Along Came October

October 17, 2012 § 2 Comments

A bald kapu3pu3 (‘3’ sounds like egg without the ‘gg’; ask a Ghanaian what that means) has been promising free high school education to the masses since this election cycle began. I meet people here and there who seem to think so highly of him, but when prompted, they never seem to know exactly what makes him so admirable or the best person to become Ghana’s next president. I don’t find him impressive (surprise, surprise!). It also doesn’t take very long for you to figure out that these people are also NPP (the NPP is Ghana’s version of U.S. Republicans). Ghanaians, it also seems, vote almost strictly by party affiliation. Promise even the moon and your faithful followers will not only find a way to believe it’s doable, but vigorously defend that belief like their lives depended on it. It’s no wonder religion thrives in these parts.  I honestly don’t see where the fascination with this guy comes from or whether it’s really justified. If his last name wasn’t Akuffo-Addo, I highly doubt he’d be where he is in politics today.

But he the person is really not what I’m writing about. It’s the signature piece of his campaign that has gotten my interest. He’s been preaching to anyone who would hear him that he would not only enact a free high school policy, but that we actually have the money to do it! You’ll see his ads and campaign marches where he boldly claims that we have the money (sika no wo ho!). I see people all over my village who fervently believe this, and believe theirs kids will someday get this free three years of high school. It’s a brilliant strategy; very empty, but brilliant. When you look at the rest of his campaign proposals, you realize everything else is fluff. He doesn’t seem to have any concrete plans about how he’d implement any of his promises. In his single “debate,” (I dunno if standing to answer questions of a panel unopposed counts as one) he was adjudged to have floundered and didn’t seem impressive with his answers to moderators and the viewing press. I’m not trying to gang on just him; the NDC is not that far behind in how they manipulate their grossly misinformed base.

My problem is this idea of ‘free’ that seems to enthrall the masses. First of all, there is no such thing as free; nothing! Even love is not free. You might think you give or receive it freely, but that thing is earned- even babies don’t give theirs for free. They always know who loves them and who doesn’t and always act accordingly. When we first moved to the U.S., I heard public school was free, and thought that was amazing when compared to free grade school education in Ghana. Anyway, so how is it free? Who pays for the teachers, the bus rides, the buildings, coaches, equipment… I could go on and on. Again, nothing is free! Over there, you pay municipal taxes, sales taxes, property tax, estate tax, state tax, and not to say the last or least, federal taxes. Some of this money goes to fund that “free” public education. So, if one of the worlds most advanced countries with its outsized wealth doesn’t give free education, where do Ghanaians, especially the people who sing along to, and have totally bought into Akuffo-Addo’s ‘free’ mantra expect to unearth this “sika no wo ho” for free high school education in our still developing economy? He also expects to industrialize Ghana and turn our agrarian/imports and un-payable loans dependant economy into a manufacturing one largely by the end of his first 4 years. It doesn’t matter that we haven’t managed to do this in 55 years of independence, but who’s paying attention; or really cares about realistic goals when promising pipe-dream manifestos is all you need to impress voters? What’s perplexing and sad is that the one person who looks most promising amongst the choices this election cycle- Paa Kwesi Nduom- is entirely ignored by the electorate who don’t seem to realize that Ghana hasn’t gone anywhere with this game of musical chairs between these two dysfunctional and inept parties of the NDC and NPP.

–          Yesterday, I learned a new term: “half current.” What does it mean, you ask? It means you can see your neighbors’ homes fully lighted with ECG juice, whereas yours –if you’re really unlucky- would be barely clinging on with a single outlet being your only source to power. After 15 outages in 25 days (I counted), one of the two lines feeding my house seems to have given up, so I’m left with more than half my house- including my room-  not having power. I was told by a neighbor that the power would be restored… that was 9 days ago. Yesterday, after dropping off my bill for last month, the ECG worker explained I would have to climb up to the top of the pole nearest to my house and get a number the company would need before they can come out to fix the problem. After nearly a month of unexplained outages, which most likely caused this problem, I then have to risk life and limb by climbing up a pole my mother paid for to get a number, or these idiots won’t come around to fixing their mess?! You can raise rates at anytime without explanation, cut off power anytime; you have no competition; you’re accountable to no one, and it’s all legal! Aren’t monopolies sweet? Only in Ghana.

