Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Circle

'Circle'
a short story by E.Osei-Poku


A woman carrying several sacs of cassava dough temporarily blocked his view. For thirty minutes he’d been following his mark, Anthony Ezra Tamakloe, the charismatic yet unorthodox CEO of Active Chapel. Away from the pulpit and behind the scenes, he was known as Mr Tony Money, a name that was a far cry from the pious devout man of God that he portrayed to the world. Tony had come from nothing. Absolutely nothing! A bastard child conceived on a night of drunken sex with a kelewele vendor. He never knew his mother, who’d apparently dumped him at the front gate of his father’s house two days after he was born. His father, an automotive spare parts dealer in Kumasi, had a knack for hitting. Hitting frequently and hitting hard. Tony ran away from home at 7 and made his way to Accra, the big city.


Yes, he’d been following Tony Money, a ‘devout’ man of God. This was something he’d done many times before. Many had died by his hand and Tony Money would be the next. He didn’t need a reason; he didn’t need a cause, just a sizeable cash amount deposited in an account of his choosing. 70% payment now and 30% on completion of the task. Tony was a high priority ‘task’ so the cash amount was large. Larger than he’d anticipated but he’d still negotiated for considerably more following the initial offer.

He sidestepped the woman carrying the cassava dough, effortlessly. Even in the thick human traffic of Kwame Nkrumah Circle, his lithe muscular frame wove through the crowd like an alley cat. Heart beating steadily, adrenaline coursing through his system keeping him alert, focused, light footed. He was the hunter. He was the master of his art. He was the top of the food chain. Just a few hours ago, he’d been sat on the floor of room 149 at the Niagra Hotel with his weapons meticulously laid out before him. So many to choose from and each with its merits and history. Every weapon he owned had tasted blood, every single one had its story. For this kill, the weapon had to fit. It had to make sense. He’d eventually settled on a Dauntless 3.34” solid titanium Phil Boguszewski compact hunting knife. There was something almost worship-worthy about the beauty and curve of the knife. This was the one he was going to use to take out a religious man.
He mentally located the position of the knife on his body, sheathed horizontally in the small of his back just above his belt. He knew exactly where his palm would land once he reached for it. He knew exactly how the blade would unsheathe when he called on it. He knew exactly where and how he was going to place the blade to inflict the death blow. No rehearsal needed. Experience had been a good teacher.

He had closed the gap between him and Tony, the Kwame Nkrumah Circle fountain a couple of 100 metres ahead of them, Ɔdɔ Rice behind him to his left and the Vodafone building across the road to his right. The human traffic between them was dense and bustling, mostly phone vendors hawking a variety of original devices mixed in with countless cheap Chinese imitations. He had to further close the gap and be within striking distance before they reached the overhead foot bridge. That was where the human traffic was densest. That was where Anthony Ezra Tamakloe would take his last breath before meeting the maker he’d preached to so many about.

With little effort, he picked up the pace, a brisk walk just short of a trot, cutting and weaving through the crowd painlessly. A few beads of sweat were now forming on his brow but they were inconsequential. The sounds and smells of Circle had all but faded to nothingness. He was of singular purpose and every impulse, every synapse, every nerve ending, every muscle fibre and tendon had been repurposed by his body to fulfil his one objective. KILL!

Having closed the distance between them he slowly and expertly reached for his knife. As expected, his palm landed exactly where it was meant to, caressing the cold but familiar titanium handle. He savoured the feeling and let it linger for a second. With an ever so slight flick of the wrist he decoupled the press stud that held the blade in place and felt the smooth motion as the knife broke free of its restraint.

Then he felt it. The same agonising death he’d inflicted on so many before him. Cruel, cold and precise. The blade that expertly punctured through his 3rd intercostal space was flat, fierce and skilfully wielded. He suspected it wasn’t much unlike his own. A weapon he would have liked to own himself. The pain shot through his body like nothing he’d experienced before. He was powerless to stop it and had been completely caught unguarded. His killer knew it and he could feel him savour the moment. That moment of absolute power and control! That moment when the sniper sees the bullet tear down his target through his scope. He felt every cruel motion of the blade as it twisted its way through his pleural sac into his lung and towards his heart. His killer was good. It would be a single blow kill, clean and clinical. There would be little blood to show for his death as he’d most certainly bleed out internally.

