Friday 20th July 2018 was exactly a week after the infamous Friday the Thirteenth, a day set aside as a day of evil and all that is wrong. On that twentieth day of July, Ghanaians had a rude shock with motion pictures from social media showing a clear violation of the human rights of a simple poor mother of three and a grandmother of one.
The Good: Patience Osafo was a customer of a banking financial institution, Midland Savings and Loans, with an account at its branch office in Shiashie, Accra. She was a petty trader with a working capital of GH¢35, selling sweets and tissue papers. Out of the regular profit before tax of GH¢12, she could fend for the family of five, save something in the bank, and pay for renting a kiosk for a home.
To begin with, how many middle-class people can survive on her working capital of GH¢35 a day? This woman must be used for a research into the lives and conditions of our poorest of the poor. She should be celebrated by academia and made a visiting lecturer to our institutions of higher learning, especially the business and schools of economics to teach students and lectures on how to live on almost nothing, but manage your life well and do not waste resources. Hers is the best example of practical living well managed. The professors and lecturers of our schools, colleges and universities must seriously think this through, and engage such people to educate students in applied living.
Patience was approached by Midlands Savings and Loans at her vending spot in the Accra Mall area, and convinced her about the benefits of saving, and she willingly became their customer. She regularly and religiously kept saving out of the little she made from the sale of sweets and tissues. How many of the middle class ever save some money as she did?
There is the need to develop the culture of savings, because, with that, the financial institutions can have enough money to help fund developmental projects and other programmes for the benefit of the growth of this nation. Patience is one very good example of a good citizen.
When she felt the need to withdraw her money due to the need to recapitalise her business and pay off mounting debts, she approached the bank on Friday the 13th. The most unlucky day, and that was when her woes begun. That Friday, she was not served and asked to come back the following Monday, meaning she spent the whole weekend without adequate money. She could not go for her allocation of sweets and tissues, and that meant no work no pay.
From the following Monday through to Wednesday, she kept going to the bank and was always turned away until Thursday, when Patience’s patience run thin after waiting for nine hours with a yet-to-be three-month old baby, and told again to come back the following day. And her insistence for the bank to live up to its mandated responsibility resulted in that fatal encounter with a brute of a policeman.
Even after been given the worst beatings of her life and given her money, she decided not to lodge a complaint, and with not enough to go to the hospital, she went about her business.
The Bad: Midland Savings and Loans Company is a banking financial institution which falls under what is termed thrift banks. As a financial institution registered under the law and given a license to operate by the Bank of Ghana, it is guided by banking regulations and laws to be of service to its customers or anyone who enters its offices to require of or transact business. The principle of the customer is always right is the premier law that is to be religiously adhered to by all financial institutions.
Also, there is no way a customer should be turned away for five continuous days with the excuse that the system was down. If there is no other way to serve the customer than through the system, then the staff should have to wait even after business hours for the system to come alive and process all demands and serve the customers the following working day. This is simple common sense.
To, however, ignore the pleas of a poor customer is certainly not the best, and its consequences could lead to the collapse of the bank.
By this time all staff of all the financial institutions would realise that what they were taught in books that the customer is supreme has, indeed, be made manifest in a poor disregarded person called Patience Osafo. The one who lodges small change in coins in her account is as important as the one who lodges millions of cedis.
If Midlands Savings and Loans collapses today, it may not be due to the termination of relationship by its big customers, but due to one simple poor and insignificant person, in their eyes, is a customer called Patience Osafo.
It was very bad and wicked on the part of the branch management to call for help from an armed police officer to evict a customer from their office, whose only crime was to legally demand her money.
The reason behind their not been able to honour her demand for five days running seems to have nothing to do with liquidity, because if it was, no customer would have been served; for Patience claimed people were cashing monies some in excess of GH¢5,000.
If the bank, indeed, faced liquidity problems, the first point of call would be its treasury department, and if it does not have money, the head office will fall on their accounts with the Bank of Ghana. This is the order of things in the financial sector.
And, worse of all, when the brute was severely assaulting the poor woman, no one came to her rescue. Not even the Manager was dragged out by the noise of commotion, and this is very unusual. Having stated these, finding the money to pay her, only after she was handed the worst beatings in her life, completely makes the entire bank staff culpable as well.
The Ugly: There comes in a policeman, trained and paid to protect the innocent and vulnerable. He walks to the Manager’s office for instructions, and he was asked to clear the mess of a woman from the office.
He came out very determined to discharge his responsibility and get paid something for that, and so to be swift about it, he descended heavily on this woman and beat her up as if he had some pent-up grievance against her before that moment. Throwing punches and slaps into the face of a weak women who never replied to the physical attacks is to say that Frederick Godzi Amanor is not only wicked, but ugly in heart and soul.
I dare say that many reasons could be given for such a behaviour and one cannot run away from ethnocentrism; for if Patience had been a relative or a tribeswoman, Amanor would have coerced her out and even given her something to spend for the night.
Godzi Amanor’s behaviour also brings up the urgent call to question the current mode of recruitment into the security services. Does the system do adequate checks into the lives and conducts of people who have submitted themselves for enlistment?
There is nothing wrong with protocol lists from the politicians and leaders in society. I will only suggest that these leaders must help weed off persons with suspicious and crude characters before submitting their list, and the enlistment process should include in-depth background checks on those to be enlisted.
That “take my son into the police/army, for even though he is not of good conduct, when he joins up and they give him a few slaps, he will conform,” has no role here. If a parent or guardian cannot reform his or her own son all through his childhood, how could an institution be able to do that within six months to two years of training?
One other worrying thing is that it seems that whenever the New Patriotic Party (NPP) takes over governance, there is an upsurge of police brutality. The May 9th disaster of 2001 is one classical example, and the recent police brutality leading to the killing of seven Muslim youth and what Frederick Amanor did cannot be just disregarded without investigating the political intent in these acts of violence. Something is amiss to make the government unpopular, and it is for it to diffuse that by any means possible.
The Unknown Hero: Many praised Anas’ exposés on alleged corrupt acts in the country. But it seems most of these many are angry with the recording of the police brutality that took place on Thursday 19th July 2018 at the Shiashie branch of Midlands Savings and Loans.
Among those suspended, we are told, was the one who recorded the scene. Whoever he or she is, they must be given an award for bringing to our notice what happens to the commoners and poorest of the poor in this country.
How many of such Patience Osafos have been denied justice and punished for committing no crime? Such actions against the marginal poor and seemingly insignificant can be a national security threat. For, if one day all such people throw caution to the winds and decide to run down this country, we will have serious problems on hand.
The world great socio-political revolutions occurred because the poor, marginalised and vulnerable decided enough was enough.
The one who video-recorded the action has done something great that cannot be imagined. If not for anything at all, he or she could have saved this woman by exposing the crime and bring help to her, for she went home without seeking medical care and could have died.
Midland Saving and Loans Company just wants the public to know that it has taken control over the issue, however, what is needed is for all the staff to be replaced, and those culpable, starting with the manager, made to face justice.
The one who video-recorded has helped us to appreciate things better and must be given special mention of.
This is the extraordinary story of Patience.