Using Education, Rule By Law to Avoid Danger To Society.The story on July1, 2006 that appearing on Ghanaweb titled “Revered python swallows its priestess”, is one that makes one puke for disbelief, pity the ignorant or lack of education or backwardness, especially today being the 46th annual celebration of our republic. Do we laugh or do we cry? Come ooon! Folks. This is the year of our Lord 2006! The story dated June 30, GNA reads: “A python revered as a god in the Sapeliga community near Bawku on Sunday night swallowed a 55-year-old fetish priestess assigned to be its mouthpiece”.
Folks, all religions are based on beliefs and faith. For God’s sake, if a god will swallow their worshippers, why do it on Sunday, the day of rest of the Christian God!
On the serious side, the beliefs of un-educated people may sound a little bit unscientific and illogical to some of us who may have found a little better form of belief based more on the science of nature. As of now I still believe that if I throw something up in the air, it will come back to the ground. The only reason I believe it is based on a lifelong documented experience and observations. The fact that I took high school Physics has made me believe that there is a Science of it, and some British uncle called Isaac Newton even confirmed that 32ft per second is how fast the speed of a rock thrown from the skies will be increasing [not the speed itself] when coming towards my humble house on earth if I don’t deflect it with my anti-ballistic missiles. Don’t let us forget that as a society, we may have been all born under the same sun and laws, but we are not all equal in terms of god’s gifts of endowed talent, or what is called cognitive skills.
It is the responsibility of leadership in every society to educate and help the ignorant to come to par with the rest and to catch up. Ghanaweb’s comments section is often not of serious long thought, but sometimes they are. I like this comment from Oyokoba:
“Tragic and repulsive this incidence is, please be sensitive to the people in their hour of grief by not reining unnecessary insults on them. We should use this occasion to educate our people.
People who worship all kinds of gods both animate and inanimate come in all forms, both educated and uneducated. It is our common cultural heritage. What we have to do is to adjust and change with the times as time changes. Oh boy what an event (Oyokoba, Ghanaweb Comments, 2006-07-01 09:17:16)”
Folks, Ghanaweb audience and readership consist of mostly very well educated people around the globe, even though occasionally we see some people who write and respond to others with insults and complete uncouth behavior that makes one doubt their education, upbringing, or even sanity. Somebody last week, June 26, used my name even to insult some nice lady academic called Nana Ama Obenewaa. What motive would I Kwaku have to insult anyone, let alone a woman who is reputed for talking “books long” (smile)! On our Ghana Leadership Union GLU forum we restrict people from using abusive and insulting words. I am called the “local dictator” since I bring down the axe of cultural bargaining powers entrusted in me as President of GLU. Some don’t like it and may quit, but occasionally they come back and sooner or later conform. Whiles a large unregulated forum like Ghanaweb may not be able to do that, we must acknowledge that never in the history of a nation or even the history of man has such an opportunity been offered for global round-table village dialogue as this new technology of the Internet. Our research finds that the Internet usage is less than 4% of our peers at home. This is very sad. If we use this medium well, we stand to gain and benefit our nation and generations to follow. Who in our leadership is going to understand it and prioritize it?
Education and enforcement of the Rule of Law are what we need in our society to stop people from harming themselves and others, and as Oyokoba nicely puts it, allow our people to “adjust and change with the times as time changes”. Usually in a society where the rule of law works, all government departments have responsibilities well understood and phone lines provided for problems to be reported. In Ghana the last phone book was dated 2000. Obviously the government minister of Communications does not take this as part of his job, and neither the Regional Minister or the DCE. Where there is danger, nobody knows who to report to. Recent cases of toxic waste dump in some rivers in Ashanti region by some Mining companies, and the lack of response by government, exemplifies the total lack of effective leadership responsibility. Example, when I was in Ghana in summer 2004, I found out in my exploratory study, from the nice mansions one sees in East Legon to my home town of Abetifi, Kwahu, people were burning their trash and weeds as they pleased without consideration of the effect of the smoke on the environment or the health of their neighbors. This was in the city, mind you, not my village. I was outraged! I took the law enforcement into my own hands since the police phones – [a cell phone for disgrace!] – would not even respond! With the fury and anger of the Jewish Biblical Moses, I went and ordered all I found burning trash to stop! I did this on about 9 occasions. In 9 out of 9, nobody ever questioned my authority! It kinds of reminds one of the Biblical saying that when the Holy Ghost is on you, nobody can stop you (smile).
