In rallying the NDC to unite at their just-ended congress in Sunyani, vice president John Mahama told a story which, we hear, is very popular in the three northern regions. It’s the story of three birds – Taka, Tika and Gangale. They used to sing together as a trio to earn a living. But at some point each saw himself as the ‘star’ and they each at different times tried to go solo.
Each failed, only singing to scornful jeers and getting pelted with stones. It was at the point of starvation that they came to the realisation that they were better off performing together, each contributing unique talents to make the trio succeed.
John Mahama couldn’t have chosen a better anecdote for the occasion than the tale ‘Taka, Tika, Gangale’ because in making the point for the NDC to guard against factionalism he also inadvertently betrayed two cardinal attitudes of our political leaders: they are mere singers and they are selfish people who were driven into politics by ulterior motives, not a desire to serve.
Singing means that they just come in and whisper sweet things in our ears, making promises they know they won’t fulfil so they can win votes. After being voted in, they continue to sing all sorts of senseless slogans and for that they get paid. Even when they get voted out, they continue to sing all sorts of silly excuses to defend they abysmal performance in office. In singing, they don’t like anyone in their midst who chooses to strike a note that will disturb their common chorus, even if they know very well that one person is more in tune than any of them.
Also, at the heart of John Mahama’s tale is the very sad reality of politics in Ghana today – many people go into politics to loot and satisfy their greed, not to serve and promote the general well-being of the wider society.
So when there is a problem and they see their positions threatened, politicians want to close their ranks to consolidate the positions that make it easy for them to skim the national coffers, enjoy all sorts of utilities without paying, live in luxury at the expense of the poor taxpayer, receive fat paychecks for doing little or nothing besides singing.
So the morale of John Mahama’s ‘Taka, Tika, Gangale’ story was simply that ‘if we don’t close our ranks, we will all lose the perks we are enjoying now’.
That’s the thinking of the Ghanaian politician. It is not peculiar to the NDC. Even members of the NPP, while in opposition, have convinced themselves that they need to close ranks so that they can return to power to enjoy.
It is very interesting that in ending the ‘Taka, Tika, Gangale’ story, John Mahama quoted former President John Kufuor: “It is better to be a messenger in the ruling party than a General Secretary of a party in opposition.”
Why will anyone think like that?
The messenger in the ruling party is more likely to enjoy more of the loot than the general secretary in the opposition party in this winner-takes-all and loser-goes-to-hell arrangement that we have. That’s our sad reality. It is this attitude of ‘let’s get in and grab what we can’ that’s at the root of all our problems. It’s the ‘Taka, Tika, Gangale’ curse that leaves our hospitals ill-equipped whiles our leaders seek treatment abroad. It’s the same attitude that force thousands of Ghanaian children to hold classes in ill-resourced schools under trees whiles our leaders take their wards to prestigious schools and universities abroad.
Taka, Tika, Gangale may just be three birds in Gonja folklore. But I see them personified in dozens of our leaders: selfish, uncaring, greedy crooks who care less about serving those who voted them into power. They rather choose to unite so they can gobble as much of proverbial national cake as their fat stomachs can take. That’s our curse. When our leaders see themselves as people who should gang up to ‘sing’ to be able to fill their bellies, selfless service is thrown to the dogs and we are doomed. And that’s why, as Kwesi Nduom puts it, “we are where we are”.