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Opinions of Saturday, 8 February 2014

Columnist: Baidoo, Philip Kobina

He Has Graduated From Your Mum Is A Witch

The 1973 oil shock laid the ground work for the rise of Rawlings. As clock work, June 4th came like a typhoon and dealt the nation a fatal blow. Within three months Limann was handed a poisoned chalice. He was obviously working himself out of the debris when the 31st December lightning storm came with ferocious intensity crippling a once proud country into beggary. For a while, Ghana became a pariah even among certain AU member states. When most thinking people thought the country had seen the worst, then with the fury of the devil came the calamities with vengeance. The drought, the bushfires and the most cynical the repatriation devastated the country one after the other. The consequence sent the Ghanaian economy into a vegetative state, and it was heart wrenching going through that experience. Most Ghanaians were literally reduced to a skeleton; it gave rise to the most enduring joke of the eighties – Rawlings Chain.

The economic downturn was shattering, and all the people wanted was the pain and hunger that gnawed at their stomach to go away. It persisted, and the masses wanted somebody to take the blame. Since they were afraid of the culprit with the gun, the vulnerable in the society had to shoulder the burden of someone’s ill judged misadventure. The elderly, helpless children and those who didn’t fit the bill were used as target practice for a release. The torture and humiliation that these defenceless innocent people suffered at the hands of hallucinating malevolent pastors forced them to confess to witchcraft, which psychologically makes sense when you want the pain to stop. It was horrendous for the victims; because once you are accused you can be likened to the fate of a thief in the hands of a lynch mob. It was two things, either they couldn’t make the connection between what their clients were going through and the senseless 31st December coup or they decided to exploit their ignorance and anxiety. Now, this shameful epidemic of witch hunt that rode on the back of this dreadful period in our history, at the behest of wild eyed pastors, has now gone continental.

In his first Sunday message of the New Year to his congregation, Archbishop Duncan Williams of Action Faith Ministries opined that the sorry state of Africa is spiritual. It was frustration galore reading that short piece carried by almost all the major Ghanaian websites. It dawn on me that if our success is a function of what happens in the spirit then we are going to wait for a very long time. Besides, there is every possibility that irrespective of what we do in the material, getting to the promise land will be dependent on whether some poltergeist decides to loosen its grip. The African condition is similar to a dreadful cancer that is slowly, but imperceptibly squeezing the life out of a continent. It is a sickness with a cocktail of complications that many have written cheap prescription including foreign thinkers. Naturally, all Africans and for that matter every Ghanaian, bar none, will love the economic malaise we find ourselves to be wished away. In the interim some of those bitter pills have been administered with dreadful consequence and the conclusions are that they are not effective. What we are not considering is that, perhaps, it is the body that is not responding to the drug.

Currently, he conditions are so awful that the natural mind is failing to rationalise, therefore we have to fill in the blanks in our knowledge. And the most common solution is the spiritual. Obviously, if anybody is touting that he is got a field day, because there is no way you can prove it. But I will stick my neck out and say it is absolute bonkers. What is spiritual about what Africa is going through? The current traumatic experience Africa is going through is a natural progression in the development of a people. And it is the same prescription they dish out to weaklings with clear problems in their personal life. What is spiritual about a dipsomaniac drinking himself to death or a drug addict injecting himself into oblivion? What is ethereal about the result of a nation spending what she does not have like in our own country Ghana binging ourselves on borrowed money? If that is the case then it appears our relationship with the spiritual world went out of sync a very long time ago, perhaps, since the Portuguese landed in 1482. Was it spiritual when the white man came to Africa and with the help of our ancestors carried our kinsmen into slavery and centuries later carving Africa among themselves? These were geopolitical and socio-economic events that we were hopelessly short changed. If his assertion is anything to go by then our spirituality has been in a very bad shape for centuries. We have been hammered and clubbed for the past five hundred years and we are still being brutalised. What has spirituality got to do with here and now? If socio-economic wellbeing is a function of a people’s spirituality then Western Europe should be at the bottom of that league table. After the devastation of the Second World War, the main protagonist came together to form the EEC now EU to prevent the occurrence of such trauma, and they have seen prosperity for well over sixty years. Mind you, they did not for a minute think that the evils perpetrate by Hitler were spiritually inspired, but the failure of adopted economic policies.

Hardships always bring out the worse in men. The unbearable economic pressure in Africa is what always explodes on tribal and religious lines, which some unscrupulous demagogic politicians exploit to their personal advantage. There is a correlation between economic down turn and the activities of the far right in most Western countries. And in our backyard when our shambolic economy takes a further nosedive these usual suspects come out of the wood work to take advantage of their congregant’s anxieties. How do you move forward when African politicians cannot rationalise the fact that we cannot all be leaders at the same time? From where comes the progress when leaders think they are the only people with brains to manage the affairs of state like Mugabe? The problem of Africa is purely economical, which is constantly being exacerbated by poor leadership. This is the Africa’s conundrum; there is nothing spiritual about it my dear Archbishop Duncan Williams.

We have leaders who will never do the right thing, but rather adopt policies that will forever guarantee their political career. For example, the cure of inflation is not a garden of roses. If you are a politician and you want to get through with it there is the likelihood that you will lose the next elections, because of the hardship it creates. One of the most effective proactive cures for inflation is to mop out excess liquidity in an economy by increasing interest rates. However, in the Ghanaian economy rates are as high as 23%. It is impossible to further increase rates without the economy going into cardiac arrest, which will cause a lot of hardships when jobs are shed. The alternative is to reduce the bloated government expenditure on salaries. And no politician will advocate for such a policy that will cost them their position. They are champions of policies that when things go bad the murder weapon cannot be traced to their door steps. We have leaders who want us to believe that when they decided to go along with the single spine salary structure they did not know that it will spiral out of control. In this day and age that even a fourth grade accountant can apply a mundane spread sheet to come up with simple cost analysis into the future. Politicians spend what the country does not have, clearly, to bribe the electorates during elections. When it wrecks the long term economic prospects of the country I don’t think anybody should be telling me this is spiritual? This is the pickle we find ourselves and it is without doubt devastating the continent economically, physically and psychologically.

I cannot definitively say that I am 100% certain about the efficacy of any of those prescriptions including mine; however, I know that spirituality is not one of them. What Africa is lacking is leadership. South Africa is a classic case in this discourse. That country would have gone up in flames had it not been for the exceptional leadership qualities of Mandela. If Mandela had not taken his leadership role by the horn South Africa would have degenerated into a wasteland.

Rwanda has got the highest density of churches per head in Africa, yet that could not avert the butchering of their own. Don’t give the faithful false solutions for them to go and spend 12 hours in churches to wrestle a non existing enemy. Get them to work hard on their farms, shops and businesses, besides getting their various governments to be on their toes.

Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr