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Ghanaweb.com: A Battleground of Wits?

Thu, 7 Aug 2008 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

Ghanaweb.com, the leading pro-Ghanaian Web site, is the material version of Francis Akoto’s vision. Whether the progenitor of the aforesaid site had imagined that it would become such a sensation with Ghanaians today is debatable, but the fact remains that many of us cannot go a day without visiting Ghanaweb.com for information about the state of affairs in our dear nation. Moreover, the Features pages are the favorite destinations of many visitors to the Web site, where most are able to join in the discussions. Today, this unique Internet portal has transformed how Ghanaians interact with one another online, with a constant influx of people from dissimilar backgrounds ? the rich and the poor, the Ghana-based and émigré, the scholarly and the unlettered, among an avalanche of demographics that have made ghanaweb.com very popular in contemporary times ? ready to share their thoughts.

With the preceding in mind, I wish to belabor the actions of a small demographic with a penchant for flooding the forum with inflammatory, bellicose and downright malevolent postings. Instead of embracing Mr. Akoto’s online platform ? the site genuinely serves all Ghanaians, both at home and in the Diaspora ? for discussing the social, economic, cultural and political exigencies of our beloved nation, this reprehensible group has hijacked ghanaweb.com, with the singular aim of turning it into an arena for spewing garbage, filth and balderdash. Before I go any further, I call on all well-meaning Ghanaians who believe in decorum and decency to come out regularly to denounce any indecorous and perverse comments they might come across in the forum, for we should not allow a few to turn a good thing into an insalubrious one.

The year was 1960. Kuuku Manu and Malik Nkulenu had been friends for 6 years. They met at a civic function in a large Greater-Accra town that would become their adopted home for decades thereafter. At the time, Kuuku Manu had a burgeoning cement distribution business, while Malik Nkulenu was a local merchant who sold an assortment of goods ? from cheaply minted silverware to very expensive Persian rugs.

By mid-1963, Kuuku Manu’s business was teetering on the verge of insolvency, after one of his managers had absconded with a large sum of cash two years earlier. Meanwhile, Malik Nkulenu’s business had undergone a decent expansion, as a result of some inheritance money he had received in early 1963. With one bank after another turning down Kuuku Manu’s request for a loan to revive his business, he faced only two other options: fold up or seek a loan from an unconventional source. The unconventional source happened to be Malik Nkulenu, who, without any hesitation, lent his friend a large sum of money to be infused into the floundering cement distribution business. With this new injection of cash, Kuuku Manu was able to turn around his dwindling fortunes, and was able to pay back the loan within 5 years. The friendship was now stronger than at any other time!

Fast-forward to January 2008. Joseph Manu, Kuuku Manu’s only son, had immigrated to the U.S. after completing a master of business administration degree at the University of Ghana, Legon, four years earlier. A 2005 beneficiary of the U.S. Department of State-sponsored DV-1 Visa, Joseph Manu was now domiciled in a Midwestern city of the U.S. A financial analyst for a local brokerage firm, Joseph Manu’s annual salary of $68,000.00 was not bad at all for a fairly new immigrant, and life could not have been better. As fate would have it, Awudu Nkulenu, the second of Malik Nkulenu’s five children, had also moved to the U.S. a few years earlier and was living in Joseph Manu’s city! Sadly, Awudu Nkulenu, despite earning an accounting degree from a reputable Midwestern university, had not been fortunate enough to find a permanent and well-paying job, so he typically settled for anything that helped pay the bills. Both men had never met in their lives and did not know each other, but things were about to change!

April 2008. Joseph Manu’s firm was hiring new accounting staff and ads were thus placed in local newspapers. After answering one such ad, Awudu Nkulenu was a bit surprised when he was selected for an interview, as his earlier unsuccessful job searches had left him despondent. On the day of the interview, Awudu Nkulenu wore his favorite green-and-white striped Monsieur Givenchy shirt ? it was his lucky shirt! Well, a fellow Ghanaian was the last person Awudu Nkulenu expected to see sitting across from him when he walked into that room for his interview, but that is what it turned out to be! Adorned in an Armani suit and a pair of black, silver-buckled Bruno Magli shoes, Joseph Manu, if he was equally enthused by the Ghanaian-sounding name of the person he was about to interview, did not reveal it.

The formal part of the interview lasted 25 minutes, after which Joseph Manu casually asked Awudu Nkulenu if he knew a Malik Nkulenu, a citizen of the large town in which both men (Joseph Manu and Awudu Nkulenu) had been raised years earlier. In a matter of minutes, both men had become aware of their parents’ longsuffering and enduring friendship, and how the generosity of one family had saved the other from financial ruin 45 years earlier. 10 days after the interview, Awudu Nkulenu’s lifelong dream of working for a brokerage firm had materialized! It appeared Joseph Manu’s recommendation had triumphed in the end, with Awudu Nkulenu being 1 of 3 applicants hired by the firm.

June 8, 2008. Awudu and Joseph were now good pals away from the office. A week earlier, each had introduced his fiancée to the other, and their friendship soared. Both men also had one thing in common: their love of ghanaweb.com as their primary online source for information about Ghana. Awudu and Joseph shared different political and ideological beliefs ? the former was pro-NPP and the latter pro-NDC ? so they typically avoided face-to-face discussions in that regard. Not unlike many Ghanaians, Awudu and Joseph, who were frequent visitors to the ghanaweb.com Web site, enjoyed taking part in online political discussions, since the anonymity of the Web made it easier for them to share their innermost thoughts without any inhibitions.

Approximately one week later. Ghanaweb.com had carried a very contentious news item one morning, and once both men got home in the evening, they went online to share their thoughts, as usual. As they would later find out, Awudu operated under the moniker “Mugu Mugu,” whereas Joseph’s pseudonym was “No One Cares.” Below is an outline of the heated exchanges that took place between both men on ghanaweb.com that fateful evening.

“No One Cares”: How can an idiotic [expletive] like you support such a useless project by the NPP? “Mugu Mugu”: It is you who is an idiot, to the 10th degree! Your mother must have been a prostitute! “No One Cares”: You retarded vermin, you are nothing but a piece of [expletive]! “Mugu Mugu”: I wish I could wring off your neck and fry your imbecilic brain! You cheap toad!

After some additional indecorous words, both Awudu and Joseph retired for the evening. A few days later, during one of their lunch-room chats, Joseph Manu revealed to his good friend, Awudu Nkulenu, how someone had called the former’s mother a prostitute on ghanaweb.com, a situation that had left the aggrieved man incensed still! And to Joseph Manu’s horror, Awudu Nkulenu, perhaps preferring to incur his friend’s wrath rather than walk around with such a heavy burden on his heart, revealed that he was the one who operated under the moniker “Mugu Mugu.” While both men said the event was no big deal ? after all, neither party was innocent in the matter ? it became clear that Joseph Manu was less willing to forgive. Today, the once budding friendship between Joseph Manu and Awudu Nkulenu has reached an emotional cul-de-sac, with very little chance of restoration or progress. The fiancées of both men, once close friends themselves, have also gone their separate ways. It is obvious from this story that bad things can happen if we abuse the anonymity of cyberspace to wreak havoc on others; in fact, the consequences can be trickier than anyone can rationally envisage or fathom!

If you are moved by this sad story, then please join me in a pledge to reject foul language on ghanaweb.com. Simply register a response to this article and promise to treat all others in the forum with the respect and dignity that they deserve. We can all debate fiercely without resorting to the use of abusive and denigrating language. Together, we can all make ghanaweb.com a friendlier and more rewarding place to visit on a daily basis!

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.