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Opinions of Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Columnist: Samuel Sarfo

There is too much foolishness going on

Since the discrimination between folly and smartness is an integral part of wisdom, our ability to point out how foolish others are also goes to show how wise we are. If we carefully discriminate between what is good and bad, then we are wise; but if we make a choice to follow the good, then we are righteous. That is the essence of wisdom and righteousness, and that should be the aspirational trademark of the typical Ghanaian.

There were times in the past when Ghanaians took real pride in displaying how wise they were. Growing up in my father, Kwasi Agyei’s house in Effiduase-Koforidua, I sat in the gathering of the clan as my father’s favorite pet (he was born in March, 1896, and I was born in November 1962) listening to the wisdom of my father as he judged members of the clan. He had never attended school but spoke wisdom to power. All respected and even feared him.

Nowadays, when one listens to how our politicians and citizens talk and behave, one really misses the wisdom of the forefathers and the foremothers...….the deep wisdom exemplified by my father Kwasi Agyei. Or is it the case that even in those good old days, folly was still pervasive in our society; and that I was too naïve to notice? Or is it the case that the present widespread media avenues make it possible to hear Ghanaians in their real merit and to weigh their folly-infested thoughts? Yet again, the truth may well be that I have grown too wise over the years to recognize the impact of folly even if it is capsuled in some vague abstractions? For to me, the extent of our present folly and foibles is just too much!

Take this cacophony about expelling the Gitmo 2 for example. If I were to ask any Ghanaian to explain to me why it is even necessary to have a discussion about why these two should be expelled, I wonder whether anybody will have any rational explanation for our present hostility towards them. And yet we call ourselves a nation of hospitable people. Very few people have lived in any country and abided by its laws the way these two have of Ghanaian laws. And if they have not offended anybody or abused their status in any way, why can’t we let them stay in our country as long as they wish on simple humanitarian grounds? And if we have found ourselves trapped by our previous political predilection to join the strident calls to repatriate the two, wisdom requires that we apologize for this mistake, confirm their status and move on. Wisdom is about rationality: Giving intelligent and logical reasons for our actions or speech, not being ossified in yesterday’s perception no matter how wrong-headed.

Then also is the story of the Headteacher who had sex with a student and filmed the act. There are four levels of foolishness in this simple matter: The first is, how can such a dumb teacher capable of such a goofy act be a model for anything, or impart any wisdom or knowledge to any pupil? The second is the defense put out that the girl was old enough and in a different school; or that the parents knew and approved of the relationship. And the last straw is the information put out in the media that the police are going after those who put the film into the public domain. How far down can we go as a nation?

The correct analysis ought to be that as a married Headteacher, the culprit ought to set a good example as a model and an authority figure, to leave students alone no matter where they are studying, and to have the good sense to protect himself and others from any crass exposure. Finally, the issue ought not to be that the act was exposed to the public view, but that it occurred at all. The Headteacher’s conduct was bad; and those who expose wrong-doing must be protected at all times; and we must not be concerned about the route through which they decided to expose the wrong-doing. This country neither has the capacity nor the propensity to waste its resources prosecuting those who expose wrong-doing.

As I have stated elsewhere, if the Ghana Education Service has no rules prohibiting such conduct as exposed by this Headteacher, then it is not up to par with current rules meant to protect students from their predatory teachers. Wisdom requires the full uninhibited discipline of this way-ward Headteacher, for our children do not belong to the harem of any teacher, and the time is overdue for this nonsense of open teacher-student sexual relationship to stop. Period.

Finally, two lawyers recently exposed their ignorance on social media and demonstrated that the law does not cure any folly in any person. The first is Dr. Raymond Atuguba who adverted in essence that fighting corruption brings too much hardship on the people and therefore ought to be preceded by some imaginary social interventions. My take is that there is no known social intervention that ought to be the prerequisite to fighting corruption.

We should see the canker for what it is and fight it tooth and nail while at the same time creating conditions for the social well-being of the people. The politicians and citizens cannot be excused for being corrupt. If we excuse any form of corruption, no amount of social interventions will extirpate the canker from our society; and so people with academic credentials like Dr. Raymond Atuguba, if they are wise enough, ought to be cognizant of the wrong optics they create when they defend corruption as a necessary evil.

Then also is the issue of Mr. Ace Ankamah. He was very loquacious in asserting, on his Facebook page, a restricted role for all women. This role, in his parochial view, includes the woman as the manager of the kitchen. Now, lawyers are required to be thinkers and to view issues from all angles before pronouncing on them. This is because lawyers are also thinkers who ought to provide intellectual leadership for the nation. Positing that there is some composite format for a woman’s function in the home compromises the potential for shared function within many marriage. Partners in marriage ought to be……well, partners in marriage, committed to the well-being of all the members of the family unit in equal proportion. Moreover, every home is different, and pretending that marriage is some monolithic entity in all instances betrays a lack of knowledge of the evolving nature of that institution. If each couple in a marriage restricts the other in some well-defined function, we will simply succeed in killing one another’s potential and create monotony and resentment in the marriage.

Now, if Ace Ankamah had expressed these terms of marriage instead of engaging in altercation with the person who raised objections to his archaic notion of marriage, he would have spoken like a lawyer and affirmed his role as a good communicator.

But all over the place, when these politicians, intellectuals and common citizens speak, it is as if wisdom has been completely cleaned out of their brains. But the acquisition of wisdom is a matter of a conscious effort, pretty much like writing any piece on social media. On social media, most people write and post before reading over and over for their errors. They only correct their errors after they post their piece, which is not as good as reviewing carefully before posting. If we want to build a society wherein wisdom is pervasive, we will find that thinking well before speaking or acting is the best panacea for foolishness.

Samuel Adjei Sarfo, J.D., is a general legal practitioner in Austin, Texas, USA. You can email him at