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Opinions of Sunday, 3 February 2008

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Editor: Is this 'Ghanglish'? or English?

Indeed, the editorial and reportorial staff of the Ghana News Agency (GNA) may be fraught with mediocre and outright amateurish professionals, although until now it never quite occurred to yours truly that there may also well be quite a remarkable phalanx of “imbecilic” editors among their ranks.

I am also quite certain that no charlatan presuming to represent the GNA, institutionally, would shortly be calling upon yours truly to apologize for the government-owned news organization’s increasingly intolerable level of morbidly blighted communication skills. And pray, let no son of a scam-artist emerge from his turtle’s shell, sporting the neck of a snail’s eye – and I mean, I love those soft steeple-like projections well done and spiced in my tureen-full of palm-nut soup – spewing some stentorian baloney about the patently pedestrian, reportorial race against time in lurid justification of why a legion of these poor excuses for writers, a half-century after Ghana’s attainment of sovereignty, can still not put simple and limpid words together in the form of coherent sentences. Needless to say, this is exactly what one gets with twenty years of PNDC reign-of-terror.

The allusion here, of course, is to that dimwitted caption of “Man Jailed for Defiling an Imbecile Pupil,” which appeared in the Ghanaweb.com edition of January 23, 2008. The lead of the article sporting the foregoing caption had to do with the brutal and multiple rape of a mentally-challenged (or –handicapped) teenage woman by a mason in the Nkawie district of the Asante Region.

As usual, the anonymous GNA reporter’s article lacked such critical reportorial skills as the age of the rapist, a Mr. Kwame Francis (for, needless to say, there are legions of “Kwame Francises” scattered all over the land, including the Nkawie district itself), who was duly sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment by Magistrate Jerome Noble Nkrumah.

Furthermore, were the writer a well-trained professional, s/he would also have noted whether the convicted rapist had a prior criminal record and/or had been referred for psychiatric examination prior to his being handed such a stiff sentence. For all we know, Mr. Kwame Francis could well be as “imbecilic” as his victim, and so merely locking him up behind bars would, in no way, avail the perpetrator of the requisite clinical therapy which, traditionally, is what prisons are meant for in civilized cultures. And while, indeed, ours may be a relatively underdeveloped economy, nonetheless, I like to believe that Ghana is smack-dab a civilized and sensitive culture.

Indeed, our world-renowned culture of sensitivity – call it “hospitality” – largely accounts for our preference for such quaint expressions as “defilement,” rather than the more poignant and morally raw expression of “rape.” For the latter expression is the Ghanaian equivalent of street-language; at least that was what it used to be while I was growing up.

What is also interesting about the caption of the afore-referenced bulletin is that although the rape victim is described as a “pupil,” the reader is not told exactly which/what school she attends at Tanoso, where the crime occurred.

What raised my proverbial hackles, however, was the equally flagrant decision of the Ghana News Agency editor to tag the rape victim as an “imbecile.” Regarding the latter, I reached for my Oxford.com dictionary. And to my anticipated horror, the very first definition of “imbecile” that came up was “a stupid person”. And ordinarily, when Ghanaians describe somebody as stupid, the implied suggestion is that the subject of such insult is quite capable of behaving in a far more intelligent manner.

Alas, regarding our case in point, the rape victim is clinically retarded or cognitively challenged, which is exactly what the reporter clearly indicated in the lead – or introductory paragraph – of his/her article.

What we are, in essence, suggesting by the preceding is that the staff of the Ghana News Agency need to be promptly taught cultural sensitivity as an integral part of their professional training and development. For the loaded expressions of “imbecile” and “mentally retarded,” for example, are not mutually interchangeable, exactly as yours truly pointed out, not quite awhile back, that the non-politically motivated killing of a night watchman (or security guard) is in no way semantically interchangeable with the unmistakably political expression of “assassination.” Needless to recall, for my effort, I earned the blisteringly crude tirade of a jaded and frustrated GNA hack.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of “When Dancers Play Historians and Thinkers,” a forthcoming essay collection on postcolonial Ghanaian politics. E-mail: okoampaahoofe@aol.com.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.