Opinion

Message from the Morning Man: Gabriel (2015)

Ghana is on the verge of something. That thing might not be good. COVID 19 has got the whole world confused, and Ghana is no exception. We need something. We need to dig deep and find reserves of strength we have never used if we are going to survive this thing. I was thinking about this last night and it reminded me of a story I once wrote. It’s called Gabriel.

Gabriel Amoah was a skinny little form four kid at St. Augustine’s College. His shirts were at least two sizes too big, and he always seemed drowned by his desk. He didn’t talk much, and most people just let him be. Now, there was a Form 5 student called Stinash. He was a bit of a bully. At age 16, he was already 6ft tall with a chest like a barrel and biceps like watermelons. He took great pleasure in raiding the form four classes for pens, notebooks, maths sets, etc. Nobody ever argued with Stinash. You just handed over whatever he asked for, and prayed he wouldn’t punch you in the face on general principle.

One morning, while our teacher was absent, Stinash came into Gabriel’s class and decided he wanted a new desk. Gabriel had a rather neat looking one, so the burly senior walked up to him and told him to get up. Gabriel chose to ignore him, which annoyed Stinash immensely.

He heaved and pulled at Gabriel’s collar, but to everyone’s surprise, nothing happened. Little Gabriel was clinging to his desk with all his might, refusing to be removed from his seat. Stinash wasn’t done though. He grabbed a fistful of Gabriel’s collar with one hand, and his belt with the other flexed his enormous thigh muscles and pulled at little Gabriel with all his might.

The desk came off the ground, but Gabriel still wouldn’t let go of it. This just irritated Stinash even more, so he cocked his hand back and slapped Gabriel across the mouth. That was a mistake. The scrawny little form four kid leapt out of his seat and rained a flurry of blows on his giant opponent’s face and neck. Stinash staggered back, regained his balance and started to throw some heavy punches at little Gabriel. Each blow floored the scrawny kid, but he would never stay down. He would just bounce back up and land three or four sharp stingers in a row on Stinash’s ribs.

As a tradition, Augusco students never interrupt a fight. They form a ring and let the two combatants slug it out until there’s a winner. This time, the fight went on for forty-five minutes! Stinash, strong as he was, had never battled an opponent like Gabriel Amoah. The little boy just would not stop. Nothing would keep him down. He just kept coming. Eventually, Stinash had no strength left in him, and he slumped on the floor, while Gabriel stood over him, grabbed him by the collar and bitch-slapped him until a prefect came and separated them.

I will never forget that scene. The mighty, scary giant sitting on the floor without an ounce of energy left in his muscled arms, and the scrawny little quiet kid, crouching over him, energetically slapping his meaty head from side to side. In that moment, I learnt a very important lesson.

It’s not the stronger opponent that wins the fight – it’s the one who is not willing to give up. Every time life deals you a blow, every time misfortune strikes you to your knees, you are presented with a simple choice: stay down or get up and fight. The choice you make in that moment will determine whether you succeed or fail in life.

Ghana has been dealt many hefty blows this year. A crippling pandemic that has sent us back to the dark ages with months and months of low economic productivity, increasing sickness and deaths, a currency that is shedding weight like an AIDS patient (can you believe a dollar is almost 6 cedis?), thousands of people being laid off, a moribund public health system that needs crutches to stay upright, and on top of all this, it seems all it takes to wash us off our feet, flood our homes and destroy our belongings, is a little bit of rain. Let’s face it: Ghana has received a beat-down of epic proportions.

But have we decided to stay down? Have we thrown up our hands in defeat and decided there’s nothing we can do about our problems? Is this the best we can do? Are we defeated?

Or is this Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana? Is this Yaa Asantewaa’s Ghana? Is this Azumah Nelson’s Ghana? Are we the black star of Africa? Are we the nation that looked our oppressors squarely in the eye and told them “you can go now – we’ll take it from here”? Are we the same nation that took blow after blow throughout the years and just kept coming? Why are we stuck on one knee? What are we waiting for? Are we going to let this virus grab us by the lapels and pull us out of our seats, or are we going to get up and throw a few blows of our own?

It’s Friday, my people, and the pandemic rages on. It’s killing the richest of us and the poorest of us. It’s killing leaders and followers alike. Once more, we have a choice: we can either stay down and drown, or we can stand up and fight back. I know what I’m going to do. What about you?

My name is Kojo Yankson, and we all get knocked down, but the reason why we will still win is that we will never stop getting up.

GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!