How had he not seen this coming? The blade twisted its way through his heart, rupturing his left ventricular wall. Blood gushed into his lung. This was his end. An elegant death inflicted by a superior hunter. Within seconds, the knife recoiled and was free from his body, inflicting even more damage on its way out. Life drained out of him. He dropped his Phil Boguszewski Dauntless blade and clutched the point of entry. There was no point looking for his killer. He’d be long gone, merged seamlessly with the bustling Circle crowd. More life drained out of him.

He looked up in the direction of Tony who’d stopped just ahead of him and was staring directly at him, waiting to meet his gaze. Their eyes met momentarily. Tony raised a finger and shook it as if to say ‘tut tut’. He stared for a moment longer and then nonchalantly turned and continued on his way. Within moments, Tony Money was gone!

He leaned against a post at the foot of the overhead bridge and waited to die. It was ironic how life left him in one of the liveliest places he knew. The thought made him smile.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Cleanliness? Godliness? I’m sure there’s a saying.


You live in a FILTHY COUNTRY!

Filthy, a common sight throughout Accra
Picture courtesy of: http://edition.radioxyzonline.com/pages/news/05302013-0818/12395.stm

I live in a residential estate in Teshie/Nungua, a nice, relatively clean and quiet suburb of Accra. A few weeks ago, at the height of the rainy season, I woke up feeling particularly 'green thumbed'. The earth was calling to me and my garden tools and I was going to oblige. Prune back some trees, de-weed the lawn, transplant some seedlings and generally give the foliage a good once-over. Besides, gardening was the one activity that kept dearest wife and overly energetic kids away from me for fear of being roped into performing some horticultural activity. Ceres herself was on my side today and nothing was going to get in my way. All suited and booted up, I stepping outside the house and was immediately and brutally assaulted by the putrid smell of decaying flesh. Something had died…very close by!

I went outside and saw my neighbour, Kofi, standing outside with a shovel, bucket and a very perplexed look on his face. Without speaking, he pointed to a spot not 15m from our houses. There was a black, bulging polythene bag stuffed into the gutter, blocking it and causing the sewer water to dam on one side. We both slowly made our way in that direction expecting the worst. The smell was almost unbearable. We carefully liberated the stuffed bag from the gutter and gingerly made a hole in the side of it to check the contents. I was convinced that we may have to call the police.

Fortunately we didn’t. Some IDIOT had stuffed a bag full of innards, heads, feathers and all other inedible parts of several chickens/roosters. I guess the moron didn’t have two brain cells to rub together to come up with a decent way to dispose of this so waited till everyone in the neighbourhood was asleep and then, without a shred of common sense or decency, simply dumped it into the nearest gutter he could find. Retarded you say? I beg to differ, I’ve come to find that this is very common behaviour in this country.
I could go on about several other cases involving dead pets carelessly tossed onto rubbish heaps or simply left by the roadside but I’ll spare you the ordeal.

Ghana is a dirty country. It may sound harsh but I dare you to challenge that statement! And don't come back with some asinine comparison of Ghana to an even dirtier country like Chad, as if relative dirt is supposed to be okay. Let me be clear. Less dirty is not a valid argument. What's maddening about the dirtiness in Ghana is that most of it is completely unnecessary. I'm talking about an entire nation that thinks it's okay to leave our sewers (gutters) uncovered, build latrines over said open sewers and allow people to urinate in them for a small fee. Shockingly, the same people then wonder why an entire area stinks to high heaven.  Someone please tell me why this is necessary. On separate occasions, an African American, Zambian, Kenyan and South African have all asked me, and I quote;

'...Osei, why do you have open sewers in the capital...?'

Not knowing how to respond to this unwelcome but sincere question I simply shrugged on each occasion and said;

 'We've given you Azonto now you're asking for covered sewers too? Ungrateful foreigners...'

In Ghana we seem to have a chronic unawareness of the environment. The very few that actually know that something called the environment exists are so bloody apathetic in their regard of it that they may as well not matter. I mean the number of times I've driven through town and seen people confidently walk out of their houses only to empty the contents of a chamber pot into the...wait for it...open gutter! If you really want to see how careless and completely moronic Ghanaians are about our environment, I beseech you to take a swim down the in the Odaw River towards the Korle Lagoon and see if you don't emerge from the other side as some sort disfigured mutant with super powers. We have completely killed off this river with the sheer amount of garbage and muck tossed into it over the years. It's ironic that the area around the Lighthouse and Korle Lagoon is locally referred to as Lavender Hill.

