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Opinions of Sunday, 19 April 2020

Columnist: Cameron Duodu

Cameron Duodu writes: Why governments must not lie to the people

President Akufo-Addo President Akufo-Addo

One of the stories I remember hearing when I was a kid was about Kwaku Ananse, at a time of terrible famine.

He told his family that he knew a deity that could save them from famine. But in order for the deity to save them, they had to put food for it, every day, in a special hole in their farm.

Since Ananse was the big man of the family, what he said was followed to the letter. Every day, the children's mother took a large portion of their meal and placed it inside the hole, in the pious hope that the bigger her sacrifice, the more the deity would be pleased and thus reward the family with bountiful returns.

One day, the mother made a very delicious groundnut soup. And, as usual, she went and left a large portion of it for the deity.

Now, the next morning, Ananse's eldest son, Ntikuma, was sweeping his father's bedroom when he smelt something like groundnut soup. It seemed to be coming from the direction of his father's bed!

Curious, Ntikuma went to the bed. He bent down and sniffed all around it. His nose led him to his father's cover-cloth!

Ntikuma, a very clever boy, became extremely suspicious at this point. He remembered that every evening, shortly after the family had partaken of their evening meal, his father would say he was going out “for a walk”. Never in the morning. Never in the afternoon. Only after dinner! Why?

Well, Ananse had gone for a “walk”, as usual, the previous night. And now, there was his cloth reeking strongly of groundnut-soup. What was going on?
Ntikuma tentatively worked out what his dad was doing. But he didn't say anything to anyone.

That evening, he invited his three brothers to come into the bush with him” to do night-hunting for birds and squirrels” to supplement the family's meagre food supplies. They all readily agreed to join Ntikuma.

Now, Ananse's children had very peculiar names, given to them by the neighbours, in relation to "oddness" they observed in the physical characteristics of each boy.

Tikenenkenen was thus named because his head was so misshapen that it “knocked into things, “kenen! --kenen!” -- as he walked about!

Afurudohwedohwe got his name from the enormously extended stomach he bore: it was so bloated up that the skin covering it was thin and shiny and reflected sunlight back on it: “dohwe! --dohwe!”.

As for Nyaankrohwea, it was his legs that gave him his name: they were so thin and elongated that they looked more like blades of elephant grass than human legs! (Nyaa=nnyuwa=legs; nkrohwea=elephant grass).

This assorted group it was that made its way into the bush. Ntikuma took them all round the bush and manoeuvred things so cleverly that they came, “by accident”, to be at exactly the spot where the deity's food was placed daily. They arrived there shortly after the food had been brought and left there by their mother.

“Let us keep watch on the food so that no silly animal comes and disturbs it before the deity comes to eat it!” Ntikuma told his brothers. “We can't be sacrificing our food for some stupid animal to come and eat it, can we?”
His brothers agreed with him. They hid in the bushes and waited.

They waited. And waited. And waited.

Then, as it began to get really dark. they saw a figure walking furtively towards the hole with the food in it. They all hushed their breathing. It was the figure of a man, but because of the darkness, they couldn't see the face clearly.

The man began to eat the food left for the deity.

Ntikuma immediately signalled to his brothers to go on the attack.
Afurudohwedohwe fell on the man as he was eating, and pinned him fast to the ground. Under his enormous stomach, the man could hardly budge.

Then, Tikenenkenen came and knocked his head gboooorah! into the man's head, as he too struggled in an attempt to get free. To curtail the man's struggles, Nyaankorowhea twisted his long thin legs around the man's own, “tying” both of the man's legs with his own into an unbreakable “knot”.
The knotted-up man lay on the ground, pressing his face hard into the earth, in the hope that he could not be recognised.

The brothers didn't mind. They just pinned him down and waited.

Soon, it was dawn.

The man now pleaded to be allowed to go, as sunshine would change him from a deity into a man.

The children did not mind him.

Finally, the man yelled in desperation: “If you don't release me to go right now, I shall turn into – into – YOUR F-F-F-F-F-F-FATHER!

The boys didn't move from him.
Next, the sun rose.

They turned the man round and looked at him --full in the face.

With great shock, they saw that it was, indeed, their own father, Kwaku Ananse!
The brothers were so disgusted that they took him as a prisoner to the chief's palace. They lodged a complaint against him for cheating on the members of his own family by selfishly and secretly eating the food to which they were all entitled, during a time of such a great famine.

Ananse felt so ashamed when the details of his actions were revealed to the public that he jumped very very high off the ground.

His head went and hit the roof of the palace and pang! -- It got completely flattened. The rest of his body too underwent changes that turned him into – a spider!

Does that remind you of some current happenings in the world? On 17 April 2020, the leading news item on the BBC's flagship channel in the UK, Radio 4, was about doctors complaining that the British Government's claim that it had been sending Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to hospitals, was “a fantasy”. Many hospitals were having to rewash and reuse protective gowns (for instance) although this was dangerous and therefore not supposed to be done.

On the same day, it was reported that China had said that it might have under-reported “by 50%”, the deaths that had occurred at Wuhan, in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak.
How can we trust Governments, when they seek to deceive us, for propaganda purposes, at a time when we face life and death?

Let them learn from Ananse – lies will always be uncovered!