What a pendulum week!

BY: Rodney Potpourri
Madam Patience Osafo’s saving grace was that the incident was recorded and went viral.
Madam Patience Osafo’s saving grace was that the incident was recorded and went viral.

The other day, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) announced the release of this year’s West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) results.

Students who were whooping with delight a few weeks ago and basking in the sunshine and exhilaration of having finished school, so to speak, now trooped nervously to Internet cafes and other outlets to buy scratch cards in order to check their results.

Anxiety etched on their teenage faces as a thousand butterflies danced in their stomachs.

The day of reckoning had come, and for many, it did not make grim viewing as a plethora of D7s, E8s and F9s blinked brightly at them on their mobile phone screens.

How do you explain, and then justify, this to your parents as the fruits of three years of your supposed labour? And in core subjects, for crying out loud?

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Yes, the results, particularly in Core Mathematics and English, were unimpressive, and of course the political football began, as it does with literally everything in this country.

I planned to write a piece on the phobia for Mathematics in this country, as someone whose memories of primary school included the dreaded Monday morning ‘Mental’, as those of a certain age will readily attest to.

Mid-year budget

The WAEC results rode to town alongside the announcement of the forthcoming mid-year budget review, featuring Cool Uncle Ken in his angelic white apparel, clutching his brown leather bag full of toffees and Fanta to make us all smile, or bile and quinine powder and vinegar to make us squirm, depending on where on the political fence you sit.

Of course, his presentation was preceded by lots of drama over whether or not value-added tax (VAT) would be increased, which led to a lot of angst and pre-emptive threats of Kumi Preko Reloaded, and the alleged smuggling of anti-VAT placards, red bands et al into the House by the Minority in anticipation of the announcement on the floor.

But as they say in football, it turned out to be a ‘suulia’, engineered by a suspicious Facebook post by the NPP’s Gabby Otchere-Darko, who some in the Minority swear is the de facto Prime Minister of this beloved republic of ours.

And that jab by Ken, advising the Minority not to be seeking policy direction from social media! Ah…

I swore before the mid-year review that I would not express a view in this column or anywhere else on the substance of whatever Uncle Ken had to say.

And the reason is simple. I do not understand economics or finance. I think I understand demand and supply, and I have a fair idea of the difference between monetary and fiscal policy.

And that is about it. Figures bore, and then terrify me. And that stems from my mathematics phobia from childhood that I mentioned earlier.

So I observed from the touchlines as the two political beasts locked horns and churned figures and did analysis upon analysis that gave me migraine.

But I was not prepared to expose my ignorance. I nodded from time to time at some of the VAT arguments in particular, in order to appear clever.

Police assault

Last Friday evening, I was sitting with friends and enjoying a quiet drink when one asked whether I had seen the video clip of the policeman assaulting a lady carrying a baby, which had apparently gone viral.

I replied in the negative.

I had turned off my mobile phone in order to charge it.

He handed over his phone.

When I watched it, I was mortified, as indeed so many Ghanaians were and still are.

I watched it once and have not dared watch it again.

But at that point, I decided that my piece on the WASSCE results, which was still at an embryonic stage, would have to wait.

This was hot, and it knocked even VAT off its cosy perch.

The facts of the Midland case are so well established that I do not think there really is any need to rehash them here.

But I think the video clip says so many things about us because there are so many truisms in this country embedded in the clip as to make it a microcosm of our society from whose prism we can and should examine ourselves.

For me, however, one issue stands out particularly significantly, like a fully kitted nun in a nightclub.

Of course there was absolutely no excuse for his barbaric behaviour, and the widespread outrage and condemnation is heartwarming.

But let us not kid ourselves.

Beyond this clip, the visitation of brutal force upon weaker, defenceless and vulnerable members of our society by those with power and authority, and who actually have a duty to protect, is fairly commonplace.

And they do it because they believe they can.

If a man the build of the boxer Bukom Banku was the customer in question, I doubt the policeman would have tried to pummel him.

He would definitely have hesitated in front of the scowling, enraged man.

If an exquisitely dressed and coiffed lady, tottering on high heels and exuding expensive perfume in her wake and with a fat bank balance, was the client in question, you can bet he would have been far more deferential.

After all, she may be a powerful woman who could easily get him to lose his job, he would reckon.

But a poor woman with little to her name by way of her bank balance and who sells toffees at Spanner Junction? Easy punching bag.

Police brutalities and intimidation (of which there are many instances) aside, we are all witnesses, at least through our television sets, of city authority guards maltreating poor traders in the name of decongestion exercises.

Land guards terrorise and traumatise law-abiding citizens in the name of God knows what because they wield weapons and are physically built like humongous machines.

Away from these, domestic violence is a reality, with quite a number of men (mostly) reducing women (mostly) to punching bags because they feel they have the power, the strength and, therefore, the entitlement to do so.

Beating and exploiting house helps who in the majority of cases come from poor rural backgrounds by people who should know better is rife. The list goes on and on.

It was wrong for the policeman to assault the lady. No ifs, no buts.

It is equally wrong for a policeman to deliver ‘hot slaps’ to a recalcitrant driver for a traffic offence.
Have you ever seen policemen accosting a V8 driver for a traffic violation and harassing him? In their books, it is always poor, vulnerable commercial drivers who seem to violate the traffic rules.

And definitely it is wrong to shoot to kill a person on his claim that the person was a suspected armed robber, only for us to shrug and take the police on their word.

Wrong is wrong. Human dignity is indivisible, and we cannot desegregate our outrage and dish it out depending on who we feel deserves to be brutalised or maltreated and who does not.

If we don’t insist on the right processes all the time, the Midland incident will happen again and again, perhaps not always on camera.

But it will be there, however we pretend otherwise. Madam Osafo’s saving grace was that the incident was recorded and went viral.

Few would have believed her story otherwise.

A poor woman’s side against a whole institution? Fat chance.