Who is perfect...?

Two incidents a week apart brought back memories of Numoe. The more recent was some nights ago as I watched the veteran Ugandan journalist, who has hosted programmes on Africa on the Voice of America Radio for years, Chaka Ssali, interview a senior Kenyan lady journalist and a Kenyan professor, both based in the US.

The subject was on the recently departed second president of Kenya, Daniel arap Moi and his legacy. Although heavily criticised for his human rights violations, he was also copiously praised by the two interviewees for the good things he did for Kenya, particularly in education.


In summarising the discussion, Chaka Ssali said, “President arap Moi did bad things, but he also did good things... but who is perfect?” It was his rendition of the answer given to the accusers of the adulterous woman, who they demanded to be stoned to death.

Numoe’s question

Numoe, a senior retired officer and I shared an apartment when we were in the same Master’s class at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada in the mid-1980s. When both of us qualified for the PhD at the end of our programme, Numoe was delighted and tried to convince me to stay on, like he was, for the doctorate.

I explained to him that while he was retired and could, therefore, decide on what he wanted, my circumstance as a serving officer did not afford me that luxury. I had, thus, decided to return to Ghana with the hope that I would do the PhD at a later date, God willing.

Try as he did to convince me to stay, I would not budge. Frustrated, he asked me “is our country Ghana worth dying for?” My answer of “yes sir” infuriated him so much, he yelled at me “buuulu” which in his language, Ga, translated “fool!” He added that someday, I would regret my decision to return home and not stay on for the doctorate!


The very intellectual discussion and dispassionate objectivity of the two Kenyans with Chaka Ssali immensely impressed me. Sure they agreed President Moi was no angel, but he certainly was not the greatest villain that ever lived in Kenya.

They spoke about him with respect even, when what they said was negative.


This contrasted sharply with an experience I had with an elderly compatriot recently. For him, no greater villain existed in Ghana than our own Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah did nothing right! Everything he did was bad and wrong.

Indeed, he accused Osagyefo of being a pan-Africanist and not a nationalist, making Pan-Africanism sound like a crime!

Coming from his entrenched position, no argument from the rest of us, who drew his attention to the skewed nature of his submissions, could impact him. Finally, we decided to end the discussion, since reasonableness and logic had failed against his emoting!

Respect elsewhere

Having lived in East Africa, I know how high Osagyefo is held in esteem by many objective Africans and, indeed, non-Africans both on the continent and outside. In our situation, is it a case of a prophet not being respected in his own country?

If yes, how come the two Kenyan dignitaries interviewed gave such a balanced account of President arap Moi and showed so much respect to him, in spite of his record of human rights abuses which they condemned?


Sometimes the ease with which we disparage and insult our leaders in Ghana makes me think Numoe was right in calling me buulu after all, for the answer I gave to his question.

I also ask myself why Ghanaians are so good at the ‘traditional Ghanaian hospitality’ to foreigners, but then are so cruel to fellow Ghanaians.

Sometimes, we also forget the saying in our local languages that while sticking out a thumb in an insulting gesture, the remaining four fingers point at our own selves.


I hope that this culture of insults and disrespect will end sooner than later. More importantly, we must give credit where credit is due and not attempt rewriting history.

While we praise foreign presidents to the high heavens, in the words of the playwright, Uncle Ebo Whyte, the ‘unfortunate reality’ is that we treat our own with disdain, disrespect and contempt! The question often asked is, do we have any heroes in Ghana?

For most of us, Ghana is the only country we have. We, therefore, owe it a responsibility to make it safe and peaceful, so we can live here in dignity and respect.
Where we have to criticise our leaders, let us do so with the decorum with which the two Kenyans treated their late President Daniel arap Moi. For as Chaka Ssali asked, “who is perfect?”

The writer is a retired officer of the army
E-mail: dkfrimpong @yahoo.com

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