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‘It doesn’t make sense to me!’ 6-year-old tells me!

In trying to understand some goings-on in Ghana in recent times, my mind wandered off to an encounter across the Atlantic with a six-year-old nephew some years ago!

In our Ghanaian culture, a child is not allowed to tell an adult he is not making sense or more directly, talking nonsense, even if the adult himself knows that is exactly what he is doing! Indeed, some adults get offended when told by colleagues/friends that they are not making sense.

For a child in Ghana to dare tell an adult he is not making sense, he is likely to find himself at the receiving end of a “bentoa!” Bentoa’s English/Christian name ranges from “enema-bulb” to “enema-syringe” to a combination of “enema-bulb-syringe.”

While “bentoa-ic administration” may be medicinal, as a quick way to clean the colon, it has a secondary use as instant justice, particularly in the village, for any perceived misbehaviour by a child. It is a way of punishing kids, as the ginger, cloves and pepper that go into the concoction are not anal-friendly. In this era of Human Rights trumpeting, however, “bentoa” appears to have lost the disciplining power it wielded over naughty kids in my days.

In other cultures, however, telling someone he is not making sense is not an insult, though it may be impolite! Wikipaedia states:

“The word itself is not impolite, but it can be used in an impolite manner. “I must respectfully question whether X explains Y because Z seems to contradict it” would be very polite. “My opinion is that X explaining Y is nonsense,” is less polite.”

So, why did a six-year-old kid tell me, “It doesn’t make sense to me”?

Nephew

We had arrived towards the evening in Albany from New York City after a three-hour journey by bus. My little nephew immediately asked me to go play football with him on a nearby field. I told him I was tired, which made him unhappy with me. On his return from school the next day, he asked me again to go play football with him. Again, I told him I needed to rest because I was tired.

That was when he fired at me, “What do you mean? Yesterday, you said you were tired. Today too you are telling me you are tired! It doesn’t make sense to me!”

I heard myself say, you are lucky “bentoa-ic administration” is a no-go area in this jurisdiction on grounds of human rights/child abuse!”

Otherwise, how can a six-year-old dare tell me a simple act like resting after a long journey, and not doing what he wants me to do, doesn’t make sense to him!

But seriously, many things in Ghana, in my nephew’s words, do “not make sense to me.”

1. Why should the maturity of my bonds in 2023 be pushed to 2028 in the Domestic Debt Exchange Programme after the famous assurance that “there will be no haircut?”

2. Why have road traffic accidents become almost a daily feature as we look helplessly on? When a celebrity/politician dies or gets injured in an RTA, TV/radio are full of their names/pictures. For ordinary people, however, they are mere statistics, eg. “21 killed in a gory accident!”

3. Do the authorities not watch TV programmes every night showing children writing, with their stomachs on the floor for lack of furniture?

4. Why should some homes store more money than some banks, such that it takes months for disappearing monies to be found out, accidentally? Meanwhile, it appears one talks about such aberrations at one’s own risk in our democracy!

5. Why has “galamsey” been deliberately allowed to spin out of control to enrich individual pockets at the expense of the general good? Pra, Ankobra, Tano, etc. have become sludges of heavy metal moving to the sea, resulting from “galamsey!”

6. Why have blatant “Squealer-like” lies, as in George Orwell’s classic, Animal Farm, driven away the truth, making integrity a non-virtue, and telling lies routine?

Discussion

Between 2008-2009, I served in Uganda as the UN’s Senior Military Advisor to former President of Mozambique H.E. Joachim Chissano. H.E. Kofi Annan had appointed President Chissano as the Special-Envoy-of-the-Secretary-General (SESG) for the Lord’s-Resistance-Army (LRA)-Affected area of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic, Northern Uganda and South Sudan.

Soon after arrival, I realised that Ugandan dailies had screaming headlines of murders daily. When I questioned a top official on this, he said, “General, when human beings know they can get away with murder, they will kill with impunity. But where the law works, and they know they will be killed for murder, they will not commit murder!”

John Dryden, the first English poet-laureate appointed in 1668 by King Charles II after Oliver Cromwell executed his father King Charles I in 1648, said, “But far numerous was the herd of such, who think too little, who talk too much!” In effect, thinking and talking are inversely related.

Is ours a case of too much talking and too little thinking/doing, as Dryden said? Some sardonically call it “NATO,” (No Action, Talk Only)
No nation can thrive on lies, dishonesty, deception and grand-stealing. Nature’s justice will ensure that evil never wins in the long term.

With the abundant human and natural resources Ghana has, with a relatively small population of about 30 million, there is no reason to be in the mess we are in, after the bright start we made in 1957!

“It does not make sense to me!”

Leadership, lead by example! Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!

Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association
Nairobi, Kenya
Council Chairman
Family Health University College, 
Accra                                                                               
dkfrimpong@yahoo.com

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