Swim anyone? State of the River Odaw
Picture courtesy of: http://www.dvafoto.com/2013/07/valentino-bellinis-bit-rot-project/
Oh, and our local markets, well they're completely environmentally deplorable too.

-   Agbobloshie
-   Makola
-   Salaga
-   Kaneshie
-   Madina 

They're built with absolutely no regard for order, cleanliness and convenience.  Agblobloshie on a rainy day anyone? Didn't think so. Almost all of the organic, not-so-organic and God-knows-what-else waste is conveniently dumped into the River Odaw that flows close by. The least of all the evils mentioned above in my opinion would be Madina or Kaneshi market but even those are a far cry from anything resembling clean. These major markets are built in an extraordinarily cumbersome way so that they are unable to cater for the convenience needs of both vendors and shoppers alike. To compound the problem, they have been allowed to grow and sprawl uncontrolled, like a cancer. There are very few, and in some cases, no access to public toilets and so the vendors resort to ‘clever’ ways of relieving themselves and disposing of said relief, usually in the River. It’s actually quite remarkable that more of us don’t end up with dysentery, typhoid or some other such food/water borne disease.


But with all that said, at least Ghanaians appear to dress nicely and claim to live in clean homes. Thank God for small mercies.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

No Country for…err…Babies?

No Country for Babies...picture borrowed from http://blog.marshotelonline.com/2008/11/13/if-wise/

Okay, for those of you guys who have never had kids, let me disambiguate the experience for you. Yes, babies are cute, sometimes. Babies are annoying, most of the time. Babies devour any semblance of a personal life you may have, all the time. Babies all but destroy your sex life, proven fact.

Don’t let the mothers fool you. They have a completely different experience from fathers. I mean c’mon, evolution and biology have structured it all in a way to ensure that the bond between mother and offspring is strong. If you’ve ever had the pleasure/displeasure (depending on your ‘ick’ tolerance) of witnessing the birth of the child, you’ll notice that immediately after the child is delivered, it is placed on the mother’s bare skin (skin to skin contact). It’s easy to see why you’d think that this was simply a nice gesture but the practice is actually rooted in some sound science. You see, there’s something called oxytocin…blah blah blah (click here if you’re really interested).

Let’s put the science of mother/baby bonding aside for a second. Let’s also put aside the ‘I don’t know what the f*ck is about to happen to me’ cluelessness of the new dad. Let’s instead turn to some of the cultural practices, ranging from the ‘Huh?’ through ‘What the F*ck?’ to the ‘Holy Sh*t!’ that our society inflicts on its new-borns. 

Could that be any hotter?
According to many ‘old’ and apparently ‘wise’ Ghanaian memes, a baby is born incomplete. I could agree with this sentiment if by ‘incomplete’ they meant that for instance, at the time of birth a baby does not have enough mental and physical capacity to be able to fend for itself in the most basic of ways. I could maybe buy into that. But no! That’s not what they mean. According to my mom, nanny and every over 50 year old woman, when the baby is born, there are several sores (ulcers) that haven’t completely healed (of course this is bullsh*t but let’s play along). To aid the process of healing these said ulcers, they employ the use of hot; actually scratch that, STEAMING water!

The first of these ‘ulcers’ is in the head. Yeah, you read that right, In the kid’s friggin’ head. One treats this effectively by massaging the baby’s head with a towel, soaked in ‘I’m about to pluck the feathers off a chicken’ steaming hot water. This is done at least twice a day much to the displeasure of the usually helpless mother. I’ll simply not describe the emotional state of the baby during this treatment.

The second of these ‘ulcers’ is in the…wait for it people…anus. Yes, one of the most sacred and in some cases, revered effusive passages. To treat this (at least the flavour of it I saw, and there are many), you get a small plastic cup and punch a nail-sized hole through the bottom. After bathing the child, turn him/her over, spread his/her about-to-be-thermally-abused butt cheeks, fill the cup with hot water and let it slowly drip from the bottom of said perforated cup directly onto child’s anus. This ‘remedy’ is apparently good for treating the non-visible and most possibly non-existent anal ulcer that every Ghanaian baby is unfortunately born with.

I won't even talk about the location of the third ulcer, too gruesome to tell.

