are photophobic.

Were Albinos in Africa to be facing only irrational bigotry that, in itself, would have been serious enough. But they are still being used for totally absurd rituals.

Africa is indeed a place of mind-bogging contradictions. Africa is a place where someone will go through the rigors a university education, follow a rigorous scientific training, acquire all the degrees available yet will believe that tying a talisman to a waist is protection against car accident. It is a place where people still believe that nature is governed by supernatural forces that could be appease by bathing in olive oil and dancing senseless at ‘prayer retreats.’

In a recent election rerun in Ekiti State of Nigeria, people resorted to the chanting of incantations and the display of charms and amulets. Ironically, almost every family in Ekiti state boasts a PhD degree holder and the state’s motto is: “Fountain of Knowledge,”

This writer incurred the ire of many Ghanaians when last year he told off a Ghanaian pastor who had gone to the Akosombo dam to invoke the power of the almighty to send down the rain. In an article in The Mirror (Ghana), I wrote that the sciences of rain are too well known to require the intervention of some goblins in the sky. May people called for my head.

In this age and time when the luminous light of science is revealing nature’s darkest secrets, many in our dear continent still believe that spilling Albinos’ blood will yield better crop, guarantee business success, help in passing examinations, help in winning elections, drive off evil spirits and help to gain financial success. Sadly many people are still willing to perform the same rituals their ancestors in Egypt were performing eons ago.

Few years ago, some people in Tanzania decided that the fastest and surest way to instant prosperity is by using parts from Albinoid people. What started as a prank in the Northern part of the country soon spread like wide fire until it engulfed the whole nation. The numbers rose dramatically as rumors spread of the efficacy of potent of juju concocted with Albino blood and body parts.

Today Albinos in Tanzania have to take refuge in camps which is the only place they feel safe.

Early this year Bukuruwa a sleepy town in Ghana’s Eastern Region shot to national prominence when its chief announce that the safety of Albinos living in his domain can no longer be guaranteed because their god had issue with Albinos some three hundred years ago.

In many parts of Ghana (and Africa), Albinos are still seen as outcast. So entrenched are superstitious beliefs in many parts of the country that many people believe that the spate of accidents ravaging the country can be stayed by the sacrifice of Albinos. There are two reported cases of Albino killing at Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo region of the country. And recently it was alleged that Albinos were sacrificed to win elections in the December 2008 elections. Figures are difficult to come by, but the Society of Albinos-Ghana (SOA-G) believes that many Albinos are being senselessly killed across the land for ritual sacrifices.

The president of the SOA-G, Mr. John David Tuu Yawanah, in an interview with New Africa opined that its member face giant societal stigmatization that make their lives very miserable and pose direct threat to their lives.

The insults and humiliations Albinos face in Ghana are many. People call them all sorts of names, the favorite being ‘oflijato,’ meaning ‘borrowed skin ‘ in the Akan language. Albinos are openly discriminated against. The Bukuwura chief that made the threat has so far received no sanction whatever even though his condemnable and actionable utterances clearly breached the Ghanaian Constitution which forbids discrimination on any ground whatsoever.

Even though the nature of albinism makes working in the open African sun difficult enough, but then few employers will even consider them for any sort of employment to begin with. The Department of Social Welfare responsible for catering to the disabled also stubbornly refuses to recognize their peculiar disabilities.

Albinism is simply a defect in the body production of the melanin. Melanin is the substance responsible for giving color (pigment) to our skin, hair, and eyes. It is found in both human being and animals. In plants, the lack of melanin (chlorophyll) results in the plant’s inability to produce photosynthesis necessary for it sustenance and survival. Though some authors have sought to link melanin with, among other things, intelligence and spiritually, there’s no scientific basis whatever to support such bogus claims.

Albinism (from Latin albus, "white", also called achromia, achromasia, or achromatosis) is a form of hypopigmentary congenital disorder, characterized by a partial (in hypomelanism, also known as hypomelanosis) or total (amelanism or amelanosis) lack of melanin pigment in the eyes, skin and hair, or more rarely in the eyes alone.” Wikipedia.

