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Opinions of Sunday, 11 August 2013

Columnist: Sarfo, Samuel Adjei

Ghanaians Are Easy Prey To The Extortionists

By Dr. Samuel Adjei Sarfo

The immediate family members of my cousin who died of liver disease last week after a protracted illness was approached by a traditional priest who claimed that the death was the cause of a curse placed on the family. The priest demanded sacrifices for the gods or else all members of the family were going to die one by one. Quickly, the poor family organized over a thousand dollars for the priest who now claims the curse is averted. Luckily for the priest, this family is a good source of income because if nobody dies in the next few years, he will claim credit for effectively averting the curse. However, should somebody die in the future, he will just come back with a new narrative and ask for more sacrifices for the gods who eat and drink through him.

Religious leaders in Ghana have taken a cue from the traditional priests in the way in which they extort money from their followers and spend the money on behalf of God. For example, in the matter of tithes, the religious leaders will threaten their congregants with curses unless they pay up to avert God’s wrath. And like the fetish priests, they have a good answer as to whether paying tithe to the church brings blessings or curses. If an individual testifies to blessings, these pastors will point to him as an example of God’s miracle to the faithful, and if the individual is confronted with a misfortune, there is always a good explanation for the absence of prosperity in life. My good friend who consistently paid his tithes and offering was recently defrauded of several thousands of dollars by fraudsters who claimed they were going to fund a hospital complex of which he will be a member of the board of directors. In his misery, the church is now explaining to him why god has brought this temptation in his life. Instead of helping him cope financially, the church is asking him to confess his sins to God and asking for atonement for his sins!

As between the traditional priests and the modern religious leaders, there is a win-win situation all the time: build a narrative to demand money from the gullible followers, then spend the money on behalf of God and explain away any outcome whether good or bad. As a matter of fact, there has never been and will never be any difference between the aim and goal of the traditional priests and the modern religious leaders. All that has happened in the so-called conversion of our people into Christianity is that they have transposed the rituals of fetishism into the cult of Christ and dubbed themselves “born-again”. Up to today, both the traditional priests and the modern religious leaders retain the same agenda: to hoodwink the people, instill fear in them, extort money from them and leave them steeped in their misery and ignorance in order to hoodwink them again and again, extort money from them again and again, instill fear in them again and again and again and again leave them in their ignorance and misery.

And in Ghana, as in many agonistic societies, what one needs to accomplish this constant fleecing of the people is the ability to purvey a certain mindset called faith. Faith is the suspension of rationality and wholesale ingestion of dogma, whether logical or illogical. And since the Ghanaian mindset is atavistically acculturated to believe without question, this feat is not too difficult to accomplish. Remember that our own traditional leadership is founded on the concept of animism, where the worship of virtually everything in nature is deemed an indispensable nomenclature within the society. Our people worshipped trees, rivers, rocks, mountains, , spirits, fire, feathers, skins of dead animals insects……..So the Ghanaian is always looking for something to worship, something to impart his faith in, something that will do the thinking for him and bring prosperity to him without too much creativity or imagination. Thus to manipulate the Ghanaian, simply begin by telling the people to have faith in a specific thing, then go ahead to make sure that they do not question the object of their faith, and all other tricks can follow as a matter of cause. For example if I wanted to extort money from a Ghanaian, I will point to a book and say the gods speak through this medium; let no one question this book or tree. And if I had some charisma and a basket of tricks up my sleeve, then I have them under my power; in one fell swoop, I would have bound their mental faculties and subjugated them under my willpower, and freely and willingly, I would proceed to rip them off of all their resources.

