Recently in the news, I heard that a prominent Ghanaian politician had died. I had run into him in a hotel a couple of weeks prior and nothing about him said he was ready to kick the bucket. When I saw him sitting in that lobby, and later on when I heard the news of his passing, the only thing I remembered was a conversation I’d had with my headmaster in Tema Secondary School years ago.
I’d visited the headmaster to lobby for a refund of some money the school owed us. We all feared our headmaster, popularly known as Headie, because he was generous with slaps and he had palms the size of a racquet. There was this story about how he’d slapped a female student who’d been playing with the school’s piano at midnight in the assembly hall, and the force of the slap had made the girl menstruate instantly. I didn’t know if the story was true but I definitely didn’t want to find out for myself. But on this day, I was broke. Everybody was broke. And the school was owing us. The boys had started chanting aluta songs in the dormitories but nobody dared go to the administration block. I was fed up with the cowardice and announced to everybody that I was going for my money. That’s how I ended up in Headie’s house.
He was pleasantly surprised to see the chapel prefect. He welcomed me warmly and offered me a seat. I began by thanking him for being the best headmaster we’d ever had, I thanked him for the oranges he had supplied us at dining from his own farms free of charge and also for the new television set we had at the assembly hall. He laughed and said well, the oranges did come from his farm, and they were in deed a gift for us but the television had been donated by the politician because he had caught him with a female student on the campus. The politician came to donate the television the morning after he’d been busted. We laughed. My headmaster had a wicked sense of humour. What I didn’t tell him was that one of the many girls the politician had been chasing on campus was my own girlfriend; and she had told me herself. Most of those girls were underage. We were just kids. When he died, the praise singers got to work again and the fact that he had been a serial pedophile, womaniser and a corrupt man was never mentioned; even though he’d always had quite a reputation. Africa’s in the state it is because the late politician described above is not the exception. He’s the norm. He’s representative of about 80% of the men we call honorables, and on whose shoulders our communal destiny rests.
In my culture, we say there is no honour in vilifying the dead so I’ll quickly move on to focus on the living. Yesterday, I said on Joy FM’s “Ghana Connects” and in a subsequent interview that President Mahama inspires likability but not confidence and it’s enraged a lot of NDC people but what I didn’t say was that I, Nana Kofi Acquah, actually did vote for President Mahama and because I did, it is my responsibility to hold him accountable. I won’t wait for his term to end. I won’t wait till it is too late. I will constructively criticise him and urge him to rise to the high calling my vote has placed on him. Ghana and Africa is in a dire place now. There’s the threat of terror, war, famine, and now Ebola all around us… and this is no time for weak leadership. When does the jokes end? When do we get serious? The current state of affairs in Ghana is like a driver who siphons the fuel meant for his vehicle and comes back wondering why the vehicle isn’t moving?
If you think I am pessimistic or discouraged, you are mistaken. My faith in the continent is unshakable. It is what makes me rise every morning to face the sun; and I can tell you for a fact that there is a lot of light in Africa. Look to the light. Look to those men and women who make a difference everyday with their unwavering faith and attitudes of excellence in the passionate pursuit of their dreams- the same dream: To make Africa rise. To prove that the black man can actually handle his own affairs. There are a lot of Africans, mostly young, who daily prove stupidity is an education problem not a genetic one. These people prove daily that if the African can change their attitude, they can change their world.
Africa can rise but not when it prefers to sleep. Africa can rise but not when it’s afraid to hold its leaders accountable. Africa can rise but not when our leaders are quite content to sit on gold and beg for brass. Africa will rise from the day we stop blaming slavery, colonialism, apartheid and everybody else. We cannot change what other people did to us but we must question what we are doing to ourselves. Africans must start taking responsibility for the state of affairs on the continent. We must question the sources of people’s wealth. We must stop celebrating Africans who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on cars so they can park them next to rubbish dumps. We must start hooting at civil servants who live in houses and drive cars they obviously cannot afford based on their salaries. We must stop teaching our children that the only way to progress in life is to bribe your way through every hurdle. We must stop treating education as an end and start questioning our doctors, engineers, planners, scientists and professors on exactly what they have been able to achieve with their education?
Africa must rise and it must start with every single one of us.