Cover me, I’m cold!
Another consequence of being born Ghanaian and incomplete is the fact that Ghanaian babies are almost always cold. Always! I remember once taking a stroll with my baby boy in the front yard of our house. The idea was the give the little chap a whiff of Ghana’s characteristically humid and dusty but fresh air, as he tended to spend most of his days indoors. I’d even cracked out one of baby boy’s new Mothercare onesies, a cute little sleeveless and legless number. I mean c’mon, how was I supposed to know that if he wasn't swaddled and thermal insulated Eskimo style ‘the air’, and I quote ‘will pass through the soles of his feet and make him catch pneumonia…’ leading ultimately to a certain emphysema & pneumonia related death.

Did I mention the need for a hat? No? Well, apparently that’s a must in humid 28°ish weather for Ghanaian new-borns. Otherwise, just like you guessed, ‘the air will pass through the soft part of the head…catch pneumonia.’ leading ultimately to a certain emphysema & pneumonia related death.

The head covering stupidity goes even further. Shockingly, for Ghanaian babies, God and evolution together decided that two nostrils weren't enough to breathe through. Therefore the fontanel (soft part of a baby’s head) is yet another mechanism by which the Ghanaian baby breathes. Baby got a blocked nose? Rub some eucalyptus or better still, some ‘Chinese Robb’ on the fontanel and see that blockage disappear. But here’s what happens to that idiocy when it’s put to the test; if a baby breathes through the fontanel (even partially) why are we so intent on covering it with headgear all the time? Wouldn't that be like an adult stuffing a piece of scrunched-up toilet roll up a nostril?

Seriously folks, this ‘the baby will die from cold’ thing goes even deeper, both figuratively and literally. Okay, so my wife is on a video shoot with her crew and a major client. She is pregnant and luckily, unlike other women who crave weird and sometimes harmful or unhealthy things during pregnancy, she just wants ice. That’s it, ICE! Being the resourceful person she is, and the boss, she manages to procure a cup of ice chippings in the middle of rural Ghana to satisfy her not-so-weird craving. There is a little old lady present when she starts chomping down the ice. Cue #unwantedadvice

  • Little old lady (look of disapproval): ‘Young lady, you shouldn't do that, it’s not good’
  • Wife (completely bemused): ‘Why?’
  • Little old lady: ‘The baby will catch a cold…’ There was more to that statement but by this time my wife’s anti-idiotic speech filter had kicked in, so even though the little old lady’s mouth was moving all my wife heard was radio static ‘shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh’.  

The ‘weight’ of starch
This one is my current personal favourites, even if it’s because of the sheer stupidity of it all. Now mummy dearest is a smart person, usually. She has good insights and lots of #unwantedadvice to share about raising a child. Her most recent exploit was to edit the diet of my newest baby boy to exclude starch(es). I say starch but what she actually meant was exclusion of cassava and all related cassava products; gari, tapioca, eba etc. This advice had been slowly building up but finally came to a head when at 13 months, my very boisterous and healthy baby boy was still not fully walking but well on his way.

Apparently, starch isn't good for children since it’s too ‘heavy’ and makes them feel lethargic. But not all types of starch do this. For instance maize is fine, so is rice, so is yam, so is potato, so is millet, so is sorghum, so is wheat…the only exclusion seems to be cassava. Go figure! Needless to say that this gem of sage information/advice has been shelved in the same area of my brain as Big-foot and alien abductions.

Alas, I’ve got one more kid to go and I’m pretty certain that we’re going to have HIM here in Ghana. That means 2 or 3 more years of logic defying idiocy from people who should simply know better. If you’re experiencing, or have already experienced some of what I’ve said (and I’ve only just scratched the proverbial surface), why don’t you join me in this resistance of all things stupid and getting the word out to potential parents of Ghanaian babies…’if at all in doubt, ask your doctor/midwife.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

What? You have an opinion?


After some introspection, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a 'dickish' bully. Not in the classic sense of the word; ‘A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.’ I’m more of an intellectual and social bully of my peers. I like getting one over them and take delight in the fact that I’ve come out on top in a confrontation with an equally matched opponent. I’m 'dickish' because I could be much nicer about how I go about it.

As a thirty-something year old man, it’s worked well for me so far. The trick is knowing when you’re beat and gracefully conceding that defeat. However, like I said, I only do this to people who I deem equal or superior to me. That’s important and I’ll explain why. I’m sure many of you reading can relate to this experience, or at least some part of it.

