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Opinions Sun, 20 Sep 2009

The Deaf And Dump Preachers Around Us

Folks, permit me to pay tribute to Mr. Chals Wontewe, an executive officer of Action aid Ghana, an international NGO who first wrote on the topic. The article first appeared on the Northern Advocate, a newspaper circulated largely within the three regions of the country. Though the heading may not have been as I capture it, it sought to look at the morale espoused by signposts carried by Lorries satirically. The article was published about seven years ago.


But I feel an exuding urge to add onto what Mr. Chals espoused because of the numerous signs I have had on occasion seen on some of the numerous vehicles in Accra.


Some of the signs speak for themselves and one needs not look far to see the meaning of the sign. There was this sign which I saw on a vehicle just last week. It read Oh lord, have Mercy on me. Looking at the Mercedes Benz 600D model of the car, it was actually deserving of God’s infinite and compassionate mercies. The body was so patched and hammered that it was rid of any paintings on it. From the dents and curves on the metal plates making the body, it was clear that the car had been involved in several accidents. The steering wheel was without the normal cushioning that was woven around it, neither did it have the other leather covering usually put on it by drivers and car owners. To put it bluntly, the steering wheel was all metal. And in fact the metal was rusty. As for the windscreen, the least said about it, the better. It had developed so many cracks that it was a wonder how the driver drove with them. This lorry was loading to one of the many Zongos of Accra. When the engine finally came into life to move, the thick and dark sooth it bellowed out of its bowels in my opinion was responsible for half of Africa’s total CFC contribution to ozone depletion.


The lorry was obviously pleading on the owner to have mercy on it and to put it to rest, either by euthanasia or? Your guess is good as mine.


Then again, I came across this other car around the Kwame Nkrumah circle while I was waiting to board a Trotro to the 37 military hospital area. This one had a sign which read …give us this day… Being an average Christian, I knew the sign was trying to make reference to that part of the Lord’s Prayer which said give us this day our daily bread. This driver was trying to see if he could get passengers for Ashaiman. When I saw him, it seemed to me that there could have been no better sign than was chosen for the vehicle. He was so wretched and lanky that I thought for a moment that he would easily be blown away by the slightest wind. You could see the outlines of the hollows from which his eyes hung. His lips were worn out from the excessive alcohol which he consumes. So thin were his hands that my own hand for a split second appeared to me to be too big for me. Indeed, this driver just wanted to survive and not live. To live is to be hopeful, happy and content with what one has. But to survive is to try to hold frantically on to life until one joins the church triumphant.

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The irony of this driver wanting just his daily bread was that his car’s tyres were so worn out that the steel wirings could be seen. I therefore wondered what would happen if he lost any tyre due to a blast? Would he use money for his daily bread or would ask the car owner, who by now is looking for the least opportunity to dispossess him of the source of his daily bread? This is because the owner would as in a local wise saying; want to give the monkey a bad name in order to hang it by alleging that the driver used the car in unapproved roads, thus resulting in the problem.


On my way home one Friday evening after hanging out with a few friends in town, boarded this vehicle. At first, I did not take note of the sign on this vehicle either because it was a bit dark or because I was a bit tipsy. When we went half of the journey, the driver’s mate asked for our fares. Then there was this young man who suddenly could not find his money. When he explained to the driver’s mate that he might have lost his money to pick-pockets at the circle over-head where he boarded the car, the mate would take none of that. He ordered the driver to stop. He then tried to make the young man alight. It was at this time that the driver knew what was happening. He pleaded with the mate to allow him. Then a few distances into the journey, another lady on the car could not pay because she is the sister of the young man who earlier on could not pay. The mate could not take this any longer. He insisted that the two people either got off or the vehicle would not move. With insults all over the place directed at these unfortunate passengers, the driver took money from his own pocket and paid to the mate. It was then it struck me to look out for the sign post of the car. So when I alighted at my destination, I stole a glance at the signpost. It was in the local Twi language. It simply said Abotare. I could not believe myself. This car is preaching patience, and yet the mate was so impatient. Wonders, they say will never cease. However, when it passed, I saw on the back of the same car, Mama Sweet.


The contradictions in the two signs of the same car kept me tossing on my bed when I retired to sleep that night. First, the car said Patience; the driver’s mate had no iota of that. Then it said Mama Sweet. Mothers would have been compassionate and would not embarrass those people the way the mate had tried to do. I therefore told myself that I would track that particular car and try finding out why those sign posts on the car. Luck however eluded me for a very long time. This was understandable, for how was I to track down a single Trotro vehicle in this big metropolis of Accra? But thank God I finally came across the vehicle in the Kaneshie lorry park. I quickly recognised the driver when I saw him and realised that the mate was a different guy. Even though I was not going the direction of this car, I had to pretend I was, so that I could elicit as much information as I could get from him. After refreshing the driver’s mind with the last incident, he then proceeded to put me in the known as to why things turned up the way they did on that unfortunate occasion.


