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Opinions of Tuesday, 30 November 1999

Columnist: Owusu-Barnes, Carl

Ingratitude – A Typical Ghanaian Attitude

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In Shakespeare's tragedy, Coriolanus, the main character, who happened to be called Coriolanus, was a brave warrior. He won wars for his country. On his return to Rome, he was at first given a hero's welcome but two of his fellow tribunes, because of envy, managed to turn the people against him who now saw him with scorn and ingratitude. This compelled him to say: "Ingratitude is monstrous, and for the multitude to be ingrateful, were to make a monster of the multitude: and of the which we being members, will bring ourselves to be monstrous members."

We bring ourselves to be monstrous members indeed. Since the 1960s when Ghanaians began to travel abroad, majority of them made sure they brought their wives and siblings along. This gesture has continued until today. When these brothers and sisters come to see the progress made abroad by the one who helped to bring them here, they become jealous and refuse to appreciate the sacrifices made by the one who brought them abroad. That is monstrous ingratitude!!!

Many strained relationships among siblings are often due to ingratitude on the part of those who have been helped to travel abroad. There was a case in Germany where a man who had lived in Berlin for fifteen years with his wife managed to bring his sister from a village in Ghana to Berlin. She arranged a marriage for her and paid for it. In no time the sister received her residence and work permits. Unlike when she came for the first, time she now refused to help her brother's wife and even shouted at the brother anytime he told her to be home early to help his wife. The girl eventually left the house accusing the brother of defending the wife even if she was wrong. That is ingratitude indeed. Similar stories abound in other parts of Europe and the Americas.

After fighting hard for their residence permits, many Ghanaian men go through all odds to bring their wives to the countries where they are residing. The young who were not married before coming here go home to marry and bring these women to their new countries. Initially they show great humility to their husbands, counting on their instructions and advice. After a few years abroad, when these women are fully employed, some of them no longer take instructions from their husbands. The initial humility they showed on arrival will completely disappear. Some of the women no longer want to be the only ones who cook or clean the house. This most often creates tension and quarrels in the house, subsequently leading to divorce. The woman is always given the right to live in the house especially when children are involved. The woman is happy that the man is driven out of the house. That is ingratitude.

A Ghanaian engineer in the USA thought about the town in Ghana where he lived and received basic education. He applied to many companies to donate fairly used computers for onward transmission to Ghana. The companies responded and within six months he had received a container load of computers. He followed the container to Ghana. There were three hundred computers in the container. He took delivery of the computers and headed towards the town where the computers were to be received. The District Education Director, together with the headmasters of the area, came to inspect the computers. The director of education suddenly commented, "Why, they are not flat-screens. Why didn't you get us flat-screen monitors? They are more fashionable, you know." The engineer tried to hide his anger and frustration and smartly answered, "You are right, sir. I brought flat-screens. I think there has been a mistake at the harbour. Let me take these back to the harbour. I believe they will find them for me". He took the computers away and donated them to some private schools in the Ashanti Region. Will this man ever undertake such a venture again? Ingratitude is monstrous indeed!!!

There is a trend going on in Ghanaian politics. No government in Ghana ever appreciates the work of its predecessors. The NPP declared openly that the PNDC/NDC under Rawlings did nothing for Ghana. No government is perfect but the NPP should have shown gratitude to Rawlings for the fact that his appearance in Ghana ensured a strengthening of democracy in Ghana. His coup was to be the last coup d'état in Ghana, and that was 30 years ago. He ensured the introduction of FM stations which had also picked up in many African countries and all over the world. The many FM stations will make it impossible for any coup maker to stand at a GBC radio station which was then the only radio station to declare his intentions. Apart from road and housing infrastructure, he remembered the first president of Ghana, Dr. Nkrumah, and built a mausoleum in his honour. Rawlings, indeed, deserves our gratitude despite everything else he may have done.

In much the same way, President Kufuor contributed immensely to the development of Ghana. However, when Prof. Mills came to power, he declared before a teeming crowd that Kufuor did nothing during his eight years rule and that he created only debts for Ghana. He is determined not to show gratitude for anything Kufuor's NPP did during their eight years in power. The cash and carry system Kufuor inherited was gradually replaced by a National Health Insurance Policy. A school feeding programme was introduced to cater for the dietary needs of pupils and students of JHS. Kufuor made education in the public schools fee-free. He took positive steps to create jobs for the youth which became known as Youth Employment Programme. These, and many others, should have been acknowledged by Prof. Mills and his NDC but they rather chose to overlook it. That is ingratitude indeed.

Ingratitude has been a predominant feature in Ghana. Many are yet to learn how to say "thank you" in return for help or favours received from someone. It is wise and satisfying to show gratitude but many are yet to learn how to do so. In the Bible when Jesus healed ten lepers, only one of them (a Samaritan) returned to show gratitude. Since Jesus felt it would have been important for all the ten men to show gratitude, he asked the man who came to him: “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God...?”

Perhaps you did something for somebody and you expected him or her to show gratitude which did not come. If you are still hurting for somebody's ingratitude to you for bringing him abroad, or any kind gesture you showed to him or her, kindly share it with us at the comments section. Ingratitude is monstrous indeed...

Written by: Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces At Crossroads

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