Eager returnee, ‘great’ opportunity…
Upon returning home in December 2010 after 8 years being away, I landed my first ever job in Ghana. (I’d had previous work experience outside of Ghana). The company and opportunity looked exciting. A small start-up with a big idea; an idea to revolutionize the internal workings of an entire key economic sector. No one had ever tried anything so bold and the task, although overwhelming, was an exciting one.

Besides me, there were some pretty intelligent and enthusiastic people who were willing to dedicate time, energy and intellectual property to tackle the unique set of challenges we were facing. I’m talking about really strategically and operationally smart people. The stage was set and the opportunity was ours for the taking. I quickly discovered a problem though, a bottleneck of sorts. Almost every attempt at reform to help inject momentum was thwarted.
  • No idea was good enough
  • No opinion was valid
  • No process/procedure was robust enough
  • No report or document was thorough enough
  • No design was acceptable
  • No font, colour, icon, arrangement…nothing one did was EVER good enough!
The reason?


EVERYTHING, I mean every single thing had to conform to the standard and get the approval of a single individual.

In effect, a potentially great company with an equally great idea was, and had been moving as fast as a dead snail. An entire management group of young, smart, eager and dedicated people had been reduced to a group of bobbleheads. Reluctant yes-men who were powerless to inject some real positive change to the mostly normative way of thinking. In my opinion 'normative' in this context, was a stale and mostly regressive way of thinking, but one could argue that point.

To make things worse, the entire company had not only become hyper-aware of a messy internal political ecosystem but had also become infected by it's leaders' dysfunctional way of working.

'The company and product have suffered because of this and will continue to do so if things don't change.'
                                                                                 Quote from current employee

Source: www.cartoonstock.com - Slightly changed from original material
Now I come to the point I was trying to make about bullies, bullying and a corporate culture that seems to encourage it. There was an alarming amount of bullying being meted out at all levels because the example being set by the leaders. Some of it was intentional;
  • Exclusion from decision making.
  • The vicious ‘blame game’.
  • Public and often heated verbal altercations whose effects went far beyond the board room.
  • Managers given the appearance of authority but undermined at every turn.
  • Overly aggressive and unnecessarily punitive HR policy and person.
Other symptoms were more inadvertent;
  • Sudden and often sharp changes in direction due to a lack of clear focus/vision. This resulted in a colossal amount of good work done but left unused or completely abandoned.
  • Favouritism/Nepotism – ‘Untouchables’, individuals who were clearly and openly regarded in higher stead than other managers, not necessarily based on performance but a more personal (out of office) relationship.
  • A ‘them vs. us divide between management and staff.
Over a relatively short period of time this behaviour gave birth to its own ecosystem of fear, mistrust and apathy. It systematically eroded trust, self-confidence and willingness to contribute or participate. It instilled fear in managers; the fear of making decisions because they would be undone. Fear of committing to work because your efforts would be undermined publicly and eventually undone. It also introduced such apathy to the extent that managers would frequently submit reports late so as to avoid being asked to change it (font, format, colour etc.) a million times. People simply ‘gave up’ and waited to be told what to do and how to do it.

By the time I left, my sense of worth had been reduced to almost nothing. My psyche had taken such a consistently forceful beating that I almost chalked my prior stellar professional career successes to dumb luck.

At the lowest point, I was actually told, and I quote;

‘You’re good at dinner table conversations and outings…(insert additional verbal placatory nonsense here)…but not much else!’


**Note: Only a couple of months earlier, the same person had congratulated me on how I was doing a great job managing the fast pace, limited [human] resources and demonstrating leadership and maturity. 

People left. Others came. Like me, others were eventually forced out. And the company continues to exist.

But here’s what my stay at this company taught me about being a bully, corporate or otherwise;
  • It’s damaging to the growth, continuance and prosperity of a group of people who should be pulling in the same direction.
  • It cripples innovation and progress.
  • On an interpersonal level, it breeds resentment, malice and social dissonance.
  • It destroys people’s sense of worth and stunts personal and professional growth.
And the lesson is...
In short, I learned how not to manage a group of people, how not to build a company. I’ve learned that trying to achieve anything innovative or progressive an ecosystem of bullying, fear and apathy is akin to p*ssing into the wind. I've learned that companies go through austere times but a lack of money does not justify a lack of scruples, a disregard of decency or an abandonment of ethics.

I've learnt that people are the life-blood of every successful organization and those organizations that remain successful put people front and centre of their culture…NetAPP, Google, etc. They demand more from you but in return provide the right tools, challenging environment, personal/professional development, empathy, respect, decency and so much more…

Most importantly, I've learned NEVER to let ANYONE (company nor individual), get me to doubt myself nor my proven ability as a talented manager and IT professional. NEVER AGAIN!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Spanners, monkeys, men and morons…



A couple of years ago, while spending a relaxing weekend at a friend’s house in England, we got into a heated discussion about Ghana and Ghanaians. Luckily, we had tonnes of chilled beers and lots of barbequed red meat to calm frayed tempers. The primitive and atavistic nature of man dictates that meat and beer can deliver enough ‘umph’ to both spark up and dispel violent encounters between two men.

He had carelessly and flippantly suggested that ‘Ghanaians are a mediocre set of people, mediocre in everything they did…’ Although I completely agreed with him and I had my reasons for doing so, I was less clear as to why he’d said so. Cue argument…lights, camera, ACTION!

Generally speaking, Ghanaian craftsmen, artisans civil servants don’t show pride in anything that they do so their efforts always come out looking unplanned, half-assed and generally ‘shitty’ looking.’

‘OUCH!’

I’m afraid that there was no amount of chilled beer or honey barbeque sauce and Jack Daniels drenched red meat that would have me arguing against THAT particular point. I mean seriously, I had recently graduated from one of the supposed best technology universities in Ghana and arguably West Africa. A university where not a single elevator in ANY of the high-rise buildings worked

NB: You should know that every single residential hall had an eight (8) storey high-rise component.

Recent school of thought regarding the lift situation was not;

‘Oh, since we’re a technology university, let’s utilize our ‘technology-ness’ and have them repaired to inject some modernity into the school. If that’s not a good enough reason, then at least let’s fix them for the disabled students, lecturers and numerous visitors to passed through this (clearing throat) ILLUSTRIOUS institution of higher learning.’

Nooooooooo!

Instead it had been suggested, for serious consideration, that the lift shafts be gutted and converted to garbage chutes so that untidy, lazy-ass and often dumb students could simply walk up to an elevator and fling their garbage down the shaft for mind numbingly easy disposal.

Congratulations KNUST. Way to go!











There IS an inordinate amount of mediocrity in Ghana and it exists at every level, EVERY SINGLE STRATUM OF GHANAIAN SOCIETY! Everyone reading this piece, and has lived or is living in Ghana, can give me one, if not more, examples of an experience of Ghanaian mediocrity of grandiosely biblical proportions. You wouldn’t even have to think too much to come up with one.


Here are a couple of my experiences.

Marauding mechanics!

Everyone knows the term ‘spanner monkey’. I mean they’re commonplace in almost every country. Morons masquerading as mechanics who don’t know the difference between an engine and fridge let alone a wrench and Allen key. Ghana seems chock-full of these idiots. I mean, the worst mechanic I ever took my car to in England completely botched the work (exhaust muffler replacement) but;
Kept the upholstery inside the car spotless.
  • Didn’t damage any other thing except the one thing he was working on.
  • Returned my car to me spotless and fresh smelling.
  • Gave me a complete list of other things I should look out for.
  • Didn’t steal my car battery and replace it with a dud (No, I am not joking!).

Even this incompetent monkey moron mechanic realized the need to try and appear professional so as to continue with me as a customer.

Fast forward to Ghana.


Similar situation, different car, different problem (spark plug wire replacement).
Car handed to mechanic in pristine condition, only juddering when driving.  Car returned to me as follows;



  • Greasy boot prints strewn all over my seats (including baby’s car seat).
              (How the fuck does a mechanic get his boot prints inside a child’s car seat?)
  • Driver-side mirror completely shattered.
  • Bonnet release cable yanked and ripped out of its restraints and dangling haplessly inside the car.
  • Excess bolts and nuts that obviously came from my engine! This is not IKEA furniture. Surely ‘Kofi Broni’ knew exactly what he was doing when he put them in there.
  • Old, greasy spark plugs carelessly left on the front passenger seat passively transferring black grease onto the upholstery with every jerk of the car.

Completely un-f*cking necessary.

By the way why does every Ghanaian mechanic’s yard have to look like an Autobot took a royal greasy dump of mangled metal on the ground?