He had just been employed to drive that car after he lost his last car to the police who impounded it on suspicion of it being a stolen car. The mate was the son of his new boss who wanted to a first hand knowledge about sales from what would be reported to him (boss) from his son. This would enable him (boss) know what to expect by the end of the day from the driver. I then went on to the signs carried by the car. The driver told me that the one in front (Abotare) was that of his new boss while the one behind (Mama Sweet) was his idea. I asked why he chose that sign. He laughed and told me that he had been raised by his mother single handedly since his father was irresponsible.


I got off the vehicle a few minutes later to mentally regurgitate over the dialogue between myself and the driver. I then understood why the driver was compassionate, kind and empathic as against the capitalist-block-headed former mate of his. Being brought up by his mother, he was not only taught how to love, respect and empathize with people, but also saw all these things first hand. His mother obviously loved him and did everything in her power to give him the best under the circumstances. That probably explains why the driver chose to earn an honest living than make quick money being an armed robber. In fact, Mama Sweet indeed.

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On yet another occasion, I also observed that some of the signs that the Lorries carried were religious, or should I rather say, metaphysical in nature. Just imagine a sigh like God Dey. This is a slang way of saying that God exists, or there is a God. When I first saw this sign, what I asked myself is but who say God no dey? But on a closer scrutiny, I think people like Charles Darwin and other atheists like Adolf Hitler, Dan Brown, Edward Blanchard and others like the propounders of the Big Bang thesis in their thoughts and in their words opine that God is non existent. To refresh our memories, Charles Darwin in his thesis of evolution said that man was never created but evolved from other earlier creatures. When quizzed about the origins of those creatures, he said life itself originated from a cool warm pool in which meiosis and mitosis together with other chemical reactions produced the cell, the basic unit of life.


Later, some evolution scientists even said that man originally habited the aqua world before he became terrestrial. Their evidence is that when the male and female human gametes meet during the earlier phases of conception, the resultant foetus usually has a tail reminiscent of the tadpole. They also say that the when the ears of a baby begin developing in the womb, they resemble the gills of a fish. As if this is not enough, there is yet another theory of creation known as the Intelligent Design (ID). The architects of this theory say that the world and everything in it came about as a result of a grand, well planned and well executed design.


I think readers now appreciate God Dey. The car is vehemently protesting the atheist who discredit the existence of God.


But come to think of it, who is this Intelligent Designer behind the Intelligent Design theory? No where is it mentioned in their thesis. And this is one of the fundamental flaws of that line of thought. For surely, if there is a design, then there must be a designer. God Dey!


Looking at Darwin’s theory evolution, the question of “WHO” alone is enough to kill it. For instance, who created the cool warm pool? Who created the earth on which the pool was formed? Darwin said the pool was in constant reaction of a sought before the cell of life emerged, who created the reaction, or better still, what triggered off the reaction? God Dey!!

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As for the Big Bang, my little boy in Kindergarten can disproof that one, so no need for its expantiation here. But more seriously, when one looks at the universe and everything in it and the way things are going, one would hear himself saying deep down within that God Dey.


I most of the time fear having to consider those things as Karma, Retribution, Nemesis, Revenge and Judgement. But I was compelled to give it a thought when I came across a car with the inscription if you do good,….. This sign was reminding of the fact that nobody would get away with wrong doing and that good would always be rewarded. The full text is that, if you do good, you do for yourself, and if you do bad, you do for yourself.


My fears were aggravated when I was reminded by scripture that the sword of Justice rested upon David’s household after David married his soldier’s wife. I however console myself that everybody has to do good and stop conceiving evil whether or not Nemesis exist.


Another which constantly reminds me to do good is the Nhyira nka boafo. This translates into blessings should touch the helper. Jesus Christ once preached that whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren that you do unto me. Therefore, anybody who helps the poor, the destitute, pauper and the despised in society, they directly help Christ. Their potion certainly is blessings beyond their own wildest imaginations.


While putting this article together, I had read a story in one of the papers where a man had stabbed and killed his own cousin. The reason being that the deceased bought a boiled egg from a different vendor and not from the wife of the murderer who was also selling the same commodity.

This immediately brought to mind, one sign which I had seen on several cars. This particular sign said that, suro nipa n? gyae saman. Meaning that one should dread a ghost and not mortal man, for mortal man is more dangerous and harmful than the ghost. This makes sense to me because I don’t think that a ghost would do the same to somebody over a GHp20.00 thing like a boiled egg. Should I continue with my observation, readers would be bored, so I rest my case here, knowing very well that readers have seen and read more signs than I might have. Their own interpretations may be insightful than I have tried doing.


But I am not putting down my pen without saying to my readers: you too the same. It is another message I saw on a car. And I think I have fallen in love with it so much. The message is self evident and needs no further explanation. If you wish me good health, long life and prosperity, then, you too the same. If you wish me God’s guidance, protection and blessing, then you too the same.


But on the other hand if you wish me bad luck, sickness and calamity, you too the same. If you wish me dead because I am making it in life, if you wish that nothing goes on well for me in life, if you wish that I get sacked from my job, YOU TOO THE SAME!!!

Columnist: The Catalyst