Business in Ghana

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Some Things Not Etiquette. Critical News, 16th March 2014

Posted by Business in Ghana on March 16, 2014

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

Twice this past week I straddled between upgrading my cultural and eating ways, to bridge the divide between “under the tree” village style eating and serving fufu in finely decorated ceramic china bowls.

Recessed just a few feet from the roadside at Ayimensa on the way to Aburi, I was engrossed in spitting out chicken and akrantie bones, you know how we turn just slightly to the side of the bench and “phh, phh phh phh” to the dirt floor because there is no side plate for the bones?  How we lick the last bits of soup from our fingers, flex with a loud burp after sucking the second pure water sachet empty and announce proudly that we have done justice to the food?

Well, that was the vision I carried with me to the British Council Hall, met and dined next to Bice Osei Kuffuor; Obuor who I admire so much for filling Ghana with wonderful music during his time.  Konkontibaa is always a favorite, Julianna, Baby You Fine and many more.  These days our music has become so dominated by groin action, we don’t remember the great Hiplife era, which provided a rich tapestry of creativity for our artistes.

But it was the straddle from wayside fufu in an earthenware bowl to ceramic served in a civilized setting such as the British Council that got me wondering.  Isn’t it totally uncouth to eat fufu with a spoon and a china bowl?  And isn’t it un-cultural not to have a vast expanse of ground dirt to spit out our bones and lift the bowl of soup to our lips to dredge the last dribble of tastily nutritious “abenkwan” to appreciate the cook?

Obuor’s fufu demonstration upstaged my carefully selected fried rice, jolloff and a bit of waakye with chicken, garnished with hot black pepper so I looked a bit like a Ghanaian on the day; so much that I stopped intermittently to admire his prowess.

He ate like a Ghanaian and I, the amalgam I find myself, ate as I have been crossbred to depict.  When Bice planted the bowl on the table from his lips, I was a lot clearer about some of the things on my mind.

The things that put us off can be described as rude gestures and poor upbringing, but they are cultural ways, ways we try and transition with props to map the white world, of their world and their norms.

It stayed with me all afternoon, sitting in the lobby of the Ghana Stock Exchange waiting for a meeting, checking the refined surroundings, a large wall-mounted TV scrolling breaking news and continuous updates from CNN, and all this became significant later in the day from several events.

Alban Bagbin accused his fellow parliamentarians of possible bribe taking.  He is a bit hot under the collar these days, throwing etiquette to the wind and they are baying for his blood. Is there any Ghanaian who does not think Parliamentarians are corrupt?  Even if we don’t have any facts, we harbor perceived notions of parliamentary corruption.  Dr. Ben Kumbour has asked any Ghanaian who has evidence of corrupt trade to come forward.

I wonder why he is trying to rope us into a wholly parliamentary affair?  This is between them and Bagbin oh!.  We did not say anything.  Unless Bagbin provides a list of his colleagues, I advise all Ghanaians to be quiet.  The minute you talk, it is you who brought it up, not Alban, who at this moment is chilling somewhere in France.

The Agona East District DCE, Mr. Martin Luther Obeng says he will sack teachers if their students get 0% in 2014.  Will he resign if teachers do not get their salaries and allowances?  And there is another etiquette boundary.  Since when does he have responsibility for school performance in the district?  His namesake will be churning in his grave.

In Nii Boi Town, just off the road from La Paz in the middle of Okai Koi North District, a six or seven storey building collapsed, one died, another injured and we don’t know how many more lost in the rubble.  Naturally we called for the Mayor of Accra Mr. Oko Vanderpuye to resign or be sacked by the President.  Not because it was his fault, but we have historic dismissal points piled up against the Mayor and we all hope that with one more event Mahama will axe him.

But JDM has not budged.  He is on a tour across the Regions getting familiar with all the promises he made during the 2012 campaign and hoping that some work has been done.  Where nothing has been achieved, he is making new promises, so Oko’s foibles are not on his cards.

Anyway, no one should blame the Accra Mayor for this one.  I am usually the first to start calling for his head, but this time, no.  Where is the District Chief and where are the inspectors and engineers who saw the building rise floor by floor over a period of two maybe three years?

Many people are responsible in the chain of duty to ensure that the citizens of this country are protected from such disasters; we make laws and regulations for the purpose.  When the building code is out of date and unqualified persons are supervising projects they do not understand, we end up killing Ghanaians.  Some persons from the District office have been arrested, as has the owner of the property, so we will wait patiently to see which scapegoat is gored.

What has been done since the Melcom disaster to prevent any such thing from happening again?  That’s where we want the President to hang the Mayor.  Could this have been prevented?  Most definitely.

I had an interesting encounter with former Mayor Nat Amarteifio on Saturday and it was most instructive to hear him reflect on the challenges at the AMA.  They have not changed since his time fifteen years ago.

Johnson Asiedu Nketia of the NDC and Jake Obetsebi Lamptey of the NPP had a most unpalatable conversation on CitiFm during the week.  I think Jake, who is of similar hybrid origins, makes the mistake time and again that his cultural values can match the bare-knuckle-in-the-gutter style of the “mosquito”.  If you heard the conversation you would have winced as the NDC foot soldier CEO accused Jake of blatant corruption and theft.  It was so unpalatable, and this is what I was saying earlier.  Asiedu Nektia’s way of politics is a culturally coarse fight, no holds barred, ala Kojo Botsio.  Words flay and accusations perforate the fiber of civility where specially chosen words are meant to preserve a certain legislative colonial honor.  Jake had the last word but was clearly wobbled by the vitriol.  For Mosquito, it was just another day in the gutter, similar to previous fights, even against his mentor JJ Rawlings, and they are married at the hip.

There were two Ghana Economic Summits.  They discussed especially the phasing of the SSS. That badly implemented idea, now blamed for all the woes of economic stagnation.  We learnt nothing new except that we are in a mess and payroll is still our biggest bane.  Not dumso and water, which problems will intensify next week, as we have to shed more load.

And TV3 announced a new series of foreign programs in defiance of President Mahama’s “support Ghana” call.  Take a look at this line up coming soon.  “Chicagolicious”, “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”, “Trisha” and “Big Rich Texas”.  Culture!

And now we have a classic frontal.  Black Stars players will not play for Ghana Cedis.  They want to dribble in American dollar.  This is illegal under Act728 and the Bank of Ghana now has to arrest all the players, either jail them or fine them for demanding payment in dollars.  EOCO where are your boys?  These guys are easy to find.  And they are asking for a 30% increase to $100,000 for appearance.  The BoG can save the situation by modifying the law just before the World Cup.

But if you live in Saudi Arabia, you can’t give your children any name. Linda is one of them.  Can you imagine a Ghana without Batman’s Linda?  We have a song dedicated to her.  Refresh your memory from seven years ago and count your TONGA.

Ghana, Aha a ye de papa.  Alius valde week advenio. Another great week to come!

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