Another way of achieving the same goal of binding the mental faculties of the typical Ghanaian and subjugating them is to perform some magical acts which I will characterize as miracles. As regards these so-called miracles, a whole compendium will not exhaust the gamut of tricks used to effectuate an impression of the supernatural. My good friend confessed to me how they used to go hunting for frogs, and in the midst of the prayer frenzy and dimmed lights in the church house, spread frogs about and claim witches were vomiting frogs. Another friend told me that his father’s brother asked his father to pretend to be sick, and then to climb the podium in church after prayers and pretend to be cured. There is also this story of the overwhelmed candidate who is forced before a captive audience to claim a cure for his stomach ulcer when there was no cure at all. The commonest trick is to use a sleight of hand to extract nails and needles from the stomach and claim a cure from some stomach affliction……..Miracles are simply magic, and the attitude to it should be that they are per se fraudulent, no matter who perform them; they are all used to perpetrate mass mind control……. Indeed, mind control is a recognized science, but in Ghana, those controlling the minds of the people are mere novices, therefore it is phenomenal that these amateurs have this outstanding success. For example how do you figure that in this day and age, majority of Ghanaian minds are subjugated by a mere book of fiction. These majorities have no clue of over half of the content of this book, the fact that it was put together by rogues who used it to enslave the black race and to perpetrate the most heinous evil against our race; the fact that our ancestry was never defined nor acknowledged in the book, the fact that the book itself contains some of the most banal and unscientific reasoning, the fact that it mostly talks about a people who consider themselves chosen and us un-chosen. But this is a book which is the reference point of the Ghanaian spiritual life, and the fact that all that the Ghanaian knows of it are those portions favorable to the extortionist agenda has never mattered to him. But how sensible it is to follow the world view of nomads prancing around in the wilderness several millennia ago? If somebody were to tell me to follow the advice of my mother who died twenty five years ago, I will give it strict scrutiny to attest to its common sense. But not the Ghanaian devotee; his mind is frozen in place for over two thousand years, and from this Precambrian era, he emerges to pronounce how his life should be in these modern times. To be a true child of God simply means to be a child of good, to do your best to make your life matter to others and to live in such a way that generations could not do better with your life werethey to be vested with your experience, talent or opportunity. The issue has never been about where, how or when you engage in any religious ritual, it is all about your quality of your life’s virtues. At the University of Cape Coast, Garbah, professor emeritus of Religion, used to repeat the thoughts of pundits in these paraphrased terms: If the Muslim or the Christian or the Hindu, or the Taoist or the Baha'ist or the Mormon or any religious person does what they are supposed to do, their actions, thoughts and behaviors will be both similar and the same: they will all be struggling to be the best that they can be. Further, Prof. Garbah taught that the lamps are different but the light is the same. What the aged teacher meant was that at the irreducible level, all religions should strive to achieve the same purpose: making the individual more virtuous: more honest, more loyal, more loving, more compassionate, more peaceful, more truthful, more respectful, more generous and more forgiving. Every known religion should espouse these values and gives them a pride of place in their doctrines. But religious leaders tend to ignore these unifying virtues taught by the prophets and to focus on what can be called the frills of religion, namely dress code, prayer posturing, taboos, fairy stories, tithing and miracles.

The time has come for us to wake up from our slumber, to unmask the palpable guiles of our religious leaders and their deceptive teachings which have as their sole purpose mass extortion through mass deception. Although inherent in all religions is the verifiable ability to baptize whole populations in the pond of ignorance, we still possess the power to work out our own enlightenment through critical thinking, proper conduct and righteous actions. While others remain unperturbed by the abdication of religion in the positive transformation of our society, we remain convinced that the institution must be prompted to preach ethical living as a more viable alternative to the litany of abstract dogma applied in her processes of mass exploitation. The worship of God has nothing to do with the giving out of money and the abdication of the mind from reason and logic, but everything to do with the quality of our lives in the world: our kindness, our generosity, our sense of duty, our honesty, our love and goodwill towards all humankind and our commitment to do the most good to the most people at the most time. Our genuine transformation and new birth begins the day we pray to God and say: Of all we know of good we shall perform; from all we know of evil we shall refrain; and of all we are left to know, we pray for the Almighty God to teach us.

Samuel Adjei Sarfo, Doctor of Law and General Legal Practitioner, lives in Austin, Texas. You can email him at