Many years ago, the story was told of how one of Ghana’s top football teams participating in a continental tournament went to consult a soothsayer for the outcome of a crucial match.
According to the story, the team was told that they would win the match except that the first player to score a goal would die.
As should be expected, no player would want to die in such a foolish manner, so all the top marksmen of the Ghanaian team were firing wildly while their opponents kept hitting the target. In the end, the Ghanaian team lost.
Common sense should have informed the team officials that without scoring goals, a team could not win a match and if scoring will result in the death of a player, definitely there would not be any goals. So the big question is, why should they rely on such a prediction?
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Ghanaians are generally superstitious. It is embedded in our cultural and religious set-up. Football is the passion of the nation and it is one area that our superstitious nature is most evident.
Things are changing because of the rigid application of the rules. In the past, teams refused to use the main entrance to the stadium because of the belief that a charm that would cause their defeat had been planted there.
Others have refused to change jerseys because the Ekpelekpedzi or Magani man has assured them that their jerseys would make their players invincible to their opponents.
There was a time a match was delayed for almost one hour at the then Accra Sports Stadium because none of the two teams wanted to step onto the pitch first. In all these things, football never made any progress but made a few team officials and the con men who styled themselves as fortune-tellers and soothsayers richer.
If Lionel Messi of Barcelona Football Club were a Ghanaian, it would not be surprising if he was described as a wizard because in our part of the world, we do not believe that people are endowed with exceptional talents that are enhanced by training and personal efforts.
At the peak of his career, Osei Kofi, one of the nation’s greatest football talents, was popular as the ‘Wizard Dribbler’. Opoku Afriyie, another marksman who played for Asante Kotoko, was called ‘Beyie’ because of his goal-scoring abilities.
Maybe we are now beginning to realise that football matches are won more through hard training and good strategy rather than anything else, least of all, superstition.
Without ruling out luck and what could be described as divine intervention, life is generally about careful planning, hard work, commitment and determination.
But ours is in the main put in one bundle of superstition and its offshoots – curse and miracles.
So it came to pass that about two weeks ago, business in about half of Accra, the capital city, came to a halt because one major artery into the city, the Spintex Road was jammed following information that a Nigerian evangelist named T.B. Joshua was coming to perform miracles.
In attendance were all manner of people, from those at the lowest end of the social ladder to the mightiest in business and politics, each of them expecting his or her miracle.
There were the poor and down-trodden who want the bare necessities of life; there were those who want marriage partners and those who want children.
There were those already in business who want their businesses to flourish.
There were the politicians who want God’s miracle for them to hold on to power or to win power.
There were even so-called men of God who were there to seek superior guidance and blessing so that they can win more flock for their churches, which are now sources of wealth in the country.
If the situation was riotous two weeks ago, the situation last Sunday turned tragic when four people were reported dead in a stampede that followed the sharing of ‘Holy Water’ sent by Prophet Joshua in his Synagogue Church of All Nations on the Spintex Road, the place of the first miracle crusade.
As started earlier, we cannot do away with certain cultural and religious beliefs because certain things simply defy human interpretation or explanation.
Nobody can also question people’s personal beliefs and I will be the last person to attempt such a futile exercise.
But the truth must be told. We are gradually descending into a nation of superstition and questionable religious beliefs. We have elevated it to the point where we have national prayer and thanksgiving sessions.
Life is what you make it and we must begin to take full responsibility for our actions and inaction. We must stop blaming our failures on superstition and religion.
If we fail to harness the abundant resources God has generously given us, we should not turn round and with noise-making claim we are seeking God’s divine intervention in our national affairs.
When we elect people into political office to change our lives for the better but they fail to exhibit vision and direction and rather use that mandate to enrich themselves, we should not expect any prayer and fasting to do any miracle.
As a country, we must begin to confront the truth. We have ignored certain basic principles of life – truth, honesty, modesty, hard work and dedication – which are the pillars of success.
In the process, we have rendered ourselves so miserable that we seek salvation from all sorts of people who parade rightly or wrongly as men of God.
Those countries that are advancing cannot be said to be more religious than ours. That means the difference between development and stagnation lies not in the God we worship, which is universal, but in the determination of the people to pursue a national agenda to break the cycle of poverty, disease, ignorance and illiteracy, using all the resources available to them.
If we fail in that regard, we cannot blame anybody but ourselves.
We do not need to do any academic work to realise that some of the well-known men of God are among the most affluent members of our society today. That tells its own story.
Events on the Spintex Road two weeks ago and last Sunday should send a strong signal to our leadership that our people are getting desperate and frustrated. They are losing hope. This frustration and desperation is driving them to see religion as a safety valve.
It will not take long for them to realise that it takes more than prayers and miracles to make a successful living. When they finally realise that the solution to their physical problems is not in the chapels, synagogues, mosques or shrines, they will naturally look elsewhere and the consequences or the spillover can well be imagined.
Article by Kofi Akordor