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Opinions of Friday, 22 November 2013

Columnist: Okofo-Dartey, Samuel

Have you met the prophet at the u.s. embassy?

As I sat pensively and nervously on those roughly shaped stones provided by the U.S. embassy that wee hours of the morning, my innocuous desire was that the long awaited interview for the acquisition of a complex coloured stamp called visa would be over without any hitch. As I turned my head in various directions in search of nothing, it dawned on me and my dear lady we were not the only ones positioned in that circle which can fittingly be described as an open air lounge. I yearned for a befitting shelter.
In fact, I was not the one waiting to be interviewed. It was a dear lady very close to my heart who afforded me the rare opportunity of experiencing what most visa seekers go through. That early morning, I realised those who were running or jogging delightfully with ear phones in their ears around the Cantoment area were white folks while most of my countrymen I sighted were busy riding to work or walking with brisk strides to only where God knows. Others were dotted in obscure corners chatting with taxi drivers stationed under a tree.
At that moment my solitary mental flight was without notice halted. A man of an unfamiliar demeanour burst onto the scene. He was fair in complexion, a man of depressed height and who somewhat wore a dry but an enthralling smile. He gathered our individual attentions with a popular gospel song. I kept quiet as the others responded solemnly. My dear lady upon realising my loud silence pinched me to sing along. In order to satisfy her heart’s wishes, I joined them grudgingly.
In no time, he switched from singing to alerting his apparent congregation the purpose for which they have congregated. He swiftly placated and shifted our attention from the hard stones that stung our buttocks to the fact that those stones were symbolic of the presence of God and that it was a good omen for those eager to seek visas. He furthered his copious religious seduction by stressing that those outside the circle were opposing the grace of God upon his life that triggered stress free visa acquisition.
At that point, I great sense of suspicion overwhelmed me. He followed up immediately with his captivating prowess by narrating the success stories of those who diligently followed his directions and eventually came out radiating with joy. What really in my opinion did cast a shadow of doubt on this preacher’s integrity was his mendacious view that the U.S. embassy had contacted him over his spiritual capabilities that enabled prospective visa applicants to effortlessly secure visas.
Nothing at this juncture stood against my view that this preacher in question was using the name of God for his personal gains. I got up quickly to phone my cousin who frequently flew out of the country to the U.S.A. His response was an unequivocal condemnation of men like this preacher who capitalised on the desperation of visa applicants in order to worm their way into their pockets. He confessed he has ever parted with his money under the spiritual tutelage of men of his kind but never had any meaningful results. According to him, all that mattered was the genuineness of the documents needed for the interview.
Armed with this information, I returned only to realise that my dear lady had offered ten cedis to the preacher. I asked why she did that without further considerations of the fact that her documents were genuine. All she could proffer was that the preacher’s sermon in my absence was inspiring and that she was among a sizeable number of people who obediently gave an offering. She showed me a handkerchief that the man gave for her offering. And to cap it all, she told me he prophesied as he prayed for some of the applicants.
Of a truth, anger took the better part of me right there. I wondered why a lady of her intellectual stature would give in to a man of crooked scruples. From her demeanour, it was obvious that this preacher had drained her self confidence and flooded her with empty religious inspiration in return for money. I believe in God and would therefore be the last to condemn genuine men of God. But I hate con men who fleece vulnerable people. Though the ten cedis was that much, I felt that money could have been given to someone who through genuine means needed it.
At exactly 7:30 am, she was called for the interview. I crossed over to the other side of the road and sat comfortably under tree with some people who were also waiting for their friends or family members. Within a brief moment, a lady walked up to me demanding I pay one cedi for the plastic chair I sat on. She explained that was her business that put food on her table. I honoured her biddings without qualms.
After an hour, I saw my dear lady fast approaching where I sat. Her countenance was not brilliant. My breathing turned irregular as my heart began palpitating abnormally. She got closer and reached into hand bag. She wondered where the preacher was. I told her the moment they were called the man also evaporated. She handed over her passport to me and voila, there the visa was. The questions I asked her were these: was it your documents and the prayer you prayed during your personal morning devotions that did the magic or it was the sick prayers and the handkerchief of that false prophet the brought the good fortune? She remained silent.
Deep within my heart, I held the conviction that that preacher had no hand in the positive outcome. He only came there to brilliantly soothe the anxiety of desperate visa applicants. He knew that man is at his weakest point when he is desperate. He cleverly serviced a need and he was handsomely rewarded. I walked home bearing in mind that this man will continue to be in business so long as other applicants fail to decipher his deceptions.
In any case, I admire his boldness but hate his flattery that gives false hope to gullible souls. And sadly, women are the worse victims. Ghanaians must watch out for these swindlers who abound in our society and use the name of God in diverse ways for their selfish interest.