Dumelo vs the A1 ‘Bread Seller’: A different view

A1 John

Thu, 25 May 2017 Source: Isaac Kyei Andoh

Anytime I see street hawkers working very hard to live, I get the feeling that as a nation, we have done very little to make opportunities available to many people in this country.

I am tempted to believe that it is natural for anyone who sees people hawking on the street for their daily bread to have an inclination to be sorry for them because even though it is a legal means of putting food on the table, it is not a decent way to live.

A lot must be done to create opportunities for people who risk their lives on daily basis for peanuts to earn their bread in a more comfortable way without their lives being on the line on minute basis.

We need to use every medium to draw the attention of state actors to look at such people and find a way to get them off the street and get them better and safer means of livelihood. Our celebrities should be part of the campaign because they have the voice to make impact. John Dumelo being a Ghanaian has the right to be sorry for this social injustice.

The assumption is that hawking on the street or selling in traffic is the preserve of people who didn’t get the opportunity of formal education or vocational training.

Majority of Ghanaians don’t expect a University Graduate to end up on the street doing a business that should in all fairness not be a means of livelihood for any human being but for the unequal and imbalanced society we find ourselves in.

We believe that education is the key to the windows of opportunities that don’t exist in this country and therefore a massive problem if a degree or diploma holder ends up in the traffic lights.

Anyone who sees a graduate hawking will ask questions, berate the system, curse our leaders and feel sorry for the graduate wasting on the street though it will equally come with respect for his display of positive attitude to life in the face of adversity.

This is the reality the entire nation has opted not to face because the issue involves a John Dumelo who was caught with state cars he didn’t work for; a John Dumelo who made enemies for himself meddling in politics.

Clearly, the public outrage has been informed by the character of John Dumelo instead of the content of his post. Every honest person after a careful consideration will arrive at the conclusion that John didn’t do that to shame the guy but to point to a greater picture of graduate unemployment.

He just asked the question we all ask when we see a hawker speaking good English. Unfortunately, John Dumelo is no longer the loving actor who won Ghanaians over but a politician and if this is to satisfy his critics, a thief.

This is what has informed the public outrage.

On a very rare occasion, I sided with the position of the court of public opinion and even wrote an article that I was about publishing until I decided to imaginarily put myself in his shoes, sit in his car, drive through the traffic where he saw the young man and asked myself: how’d I have reacted to seeing a KNUST Graduate selling bread in the traffic? The answer was exactly what I said when I met a Legon Graduate serving at Las Pamas Chop Bar: what is wrong with this country?

This is all that John Dumelo said: what went wrong? Maybe, he should have expanded the post to equally praise the guy for defying the odds. The question though was very legitimate.

One of the major defences of the critics of Dumelo is that the guy is the CEO of the company that bakes the bread. Are they not indirectly admitting that if he was a mere hawker then something might have gone wrong? John didn’t have the benefit of hindsight.

The problem with this country is exactly how my mentor Kwame Sefa Kayi puts it: hypocrisy and dishonesty.

Where I fault John Dumelo was the fact that he took the guy’s picture, shared with his millions of followers on social media without taking into consideration the privacy of the guy, the odds he defied to make a living on the street as a Graduate and how the exposure could discourage him and others.

At a time when we are advocating for responsible use of social media, secretly taking the picture of another person, sharing for the whole to see without his consent even with the best intentions is unethical and the people I expect to lead the campaign should be celebrities because they are the biggest victims of this 21st century stupidity.

We find ourselves at a stage where sleeping in a car and opening your mouth like most humans do in their sleep can subject you to nationwide ridicule because there are people whose first reaction to anything they deem funny, dramatic or even life threatening is to take their phones, take pictures and videos and share.

When people are fighting, instead of a reasonable human to separate them, the 21st century man takes his phone, film it and upload them for all to see. People have died as a result because instead of saving people in distress, we deem it more expedient to film it. This is why I was angry at John Dumelo.

I however have no doubt whatsoever that it wasn’t done to embarrass the young man or attack the current government because no reasonable human will blame the current government for graduate unemployment just five months in office.

Clearly, all is not well with our system. Graduate unemployment is a dangerous security threat stirring us in the face and we must all add our voices.

Maybe John’s post should have been given a more nationalistic view than through the narrow scope of politics.

If he wasn’t the John who was allegedly caught spraying state cars to make it his, if he wasn’t the John Dumelo who stopped acting to campaign for one political party, this post would have received at worse a mixed reaction and not the nationwide condemnation it clearly doesn’t deserve.

If you have never asked what went wrong with regards to graduate unemployment, if you have never felt sorry for street hawkers, you definitely are one of what is wrong with Ghana.

Admittedly, it is better to hawk for a living than to join Unemployed Graduate Association and sit at home in wait for the dream job. Graduates who defy the odds to make a living legally should be celebrated as national heroes and be used as example for others.

It is however the result of a failed system that will make a University Graduate end-up hawking in the traffic.

It is one thing if a University Graduate decide not to join the queue of job seekers and start a business. It is one thing when a university graduate sells in the traffic. How many people have made decent leaving selling in traffic.

In am able to say this because there are over 100 street hawkers squatting in my area. The few who can manage the wooden structured accommodation that can best be described as a brothel some of them have to do all sort of things in addition to hawking.

I see their pain and their struggles.

Selling in the traffic is something successive governments have tried and failed to eradicate because it is not the best way to put food on the table.

You wouldn’t want a brother to do it so why do we fault someone for throwing light on it even if in the wrong way and he is the ‘wrong person, I am 100% certain that if the issue was raised by a different person who is less controversial, it would have been treated differently’.

This is how we deal with issues that should be of national interest in this country. We play the political card, focus on where the apostle got it wrong and miss out on the issue proper. So far, no one has talked about the issue of graduate unemployment: everyone is busy condemning John Dumelo.

What went wrong?

Columnist: Isaac Kyei Andoh