Monday, March 27, 2006

Dead Men Walking

'Again I looked and saw all the
oppression that was taking place
under the sun:
I saw the tears of the oppressed-
And they have no comforter;
Power was on the side of their
Oppressors-
And they have no comforter.

And I declared that the dead,
Who had already died,
Are happier than the living,
Who are still alive.

But better than both
Is he who has not yet been,
Who has not seen the evil
That is done under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

Okay, admit it. Your sense of self is under constant siege. You desperately want to be but you are not. In short, you are a dead man walking! You have a deep affinity with your ancestors who endured slavery and had to serve the white man. They were consigned by a quirk of fate and the fact of their circumstances to be what they were. They had to keep their thoughts to themselves. Even when the master insulted them and their elders and their kith and kin, they had to grin and bear it. They could be seen but not heard! But our proud history as a nation teaches us that even then, some of our ancestors were brave enough to speak their thoughts, at their peril of course. But speak they did. Most were silent not by choice but a few refused to be intimidated and spoke.

What about you? You are living in your own country. You have a constitution that guarantees your freedom of speech. You have a constitution that compels governments to ensure and assure these freedoms. You have a vibrant legislature and judiciary who are also enjoined to assure these rights. You have a constitution that allows you even to contest any government that attempts to fritter away these rights. Icing on the cake, you are even blessed to have a government in place that unabashedly encourages freedom of speech. Yet, you are chicken! How come? "You are in a pitiable condition if you have to conceal what you wish to tell." (Publilius Syrus)

I personally believe that most of the wife battering and unnecessary mayhem wreaked in most Ghanaian homes by men may be due to impotence. Upstairs, not downstairs, in the little chamber! It may be due to our collective inability to ventilate. Ghanaians for some inexplicable reason seem to be terrified to speak their mind and express their opinions. So, on the outward, everything seems to be fine for you. You are riding the best car and have a nice job. You go to a management meeting and you have an opportunity to contribute to a discussion on the future direction of your company. You know that the tenor of the discussion may well lead to a decision that may ultimately come back to haunt the business. Your boss looks you in the eye and seeks your candid opinion. With a straight face, you play it safe and Ghanaian by answering that you agree with everything that had been said so far. At the end of the day, you go to the nearest bar to drown your frustration in bottles. You are certified chicken!!!

You are an arbiter. You are fully aware of what the applicable rules or laws say on a matter. However, for reasons yet unknown, you skew matters and hand injustice on a silver platter to someone looking for justice. You know you are wrong but you do it anyway. You are chicken!!!

You hold a very important political position. You may even be a minister. You attend meetings and the President seeks your opinion on a matter that’s of considerable importance to us as a nation. You have an opinion. Don’t delude yourself that the President does not know that you do. Everyone has an opinion. You take a quick mental look at your perks ( cars, high table seats, trips, GTV etc) and carefully weigh the options. With a straight face, “Your Excellency, you are the best thing to happen to Ghana since ebunuebunu”! Dead man walking!

You are very high ranking man in a political party. You attend a lot of meetings where matters are discussed to which you have strong objections. On other occasions, some of your top men go about spewing fire and brimstone on every movable object. You are desperate to let the persons know that the actions are costing the party a lot and may even deny you political power. In your quiet desperation, you lament to friends and journalists about what is going on and your distaste for it. You beg them that it’s a private vituperation. Next morning, you get a call from a precocious media seeking your opinion on statements and actions of the same people and what do you do? You put up a vigorous defence of the same actions that you abhor and have deplored, in private. Dead man walking!!!

You are a journalist. You receive information that is undoubtedly of major public interest. Yet, the news is never broadcast and is shelved. You will rather broadcast matters that will not cause you any headaches and lose you advertising revenue. In essence, you have become an amanuensis. Dead men walking!!!

So I ask, when was the last time you heard anyone resign his position on a matter of principle? As a young professional sitting in corporate boardrooms and having a unique opportunity to be up close and personal with some of the cream of corporate Ghana, there had been many occasions when I had been chicken. Two major events in my life changed my outlook forever. Thank Chineke God for the power in the resurrection. I am resurrected. “ Me nwu biom!”. I had also been running away from issues until those events made me decide that it was always better to stand and speak my mind. That comes with pain, of course, which naturally has scared most of us to continue playing dead. One of the things I am struggling to come to terms with is why we live in our own country, free citizens with inalienable rights guaranteed under law and yet are so afraid to speak our minds, even to people who need the Immigration Service to be on our land. Its mind boggling! Ghana is our country. This is our land. Yen ara asaase ni. A grown man afraid to speak his mind is worse that a slave in his own land. And we are not slaves! We are a proud people, a proud nation. Stop playing dead because you are hurting the motherland. Wake up and live! Isn’t it interesting that most young people born and bred in ‘aburokyire’, regardless of the home they grew up in, tell it as it is? Before you raise the hackles, let me hasten to assert that they are no different in the beginning from our own kids here. Every kid made in Ghana also has the same traits. Until they begin to get the knocks and the lashes for, … “telling it as it is”. Our kids go through their own crisis too. “Why is dad bashing me when all I did was to speak the truth”? Over time, the kid grows up knowing that in these hereabouts, playing dumb pays. Otherwise, at a very early age, you get the title “too known”. Every young person growing up in Ghana goes through their own growing up pains. At a point in your professional career, you will be compelled to make a choice between standing up for your beliefs and for principle and ‘living unhappily ever after’ or blending in and becoming chicken, so you can have a chance to feed at the table. Invariably, for bread and butter reasons, most of our young have a crisis of conscience but are compelled to forget values, principles, and thinking Ghana. In their frustration, they head for the exit doors! "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we now know that it is bad economics." (Franklin
D. Roosevelt).

There are too many dead men walking the streets of Ghana. When no one is hounding you, but on your own psychological evaluation of self-preservation, you have elected to clam up, I humbly recommend that you remain in your grave because you are a dead man. You have no business walking around. You are doing a great disservice to our dear nation’s drive for true independence. What is a dead man doing walking the surface of the earth anyway? How can you live in your own land and quake before foreigners when you have committed no offence?

But thankfully, it is not all gloom and doom. There is hope. Just like I am resurrected to stand up for principle and for truth, so can everyone else. In this enterprise, it’s never too late. Collectively, all of us as a people have to work to make principle and truth fashionable again. Why should we as a nation reward people who do wrong and rather hound those who stand up for truth and principle? One of the many baffling things for me as a young professional is how whenever you raise an issue of principle, suddenly, everyone calls to advise that you have to be careful. As a nation, we must make the wrongdoers quake, not the ones who have elected to speak the truth. We must all rise together as a nation to help protect people who think Ghana. That’s when our nation would be worth dying for!

Are you a dead man walking? In the name of Chineke God, wake up and live so Ghana can grow!!!

"Stand upright, speak thy thoughts, declare
The truth thou hast, that all may share;
Be bold, proclaim it everywhere:
They only live who dare." (Lewis Morris)

Joe Aboagye Debrah Esq.
Legal Practitioner
Accra 200106

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