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Opinions of Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Columnist: Dzandu, Sammy

Are Ghanaians vindictive?

Many children are not only funny but they could also be troublesome. Sociologists try to explain why a particular child may behave in a certain way. They cite several factors including the child’s family background, social environment, age, etc.

However, one really needs to have “a big heart” to accommodate children. Kudos to all teachers especially those who teach at the pre-school level. I still remember some of my naughty deeds during my childhood. Any time my mother sent me on an errand, she would warn me not to be engaged in any other activity on my way; but to go straight and come back without any delay. Unfortunately, such warnings usually fell on deaf ears.

I remember I was once sent to a corn-mill operator to grind corn, to be used to prepare food for supper. On reaching the place, I saw some children playing football and I could not just resist the temptation to join them. Fortunately, the owner of the football, who doubled as the “team manager” happened to be my friend (I usually shared my sweets with him) so he readily agreed that I should join the game and play for his team. (Remember, football – owners were hailed like kings). We outnumbered our counterparts but who were you to either complain or challenge him? Being the owner of the ball, he would either sack you or bring the match to an abrupt end. Even the fouls that he committed were overlooked. I was so engrossed in the game that I forgot why I came there. My long delay prompted my mother to follow up to find out what exactly was happening. It was when I saw her coming that it dawned on me I had an assignment to perform. Guess what! Goats had “done justice” to the corn, leaving just a handful in the bowl. I believe the owners of the goats rejoiced in their hearts for the free lunch that I provided for their animals that day.

I would not like to comment on the bruises that I had as a result of the risky and fruitless ventures that I undertook with friends. Of course, I tried to hide the wounds by stuffing them with sand. Unfortunately my mother always detected them in the course of bathing me.

As for the countless number of pencils and erasers that I lost on weekly basis, the least said about them the better.

One could give several examples to buttress how troublesome children could be. Dress up a child nicely and the next moment, words could not describe his/her dirty appearance. Warn a child to stop whatever bad thing he/she is doing and he/she stops immediately, pretending to be the most obedient chap in the world; sometimes with the two hands folded; yet in the next few minutes, he/she goes ahead to do the same thing, and in some cases even worse things.

We would however be unfair to children if we consider them to be full of nothing but only mischief. In fact, children exhibit positive traits as well. One of such good qualities is FORGIVENESS. Children forgive easily! Adults who live in compound houses in particular would better understand how children could really embarrass them when it comes to human relations. For instance, if a parent decides that his/her child should not have anything to do with a particular child probably because the child was cruel to his/her child(ren), you would see the two children playing few minutes after their quarrel; thus putting their parents to shame.

That is the kind of spirit that should bind us together as a nation. Unfortunately, as individuals, students, religious bodies, corporate institutions and political parties, we usually hatch vindictiveness. It is sad that when one opens “The Ghanaian Dictionary of Vengeance” he/she could find many words, terms, expressions and idioms depicting the kind of people we are. Some of these terms are “I will show him”, “I will teach him a lesson”, “he will curse the day he was born” “he should count himself dead” “we will wear the same knicker/trousers”, “I will pepper him”, “he will know that power pass power”.

There are several examples that one could give to buttress the above point.

Having experienced a severe “ponding” during the first year in the University, a colleague vowed never to spare any “fresher” when he got to the second year. True to his word, he was the leader of the “ponding squad” that made the early days of the first year students in our Hall of Residence very unpleasant.

I was shocked when a deacon that I knew personally charged on a fellow church member, telling him he was ready to “remove his religious cloak” and deal ruthlessly with the supposedly enemy. According to the deacon, he still remembered what the gentleman had done against him some years ago and that he had all along “set a trap” for him. Fortunately, the gentleman had fallen into his trap by offending him again.

It is amazing the length that some people could go when it comes to paying their “enemies” in their coin. (Sometimes the “payment” affects innocent people.) For instance, somebody told me that he suffered much frustration under his former boss, resulting in his untimely resignation and joblessness. He would therefore never forgive anyone that bears his boss’ surname (name withheld) and offends him in life. Asked how he could tell whether there was any relationship between the person and the one who frustrated him, he answered “I’ll interview the person, and if I get to know that he is related to that man, trouble for him; and if I find out that there is no relationship, the fact that they bear the same surname will make me revenge.”

Some people make derogative comments about certain tribes and even vow never to have anything to do with them, just because an individual, who belongs to those tribes once offended them. Is it not amazing to hear somebody say that because he was wrongfully dismissed from work by his boss, who hails from an area in this country, he intended to join a particular security service to “show” him and all the people who come from his hometown. (By the way, does he necessarily have to join a security service to be able to revenge?)

Others also demonstrate excellent records management skills when it comes to the proper documentation and the preservation of records of people who have wronged them in life. In fact, they take their time to carefully design very good work plans to enable them “show their victims where power lies”, as it is normally said in our Ghanaian parlance.

I personally heard a supervisor “promising” two of his subordinates to “count themselves dead’ when he assumed the position of the Head of their Department because they maligned him to his immediate boss.

There are also some people who do not play any direct or active roles in the chain of vindictiveness. However, they serve as catalysts, speeding up and in fact fueling the “hatred-vindictive reaction”. There are instances where some elderly people in our towns and villages sow seeds of vengeance in the youth by telling them how badly or wickedly somebody treated their family relations in the past. The intention is nothing but to incite them to violence.

But is it only in our villages that we could find such “catalysts”? Right here in the cities, the kind of contributions that some people make during radio and television phone-in programmes, could really ignite vengeance.

However, having made the above points, would it also not be unfair for us to consider people who retaliate against others as “devil incarnates”? After all, was it not somebody who offended them first? In any case, is it not true that they really suffered in the hands of their enemies? So what is wrong if they also decide to prove to their adversaries that they could do worse things than what was done to them? After all, who would not like to protect his/her ego?

These are logical arguments that one could make. However, for the sake of peace, we could temper justice with mercy. Like the biblical story, where Jesus asked the accusers of an adulterous woman for whoever knew he had never committed any sin in his life to throw the stone against her and the people went away disappointed, almost all of us have ever offended somebody.

This is not in any way to suggest that people could just go ahead and intentionally “destroy” others hoping that they would be forgiven. We should do to others what we want others to do to us and be humble enough to apologize to people that we offend.

As a nation, we need to do away with all acts of vindictiveness. We should remember that we are one people with a common destiny.



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