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Opinions of Thursday, 18 February 2016

Columnist: Elizabeth Ohene

What I’m giving up for Lent

My young niece used to harass me into giving up something for Lent. The Catholic school she used to attend in New Jersey was very strong on things like that; the six and seven-year olds would start the campaign about giving up something for Lent and be so persistent about it you would have no choice but agree to do the right thing.

One year I claimed I couldn’t find anything to give up as I had determined I had no indulgencies. Giving up sugar and chocolates and sausages wouldn’t hurt as I don’t like them anyway. Prawns and lobsters would hurt but I don’t get them these days anyway and so there is no question about giving them up.

I decided the odd glass of wine that I drank every once in a while was not worth giving up, and a chilled bottle of beer in the very hot weather was not an indulgence, I assured myself.

In which case, my niece persisted, instead of giving up something, why don’t I take up something that I should be doing? She shamed me into the decision to start taking some exercise and that is how I started taking a brisk walk for about half an hour at dawn.

After a few days, I felt quite ashamed at labelling that early morning walk something I was doing for Lent. It was certainly not a deprivation; I was enjoying it and it was good for me. It had become an indulgence and indeed, I found myself continuing with it, long after the 40 days of the Lenten period.

List for Lent

This year I have a long list of things I am doing for Lent: top of the list is the determination not to listen to the President of the Republic during the 40-day period. I have been totting up the number of directives and orders he has given since that first speech he gave soon after being sworn in as President after the death of President J.E.A. Mills.

It is obvious that these orders and directives count for nothing and yet every time I hear a new order, my heart misses a bit and I think something will happen.

I heard the President recently claim he was being criticised the same way and by the same people who criticised our first President when he was building his landmark infrastructural projects.

It might well be the President was making a joke but I did not find funny that quip about Nkrumah having said if he had known it was milk Ghanaians were looking for, he would have put milk on tap for them.

It is not funny and it is disrespectful. I will spare myself such ordeal for 40 days. There might well be some pleasant surprises the President will be throwing our way but I am willing to take a chance on missing them. Welcome to my Dramani-Free existence and I shall report back on how I coped.

Cutting down electricity use

The next thing on my list is to find a way to cut down by 50 per cent on the use of electricity in my household. I have tried to understand the various announcements that have been put up by various agencies which seek to explain the tariff increases.

There is one thing I know, I am not a lifeline user and the new rates will bankrupt us unless we reduce our consumption. We are frugal users of electricity, but I suspect when you use a microwave oven, the new rates are meant to be punitive. The only lights that are left on in this house all evening and throughout the night are the security lights and I don’t think it is a good idea to turn them off.

No special funeral cloth

Next on my list: I will not succumb to the pressure to buy a special funeral cloth for anybody. I have red, black, brown funeral outfits, oh yes, of course. I also have black and white and that should be fine to suit all funerals.

Beg the editor

Next on my list: I will beg the editor of the newspaper to try and help readers to differentiate between paid-for advertisements or advertorials and the pages that are news reports and commentaries and opinions. Many times these days it is impossible to tell which are the paid — for items and which ones are written by the journalists.

Going off some WhatsApp groups

Next on the list: I am taking myself off a number of WhatsApp groups for the period. It is time we all admitted that it is not possible to get much work done with the amount of traffic on these WhatsApp groups. Two things really upset me about the messages; I detest the fake special English language that is employed in many of these messages. I am not persuaded that any time is saved by writing “de” for “the”, or “L8R” for “Later” nor am I able to understand many of the acronyms. I have just worked out what is meant by BTW and BCNU and I do not want to understand what J/K or DBEYR or FUD stand for.

I am hoping that the technologists are going to find a way for WhatsApp to detect when a particularly long copy and paste piece or video has been sent to you already and you don’t end up receiving the same thing from 10 different people. I can certainly do without the regular mini — quarrels that erupt between some people on the platform, which the rest of the people are expected to watch, and I shall be saving a lot of battery power on my phone and will not need to charge it so often any longer.

Coming to terms with J.B. Danquah-Adu’s death

Next on the list: I shall try to come to terms with the killing of one of the most charming young men that it has been my pleasure to know these past 15 years.

J.B. Danquah-Adu was a friend of mine. I do not understand how the vibrant and laughing man I parted company with at a book launch on the Thursday evening before could be killed in his own bedroom four days later.

I want to understand if there are people in this country who walk around at night just looking for windows they can enter forcibly and kill somebody. I used to boast to my South African and Nigerian friends about how safe Ghana was, compared to their countries. I used to be contemptuous of the amount of security that they needed in their homes. Now I hear a Minister of State recommend to his colleague members of Parliament they should acquire side arms to protect themselves.

I have to come to terms with the reality that Ghana is no longer a safe country. And I have to get used to the fact that I won’t be seeing JB again. That will take some doing.