I have a confession to make. Two confessions actually.
The first one has to do my dormant blog. A little over a year ago I tried to explain away my failure to keep the blog active by claiming that I was too busy with school work and that I couldn’t make time to write for the blog. That wasn’t the whole truth. Just a part of it.
School was just one side of the coin. The other side had to do with the fact that I had become so fed up with writing and criticising the same crop of people over the same bunch of pressing issues in the same little dirty country for far too long. I just decided to give up. I was giving up on the land of my birth, my nation and my people. And trust me, giving up is not easy especially because when you are away in a far-off land with a climate that chills your bones and a culture that is vastly different from the one you grew up with, you can’t help but nurse this gnawing pain in your soul about that little dirty country you still love and care so deeply about. It’s even worse when the far-off foreign land you find yourself in happens to be as welcoming, generous and serene as Canada is – a land not flowing exactly with milk and honey, but brimming with amenities that make life comfortable; a country bursting with opportunities only the extremely lazy fail to take advantage of.
And that brings me to my second confession.
I have gotten used to life in Canada. Here there are no politicians riling me up with their ineptitude and sheer foolishness. Not even the crack head of the mayor who presides over Toronto gets to me. I only feel sorry for him. Here in Canada, I don’t have to worry about where I’d get my next bucket of water to cleanse my weary body of the filth it gathers as it goes through the travails of life. Every morning I wake up and I can get instant access to hot or cold water. All I need to do is make up my mind about which direction I need the tap to turn – left or right, red or blue.
And here in Canada, I’ve been blessed with opportunities I never dreamt could come the way of a poor boy born to a longsuffering ‘bofrote’ seller in a small town along the Ghanaian coast. In less than three years I’ve attended two of the best universities in this country on the wings of scholarships that were offered on merit and not because I had sold my conscience and my voice to the highest paying politician. In three years, Canada has done more for me than the land of my birth did in the first 33 years of my life.
That’s not to say I bear a grudge against Ghana. It was never her fault. On one hand, her most prominent sons and daughters, blessed with opportunity and offered the privilege to serve, have chosen for many years to serve themselves by brutally raping this poor nation in repeated bouts of orgiastic corruption. And as the nation cries in agony, they muster the temerity to spit at her and tell her that everything is alright. They future is bright – stay optimistic, they say.
On the other hand, majority of the sons and daughters of this sad, tattered, dirty nation (those less privileged, without the perks of power and authority) have for so long – for reasons ranging from genuine fear to cringing cowardice – have chosen to remain quiet and indifferent yet inexplicably hopeful that things would turn for the better someway, somehow, someday.
Since God planted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Maker of the heavens and earth has performed several miracles, but I’m yet to learn about any miracle involving the wondrous overnight transformation of a nation without the active agitation of its citizens.
The Jews demanded their freedom from Egypt and got it. The French beat the crap out of their snobbish aristocratic leaders. Lots of blood was shed to make America the great nation it is today. The people of South Africa overcame apartheid by fighting tooth and nail against one of the most oppressive regimes ever wrought by man. Even our own Kwame Nkrumah risked his life and freedom to break the shackles of colonial bondage.
With all these in mind, therefore, I decided that if the majority of my fellow Ghanaians would look on for a little coterie of thieves, hoodlums, thugs and inept politicians to sink our dear nation to the ground, there was very little I could do to stop the descent into the abyss. After all, who am I? A ‘bofrote’ seller’s son, with absolutely nothing but a big head and a big mouth. I convinced myself that if the ship sunk we’d all perish together. Moreover, I had made it out of the country. Moreover, life in Canada, even though it hasn’t exactly been a bed of roses so far, has not been too bad either.
For the best part of the last three years, each time I heard something awful that some incompetent public official had done or said, I’d raise my hands in desperate surrender and convince myself that if the people do not rise against such nonsense, the worst would come and there was nothing I could do about it. There have been days when my itchy fingers had led me to my computer to get me to just write a few words get some things off my chest. But I often ended up not typing a word. And whenever I managed to pull myself away from the computer, my chest still heaving with things it needed to be rid of, I’d raise my hands again and say to myself that things won’t get any better when the people, especially those who can afford three square meals a day remained so forgiving and tolerant of governmental ineptitude and corruption.
Thus I embarked on a major construction project. Each time I raised my hands in despondence and desperation over the sad state of Ghana, I added a brick or two to be my wall of apathy. This wall was meant to shield my heart from the frustration and shame of being a Ghanaian. This wall of apathy was going to turn my achy heart into a heart of stone that would not allow itself to be bothered, worried or disturbed by any of the bad things that continued to afflict the motherland.
Each time my wall of apathy gained a little more height, however, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was doing the right thing or being true to myself. How long can a man really completely remain apathetic about the land of his birth in an age where he is sure to be bombarded with tonnes of information everyday about what was happening back in the motherland? This is not 1960 when it took several weeks for an important letter from Axim to travel across the oceans and deserts to reach Ajax. These reservations notwithstanding I proceeded apace with the construction of my wall of apathy. It kept growing taller with each passing day and I was even starting to get impressed by how strong and sturdy it had become.
Then the unexpected happened…
July 1, which is Republic Day in Ghana also happens to be the day Canada commemorates its nationhood. It’s that kind of day when, under normal circumstances, one is allowed to be shamelessly patriotic. Since I’ve been here I’ve seen Canadians celebrate Canada Day with a lot flourish – song and dance, elaborate firework displays as well as hefty chunks of meat and gallons of booze. July 1 is always a great day in Canada. But it’s also the one single day of the year when, for as long as I’ve been here, I feel most conflicted in both my heart and mind about where I come from, where I am and where I want to be.
Thankfully, though, there was no such conflict this year because even before my Canadian friends would start celebrating their pride in “True North – strong and free,” I got news from Ghana about how some determined souls had braved a heavy downpour and police intimidation to gather as concerned citizens demanding an end to the rape and plunder of the nation, insisting that “Ghana must work again.”
When I saw the images of the people gathered at the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park under the #occupyflagstaffhouse protest, relatively better off Ghanaians with a fair sprinkling of a few their well-off compatriots, who had remained mum for so long, adorned in the national colours with not a hint of the corrupt and inept Ghanaian political class, I felt a sudden surge of indescribable emotion wash over me. It’s been more than seven days and I still can’t describe that feeling. The best I can do is to say that it felt like shame suddenly gave way to pride, and the surging force of this overwhelming emotion was so powerful that within seconds of seeing the #occupyflagstaffhouse images, I could sense the bricks of my wall of apathy fallen apart.
Thanks to #occupyflagstaffhouse, July 1, 2014 turned out to be the proudest moment of my entire life as a Ghanaian. It’s true that only a few hundred Ghanaians participated in that exercise, probably the first step to wrest back the nation from the dirty clutches of those determined to run it down. But let no one make the mistake that a member of the political elite made by suggesting that this was an insignificant moment in Ghanaian history. It is not. The least said about those who accuse the protestors of “preaching hopelessness,” the better. At the very least, I know that this small protest (organised mainly on social media) brought down my wall of apathy. And I take great pride and derive a deep sense of patriotism in the knowledge that many others care about Ghana more than I do. That fills me with the determination to do anything and everything I can to be part of this campaign to get Ghana to work again so it can take care of its sons and daughters, even the generation still swimming in the loins of today’s Ghanaian man.
It is going to be long and torturous. The inept, unthinking political elite (threatened by the simple fact that the people are massing up to demand accountability and better performance) would push back with every means at their disposal. But with tenacity, determination and a focus on the final prize – wrestling the nation back from an unthinking, uncaring herd of self-seeking plunderers – Ghana will work again. The revolution is on. Everyone has been put on notice and I can’t wait for the next phase – #occupyparliamenthouse.
PS: I would like to dedicate this rather long piece to Brigitte Dzogbenuku (pictured), the beauty queen who has become the poster child of #occupyflaggstaffhouse. Welcome, Brigitte, to the prestigious club of the enemies of a rotten state. Your beauty, intelligence and poise will help take this revolution very far.