Opinions Fri, 21 Sep 2012

Smoked rats, Muggie and the jobless hangman

By George Sydney Abugri

Thanks to an apparent hike in violent crime, many a high court judge these days gets to don the black cap and pronounce those chilling words of sentencing that send the convict marching to the gallows: You are sentenced to hang by the neck until you die. May God have mercy on your soul.

What?! The Lord have mercy on a ruthless and bloodthirsty killer’s soul? With God who can tell and especially where there is true repentance, Jomo? That is beside the real point though, which is that our judges must be playing one grand prank of a judicial hoax on us.

The strange truth is that anyone sentenced to death in Ghana for violent crime wont be walking the high road to the gallows in any hurry or even ever! As a matter of fact, Jomo, no executions have been carried out in Ghana since 1993. Yet judges continue to sentence convicts to death.

Successive government have apparently left capital punishment intact in Ghana’s statutes without actually carrying out any executions, in order to keep the chaps at Amnesty International very happy, see?

It has left the hangman unemployed for many years now and wondering if he will ever get his job back. You wonder who the big joke is on, since capital punishment as a deterrent to violent crime, is dead serious business.

Last week, Kumasi High Court Judge Jacob Boon added to the condemned crowd on death row, Yaw Dauda and Razak Achino who were convicted of the murder of Alice Dunt, the young woman whose testimony led to the conviction of an armed robber not long ago. The convicts raided her house and shot her for grassing on their underworld friend.

Now then, Jomo, what do you make of Ghana’s statutes, armed robbery, Amnesty International and the gallows penalty..?

Hey, Jomo, I did not realize how ungrateful some people but especially the British could be, until I noticed the irony in the launching in Accra last week, of the annual National Heart Month dedicated to improving heart health among Ghanaians at a time when the BBC simultaneously launched a war against the thriving “nkrantie” market run by enterprising Ghanaians in East London.

You need to read the BBC’s report on the sale of “nkrantie” at Riley Road Market in East London wearing the lenses of critical linguistics, to realize from the choice of words and phrases and their repetition, just how determined the BBC is to throw the Ghanaians selling bush meat in London out of business.

I am referring to the BBC’s reference to grass cutter meat as “potentially unsafe”, “illicit meat” “smokies”, “may be contaminated” etc.

Here we are swimming in vast oceans of animal fats and all manner of oils ourselves and killing our people by the dozen by the minute with the greasy stuff, to the extent that 60 percent of adult deaths in the republic are caused by cardiovascular diseases, some of which are related to this national obsession with a diet packed with fats and oils.

The British call our grass cutter a “cane rat” but what is in a name, Jomo? Grass cutter meat is virtually fat-free and that makes the irony I have referred to, double-edged: We export healthy meat to people who don’t want them and binge on health-threatening grime!

Should there not be a legal limit to maximum fat content in cooked food sold to the public?

Anyhow, never mind, Jomo. This week I was monitoring partisan political activity across the continent, to see if rude discourse and attacks on political opponents is a regional affliction or one peculiar to our republic, see?

When I got to Zimbabwe {without really having traveled there}, I got distracted by one of the many instances of Mr. Robert Mugabe’s lack of diplomacy in political conversation.

Remember Dzambudzo Manechera the dreadlocked Zimbabwean writer who lived fast and died young, taking along with him a rare style of absolutely fantastic prose which has been variously described as “iconoclastic”, “dense”, “emotionally compelling”, “verbally pyrotechnic” etc?

That guy was really something, Jomo: His professors at Oxford University while noting that the Zimbabwean was exceptionally very intelligent, also noted how erratic he was in behaviour: He was noted for drinking heavily and getting into physical fights in pubs around Oxford.

When he threatened to murder some people and set fire to Oxford University, the university authorities handed him too options: Subject yourself to a psychiatric examination or get thrown out of the university.

He opted to be dismissed from the institution, grumbling on his way out, that he had been “mentally raped” by university authorities. Manechera who was also noted for frequently raiding the offices of Heinemann in London to demand royalties from his books, later returned to Zimbabwe where he turned his guns on the government.

I don’t know whether Mr. Mugabe’s is still haunted by images of the late Manechera and his dreadlocks or angered by the fact of there being such an active, thriving and quite influential Jamaican cultural presence in Zimbabwe.

Apparently worried about the fact, Muggie last week angered Jamaicans around the world with his call on the youth of Zimbabwe not to look up to Jamaican males as role models. He claimed Jamaican males were averse to higher education, “like singing, smoking ganja and twisting their hair.”

In an editorial, the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper suggested that the octogenarian president might apply his time more diligently to advising the youth of Zimbabwe not to look up to him {Mugabe} as a role model.

The Jamaica Gleaner referred to Mugabe’s comments as a “hyperbolic rant” which had made a sweeping generalization of Jamaican males, many of who were decent men who worked hard to take care of their families. It added that many Jamaicans had set international benchmarks as exceptional achievers.

The tabloid said Mugabe had become “a sad caricature of the heroic figure who led the struggle for Zimbabwe’s independence and described him as “an octogenarian despot who abuses human rights in his country and who after mismanaging and running the country to ruin was now desperately clinging on to power.”

It is indeed true that Jamaica is the world’s third-largest producer of marijuana and the Caribbean’s leading producer and exporter of the illicit crop. It is also true that 70 percent of Jamaicans attending universities and colleges are women.

As a matter of fact, the Gleaner newspaper conceded after taking Mugabe apart limb by limb that the country needed to “discuss anew, the problems of Jamaican males who are at risk.”

It suggests that the Jamaicans may have taken the criticisms in their stride if Old Bob had worded them appropriately.

Lesson: If you opt for bellicosity and antagonism over diplomacy and civility in communicating criticisms, you will reap antagonism in kind and in greater measure, even if your criticisms are justified.

Why ruin the opportunity to sell a message or correct an erring antagonist, with careless or angry talk which draws attention away from a critical issue at stake? Do you reckon those who communicate poltical messages in our own republic would be disposed to doing some listening on this score? Website: www.sydneyabugri.com Email: georgeabu@hotmail.com
Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney