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Opinions of Sunday, 24 October 2010

Columnist: Ato Kwamena Dadzie

Village living

A country where there is no potable water for the majority and nursing mothers sleep on the bare floor in hospitals and school children study under trees is nothing but one big village.

In the modern world people are travelling on speed trains, performing complex brain surgeries, using sophisticated technologies to control crime and they are even flying into space, not just for scientific exploration but also for pleasure and leisure.

In the villages of the world, people queue to go to the loo, people care more about culture (every function is an opportunity to demonstrate how the ancestors danced) than science and life, overall, is as “brutish and short” in the 21st century as it was in the 15th.

Our poor wretched country, Ghana, (and most African countries for that matter) perfectly fits the description of a village nation.

When others are building huge malls, we are content with simple dirty market stalls. The one we call the Pedestrian shopping mall in Accra is sort that was in vogue in France in the 18th century. We go around calling our hamlets municipalities and metropolises. The real municipalities and metropolises in the world, Rome and New York, for example, do not need titles to be recognized as such. Isn’t it a shame that our hospitals, won’t even pass for infirmaries in penitentiaries elsewhere?

And we say we are not in a village? Don’t be fooled by the smart suits, the mobile phones, the few tarred roads, the fast cars and the glass buildings. Whether you like it or not, Ghana is a village and every Ghanaian is a villager. It doesn’t matter whether you come from Akyerensua or Teshie Nungua, Adjoa or Nii Boi Town. Even if you come from British Accra, you are a villager. If you call yourself a Ghanaian, you are a villager. Simple!

So when a deputy minister goes to sit on radio and decides to run down people and refers to his opponents as villagers, that minister is only making a fool of himself, behaving like the proverbial kettle calling the pot black. When deputy tourism minister, Kobby Acheampong went on Citi FM and said the NPP general secretary, Kwadjo Owusu-Afriyie, had been behaving like a gentleman from a cocoa farm who had stayed in Kumasi for far too long and needed to broaden his horizon, he must have been thinking he was hitting his opponent where it hurts most. But that’s not all he did. He spoke a truth about himself, about his opponents and about all Ghanaians.

The fact is we all need to “broaden” our horizons. And that horizon broadening exercise should begin at the top with people like Kobby Acheampong.

Only villagers descend into pettiness when issues of great import like the performance of a leader are being discussed. When Kwadjo Owusu-Afriyie said President Mills deserved a grade A for doing nothing, he spoke with uncommon wit. The most appropriate response would have been for Kobby Acheampong to muster whatever little wit he has and counter the argument by stating what his boss had done. If this was too much for him to do and his choice was to rain invectives, he should have done so with more precision.

But Mr. Acheampong obviously lacks the basic intelligence which dictates that in your bid to insult one man, you should make sure that you don’t drag others along and earn disaffection for yourself from people you didn’t intend to offend. Mr. Acheampong wanted to insult Mr. Owusu-Afriyie. But he ended up insulting not just cocoa farmers but everyone who grew up or stayed in Kumasi.

If we weren’t in a village where pettiness marks our very existence, Kobby Acheampong’s silly comments would have been ignored with utmost contempt. In this our village, however, we get a whole bunch of MPs organizing an emergency press conference to demand the resignation (or dismissal) of Kobby Acheampong, who in the grand design of Atta Mills’ ever-fumbling machinery of governance amounts to nothing more than needless extra.

You may not like what Kobby Acheampong said. You may not even like him as a person. But, at the very least, you should agree with him on one point – horizons need to be broadened. When he said Owusu-Afriyie should broaden his horizon, he spoke the truth about all of us – including himself and the man who gave him the job he doesn’t deserve.

We all need to broaden our horizons and realize that the world is passing us by. People elsewhere are living life to the fullest. We are here consumed by want yet we waste precious time quarrelling over who is a villager and who’s not.

Indeed, the MPs who called the press conference to demand the deputy minister’s resignation – whether from cocoa farms or the sandy shores of a fishing community – need to broaden their horizons and realize that there are more pressing things they should be directing their attention at. Lives have been severely disrupted in West Gonja, our educational system is in deep crisis, everywhere you turn people are agitating for anything from water to electricity and better drainage, our roads are as choked as our gutters. We can’t even operate a simple rail system and our MPs organize a press conference over an issue as petty as an inconsequential rubble rouser’s reference to them as villagers from a cocoa farm?

I understand egos might have been bruised. But, please, let’s face it. You are not what you say you are. Neither are you what people say you are. You are what you do. We are all villagers not only by virtue of the fact that we all come from one hamlet or another. We are all villagers because we live like we are still in the 16th century. Let’s face it and start broadening our horizons.

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