This is in response to Nana Ama’s post, among other things. It was not easy to write, because a lot of people I respect and admire fall in the category below…
I would like to start by saying that I was very disappointed in the Black Stars after they let us down in Brazil. I did not expect much from the GFA or the government for I knew they were in it to make as much profit as possible – be it political or financial profit. I also did not begrudge the boys their large bonuses although I thought the sums were just too much, but if that is what they agreed on, then they deserved to be paid. It was the manner in which they forced the authorities to pay them that infuriated me. You see, I have low expectations of the politicians – and they never usually have the love and support of the majority of Ghanaians, but the Black Stars have… they did, and they broke my heart.
It is a sadly common trend for certain Ghanaians to say or write things like “Ghanaians are <insert patronising description>”. I hear it on radio all the time, I see it on online forums and in comment threads and it is unfortunate that this is how people conceptualise themselves and their people. I won’t go into the undertones of inferiority complex that underly this kind of thinking. Usually, the maker of such damning, broadly generalising comments is Ghanaian, but when they make these comments, they aren’t referring to themselves – no, they are different, they are sensible, they are intelligent, they are open-minded and they are (well) educated. They are perched on a high pedestal, looking down on the “stupid” Ghanaians who have “short memories” and will certainly forget dumsor and the mismanagement of an economy because of one trophy. Seriously?! They know that “2 hours of borrowed electricity from La Côte D’Ivoire would make Ghanaians think that everything is okay with the country. Seriously!?!
And it is not an attitude that is unique to them, it is rather widespread in this “educated” class of Ghanaians. They, ironically like the orientalising Westerner who looks to the “other” to reassure himself of his superiority, look to that average Ghanaian who represents everything that is the Ghana they love and hate, to reassure themselves that they have escaped the “mediocrity”. It is in religion – Christianity for instance, where people have no problems with the “posturing” of the likes of Duncan Williams, but condemn Bishop Obinim for being a charlatan. It’s complicated, but if I had to explain it in one line, I would say “It’s simply because Obinim is not as brɔfɔlised.” Brɔfɔlised is such a great word… Loosely explained it means he does not have the respectability that comes with the ability to speak fluent English. I will admit now that I have had that attitude in past, and I would have still have more than a healthy dose of it by now if I hadn’t gone through some personal troubles that made me seriously reconsider how I looked at others. And it is true that I still relapse into that mindset from time to time – it’s not easy… In fact, I’m frightened of what I might become post-Oxford, but that’s another blog post for another day. Saying “Ghanaians are like….” or “Ghanaians dier…” in that tone of voice is terribly condescending. You know that hot flash of anger you feel when you read a generalising “Africans are <insert stereotype here>” from a white person? Well, it is not quite the same in terms of power dynamics at play, but you catch my drift don’t you?
It’s as though they do not think that other people can compartmentalise their emotions. That anger at the GFA and Mahama’s government can coexist with the ability to recognise the hard work of footballers, and the joy of seeing a son fighting the demons of his father can be relished while criticising the incompetence of the system that manages him. Do a quick search on social media sites on Black Stars, bonuses, GFA budget and government. You will find out that people ARE upset about the wastefulness of the GFA, the size of the bonuses and the general shadiness of these things BUT they are also proud of the boys for playing hard and making their nation proud. No need to throw out the baby with the bathwater – something Ghanaians have always known.
This “I’m-glad-they-didn’t-win-because-the-government-would-have-capitalised-on-it business” is rather silly.
“A win would have given us a false sense of importance and sent the government into believing (what the cool people describe as) their own ‘hype’ – that we are truly the best on this continent.”
More seriously, I spent my energy (rather uselessly) wishing the Black Stars wouldn’t qualify in the first place, because barring the obvious futility of sitting on one’s arse and wishing things, that would have made more sense. The amount of money the government would have spent on the tournament would have been close to zero… but you see, once, they were in, and through to the final, a win would have been the only way to make ourselves feel better about the money that was spent – money that WAS spent REGARDLESS. So, as useless wishes go, wishing they wouldn’t win once they were already in the final was pretty useless. The consensus on the loss is that the Black Stars did their best, but were not lucky – I can see how a smart propagandist (like Hanna Tetteh, brilliant at this sort of thing) can use the scenario to generate ‘hype’, but… never mind
That said, I am not surprised that Nana Ama is so convinced about this “short term memory of Ghanaians” theory. She works in radio as a kind of permanent panelist on a breakfast show. Now, the breakfast shows I listen to – on Joy fm and Citi fm are … interesting. The purpose seems to be to pack as much content as possible into the time period allocated. So, we get something like a 10-minute newspaper review, then 15 minutes of ranting about something, followed by very condensed
sports football news, followed by 15 minutes of an “interview” with some corporate organization promoting their new product, then some social media trends, oh and some sort of message of motivation followed by a promotion of the radio station’s Easter corporate football tournament and then… you get my drift. It’s easy, I suppose, to assume that people get easily distracted from things that matter to them when you’re working in that context and always searching for next big news story, “forgetting” to follow up till 3 months later perhaps on yesterday’s breaking news story. Certainly, there is a desire for this kind of programming in Ghana and this is why they are so successful, but I personally find that I can only put myself through it once or twice a week.
And frankly, if you work in radio and want people to not to forget issues you feel are important, just keep telling them. You have a platform. Can’t be that hard, surely.
People say La Côte D’Ivoire needed the trophy more, and I am inclined to agree. Only a true football fan knows the euphoria that comes from winning trophies and how your whole day can change because your team lost a match. Do not make the mistake of underestimating the power of something you do not understand, and a time when it feels like “Ghana is the devil’s pet project” (@niilexis, 2013), winning a tournament after 33 years could colour a hopeless situation hopeful again. There’s a reason why Nkrumah invested in sportsmen and athletes even when the country was in a precarious situation. I won’t explain further – if you understand, you understand.
Also this is not really about the AfCON, it’s about that funny way Ghanaians see Ghanaians.