Ghanaians’ worst enemy unmasked
About 400 years ago, a chief in present-day Volta Region of Ghana fell in love with a young maiden.
This maiden, however, was already in love with someone else, a young man with a reputation as the master drummer in the village music group.
The chief knew about the affair between the boy and the girl but there was very little he could do about it.
His impotent rage threw up an idea.
A slave ship had birthed at Keta.
The chief managed to find out when the ship was to set sail.
On the eve of departure, he arranged for the village band to visit the ship ostensibly to perform in a farewell concert for the European crew.
By a secret arrangement with the captain, the ship set sail to the Americas with the town’s band on board, including the chief’s arch-rival.
(A dirge composed by the townsmen to commemorate this deed is printed in Kofi Awoonor’s influential novel, ‘This Earth My Brother’)
Fast forward to Ghana: 2023.
How many chiefs in today’s Ghana are not doing lucrative batter with political party leaders for personal wealth and political appointments, in return for the votes of their citizens.
We haven’t changed much, as a people.
Who killed Ghana Airways?
I don’t have all the answers but I know that by mid-1970s, corruption, like cancer, had eaten so deep that no serious passenger wanted to touch Ghana Airways with a long pole.
It was not uncommon for passengers with confirmed tickets to be told at the airport, “Sorry, the flight is fully booked”.
As overbooking threatened the airline’s very existence, the personal wealth of the corporation’s staff shot up.
In Air Force flight Captain, reputed to be a no-nonsense go-getter, was brought in as Managing Director.
He lived up to the billing.
In 1975, Ghana Airways finally hit upon a rescue plan.
At a press conference he announced that the corporation had computerized its ticketing system.
Completely ruling out human interface, the MD declared that the era of overbooking was gone forever.
All went well.
In less than one year, however, Ghana Airways was back in the news.
Overbooking had returned! Some clever computer wizz kid had succeeded in cracking open the secret code, creating access to the computer’s brain.
By the way, how much did Ghana Airways lose in revenue by its policy that gave its staff the right to travel to the UK and Germany with tickets sold to them for £1!
Ghana Airways flights were being delayed because some big men, mostly politicians and girlfriends were late in reporting.
Meanwhile, these privileged passengers (traveling on £1 tickets) had shopped so well in London (the very reason they were late arriving to Heathrow).
Their luggage, capable of filling half of the plane’s cargo hold, were given priority.
In the process, many an ordinary passenger’s luggage that had been checked in never arrived at its destination.
In the mid-1980s (PNDC era) a Ghana Airways plane that took off from KIA returned 20 minutes into the flight.
To make landing possible so soon after take-off, it was said that the captain had to discharge tonnes of aviation kerosene into the sea!
Why did the flight return?
A member of government on board suddenly remembered that he had forgotten to pick a very important document he would need for the conference he was attending in London.
In the days of State Hotels, government officials, and top management staff were checking girlfriends into rooms which were supposed to earn money for the hotel.
The Digitization programme by the present government has not taken into account the greed of the staff at Passport Office, DVLA and Lands Commission.
Unknown to all of us, the real enemies of the government in its fight to eliminate corruption in these three institutions were not the ‘goro boys’; it was the staff.
They desire to buy cars and build (not rent) homes for themselves, and without goro boys, the desire becomes a pipe dream.
They have succeeded in frustrating the system.
Their goal: a return to the goro days.
At many a hospital, the accounts staff, after preparing the bill for a patient about to be discharged, will show same to the patient with a promise to halve the bottom-line if the patient played ball.
As the hospital suffered, the pockets of accounts staff bulged.
Ordinary workers in state enterprises will tell you how their Board Chairmen are twisting the hands of CEOs to sell lands to so-called international investors.
The workers’ concern is not so much the principle as the fact that these state prime lands are going for a song.
Percolation Theory sets in.
At 9am, a trader sells cassava for GHc20.
An hour later, at 10am, the same item now goes for GHc100.
Ask why? “It’s the dollar,” they’d say.
Ghanaians have just unmasked their worst enemies: ourselves.
Read also: Parable of national airline