On Being Ghanaian – Gamma CORE

The third of four shared core attributes of our Ghanaianess; the Rule of Law.

GH crestOne of the symbols of our nation, our coat of arms, bears two key words; FREEDOM, JUSTICE. I think it most thoughtful and visionary that both words were included in the design of our coat of arms. The FREEDOM part is pretty much covered under the Alpha and Beta CORE attributes.

No, we don’t exactly go to war for trivia like Yor ker gali anymore, for the most part (bet you didn’t know that Gameh call gari gali). It used to be quite fashionable to war over an indignity, but that’s fallen out of favour, for most of humanity. Nevertheless, men have been known to leave their wives behind to be impregnated by the Gyasehene, as they go to war over unresolved injustices, or inequities. Therefore, to deliberately build a nation out of the collection of peoples from the former Gold Coast and Trans-Volta; a viable, coherent, peaceful and prosperous community desirable for living and thriving in, let us aspire and strive to deal justly and equitably with each other, just as we proclaim in our coat of arms.

Again, just for emphasis, peace isn’t evidenced by the mere absence of war, but also and more importantly, by the pervading and sustained presence of goodwill. The will that is good deals justly and equitably with the subjects of its attention. That will leaves no room for bitterness and resentment to fester, because of ignoble conduct. So, rather than busy ourselves attempting to put out fires we start through insensitivities, let us commit to one another in our National Pledge, to deal justly and equitably with each other at all times and to be held accountable to plant our feet where our mouths go, as our Gamma CORE attribute.

Now, that’s easier said than done. Its hard to uphold that with any degree of consistency in Ghana. Let me illustrate with an experience I had in a foreign land. You have a minute? Get yourself a drink and let’s chill.

On Thursday Sept. 1st, 2016 I walked through one of those experiences which sadly, I can’t look forward to in Ghana. I received a partial refund on an item I’d purchased on Aug. 8th; an item which I continue to possess and use. A sales clerk at Best Buy made the refund to me under her company’s Price Match programme. In simple terms, Best Buy has voluntarily committed to refund the difference, if the price of purchased merchandise falls during the 30 day return period. Price discounting usually occurs during promotional sales. Thursday Sept. 1st was 24 days from when I’d grudgingly purchased a new shredder, so I matched to the shop with intent, as my former headmaster once charged two consorting students with.

For background, I went to Best Buy on the morning of Aug. 8th purposely to buy a shredder and was greeted at the entrance by a sales clerk of Sub-Saharan African descent. Now, knowing as I do that there’s an isolation quotient attached to skin pigment in that country, I responded warmly, accepted the discount sales flyer he was offering and for small talk, asked whether they stock paper shredders in the particular shop. When I’d selected the model I wanted and was proceeding to the checkout area, I again run into the same sales clerk, which prompted me to ask somewhat pointlessly, “When are you guys going to place this model on sale? I’ll use it infrequently and don’t want to spend this much to acquire it?” He answered very properly that he wasn’t privy to information on their promotional sales programme, but there certainly would be a big sales event on Sept. 1st. I could check online to find out if the item was being discounted on that day and bring my receipt with me for a refund under their Price Match policy, if I chose. I decided not to forget that precious bit of information.

Come Sept. 1st, I happened to need an ear phone from the same shop and remembered the precious bit of info, but for the life of me, couldn’t recall where I’d saved the receipt for my disdained shredder. Well, I matched to the shop anyway and after I’d settled on the earphone I wanted to buy, I walked up to a sales clerk at the checkout counter and asked if I might return with the shredder’s receipt at a later date for a Price Match refund and how late that date could be.

“Its best to settle that today, because none of us know for how long an item will be offered at a discounted price. Do you have the payment card you used in purchasing the shredder?”
“I do.”
“Well then, let’s first settle the transaction on your new purchase and I’ll see to your refund.”

And true to her word, when I’d paid for my new purchase, she again swiped my card to retrieve and reprint the receipt for the dreaded shredder and proceeded to refund the price difference, simply because it was the company’s policy to make such refunds on demand. Now, shops don’t offer Price Match policies in Ghana, whether voluntarily or otherwise and if they did, I’d argue anyone any day and at anytime of that day, that I’d enjoy the benefit of the Price Match under special circumstances only, because Ghana isn’t founded on the rule of law; Ghana is founded on a regime of patronage. Ah ah; don’t pout now. Remember, its chill out time.

The notable effects of the rule of law on my visits to Best Buy started when I encountered the Sub-Saharan African sales clerk on Aug. 8th. He was under obligation to disclose relevant and authorised information which would make my visit rewarding and, in conformity with his employment contract, he didn’t hold back. The Ghanaian sales clerk might have given me an Ntsu, unless in his eyes, I was somebody, but more on somebody-ness in a moment.

The sales clerk I met on Sept. 1st was of South-East Asian descent, probably Pilipino. Her ethnicity has no relevance to my shopping experience in the foreign country where I was, but is in every way relevant to our shopping experiences in Ghana, as I’ll demonstrate in a moment. Like the 1st sales clerk, she too was under obligation to disclose all authorised, relevant information and assist in making my shopping visit rewarding and like the 1st sales clerk who happened to be Sub-Saharan, this presumably Pilipino lady applied herself to meet the terms of her employment contract.

