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Opinions of Friday, 19 November 2010

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Jumah Esq. and the little devil in my PC

By George Sydney Abugri

The lexical deficiencies and the grammatical and structural errors in English language usage in the media sometimes gets worse than appalling and methinks the time has come for someone to write up a remedial thesis titled “The phantom of the printer’s devil rides again: How the media in Ghana is debasing the linguistic innocence and language skills of school children and budding juvenile scholars.”

Now, make no mistake, Jomo, I am not in a position myself to go around painting media kettles black or trying to pick specs from eyes: Only last week, I spent a whole day kicking myself viciously in the butt for my inadvertent reference to “trifle issues” instead of “trifling issues” or just “trifles.”

In those days when computers were not much in use around here and newsrooms processed editorial material manually, there was an ever-ready scapegoat called the printer’s devil to take the rap for journalist’s grammatical and other errors. Then came computers, the internet and online resources for editing and I thought the invisible bloke was dead but he is apparently still very much alive, old chap.

He is hiding in the computer speller and creating all manner of problems for me. If you ever feel low down and want to giggle a bit, just type Ghanaian or African names and words on the computer and then use the spell check and you will see what alternative words and names the computer offers you!

If you are working at great speed to tight deadlines as is some writers’ hapless lot so often to do, you might accept very strange and stupid lexical suggestions from the computer speller without realizing it until it comes into the print.

In my hurry last week, the computer-resurrected printer’s devil tricked me into clicking on “change” instead of “ignore” and I ended up with “test” instead of “thirst” in my manuscript. If you take the uncharitable liberty of calling mine a case of a bad work man quarrelling with his tools, I do not mind at all but that is how bizarre it gets with the printer’s phantom in the speller.

This morning I have had a really hard time trying to convince the darned machine that you are not called Jumbo but Jomo and that the MP for Asokwa is not Judah but Jumah.

Make no mistake, Jomo: Our media is one the most vibrant in the planet today and we shall continue telling the unfolding stories about our controversial republic with gallantry, grammatical deficiencies and all, so help us Lord.

As a matter of fact, I have a few yarns to spin: The first concerns the CEO of the republic. Not even the green-eyed monster can afford the hasty luxury of envying President Mills his much exalted throne at the presidency:

Held to ransom every now and then by striking professional groupings and labour unions, under constant siege by disgruntled grassroots party supporters rampaging around under the banner of foot soldiers, a target of regular acerbic criticisms by the opposition, NDC renegades and his party’s founder, Jerry Rawlings and the butt of insults and unkind commentary he still manages to get on with the business of running this controversial nation with quiet, subdued gallantry, whatever you perceive that to be. Try writing a longer sentence than this!

The president has ordered the police to reopen investigation into the murder of 32 women whose nude bodes were strewn all over the capital and in Kumasi in 2000. A court tried and found one Quansah guilty of eight of the murders. Many wondered how Quansah could have single-handedly murdered 34 women on the string and go.

Reports say former President Rawlings has the evidence to nail the murderers. Many people wonder why he has kept the evidence all this while. Some predict fresh investigators will come up against a steel wall all over again.

One of my greatest interests as an amateur detective is criminal cases which have never been solved. The case of the 34 women beats all. There are no doubt those who will be keeping eyes and ears out for the outcome of fresh investigations.

There is this other tale about a bizarre fad which is backfiring on those who invented it: It takes the form of a threat contained in the now popular phrases,” apologize or else..!”

As you have probably heard, the trade in insults and disparaging commentary between political rivals in this country has become a brisk and thriving one. Politicians and political activists take and give verbal abuse with fierce vigour:

Sometimes an insult pierces deep and packs quite a stink, whereupon the victim is often wont to pull out the trump card: A threat to organize a public protest against the insulter. Being mostly people with large constituency support, offended politicians and activists are easily able to organize such protests, see?

Where the victim of verbal abuse is a female politician or political activist, the popular threat is to get protesting women to streak in the streets. Streak? Yes, sir, Jomo, Streak. They often threaten to go on a public exposition in the nude, with all physiological appendages on the female anatomy on display. Bizarre, Jomo. Absolutely bizarre.

Soon some smart politician and activists were delighted to discover that you could insult a rival to your heart’s content, apologize and stroll off with a secret grin.

Some women threatened to protest in the nude this week after the MP of Asokwa Mr. Kofi Jumah alleged that the mayor of Kumasi had traded sexual favour for her appointment as mayor.

Since it implied there had existed a sex-for-political-appointments regime of sorts in the previous political administration of Mr. J.A. Kufuor, the former president was far from amused. That Madam Patricia Appiagyei is a married woman took the seriousness of the allegation a few notches above normal concern over a politician’s gaffe.

Even before the “apologize or else..!” threat came as usual, Mr. Jumah was all over the place with profuse apologies, but this time round, apologies were not enough and a public protest against Jumah appears to have all but brought the political career of this legislator to an abrupt end, judging by the fierce anger of the people of his constituency and the NPP leadership over the incident.

I keep dispensing my great wisdom free of charge to politicians, see? Those who avail themselves of my great counsel rarely come to great error. Those who don’t will continue to come to chagrin, grief and ruination, mark my word or don’t if you will!

I have so many stories to tell but they would be too much for you in one day, old chap. What I might add is that nearly 80 percent of the national population now uses mobile phones and with hundreds of thousands of human creatures merrily chatting away on the phones every spilt fraction of a second, telephone companies are swimming in money a lot of which they are expending in an obscene orgy of unbridled advertising and spending:

Imagine telephone companies distributing wads of hard cash, scores of plush cars and mansions all free, while offering free phone calls to subscribers into the bargain. Why would anyone do that, Jomo?

Amid all that, their services are sometimes appalling. Send a letter to a newspapers complaining about their lousy services and they fire back an unapologetic and contemptuous rejoinder and hurry off to commission a village school block or some other community facility, to show how they are living down to their corporate social responsibilities.

Great stuff. You are left wondering what their philanthropic antics have to do with our simple demand for decent services. Email; Website: