I used to be an avid reader in my ‘saito’ days in elementary school in Kwamo- Kumasi. Those were the days when we were lucky to have met dedicated pupil teachers and Certificate A holders who simply loved the teaching profession, even though they were not highly paid.
These were teachers who voluntarily and happily chose the vocation, not because they were not fit for other careers, but for the intrinsic joy of making rural bare-footed children like me develop confidence to face the world. Their rewards were usually the unalloyed respect we and our parents accorded them and the occasional gifts from appreciative parents and community leaders.
Out of their meagre emoluments, some of these teachers sometimes, contributed funds to register their brilliant pupils for the esteemed common entrance examination, when some parents and guardians did not see the need or genuinely lacked funds to help their wards.
My deep-seated respect for elementary school teachers to this day stems from those early encounters with teachers who played multiple roles in a child’s life then …… as parents, disciplinarians, counsellors, cheer leaders, motivators and much more.
Those were the glorious times when most of us tended to believe what our teachers taught us more than what our parents/guardians told us.
It strikes me quite pleasantly that this is my thirteenth article under this column. The occasion reminds me of my love for figurative expressions, like the number thirteen being described as a baker’s dozen.
I feel nostalgic about my British boss in one of the banks who never relented in commenting about my use of colourful language and what he perceived to be great communication skills.
I am equally reminded of President Akuffo Addo’s otherwise harmless statement that the teaching profession is not a place for instant millionaires. Rather unexpectedly, this drew the ire of so many teachers. Some of us felt (without professing to be the President’s spokespersons) that so many people mis- represented his statement, hence my drive into metaphors, idioms and other figurative expressions today.
A metaphor is described as “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison” or “one thing conceived as representing another; a symbol” …..Thesaurus definition.
Thus, when Jesus talks about the mustard seed and mountains and says that if one has faith the size of even a mustard seed, one could move mountains, he certainly was not asking his followers to literally command mountains to move from their original places.
Humurously, that would be an affront to the Creator who, in His own wisdom, decided to place mountains, forests, water bodies, valleys and hills where they are. Christ was simply alluding to strong faith like that which moved Paul to say in Philipians 4;13, that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.
That is an affirmation that if one has faith (even as small as a mustard seed), one could be propelled to do great exploits. Paul did not in that vein, imply that he could burn the sea, for instance. Similarly, I could say I am so hungry that I can eat a cow! As to how I could conceivably eat a whole cow can only be contextualized.
That is the beauty of the English language and other languages, for that matter and has to be understood in their proper contexts. Otherwise, if everyone were to literally stand on their faith to change the Creator’s impeccable designs, the natural environment will lose its splendour. Chaos will reign from some people’s awkward desires.
Just imagine Francis relying on his mustard seed faith and instructing the sea to move to Kumasi! Imagine for a moment how my Ga friend, Alberta Quarcoopome and her kinsmen and friends would be angry about losing the sea upon which the fishermen earn their livelihood! Stretch your imagination further to what will become of all those who depend on the port, the Navy personnel, sailors and marine engineers for their incomes!
It so happened that the Vice President became an unfortunate victim of the use of figurative expressions when he said he would prefer the Ghana card to a thousand interchanges. With interchanges now becoming a marvel in Accra, Tema, Takoradi, Kumasi and Tamale, and an index to political performance to some people, some considered the comparison to be blasphemous from their political lenses.
I spent my luxurious pensioner’s time reading various facebook commentaries on his statement and felt compelled to ease the needless tension arising from a storm in a tea cup.
Most of the comments were largely unsavoury but clearly written out of ignorance of what a metaphor is; doubtlessly clouded by the current political polarization we have needlessly sunk into as Ghanaians.
Political opponents choose not to see anything good coming from the other camp, although realistically the journey towards the Ghana card had been initiated by the previous government and given a monumental and enthusiastic push by the current government.
A careful analysis of the Vice President’s statement should rather inform all about the depth of his conviction and resolve to push the digitalization agenda to reap the inherent immeasurable benefits visibly seen in developed countries. These have unfortunately been lost on most people eager for only bread and butter issues now.
If we take down the pedestrian arguments about the comparison of digitalization to interchanges, we can understand how the Vice President’s thinking appears to be several light years ahead of most of the people insulting him.
It is like asking the American government why they spend so much resources on NASA at a time inflation is galloping in the United States and supermarkets are becoming empty. To the uninitiated, going to the moon and allied pursuits is wasteful until you begin to connect the emergence of information technology and the impact on almost every aspect of modern living, particularly the use of the internet and other communication technologies.
Benefits of a digitalized economy.
Digitalization has enabled our mobile phones to become mobile libraries, mini cinema theatres and musical studios. The concept has made teaching and learning so convenient to those trained to use these features on their gadgets. It is now so easy and cost effective to search for information and store vital data by the click of a button in one’s pocket or handbag.