Ghana and America both inherited our laws form the British, the parent grandfathers of our modern written laws and democracy, also borrowed from the ancient Greeks. There is a law in America and perhaps in Ghana also that says that a person who is a “danger to him/herself and others” can be arrested by the police and often sent to psychiatric institution for evaluation. People can be detained for 3 days under such law. The code it here in California as 442 or something of that sort. These reptile worshippers could have caused harm by their reptile god to others in the area, and what would we say about it? Supposing an American tourist had his son swallowed up by this python, what would Ghana do? Apologize and kill some cow to pacify the Gods of America? Come oon! What we need to do are:
1. EDUCATE these people who have been described as “backwards” (not my words!). The regional Minister or DCE should have powers to regulate such laws if they feel there is danger to the community or to themselves. Period! What is missing in our society is for someone to be responsible for something! It may be too late for anybody to convince uncle President Kufuor that this is his job. Every human society must be regulated by laws, or else forget the name human society or organization. To communicate the laws to the village people who voted for Omanpanin [Society elder] Kufuor, he should take the job also of educating them. Those who do not want to be educated voluntarily are then subject to laws.
2. RULE OF LAW. The beauty of the rule of law is for society to limit our rights to do as we please. As often said, your rights end at your neighbors nose. Somebody asked me how much taxes we pay in America and I said “we don’t pay taxes. The government rather collects the taxes, whether we want it or not”. The difference between Ghana and America is the strategies used to collect the taxes. In America they know that some people may not pay their taxes, so they have set up a system, from the payroll deduction system, to the cash register computerized system, to the real estate title and escrow system. Sooner or later everybody applies for a loan or buys something or travels by air, and the trap gets you to pay your fair share. Once we chose to live as members of the civilized society of men, we have no choice but to obey laws. I wrote an article once and gave the strategy to stop this disgraceful tradition in Ghana. Under effective strategic leadership we could solve the Trokosi child slavery case reported on American 60-Mintues TV in only 60 days.
Folks, not to make this long, but this an example that comes to bear when good effective leadership combines the use of modern technology and rule of law to educate our people to change their behaviors towards adapting to a newer world. In the 1960s former and first Premier Kwame Nkrumah, once again the one and only effective leader we seem to have had who cared for the people, made laws that required free and compulsory education. The Rawlings government with Dr. Kwesi Botchwey abolished that system under the advice of the World Bank SAP and ERP loan conditions. Even in America children go to public school free – they don’t even pay for books! Ghana was advised not to cater to the poor, and our educated economists and lawyers agreed to these conditions, in order to obtain loans. What they did with the loans is another topic for future generations to probe! We still don’t have good phone switches for our small country to have line phones at every corner of the nation, no water even in the cities, and no roads to all corners.
Fortunately for us in Ghana, when it comes to safety for our community, we don’t have to pay much for it. My recommended solutions are: (1) Simply educate our people through community forums, Radio and TV programs, and then if the people don’t get the message, (2) enforce the rule of law. Period. One does not have to pay for this. The Radio and Newspapers, under licenses in every civilized society, is under obligation to dedicate some space for pubic announcements. I suggest that the Media Commissioner examines the laws in Ghana and he will find that the law is there also in Ghana. All we need to do is to have the Minister of Information channel such mandatory educational information to the radios and all media for broadcast, and the police to watch and monitor that these cultural but illegal abominable taboos of yesteryear such as Trokosi and this python worshipping is declared illegal because they are a danger to community. Period. BTW don’t forget this: Enforcement of laws will demand a little more pay for the police – this is my appeal to Omanpanin to cut back a little on the ordering of the $75,000 vehicles and instead to build better housing for the police or better still evaluate their pay structure. My niece is a policewoman and I think their pay is simply ridiculously low if we want such people to enforce laws.