Brothers and Sisters, behind the Cinderella fashion of the rise from grace to grass by our own, Madam Patience Osafo, we need to ponder and consider how many more like her are out there.
We see them on the streets, and in the corners, selling anything they have on hand, just to get hand-to-mouth. The harshest side of life has become their permanent companion, and as they flee from the hardships of their hometowns, they rather encounter the worst forms of dangers in the cities.
Young girls escape from outmoded traditional practices like female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage, or other forms of hopelessness to seek refuge in the streets of the cities, with some wondering whether it was all worth it after all. To undergo FGM, or forced to marry a man old enough to be their grandfathers and be guaranteed a decent living, or to escape all these and end up sleeping on pavements and in kiosks, and exposed to the weather, rapists, and muggers, become a daily debate.
Returning home is out of the question, because such girls have their freedom now even though they have gotten into the worse form of social prison: the streets.
And it is from the streets that we have streetism a serious growing canker, that if it is not quickly, the rule of gangsterism will be implemented in this country.
We see them in the streets by day hawking anything at all, and virtually begging us to buy something, so that they can eat. They offer their wares at rock bottom prices, which we even beat down, and they reluctantly accept, even if it meant making only some few coins in profit. We then go to the supermarkets and buy the same thing at five times the price offered on the streets and ask the seemingly underpaid attendant to keep the change.
Some go to do menial jobs like working in drinking and chop bars, or as head porters in the markets or bus/lorry terminals. We must not forget the shoe-shine boys, the newspaper vendors, the poorly paid shop attendants and others.
By night, while some of them may continue selling at busy places before retiring late to sleep in places which many of us will find unfit for humans, others who are adventurous may proceed to other trades like prostitution or robbery.
From day to day, hour to hour these our less-privileged brothers and sisters are on the move and on their feet earning next to nothing for their hard labour.
We look down upon them as a racist KKK member will look down upon Blacks. We regard them for nothing, and, of course, they do not consider themselves as something. They only want to survive like us, they also want to own property and have meaningful businesses that will earn them handsome incomes.
So they keep on working, even though what they earn is nothing to write home about. Then they decide to save the little they can, hoping that they would earn higher returns and do something meaningful. They want to move on in life.
Even here, we still do not regard them as humans, and so when they come to the banks, the very important code of banker/customer relationship is set aside. They are a nuisance to us and everybody around, and we wish they leave the premises to make way for us, the real humans.
Even in the churches where they come to seek God’s Holy Face, they are classified into the group of also runs, for how much at all can they pay to open up Heaven’s Gate for the much-needed blessings and graces from God. These our now-a-day pastors have made it known to us that due to the numerous sins and voluntary wretched living by man, accessing Heaven has become costly, the demand is great and the supply of graces limited. So those of you who can afford the tens of thousands of cedis and dollars can seek our Maker’s face through His holy men and women of God.
But these people are also human, and they also belong. In fact, without them, we are naught; without them we cannot survive the way we do. And we keep forgetting one thing, they are more than us and can change our lives if only they come together and decide what to do. Remember, they each have one vote, as we each do, so if they want to change things democratically, the nation will be saddled with an illiterate president and semi-illiterate parliamentarians.
Or with their numbers they can enact the Soviet and French revolutions and kill of people with incomes and possessions above a certain bracket.
Only less than a month ago, the majority of Ghanaians never knew there was a certain Ghanaian woman called Patience Adobea Osafo, who claims she is 36, but looks like in her late 50’s, thanks to poverty and hard life. She petty traded around the Accra Mall area, earning as much as GH¢12 per allocation of GH¢35 worth of sweets and tissues, and sleeps in a kiosk at night with three children and a grandchild. It is this GH¢12 ($2.90) the family of five lives on, and Patience also religiously saves at the bank.
Events of July 19, 2018 led to her popularity, and she walked into the hearts of many Ghanaians, establishing herself as a heroine. She stood her ground, even in the face of barbaric brutality, to make the bank perform its mandated duty – to serve customers.
People wept for her and poured out their hearts with gratitude of gifts of cash and kind. Today, from a total account balance of GH¢270 ($65.25), she is officially worth over GH¢40,000 ($9,667.21). Today, from living on mere gari soakings for the entire family, she is well stocked with provisions as if she owns a supermarket. Today, from living in a rented kiosk, she is the proud owner of a brand new two-bedroom apartment in a gated community.
I believe she deserves more than these, after the bad treatment she got from the only bank she continually supported with her meagre savings. I believe she deserves more than these, after a wayward policeman threw the code of ethics and decency of the uniform to the dogs, and out of conduct, he beat up Patience whose only crime was to be at the bank at the right moment, as one of the first customers for the day to withdraw her money on demand.
I believe the state must compensate her duly, which must also come from the policeman’s salary and all benefits accrued to date (SSNIT and all).
I believe the member of staff who videoed that sad incident must be reinstated, rewarded and promoted for that courageous act, which exposed society to some of the worst forms of corruption – the exploitation of the downtrodden.
Adeola Fayehun rightly called that member of staff a hero, and he or she must be regarded as such. One cannot comprehend the good such a person has done for this God-blessed homeland of ours called Ghana.
I reiterate that streetism is a problem which we need to solve immediately before it explodes in our faces. In an environment where no culture is practiced, except the laws of the jungle; where only the fittest and smartest survive, we are watching this situation to one day explode, and as a street hawker once said to potential buyer seated in his air-conditioned car, “I am only pleading that you buy something, because I do not want to turn on you in the night to rob you off your belongings.” They only want to survive, and we seem to be pushing them to the wall.
People are living on the streets and giving birth on the streets, and their children are also giving birth, for, at thirty-six, Patience is a grandmother. Soon there will be population explosion in the streets, and we will have a problem on hand.
In Brazil they attempted solving the problems posed by streetism by hunting and shooting street children as if they were wild animals. This we cannot allow here.
We need to find solutions, and need to find them fast. Certainly, we cannot afford to gift apartments and large sums of cash and provision to every adult person living on the streets. However, we can add value to their lives by building shelters with apartments of one or two bedrooms each in all urban areas to accommodate our migrant poor. The New Patriotic Party (NPP) has this in its 2016 Manifesto.
We need to upgrade their lives by conducting evening classes in trades and vocations to these migrant poor. The Catholic Church is already doing that.
Solutions must be found to the reasons poor people migrate to urban areas in the first place, which include outmoded tradition practices, poverty and others.
And of course, the laws to protect each and every citizen must be fully implemented, no matter one’s status.
While at this, I hope we have not forgotten Evelyn Boakye who was rudely assaulted by a racist Lebanese staff of Marwako Restaurant in Abelemkpe in Accra on Sunday February 26, 2017. Jihad Thaabn, a brother-in-law to the owner, pushed her face into pepper puree for ten minutes, and later locked her up for hours to prevent her from accessing medical help.
Ghanaians want to know whether Evelyn has been duly compensated, and how much fine has been imposed on the chain restaurant.
Ghanaians must adopt the “One for all, and all for One” policy, and everyone should live by Ubuntu meaning “I am because we are.”
The question still persists, “How many more Patience Osafos are out there?”
Hon. Daniel Dugan