Feature Article of Sunday, 4 December 2011

Columnist: Pobee-Mensah, Tony

Within our Ghanaian communities

There was once a very shameful incident within our Ghanaian community that I am a little ashamed to even mention, but it makes a point in this opinion article. Our community association made a donation to a bereaved family at a funeral ceremony. Following that someone pointed out that the constitution did not allow such donation. The leaders of the association decided to and did ask for the money back. As far as I know, they did get the money back. I felt so shameful that I offered to pay it out of my own pocket, but they did not allow me to do it because the constitution did not allow it. I continue to bow down my head in shame whenever I think of the incident.

Before this incident, there had been issues that made me suggest that we set aside the constitution and try to grow the association since we were not doing so well and then write a constitution based on what we do right. It soon became clear to me that those who wrote the constitution thought of it as an intellectual masterpiece, and that it was a sacrilege to even think of setting it aside let alone saying it out loud. Incidents like this seem to permeate our communities enough to create unnecessary enmity among us.

If the intellectual elite among us will run a well oiled, well functioning "communities" I will be happy to lend my support and shut up, but quite often they don't and their failures become "Ghana fo" problems. For instance I was made aware many times that the constitution required us to meet every two months. After many months of no meeting, I received an email from the president with a date of the next meeting. He mentioned in the email that he had been in Ghana all those months: this for an association that had three or four vice presidents. Yet it was Ghana fo's fault that the association died.

Another case: some folks from my old secondary school made an effort to raise funds to help the school. I was impressed by the effort. When I joined in to help, I found out that the effort was all about bringing your money and leaving your mind home. This would be fine if questions I had had been addressed. Any question or topic I raised was met with silence until I decided to leave.

Later, after I left, I got an email with a picture of some current students in a situation that made me quite sad. I decided that no matter what, I had to do my part so I gave half of what I was actually prepared to give. I received an email later on saying that I was receiving the email because I gave. The email went on to say that the money had been forwarded to someone who I probably should have known but didn't. It was fine. What baffled me was that since then I have not hear anything. The intellectual elite leading the effort somehow dodn't think that if the picture touched me enough for me to want to give, it wouldn't touch me enough for me to want to know if the problem was remedied.

We had an unfortunate event of losing someone who had made so much effort to help our school. Some of our school mates raised money to help his wife. I applaud the effort because just the idea of raising money for a funeral in Ghana has its own controversy and many opinions were expressed with passion. Those of us who thought it was a good idea did give gave. There was an idea that we would use some of the money to establish a scholarship in the man's name. I expressed in private to the "organizer" that we should not establish a scholarship in someone's name without knowing if we would be able to raise the funds year after year to keep it going. I suggested a one time scholarship or just giving what we raised to his wife and bringing finality to that issue was a better idea. Without further consideration, the organizer named a sum as our donation to the wife and the rest, which was given to the wife, was to go towards the scholarship. The lady later sent an email to everyone involved saying because she had not received instructions on what to do with the money, she was sending it to someone who I assumed was the appropriate person to send it to in the circumstance.

I have no quarrels with anyone and I am not accusing anyone of misappropriating money. My concern is that we did not bring this issue to finality. If we did, I did not know about it. There are probably others who have concerns too because the issue was not brought to finality.

Little issues like this seem to create enmity within our communities and keep us from banding together and doing good things in our communities. Many seem to think that, "I have this great idea so come and donate money to help to execute it or you are an enemy ". If you dare ask questions, you are a challenge to someone's intellect so you become an enemy.

Tony Pobee-Mensah