In pain? Like I give a sh*t!

A dear friend of mine recently had the all too common unfortunate experience delivering her baby in one of the so-called better hospitals in Accra. I’ll spare the hospital the shame of being named (37 Military) in this blog. Now, hospitals are nasty, scary and usually uncomfortable places with bad food, big machines, weird smells, doctors and nurses. Nurses are supposed to be the antidote to doctors. Friendly, helpful, caring, professional, empathetic etc. Not in this hospital that shall remain unnamed (37 Military).
It all started when the nurses borrowed stole half of the supplies on the list they ask all expectant mothers to bring. Oops! Guess this can be forgiven since it is well-known the Ministry of Health simply doesn’t consider medical supplies as critical to the running of a hospital. Ah well!

Anyway, it then continued when they refused her husband entry into the ward to help her through the delivery of their child. Apparently potential fathers try to get into the maternity ward, not to help their wives through the difficult process of birthing, but to look at other women’s vaginas.

It got worse when they [nurses] politely but assertively told her that since she had enjoyed the act of sex that ultimately brought her here, she might as well now shut up, grin and bear the sheer agony she was going through. Seriously readers, I’m not joking!  It was essential that she not yell in pain and disturb them as this distracted the nurses from the job they were actually there to do, chat!

I’m not exactly sure but I think the worst experience was when a demon nurse scolded her for shrieking in pain during a particularly fierce and nasty contraction. For good measure, she [demon nurse] decided to, without warning, shove her fingers up my friend’s lady passage to check how far she’d dilated. ‘My friend, keep quite! You haven’t reached there yet!’ was the comment that followed.


Cruel. Abusive. Unnecessary. Unprofessional and Mediocre.

 Nurses let me remind you of your oath to us all;

‘In the full knowledge of the task I am undertaking, I promise to take care of the sick with all the skill and understanding I possess, without regard to race, creed, colour, politics, or social status, sparing no effort to conserve life, to alleviate suffering, and promote health.

I will respect at all times the dignity and religious beliefs of the patients entrusted in my care, holding in confidence all personal information entrusted to me and refraining from any action which might endanger life or health.

I will endeavour to keep my professional knowledge and skill at the highest level and give loyal support and cooperation to all members of the health team.’

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Some 'Christian Nation' this is!

Part 1: ‘Owe no man…, but love…Romans 13:8


Okay, so this is where I stand on Christianity. I am Christian. I believe in God and Jesus Christ (One and the same in my opinion). I’m NOT a frequent church goer and don’t intend to become one. I can’t stand the charismatic Christian movement. And finally and most importantly, I think that most Christians in this beloved country of mine are among the worst hypocrites in the world!
Furthermore, I believe that my relationship with God is a personal one and I should be left alone to explore the depths of this relationship with no judgment from the Ghanaian Christian right-wing.
Phew, that’s said! I can’t believe it, I’m still alive and not smelling like smoky bacon after being smitten by God!

Before I most recently left Ghana in 2002, I used to fall asleep to the dulcet tones being broadcast over the air by Joy FM. Inevitably though, I’d be rudely awakened the next morning by one preacher man or the other, spewing forth sulfur, brimstone, molten lava and other such menacing substances. A truly horrid experience in the best of cases. The session would almost always culminate in the listeners being asked to place their hands, feet, head and/or other body parts on the radio in order to receive the healing touch of the Holy Spirit. I remember often wondering whether there were people listening, who had squatted over their radios so as to place their swollen piles on it for Holy Spirit healing. Aaaanyway…the point I’m trying to make is that, on the surface, Ghana is a deeply and viscerally Christian and church going country. Or not…?

Peel away a few layers and I find a somewhat different story. A reality that’s far less beautiful than the African print clothing, bend-down boutique (obroni w’awu) garments, lovely costume jewelry and other apparel and adornments that accompany the typical church going Ghanaian to the ritual of Sunday church service. A reality that is nowhere near as pleasant as the commandment given all too often in the bible to ‘…love thy neighbour as thyself.’ (Matthew 22:39, Leviticus 19:18, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, & James 2:8). In reality, what I’ve found is that while Christians absolutely adore the pomp and pageantry associated with Christianity and church going in Ghana, very few actually live their lives by the lessons they learn from the church.

