Many years ago, I read a review of Ayi Kwei Armah’s novel, “The Beautyful Ones are not yet born,” in which the reviewer made a claim.
He said that God gave Chinua Achebe to Nigeria and compensated Ghana with the birth of Ayi Kwei Armah. I am not sure whether it is an exaggeration to place “Things Fall apart” and the “Beautyful Ones are not yet born” on the same scale. All I can say is that each of the authors, especially Ayi Kwei Armah, has made some harsh statements which have stood the test of time.
Ghana has just emerged from a hard-fought election with a clear mandate for change to the NPP, led by Nana Akufo-Addo. Those who have not been born some 60 years ago should take it that Election 2016 was the Independence Struggle re-enacted all over again. In the colonial era, it was a fight between the white masters and the subjugated natives. In 2016, it was an intense struggle between “the black masters” that have emerged post-independence and their position that has been perpetuated in varied forms in party colours.
This is the theme that forms the conflict in Ayi Kwei Armah’s novel, ‘The Beautyful Ones are not yet born.” The main character, “The Man” represents an ordinary clerk who resists bribery and corruption. He remains poor and is nagged by his wife. The other character, Mr Koomson, an illiterate, corrupt politician, is rich.
The Beautyful Ones are not yet born is a satire in which the author employs some nasty metaphors such as “sh*t” and “rot” to stand for bribery and corruption. He says they have been with our society for a long time and we have got used to them because it is easy to get used to what is terrible and accept it as the norm. Some have got fatalistic about the situation. For example, a prospective voter who is not keen to exercise his franchise on an election day asks himself, “What will I be demonstrating for…all new men will be like the old.”
Currently in Parliament, the vetting of the President’s nominees for ministerial positions has not been in progress for more than two weeks when a scandal of gargantuan proportion of bribery has erupted. A nominee who saw his prospect for recommendation as difficult is alleged to have offered bribe to the members (or some members) of the Appointments Committee to facilitate his clearance.
One prays fervently that the whole allegation is a con job, cooked by a fertile mind and a wicked heart to shoot down an opponent. But the fact that this iceberg of corruption should be alleged so soon in 2017 is a matter of serious concern. What has happened to the platform of zero-tolerance for corruption that has won such a massive mandate barely one month ago? And what becomes of the change that we have been promised?
In the piece soon after Election 2016, My blog sought to warn about the delusion that passing the reins of government from one party to another would constitute change. What is required is change of attitude. Indeed, he suggested a Ministry for Moral Rectitude to be created to tackle the change agenda, to breed the beautiful ones who will stop the spiral of corruption, moral rot and spiritual death.
Ghana is about to celebrate her 60th anniversary of independence from the white colonial masters. It is the opportune time for President Akufo-Addo to reassure the nation that his platform of zero corruption was not a mere campaign cliché. He should demonstrate this resolve by asking the minister who is at the centre of the allegation to step down his appointment. What Nana needs in his government are characters that Ayi Kwei Armah names as “The Man,” and not Mr Koomson.