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Opinions of Monday, 11 March 2019

Columnist: Bernard Asubonteng

Gabby Okyere’s questions are not vilified in critical thinking societies

In more truth-conscious nation-states where critical thinking of relevant national policy issues form crucial part of those nations’ respective socio-political cultures, questioning some assumptions is normal way of life.

In cultures like that, thought-provoking questions recently put across by Mr. Gabby Okyere Darko would not have triggered cynical suggestions in some quarters that Gabby may be against Mr. Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ investigative onslaught against bribery and corruption in Ghana.

Almost everyone in Africa and for that matter Ghana knows the major drawbacks pulling down this side of the world into the deepest ocean of abject poverty and underdevelopment are the two seemingly incurable tumors of bribery and corruption. Certainly, the national conversation all Ghanaians, home and abroad, will agree on is that if Ghana is really serious about making headways toward far-reaching advancement, the stark realities of bribery and corruption must not just be reduced to lip-service propositions.

Obviously, the decades-old challenging societal canker of bribery and corruption may be the driving force behind millions of Ghanaians’ fascination and more often unquestioning idolization of the investigative works of Mr. Anas Aremeyaw Anas of the Tiger Eye PI fame. That is to say, Ghanaian may not have problem admitting that bribery and corruption are destroying the moral core of this country. So, anyone who takes the onerous responsibility to help fight these national eye-sores in our corrupt-prone nation will have teeming supporters and encouragers.

At the same time, in our effort to stand tough against bribery and corruption, it does not equate to or assumes that Ghanaians of all walks of life should lose their sense of humanity and thus stop engaging in critical thinking, while staying put in groupthink mindset without raising relevant questions about some basic assumptions of life and unfolding events around us. In fact, trading in the market of ideas or critical thoughts humanizes us as human beings.

It is from this angle that every critical thinking Ghanaian must contextualize Mr. Gabby Okyere’s “10 questions” raised in reaction to Mr. Anas’ latest investigative work on the environmental-bursting galamsey or illegal mining. For any critical thinker, Gabby’s questions are not only fair and legitimate but also they greatly contribute to the enrichment of deep analysis of national issues, especially coming on the heels of the Tiger Eye PI undercover investigations that are always meant for public consumption.

Undoubtedly, Ghanaians are talented people, and they are capable of doing many great things, but one practical aspect of human endeavor many citizens in the country appear to struggle with is that a sizable number of us woefully lack critical thinking skills. The result is, often, whenever someone challenges us to break away from the yoke of “groupthink” and honestly embrace events from critical thinking perspectives, many Ghanaians begin getting restless and some even resort to casting aspersions.

For a long time now some of us have been wondering why Ghanaians seem to have a culture that vilifies processes, ways and means, but only care and focus on the glorification of the ends or obsessed about how “successful” one has become. Surely, genuine and honest success calls for popping of champagne and celebration; no one is against riches and fame. The problem is why is it that in almost every corner of Ghanaian society people don’t seem to care about the means by which one becomes financially successful or rich with fleets of expensive cars, fat bank accounts, and mansions?

For the average Ghanaian, the most significant thing is not the means but the ends—the fact that individual A or B is so “blessed” with riches, but how all these wealth are acquired is insignificant. With this norm as the order of the day none of us should shed crocodile tears over why many Ghanaians are comfortable using all kinds of short-cut means to get rich and famous. Ghanaians understand that in this country we unreservedly worship “ends.” Some of the media outlets will do whatever it takes to get more ratings much the same ways some ego-driven

Ghanaians will plunder their natural environments via illegal mining.

The emphasis here is that the “good name is better than riches” principle is thrown out of the moral universe of majority of Ghanaians. Clearly, a considerable bunch of Ghanaians is not used to raising fair questions about how this custom officer, police chief, judge, or that reporter acquires all that numerous properties going by his or her meager annual income. At any rate, when is questioning a public official’s job performance or an investigator’s method of operation a taboo or a hatred?

Perhaps, only in Ghana or in Africa that people second guess other concerned citizens’ motives for seeking answers to some valid questions pertaining to a particular piece of work or a body of public documents. Parsing through Gabby’s critical questions as a sequel to Anas’ galamsey documentary, nowhere was there any indication or a hint that Ghanaians should belittle the work of Tiger Eye PI. Unsurprisingly, the people who would arrive at that conclusion are those who have problems thinking critically or accept limits rather than strive to transcend limits set for them by their own social and mental circumstances.

Anas and his Tiger Eye PI may be doing excellent job but it is abnormal for any level-headed person to contend that bribery and corruption are so deep-seated in Ghana that asking some questions regarding any journalist’s methods of investigation are affront to the reporter’s overall work. Journalists, especially the objective ones, make life livable and richly contribute to deepening the roots of democracy with its attendant transparency and accountability.

However, like all other fallible humans, journalists/investigators are also susceptible to human foibles. This explains why in relatively civilized societies there are strong internal controls, oversights initiatives, checks and balances everywhere. To sit down here and wallow in a depthless thinking that one’s work is so important and successful so no one should dare question how that success is attained, is itself an indictment of the centerpiece of democracy: Freedom of expression—that all principled journalists seek to protect at all cost.

Mr. Anas has every right as Ghanaian citizen to engage in undercover investigative journalism. But, by the same measure, every other Ghanaian, including Mr. Gabby Okyere-Darko, also has an inalienable right to question some of the methodological assumptions underlying every journalist’s operations in the country. This has nothing to do with the fact that Gabby is a prominent member of the ruling NPP; a cousin of the current president, or simply against undercover operations of Anas.

This is pure critical thinking discourse as happened in more advanced countries all the time. America has a big problem with violent crimes, but the leading crime investigative organ—FBI—work or tactics are subject to oversight and scrutiny to prevent abuses and over-zealousness on the part of the federal investigators. It doesn’t hurt to think outside the box sometimes, if not all the time!