Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Why I quit: Heseltine-style

A Touch Of Nokoko

by Kofi Akumanyi

On December 31, 1985, I went to a nearby church and joined scores of Christians to pray to the Almighty God. The priest had our spiritual wishes well in control. Before the bells went for the ushering in of the New Year he made an impassioned plea to the Almighty to let us all have a better year than the last.

What a rotten year we all had last year! - escalation in the unemployment records in spite of the government's desperate efforts to portray otherwise; the air disasters that shocked the world, we were told by the statisticians, were worse than ever before and the Arabs and other motley groups of terrorists did their best to force the world to recognise their various causes, to mention a few.

To tell the truth, by the time the sermon ended we the congregation (well, I, in particular) felt closer to God and left the church for our various homes with new hope. On the way home the uncharitable thought crossed my mind about the Anglican priest who so eloquently conducted the service. What if he is one of the few priests who are vehemently opposed to the ordination of women as priests, in the Anglican Church?

Well, if he happens to be one of them, would the Almighty lend his ears to the supplications that he made to him on our behalf? Would God who created Eve from a spare rib from Adam approve of discrimination in the Church? A still small voice spoke to me and said no, whereupon I concluded that God still has a few tricks up his sleeve to show us all in 1986. Unreasonable as this sounds, the beginning of the year has not been exactly non-eventful.

So it was that when the news that a jobless Nigerian, Jubil Adejuma, had stabbed an innocent stranger to death in a London street because he felt lonely and depressed and that his victim, a wealthy American banker strolling just 200 yards from his Mayfair hotel, looked comfortable I only managed to shake my head with disbelief.

As the case was sub judice at the time of going to press one would not comment on it and expose the funny part of it. However the raging controversy between Mr Heseltine and the Prime Minister,. Mrs Thatcher, and the Cabinet, offers a good platform for a look into the goings- on in power politics.

In the past week or so the British media has gone to town over the issues leading to the resignation of the Defence Minister, the full repercussions for the Conservative Party and implications for the future of Heseltine and Thatcher's style of conducting her government.

Without a shadow of a doubt, anytime a minister plucks up courage, takes his hat and walking stick and storms out of a lucrative and prestigious position on a matter of principle, most people are only full of praise and admiration for such a man. They have no inkling as to the agonising decision that goes into resigning from a position of power.

I can tell everybody who has not had the unpleasant duty of resigning from a position of power before that it is, indeed, a situation a man must not often find him- self in. I did resign once from a powerful committee set up in my establishment to investigate an issue of national Importance.

The committee had been sitting for several months taking evidence from hundreds of citizens and reading through scores of submitted memoranda. As a secretary-member of the committee I had observed the way the chairman conducted the proceedings and did not like it. I had complained many times and had been promptly overruled. My colleagues on the committee sat through all those irregularities without uttering a word but would surreptitiously back me as soon as we stepped outside.

One bright afternoon, after listening to the chairman bully one placid man who appeared before us, completely discarding the laid-down procedure, I picked up my hat and walking stick and made for the door.

"And where do you think you're going?" asked Mr Chairman.

"I'm going to shave!"

"You should have done that this morning, before coming in for this session," he barked.

"I did!" I snapped back

The members were aghast, dreading a confrontation.

"If you say you shaved this morning, you couldn't have sprouted a beard in four hours," the chairman said, missing the whole point.

"Mr Chairman, if you must know, I have a strange metabolism. Whenever I'm annoyed the adrenalin flow causes speeded-up growth of hair on my chin," I said looking him straight in the eye.

"I don't see anything funny about what you've said. Besides, do you realise that you're wasting the time of this committee?"

"Funny you should say that, Mr Chairman, but it is my considered opinion that other members of this committee aren't happy with the way this committee is being run," I said looking round the table for support, I didn't get any. "But speaking for myself I am quitting right now."

"You must be joking," the Chairman said with an apparent sigh of relief. "You cannot resign.'


"Because it is not Ghanaian. Besides, you cannot forego the allowance and free transport. These perks are indispensable to your survival."

"You're very right, except that one cannot sacrifice principles for a mess of pottage," I told him. He had touched a very sensitive nerve in the acceptance of Public Office.

"Principles? Well, I'd advise you to think about this again before you walk out."

"Anyway, I would hold a press conference to explain why I quit this committee," I threatened.

"Oh, you would, wouldn't you? No problem at all. With the press as it is you can be sure that anything you say, I can get a bigger space to refute it."

"You mean they would believe you more than me?"

"You bet."

"Well, adieu!"

I quit the committee, held a press con- ference and saw my story buried among the obituary notices while the committee chairman had the front page the next day.

My bank manager was not the least surprised to see me the following month.

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