Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Things are getting better?

A Touch Of Nokoko by Kofi Akumanyi

A lop-sided, upside down, inside-out perspective of the world's current economic, social and political situation was epitomised by the remark of one gentleman speaking to a friend which I overheard at a London tube station. He said that he could not understand how, with everything crumbling around us -pound having fallen to its lowest level against the dollar, the Brighton bombing aimed at Margaret Thatcher's high government officials that has claimed four lives so far, Arthur Scargill's National Union of Miners (NUM) locked in an eye-ball to eye-ball confrontation with the government and Ronald Reagan's landslide victory ensuring a firm hand on the nuclear button, the politicians can look the public in the eye, so to speak, and say that there is no cause for alarm.

It's unbelievable, he continued, that with all the gory and heart-rending scenes of thousands of Ethiopians starving and hundreds dying of hunger every day, and other parts of Africa and developing countries virtually on the verge of starvation, we are being told that we haven't had it so good for so many years.

We've had it good? That's what the politicians have been feeding us for years while the very ground under us is slipping away. So the question is why don't we do something about it?

It is obvious that human nature, being what it is, does not succumb or yield to disaster without putting up a fight - that is if there is something worth fighting for.

Take, for instance, the socio-economic and political situation of a country like Ghana. The performance of Flt-Lt. Rawlings and his ruling PNDC government has developed from "atrocious and abysmal", "improving" to "acceptable" over a period of three years during which the hitherto unimaginable in the Ghanaian context have happened.

Now, people look back throughout the period since independence and predictably claim that things are not so bad after all-meaning that compared to what it could have been, they are having the best of a bad situation. You then ask: does anybody have the right to wrench power from a legally constituted authority claiming he would make things better and produce such appalling results and get away with it without even a whimper from the people? The answer comes back as quickly as lightning: But what can we do about it, they have the guns and we are their captive audience listening to their rantings...

Time was when Ghanaians used to say that it would require a horrible experience like a civil war as happened in Nigeria to add the vital ingredient of non-tolerance of unnecessary muscle- flexing from authority and the ability and will power to fight for their rights. The shocking brutality in Ghana's recent history, which even though did not exactly come near a civil war but shook the nation to its very foundation, has not done much to wake her from the long stupor of blind acceptability.

In Nigeria itself, the once vaunted national characteristic of standing up to be counted in times of crisis seems to have disappeared under a cloud of military decrees. With the shortage of goods as a consequence of the military's introduction of austerity measures to cut down unnecessary imports one would only expect to hear feeble protests under the present circumstances if the SMC decreed that all Nigerians should limit their families to three, to make the austerity measures more effective.

Far-fetched? Maybe, but the refusal to accept unfair laws, whether it comes from government or wherever, and the desire to fight against it is what democracy is all about when it comes down to brass tacks - which brings the case of Victoria and Gordon Gillick right to the fore in this issue. This Catholic couple who have spawned 10 children between the ages of 16 and 2 has gone to the Appeal Court of the UK to stop young girls receiving contraceptives without parental consent. This implies free sex for under 16 year old, claims her opposers. This issue by itself would not surprise anyone in this society where promiscuity is not frowned on any longer but for its effects on illegitimate children.

The facts of the case is that Mrs Gillick claims a Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) memorandum of guidance issued in 1980 allowing doctors to use discretion over parental consent in issuing contraceptives to under 16-year-old girls is unlawful.

She says it invited doctors to contravene parts of the Sexual Offence Act 1956 which forbids the causing or encouraging of sexual intercourse with a girl of under sixteen, while Section 6, makes it an offence to be an accessory.

In July 1983 the High Court ruled that the memorandum was not unlawful. If Mrs Gillick wins the British Medical Association will demand that the Health Department takes the case to the House of Lords. If the Lords agree with Mrs Gillick case a law will be made. If she establishes her argument under the Sexual Offences Act doctors will no longer be able to prescribe any contraception to under-age girls with or without their parents' consent.

Now, it becomes immediately obvious that Mrs Gillick and her husband are at the receiving end of tongue-lashing from those who also strongly believe that to help reduce teenage pregnancy and the boom in illegitimate babies, "Catholic bigots" like them should not be allowed to peddle their dangerous ideas and get away with it.

Dangerous idea? What dangerous idea? Mrs Gillick's religion abhors contraception and the celibate Pope in Rome who does not practise what he preaches backs them up to the hilt and quotes the Bible to support the point that abortion is a cardinal sin. So Mr & Mrs Gillick are practising what the Pope preaches; their ten children keep them happy and fully occupied in their "enormous and dilapidated" Georgian House in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Obviously their children may think nothing of producing ten children each and by that progression keep Britain fully populated.

Well, that should normally, not worry anybody because if Mr & Mrs. Gillick choose not to have television or other basic luxuries of life and rather enjoy the aggravation of looking after ten children which, under a welfare state like Britain is possible with the financial and material support of the state except that translated into an African situation their case would probably have been a clear contravention of a decree drafted by a few individual and imposed on the rest.

Mr Michael Adigu, Minister for National Planning of Nigeria said recently that Nigerian women have had an average of nearly seven children each in the last 20 years according to a 1981-82 fertility survey which confirmed the high rate.

He attributed this growth rate to female early marriage, low literacy level among women, the luke-warm Coffee plantation in Angola attitude of Nigerians to family planning and the value placed on During the unholy rule of Portugal- children, among other things. If the military people should ever come round to it and introduce a decree to check the high fertility rate Mr and Mrs Bolaji as opposed to the Gillicks would probably appear before a tribunal not the Court of Appeal.

The Sexual Offences Tribunal presided over by handpicked "jurors" would swiftly dispose of the case thus:

"We've considered your case, Mr & Mrs Gillick (Bolaji) for over two hours and it is the opinion of the honourable ladies and gentlemen of the tribunal that your aim is to sabotage the efforts of this government and bring all its economic gains into disrepute...

"But, Mr Chairman, I tell you that contraception and abortions are dangerous for the health of the nation. We have to educate the public on natural contraception..."

"I can very well, appreciate your self-control," intones the Chairman. "You could have had twenty children instead of ten, is that what you mean? There isn't enough food to feed the people and the more you people produce children the worse the economy becomes... you have been sentenced to 12 months imprisonment without sex to serve as example to those who dare question the wisdom of the government And remember there are faster military ways of reducing or slowing down the population explosion

talking drums 1984-11-26 secret executions in Nigeria