Facebook posting by James Ebo Whyte, aka Uncle Ebo Whyte
October 12, 2015
In an address to the students of Theatre & Film Studies at UCC recently, I said don’t be a typical Ghanaian and this is what I meant. We have accepted certain things as typically Ghanaian. These are traits and attitudes that are so common in Ghana that we have come to accept them as Ghanaian. I think it is time to reject those things because in fact, they don’t serve us well at all. This morning, I bring you some of those traits and attitudes that we have accepted that need to change. We need to reject them because we are capable of far better. So, here are typical Ghanaian traits we should all reject.
1. Lack of time consciousness.
We have all accepted it that if it is an event in Ghana, it will start late. And when you get upset that your time has been delayed or wasted, people look at you as if you have lost your senses. This tendency of not respecting time, our own time and the time of others, does not serve us well and portrays us as a people who are not serious.
2. Lack of clarity, specificity or exactness.
We are a people who are not exact in our words, in our deeds and in our thoughts. We do things hoping it will work. We seldom think through things carefully and we seldom put our ideas on paper. And we are willing to run with half-baked ideas. And to make my point of how little we care about specifics, let me ask you a few questions:
What is the distance from your home to your office?
What are the dimensions of your sitting room? Your bedroom? Your kitchen?
What is the weight of your spouse?
What about his/her height?
We don’t measure anything.
How many garden eggs will you need for a light soup for a family of three?
How much rice do you need to cook for a family of four?
How long should you cook palm nut soup for it to be ready for serving?
In almost everything the average Ghanaian does, there is no measurement.
How long should a sermon last?
How long should a church service last?
In most churches, there is a time for starting but you cannot work with a time for closing.
3. Attitude to service.
Ghanaians are very pleasant people, especially when it is not our duty to serve you. When a Ghanaian knows he will not be paid to serve, he serves with enthusiasm. As soon as a Ghanaian knows he is being paid to serve you, he develops a very negative attitude to service. It is one of the mysteries about the Ghanaian. It doesn’t make sense but it happens in every sector in Ghana. We see service as demeaning, especially when we are getting paid for it.
4. Difficulty in following simple instructions and directions without coercion.
It is my observation that the average Ghanaian has great difficulty following simple instructions if there is no possibility of punishment for failure to follow the instructions.
At my productions, we always indicate boldly that there is to be no recording of any kind and yet at every production you will find people who have seen the notice still recording. The ushers will politely draw their attention to the projected instructions on the wall that no recording is allowed and they will continue recording until someone is rough with them. That is the only time it gets through to them that recording is not allowed.
In Ghana, it is common to see people using entrances that have No Entry boldly written on the door. Ask them if they have seen the sign and they will tell you that have seen it and understand what it means and yet they have great difficulty following that simple instruction.
Take the case of the traffic light. Red means stop. A Ghanaian sees the red but does not stop until he sees a police man around.
Put up a sign to say that No urinating here and that is exactly where a Ghanaian will stand to urinate.
I don’t know it this has to do with the way we were raised as children when every instruction was enforced with a cane and so we grow up and when there is no cane, an instruction becomes a mere suggestion.
5. Living beyond our means.
The average Ghanaian does not go for what he can afford. The question, can I afford this, does not form part of the consideration of most Ghanaians. We do not spend according to our means; we spend to make an impression. The obvious examples are our expenditure for weddings and funerals but it goes beyond these.
There are Ghanaians driving cars they cannot afford to maintain but it makes the right impression and so they will borrow or steal to keep it.
Every day, some Ghanaians buy things on credit or take loans to make an impression and they have no idea how they are going to pay off the credit or repay the loan.
Those who operate private schools will tell you that there are parents who take their children to schools they know they cannot afford the fees. When the school gets tough in demanding the fees, the children are transferred to another expensive school.
One of my adopted daughters was engaged as a part time receptionist by a major British NGO in Ghana. She was required to work for only three days in a week. I later discovered that she was put on three days because the boss of the NGO said he did not have the budget to pay for a full-time receptionist. The regular receptionist had gone on maternity leave and there were funds to employ another full time receptionist and this is a major NGO Ghanaians running very expensive operations go to for grants.
6. Littering indiscriminately.
The average Ghanaian will throw litter anywhere no wonder our capital is always filthy. In the neat countries in the world, people keep their litter until they find a litter bin before disposing of it. And if they don’t find one, they keep it until they get home.
In Ghana, people don’t see why he should bother to dispose of his litter appropriately. So, people throw out litter from cars or drop it wherever they are and if you call their attention to it, they have the audacity to ask you, why is this your room?
We seem to be addicted to mediocrity in Ghana. I go to preach in churches and the music is terrible and the sound control is so loud that you can hardly hear what the choir is singing about and yet you will find the pastor and the leaders of the church raving about how wonderful the choir and the band is.
There are managers who do not produce any results and yet they receive great reviews from their staff and their superiors. There are tailors and seamstresses who give their customers stress and trauma but they still continue to get business.
We simply refuse to pay the price for excellence.
8. Undermining those in authority and our colleagues.
In the work place, there are two things you can expect from the average Ghanaian. One is fan-fool respect where he is extremely nice and humble with the boss and the second is undermining his boss and colleagues.
I don’t think there is any manager in Ghana who has not at one time or the other had one of his staff coming to him to undermine a colleague. And I don’t think there is a boss in Ghana who has not suffered undermining from those working under him. If you are a boss in Ghana, you can take it for granted that someone working under you and who is sucks it up to you, is undermining you at the same time.
I know we all can relate to this presentation and I hope that it will make us all resolve to reject these traits that make Ghana such a terrible place.