Opinions Thu, 25 Jun 2009

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Too Much Reaping And Raping, Where is the Sowing?

THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS I do not understand in and about Ghana. But, this one is way beyond my comprehension .How could the citizens of a country with limited ICT skills and lack of personal computers engage in cyber- crime, with international magnitude?

Wait, I saw a hand raised back there:” What about the $50,000.00 car loan for the MPs?” Please don’t get me started—I’m getting dizzy!

Few weeks ago, the Minister of Education, Mr.Alex Tetteh-Enyo, proclaimed to the entire nation that ICT education is going to be compulsory for all basic and senior high schools in Ghana. He topped it off with the announcement of 3,000 computers the government has purchased to start the program. Excuse me, so how many children per a computer? Three thousand computers for the entire nation’s schools, but the government is giving $50,000.00 a piece to every Mp, regardless of one’s inability or failure to pay the previous loan he had. What about those who have defaulted on their previous loons? How many cars does an MP need? I don’t understand why we can’t afford to supply every school in the country a cheap refurbished computer yet we can buy our Mps $50,000.00 cars. What are our priorities?

You would think that with the economic downturn all over the world and the need for the government to provide services to Ghanaians in the rural areas, the parliament and the Executive branch of the government –would be a little judicious and humane about, how to spend the Ghanaian taxpayers ‘ money. But, no at least, not when it comes to the MPs and their taste for cars. They all want $50,000.00 car loan so bad at precisely the moment the country is on financial life-support system and getting blood infusion from the donors.

Start salivating now because you have plenty to chew on in this piece.

Do you remember that old biblical saying? ”You reap what you sow?” Well, we’re just reaping and no sowing.

Given the way Ghanaians flaunt their religiosity in public--- like a Swiss bank account---- one might think we got direct relationship with God and that our beliefs will hold us to a much more stringent moral code. That moral code is supposed to guide us through decision-making process; including the intent to do any illegal activity against the state or our fellowmen and women—hallelujah! However, that is not the case when it comes to our deeply ingrained “culture of entitlement, irresponsibility and lack- of- accountability”.

There was a time in Ghana when we worked hard to acquire our needs and whatever we desire. Not so anymore, as seemingly everyone is busy at the internet café or somewhere in Ghana hatching up plans to dupe someone, milk the system or steal from the government .Everybody including politicians ,pastors, police officers and bus conductors are on the bandwagon; busy trying to get their “shares” of the game, with no remorse.

Let’s put it right out: There is too much reaping and economic raping going on in Ghana without any sowing.

To an ordinary, untrained person the internet is for entertainment and a place to meet people from other parts of the world. But the Ghanaian youth are turning the net into money making- machinery. The proliferation of Cyber -thieves is turning the youth into hardcore criminal gangs.

Have you ever chuckled at one of those e-mails’ come-ons paddling Viagra discounts or to lure you with a date---- with a traffic-stopping beautiful lady, promising multimillion-dollar payout, in exchange for a little help in the form of say, your bank account, social security number or e-mail password?

In fact, most of us think we’re far too savvy to fall prey to Nigerian e-mail messages or advertisement promising untold riches or a pill that melts fat away in days. But, if you use the internet you can be a victim before you realize it—thanks to the 419 gangs.

Now in Ghana the 419 and ‘Sakawa’ practitioners have devised an ingenious way, everyday to unleash identity-stealing ways for your bank accounts details .They have devised a new way to lure their victims. Now they ask you to “renew” your hotmail or MSN messenger account or trick you into buying fake antivirus software. The software produces a message that announces your computer has a “virus” and your computer is vulnerable to attack.

Once you download the “software” you automatically reveal your online passwords and accounts numbers. It also allows them to gain access to other websites you visit.

There are also the e-mail messages asking you to click on your friend’ photos on different social network sites. Once you type in your e-mail address and password to see those pictures from your “friend”, there will be no photos ,but you will unwillingly give the site ‘permission’ to go through your e-mail contact list and send a message to everyone on the list. This can also help the cyber- thieves to track your movement on the net.

While web quizzes may be fun to take they’re also powerful tool for schemers to collect your data and even your money.

Interestingly, in the 1980’s Indians invested heavily in computer technology and ICT education and they are reaping the benefits handsomely. But, we---with the help of Nigerians--- are investing so much time and energy in ICT so as to defraud people .I wonder what we can achieve as a nation if we can make use of our ICT schemers and internet café congregation to turn Ghana into a software power- house..

What about turning their skills into developing software applications to revitalize and power our education system, help Police to fight crimes and improve public safety or regulate our dangerous road network? Or improve our agricultural inputs? Or our water supply? Woops! All that requires work on our part, and the part of the policy makers, and the government. That will teach people who do not believe in work and the real gratification and success that come from having put forth good old-fashioned hard -work.

