Religion of Sunday, 12 August 2012
Source: Baidoo, Philip Kobina
This was written more than two and a half years ago after the Haitian earthquake.
It is quite normal to be emotionally affected by the 12th of January earthquake registering 7.0 on the Richter scale that almost reduced Port au Prince to rubble. It is only a person who is made of heart of stone who will feel otherwise. It is a tragedy, but also an opportunity to serve as a sober reminder of the vulnerability of the human race. It is, therefore, a time for reflection. It is hardly the time for the scoring of political points and rhetoric. What happened in Haiti can happen anywhere in the world especially all the countries that are located on the fault lines of the earth’s tectonic plates. Though, Ghana has a history of earthquakes it might not necessarily be the disaster that overwhelms us, but floods, bushfires, crop failure etc. The question is: are we better placed to cope or face such disasters? The difference between survival and death depends on the level of development. Should a similar quake with magnitude and duration happen in Tokyo or San Francisco, hardly would you see the level of carnage and human suffering that followed. The reason is the economies of these two cities are well developed, and they can build structures to withstand earth tremors of such devastation. Though, similar tremors in Japan in 1923 exposed the inhumanity of what man can do to man in times of emergency, they have learnt their lessons. While they are aware that they cannot prevent such natural disasters from happening they can at least mitigate its impact by building earthquake resistant structures, and provide the logistics, such as, heavy earthmoving equipments when needed.
So a time like this should serve as a shock treatment for the slumber, lukewarm cavalier attitude and, sometimes, some of the deliberate stupidity of our leaders. To know that this is the wake they will leave behind if they do not bequeath themselves to good governance and sterling management. Honestly, I do not have much faith in the intellectual capacity of our leaders. If they do the sort of hardships that has become the international face of the continent will be a thing of the past. On the other hand, I was absolutely surprised when Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe supported the boneheaded offer by the Senegalese President to all Haitians affected by that heart wrenching natural disaster. For the benefit of those who have not been following the Haitian earthquake the president of Senegal Abdouaye Wade offered all Haitians affected who want to come to their ancestral home, even a free passage if they so wish. In an article by Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, published on ghanaweb and The Statesman entitled ‘Senegal Does Africa Proud, Even As Ghana Vacillates.’ All that the piece was about is promoting, to him, the virtue of the incredibly densely ignorant offer by the Senegalese President who has done nothing, but drag the names of his forbearers like Leopold Sedar Senghor and Cheikh Anta Diop in the mud.
President Wade is without doubt a smart guy, a person who holds two doctorates in Law and Economics and a former dean of the law and economics faculty at the University of Dakar is indicative of his high-powered intellectual capabilities. However, I see him as a politician who wants to beef up his humanitarian credential as a political capital. I even wonder how that will go down with the Senegalese people. For that reason alone, I think he will do anything to achieve that end. On the other hand, as far as Okoampa is concerned, though I don’t know much about his scholastic background. However, I can extrapolate from the articles he writes, especially his series on J. B. Danquah that he has an affinity for history and does not deserve any benefit of a doubt. Besides, as an intellectual he is not constrained by politics and therefore free to speak his mind. For that matter he should know the difficulty of trying to correct history. The concept of history is simply to help us improve on the past and avoid repeating the mistakes, and he of all people should know better.
President James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States, thought he was doing the American ex-slaves a favour by bringing them back to Africa – their ancestral home. The population of the unfortunate colonist was decimated by diseases that they have lost their biological resistance. Almost two centuries down the line we all saw the disaster that befell the Liberians, which Ghanaians still; carry some of the scares at Gomoa Buduburam. Before Liberia a similar project had been pioneered by the British when they sent poor blacks and ex-slaves who helped them during their war against the Americans to Sierra Leone, which they named their capital Freetown. What happened to them was identical to what the Liberian settlers experienced. Besides, it is not coincidence that Sierra Leone also fought a bitter civil war, which they are still grappling with the aftermath. Africa is not the only home to such tragedies; similar ones have been played out in the European theatre, which I cannot elaborate due to space. And that is exactly what happens when people try to put right the unfortunate events of the past just for their personal aggrandisement.
Though, I strongly believe the Senegalese President’s offer is a PR gimmick, however, should it become a possibility, which I doubt with all certainty, he cannot create a special enclave for them, and will have to distribute them among the population. The cultural dislocation that will be experienced by both the migrants and the indigenous will be too huge to contemplate. Since the new arrivals are not going to behave as the saying goes: when you go to Rome you do as the Romans do. They will rather behave condescendingly towards their benefactors and feel superior towards them. Mind you, it’s not only white people who feel superior to Africans, even black Africans living outside the continent feel they are superior. And of course, can you blame them? All that they see is famine and war and even apartheid, foreigners brutalising black people in their own land, which only came to an end in the early 90s. With that kind of bombardment you will need an IQ of more than average free of any prejudice to think otherwise. Besides, there will be Senegalese who will feel strongly that the new arrivals don’t belong judging from their own economic conditions, which cannot be considered as posh. Even if the Senegalese economy is strong enough to absorb them the cultural differences can create serious friction that will explode in the future. And as an African I cannot stomach another civil war that can be avoided.
Though, as a social commentator I do not share the luxury of putting politicians on pedestals, especially those that are in search for one. However, I believe that when it is deserved it should not be denied. I wouldn’t waste my time to praise a politician, but it is equally abominable to drag them in the mud when there is no legitimacy, and that is exactly what Okoampa was doing to the current administration by suggesting that they were vacillating. With all the brouhaha the Senegalese premier was shouting from the rooftops all that he could offer is $ 1million. And after the Ghanaian government vacillation, they offered $ 3million. Now who is helping the Haitians more? Is it the stupid rhetoric of a president with a canine appetite in search of a pedestal or a president who think before acting? The jury is out.
As human beings we are very good at technological invention, but always found wanting at social engineering. Social engineering has cost us so much in the past when people try to impose their views and perception on the rest of society. The Haitians will be better off where they belong. What they need currently is money and perhaps new political leaders who will think about the common good of the people and not repatriation to Africa. And this is to Dr Kwame Okoampa Ahoofe, whatever we write as commentators is for the future of our mother Ghana, and the continent for that matter. As such we have huge responsibility to write things as they are and not be clouded by our political prejudice to the extent of burning the effigy that is hiding the ideal we are searching for.
Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr London firstname.lastname@example.org