Ground Floor: Some of the complications of being a Ghanaian

I remember the 2006 World Cup Tournament in Germany. It was Ghana’s first appearance at football’s biggest competition.

The whole of Ghana was euphoric. The Black Stars didn’t disappoint; they impressed. They exceeded everyone’s expectations, including that of the optimists.

Ghanaians everywhere enjoyed every bit of it and showed it.  It gave a great feeling to be a Ghanaian. It became convenient to wear the national colours, red, gold and green. People used the colours in any way they could imagine. There were extra-ordinary designs and there were the not too impressive and even embarrassing. Designs were made of shirts, blouses, caps and hats, trousers, kaba and slit and anything possible for clothing.

There were souvenirs too. Cars and lorries on every street in Ghana were draped in the national colours. What a great time to be a Ghanaian.

Then when Ghana hosted the African up of Nations in 2008, it was ecstatic.

There was also the Ghana at 50 celebrations. When the country celebrated the event, nationalistic spirits were whipped. It was heightened and Ghanaians both home and abroad were all infected with the jubilation.

But you see? Things suddenly became complicated. Behind the organization, pomp and pageantry, and nationalism were hidden grand and some daft schemes of corruption, pettiness, disingenuousness, mismanagement and gross irresponsibility in managing the public funds that were allocated for the celebrations.

The government told Ghanaians that it was going to spend US$20 million for the celebrations. Ghanaians screamed out and said, no!  Claiming it was too much. But of course the government in power has power to do whatever it wishes, rightly or wrongly. With the horde of well fed and ‘dusted’ hangers on media and paid PR agents around it, it shoved the voices of reason aside and went ahead with the spending spree, telling Ghanaians that public toilets and parks would be built including choice residential facilities for the celebrations. But as it turned out, the organizers have left behind a can of worms.

They have been found to have spent far in excess of the initial $20 million that Ghanaians were told. As things stand now many more revelations are unfolding. And as they do, the amount gets bigger. That is not all – they left behind mounting debts, and printed books and souvenirs that were never sold.

And these appalling spectacles appeared only after the government that supervised the celebrations was kicked out of power. Indeed, it would have been unheard of, for the rot to be exposed under the term of leadership of the same order.

In Ghana, people in power do no wrong! That’s the unwritten rule. It appears to be embedded so deeply into the social fabric that pointing out the wrongs of powerful people is seen as sacrilegious. Big men, women, and powerful people are not to be challenged, no matter how wrongly they obviously act to everyone’s knowledge.

This is where it gets even more complicated. People in authority would take very evidently wrong decisions which could impact on everyone around, but no one is expected to point it out to them. If you dare to, you are branded.

In Ghana, one is not expected to be assertive. If you are, then you must be arrogant, or you should be having an attitude problem!

You can’t speak your mind to your boss, even though, the same boss would publicly encourage free speech and the value of exchanging ideas.

When your boss is telling you to do something that is incompatible with your professional training, ethics and principles, when you are not in the military, you are not supposed to object. You are expected to accept what your boss is saying without question, go ahead and do it, but when things go wrong, you must clean up!

The complication goes on and on. As a matter of fact, most Ghanaians do not expect you to tell the truth under any circumstance. And so when you tell the truth, no one believes you! Because you should be lying! Everyone is expected to tell lies! When you talk to people, it is common to hear “are you sure?”

Most Ghanaians would wish you well as they look you in the face, and immediately walk to another person known to you and speak ill of you. It is strange to hear another Ghanaian praise his or her co-worker or friend, especially if they work in the same department and probably do similar schedules.

They would praise you in your face and tell you how good you are and the next moment they meet with another group of friends, they would shred your reputation into irredeemable shreds. While they would not acknowledge your achievements, they do not expect you to point out your achievements either. If you do “you are blowing your horns.”

Most Ghanaians would not say no to you, when you make a request. They consider it impolite probably, and so instead of frankly telling you no; they would say, “I will try,” or  “let’s see.” Your request will never be granted as it would perpetually be postponed, until you give up expecting it.

They would laugh with you while they are in your company, and yet they care less about you. They are your friends the moment they are with you, but become something else to you, after you part company. They would often abandon you in your challenging moments, there are some exceptions though, or they would stick around you in your difficult moments if they are very sure that they would get some direct material or financial benefits from you. Otherwise, you would carry your cross alone.

They would never openly appreciate and encourage you in your fields. But the moment you achieve any recognition in that field, everyone suddenly knows you or has some affinity with you.
They would never criticize you, even if they have to, in your face, but would say worse things about you when you are not listening. Is it any wonder high praises of dead people are sang at their funerals?

You won’t believe how many people commend what you do when they are with you, but turn around to condemn that very act they praised you for before another person. You would be lucky if the third person comes to tell you what the other person might have said behind you.

These certainly make living in Ghana very complicated.

While you are encouraged to speak your mind, you are not expected to do so. You are taught to speak the truth, but the truth is not meant to be spoken when it has to.

I am confused. Someone help me! It is getting too complicated for me.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Email: [email protected]

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