Today’s piece was inspired by one of the greatest visionaries ever to grace the shores of this country. I chanced upon his preaching on radio last week. I did not check the time; neither did I check which station it was. Those were not important to me. What mattered to me was the fact that Dr Mensah Otabil was teaching his audience some ‘lessons of life’. The topic for the day had to do with character and integrity.
I felt inspired as I listened to the great visionary. As you may already be aware, the servant of the Bearded Old Man always gave practical examples; but he always shied away from naming names. I therefore felt obliged to write a political piece on the same topic.
The wonderful thing about character and integrity, which are intimately related, is that they are one of the few things in life that no one will ever be able to forcefully take away from you. Your choices are your own. Even if someone can take your life, they cannot force you to make a choice that you believe is wrong.
When it comes to character and integrity in today’s world, a growing number of people feel that they can get away with compromising acts as long as they are carried out in secret. We only have to look to daily news headlines to realize that people’s intent to hide the dark side of their character isn’t working out too well. Even though our values, as a society, seem to be losing ground, people who choose to gamble with their character are still being watched, and still being found out.
Those who inflated figures during the purchase of the Embraer jets did not suspect they would be found out. They also did not know a day would come when the Chief Citizen Vigilante would reveal the formation of a committee which was formed to investigate the smelly deal, but later had to be disbanded for political reasons.
Those who siphoned state cowries in the name of ‘Akomfem’ project never imagine they could be exposed so soon. Not even in their wildest dream did those who engaged in the voodoo afforestation think that their ‘sins’ would soon come to light.
If someone were to approach you on the street and ask you to name someone with integrity and character, who would come to mind? While there may be many names, one thing is certain; it would not be the minister who acted as a conduit through which dubious judgment debt payments were made. Let’s face it, the twin attributes of integrity and good character are attributes these two persons are not known for.
As the Akan proverb literally translates, “No man points to his house with the left finger.” It is therefore understandable that one gives a positive public image of oneself. How people perceive you is very important because it would go a long way in determining how they relate to you. But your character is much more important because it is your character that will either confirm or erase people’s perception about you.
I know a man who could be described as a very peaceful and peace-loving man. He took the little opportunity to preach peace. He was the embodiment of the word itself. His peaceful nature led his party people to christen him ‘Asomdwehene’ (Prince of peace).
Ironically, when this man became president he surrounded himself with people who preached anything but peace. He had ministers who constantly spat fire and brimstone. He even had a jihadist for a minister. His aides and spokespersons had tongues sharper than a well-sharpened knife. Their acerbic tongues had no respect for age, colour, position or religion. They fired at anyone who fell within their line of fire.
You see, such a man may have presented a very beautiful image for all to see. But one could easily tell his real character from his actions. For sure, a man of ‘peace’ and ‘honour’ would never be comfortable associating with people who have no respect for those two words. It is therefore obvious that the man’s character is inconsistent with his public image.
One man who is known for his claim to be more honourable than the word itself is Dr Jerry Boom. He uses the least opportunity he gets to lambast others, especially his successor Don Barima Jak. But the irony of it all is that Jerry Boom is on record to have sold state assets to his wife and cronies. Anytime I hear him preaching integrity, I wonder if he has a different meaning for the word.
In the world today there are people who, for political or other reasons, leave no stone unturned in their effort to tarnish other people’s image. They most times succeed in the initial stages. But the person’s true character finally overshadows all the propaganda and wipes all the propaganda stains. A classical example is the man who contested both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections on the ticket of the Great Elephant.
Such is a man who has had all manner of mud thrown at him. He is a man who does not smoke cigarette, yet his political opponents say he rivals the late Bob Marley in the puffing of ganja. A man who is very down to earth, yet the propagandists say he is haughty. A very peaceful man by nature, yet babies with sharp teeth say he is a warmonger.
The propaganda did work initially. But the man’s true nature has finally made nonsense of all the propaganda. Many of my compatriots were amazed at how quickly he accepted the Supreme Court verdict, even at the displeasure of some of his party people. For sure, a man’s true character would always prevail in the long run.
I leave you with these thought-provoking words from Henry Clay, “Of all the properties which belong to honourable men, not one is so highly prized as that of character.”
See you next week for another interesting konkonsa, Deo volente!