Friday, 30 March 2012


         I wrote this piece in 2009(and so it expressed the local and global events of the time) which was carried in my column “Asia 601” in the Graphic Business newspaper. It came to mind after I watched the biopic The Life of Emile Zola with my Leadership Seminar class in Ashesi last Thursday. I thought I should share this for against all odds an active and engaged citizenry CAN ALWAYS make a difference.   Kindly read on......

The truth is on the march and nothing shall stop it 
                                                                                                                           -Emile Zola(1898)

Okay this heading can be deciphered by anyone with the most primitive and basic mathematical competence. Join me as we go through the clarification of the terms. But in the interim you can answer the question to test your literary capacity. I will give my own answer. And you may accept it or reject it. We are in a democracy are we not?

Armah the brave and sublime Ghanaian thinker at work!!!
I remember trying to lay hands on Ayi Kwei Armah’s unputdownable, page-turner of a classic of contemporary Ghanaian letters The Beautyful Ones are not yet Born. The title misleads I must say and indeed has nothing to do with any amorous trysts. I was misled and considering it a non- serious book did not read it in high school. Matters were not helped by commentators especially in the Ghanaian press who dropped the title when matters of romance were their concern. I finally got this book from the Dubois Centre Library where I had courted the trust and friendship of the librarian. I was hooked. In graphic, searing, detailed terms Armah lays into the post-independence Ghanaian society where the dream of independence had become a nightmare of corruption, self doubt, political patronage, nepotism and all the ills some of us have grown up to write about. Unsatisfied I went for what was then in the 1990s his latest work Osiris Rising. Here Armah had entered upon the business of proffering solutions to what he considered the recurrent crisis in Africa. This book provided further reinforcement for my decision to study in Asia if I had the opportunity. I was lucky to see him when he passed through Dubois around that time. One statement he made carried by the Daily Graphic is worth quoting: “Ghanaians have become used to celebrating than cerebrating!” Anguished by his country’s failure he has virtually abandoned her(spatially and locatively at least) and now lives by the sea in Popenguine(a village two hours from Dakar) in Senegal where he runs the independent and quite successful publishing house PER ANKH. Ghana has forgotten him too it seems. No national award for this rare genius; this fertile chronicler of our seeming stagnation. No role for him anywhere. He reminds me of Russia’s Alexander Solzhenitsyn who passed recently.

Paul CézannePaul Alexis reading to Emile Zola,   
And then there is Zola. Emile Zola. Frenchman. I watched recently a grainy, white and black film on his remarkable life. He used to live in poverty in an attic with broken windows with his friend Cezanne (one of Europe’s great artists) when he started to write. His focus like Armah after him was French society’s self destruction and pervasive injustice. The authorities derided, hounded and sought to silence him. He persisted and then found fame and fortune. He is best remembered for the Dreyfus Affair (a matter in which an army officer was wrongly jailed for treason he did not commit). His relentless campaign for which he had to flee for his life and to evade unjust imprisonment got Dreyfus released and reinstated in the army. I still remember when I stood solemnly at the French Panthéon. in Paris at the crypt he shares with one of my favourites Victor Hugo. Social justice and its pursuit. That is what Armah and Zola stand for. Armah +Zola= SOCIAL JUSTICE.

That is the issue, indeed the foremost one, for this and subsequent Ghanaian governments. This is what lies at the heart of the general public outcry against the Chinery Hesse Report. Social justice makes completely silly and incredulous the defense that because other African leaders live in palatial mansions and drive Benz 500s we also have to splash money on same (former chief of staff Kwadwo Mpiani so intimated on the FrontPage talk show hosted by the inimitable Kwaku Sakyi-Addo on Joy FM). Singapore recently issued its budget. It has been called the “Rainy Day Budget.” The Singapore government is drawing down on its savings carefully kept over the years to support her citizens against the pitiless battering of the encircling global economic recession. Families are being offered CASH! Those who are losing jobs are being retrained with GOVERNMENT DOUGH!!!!  In Taiwan the government offered everyone money to spend on Christmas and the Chinese New Year to stimulate growth.

 When the budget is read in Ghana soon I bet my last pesewa you reader will not find tro(or teku fa as the Fantis put it) in your account. All the savings we could have made have been fed into four wheeled “toys,” a presidential palace that stands empty, secret accounts in Caymen Islands and Switzerland among other senseless things!!! Who for Christ’s sake cares for us?

Compatriots as it seems nobody cares for us at least this we can say in a democracy: GIVE US SOCIAL JUSTICE OR GIVE US DEATH!!!!!   

No comments:

Post a Comment