Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Where Do We Go From Here?

Vicky Abena Agyemang

Vicky Abena Agyemang's reminiscences of a visit to her family in Ghana.
I have just returned from a visit to Ghana in November last year and I must say that all the things that I had heard but tried hard not to believe that they are really happening have been confirmed beyond my wildest expectation.

I am still trying to live down the nightmarish experiences that I found my family, friends and other Ghanaians suffering rather unsuccessfully. I hope by writing to Talking Drums I can get it off my chest.

The stories about Ghana begin to materialise into facts right from Heathrow Airport at the Ghana Airways check-in point where passengers are seen carrying every consumable commodity imaginable as cabin hand luggage - a situation which immediately raises questions about how the others who cannot travel here to shop are managing to live.

Things hot up at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra as you check in at the customs where the atmosphere of desperation and frustration greet you instead of the much-talked about smiling and hospitable Ghanaian.

Here, while the number of porters out-number the passengers, one aspect of the scene which hits you forcefully is the number of boys of school-going age who have swapped education with portering. They descend on you like wolves trying to assist you so as to earn a few cedis for their daily bread.

The antics of the customs officials who rummage through your belongings, pinch things and demand bribes are simply contemptuous, but then you realise that they are all possibly being driven by survival instincts to commit such disgraceful acts.

For the first few days, everything seemed alright obviously because the euphoria of being back home kept spirits high but after a couple of weeks visits from friends and relatives became fewer because of the acute transportation problems and also as the quantity and quality of meals deteriorated.

My shock was total when I was confronted with begging by decent people who otherwise would not do it. Both children and grown ups beg for food. A pensioner shamefacedly asked for money to buy food with a long explanation about why he could not make ends meet.

Then one afternoon a mother and her two kids narrated a sad story about how to feed her children that day as a creditor she had been chasing round had bolted. Now these cannot be the only people in a system which is slowly strangulating its helpless victims with its policies. So the obvious question which needs to be asked is: what are the Ghanaians in this category doing about their situation?

From my own observation I concluded that the average Ghanaian has always found it difficult to act on even his or her strongest feelings. Indeed he cannot even act on what he knows best. I believe that to act is to be committed and to be committed is to be in danger in modern day Ghana.

Simply put, the atmosphere in the country is such that any committed person determined to challenge the authorities stands a very good chance of disappearing. It is dangerous to oppose the ruling PNDC and their political wings operating in all corners of the country and in such a situation in which the rulers are determined to entrench themselves in power inspite of the clear indications of deterioration in quality of life, people are apparently prepared to suffer in silence.

Before anybody accuses me of bias, I will say that even though measures have been taken to remedy the ailing economy, as far as I could see many would be dead and buried before the so-called benefits take effect.

I have been quite upset just thinking over my brief experiences back home. Everything is UPSIDE down. Education is now meaningless and there is a shortage of basic necessities of life. I am sure those who have given up the fight to live and have died one way or the other are very happy where they are. I have a feeling that this whole so-called revolutionary process is going to "self-destruct" and maybe a few of those who are committed should be considering whether to remain in this mess.

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