(Swans - October 18, 2010) Among the many things that pissed me off with the former ruling party in Ghana, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), was their attempt to impose an Orwellian society of "all animals are equal, but some are more equal than the other" in our beloved republic. Their crass, unbridled attempt to loot all lootable state property in the name of a decadent ideology of "property-owning democracy" is another negative thing about them.
Crazed with power, NPP members behaved like they owned the nation and that we citizens are mere chattels. I was once nearly run over by an NPP van that was driving at top speed on the wrong side of the road!
It is one thing for political party members to brazenly steal state resources in the promotion of their party's manifesto of "property-owning democracy"; it is entirely another matter when such looters brashly and brazenly flaunt their ill-gotten wealth in our faces. It is like they are damning us to do our worst.
The scandalous stripping of state assets without any sense of decency whatever was another of my gripes with the NPP. Ghana Airways was sold for a song and Ghana Telecom with all its strategic assets (Fibre Optic backbone, University etc., etc.) was sold to the Brits at a steal.
The nauseating personality of ex-president Kufuor, with his penchant for self-aggrandizement, including awarding himself a national honor with a hefty gold chain (see my The Old Man and the Medal) also put the NPP in my bad book.
The insensitive and very indecent display of ill-gotten wealth must have had something to do with the party's trouncing at the last elections.
What was totally baffling to yours truly was that many of the NPP's top functionaries are well-educated and well-bred people who have spent some time in Europe and the United States. Having sojourned in such disciplined societies they must have been exposed to the decent behavior of wealthy people, especially those charged with managing the affairs of state.
Apart from celebrities, wealthy people in the West seldom court publicity. In fact, they shun any form of publicity like the plague. The richest of the richest among them are faceless; they are seldom seen or heard. They live very modest, disciplined, almost Spartan lifestyles. Many who accumulate vast wealth still find it difficult to spend any of it on personal comfort. Their Calvinistic belief is that money should be invested and not wasted on compulsive consumption. Wealthy people in the West think of tomorrow, rather than live for today's transient glory. They do not live for the glory of the moment. They try to leave solid, lasting legacies behind them after they journey to the Hereafter. That explains why the best universities, the best hospitals, the best museums, the biggest and best factories, and the best libraries were built with endowments from wealthy folks.
In contrast, the rich people in our land, whatever the source of their wealth, want to spend money as fast as they can make it, sometimes faster. It is as though money is burning holes in their pockets, crying to be spent. How many Ghanaian firms survive their owners? How many of our wealthy folks have even built a factory to begin with? How many of them have endowed anything at all?
Has anyone noticed the new craze in town where people buy the biggest and baddest vehicles money can buy? And what do these money-missed-roads do but get tinted glasses? This is a most baffling thing, as one would expect that these moneybags want to be admired. But how do you admire something inside a darkened space? Maybe psychologists should investigate this peculiar portrait of the Capitalist Nigger.
From there the new thing is to get special numbers. Most of our roads are simply un-motorable with many of them in state of utter disrepair. Yet, this doesn't seem to dissuade our rich folks from buying a Rolls Royce, tinting the windows all around and then getting special numbers.
From there it is show time. What better way to show off in this our anything-goes society than to get a police rider to clear roads for the big man? We live in a society whereby sirens blaring now constitute more than a nuisance.
The number of sirens I hear blaring on our roads every day always baffles me. In the more decent societies, sirens are blared only in emergencies. The idea was to let motorists know that there is an accident or incident requiring emergency evacuation of people or goods. It makes eminent sense; we all could fall into emergency situations in which case it would not be good to be caught in traffic snafus.
I often cite examples of the Netherlands where, apart from the monarch, no state official rides in a motorcade with police dispatch. About four police motorcyclists clear the road for the Queen of the Netherlands' car. And that is as simple as that.
Apart from that, everyone else including the prime minister not only rides in his own private car, but does so without any fanfare whatsoever.
The only people allowed to use sirens are the police and the emergency services. Sometimes, bullion trucks also blare their sirens. But those are rare occasions indeed.
It is said that wherever you are in the Netherlands, an ambulance should reach you within five (yes, 5) minutes. The super-efficient Dutch find this too long -- they were busy debating how to cut it down! What do we have in Ghana but a maddening blaring of sirens by any number of state officials? This culture of siren-blaring cacophony became more pronounced during the NPP government. The new Mills government appeared to have done something about it on its assumption of office -- because the number of siren blarings went down considerably.
But it looks like, as in most things, we are relapsing back into our bad old ways. Old habits, they say, die hard. The new masters on the block are discovering the joys of intimidating lesser folks and they are back blaring their sirens like no man's business.
The chief question is why is the simple logic escaping us that the more a system is used and abused, the less effective it becomes? After all, familiarity, they say, breeds contempt. This incessant blaring of sirens will make our people inure to it that it would soon lose all its effectiveness. What would happen then? Would our rich and powerful resort to beating us? These questions shall remain in the womb of time.
What is becoming a new phenomenon is that convoys from some embassies' car pools are also now joining the new craze. I don't know of a single Western country where a Ghanaian official would have the audacity to blare a siren; yet they are here doing their thing and no one cares a hoot.
