“Big Brother Is Watching You”
It must have been the latter half of mid-nineties, and I had come to my motherland on vacation, if that should make any sense. Mr. JAK was being groomed by a political party said to be with the “Busia\Dankwa tradition”. I knew about both prominent men as a school boy, but I did not know that any man was 1st in line to climb to the highest office, come the year, 2000 AD. Everybody was talking about a new buffet at the Golden Tulip, and I wanted to go and relax, alone and find out if it was indeed, worth the noise everybody seemed to be making about. As it turned out, I arrived some moments too early. Tables were then being set, but the buffet tables were already “mounted”. I was allowed to sit wherever I wished, and be patient. So I did, facing the entrance, but at a distance. A few moments, and a man pushed his way through the door, (wasn’t it automatic?). He strolled direct to where I was seated, and before he would sit down, yelled out, “who are you” in a way that would betray him as an American. He was in a nice light grey suit, and the day was hot. I just giggled, and otherwise, said not a word. In spite of the “strangeness”, he pulled a chair and sat down opposite me. He next drew a name card from his pocket, like after some protocol, and gave it to me politely. Before I could draw out my spectacles TO TRY AND DECIPHER ANYTHING, he said, “I am KW.” My elder brother had once talked to me about this tycoon, who was said to own so many “business-joints” in America, in Angola, and then in South Africa. Wow! How did I come by this coincidence? He next showed me the picture of a lady in America, dark-skinned you could say, who had once won a beauty contest in Los Angeles, and he was the proud spouse! I, at this juncture, interrupted and politely asked him if we could get a meal and continue talking. He quickly agreed, but also quickly added, “it’s on me.” No problem, I swallowed it, but loud enough for him to understand I had accepted the invitation. We returned fairly quickly with “assorted food” to our seats. As we ate he was in a hurry to let me know the POLITICAL party he supported, and that he was convinced “that party would win the elections, come 2000, AD. Meanwhile, he had got to know (from me, of course), what I had my training in, and what I did for a living. Quickly, after he got to know that, he demonstrated his smartness right away. “Is it true Doc, that plantain is so rich in iron, and iron is also necessary in refurbishing blood?” “Yeah”, I answered him. Then, in a hurry, he charted forward. “That being the case Doc, why don’t we cultivate plenty of the stuff and supply the entire world with it?” I tried to say something in a sustained manner or he might think I could not be half as smart as him. “My brother”, I risked saying, “We should first find a way of introducing the stuff, starting in bits and pieces to begin with. We should get 1.3 billion Chinese, and 450 million Europeans to love plantain, and then we begin planting everywhere in Ghana, just PLANTAIN. Luckily, it grows everywhere, isn’t that right?” “Agreed,” he topped it up. We next filled our plates with some shrimp cocktail, and returned to our table. “You know, this is the kind of politics we would be doing, when we get my man in power. We would get the right men, our men, in the right places, both for planting and exporting.” He was hilarious! “It sounds grandiose, but, would one party win every election?” I questioned. “That is where we are going to have to work hard and be smart. JAK is going to be a politician par excellence.” “That is the hook,” I countered: Nobody wins always, except in a dictatorship – Moscow, Beijing, Havana. Are you going to introduce that kind of governance?” He paused a while, as we both had a gulp of beer, and we had both to admit the way wasn’t by any means going to be easy, not as easy as he was lecturing me. But, in Washington and London, perhaps you could add Tokyo today, it works. Democracy!!
“Aha”, I joined in. “It cannot be one party winning always, or even staying in power longer than two terms, and that would be eight years. But, it happens. At that juncture, he asked me, “Doc., are you familiar with 1984?” Before I could attempt with an answer, he further asked, “who do you think was “Big Brother?” At this juncture, I had to let him know if he had come from Philadelphia with that much knowledge, there is quite a bit that one could learn in the cafes too along the “Konigstrasse” in Dusseldorf. Of course, I knew who “Big Brother” was, and I had read Eric Blair’s epic book. Winston Churchill had predicted Communism was going to be eaten-up by its own Bacillus, long before he won his Nobel Prize for literature. The Soviet Union, which Josef Stalin is supposed to have ruled from 1923 to 1953, during which time he was alleged to have ”liquidated” some 32 million souls of his own countrymen, had been foreseen by many beforehand that it was going to collapse. It had indeed, collapsed the time Mr. KW and I met.” The saga of the iron from plantain to cure “anemia” of the world has a longer arm of the story to our Republic, and what it could do, and all of us know it. I have not come across a long street anywhere from London to Berlin, and to Tokyo, where many places get open selling Ghanaian recipes, comparable to Chinese dishes. Is it simply because the Chinese outnumber us so! That is true. But, is that the only answer? How about chocolate? Has anybody tried getting the stuff on Fathers’ Day, or Valentine’s Day? Ghana produces just a little under half of the entire world’s cocoa, but how about maximising the profit for us? At one time in our history, we produced the sacks for shipping it. “An African leader” then tried to stock the product in silos, so as to hike the price for us, Africans. Do you know who sabotaged the plan? Just be satisfied to learn it was another African country. But, our Arab fellow human beings were successful in denying crude oil to the West, and would you want to know what they got out of it? Oil price bounced from US$3 a barrel, to US$42 in the seventies. Could we do that with plantain, when we failed with cocoa? The issue with the iron in plantain is something which theoretically, we have the freedom to discuss, and good-will to earn, not only for our pocket, but for the nation’s as well, and it might work. Dictatorial methods such as Stalin used – he being the BIG BROTHER in Erick Blair’s Satire – was of course doomed to failure right from the start. The next time I heard of my friend at the Golden Tulip, nearly a dozen years ago, he wanted to be himself, the BIG BROTHER! What’s wrong with that?
Kofi Dankyi Beeko, MD E-mail: email@example.com
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