For rural boys like me, I am still so fascinated by virtual conferences and how these make learning so effective and less costly. Even more enchanting is the growth in photography, where even four-year-old children can now take photographs with such dexterity, all thanks to digital revolution.
This compares sharply with the intense effort I expended in walking over ten kilometres from Kwamo to access books from the Ghana Library Board at Kejetia in the 1970s.
A national ID card, fully integrated to other vital national databases has immense benefits in minimizing corruption and mobile money fraud, boosting security, improving taxation, easing the cost of doing business and accelerating financial inclusion to make credit readily available in the financial intermediation cycle in the economy.
A properly functioning national ID system, coupled with digital addressing systems, is capable of making credit referencing so easy that almost every employed person with assured income, can obtain a credit card, aided by the ease of assessing borrowers creditworthiness and tracking where defaults arise.
Indeed, from a strategic perspective, the Vice President was absolutely right in his comparison. Digitalization is capable of expanding the revenue generation streams to provide the equivalent of 1000 interchanges over time, if we position our governmental machinery appropriately to reduce leakages in income generation.
The only problem with that kind of comparison is found in one of Daddy Lumba’s lyrics where he opines that “onyansafoo na ote nyansafoo ase” in his “Mpempem” album. Simply explained, it takes wisdom to understand the wise.
The finance minister is reported to have said in the budget review that all new roads will be tolled. While this is laudable from an income generation perspective, can we in the same vein imagine how fluid traffic flow will be if we were to digitalize the tolling system along these roads?
Digitalization can even catch speeding and hit and run drivers when their vehicles and national IDs are connected to a central database, in the same way as rapid response systems will be boosted. Interchanges are necessary but there are other equally vital enablers to national development.
The problem with tunnel visioning
It is not surprising that Jesus used a lot of parables in His messages and had to explain further for the apostles to appreciate the depth of His crusade. Otherwise, how can a camel literally pass through the eye of a needle? When He talked about dismantling the temple and rebuilding it in three days, it took more than scant knowledge to appreciate such figurative expressions.
The misrepresentations from the metaphors are clearly an unfortunate reflection of our traditional short- term inclinations towards national development. It also shows that most people are still stuck with just what they can see physically, even if such produces no value addition to the developmental effort.
It is little wonder therefore that we have constructed so many over- priced markets stalls in several villages which no one wants to patronize. The Central region has an unfair share of such white elephants.
An attempt to diminish our political biases in construing what we hear on air will be very helpful. Having agreed on English language as our official language, there must be a deliberate effort to teach the subject well to help people contextualize simple statements, not only from politicians, as a means to reduce needless tensions.
The mid-year budget review and matters arising
Politics must be such an interesting pursuit in our part of the world; at least for the politicians who exit at the end of every four years with clearly undeserved pecuniary packages.
A sage once told me that if you do what you do every day, you earn what you earn every day. So if what you earn everyday becomes insufficient to meet your present and future needs, then you must adopt a paradigm shift to what you do every day so that you can earn dramatic returns.
Thinking over this simple statement makes me wonder whether our politicians really desire to move this country to the next level. The fixation on just meeting short term needs defies comprehension.
If this were not so, I wonder why the government could not take advantage of the mid-year budget review to respond to our developmental challenges, particularly how to position agriculture strategically as the pivot of an industrialization drive, instead of this business- as usual development paradigm. Nigeria has shown the way with reduced dependence on rice imports, following a conscious home -grown policy.
Or is it the case that a second term of a government with a four- year mandate is not the time to worry about long term developmental challenges? I can easily imagine some politicians teasing me and the rest of the electorate with “just focus on winning the next election; we can always raise new excuses”.
If this were not so, I fail to see the loud silence about the overwhelming clamour for constitutional review, a downsizing of ministries and appointees, the entire government machinery, a second look at the FSHS system to free resources to combat the arrears in NABCO, the otherwise laudable School Feeding programme, the District Assembly Common Fund and various statutory obligations.
It is difficult to imagine how the $1billion or $750 million can radically catapult us into a self-sustaining economic system when we are still spending over 70 percent on debt servicing, with public sector emoluments alone taking over 60 percent of revenue streams, a chunk of which has already been collateralized. Is it not time to call a spade a spade instead of this ostrich approach to our developmental challenges?
Floating voters and potential election scare
Perhaps someone should research into this floating voter phenomenon to catch a proper feel of the increasing silent non card holding electorate. Otherwise, I sense a lot of surprises in the next election, whether someone is busy strategizing to count on vote buying, propaganda, or some other means.
Thirty- two years of constitutional rule in 2024, is a long time enough for people to shift from fanatical party loyalties. If what the population census tells us about the youth is anything worth considering, I can easily hazard a guess that the over 18-32 year- old voters may not be too keen on the two party dominance that has prevailed in the fourth republic to date.
The writer is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, an adjunct Lecturer at the National Banking College, a farmer and the author of “Risk Management in Banking” textbook.
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