Saturday, April 25, 2007
A DICTIONARY OF OUR OWN
By: EBOW DANIEL
FOLLOWING “the Independence of Ghana is meaningless etc., speeches in the First Republic tended to link together the country and the continent as in “Ghana in particular and Africa in general”.
“Africa in general and Ghana in particular” had enemies, internal and external, still to be fought to the finish. The external could be assailed only verbally, but ammunition did not lack. On target were “Imperialism”, “Colonialism” and “Neo-Colonialism”!
In books and on various platforms, home and abroad, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, President of the Republic, had many unflattering things to say about the triumvirate of “imperialism”, “colonialism”, and “neo-colonialism”, and for quoting him so often, others made household words of those isms. “Imperialist” could be shouted at any foreigner who displeased us. If any would not stop at a zebra crossing for us to go across the road, the tag was deserving.
Internal enemies were “imperialist agents”. Others were “saboteurs” or nation – wreckers”. It was to contain all such that Preventive Detention was invented in 1958. It was believed that without pre-emptive incarceration, the diabolical deeds of saboteurs could extend to wreckage of national assets, even Akosombo!
“Forward ever ...” was the slogan of the struggle for Independence. Consensus held also that looking “backward” or in any other direction was unpatriotic. To be “inward-looking” was to be the nepotist, as bad for national cohesion as other unapproved ways of looking. It is? any strange that keynote addresses must always end on “the way forward”, even now.
It turns out that the “way forward” is to be united in the common endeavour to rebuild the nation. While we do not live in the ruins of an earthquake or civil war, somehow, we always talk about national development in terms of “rebuilding” and “reconstruction”. Some even begin to ask for a Marshal Plan for the North!
It is for a united Ghana that we abolished the “opposition” at the earliest opportunity, to make room for the “one-party state”. Before long, the discovery was made that in the traditional scheme of thins, there was neither “Opposite” nor any semblance of “political parties”. That was when the “search” for authenticity led to “Union Government”.
From 1979, “Union Government” was to have been the “no party state” in operation. But in spite of a 56 per cent voter endorsement claimed for the outcome of the referendum of that year, “Union Government” remains still born.
“Union Government” spawned many new expressions including “Unigov” which was the abbreviation. As it was also an arrangement for shared power among the army, police and civilians, “Unigov” came to be known also as “APC”, nothing to do with the tablet of that brand name. Still, marketing of the new product was not helped by its association with the medication usually prescribed for headache.
With “Union Government” aborted, political parties are “back on track”, which is to say, they were nearly ran off course, but not quite. Indeed, returned to business are the same political parties that operated in pre-Independence times, now suitably re-branded to suggest dynamic growth. They used to be the party in be the party in a hurry (for wanting “self government now”) versus the gradualists for whom independence was welcome when it may come, but to be ready for it.
Schools, healthcare and housing at little or no cost and jobs are all the things all parties now want, for “the people”, who else? The difference between the parties now refers more to how desperately they want power. Some will stop at nothing, and they have the record that shows.
“As we speak now” is a favourite of “social commentators” who come on the air. They do not want any interruption as they go about their business, till they have “landed”. But must they be in flight all the time?
Apparently, yes. Because to be able to hold forth at once on “representation of the people abroad”, redenomination of the cedis, how to come by additional energy in the short-to-medium term and the long term, how not to implement the new educational reform or what a national asset Michael Essien is, “social commentators” have to be air borne to be able to touch base at all those several points in a mere 30-munite newspaper review programme.
We can only wish the airborne good landing. But for not being expert handlers of all those several subjects and riding so high above everybody, the landing is rarely good.
“A dictionary of our own” is the project to document all Ghanaians for safe keeping “As we speak now”, we have a “Sitting President” when everywhere else, they have only a President. Sitting, kneeling, in bed or in a crouch, there is only one person designated President, without qualifiers of any kind. But that is elsewhere.
It has to be different here. The point is that when besides the elected president, others also are in the news all the time, addressing press conferences at home and abroad on how to run the country, identifying who should be arrested for being “thieves” or what expansion should take place in the prisons to accommodate a larger intake in the coming years, those who report these developments cannot but begin to distinguish between the Elected President and the surrogate, to arrive at a “Sitting President” and the “once upon a time”.
They are right who say these are interesting times. It could be more interesting still. Short of being President, we can still be relevant to our “infant democracy”, merely by providing nourishment in the form of positive speech to complement “positive change”.
As for the upcoming dictionary, the entries already include “probity”, “accountability” and “integrity”. While all three are known individually to other dictionaries, it is stringing them together that makes another peculiarly Ghanaian triumvirate, “probity”, “accountability” and integrity”!
“Transparency” does well by itself. Expected in July to replace the extravagant and soon to be “Old Cedis”, the “Ghana Cedi” has been confirmed for entry, more on account of the infectious promotional song, in particular, the chorus of “the value is the same”!
The “Boom” that comes with an exclamation mark is the entry to watch. Word received from the dictionary’s reviewers is that resembling something in Shakespeare, “boom” is all so “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. On good advice, therefore, “boom” is not to be taken seriously, not until an allegation of “bribe-taking” lately leveled against opposition MPs can be substantiated.
“Otherwise unemployed” is the entry against “social commentators”. It is yet to be confirmed, probably not. After all, they also serve the nation who only sit and talk.
More anon; or as they say in media-speak, “stay tuned”!
TIMES WEEKEND - Saturday, April 28, 2007 Page: 14