by Femi Akomolafe
[ed. On December 7, 2008, Ghana held her presidential election. Neither candidate won a majority, and a run-off election was held on December 28, 2008. Ghana's opposition leader, John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (center left), won. The elections were held with great civic seriousness, without violence or corruption. The author of this dialogue, Femi Akomolafe, wonders why these highly-democratic political events did not make the news in the West.]
(Swans - January 12, 2009)
I am disappointed
Why is that, my dear friend?
Don't you dare call me your friend, my friend!
Ah, what's bugging you?
I am sorely disappointed!
In me, what have I done to wrong you, my friend?
You and your bunch of friends from the Western press...
Eh, what the heck are you talking about?
And you call yourself a friend!
What are you talking about? Why are you in such a nasty funk?
I am talking about you Western media people!
And what on earth is wrong with us?
That is exactly the problem, ah! You still do not know why I am so angry with you lot?
No, I don't know.
For crying out loud, we had one of the best elections ever conducted anywhere in the whole wide world and none of you guys deemed it newsy enough to write about it. I search in vain for anything positive about the fairness, the freeness, the drums, the dances, the electric atmosphere generated... Nothing. Zilch. That's what I got, Niet! Nothing from the BBC right up to the Constant Negative News channel you call CNN. None of you have anything to say.
Oh, that! Is that what's bugging you?
Yes, yes, yes! And don't tell me that it is not enough to bug anyone! I know how you guys went to town to pillory Africa after the debacle in Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
I am afraid, my friend, you really do not understand the way of the world.
What way of the world are you talking about here? We just had a world-class elections conducted with all the international busy-bodies that call themselves "Election Observers" claiming that it was the best ever in the world, and not a single paper or media in the West deemed it newsworthy. You deluded us with tons and tons of info on the mayhem that happened in Kenya, yet not a whimper about the fair, free, and violence-free elections in Ghana. I am so disappointed.
I feel both sad and sorry that you feel that way, my friend. But your anger is misdirected. If only you understood the way of the world, you wouldn't feel that way.
What way of the world are you talking about, eh?
I am truly sorry that you feel that way. But your anger is grossly misplaced. You truly lack the capacity to see the whole picture. You cannot grasp the entire perspective.
What are you talking about? I asked you why you Western press people failed, miserably I should add, to mention a well conducted elections in Ghana, whereas you are prepared to devote reels and reels of newsprint to any conflict in the most obscure part of Africa!
Exactly, my point. I don't think that I can start by introducing you to simple economics, as the subject appears beyond the comprehension of you Africans.
Now, now, what are you talking about? What has economics got to do with your biased reporting about the continent of Africa?
Semantics, semantics, my friend. You called it biased reporting but I called it obeying the immutable laws of economics. You do not believe that I sent myself here, do you?
What exactly are you talking about, my friend?
I represent a newspaper that, you may believe it or not, needs hard cash in order to survive. And since we do not believe that money grows on trees like people in Africa do, it follows that we have to generate our cash somehow. Our income comes mainly from advertisers. Our advertisers make their monies selling products that hard-working people in the West are prepared to shell out their hard-earned income to buy. The people buy the newspapers hoping to get their money's worth in news and stuff.
I still do not get the point!
Patience, my friend, is a great virtue. I am coming to the point in my own round-about way. You do not expect Joe the Plumber to come home, after a hard day's work, and be confused by improbable headlines like free and fair elections in Ghana. The man is tired, he has worked hard, and he has downed his fair share of liquor, and only needs to read about some chaos and mayhem and things in his newspaper before he goes to bed. You do not expect us, in good conscience, to disallow him his daily dose of gory news, do you? You don't believe people in the West are going to be happy if they sit at their breakfast tables, perusing their newspapers, and be side-blinded by headlines like, "Ghana Conducted Successful Elections," or "Ghana Election Shines," or such monstrosities like that?
What exactly is wrong with that? You will only be reporting the truth. Wasn't it written that you will know the truth and the truth shall make you free?
Don't be daft, my friend. What's the truth? Do you think that my editor is going to hang a medal on my neck if I should send him a report about how successfully Ghanaians conducted their elections?
I thought journalists are supposed to report objectively!
You thought wrong, my friend. I am not your crusading, revolutionary reporter bent on shaping the world in my own image. I've got a family to support, a mortgage, children's school bills, etc, etc, to consider. You don't expect me to throw all that away in some messianic pursuit of what you called objective journalism.
I didn't call it that! That's what you Western press people claim to be!
Don't be naïve, my friend! You don't expect me to come here and tell you that I am "Mr. Biased Personified," do you?
So there is nothing about objective about you Western press?
Don't put words in my mouth, but don't blame us if you guys decided to go off the rail.
What do you man, going off the rail?
Why did you decide to do the un-African thing? Who has ever heard of an election in Africa devoid of violence, rigging, mayhem, and stuff? Can you imagine that I searched the whole day in vain for close shots of mayhem, arson, police brutality, violent protest, and things? I even tried to bribe some youth at Alajo to stage a protest for my sake, but the patriotic idiots refused my generous offer. My cameraman was so bored that he fell asleep, happily I should add, in the arms of one of those well-endowed, succulent ladies with good rear engines parading the streets of your capitals. What exactly is wrong with you Ghanaians?
What do you mean?
All that you are doing is destabilizing a perfect equilibrium. Everyone know that elections in Africa are occasions for the fossilized, sit-tight, father-of-the-nation to dispatch his uniformed goons, armed with our discarded museum pieces, to beat up citizens, award fantastic electoral votes to himself and his cronies, with everyone going home happy and dandy. But you Ghanaians decided to upset the smooth applecart.
But there have been free and fair elections in Botswana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and...
You are wasting your breath, my friend. Those are mere exceptions that do nothing to challenge the rule. We all know what to expect from African elections and is it not among your sayings that a tiger does change its spots?
It is leopard; there are no tigers in Africa.
Leopard, tiger, or whatever, no one is going to believe the tale of a violence-free election in Africa.
You are not telling me that your readers are interested only in mayhem, violence, and arson?
I am saying no such thing. Just that some things are so predictable: The sun will shine in Africa tomorrow; an African dictator will steal an election. People are used to that. But when you start on the path of successful elections and things, those are uncharted, potentially-dangerous revolutionary trends and it might upset our folks.
You mean white folks?
Who else? You didn't reckon that we generate our income from your voodoo economies, do you?
Are you telling me that your decent white folks are only interested in your reporting violence and mayhem?
Once again, you are putting things out of context. We are in business to inform our readers, pander to their tastes and their delicate sensibilities; we are not in the business of evangelizing or crusading. We are not on a mission to change the world or how the world's people think.
Now I am getting the picture.
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