What is ‘M,O,N’ without ‘E,Y’?

BY: Brig. Gen. Dan Frimpong (Rtd)

Our Latin master/teacher in our first year in secondary school in the mid-1960s, Mr. Sam taught us, “hodie fabulam narabimus” meant “today, we shall tell a story!” So today, “we shall tell a story!”

It is about an essential commodity which is gradually disappearing in the Ghanaian; sense-of-humour!


In the past, Ghanaians prided ourselves with being a people whose high sense-of-humour defused tense situations easily and made light, difficulties.

Unfortunately, like our “four-times African Cup football champions” syndrome, our sense-of-humour appears to have left us probably since 1982, like the African Cup.

Recently, Ghana’s ace satirist/entertainer Kwaku Sintim-Misa (KSM) bemoaned the loss of sense-of-humour among Ghanaians particular when it comes to jokes about political leaders.

He lamented that every joke is now given a negative political twist.

We are thus becoming a dour, hard, humourless, quick-to-insult and stiff people who while seeing nothing good in the Ghanaian, adulate foreigners.

Indeed, some people have so worked themselves into perpetual anger that, they have forgotten how to smile, let alone laugh!

They ask, what is there to laugh about when one is hungry? Does the saying “a hungry-man is an angry-man” qualify to be an “idiomatic expression” as per current Ghanaian “English experts?”

From KSM’s observation, such a harmless question meant to generate humour, is likely to be given an unintended political twist!

Ghanaians do not mince words on radio/TV as they say, the “hardness” of life in Ghana presents nothing to joke about in the name of sense-of-humour!

Nigerian humour

Having lived in Nigeria in the 1980s/1990s, I love the Nigerian sense-of-humour. Irrespective of the occasion, jokes are never too far away.

During my student days at the Command and Staff College, Jaji-Kaduna, I took along some Ghanaian music cassettes.

Cassette was the highest technology in music at the time. After listening to Pat Thomas’ “Sika y3 mogya,” my friend Kunle asked me what the lyrics meant.

When I explained and sang it to him, Kunle immediately fell in love with the song. He exclaimed, “this is a very sensible musician, the type I like, not the doomsday ones who only sing about death and tell us money is not good!”

Kunle had lots of humorous stories! On this occasion, Baba Bombom was being honoured with Nigeria’s national award “Member of the Order of Niger” (MON). Noticing his lack of excitement in spite of the merry-making going on, a friend asked Baba why he was so quiet on a day he was being awarded the national honour MON.

His answer was the question, “what is M,O,N without E,Y?”

In effect, even though he had been awarded the MON, the award did not come with EY to complete it to MON-EY (money).

What I found fascinating about the Nigerian humour was the effortless spontaneity and wit with which they came out!

Fort Knox

I found interesting an incident my instructor told us about in Fort Knox, Kentucky, USA in 1991.

A young captain was reported to his commander about his rudeness on a Friday to a senior colleague, a major in the officers-mess, telling him to “go to hell!”

On Monday, the commander ordered the captain to go to the major and apologise.

The captain went to his office and called the major on phone, not as directed to. When the major picked the call, the captain stated, “Is that you Major Dicky? This is Captain Jones. Sir, you remember last Friday I asked you to go to hell? If you haven’t gone already, don’t go no more!”

This joke to a tired class rejuvenated us.


For a leader, a good sense-of-humour is an asset. Apart from lightening difficult situations, it also shows the leader as a humane human-being who can see the lighter side of life, and not as a rigid and dour leader who mechanically uses subordinates to achieve missions, unconcerned about how they feel.

Unfortunately, as some Ghanaians say, they cannot joke/laugh on empty stomachs, when the price for a bag of maize doubled from GH¢225 to GH¢550 in a week in mid-September 2021, with disastrous consequences on kenkey size and price!

Kenkey makers blamed that on price increases in inputs such as charcoal now selling at GH¢80 per bag from GH¢45 in May.

Finally, it is wrong to arrogantly tell followers that, leaders owe them no explanation for decisions they take on them.

Democracy? Without followers, leaders lead nobody and ,therefore, cannot be leaders!

Our leaders must learn to spice their utterances with some sense-of-humour and respect. For, a good sense-of-humour is a formidable weapon in a leader’s arsenal.

Leadership, lead! Fellow Ghanaians, wake up!

The writer is Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya & Council Chairman, Family Health University College, Accra

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