Etiquette – The Ghanaian Global way

Herbert MensahIt had been an incredibly hectic week in which after leaving Accra I travelled with HE Former President Rawlings and Retired General Arnold Quainoo to East Africa. We had spent time in Sudan… stopped in Kenya three times and been to Uganda as well. We had seen two Presidents and been exposed to differing protocols, cultures and delays!

Initially I had wanted to discuss the varied climates and foods in the three countries, which I found fascinating. Sudan in particular surprised me with the intense heat, which appeared to bounce off the ground. I can only describe it as feeling like a freshly cracked egg …a fried egg in a large saucepan! The heat blew me away

Being out of present day Ghana allows me to look back in. There are some things I miss… the food, friends and family. Indeed as we touched down at Kotoka International Airport I called home and asked if some plantain could be prepared to go along with some green soup and rice and some coconut water. There are also things and people, which irk and sadden me. I have lived and travelled in Africa outside of Ghana since 1984 and there are many places doing better than Ghana in so many different ways and yet we always seem to have an over valued sense of self-importance.

When I was the Country Director for MNET I used to sell Ghana on a number of things and primarily or at the top of the list was the human factor. We were a safe nation and also a friendly people. Etienne Heyns my Boss in the MNET structure came to Ghana many many times and carried this view back to his Bosses,  Gerrie De Villiers and Lazarus Zims and the result was that over the period I was the Manager/Director in charge MNET had no hesitation in allowing me to stage the likes of  The African Showcase, The MNET Face of Africa, The Max Brito extravaganza, to host the GJA event plus numerous other events in Ghana. Our media was liberal … perhaps the most liberal they had  encountered. Indeed they were fascinated not because of it’s liberalism but because it was during President Rawlings time that the liberal media was allowed to flourish!

As I moved through East Africa I could not help but reflect on another side of Ghana, which has evolved since those heady days and which over the past two years has now become a new and unacceptable Ghana.

The new culture of disrespect, abuse and lies which is now the norm within our media terrain is somewhat exclusive to Ghana and has been encouraged from the highest elements of Government. I am saddened because as a comparative Ghana stands alone and uniquely aloft.

Professional pundits with little credibility adorn many radio stations backed up by paid serial callers to malign and slander anyone whose opinion their paid masters disagree with. Thankfully the Ghanaian public is more discerning than the proponents of these actions appear to realize such is their zealous focus.

Interestingly it took an election defeat for the past NPP government to realize that Ghanaians do not respond to this approach.  More interestingly is the fact that the current NDC government has taken this approach to another newer higher more negative level. They clearly have not learnt anything from eight years of being in opposition otherwise they would have adopted a different approach which would have involved showing greater respect to Ghanaians!

Simply put the hearts and minds of Ghanaians cannot be won or even swayed through the past/current approach and Ghanaians must be commended for this!

As I travelled through the region I cast my mind to other countries that I have visited during this year and appreciated albeit sadly that Ghana was unique in this current trip to the gutter!

There are some who have barnacled onto this unfortunate media approach to current affairs. On the Internet and via social media some upload the “stuff” put out there and then invite others to take positions as though they are the jury! Thankfully it is only small club and as they say empty barrels make the most noise….. interestingly though most of the politicians who initiated the agenda on specific radio stations are on the social media stirring and observing … thankfully this is NOT Ghana and mercifully they don’t seem to know or appreciate this!

But now I digress because the reason I actually decided to put finger to keyboard was because my hopes and respect for Ghana has been partially restored.  As I boarded the Kenya Airways flight returning from Nairobi to Accra I met The Speaker and The Leader of the Minority in Parliament and was taken aback by their class and sense of dignity.

There is a way that things are done for those who know and as the Speaker left her seat to greet the Former President I noted the air and class in which she both carried herself and the civil etiquette she displayed in both greeting Former President Rawlings and enquiring of the health of Nana.

The Leader of the minority has always been a man I have admired. He has a tenacity and sharpness of both mind and wit that does not suffer fools. As he moved without prompting from his seat in the forth row to greet the Former President and exchange a few limited pleasantry’s he once again (saw him at the Founder’s residence after the fire)  rose in my judgment of him. There is a way for things to be done and even though he is philosophically diametrically opposed to most of what the Former President stands for he showed class and pedigree when the occasion arose.

There are so many in our society who need to learn from these two personalities. We as Ghanaians have reached a point in time where it appears that both the arrogance of power as well as an expanded wannabe will sell my soul syndrome has been a way accepted to those in glass houses.

Indeed young whipper snappers (political and media “lesser beings”) with title believe they can engage in a new way of disrespect and abuse to those older, more senior and more acclaimed and in their glass houses they believe they have arrived to the point of being able to do so without public objection.

The reality is that as Ghanaians this form of behavior has never and will never be acceptable and when it is coming from the same political family then ignorance and ingratitude are words, which come to mind.

Sadly it reflects most badly on their President and his Executive and members of national security. It suggests that the power has made them forget our customs and traditions as Ghanaians, power has brought with it an unacceptable arrogance, hatred has blighted their sense of honour or there is simply lawlessness in Government, which permits this current state of national decline.

As a Ghanaian I am saddened because as I traverse parts of the globe I am asked about this very state and I find it increasingly difficult to defend

You may ask why I feel I need to defend Ghana and the answer comes from my father BA Mensah when he was referring to the persecution I was facing in the days of Former President Kuffour. He said Ghana is for all of us!

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