According to the website of the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH), “The word “albinism” refers to a group of inherited conditions. People with albinism have little or no pigment in their eyes, skin, or hair. They have inherited altered genes that do not make the usual amounts of a pigment called melanin. One person in 17,000 in the U.S.A. has some type of albinism. Albinism affects people from all races. Most children with albinism are born to parents who have normal hair and eye color for their ethnic backgrounds. Sometimes people do not recognize that they have albinism.“

And according to MedinePlus Medical Encyclopaedia, “There are two main types of albinism:

• Type 1 albinism is caused by defects that affect production of the pigment, melanin.
• Type 2 albinism is due to a defect in the "P" gene. People with this type have slight coloring at birth.

The killing of Albinos might have a direct link with the new craze in much of Africa whereby people, especially the young ones, want to get rich quickly without working for it.

They seem to be following the script in the movie: Get Rich or Die Trying. Their only desire in life is an unbridled primitive accumulation of material things. In Ghana where it’s known as SAKAWA, children as young as 18 have abandoned schools and are resorting to every form of magic which they believe will guarantee them instant wealth. There have been many reports of young people dying or going mad under very mysterious circumstances after undergoing very nasty rituals.

It is sad that much of Africa’s hallowed customs and cultures are being daily bastardized. In years gone by, no one in our societies dared displayed a wealth of unknown source. In those days, a parent will question a child who brought any strange object to the house. Nowadays no one seems to have much respect for hard-work, honesty and integrity.

In years past, many weird rituals were performed in many traditional African societies. These include the killing of twins who were believed to be aberrant of nature. Gladly, enlightenment has all but banished but few of these misguided beliefs.

The killings of human beings with any form of deformity ought to be strongly condemned. We Africans need to properly educate ourselves that we have to join the rest of humanity in embracing science and technology even as we strive to maintain our cultural integrity. Our opinion leaders owe it a duty to help in educating the people that it’s high time we jettison ancient ideas that are as irrational as they are anachronistic. There is no antidote to poverty alleviation but good education, hard work, clever management of our immense resources and learning to live within our means. It’s a fantastic pseudo-science that crop yield could be increased by spilling blood, any blood. Better irrigation systems will yield better harvest than all the body parts of all the Albinos in our dear continent.

The Interview

Femi Akomolafe interview with Mr. John David Tuu Yawanah, President of Society of Albino – Ghana

Q: What motivated you to set up the Society of Albino – Ghana?

A: I was a lecturer at the Political Science department of the University of Ghana, Legon before I took it upon myself to take up the cause of the people with albinism. Our daily lives are suffocated with unbridled prejudices and discriminations even from people who should know better. Imagine that I, at the very summit of academia, is daily subjected to very revolting indignities. What then about the ordinary Albino who is a virtual nobody?

Q. Your society recently called a press conference to protest the Bukuruwa issue whereby the chief called for the ostracization of Albinos, what has been the reaction so far?

A: Sorry to say, not much was achieved. We got a few mention in the papers – buried deep in the hard-to-locate crannies. The radios also played it for a minute or so and it was all forgotten. Sadly, we have not had a reaction from the government or any of the state institutions. We are talking fundamental human rights here! We are supposedly a republic of law and order, how on earth can any person, no matter how highly placed, virtually called for the killing of another human being with those in authority not reacting at all? We have petitioned as high as the presidency with absolutely no one minding us.

Q: Your society operates under the umbrella of the Ghana federation of the Disabled, why is that?

A: Funnily, people do not think of Albinos as physically-challenged to use that politically-correct word. But the truth is that we suffer from a host of ailments of which seven different forms of cancer are prime examples. We also have serious problems with our eye sights. Think of it this way, we are the only disabled people who cannot organize a protest march. We simply cannot walk in the harsh African sun lest we suffer severe burnt. So, we have to suffer in silence or organize press conferences that are poorly attended and under-reported.

