You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2011 01 02Article 200493

Opinions of Sunday, 2 January 2011

Columnist: Gyan-Apenteng, Kwasi

Prophesy For 2011

Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng

I am not a betting man, neither am I in the prophesy business. I leave that to the hordes of prophets and soothsayers on the prowl in our nation. However, as today is the first day of 2011 it is a good point to make some predictions for the New Year. As a new prophet, I don’t want to make the same humdrum kind of forecasting for which the masses have been fleeced by various shamans down the years. I go for the bold and spectacular.

Sometime this year, a woman will raise the stakes in street selling by making and selling banku in front of Golden Tulip Hotel. I mean she will set up her coal pot and mix her corn and cassava dough right there in the full glare of the Ghanaian public. She will then light her fire, and cook banku for the people. Actually, this is an easy prediction to make because it is the logical next step to where we are with street selling which no authority appears to be willing or capable to stop. Already, fish, yam, onions, spices are being sold along with calendars, car parts, fake watches and medicines, not to mention charms and incenses. What country allows its children to be fed food of unknown sources sold in 35 degree heat and covered in natural dust and vehicle fumes? That country is called Ghana and it achieved middle income status in 2010. As Shakespeare would say, FORSOOTH!
So the Banku woman will be following a tradition that has developed unchallenged for the past thirty years. Not only are children being poisoned by foods exposed to the elements, young people are dying while racing across vehicles to make a quick cedi here and there. In 2010, I heard of at least three young street sellers knocked down and killed on the streets, and in any case, I suspect all drivers in Accra have at one time or another come close to knocking down such street sellers.
Hopefully, the banku seller will survive because it will not be possible to knock her down, and this is why. In life, one thing usually leads to another, and the thing that will lead to the Banku seller invading one of our ceremonial routes is traffic. In the course of the year, a traffic gridlock will bring Accra to a halt, especially the parts of Accra that links the 37 Hospital Area. Nobody will go or come. People will sleep in their cars, and brush their teeth and find ways of making ablutions all in their vehicles. And, as the saying goes, man (and woman) must eat; hence the banku seller in the ceremonial street.
Therefore, the AMA boss, who has been cited for competence by an NGO has more on his plate than he has bargained. What needs to be done goes beyond simply seeking and obtaining the legislative provisions to enable him to evict street sellers. In any case, next year is an election year, and as we all know, blackmail for electoral purposes is a tried and tested method by which the street sellers survive. What makes the authorities believe that things have changed?
The year 2010 ended on a sad confirmation of my theory that when God created the first Ghanaian ancestor, he removed from his system the planning gene, and subsequently the bane of Ghana’s development effort has been what George Bush would have called the planning thing. The local government elections had been a shambles all year long and this was confirmed when it became a complete fiasco in the last days of the year. It was a fitting end to a year of several such own-goals.
The most serious planning deficit was the census which was expected to go smoothly because, at least from public pronouncements, everything was said to be in place for it. More importantly, the census was expected to provide the major building blocks for the development effort because you cannot plan without knowing how many people you are planning for. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the planning for this important exercise went awry, and it will be hard to convince anyone that the final count will be genuine and dependable.
I know what I am talking about because I was not counted despite several articles in this column in which I campaigned and pleaded to be counted. It all came to nought. The public relations officer of the Statistical Service continued in his merry ostrich way, and said things that bore little likeness to reality, and presumably got paid, perhaps, single spine, for it. That is part of the problems; rather than accept that things do go amiss our government structures go on the defensive and call their critics names. With time, the storm passes and life goes back to the kind of pillar-to-post normalcy to which we are accustomed.
The other problem with our “planning” has to do with the perennial party political posturing that is undermining our development. It works like this: if say Party X is in power it feels compelled to defend every government policy even when the implementation is not going well, while Opposition Party Y criticises every government policy and its implementation. But this is the rub; if the government were to fire Mr. or Mrs B for non-performance, the opposition will then “adopt” that person and make him or her a martyr to their cause. As a result, firing people for non-performance is unknown to our governance and administrative practices.
The other factor is the combination of “yenfa no saa” (who cares?) and Yen mfa ma Nyame, (leave well alone or literally, Give it to God). This attitude is grounded in absurd fatalism in which everything is either ordained or else, in some way, we the human actors are powerless against the machinations of some powerful forces. In this thinking, what will be will be, and that is that. In a country in which awards are given all year round for presumed excellence, we do get precious little right. And yet because of complacent thinking we hardly accept that we do not get everything right.

This circuitous thinking has become our standard and characteristic psychological posture and response: we are good but those who criticise us are both wrong and bad. But people who want to speak or acknowledge the truth know that we are not making as much progress as government officials want us to believe. And since this is Ghana let me add very quickly that I am not only referring to this government but to governance processes of the last 30 years. We started going backwards a long time ago. Perhaps, if we could acknowledge this we could start making a fist of it in 2011.

Happy New Year to All Readers of the Diary