Message from the Morning Man: Adamu

Image copyright Catherine Lane 2015

Back in Secondary school, I had a friend. Let’s call him Adamu. He was a rich kid.

His dad was the CEO of a large multinational, and he came to school at the beginning of each term in two large Nissan Patrols – one to carry him, the other to carry his chop boxes (yes, I said chop boxES).

Adamu never ate in the dining hall. He never ran out of food either. He would simply send a message home when one of his chop boxes was getting empty, and a fully stocked one would be placed in a Nissan Patrol and sent over to him from Accra.

Most of the time, Adamu was a cool guy. Great company, told funny stories and wasn’t too hesitant to splash some of his money on those he liked. He was also a bit of a snob though. He wanted nothing to do with those he considered poor or beneath him.

Poor boys were almost not human to him. He couldn’t bear kids from Cape Coast, and only made an exception for me because, in his words, I wasn’t “…actually from Cape”, because I’d (again, his words) “…just dropped from London”. I was never quite sure what he meant, since I’d come from Wales and not London, but I played along… why not – the boy’s shittor had the largest chunks of meat…

Anyway, life was good for Adamu, until in Form three, his father died, and everything changed. Adamu was sent home to be with his family, and he didn’t come back for the rest of the term. At the start of the next term, Adamu came to school in a taxi.

He had just one chop-box and a trunk that looked exactly like everyone else’s. He looked so embarrassed getting out of the taxi, and he spent the next few days giving various excuses for the fact that he didn’t arrive in the style to which we had all become accustomed.

Adamu still refused to eat in the dining hall, so it wasn’t long before his single chop-box was empty. No replacement chop box came. His money ran out soon after that. He borrowed some from me. When that ran out, he borrowed some more.

Then he borrowed from others – colleagues, seniors, even the Cape Coast boys he despised – anyone who had a few cedis to spare him so he wouldn’t have to eat the “sub-standard” food served in the dining hall.

Soon, Adamu was the most wretched boy in the school. He had sold everything he owned – soap, toiletries, watches, trainers, designer belts – even his school uniforms all disappeared except for one single set. People started to talk about him behind his back, and, as his friend, I got into fights with many people, trying to defend him.

Little by little, I watched helplessly as my friend sank lower and lower. By the end of that term, Adamu was not only eating in the dining hall, he was storing dining hall kenkey to eat later. The following term, Adamu did not return to school. I never saw him again.

So why am I telling you this? Well, it’s because Ghana has voted 123 new MPs into parliament – which means the same number of MPs have been kicked out by the voters.

After several years of flying first class, sleeping in five-star hotels, riding in 4×4 motorcades, eating in the best restaurants and never letting little things like who’s paying the bill ever concern them, that all comes to an abrupt end today.

Now, I saw Adamu’s struggle, and I know how difficult it is to fall from grace. You will find it very difficult to give up the First Class lifestyle. The people in your family, your community, will all expect you to keep doing the same things you were doing while you were in parliament.

You will keep flying first class, you will keep riding in the back seat of that petrol-guzzling v8. You will keep riding those money-guzzling university girls. You will keep doing all the things you used to do – except that this time, you will be paying for it all out of your own pocket.

I know how good the Ex Gratia looks right now, but trust me: if you have been living on our taxes for all these years and you never learnt how to generate any of the money you were spending, then even a million dollars will eventually run out. And then you will start the slippery slope into wretchedness.

Please, my friend, don’t let this happen to you. Regardless of people’s expectations of you, your lifestyle will HAVE to change, because your fellow Ghanaians are no longer paying for it. Losing your job is bad enough, don’t lose your self-respect with it.

I tell you this because I care about you. You’ve served in a position of dignity for all this time. The position has ended, but don’t let the dignity end with it.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and on behalf of Ghana, I thank you all for service.

Good Morning, GHANAFO!