Q. Do you get any help from the government or any organization, internal or external?

A: Unfortunately not. The society is being funded solely by my personal resources and the resources of a few of our members with the wherewithal to help. I have a BMW workshop that generates a small income which I use to fund most of the activities of the society. The government refuses to see our conditions as demanding special treatment. I was recently in Malawi and there they have special Albino units in some of their hospitals manned by people with albinism. In contrast to Ghana where we have had cases where doctors and nurses refused to treat Albinos. Being a NGO we are supposed to be tax-exempted, but as I am talking to you now, I have a consignment of creams donated to our society by a benevolent outsider rotten at the Tema port. The reason is that we do not have the money to clear them from the port. And of course such creams are too expensive to be purchased locally.

Q. What have you been doing to publicize the plight of Albinos in Ghana and to educate the people of Ghana about what albinism exactly is?

A: Publicity, my brother, cost money, tons of it. Sadly the newspapers here are all into sports and politics with scant coverage of health or social issues. We have had sympathetic media people like Blakk Rasta who has taken up our cause. We do our best to issue press release and speak at forums but what do we do when editors decide to bury our stories deep inside their papers? I have approached the radio and TV stations for help in publicizing our plights, but they are all demanding huge sums that we simply do not have.

Q: How about the churches and other religious body?

A: Sad to say but we have scored zilch on that front also since the demise of Dr. Apostle Okey Ntimi of the Pentecost Church. Among all the religious leaders, he was our sole indefatigable champion. Since his death no other religious leader has deemed it fit or necessary to help us. This in a way is very strange. They are there preaching about a God that created all of us, yet they tacitly sanction the discrimination against some of the creator’s creature? I don’t know how to square that.

Q: How about your own immediate family, do you suffer discrimination from them as well?

A: From my nuclear family, I’ll say no. We are a family of eight. Both my parents are carriers and among the children half are Albino and the other three are not. So there’s no problem there, but even member of my extended family openly taunt me. I waged a battle before I could marry my wife. Her aunt was so hostile that on the occasions that she caught us together she threw water on us. Sadly she died in a car crash where she had gone to recruit her sister (my mother-in-law) in her cause to stop our marriage. Some of her family member even brought military policemen to come and threaten me. Up till today, there are still family houses where my wife is a persona non grata. My wife is not an Albino and our children are also not but the children are carriers. That means that should they marry other carriers, their offspring will suffer from albinism.

Q: And among your friends and colleagues?

A: The discrimination is both overt and covert. Many of my friends openly show prejudices without even realizing it. I was once in the company of a friend when he met one of his friends and asked for some money. His friend retorted that he was a fool to be asking him for money when he was walking with money. It means that we Albinos are good potions for money-making juju. People have openly threatened to send me to where I shall never return. And law enforcement officers have also publicly called me names.

Q: How do you feel when you see Africans embracing Europeans on the streets and treat Albinos like vermin?

A: I have traveled the length and breadth of Africa one thing I noticed is that we Africans have serious inferiority-complex problem. We worship everything as long as it does not remind us of our Africaness. I have some books where it was said that Europeans are Albinos Africans casted away in years past. I don’t know how far that theory is true or not, but I want people, especially Africans, to know is that we are also children of God. One of the rhymes we were taught in primary school is: To laugh at infirmity or deformity is enormity.’ How do we then grow up saddled with all these excess baggage of absolutely nonsensical prejudices and bigotry? If one accepts God as possessing infinite wisdom, it does not add up to condemn one of his creations. HIV/AIDS is a dreadful and easily contagious illness, albinism is not infectious. Albinism is hereditary and cannot be transmitted by blood transfusion or any vector. How then do we explain the situation whereby we Albinos are considered as the lowest forms of life?

Q: Have you considered internationalizing your plight? For example international stars like the Malian singer, Salif Keita, and the reggae superstar Yelloman are Albinos, have you solicited their help?

