Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

It's Elementary My Dear Professor

A Touch of Nokoko by Kofi Akumanyi

The news last week was that there has been another cabinet shuffle, the umpteenth in the two-year life of the People's National Defence Council (PNDC) government. While some former personnel have changed portfolios, and new members have joined the decision-making body of the country, a few other heads have rolled. As usual no reasons have been given for the changes but one can reasonably guess that they are in line with the leader of the revolution's warning at the beginning of the revolution that all political appointees are on probation. If the above assumption is correct then it follows that anybody who has lost his portfolio must have fallen terribly short of expectations in the performance of his duty.

One such person is Prof Mawuse Dake, a Socialist/Marxist who holds degrees in Engineering and before his appointment in the PNDC regime was a professor of Engineering in an East African University, and in fact, had earlier held the portfolio of Secretary for Works and Housing.

What has been puzzling people's minds is why Prof Mawusi Dake did not make any impact at Work and Housing and was transferred to a relatively obscure position as the Secretary of the National Defence Committees?

Most Ghanaians would admit when River. asked about top priority needs of people, particularly those in the towns and cities, that housing rates high with food and health. Yet the eminent professor's only distinguishing mark that he left at the ministry was a suggestion that louvres should not be used for windows in building as that would save the country a considerable amount of foreign exchange. No wonder he did not endear himself to the employees and soon found himself in the political wilderness.

Ghana's economic condition has been exhaustively described, painted in very vivid colours and viewed in kaleidoscopic angles by economists and social scientists. However, when the Professor observed a few months back that if Ghanaians understand the proposals (IMF-World Bank) as approved by the PNDC and endure the harsh and difficult times ahead, they can be sure to see the light at the end of the tunnel, few people realised that he had used an engineering metaphor he says. describe the all too familiar physical and psychological trauma, which afflict 14 million of his countrymen.

Now, considering the fact that Prof Dake is an engineer and not a social scientist, it is the opinion of many that his services could have been better utilised in the Engineering Department of University of Science and Technology where he originally was. He could have advised on the construction of a better "tunnel" for Ghanaians to live in (since he appeared to share the view that that's where they are doomed to live). The only point at issue being when the promised light at the end of it would be seen.

I have had sleepless nights about the horrible conditions in the tunnel which millions are forced to live in. For one thing, there are many people like me who hate darkness. I can't bear to sleep in the dark. So for years I have been praying for a clever engineer to design a tunnel (plastic and possibly transparent) to admit some light. Poor substitute, but at least enough to get by.

It was bad enough when the Akosombo Hydroelectric dam was operating at full capacity; most Ghanaians in the rural areas lived in total darkness or had to contend with candle lights, and paraffin-operated lamps. Now nature has dealt a serious blow to their aspirations and the drought has affected both food production and level of the Volta

Before Prof Dake retorts in the veritable tradition of a former head of state who in obvious irritation at the complaints about food scarcity publicly asked whether he was God to produce the rainfall, he should probably pause to think that his profession is a problem-solving one and without it and its various branches man's fast progress would not have been possible.

The ideal situation is to get the distinguished professor to answer a few questions but since it's quite impossible (now that he is jobless and might be considering going back to UST or wherever he came from to join the PNDC) I imagine an interview would have gone like this:

"Prof, many people are wondering why Ghanaians should live in this dark tunnel of despair and you only talk about seeing the light at the end of it in a few years?"

"Yes, it's a difficult period of our lives which we believe, shall come to to pass,"

"But surely, you're known to possess the skills to construct, or at least, to advise on the improvement of the tunnel to ease the burden of Ghanaians," I point out.

"Easier said than done. I possess the skills alright; I can even add without fear of exaggeration, that I can outdo the best of them in Marxists rhetorics but the book says that the present harsh experiences would make Ghanaians people of steel."

"Talking about steel, do you realise that according to the law of survival, if people live for too long in a steel tunnel, the struggle for existence may produce adverse effects on the structure... "

“It's called metal fatigue in engineering."

"Thank you very much for the education. If the mental fatigue and pressure continue, something's got to give one of these days...", I put it to him."

"I said metal not mental; they're two different properties, you know. Anyway, something like what?"

"Well...from where I'm standing I can only think of a few things that can happen when one is locked up inside a dark steel tunnel. People may begin drilling holes through it."

"What would they do that for? That's sabotage, pure and simple!"

"No, that's survival, pure and simple. It's elementary, very elementary, my dear Professor!"

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