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Opinions of Saturday, 25 December 2010

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

A Kofi Jack lecture for Christmas

By George Sydney Abugri

It is only God who can peer across the infinite expanse of space into virgin time and discern the shape and signs of things yet to come, otherwise, this could well and truly be may last Christmas letter in the almighty Daily Graphic, old chap.

I have written a weekly column regularly and consistently in the Graphic for nearly two decades, re-packaging in mid-stream, the original column, “The Friday File”, in its present epistolary mode.

I have “invented” a most unusual style which has unrelentingly and with varying degrees of success I must admit, exploited, manipulated and experimented with English language words, phrases and expressions for sheer literary adventure and with the courage of the legendary John Updike.

That is why I paid a tribute to Updike when the late Yankee king of poetry and prose died at the age of 76 last year with more than 50 highly acclaimed books to his credit, including several Pulitzer-winning ones.
Time Magazine’s Lev Grossman it was who came up with the ingenious description of John Updike’s style of writing as “that thing Updike did with words that other writers couldn’t.” Grossman said of Updike’s writing that other writers loved it, quoted it, studied it and some even tried to rip it off!

Grossman especially credited Updike with managing to make English words “which normally would not belong together in other writers’ hands”, to “react chemically with one another to produce unexpected flashes of beauty.”

Emboldened by the literary exploits and adventures of geniuses like Updike, I have soldiered gallantly on with my strange, rambling, grumbling, haranguing writing style which some at home and abroad have read with apparent relish but which others have criticized with venom.

The critics have included some who have read me from right to left in the manner of Arabic and proceeded to make references to pig tails and dawadawa powder where I had actually discussed ocean currents and Savanna agriculture.

Such is the peculiar and still developing nature of developing world print journalism that sections of the reading public and even some media professionals do not know the difference between the newspaper feature and the column. They dump both along with opinion and commentary in one big sack.

Anyhow, I am the one always doing the story telling and being the bona fide captain of my craft, I tell the stories my own way, sometimes beginning from the middle of a yarn, proceeding thence to the end, before working my way up to the beginning. I always encourage any who find this confusing or tasteless to skip me for something worth their while.

I write from the perspective that the struggle and strife going in my country and the rest of Africa and indeed the world, is the direct result of a fierce invisible war going on between truth and falsehood, justice and injustice, good and evil.

There is no way I can avoid choosing on which side to fight but it can be complicated where the conscience is concerned and I have sometimes found myself fighting against people of like-mind and philosophical disposition and on the side of people whose thinking is usually radically different from mine.

This probably being the last Christmas letter, the little boy in me wants to play John Updike with some issues: the riddle of the African political Sphinx, the looming threat of full scale civil war next door and Christmas.

The season for hypocrisy is here again with a delightful vengeance: Act with unusual cordiality and good will towards your neighbor. Give the hungry something to eat and some old clothes to wear. Yes sir, put big, beaming smiles on the faces of the poor, the sick and the suffering as they are always wont to say.

Why do you keep griping even when there is absolutely nothing to gripe about, Mr Gripemann? What is wrong with showing compassion toward the poor at Christmas? Nothing whatsoever old, chap but consider this:

When the Christmas decorations have been lowered in homes, offices and shops and put away, your neighbour is supposed to mind his own business and you, yours. The poor, hungry and underprivileged can go and fend for themselves as best as they can under vagaries of economic hardship and bide their time, till the next Christmas. A bit of waiting won’t kill them.

That the planet celebrates Christmas with such enduring fervour can only mean that it attaches so much importance to the teachings of the man whose birth in a village located among hills some eight kilometers outside modern day Jerusalem is being celebrated.

So why not go the whole hog with Jesus? He did not teach that love of neighbour and support for the underprovided should be practiced for only one day in a whole year, did he? He clearly intended that every day be a Christmas day minus the food and drink bringing and sexual promiscuity.

The Sphinx: Apart from nutty old Bob whose obsession with political power is so passionate that he has staunchly refused to die and is threatening to live forever, many of the despotic-minded African leaders in the septuagenarian bracket will soon leave the scene whether they like it or not.

Very unfortunately Jomo, that is really no good news, because the younger generation of African political leaders who have been groomed by the departing despots will inherit the formers’ destructive habits and keep the continent in the rut of regional insecurity, mark my humble word

They in turn, are teaching the youth wings of political parties in African countries including especially ours, that politics is all about bitter, uncompromising rivalry, acrimonious partisanship, shameless lying in the name of propaganda and clinging to political power at all cost, come blue thunder and gushing rivers of innocent human blood.

Laurent Gbagbo who has lost the election in La Cote D’Ivoire after ten years in power would rather see his country go up in blood and smoke than leave office. Already bout 50 of his compatriots have been killed in post-election violence, hundreds of Ivoirians are pouring out across the country’s borders with superregional neighbours.

By his intransigence, Gbagbo has handed Ivoirians a hideous concoction of blood and vinegar for Christmas. It is callous disposition which does not appear to take into account the restless days and sleepless nights he is causing his counterparts in the region.

In Ghana, some people have found the ultimate solution to the Ivorian crisis: All that needs to be done is for President Mills who the opposition says is quite chummy with Gbabgbo, to tell Gbagbo to quit.

President Mills: Mon bon ami Laurent, everyone and everything are up against you. Just quit.

Professor Gbagbo: Merci, c’est vrai, Fifi. I quit because you ask. Do you reckon it might be as easy as that, Jomo?

Poor Africa! This time the reference has nothing to do with badly ailing economies: We are saddled with yet another political albatross. What do we do? There are 10,000 UN troops in the country. Let them go in and take the guy out: The casualties would be too high to contemplate.

Right-o, let Ouattara share power with Gbagbo. It is the only rational approach to a solution. Hey, that would be endorsing a coup d’état and giving the Mugabe virus free range across all future elections on the continent. So? Solateedo, the UN, AU and ECOWAS have the riddle of the Sphinx all to themselves to solve for prosperity!