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Opinions Wed, 22 Feb 2017

Caught in mediocrity

By Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh

Only weeks after chiding congresspeople’s indolence and piping detail, I find myself caught in the mediocrity I have been crusading against. It’s all courtesy one of the motherland’s finest journalists. Ajoa Yeboah-Afari, former GJA president and unarguably one of the motherland’s greatest journalists caught me out. She sent the terse text message: ‘I think Prof Adu Boahen was rather Albert.’ How could I have thought something different after almost memorising parts of his famous book: ‘Topics in West African History?’

In that book, I first found the words ‘panyarring’ and ‘manumission.’ In my learning by reading experience, those are not your regular vocabulary you are likely to see often. They, therefore, stuck like glue. Indeed, much of West African history stuff that stuck as glue and is considered part of my knowledge repertoire on that topic came from that book.

It was an inadvertent substitute of Albert with Abraham. But so what? A mistake is a mistake; ‘inadvertent’ or otherwise. So caught out the professor has been not practising what he preaches and not acting what he professes. I know congresspeople of ‘it is a human institution and so we should expect mistakes to be made’ will jump on/at it and celebrate. Too bad for them because I did not say I am a human being and I am made to make mistakes. It is a mistake I shouldn’t have made and so no excuses. That is how nations are built.

I nearly wrote Ajoa’s ‘Yeboah’ without the ‘h.’ Her Ajoa doesn’t have the usual ‘d’ between ‘A’ and ‘j’ as my Mfantse in-laws would write it in their often ‘abr?folised’ formats. That I have known after some repeated correction in my long professional association with the name. The ‘h’ added for an ‘?’ effect fashion has been part of the Adu-Boahen ‘albertisation’ of his akradin (name by day-of-the-week birth) as first name to demote akradin to middle name. He was born on Tuesday and should simply have been called Kwabena and not the Albert which made me write Abraham.

Born May 24, 1932, the master calendar ‘day of the week.org,’ tells me it was a Tuesday, Today, the BWACs (born with or after computer) would say Koby, or Kobbi, or Kobi or something like that. For those of us the BBC (born before computer), it would have been Kwabena Adu-Boahen. But really, who says I still wouldn’t have written Kwasi for Kwabena. So the mistake was a mistake and shouldn’t be blamed on the professor calling himself Albert instead of Kwabena.

Indeed, that has been my campaign. That when we make a mistake, we should admit it and correct it. We should not be looking round for reasons to justify a mistake because when you do that, you tell yourself that we are human and therefore we would make mistakes. That invites mediocre results for your actions. Avoid that, then.

Stating the name of Albert’s birthplace, they had written Oseim. I had an Amanfo? classmate from the place and thought the spelling was Osiem. So I crosschecked and the right spelling is Osiem. So that spelling mistake by the ‘Independent’ would have been extended and deepened if I had not suspected it to be wrong and just gone along with it without the correction. I am sure many will write Abraham because a professor wrote that. That is how expensive a mistake can be and why we should confess it, admit it and correct it.

It would be interesting to delve deeper into the psyche of the professor columnist. It might not be difficult to trace and track the use of Abraham for Albert. Sometimes, when you try so hard to hide something, it leaks out in most unexpected circumstances.

Meanwhile, I have been WhatsApping a ‘lie-in state’ funeral brochure mistake all over the place. ‘Laying in state’ (as in an activity) often gets mixed up with ‘lying is state’ (as reported sighting). The dead cannot lie down nor do they have the capacity to do that anywhere. As a result, someone has to lay them somewhere. From where cometh the ‘lie-in state’ I am still researching.

Mistakes are not made for humankind. Humans make mistakes, sometimes even knowingly doing wrong things which are mistakes. Consequently, the humankind that succeeds building prosperous motherland always does its best to avoid mistakes and whenever they are made, they are acknowledged and corrected. Thus, one doesn’t make mistakes expecting to be forgiven. One acts avoiding mistakes because s/he is aware there are penalties to be suffered for making mistakes.

Humanum errare est (to err is human) differs so much from mea maxima culpa (my own great fault) as congresspeople can be separated from us the others. To err is human is the epitome of mediocrity.

Columnist: Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh