One Milk Tin of Gari – By Nana Awere Damoah

When I was in either Form 1 or 2 (can’t remember for sure) in Ghana National College, one of the fearsome seniors we had was Senior Vandyke, a tall lanky guy who was suspected to sample some herbal delights. Snr Vandyke used to make us write down what we would bring to him for the next term. This contract/promise was signed off at the end of the preceding term.

At the end of one of such term, I filled the form with my promise: “1 Milk Tin of Gari” and duly signed it.

The next term, as early as the first week, Snr Vandyke went round collecting his debts. He got to me and demanded his tin of milk. I promptly denied ever promising him milk. In any case, the most tins of milk I got for the entire term was less than a dozen so how could I promise one whole tin, I told him.

“You this boy! You think you are smart, eh? That is why I insist you write it and sign. Paper no lie!”

He quickly promised the affidavit sheet and true to my words, there is was: “1 Milk Tin of Gari”, signed “Nana Damoah”. Vandyke was furious, and didn’t appreciate the fact that I had outwitted him.

The Daily Graphic of 6 February 2012 and indeed most newspapers and news websites had announced, quoting from an official statement, that  “workers, transport operators and the general public are to enjoy a 20% reduction in the prices of petroleum products”. This decrease comes on the heels of 15 – 30% increases in December 2011, leading to 10% increase in transportation fares, which had been met with resistance from labour unions.

However, in interviews with the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) boss on Monday 6 February, it turned out that the 20% decrease is on the initial 15 – 30% increase. So actually, there has been a 20% reduction on the low side of 15% increase, giving at least 3% reduction.

I love this nation and our way of going round small bushes. I guess I don’t have any moral right to complain – I know the game. So there you have it: your own milk tin of gari. Enjoy the hydrocarbon soakings and make it a bebe on rocks – with groundnuts.

I dare say this is only the beginning. We will be offered a lot of milk tins this year, and only when we open them will we find that the contents are not liquid. There will be promises of building harbours in Kumasi, and the politicians who make those promises will only remember the next day that there is no coastline in Oseikrom.

There will be donations of all sorts, and all of a sudden, you will see an exponential increase in the number of philanthropists in Sikaman. I just turned to pages 16 and 17 of the Daily Graphic of 7 February 2012, and my expectation is met: “Mr X (a politician, of course!) donates computers to schools”. And he also donated desks and jerseys to the schools. Expect more of these. Popular items to be donated are bicycles, torch lights, roofing sheets, cement, bentua (for enema), mobile phones, motorbikes, sewing machines and computers. And there will be an expectation that the recipient donates his thumb, conscience and vote. Beware of the milk tin of gari lure.

‎Watch out also for all the gargantuan predictions of victory for presidential candidates in this year of the milk tin of gari. Both from polls and pulpits. Whether or not the proclaimers would be influenced by the spirit or the cedi would be open to discussion.

This year there will be more projects unfinished than those finished, out of the many which will be started. It is all part of the facade, to demonstrate that the government and indeed the politicians have the development of the country at heart. Welcome to the year of plenty commissioning. And some of the projects will be commissioned twice. Not to worry. As the DJs say, when it is nice, you play it twice. Be discerning.

Kwaku Gyimah was regarded by all his mates in Kwasi Plange as a miser. In school parlance, it was said that his hand was hard, difficult to get anything from him. Ironically, he had the heaviest chopbox, full of goodies: Nido, Milo, sardines; lots of tinned products. Every morning, he would unlocked the big, secure padlock on the box, and inspect the nicely arranged provisions. Just looking at them gave him great satisfaction. One day, he decided to take one of the cans and it was then that he realized that it was empty. He didn’t remember consuming that big tin of Nido. With trepidation, he checked the others: they were all empty. It was then that he realized what had happened. Someone have detached the bottom of the box, and had gained access to his items, and consumed all of them, and yet maintained the arrangement in the box!

The view is always different from afar and it is only when you touch, feel, shake and thoroughly examine and interrogate, that is when you know the real truth of what is presented to you.

This year, my advice is simple: take nothing at face value. Take every word, especially from political platforms, with a bag of Annapurna salt. Collectively, as a people, we have to upgrade our standards and expectation from our political leaders. Until we refuse to accept the crumbs that they throw at us in the guise of development, they will continue to tell us that building KVIPs and tarring roads from Fiesta Royal to Achimota school are major achievements that we need to applaud them for.

By all means, don’t accept any milk tin of gari for your vote.

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