Fighting Corruption With A Dining Hall Prefect? (Part 2)
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
This is actually not part two of the earlier column that I wrote about the appointment of Mr. Kwabena Mintah-Akandoh as Deputy Minister of Natural Resources. I had intended to make this portion the conclusion of my first column, but felt it would have unnecessarily detracted from the rhetorical coherence of the first column. And then, having discarded the entire notion of following up the first part of this column with the present one, I came across an article nearly as long as my initial one, captioned “NDC And Mahama Stop Disgracing Sefwis. Enough Is Enough!” (Modernghana.com 4/25/15), in which the author, Mr. Augustine Kwasi Andoh, bitterly chided President Mahama for cavalierly presuming to insult the intelligence and dignity of the Sefwi (Sehwi?) by appointing a Dining Hall Prefect as his Deputy Minister of Natural Resorces.
This is a rather tough sell for Mr. Andoh, because prior to the appointment of Mr. Mintah-Akandoh to the aforementioned post, the latter was the National Democratic Congress’ Member of Parliament for Juaboso. He still is. We also learn that Juaboso belongs to one of the three Sefwi states, each of which has its own paramount chief or traditional ruler. The three states are, namely, Anhwiaso (Anwiaso), Bekwai and Wiawso. Sorry for the digression, but the point here is that if the people of Sefwi-Juaboso themselves saw it fit to elect Mr. Mintah-Akando as one of their National Assembly representatives, then how insulting could President Mahama be in appointing Mr. Mintah-Akando as one of his second-banana ministerial appointees?
In sum, Mr. Andoh’s criticism simply does not hold water. Which, of course, is not exactly the same as saying, or even implying, that the writer does not have a valid argument when he asserts that both Mr. Mahama and the ruling National Democratic Congress have been taking the loyalty of the Sefwi people for granted since 1992, the beginning of the country’s Fourth-Republican dispensation. Whatever the real situation on the ground may be, the unconscionable short-shrifting of the electorate appears to be very much the same throughout the country. The literacy rate is well below optimum levels; and so are healthcare and the dining table. No pun is intended here, by the way.
But we must also promptly correct Mr. Andoh’s erroneous assertion that the Sefwi portion of the Western Region has seen the longest cultivation of Ghana’s foremost cash crop, cocoa. That enviable credit goes to the Eastern Region, the land of Mr. Tetteh Quarshie, which the critic conveniently, it clearly appears, leaves out of his listing of the major cocoa-growing and producing regions of the country, and the man and goldsmith who first introduced the cocoa pod and the first cocoa beans and seedlings into the erstwhile Gold Coast Colony from Fernando Po, in present-day Equitorial Guinea, in the late nineteenth century. Mr. Quarshie appears to have been of Krobo or Dangme descent, but had been born or settled at Akuapem-Mampong. The oldest cultivation of cocoa was, therefore, on Akuapem soil and then Akyem soil, before the cultivation of the proverbial Golden /Money Tree spread into other regions of the country.
It is very likely that Sefwi was one of the most recent cultivable lands in Ghana to have come under cocoa growing and production, which also explains why caocao, or the cocoa plant, is at its most fructive in that part of the country presently. Cocoa is known to deplete soil nutrients greatly over time.
As a viable incubator for the training of future cabinet appointees, the post of high school Dining Hall Prefect offers the widest berth or the most generous avenue for corruption. I was the Senior/School Prefect (SP) of Akuapem-Akropong SALEM, or Presbyterian Middle Boys’ Boarding School for the 1975-76 academic year, and so I pretty much know precisely what I am talking about. Being a Dining Hall Prefect prepared one for a selfish and an unconscionable life of grand larceny (tongue in cheek, of course). The Dining Hall Prefect almost invariably colluded with the Kitchen Women to shortchange students by cooking meals with far less quantities of the requested and received and documented food supplies or provisions. Which meant that food served students in the Dining Hall was invariably of poorer quality than needed to be. And then the corner-cutters involved in this unspoken but well-established protocol, you may even call it “tradition,” divvied up the stolen items among themselves. They also apportioned for themselves most of the helpings of food per head, with the Dining Hall Prefect taking several plates of food to the dormitory and the Kitchen Women carrying pounds of meals home to their spouses, children and grandchildren.
Sometimes, such thievery was done with the complicity of a housemaster or two. The Headmaster took his lion’s share at source, from the provender or food-storage room in his residence. The School Prefect was often left out of the loop, unless he caught on to the racket and demanded admission into this circle of self-righteous parasites. “The maker of the meal does not wipe her/his hands for nothing.” You must have heard that age-old Akan maxim. It is very likely this is how that saying came about.
The School Prefect had to “behave himself”; that is, go along in order to get along, or find himself rudely cut off the pilfering pipeline or gravy train. Then also, sometimes the Dining Hall Prefect had a sexual liaison with one of the Kitchen Women. At SALEM, that juicy “fringe benefit” or flesh pot was called Awo, a quite shapely and handsome woman but, nonetheless, rather too muscular for my taste. I must, however, confess that in those mid-teen years, I knew a diddly little about women, “adultly” speaking, that is.
And, well, concerning Awo, word had it that all the “hard up” prefect or senior pupil or even the most daring junior needed to do was simply flatter her with a sweet-nothing word or two and then ask, and one was almost certain to harvest a quickie with her in a jiffy. The best time was between eight and ten o’clock, long past supper and through prep time and the sleeping bell, which sounded around nine-thirty.
And, alas, President Mahama would have Ghanaians believe that this kind of reprobate, or rascal, is the best candidate for Deputy Minister of “National Resources.” He was probably a Dining Hall Prefect himself in secondary school. Deputy Minister of “Natural Resources.” Now you know what natural resources we are talking about.
Source: By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York