A: I am the Chairman of the pan-African organization for Albinos. We try to coordinate our activities at the African continent level. I have travel all over Africa to compare notes and share experience with my brothers and sisters across the continent. No, I have not contacted stars like Salif Keita and Yellowman simply because I do not have the links to them.

Q: And your message to the reader of this magazine?

A: My plea is that we Albinos suffer enough as it were and people should not compound our woes. We did not choose to suffer from albinism. We have no choice but to accept our fate, but people should realize that since no one knows tomorrow, they should be more sensitive to the ways and manners they relate to people with any form of deformity. We welcome any help that will alleviate our woes and enable members of our society or any disabled person to live a fulfilled life. We are all sojourners on mother earth and we ought to treat one another with respect, solidarity and dignity. It shouldn’t be a difficult thing to do!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Attack On Libya: A Commentary

Whatever happens, we have got The Maxim gun, and they have not."
—Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc

It was the great Simón Bolívar who said: "The United States appears to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty."

As a citizen of the world it's becoming increasingly difficult for me not to think that the gods destined the West to plague the rest of mankind.

I have often wondered what it'd be like to be a citizen of a Western nation. What does it feel like to belong in a society that has such scant regard for human lives, and one that has such fickle understanding of basic human relationships?

What does it feel like to belong in a place where friendship fizzles away at the flick of fingers and allegiances are not even skin deep?

I know all about Lord Palmerston's assertion that "There are no permanent allies, no permanent friends, only permanent interests," and I have read George Orwell's classic, Nineteen Eighty-Four. But how would I feel to be led by people whom I see kissing somebody today and raining bombs on him tomorrow?

I really don't know.

I lived in the West and still visit occasionally, but the place remains as incomprehensible to me as though it exists in another planetary system. The mentality of the leadership/scholarship of the Western world remains enigmatic to me. And when you thought you have seen it all, they come up with a whopper that dwarfs everything you considered insane about them.

I was old enough to remember the Iran-Iraq war where, as is usual in any trouble spot in our wide world, the West took sides. They supported a rather nasty customer because they were still peeved by their loss in Iran -- like the country belonged to them. They goaded Saddam Hussein to spend a great part of his national income to buy their arms. They gleefully sold the dictator all he needed to give himself the illusion of grandeur.

A few years later, Saddam had an issue with the West's latest paramour, the rulers of British-invented Kuwait. With dizzying speed, the West changed sides. With alacrity, they assembled the coalition that raced with dispatch to destroy the weapons they sold to their erstwhile puppet.

Jules Henry wrote one very excellent essay I read during my school days. It was titled: "Social and Psychological Preparation for War," which was originally published in The Dialectics of Liberation (Penguin, 1968).

Mr. Henry informed us of the reason why it is very easy for the United States to wage wars at the drop of a hat, so to speak. He wrote:

It is clear, therefore, that in preparation for modern war an interdependent world political economy has within it sufficient conflicts of interest to make all nations potential enemies to all others. One of the "evolutionary achievements" of modern culture has been to make the idea that "anybody can be my enemy at any time" acceptable. A consequence of the definition of the enemy as part of one's own social system is a psychological predisposition to accept almost any nation at all as inimical when the government chooses to so define it.
I have on my computer system pictures of "democratic" leaders like Britain's Tony Blair, King Sarkozy, and Emperor Barack Obama meeting with and shaking the hands of Muammar Qaddafi. I also have pictures of Berlusconi kissing Qaddafi's hand.

That this same man, who today has been successfully morphed into an ogre, received warm embraces from many Western leaders is easily forgotten by Western pundits.

Today, without any compunction, without even batting an eyelid, Western leaders are falling over themselves to condemn the man whom they were welcoming like a bosom friend just a few months ago. Today, their planes are raining bombs on the North African nation.

They needed him then and he knew it. Having bankrupted themselves in fighting their insane wars, and to bolster their insatiable and gluttonous lifestyles, they needed infusions of raw cash, which Qaddafi happens to have in abundance.


Wise saying:

" Never use both feet to test the depth of the sea." - African proverb