Ghanaians are a very gently and happy people. We are always classified as amongst the most hospitable people on earth. We enjoy our festivals and soccer matches.
We celebrate our heroes and achievers and honour those deserving among us. We respect our elders and honour our fathers and mothers. Everywhere we go, people see us as a very cultured and happy-go-lucky people who don’t let adversity in life keep them down. We make music and dance to our hip-life songs. Our rich cultures and civilized up-bringing have ensured that we have not seen wars in our country; virtually the only or one of the few countries in Africa to have done so.
But in spite of all these, most of the time, our politics get acrimonious and very bitter. We don’t poke fun at each other anymore. The leading political parties are all on the offensive and everybody else is on defensive. Ghanaians want fun with their politics. Of all the articles I have posted on Ghanaweb recently, the one that had the largest number of comments was the one that I poked fun at the NPP (The NPP is the GOP of Ghana, Ghanaweb, 29/8/2011). Though there were a few nasty comments, most of the commentators knew I was just “pulling the legs” of the party and laughed it off.
Why can’t we engage ourselves in political campaigning and discussions with the same fun we go bout all other aspects of our lives. With the 2012 election frenzy mounting, foot soldiers of political parties are becoming uncompromising. In this context it is easy to embrace a workhorse mentality of grim determination. We are too serious and mean at times with our political discussion. Is it because of the poverty or frustration with the lack of opportunities? Is it a hungry man is an angry man mentality?
The problems we face are serious, and we must be serious to tackle them. But I suspect that we will also need to be creative and collaborative. Let our leaders start in the chiefs’ palaces, castle and parliament. Though no one wants to see legislators having fun on the taxpayers’ cedis, and it is reasonable to demand that our political leaders be conscientious and considered, but there is also value in nurturing a pleasurable engagement with public life.
The NPP is determined to come back to power. The NDC is divided because a section of the party is used to the man of action leadership of Jerry John Rawlings so they find the less aggressive leadership of Prof Atta Mills boring. The press has taken sides and fueling the duel between the parties. Political leaders have become too serious with every issue. Our media, radio, TV and print have become battle grounds of war of words. Most of the feature articles and opinions in our electronic media have become personal attacks and counter attacks on flimsy and harmless pronouncement on any action of political opponents. But I worry that our effectiveness wanes as our jaws tighten and our fists clench. In these bitter circumstances we need an environment of possibility that builds camaraderie, rewards outrageous ideas and encourages resilience. In short, we need a conscious strategy of serious play. Helloo, Ghanaians, please let’s have fun with our politics. Now that we have all agreed that we are not going to insult each other, what else do we do?
As many successful businessmen have discovered, great ideas aren’t necessarily generated 8 am to 4 pm while sitting behind a standard-issue desk wearing coat and tie. The most successful electoral campaigns often harness positive play by reminding us that democracy is both hard work and fun. Since 1992 thousands of Ghanaians have visibly enjoyed the electoral process—waiting in line for hours to see their candidates, crafting innovative campaign materials, calling in and shouting at the pundits on Fm stations. These were not the acts of a content electorate, lulled into democratic drowsiness by a boring and dull ho-hum election cycle; these were examples of fully animated citizens who though often angry were also deeply involved. A wise lady once wrote “Successful campaigns are steeped in information and guided by expertise, but they also tend to nurture rule-breaking and encourage openness to innovation. In that sense, they are playful”.
So it will be our job to nurture pleasurable, fun, creative and collective orientations toward political tasks. Even at its most frustrating, politics brings certain pleasures: the opportunity for fellowship, the excitement of competition, the spectacle of rituals. Rather than assuming that big money and intimidation will win, let’s look around for inspiring, if unlikely, candidates for parliamentary races in 2012. Though Quixotic or extravagantly chivalrous campaigns sometimes prove surprisingly viable and can elicit important concessions from incumbents, it leaves the electorate tired and frustrated.
Let’s make music again and videos and fashion and art that express the pathos and possibility of these moments of political campaign. Most of it will be forgettable, but some of it may prove iconic. Let’s tap into social media to crowd-source creative solutions to our problems and political campaign. Let’s dream big, not asking whether we think our ideas are viable but instead sketching what truly just outcomes would look like. Let’s learn something new by allowing those with whom we disagree have their say also and accepting things that may be unfamiliar just to experience the pleasure of learning.
Let those who write feature articles and opinion tone down their rhetoric and abusive language. Let’s take some breaks, pace ourselves and allow some joy despite the persistence of social problems, because movements are not sustainable if those who do the work are exhausted. Let’s laugh at ourselves and at the comic madness of our circumstances, recognizing that humor does not diminish the gravity of our moment but simply lightens the load as we bear it. Far from being irresponsible, it would be wise to engage in some serious play. Let the parties have consultative meetings. Let’s group party delegations to functions together and let’s attend each other funeral. Please, Ghanaians, let us start smiling again and have fun because we are far better than a lot of people in African and beyond.
Hey don’t blame me, I am an Akyem man and we like litigation and dog meat. I was at Tech so I hate “too known Asante” girls who always talk about visiting Bla Elic at Lepublic Hall Alex (Brother Eric at Republic Hall Annex). Why do Gas only sing about food? Kpakpo shito ee ee kpakpo shito ee! I despise Ewes who steal chicken and sing broken Twi songs. I don’t like Frafra men who like Mpeteshie na akum Atia. Can you imagine! I met a light skin Nzema woman in Atlanta. I never thought there are light skin people in Nzema. Oh lord, my wife thinks these jokes are not funny. Don’t blame her, she is from Gomoa Assin.Hey if you agree with me, come out with some funny saying about Ghanaians and let’s see who has the best.
Have fun and take care. Ye be wu nti yen nda?
Source: Kwame Yeboah
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