–          My aunt once jokingly warned me that once I had my car, all I’d have to do is open the passenger door, and they’ll be flying right in; the “they” being local Ghanaian girls. Funny? Very! …we both had a good laugh about that. Was she also being honest, even in her slight exaggeration? It would seem exactly so after all these many months in Ghana. Girls here size you up to see what they imagine you’ll give them. Under normal circumstances, you think of dating as boy meets girl, boy likes…yaya-yada-yada… and it grows from there. Here, the dynamic is slightly warped. A girl (and I’ll chance it and say 85% from 15-39) is looking at two things thing: 1. If you’re interested (so wo shw3- i.e. testing you); and 2. how much can her “cookie” (borrowing from Steve Harvey) can get her. If you’re a white male, and you play it right, you’d be that platinum ticket out of Ghana she wants. In this jungle, your skin makes you the apex predator. So what if you have a wife, girlfriend or even kids back home? She couldn’t give a rat’s ass. I’ve wondered on occasion just how pervasive this attitude is in Ghana.

About a week ago, I hung out with my childhood friend who admitted how bad this trend was during her 1 year at Legon, and how far girls there would go to get material things they wanted. That part wasn’t surprising as I’ve seen how women here regularly toggle 2-3 partners at a time. What struck me from that part of our conversation was that the men/boys involved often knew that the girls they were sleeping with had other partners- and sometimes these men knew each other and seemed perfectly fine with that arrangement since to them as there was zero marriage interest on their part. Regardless of whatever plausible scenarios you might find to temporarily makes sense here, this partner swapping exercise is a bit much and a big turn-off. What annoys me more is how these same people are first to preach to you about Christianity, and try to one-up each other on which of them is more pious. By the way, this behavior is not limited to Legon floozies. It’s everywhere- even some of your “celebrities” do it. I’ll be driving soon, but now, I’m sure you’d forgive me when I admit this black/local Ghanaian experiment is over for me. Hey, at least I tried. So, I have a question:

What is your worth?

I once asked a girl that and she sat stumped for a few minutes and couldn’t give me an answer. What’s your worth, Ghanaian girls? Is it like that of the $500 beaten-up Ford Thunderbird I bought in MN where I knew it was merely for temporary use as I knew it had been driven endlessly over its lifetime and didn’t mind me using it anyhow till when I’d dump it off to the next buyer? Or would yours be like that Aston Martin I dream about and know whenever I purchase one, it’ll have to go with a swanky French-like country estate, housed in a temperature-controlled garage, and will be a lifetime investment that will be rarely driving and will be pampered long after I’m gone?

S3 me wari broni-a, nma 3ny3 mo wawa, anaa 3yaw, anaa ehi 😉

-Btw, the snake tracks are back! I got a lil’ excited initially, until I remembered those tracks were all zig-zagging in front of my house!

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§ 2 Responses to Along Came October

  • Shara says:

    Hello Mike, I enjoy reading your blog. Married to a Ghanaian and preparing to move to Ghana in the near future. Your blog gave me an insight from a returnee point of view. Thank you and I look forward to your next posts. Best wishes.

  • ann meredith says:

    I understand your position on Ghanaian women but would like to balance it with a view of Ghanaian men. I have yet to meet one who is faithful to their partner. Ghanaian women have no illusions that they are just one of a long line of conquests so why not get something out of the relationship while they can?
    Men too use sex to get what they want. A lot have been put through college and university by a woman only to dump her when he has the qualification.
    I feel sorry for the girls who ‘sell’ themselves to a man to get what they want out of life but feel it is more a product of their environment when men seem to call all the shots where relationships are concerned.

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