Painful words are often mightier than the sword. Disparaging insinuations can destabilise the confidence, sensibility, the self-esteem, and the ability of one to stand up tall to be counted. But constant or intermittent castigations of one by their own parents to belittle him/her can also drive them suicidal. How many people have we not heard of committing suicide because they are seen to have been rejected, demonised, or derogatorily wounded through uncalled for insinuations? It is hurtful to be called, "Okohwini", "teman mu hunu", "amm3bera" etc., meaning, a useless person without any bright future ahead of you.
Children are vulnerable and can easily get hurt by the effusive painful words and phrases emitting from the mouths of their own parents. They normally expect parents to show them sympathy in difficult times rather than senseless castigations.
The following are true samples of incidents where individuals had been driven to their premature deaths due to their mothers ridiculing them through bad-mouthing. They were all dear to me. I pray their souls rest in perfect peace. The late alias "Gagings" (Oge) started life by proceeding on an economic adventure to Nigeria in 1981 like many other Ghanaians. During that period, Nigeria was booming and had become an economic magnet, pulling Ghanaians from all walks of life towards her. Barely did he know that things were not going to turn up well for him. He joined others in what is called "Susu" in the Ghanaian parlance. This is a situation where each member contributes a unanimous monthly fixed sum of money into a kitty; the total sum of which goes to a member in turns until each member has had their turn. This gentleman, my half-sibling, was about the third to take his turn out of a group of about ten.
He proceeded to Ghana but for some strange reasons he was unable to return to Nigeria immediately afterwards. He rather decided to go to the Ivory Coast after overcoming the difficulties that had beset him. After about a year's sojourn in the Ivory Coast, he returned home. He then decided to go back to Nigeria to work to repay those that he owed in relation to the "Susu" as mentioned above after attending his father's funeral in late 1982. Not many months after his arrival in Nigeria, Ghanaians were chased out of the country on orders of the then government. This was in direct retaliation of the Dr. Busia's government's "Aliens Compliance Order" which saw Nigerian illegal immigrants and many other illegal foreigners driven out of Ghana in 1970/71. He could not fulfil his dream as anticipated.
When he came back home, he was constantly viciously slurred by his mother at any least provocation. Most often, he was silenced or teased with the phrase, "kwaseampani, okohweni, wotuu kwan no eden ade na wo de baaye" - Foolish man, useless man, what valuables did you bring home from your journey? It kills to be always reminded of how unfortunate you were as a traveller with such words from nobody other than your own mother. He decided enough was enough. He had told his friends his mum was driving him crazy onto death. He had said, "I had better die than to suffer constant humiliation at the hands of my own biological mother" When people realised how serious he meant, he had poisoned himself already. His best friend Kwabena Ohene happened to arrive at his (Oge's) house within minutes after drinking the poisonous DDT. He raised the alarm; Oge was rushed to the hospital but he died shortly on arrival.
The second incident revolves around same case scenario. One Kwankye from Kumawu-Woraso made a journey to Nigeria in search of greener pastures in late 1970s. He also became a victim of the "Ghana must go" in 1983 same as it was the fate of many including my brother "Gagings". Most of these Ghanaians were robbed of their money and possessions by the Nigerians prior to, and during their untimely deportation. When he came to Ghana almost bare-handed, his mother, Maame Akosua, did treat him similarly as "Gagings" was. He too said to himself he could no longer continue to live with all the unnecessary humiliations, slurring insinuations, where he was compared with similar but successful hustlers, as the mum continued to subject him to. One sunny afternoon, he poisoned himself.
Both incidents took place in 1984. In the case of Kwankye who passed having impregnated his wife prior to his death and the birth of the child, another sad story was soon to follow. When the wife gave birth about three months later, Kwankye's elder brother, Kofi Gyekye, was given money and tasked to perform the child's naming ceremony with it. He too started weeping uncontrollably saying, " I will have to take the money to show to Kwankye before I give it to the child" He went and got himself drunk, still weeping and insisting the money must first be shown to his deceased younger brother, Kwankye. He was seen by many as not making sense but making a fool of himself by saying the money will surely have to be shown to his dead brother. How could he show the money to a dead person, people were asking themselves? Little did they know that he had decided to kill himself, having been emotionally compelled to revisit the overwhelming pain of the death of his brother by the birth of the child? In the evening, he was gone. He had poisoned himself without ever taking the money to the child as instructed.
What lessons do we learn from these as parents ourselves? Many a Ghanaian families are fond of stupid life comparisons in a teasing way. They have forgotten that all the five fingers on each hand are not the same, meaning, we cannot all be prosperous in life regardless how hard we try. Do the unfortunate ones be pushed to their deaths as they were in the case of "Gagings" and Kwankye? No!
"Travel and see", and there you will convince yourself that many are those that are suffering in foreign lands. There are many ways that travellers in general, and Ghanaians in particular, make their money. I am not here to describe such numerous ways on their merit of being good or bad. But may I take this opportunity to describe the character of a popular guy in London and how he earns his living and makes his money? For the sake of not embarrassing him beyond repair, I will neither mention his name nor his place of work. He is known to go out with women always older than him by age upwards almost eight years. He also goes out with other people's wives if the opportunity does present itself. He confides in friends what he does to these women when they become his girlfriends. He says, in bed, he licks their genitalia (labia, clitoris) for hours. This gives the women all the satisfaction under the Sun, the Moon and the Stars that they need. Having satisfied them sexually, they give to him all that he needs or asks of them - good food, money and love. This guy is a womanizing "Joe Shortingo", meaning a midget, yet he has everything because of the strategy he has devised to woo and satisfy women in bed.
If such a guy comes to Ghana to put up a mansion after a few years stay abroad, why should a parent drive their unfortunate son/daughter insane through insinuating slurring? Are such parents not mad themselves? They should rather encourage their children to make better use of opportunities through subtle advice but not hurtful comparisons meant to derogate their children. Or, they expect their children to go the same way as the London Joe Shortingo?
Please Ghanaian families, friends and parents; let us learn a lesson from the incidents I have described above. By so doing, we may not inadvertently or intentionally push people over the cliff to their death.
I dedicate this write-up to the memory of my younger brother, "Gagings", who passed in 1984. He was sorrowful onto death since the en mass deportation of Ghanaians from Nigeria in 1983. May his sins be forgiven him, and his soul granted everlasting peace by God Almighty. My eyes are well up with tears as I recount this sad story of a brother I adored.