Go to Ghana and Learn How to Behave*
By Jenerali Ulimwengu
I honestly did not expect Yahya Jammeh to take a cue from my last article and go back on his word to respect the results of the Gambian elections. All I said was that it was surprising for a man of his nastiness to be civilised when his people reject him.
But there you are, the man has reneged on his earlier pledge and now questions the whole process.
When this saga was unfolding I was in Ghana, and though my mission there was to act as an observer of the Ghanaian elections, I could not help but marvel at something else other than the posturing of politicians from the two principal formations who were dancing and making predictions of their own impending victories.
In short order, the incumbent President John Dramani Mahama conceded defeat and congratulated his rival, Nana Akufo-Addo, this being the first time a sitting head of state had been defeated.
We all celebrated this development, which confirmed the high level of civility in Ghanaian society. And that was what was on my mind all that time, the civility of Ghanaians.
Let’s talk about it, especially because it is all too common for us to be quick to point out faults and shortcomings every time we visit any of our countries on the continent.
Oh yes, Ghanaians are civil and polite to a fault. I first encountered this pleasant reality ages ago when I was still a student at the Dar es Salaam University involved in student politics and travelling to West Africa and elsewhere.
My meetings with colleagues at Legon and Kumasi were always a joy, from the warmth and camaraderie that the Kojos, Ofusus, Busias and Kantamakolos seemed to exude.
Over the years, after graduating, I went back to Ghana and took the temperature of the place, and it seemed not to have changed an iota, despite Ghana having gone through a turbulent political history and serious economic woes. The people have demonstrated remarkable resilience over time, and they have maintained a singular culture of generosity and hospitality.
You notice it right from the airport. To begin with, Ghana has had a policy dating back from the days of Kwame Nkrumah of being open to all Africans who come visiting.
Many African countries do not need visas, and those who need them can obtain them on arrival, and can stay for an initial three months without bother.
That goes to show in fact and deed that Ghana truly considers all Africans as brothers and sisters, a far cry from the empty platitudes mouthed by so many of our other rulers.
At the airport, it is not uncommon to find a security official who is eager to give you directions about where you want to go, or a policeman who will help you carry your luggage if it looks like it is too heavy for you. A taxi driver will look after your bags as you go to the forex bureau, even if you have told him that you will not use his services because someone is meeting you.
In the smaller towns, hamlets and villages, you may think it is obligatory to greet people you do not know, as everyone you meet will extend their salutations, and if you appear to not understand the local lingo, then they will subject you to an inquiry as to where you are from, how long you have been in Ghana, what your line of business is, and if you like it in Ghana.
Asking for directions when you are lost attracts volunteers who will even offer to accompany you halfway to where you are going, and if they only manage to lose you even further, at least they tried.
They still have an effective “lost and found” culture where tablets, cellphones and power banks will be returned to their owners. These are virtues I experienced in my young age; that they have survived to this day is testimony to the longevity of goodness in at least one place.
Our rulers across the continent have to render their account before this evidence. Ghana trumps their countries hands down. Several of our countries look like prison camps where every inmate is looking for ways to rip you off. The rest are only marginally better. Go to Ghana and learn how to behave.