One of the most popular songs of the Ghanaian singer, Pat Thomas, is entitled “Sika Ye Mogya”
It electrified Ghanaian dance floors and social parties with its catchy tune, but more especially, because it had a very relevant title and theme. Those were the days – around 2013 – when party politics had reared its head in Ghana again, and when money was needed to give people immediate access to great fortunes, by being elected to office.
I first heard the song at a gathering in London, then (as now) a great campaigning ground for Ghanaian political parties. As soon as that song was played, people who had looked bored and overtaken by fatigue, got on to their feet and began jigging. And whenever the title phrase, ‘Sika Ye Mogya’ was uttered by the singer, most people joined in, using the phrase almost as if it was a campaign slogan.
The partying socialites knew exactly what they were doing: they would send money home, or make a quick trip back, to find a candidate to support who would, on gaining office, remember his or her “friends”. Indeed, the implied meaning of the slogan was that money gained one a “family”. Indeed, Pat Thomas made it clear in the lyrics that whenever there was trouble in a real family and people gathered to settle it, they always waited for the “rich man” in the family to turn up before starting the proceedings. Pat Thomas humorously gave the “rich man” the nickname, “Big Joe!”
The ethic propounded by the song seems to have permeated Ghanaian society of modern times root and branch. Money is now valued more highly than the things our ancestors valued – especially, service to our community, not only with money, but also, our time and reasoned discourse that brings real solutions to social problems.
When I was growing up, the elders in the society could call ANYONE up to explain his or her errant actions that had attracted notice. I remember how one stuffed-up ex-serviceman, who was still basking in the irresponsible behaviour sometimes indulged in by the townspeople who had gone to Burma to fight for the British in World War Two, and were protected by their uniforms was put on the carpet for having gone to work on his farm near a river which was not to be crossed in Thursdays.
‘Why did you go to work there on a sacred day? he was asked? His bold answer was: “I am a Christian, and I don’t think rivers have a spirit that must be worshipped on certain days.”
One old man was incensed by the man’s answer. “If everyone was a Christian of your type, and worked near the river all the days of the week, would there be a river left for people to go and fetch water from, to go and drink, including you?”
People were astonished that the old man could challenge the ex-serviceman like that, for some former soldiers were known to have been “touched in the head” by the horrors of the war! They were reputed to possess very short tempers and, if provoked, could resort to killing the provoker with a “bennet” (bayonet)!
Fear of them was increased by the strange fact that many of them did possess bayonets, despite the end of the war. They retained their bayonets by simply reporting (falsely) to the military police that the bayonets had been “stolen” from them! The old man knew all this, but he was not frightened of the ex-serviceman in the slightest. For he was wedded to the truth, just as his own elders had been. Anyway, the overwhelming sentiment at the meeting was in favour of the old man, and had the ex-serviceman attempted anything untoward, he would have, no doubt, been lynched by the crowd. As fate would have it,
The ex-serviceman continued to defy more local laws, by going fishing and in the sacred river (whose fish were believed to be former residents of the town, who had died and been transformed into the river’s “children”.
Eventually, the ex-serviceman began to talk to himself and, also, to hold one-man military parades in the streets of the town, with himself as both parade commander and the section(s) on parade. One fine day, therefore, the military police came and took him away. It is said that he spent the rest of his days in a place in Accra called ‘The Lunatic Asylum’.
I liken the situation we – and other formerly colonised nations — find ourselves in today, as not dissimilar to the relationship between the ex-serviceman and his townspeople. The people brought him up, and then a foreign power came and took him away, jettisoned all his notions of how to relate to society, and filled his head with ideas that emanated from the way of life of the people of the foreign power. He was away from his own people and their customs for nearly five years. Yet, as soon as the war ended (as suddenly as it had begun!) he was thrown back into the midst of the people he had been taught to despise, without any preparation (on either side) for reintegration. The foreign power didn’t need him any longer. And his people had to bear the cost.
LOOK AT US! We went to school to be “educated” to serve the needs of a foreign power. Our sole objective was to obtain certificates to obtain work in the economy the foreign power had created for us.
The certificates earned us money. So, money became our god. We told ourselves that money was blood. That is, the new component in our bodies that was most important, because without it, we would surely die.
Values? How do you cultivate values in offices where a hierarchical system enforces CONFORMITY and punishes those who question ‘The System’? How do you erase the pervasive idea that “Sika ye mogya?”
Who can tell us that not all blood is pure blood, and there is something called “pus”
that can kill us but which we don’t fear as much as we fear blood, because its colour is not as frighteningly deep-red as blood? Ask any doctor and he will tell you that whereas bleeding can be stopped, pus emission can last a long time because it is a sign of serious internal infection.
Our people call “pus” mogya sufi!”
It smells. It looks disgusting.
And God save any nation, whose citizens mistake it for real blood.
A nation like ours.