Begging Is Sulley Gariba's Culture, Not Ghanaian Culture
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
The content of the news report was incongruent with its caption, so it is not quite clear to me precisely what the presidential policy adviser, or coordinator, said on TV 3 News that prompted the following news headline: "Begging is a Ghanaian Culture[,] Not Economic Hardship - Dr. Gariba" (Ghanaweb.com 10/19/13).
It appears to me that Dr. Sulley Gariba meant to suggest that Ghanaians by nature have an inordinate penchant for begging; and that this unsavory character trait has absolutely nothing, whatsoever, to do with the acute economic hardships being recklessly and callously brought to bear upon their pates by the grossly incompetent Mahama-led government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). One can only fathom what the massive and swift reaction would have been, if a visiting European economist had had occasion to make the same remark on one of our major media arteries.
It is also not clear what Dr. Gariba means by his rather curious observation that government policies aimed at "alleviating poverty in the country [are having a positive impact] on the coastal belt of Ghana." Does this mean that the northern belt of the country, where President John Dramani Mahama comes from, is being deliberately neglected? Or, perhaps, that there are far too many poverty-stricken Ghanaians in the north for the policy to have registered any significant impact in the short term?
Either way, the thrust of the policy may be aptly seen to be rather curious, as in the heat of his electioneering campaign, Mr. Mahama kept incessantly reminding northern Ghanaians that their apocalyptic impoverishment had been woefully and callously ignored by previous southern-dominated governments. "I am your last chance," and "I am your only real hope for prosperity," Mr. Mahama had been widely quoted by the national media.
We are not privy to the specific details of the poverty-alleviation program whose purportedly resounding success Dr. Gariba is widely reported to be exuberantly gushing about. But we can say without any fear of contradiction that most of the apparently "professional beggars" who roam the streets and alleyways of many a southern Ghanaian city, town and village are largely natives of other parts of the country, in particular the northern belt and some of our neighboring countries.
And so when Dr. Gariba says that the Mahama government has "chalked" quite a remarkable modicum of "progress," by way of denting the country's culture of mendicancy, it is not clear whose culture of beggarliness he is talking about. Those of us who have been studiously observing the national political scene for the past three decades, and counting, are fully aware of the fact of previous Ghanaian governments, from the self-righteous "revolutionary" tenure of Chairman Jerry John Rawlings to the present Mahama government, having brazenly and impudently made an economic policy of wanton beggarliness integral to their administrative cultures.
And so if in the opinion of the Mahama presidential policy advisor, Ghanaians appear to be innately wired to professionally beg for a living, this is only primarily because the country appears to be cursed with a profligate leadership that is bent on begging to sustain its criminally untenable lifestyle. It is, of course, tragically obvious that policy "wonks" like Dr. Sulley Gariba are far less invested in strategizing and expatiating on any productive agenda that the Mahama government may have for creating more occupational opportunities for able-bodied and professionally qualified citizens, than self-righteously blaming the veritable victims for having unwisely elected to have a pathologically self-serving government take charge of their affairs.
I neither have any more advice to offer nor critical observations to make, other than to highlight the fact of those Ghanaians at the receiving end of short-shrift treatment from the Mahama-led National Democratic Congress, needing to work much harder to ensure that this government of self-absorbed piranhas and cormorants is not returned to power come December 2016. A word to the wise....
______________________________________________________ *Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D. Department of English Nassau Community College of SUNY Garden City, New York E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ###