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Feature Article of Friday, 15 June 2012

Columnist: Tawiah-Benjamin, Kwesi

Rock-A-Bye, Lullaby, Bye-Bye

Nothing should stop us from talking about heroes even though we haven’t made any in our lifetime. I just finished reading a religious book authored by a very important member of the Ghanaian clergy. He is unarguably one of our top two, especially in the Charismatic/Apostolic stream. He is intelligent and very scandal-free. He has reportedly turned down various offers for political positions, and has so far remained at the fringes as an advisor of some sort. The book is his second, I understand. It is not a particularly great piece of literary work. The first one was even worse. I started to do a review of the second and had to abandon the prospect at a point. Some of the pages are missing. As you begin to enjoy the argument on page 17, salivating for the continuation on page 18, you are transported to page 22. The printing is bad. Yet, it is selling. Some tertiary education teachers have recommended it to their students.

Alongside international bestsellers, brand new copies of the pastor’s book are displayed on shelves at a bookstore in the Accra Mall. The attendant at the popular bookstore gave me a searching, contemptuous look when I flipped through the book to show him the missing pages. She found me too fastidious, and muttered some sentences under his breath that suggested that I was committing a new type of literary sacrilege. She submitted: ‘Sir, it was written by Pastor…..Are you not a Ghanaian? Don’t you know his worth?’ “That is actually why I am concerned”, I supplied. Must we relax all the rules and hold back any form of scrutiny because of the person and stature of the author? Ironically, the book seeks to forcefully assert that the African is more than the intellectual equal of the people of other races. Does it matter if civilization started at the banks of the Rivers of Ethiopia and Jesus Christ is actually black? Abraham’s third wife, Keturah, may have caused us.

We do not feel any pulse of urgency to describe a book with missing pages as a lazy work by a lazy pastor. Yet, we are impatient to point out the missing pages in the work of politicians and public officials. Woyome is still before our courts. Too many missing pages led to the payment of millions to one individual. And we are all to blame for it, not any less than those who may have directly benefitted from the largesse. The missing pages in our executive and judicial books set in motion the wheels of fraud and inefficiency, and human agents made sure the wheels moved without friction. Our collective hypocrisy greased the wheels of gargantuan fraud.
Maybe it was not as easy as it has so far been presented. A light framed, moustache-wearing gentleman pops into a government agency to demand payment for no job done. They scan through files and notice some ‘missing pages’ and resolve to award him 51 million Ghana Cedis. Somebody was rocking a bye. His name is Ghana. Not Alfred Woyome. Not CP Construction. Not greedy political bastards. Not Government land looters. These have only served as lacunas that have been scapegoated as the bearers of a nation’s Golgotha. All 24 million of us should take a good stare in the mirror and ask Ghana a few questions.

The venerable Archbishop of Kumasi, the Most Eminent Peter Akwasi Sarpong, asked Ghana some of these questions at the just ended Andrew Awini-organised Freedom lectures. You are not quite human without Truth and Integrity, he fearlessly surmised. And we must not only demand good examples of the ‘cardinal principle’ of Truth from our politicians; we should ask if we ourselves are true. “Ghanaians should not joke with politics”. Not every Ghanaian qualifies to hold public office. To be a good Ghanaian is to be a good human being, he added. Good human beings are truthful.

What does a good human being look like? In the midst of bribe takers and ruthless fraudsters in a society where due process is an enemy to prosperity and integrity can only be construed in relative terms, the good human being is as harmless as Atongo of Interplast or perhaps as funny as Mr Dzokoto of Edziban fame. These are good for fun and food. In the entrepreneurial world, there are ‘good’ Ghanaians like UT Bank’s Kofi Amoabeng and my university choirmaster who is gradually building a private-movie-room empire. Successful Ghanaians have something good to offer. They are often recognised and rewarded for what they do best. Who rewards anybody for being plain truthful? Who rewards the quiet and decent politician who is not effective for propaganda? In the end, who needs a good but poor friend?

The pastor who first used the title I have borrowed was unashamed to tell his congregation that they were all lazy bums. His church is a huge edifice in a megapolitan setting in North America. He counted university and college professors, Wall Street chief executives and great people of influence among his congregation. He even had two American congressmen as members of his assembly. He didn’t mince words: ‘You are all lazy bums’. Crime is souring high. You are comfortable but the people around you are poor. You think you are working but you are just rocking a bye, singing lullabies. There were no applauses. No cheers. No tears. Only Americans.
Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin

bigfrontiers@gmail.com

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