When would the curtain close on Ghana’s theatre of political jingoism?
Some eight or so years ago I wrote this piece under the title ‘Ghana: A theatre for political jingoism’ and published elsewhere. These past eight years, it doesn’t seem much has changed, the play still goes on. I have therefore, revised the article for your reading pleasure, perhaps better than the play it talks about.
Ghana, once and always a beautiful country, has now been turned into a theatre for the display of the theatrical skills of a few in a play I choose to call “political jingoism”. This drama unlike the types we are used to, doesn’t seem to end.
Never mind if you don’t understand what the words mean. You don’t have to look far to make meaning of it. Simply pick any Ghanaian newspaper you can lay hands on and read just the front page. You will find the meaning of the title of the play. Or if you have no access to newspapers, as they are getting too expensive these days, turn to social media – Facebook or Twitter, and oh, I hear some Ghanaians are making waves on Instagram too!
This play is a convoluted drivel woven into a make-believe story of life and death. It has been called a very beautiful name too – it is called politics.
It is the ‘do or die’ struggle for power we call democracy, that which gives us all a semblance of equality under the law, by the books but not in reality. It is the abuse of power, corruption, cronyism, politics of patronage, and lack of respect for due procedure, statism and the lethargic performance we are told to call statecraft, whether we like it or not.
The story as it is being told on stage is both an irony and tragedy intertwined between sheer sarcasm and surprisingly some hazy sense of altruism. It is rather beautifully scripted to excite the restless minds of the millions of hapless Ghanaians and to lull them into taking some sort of placebo.
I shudder to say, that not only is the stage filled with uncountable numbers of self-conceited and self-appointed so called political elite, they have also arrogated to themselves the right to determine how the rest of Ghanaians think, live or even die. Much more on the stage, they do not hide their gluttony and insatiable thirst for power. Power they claim to be wielding in the interest of the ‘ordinary citizen’. Incidentally, even the main characters in this play also claim the ‘ordinary citizen’ tag, sometimes for convenience and for some emotional effect on the audience.
Deficient of any creativity, the scenes are haphazardly arranged and the lines are muttered in inaudible tones, letting out not so much discernible phrases. It’s hard to follow the dialogue, as it is vague, unclear and often so full of bunkum.
Hasn’t Ghana’s kind of politics become its own problems? I would say it has, quiet clearly the meaning of politics has been so obscured that it is not what it ought to be anymore. It is now like an auctioned piece of valuable, a valuable everyone needs, but only the highest bidder can obtain. It is not meant for the ordinary person, irrespective of skills, disposition or even track record.
The waters have been so muddied and the path so murky that nothing decent would be permitted to appear on the stage. The stage is so undesirable for the well meaning.
Believe it or not, the harbingers of truth, the media, and the press have also been cajoled into endorsing and applauding this perfidy. And they do so with unrivaled alacrity, falling over each other to outdo one another.
The media, the watchdog of the society, the ‘Fourth Estate of the Realm’, has become lethargic, often appearing moronic and clueless, not knowing what its role in the lounge of this theatre is. With an intense sense of pretentious commitment, it is serving as an accompanying orchestra to the tragicomedy.
Truly, no matter how hard the media has tried to justify her connivance in the gargantuan fraud of an opera that is being inflicted on Ghanaians, she could not exonerate herself. Because, Ghanaians are not so credulous, they are knowledgeable enough, and so they know.
They know that the media has shirked her responsibility for a pottage of meat. For temporary pleasure and personal gain, the media has become part of the theatre, sometimes acting roles, applauding and even reviewing the play with cooked up surveys and public relations gimmicks that are obviously tailored to massage the ego of the dramatists.
Ghanaians as a people are not so irreverent of life, they have for so long held the sanctity of human life with high regard, but the show has so inundated their collective conscience so as to maim its ability to show open disdain for ignominy. And possibly this could be accounting for the public show of the open thirst for human blood that is exhibited in unrestrained callousness and brutality before our very eyes. And as can be recalled, with painful memory the May 9 Stadium disaster; the Melcom tragedy and the recent June 3, fire and flood deaths. Not much has been done to avoid any such calamities, apart from the usual photo ops and sound bites.
No one or institution has been held to account, and surviving victims of these results of the collective inactivity of us all have in most cases been left to fend for themselves. The best we seem to have done about these are the flash in the pan attempts at fundraising which themselves have become an extension of the stage for theatrical displays of cast members who seem to be consumed by the insatiable desire to be on stage.
