Last weekend, I was in the north for an uncle’s funeral. He was a famous man amongst the Kantosis in the Upper West and East regions. So naturally the funeral attracted many from far and near as a noble man’s funeral should.
In the constant slapping of hands, lowering of gaze and lengthy greetings, I heard one prayer repeatedly. “It is because of ignorance otherwise death is good. May we continue to die.” Really? Who wants to die?
Those who offered the prayer contended that but for death, they would never have met some of the people who flooded the dusty village of Fumbisi. I didn’t know whether to answer Amen to their prayer. I think I simply mumbled incoherent words and moved on responding nonchalantly to another question, “how are your wife and children?
The journey took me 16 hours. Yes, 16. But the Bolga-Sandema was the eventful of the 16-hour journey. It was Metro Mass bus. Wretched and dirty. But the people are content, in fact grateful for it. Before the introduction of the Metro Mass transport system, travelling from the Builsa District capital, Sandema to Navrongo was a harrowing experience. “Four back two in front” was the law enforced by the taxi drivers.
The taxis themselves were mangled corrugated sheets, sitting on wobbly wheels but they were the only means available and people were stuffed into them and they yanked through the pot-hole-filled road. The police watched and did what you know!
In fact Benz and Neoplan buses plying the Sandema-Kumasi road, (a 10-hour journey) which had five seats in a row, took six people per row. Again the police watched.
So when the Metro Mass buses came, the people were relieved. The owners of the wretched taxis and overloading Benz and Neoplan buses were irked.
A parliamentary candidate in the 2008 election received applause from the drivers when he promised them he would stop ‘the Kufuor buses from destroying their business.’ He won but served only term in the House. Any surprised. If we didn’t put our votes on auto pilot he should never have been elected in the first place.
In my experience in the Metro Mass bus from Bolga to Sandema, something both impressed and renewed my confidence that we still have vestiges of the good old values of respect for the elderly and fellow feeling. Younger persons in the bus gave up their seats for older people. And young ladies relinquished theirs for young mothers. Beautiful.
The bike ride from Sandema to Fumbisi wasn’t only hazardous and annoying. By the time I arrived at the Builsa South District capital, I was covered such red earth. I looked like I had been dressed up for a comedy show.
In my misery, two brothers of mine yelled, “hey don’t take a bath. You go to Accra like that so you can tell the story of our bad roads better! I forced a giggle but I really felt terrible. The Builsa South District was carved out of the Builsa District a few years ago. There was no infrastructure. There still isn’t any. Buildings are now being put up to house both the Assembly and the District Chief Executive. There is not an inch of well done road and there won’t be any in the foreseeable future. But we created a district nonetheless, as if that in and of itself will bring tangible development to the area.
But the creation of the district was cited as an achievement by some politicians. Regrettably, the people of this area celebrated the fragmentation of an already poor Builsa District.
Until we stop clapping for tokenism and eulogizing mediocrity, the politicians will continue to eat the meat and give us the bones and expect us to show gratitude. We are the only people who elect people and yet prostrate before them.
Something else depressed me in Fumbisi. Large segments of both youth and adults alike were locked up in fierce political arguments. Growing up, my dad talked about politics only when he reminisced the discipline Mr. Jerry Rawlings represented. (As a grown man now I feel some of reminiscence were misplaced at best and naïve at worst). I was made to understand that my survival and success depended on how hard I studied and worked. Not on what anybody in Accra did.
Today, my brothers in this dusty, poor, suffocating place which holds a tremendous promise (it is close to the Gbedembilisi valleys where Acheampong launched his Operation Feed Yourself) believe their very existence depends on what President John Mahama, his ministers and DCEs like ‘Mr. Tweaa,’ who was recently dismissed, do.
Because of the reckless abandon with which our desperate politicians make promises, we are producing a swarm of young people who lack confidence in their abilities to make a decent living without tacit governmental handouts. Even worse, the new trend where young people become successful overnight – the cheeks grow bigger, their suits more crisp and their comments accentuated by arrogance and contentment – is one that breeds laziness. Our politics will become more tempestuous and the debate on public issues poorer.
One of my brothers who defined a verb at Junior High School in 1993 (he was in third year) as a “dura wara” instead of a “doing word,” expressed optimism that he too can get into government one day and buy himself a house and a car. That is how unrealistic our aspirations have become. I felt like telling him the futility of his hopes but how could I.
Buoyed by this hopeless hope, he is willing to make disparaging remarks about people who have worked hard to earn their integrity and reputation because this is a country in which we disagree on even where the sun sets. And people get paid for insulting other’s whom they know next to nothing about. And ruining others and diminishing their achievements is a whole profession for some and a virtue for that matter.
Just like my illiterate brother’s hope of getting a government appointment, I hope that we stop worshipping people we vote into power, clapping crumbs, and demand tangible results.
I know it is an unrealistic expectation. But I hope for these all the same.