I personally find this totally intolerable.
I consider myself citizen of a sovereign nation so why on earth should a foreign diplomat push me out of the road in my own country? Some questions here: Were these diplomats given permission to use sirens, by whom and what are the grounds for granting the permission? If they were not permitted, why has no one in authority noticed and called them to order? What missions are so critical to foreign embassy officials that they have priority on our roads?
Ghana is no longer a colony and shouldn't be treated as such. The last time I checked, our parents fought and won a liberation war so that we don't go through the indignities of bloody foreigners riding rough-shod over us. Fifty-something years later, we seem to be back to where we started from.
Another nauseating thing is the sight of mining companies' vehicles speeding on our roads like bats out of hell. What exactly do these wretched neo-colonial multinationals think they are doing? It is one thing for them to come and steal (what other word to use when these thieves pay between 3-5% as "royalties" for our minerals?) us blind; it is another thing to see them flaunting their ill-gotten wealth in our faces.
If these rapacious, blood-sucking parasites have any shame at all, they will travel stealthily like the very thieves that they are. They have been mining our gold and diamonds for over a century and none of them have deemed it fit to build a single gold- or diamond-processing factory in this country. They are robbing us and they want us to be jumping up and down for them like some mindless yo-yos.
I advise those with minds to defend these crooked imperialists to travel to Obuasi, Prestea, Akwatia, or any of the mining towns and see the havoc the thieving bastards have wrought on our land and environment.
We live in a society where things are becoming increasingly comical. The other day I was pleasantly amused, surprised, and angered when I saw the head of the police, the inspector general (IGP), in his GP1 vehicle, sirening his way through dense traffic in Kasoa.
First, I was amused that the Oga police did not see the irony in his peculiar situation. The IGP is the head of the police force, right? The Motor Transport and Traffic Unit (MTTU) is part of the police, of which Mr. IGP is the boss, right? MTTU is charged with ensuring hassle-free vehicular movements on our roads, right? How could a whole IGP miss the irony in his trying to cut corners by beating snarled-up traffic with his siren-blaring convoy?
I was angered because as I have lamented several times in this column, we are suffering in great sufferation (let's borrow Rasta-speak here) in this country of ours mostly because people who get paid to get things done do not perform. They are not only failing to do their jobs, but rather look for ways to make it possible for them to beat and cheat the very system they are supposed to manage.
And most galling of all is that there are no checks in place to ensure that this system-bursting bigmanism does not exist. Equally infuriating is the fact that there is absolutely nothing we citizens can do about this obscene abuse of power. No matter how irate I felt about the spectacle of the IGP patently cheating the system, there is not a darn thing I could do about it. I knew it and he obviously knows that no bloody civilian will dare open his mouth.
Who born dog, indeed?
Several questions become pertinent here: Does the IGP have authorization to use sirens or is our number-one law enforcement agent breaking the law? If a common IGP can travel in a siren-blowing convoy, what is there to stop the other service chiefs from doing the same? The heads of the navy; army; air force; Customs, Excise and Preventive Service; prisons; and forestry could also start using sirens. And what about our parliamentarians -- are they not also worthy enough? And the directors at our Minitries Departments and Agencies, are they also not worthy enough? And let's not forget our district chief executives; they also have their apushkeleke (Ghanaian slang for ladies of easy virtues) and other part-time girlfriends to impress, don't they?
I was surprised because there should be responsible authorities to point out to the IGP the absurdity of his blaring a siren to clear the way for himself in traffic. If he surrounds himself with sycophants who are not prepared to tell him some home truth, those who appoint him should do so. They should point out to him that he is being paid to ensure that citizens do not spend inordinate hours roasting in traffic hold-ups whilst his men are busy doing their thing. I didn't say collecting bribes, did I?
No, I am not joining those calling for the IGP's head; but I'd say that until he makes travelling on our roads less nightmarish, he has no business disturbing our peace with his sirens.
A voice from Africa worth hearing... Please consider a
Feel free to insert a link to this work on your Web site or to disseminate its URL on your favorite lists, quoting the first paragraph or providing a summary. However, DO NOT steal, scavenge, or repost this work on the Web or any electronic media. Inlining, mirroring, and framing are expressly prohibited. Pulp re-publishing is welcome -- please contact the publisher. This material is copyrighted, © Femi Akomolafe 2010. All rights reserved.
Have your say
Do you wish to share your opinion? We invite your comments. E-mail the Editor. Please include your full name, address and phone number (the city, state/country where you reside is paramount information). When/if we publish your opinion we will only include your name, city, state, and country.
About the Author
Femi Akomolafe (see his profile on Swans) is a computer consultant, a writer and social commentator, an avid reader, and a passionate Pan-Africanist who lives in Kasoa, Ghana. Femi is known to hold strong opinions and to express them in the strongest terms possible. As he likes to remind his readers: "As my Yoruba people say: Oju orun teye fo, lai fara gbara. It means that the sky is big enough for all the birds to fly without touching wings." Femi Akomolafe's views, opinions, and thoughts can be accessed on the blog he maintains: http://ekitiparapo.blogspot.com/. (back)