And here comes the disclaimer. I am no means a model Christian, flawed in many ways. I try to do good to others by being kind, empathetic and considerate etc etc…
Let me give you 3 instances (among the many I have experienced since returning to Ghana) where people friends who call themselves staunch Christians have behaved in a manner similar to the people they of often love to criticize.

 (Names in the following anecdotes have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals hypocrites concerned)

True Story 1: “Laptop blues”

Early last year, around February, Ighodaro, a good Nigerian, church going Christian friend I was working with was in dire need of a new laptop. I had another friend in the US who was in the business of procuring electronics and selling them in Ghana for a small profit. 

The stars had aligned and the conversation with Ighodaro went like this;



                Ighodaro: ‘So you can get me a decent machine (laptop)?’

Osei: ‘Yeah, I’ll speak to my contact and he’ll buy one and send it to Ghana. Because he’s getting it for me, there will be no delivery charge, you’ll pay just the cost of the laptop.’

Ighodaro: ‘Really, do I have to pay all upfront or can I pay in installments?’

Osei: ‘Well I’ve spoken to my friend and he says I can split the payments into three and settle over a three month period. Will that work for you?’

Ighodaro: ‘Osei, that’s great. I can’t thank you enough. I’ll definitely settle within 3 months. GOD BLESS YOU!’

I imagine you can see where this is going…Suffice it to say the following; more than a year later, Ighodaro has paid less than a third of his debt. However he has managed to buy himself a Kindle Fire, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and a couple of other cool devices I’d have liked for myself. His debt to me is $800.00.


True Story 2: “Camera Fiasco”

Just before I came to Ghana in 2011, my wife and I had become shutter bugs. To that end, we got a great deal on a brand new Sony α100 DSLR camera. Not the best camera in the world, but more than good enough for amateurs like us who simply wanted to capture images of our young kids and family. Brought the camera into work a couple of times and eventually a really good friend of mine (let’s call him David) asked to borrow the device. Hey…what’s the worst that could happen right? Anyway, David was a conscientious individual who I trusted to look after my camera for me. Besides, David was kindred spirit and a budding shutterbug himself. 


Unfortunately for David, one mishap led to the camera’s rear LCD display being shattered. Of course, the camera was still usable but there was no way to check the settings, preview pictures etc etc…

Hell, sh*t happens right? No problem, just get it fixed and let’s move on. Right?

Wrong! That was in 2011! Camera, still broken! No effort or urgency to get it fixed.

In the meantime, David has gotten himself some really cool gadgets too; a really cool android tablet with a detachable keyboard, a couple of really cool Windows and Android phones. David has even got himself a very nice Canon DSLR of his own. Apparently, my camera is of little or no significance to him so long as he can continue to fund his lifestyle with the things that he wants. Screw anyone else.


True Story 3: “Payday Blues”

Okay, so this particular one is a bit petty but hey, I’m on a roll so to hell with it. Let’s call this friend Emil. Now Emil is a cool dude! Quiet, seemingly shy and a bit of a ladies man. He’s also great fun to hang out with.


Anyway, in one particular month in early 2012 our company was behind on payroll. We were going to be paid a week later than usual. Widespread panic and fear set in. People would die and angels and other celestial beings were crying because salaries were delayed.

Emil, my cool friend, approached me because I was obviously earning more than he was and I seemed to have my sh*t together enough to have some money saved away for these kinds of situations.

Emil: ‘Osei, please lend me 50 GHS. I’ll pay you the moment we get paid.’

Osei: ‘Cool, that’s no problem at all

*important note – we all got paid exactly two days after the incident

18 months after this incident, Emil is now the proud owner of a 57” 3D television (Samsung or LG, not sure which brand)Sony Vega sound and entertainment system, a top-of-the-range Mac Book Pro (bought for about 4800 GHS). 

‘Where did all this money come from?’ I hear you ask. Well Emil recently completed a very lucrative contract for a software application for one of the top TV broadcasting stations in the country. However, for Emil, 50 GHS is far too small an amount of money to consider paying back.


Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met a couple of really cool Christians since coming back home. Those like Stephanie, who don’t force-feed you her beliefs while summarily passing judgement on everything you do. Others like Kim, whose lifestyle and attitude towards everything and everyone is so positive that one simply can’t help but be a better person around them. Still others like Simi, who are young and growing Christians but do their best to pay their debts (no matter how small) and respect their fellow colleagues irrespective of colour, religion and background. 

I salute these people.