Why do some people, perhaps even many people, seem so unhappy these days in Ghana? No scientific study here – just what one picks up from the much bandied about “public domain”, helped along by the now ubiquitous “social media” and of course direct interaction with people – flesh and blood.
What has been coming across to me is a mix of hunger and anger. The hunger, not so much from famine or starvation, but as in financial insecurity to provide and sustain. The anger, well, just about anything can make people angry, but in this case, massive doses of dissatisfaction, disaffection and disappointment being the main cause.
Recently – three or so weeks ago – I was taking a walk in my neighbourhood, lost in my own thoughts of unhappiness; along the same path behind me, walked three young men in working overalls and rubber Wellington boots, also engaged in their tittle-tattle. They were obviously workmen on their way home after work. My walk was leisurely but they were more brisk in their strides and very soon caught up with me. Just as they were about to go past me, one of them exclaimed that he had found a twenty Ghana-pesewa coin on the ground.
They did not sound particularly excited by their good fortune and rather groused about the worthlessness of Ghanaian coinage and how twenty pesewas could not buy anything of value and how things were not going well in Ghana. My ears pricked up at that one!
Though my Twi spelling is inadequate, it was not difficult for me to understand the spoken vernacular: “…noma nkor yie koraa…”
Were they doing NDC, NPP politics? I did not catch that in their tone; just a statement of fact. Were they expressing a contemporary refrain of despair? That seemed more likely.
I took away a few things from this very brief encounter and together with other happenings around me, I felt they did not sound happy. Twenty pesewas is not much in terms of purchasing power but money is money: Pecunia non olet! Money does not smell, no matter how small, so for twenty pesewas to elicit such pathos among even members of the so called “working class”, it points to despair: something is not right, something surely is not going well…
As I came to the end of my walk, and walked into my house, I could not shake off the reality of how unhappiness is now all pervasive in the country, surprisingly afflicting even those wielding political power and indeed, some with lots of money! Something surely is not going well: nkor yie koraa!
In this atmosphere of unhappiness, I could also not help observing that even the one activity supposed to be a uniting factor for many Ghanaians, football, had become a serious cause of unhappiness. When the Black Stars crashed out of AfCON’19 a fortnight or so ago in Egypt, I spoke to some people who were openly gloating! Not much of an enthusiast myself, a number of diehard fanatics of the “beautiful game” told me that for the Black Stars to bring the Cup home for some people to claim political credit, then we could as well all sink with the Stars! Not forgetting Nana Addo-Dankwah Akufo-Addo’s presence at Ghana’s opening match with Benin, when Ghana drew 1-1 with our ECOWAS neighbour Benin. His presence there was openly questioned. Why? Because an unhappy country not united under his leadership saw his gesture purely as a political gimmick to score political points. That is the true disposition of an unhappy country.
So why and how did we travel down this road? We can go as far as March 1957 to do the soul searching, but why go that far? December 2016 will do just fine. Many Ghanaians (Majority) in that month took the decision which they thought and expected, would bring them happiness. The decision pointed the NDC the exit and the NPP ushered in…January 7 2017 was the new dawn, or so the majority thought.
With the NDC out of the way, the NPP now called the shots with the buck stopping nowhere but at the executive office in Flagstaff House! There were great expectations because the NPP had promised to deliver a lot.
It was not long before things started coming unstuck: From plagiarism on the first day, to a divisive “national cathedral”, to the ailing Ghana cedi, to hikes in utilities, petrol, food and insecurity, things were getting no better but worse than before. And then, the C-word, Corruption, had become the order of the day with scandal upon scandal. And things were not being helped by the constant reference to the Mahama administration anytime the government’s inept handling of one thing or the other became apparent! It had become a cop out of “No Show, Blame it on Mahama”.
A cascade of self-inflicted damage was piling up and becoming, if not exactly the butt for jokes, but serious grousing: US$100 million for a “priority of priorities” national cathedral (even if funds were to be privately sourced), with the floundering flagship free SHS and the failure of other electoral promises (One District One Dam, One District one Factory, One District, One US mil $, etc) failing to see light of day, very soon led to head shaking of disbelief and disapproval from even ardent optimists…The headshaking of unhappiness.
In 2016, it was not headshaking but very vocal and often unforgiving call to defiance by those who thought a more “competent” group was waiting in the wings. The “Civil Society”, the “Media”, the “Men and Women of God” and indeed even traditional rulers, all sung from the same proverbial hymn book: Good or bad, get rid of Mahama and his administration! All the schools, hospitals, airports, markets, roads and gleaming international image of Ghana abroad, did not matter, just get rid of the man! Nana Addo-Danquah Akufo-Addo would clean the stables and lead Ghana to nirvana! He made such allusions himself and so he was handed the mandate. And now “nkor yie koraa!”
This article would simply be sending salt to Daboya if it reduced the last remaining words to compiling a compendium from the burst bubble of 2016: Family and Friends government? Vigilante attacks? US$200 for an unnecessary parliament chamber? Fishy government contracts? Selective political prosecutions? Violent media intolerance and persecutions? On and on…The voices of outrage in 2016 have gone rather loudly silent. Embarrassment? Unhappiness?
I will leave that to the likes of young Kevin Taylor’s “With All Due Respect”, citizen posts on websites on Ghana (now under attack), and the uncountable video commentaries popping up every day from very ordinary people, all to express one thing: Unhappiness!
Oh yes, some people are happy, very happy gorging on the taxpayers largesse but not even Ken Ofori Atta’s kenkey party at the Ministry of Finance to celebrate a Bond Issue has been able to erase the general unhappiness now pervading the land…You can ask the young soldier who protested openly in his uniform about the plan to build an ostentatious parliament building. His unhappiness pushed him into self-sacrifice, for as a soldier, he must have been aware of the consequences. The poor chap is paying dearly for his unhappiness right now…
Commentary by Oli A Rahman, Tesano, Accra