People don’t want to put in any effort and work. They want to think (make that ‘dream’) their way to “success” with no sweat. They want to sit on their butts with their big attitudes and have success find them. Whilst they are wasting their scarce resources in internet cafés their counterparts in other developing countries like India are busy creating history.

Have you ever heard of Kindle or bookless library the Google is creating? These products are the work of people from developing countries .What is holding us up? We’re too busy reaping and raping off everyone and everybody to think constructively.

In Ghana most people aren’t sowing much these days, but they’re reaping. Or at least, they are not sowing anything, but they want to harvest—big time!

I grew up in Ghana so at least I know what sowing really means .Growing up in a countryside where we used to practically eat what we produced from the farm. Clearing the land, planting and weeding are done constantly and on regular basis during the farming season to ensure abundant harvest .So when I say “sowing” I’m saying the real work. And, the reaping is also work .Anyone who grew up in the farming area knows what I’m talking about. And, I’m not just talking about the work we did on Saturdays, either.

The reaping is the payoff for the work we put out there in the first place. Sadly, many people especially the youth—today are expecting to reap when they didn’t sow a damn thing. It doesn’t work that way. These days the new generation is waiting for success to come up and bang on their heads, instead of going out and creating their own. The young, educated computer-savvy individuals spend valuable hours to figure out a way to get rich quick. They have religiously engaged in internet scheme, 419, or Sakawa; instead of working for the cedi or working to acquire something of lasting value.

In other words, you create your results based on what actions you take or did not take .The future is not where we’re going, but what we create ourselves .You don’t go to family, government or friends for a loan, handouts or design a cockamamie scheme to defraud people of their life-savings or their hard earned money, if you have a clear picture of where you want to go with your life.

Yes, anyone has been hit hard by the economic downturn. Businesses have failed, incomes from traditional sources are all but, non-existent .But, you can still find a legitimate way to make a living .In other words, go to any part of Ghana and there’s always work that could be done. I will guarantee that you could drop in any part of Ghana regardless of the rate of unemployment can still do something to make some decent money. Yes, it might not be something that fulfills your dream or career goals or something you’re particularly proud of or something that fits your talents. But, you could find something that could put fifty cedis or one- hundred cedis in your pocket.

When you’re broke you need to do whatever it takes—as long as it’s legal--- to pay the bills and put food on the table and roof over your head. I remember I have been a forklift driver, a janitor, and door-door-salesman. I have mopped floors, pumped gas, mowed neighbors’ yard and shoveled snow. There was never anything I was too good to do when it came time to pay my bills or buy groceries or pay my tuition. Did I hate it? Every minute of it—especially when I had to ride my bike through the snow to go to the gas station to pump gas. Did I do it? You bet!

W-o-r-k is the right example to self –worth and your kids. Real work gives you a sense of accomplishment. So even when you are in a financial trouble you know you are doing something to fix your situation. Work keeps you busy so there isn’t any time to complain. Work makes everyone “lucky”. Work is what happens when you get of your butt and do something meaningful legally that can yield dividend .We do not have to choose between success and doing the right work that gives us value or promotes “value”.

So get your ego out of the way and do something. Anything as long as it’s legal to meet your needs and wants. You are not too good. It may not be your dream job. It may not be something you are proud of or can brag about or even want to tell anyone about. It probably won’t be your new career. But, if it feeds your family and pays your bills and is legal, do it.

Speaking of” wants”, how are you spending your money? Is it on things you want or things you need? Or things you can’t live without. If you’re broke or your money is running out then the things you can spend money on are the things you can’t live without. And I’m not talking about cigarettes and booze or $50,000.00 car .So what are they? They’re: Food, shelter and health .Nothing else gets your money.

So what is your source of pride and dignity? Is it your job or the brand of clothing you wear? Or is it in the doing whatever honest work you can to meet your obligations and commitments? Or are you spending hours to come up with ways to make a living with out any sweat?

Sadly, we all have become self-destructively shortsighted and selfish in recent times. That has kept us from acknowledging the long –term effect of our actions on Ghana.

As a politician are you living on your income? How many houses and cars do you need or want? Do they reflect on your income? As a police officer are you reaping what you sow and live within your income so as not to compromise your duties? As a civil servant are you doing your share or constantly raping the country off and still griping, bitching, whining, complaining or blaming your employer (the government)?

Our community leaders and head of our institutions are also vigorously engaging in fraudulent activities to dupe the nation with impunity, so they can’t tell the 419 or ‘Sakawa’ enthusiasts to look for a legitimate way to make a living. They are all reaping with no sowing.

But, how long can we do that? I heard a quote and I’d like to share it with you: “When the winds blow hard, some people build shelter and others build windmills”. So what are we building? If I had the answer I would be reaping a lot of money in Ghana, in an old fashioned way-- by selling my ideas. I would also tell the politicians why they are not entitled to car loans.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi NJ, USA

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

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