Ghanaians are known to be one of the most hospitable and warm people on earth. The average Ghanaian is likely to share a meal with total strangers and engage them in all manner of conversations without bothering to know where they are from. And so much the better if the discussion is on politics, sports, religion or funerals.
Indeed, our warmth and hospitality are supposed to be the fulcrum around which our tourism revolves. This assertion of the Ghanaian being hospitable has consistently been buttressed by the international community. Except that the last time I checked, the diplomatic community seems to trumpet same about almost every nation. It is called diplomatic language and is not to be taken to heart.
But recent events in the country have made me have a rethink of this hospitality trademark. Which hospitable and kind people will behead their chief as happened to the Ya Na or shoot him to death as in the case of the Seikwa chief? Or murder a compatriot in cold blood as was done to Major Adam Mahama. Where were the hospitable and kind chiefs, clergy and ordinary Ghanaians in those communities?
One may attempt a justification by rationalising that these are but sporadic incidents that do not reflect the national character. Fair game, but then how do we reconcile it with our time-tested saying that one bad nut spoils the rest?
Could it be that all the claims about our kind and hospitable nature is derived from our love for superlatives? We pride ourselves in meaningless accolades like being the black star of Africa, gateway to Africa, the industrial hub of Africa and now on the way to becoming the cleanest in Africa. Yet, we have been overtaken by countries like Rwanda, import almost everything and are covered with filth!
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The sad reality is the affable, bubbly, hospitable Ghanaian has been murdered by harsh economic conditions and a desire to get rich quick. Unfortunately, he did not resurrect on the third day. Rather, in his stead a new genetically modified breed has metamorphosed. This new version is an embodiment of greed, corruption, obsession with wealth and will kill for it. This new Ghanaian will indulge in galamsey not caring about the consequences on water bodies and the environment. The new Ghanaian will dent the base of an olonka to reduce the quantity that fills it. The new Ghanaian is allergic to discipline, drives anyhow and litters his environment at will.
What is left of our hospitality is mostly directed at people with the capacity to reciprocate. No wonder white people and black people with accent are usually the beneficiaries. This is fuelled by the notion that those coming from the West are economically better off and usually have some loose dollars to spare. Occasionally also, this hospitality manifests in excited Ghanaians forcing down kokonte and groundnut soup down the throats of petrified foreigners amidst shouts of try it, it is nice.
I had an encounter with the modern-day Ghanaian hospitality a couple of years ago when I served with the UN Mission in La Cote d’Ivoire. I was part of a patrol team along the Ghana boarder and decided to have lunch. Being new to the place, we stopped by to ask a lady for directions to an eatery. She immediately asked her son to join us and take us to one. My colleagues who were Asians were impressed with such kind gesture. As would be expected, our discussions over lunch centred on the Ghanaian hospitality.
I grabbed the opportunity to give them a low down on the Ghanaian hospitality and how it is unmatched in the world. Half-way through my lecture though, I raised my head and here was the boy coming back to our table. Fearing the worse, I met him half-way and enquired about this unwarranted second visit. His narration was simple. His mother had asked him to come for money for the service offered. I quickly sent him outside and offered him something at the blind side of my colleagues.
Of course, on our way when they reintroduced the subject of Ghanaian hospitality, I declined to comment, citing a sudden bout of stomach ache. As I pretended to be dozing off in the car, I kept reflecting on the English word, oxymoron. I tried various permutations with the new Ghanaian. Hospitable but unkind, warm but corrupt or religious but greedy. “Who the cap fit, let them wear it”.
The writer is the acting Director (Public Affairs),University of Cape Coast