Very unlike this country, daylight robberies and murders are being witnessed with their concomitant heartlessness. And yet, in the face of these plagues, the theatre still goes on undisturbed. The actors are acting with such fervour and excitement as though possessed by the one time famous ‘Tigari’ shrine. It is difficult though, for one to tell what is goading them on.
What could be their inspiration? I mean the actors in this theatre of ‘political jingoism’. Probably, their motivation is the greed for popularity and filthy lucre and or the sheer delight of being seen on any part of the stage regardless of what role they are playing either major or minor. Or it is to satisfy their insatiable hunger for power? May be no one knows.
I could guess that if Karl Marx were alive today in Ghana, he would do one of these two. He would either abandon his ideas and dreams for a socialist world in despair or he would simply gather the masses to resist the pretenders on the stage and upstage the cast to bring the reveling actors’ hypocrisy to an end.
Marx’s historical materialism was rejected in his time, but became very popular during the 70s, especially in Latin America and in parts of Africa. But sadly, it was practiced and followed by half-baked zealots wearing the garb of politicians and revolutionists, and therefore, failed to fully realize the ideals of the Grandmaster.
And then there was western democracy, which certainly stood at variance with Marxism, but both ideologies were clear as to what they wanted their worlds to look like both ideally and realistically.
Western democracy preached freedom to live and to have as much as you want if you are strong enough to, while Marxism believed in equality for everyone including equal access to resources, where the supremacy of the state reigns.
For western democracy again, the guidelines included an open and fair playing field for all or so it is said, and it comes with a baggage, known simply as capitalism. The unfettered officially and morally authorized greed for profit by all means possible. It comes so often with truncated and vague labour laws that always make the employer the king and the employee the loyal servant, locking the two in a marriage of convenience to the disadvantage of the worker.
It also comes with a judicial system that always lends itself to manipulation by the rich and famous, and mostly treated with suspicion by the ordinary person.
Just take a look at the so-called socialists among the cast, they are simply mischievous. They claim allegiance to Marxist ideology but cling so tightly to the fringe cloths of unfettered capitalism and its insatiableness for vulgarity, ostentatious living and intellectual skullduggery.
Ghanaians are a very noble and dignified people. But they have been dealt a raw deal. They did not bargain for this kind of tragicomedy, in fact, they have been shortchanged.
I remember one politician in this country referring to his opponents as ‘riff-raffs.’ It was in the heat of some political speech of some sort on a political platform of a kind. He was said to have made the statement in the heat of party political campaign. Of course they all do that and always too. They mount party platforms and say things they couldn’t say even to five-year-old kids.
This nice fellow who most probably got drunk with political fresh wine and labeled his opponents was later reported to have apologized and even hoped for a role in the cast. But he never got it.
Others have even called their own colleagues thieves, when they haven’t caught them stealing anything. And when they are reminded that the lines in the script are not clean enough, they plead temporary insanity sometimes from the blinding effects of high anticipation of being in power and ruling the whole country or some part of it like a constituency.
But you see, on this stage where mediocrity is sanctioned and applauded, these actors can say anything and get away with it. Sometimes, it is like Ghanaians like it that way. It appears as though, they really do not care, and ably supported by the media, these actors continue with careless abandon to go on with the show in clear disregard of any rules of etiquette on stage, decorum or even show some restraint for the sake of posterity.
Well, the play goes on, the theatre of ‘political jingoism’ that premiered long ago and is in top gear is revealing to discerning minds the ludicrous and yet not too hilarious part of some of the actors.
As the show goes on, it is not likely Ghanaians would like to continue watching it, because, it is getting rather boring. It is yielding very little returns for most Ghanaians. They can hardly derive any mirth from the show being put up by an amateurish cast acting in frenzy. Especially, as the cost of living gets even higher and higher, making it impossible for most citizens to live decent lives. It has increasingly become hard for most citizens to afford a ticket to watch the play, no matter how hard they try.
Sadly, what could have become a beautiful show has been twisted into a scary re-enactment of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, where treachery, bloodthirstiness, greed, betrayal and disguised corruption have become the norm. Where in other parts of the universe actors can’t do without an audience, it is not so for this cast. The actors care less about who is watching.
It’s hard to believe that only in 2006, Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) One of reducing poverty and hunger well ahead of the deadline of 2015. But about six million Ghanaians still live in poverty and 2.2 million others are living in extreme poverty.
But hopefully, these theatricals would have to come to an end one day. The curtains would surely come down, even if not soon.
And then the day would come, when Ghanaians would be entertained with the most beautiful and appropriate play that they so much deserve and with it, the quality of life that the Ghanaian must rightly enjoy.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi