African News

Ghana: Where Progress and Culture Boogie

18 May 2006 at 06:35 | 425 views

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, our correspondent in Accra, looks at Ghana’s objective society and how they are taking on an increasingly gullible populace in the country’s progress

Reporting recently about how some aspects of the irrational Ghanaian culture is still entangling the country’s progress, the development-orientated Ghana News Agency said a Francis Amponsah, a jobless 26-year-old resident in the rural setting of Nkawie in the Ashanti Region told a local circuit court that evil spirits disturbing him compelled him to commit crime.

Amposah, like many an average Ghanaian, reflecting some belief systems within the Ghanaian culture, is convinced that evil spirits or demons influence people to commit crime. Elsewhere in Tongo, in the Ghana’s Upper East Region, Bugre Gban, a 28-year-old butcher, tried to test his juju by shooting himself. Gban killed himself instead. These are Ghanaian culture at work, tormenting the people in their development process and not an occasional supermarket-tabloid sort of Ghana.

The Amponsah and Gban pattern persists in Ghana’s development process. In Amponsah and Gban while the scientific side of their mind demand objective evidence as to why evil spirits and juju should let them commit crime, as some aspects of their Ghanaian culture usually do, their brains’ mythopoeic, irrational juju-thinking side entice them to irrational marvels - to evil spirits, juju, demons or ‘kayayoo’ (porter) turning into a fowl when the ‘kayayoo’ picks a 20,000-cedi note from the ground.

Can these matters be addressed with a whole mind, as the Ghanaian media and other members of the country’s objective society mount campaigns to refine some serious inhibitions within the Ghanaian culture? Can the two instincts of the Ghanaian brain, the rational and the irrational, formed by their Ghanaian culture, be made to fit together?

Evil spirits? Juju? Kayayoo turning into a fowl? The economist Nii Moi Thompson, who is fast emerging as part of the new generation of Ghanaian thinkers for challenging certain erroneous values in Ghana’s development process, will discard the possibility. “Prove them,” he would demand. Such thinking would have solved Ghana’s developmental problems by now.

But the Ghanaian development process, driven by the increasing democratization of communications and the right to communicate, is offering broad answers about how evil spirits, juju and kayayoo turning into a fowl might possibly be. In the cases of both Amponsah and Gban, the Ghana Police Service, part of the country’s objective society, told law courts that they were led into crime - stealing and self-murder - by their human agency, the will to commit crime, and not any demons or evil spirit or the test of juju.

Why is the average Ghanaian fascinated by irrational forces in their daily developmental struggles? The major answer - certain erroneous ancient values emanating from within their culture in the face of developmental challenges - is understandable enough. Nii Moi Thompson would say despite human curiosity in the face of the unknown, there is a “limit to the supernatural...We have to start reasoning, thinking in our development process.”

While certain mysteries and beliefs emanating from the Ghanaian culture titillate the Ghanaian mind (witches wining and dining on human meat on top of a tall tree over-night, for instance), it usually demeans the human place in the Ghanaian cosmological and developmental scheme.

The Ghana that her founding fathers created, out of African civilization, as the late Dr. J.B. Danquah will tell you, becomes ever more marginal, a receding dot. Nii Moi Thompson would tell you evil spirits and jujus and kayayoos turning into fowls need not be superior to Ghanaians’ will to develop from within the objective, rational aspects of their culture and Ghanaians’ ability to comprehend the irrational within their culture.

Ghana tightens. If a kayayoo turns into a fowl or evil spirits drive one to crime, or juju tests Ghanaian manhood, then we become prisoners in lonely captivity, tapping rough witches’ coded messages on the penitentiary wall and hoping for an answering tap - without which the Ghanaian gaze at the unsettled possibility that we are truly, absolutely alone in our progress scheme.

Such an abyss may mean the irrational, entangling aspects of our culture are more superior to the rational, objective aspects of our culture. The Ghanaian becomes inferior in the face of irrational, supernatural challenges - attributing malaria, their key killer, to evil spirits instead of their sanitation culture - a Nii Moi Thompson turned upside down, wheeling in mid air. The Ghanaian’s dignity is under siege from evil forces. The thinker Voltaire will say: “Remember your dignity as a man.”

Ghanaians’ fascination with the irrational aspects of their culture - the disturbing spectre of ritual killing of children for traditional sacrifice, as the Accra-based The Ghanaian Chronicle editorialised recently, for instance - may reflect the Ghanaians inability to think beyond certain erroneous beliefs in the progress scheme of things, having failed to exhaust the secrets and novelties of Ghana and of Ghanaian behaviour, which, on the whole, come to think of it, is nothing new.

Ghanaians know this too well. Ghanaian elites, ever lazy in intellectualizing from within their values first and any other second and short of which have made their country’s development paradigms dominated by foreign values, are yet to borrow from the Westerners, “who have wandered through centuries of darkness and enlightenment and rationalism and scientific method and then the various neo-darkness of the 20th century.” Maybe Ghana is under a sort of quarantine from using her reason for progress.

Until Ghanaians, especially her elites, become Nii Moi Thompsons, and in that sense rationalize their cultural values, as Kojo Yanka is talking of intellectualizing Ghanaian local languages in their progress bid, and move away from the evil spirits dictating crime or a kayayoo being turned into a fowl by juju forces, it will go on raining juju and evil spirits upon the Ghanaian mind in Ghana’s larger development game.

Photo: President John Kufuor of Ghana

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