Now, here are some of the special conditions under which I may, just may have received comparable service in Ghana (assuming of course, that the employer is implementing a Price Match policy):

  1. I’m a known relative of the sales clerk;
  2. I’m a known schoolmate, or fellow church member of the sales clerk;
  3. I’m a friend of one of the sales clerks, or a known friend of their own friend or relative;
  4. I’m known to the sales clerks as sharing ethnicity with them by birth, or less favorably, by marriage;
  5. One or more of conditions 1 – 4 apply and importantly also, I’m in the good books of the sales clerk;
  6. I offer a monetary incentive to them, or have been known to tip sales clerks generously during past visits and am therefore a favoured customer;
  7. I’m known to be a person of influence (somebody of influence) who might dispense patronage to them in a different setting; such as a Lecturer who might put in a word to have their ward admitted into the tertiary educational institution where I work;
  8. I’m known to be a medical doctor, or official of high standing (somebody to be feared), who might dispense patronage to their person or relative at some future date, or cause them extreme discomfort, if I’m displeased with their service;
  9. I spoke to them in their native tongue, however falteringly, as soon as I knew their ethnicity;
  10. The sales clerk saw me walk in and simply took a liking for me;
  11. I was extremely and hypocritically polite in addressing them, using such appellations as Chief, Master, Madam, Sister, or Ma;
  12. Now, here’s my favorite by far; I took on the fight in their behalf, in a dispute with another shopper, even though the sales clerks were in the wrong. I did, because the shopper was doing something too much.

I’m certain you get the drift of ways in which we procure patronage in Ghana and can add to this list till Christ comes, but the list isn’t the point of my rant on this matter. Irrespective of what protestations we make, this is how our society operates; this forms the foundation of our interaction with each other. It defines the fabric of our society. We may have solemnly declared and affirmed our commitment to the rule of law in the preambles of our Constitution. Parliament may enact what laws it wills. Local governments may script what by-laws and regulations they please. Employers may insert whatever conditions they fancy in employment contracts. All of those are but opportunities for the persons charged with implementing the laws, regulations, or terms to dispense patronage to who they please, or extract rent (a bribe) from persons they provide services to. If you happen to be a nipa boni, too bad for you. If you happen to be Mrs. Nobody, who cares? And you are doing something too much, ah, if you insist on your rights as a customer, or citizen. We’ll make certain obaa fo la.

Yet that too isn’t the point of my rant on this subject. So what is this about? When God …; of course, I was going to come round to the Beginning. When God created the nation Israel, one of the 1st things He did was to give them a body of laws; laws which have since become the foundation for modern liberal jurisprudence. That must be because He designed man to live in communities governed by the rule of law, not by patronage, because He pointedly taught Israel to deal justly with both the Jew and the sojourner among them without differentiating who is and who isn’t entitled to justice.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8; NKJV)

Including the rule of law as a CORE attribute of our Ghanaianess is asking much. The rule of law doesn’t come to us naturally. Indeed, we resent it, because it introduces a rigidity which inhibits the flow of our 10%, kalabule, ways and means, cola, something for the chief, noko fioo for the boys, kpakpakpa …; you know what I’m referring to, don’t you? Or perhaps you’re not Ghanaian enough. I’m of course, alluding to those activities which are in fact, our preferred ways of maintaining ourselves. Call them anything you please, except the bribes and corrupt means that they are. How else shall a man remain competitive in maintaining his daughter’s peer as his mistress in a local university, while paying the fees and maintaining his daughter and son in universities abroad and all the while, financing the construction of his mansion without a mortgage loan, if he’s prevented from collecting facilitation fees? As the saying goes, no one works for Kingsway, yet collects his pay from UTC! Where you work is where you chop, both formally and informally.

Yet look around you at the nations of the world today. Which ones are achieving sustained and stellar performance in economic growth, social welfare, etc; measures which progressively enhance the dignity of their citizens and visitors? Almost invariably, its the likes of Singapore, South Korea, UK, Germany, Denmark, Finland; those nations which emphasise certainty by promoting the rule of law. Its not the likes of Italy, Greece, Ghana; the so-called soft states, where the rule of law is at best, restrained. The regime of patronage won’t get us anywhere near becoming a functional and high performing nation-state. We’re up against the grain of nature and we’re losing. Our regime of patronage cannot compete against the rule of law, so we’ve been losing by choice.

Let’s begin by owning our failure, start the engine of our drifting ship of state and turn her around, because it hasn’t exactly been going any place at any pace. Let’s begin to pledge to ourselves and strive to uphold the rule of law in all things, at all times and in all circumstances:

I promise on my honour to be faithful and loyal to my fellow Ghanaian.
I pledge to defend his right to remain different.
I pledge to uphold his constitutional rights at all times.
I pledge to treat him justly and equitably at all times. ©

Glossary


Yor ker gali : a dish of boiled beans, gari and spicy sauce or palm oil;
Nipa boni : literally, a bad person; an antisocial person (an Akan phrase);
Obaa fo la : literally, tears of blood; tears of frustration (a Ga phrase);
… doing something too much : Ghanaian phrase for a fusspot;
Kalabule : devious dealings, especially overcharging for goods and services;
Noko fioo : a tip, or bribe of low value (a Ga phrase);
Kpakpakpa : same as kalabule.

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