“We love to quote the saying: “Rome was not built in a day” but we fail to remember that Rome was eventually built, and it must have been so magnificent that when people admired it, they were told that it didn’t happen in just a day. The question, then, is: if Rome was not built in a day, how was it built? Answer: It was built every day.”—Nana Awere Damoah, ‘Sebitically Speaking.’
A young football enthusiast asked his father: “Dad, why do footballers cheat? The dad had been in football administration and politics long before the lad was born. Had the boy heard anything unpleasant about the beautiful game? He played in the school football club, so perhaps he may have had some awful experiences with his teammates, his dad surmised. How do we explain the mess that we are in to a seven-year old?
No truth here
In the morning, the lad pestered his dad for an answer during breakfast. Dad managed a lame response: “Footballers are like politicians; they all cheat for selfish reasons. They are greedy lairs.” The seven-year-old listened intently and queried: “Dad, why are people selfish and greedy?” Typical of a precocious seven-year-old, he followed up with another question after every answer the dad mustered. He was becoming a nuisance so the father dismissed him to go to the reading room to do his homework.
Soon, he was back to where his dad sat, asking other questions: “Dad, if footballers and politicians are all selfish and greedy, then a footballer who becomes a politician must be twice as greedy and selfish.” The father’s countenance dropped. Yet, the boy wouldn’t stop: “Dad, does it mean they are not Christians? Why do they lie? My teacher says all liars will go to hell.”
We never told the truth for one minute in this country. Where the truth hurts most, we have resolved to tell a double lie to soothe our pain and placate the offended. The outliers who dare to change the narrative have been called foolish and wayward nonconformists. We have harvested the dividends of our timeless incompetence and toxic shamelessness, and turned round to blame people in far off territories for our problems. Stupid, isn’t it?
The lies have infested every aspect of our national life, especially the church, politics, football and our very lives. We had always suspected that we had told a colossal lie about our football to shield corrupt officials and administrators, but we didn’t know the scale of the lie until an investigative journalist went round baiting and setting traps to expose the real thieves. We set up a Normalisation Committee to steer us back to our normal, glorious paths. The normalisation exercise turned out to be another abnormal gesture.
At their second public meeting, a member of the Normalisation Committee, Lawyer Kofi Dua Adonteng, reported an hour late when proceedings were already underway. The gathering of journalists who had been patient enough to wait for his majestic entrance, were asked to applaud him. No Sir, one of them stood up to condemn the behaviour.
The lawyer went ballistic and hurled abuses on veteran sports journalist, Ekwow Asman, for daring to question his sense of time: “I am not interested in your stupidity.” The chairman of the committee beckoned the angry abuser not to descend to the level of the ‘lowly’ journalist, whereupon the mic was taken away from the journalist.
Lawyer Dua Adonteng has become a metaphor for lateness and aggravated behaviour by a public officer or a person in a position of trust. We have seen worse behaviour in this country. Some Parliamentarians don’t show up in Parliament at all. Elsewhere in the UK, a Parliamentarian resigned for being 60 seconds late to Parliament. Yes, 1 minute. Dua Adonteng was late for an hour and more and wanted to be hailed.
How late is too late, especially if you were the one who invited the other party for a meeting? Around here, to be late for an hour is to be early; people are known to show up late for their own weddings. I have sat on interview panels where candidates have reported very late. They will not call to say they are running late. And they will not apologise when they take their seat. We have accepted it as a part of us.
Last week, I was stood up for two hours at Chez Afrique, a popular restaurant in Accra where I had agreed to meet an old school mate for beer. I called him while driving to the venue. “I will be with you very soon, perhaps before you,” he had assured. He never showed up. No apologies. No remorse. He met another friend and followed him.
We have no sense of courtesy, no regard for time and no respect for people around us, except when they are richer, more powerful and influential. We have often been reminded: “Do you know who I am?” This is almost immediately followed by a familiar threat: “If you dare me, I will change your sleeping place and make your life miserable.” In most cases, they could, so they had trampled on the rights of the poor and made them vulnerable. We are sometimes happy that the poor don’t look as good as we do.
Dua-Adonteng is a product of his society, a society that we have all helped to create. Our biggest adversary in this country is not poverty; it is disrespect, impunity, carelessness and sloppiness. It started from the Preventive Detention Act in the days Kwame Nkrumah when the dignity of the ordinary man was less expensive than gari. They pretended they cared about the poor and trumpeted a few mantras at the highest decibels: one man, one house; one man one car. Nothing changed; the ordinary man has remained poor.
When they talk about the good old days, the young ones wonder why our present days are so bad if the old days were any good. We have conveniently oiled the wheels of a system that has effectively frustrated and kept down the working class while protecting and enriching the marauding proletariats. Dua Adonteng belongs to the former; Journalist Ekwow Asmah belongs to the latter. This is the true normalisation of our country.