Someone copied me on an article written by Ghanaian President John Mahama which was posted on the online version of Ebony magazine. The title is bold, empathetic and pleading:
Slaughtered Boys, Missing Girls: Who Stands Up for African Children?
I read the article without knowing who the author was. My heart swelled with pride. “The person GETS it!” I thought. Then I scrolled down to the bottom and was immediately stunned by the article’s creator. Ah, ah? John Mahama? How?!
My admiration was immediately transformed into irritation.
I am a mother. I am a civilian. I am politically agnostic, which means unlike my friends who have die-hard political affiliations, I find myself at greater liberty to judge my leadership by their actions, rather than their party colors and slogans. That said, I remain woefully under impressed by John Mahama and his performance as president, no matter how good he looks and smells. (And the brother is SO good looking. Anyway…)
As far as we know, it took John Mahama – who is now the head of ECOWAS – just as long to come out with a statement of solidarity as it took President Jonathan to do the same on the issue of the captured girls from Chibok. That was around three weeks. To his credit, Mr. Mahama seems to be on a serious media blitz to at least appear as though he’s engaged and sympathetic to the plight of not just these students who were snatched from their beds as they slept, but for all African children everywhere.
John Mahama challenges the global apathy towards the plight of African children is the tagline in the Ebony article. How ironic, when he and his party ran on promises built on the backs of children in 2012…promises of free school uniforms (rather than the free education his NPP opponent proposed) that have largely yet to be delivered! Tell me, who cares about African children indeed?
It’s not difficult to understand the molasses-in-January pace that West African governments have taken in rescuing these girls. I mentioned in previous posts that African girls and women – particularly of certain classes – are lowest on the social totem pole. And as egalitarian as Ghanaian society believes and perceives itself to be, we still exhibit behavior that is completely abhorrent in the area of women and children’s rights.
Have you ever been to Cape Coast Castle? It’s a sobering experience. The male dungeons are located deep underground, still dank with the stench of human excrement and fear. The women’s cells however are located above, one of which is located just beneath the governor’s bed chambers. Just outside the women’s cells is a courtyard with 3-4 cannon balls cemented into the stone floor. Guides will tell you how the most “undisciplined” slave women were chained to these balls and made to sit/stand in the sun for hours for their unruly behavior. Twenty minutes in the Ghanaian sun is enough to douse the fire in one’s soul, let alone hours.
It’s ironic therefore, that John Mahama came out with this article raging against global apathy for Africa’s children when Ghanaian women were physically abused for his sake just days before. I read with horror and disgust how a group of nursing students in the Mampong Midwifery and Health Assistants School were punished for carrying placards detailing their grievances during the president’s visit to the locale. The nurses – who have not received their contractual allowances – demonstrated peacefully with the goal of bringing Mr. Mahama’s attention to the fact that they have not been paid for their service. In retaliation, Mohammed Kwadwo Aboasu, MCE of Asante Mampong ordered these women (many of whom are wives and mothers) to kneel in sun for up to 45 minutes because “they had disgraced him and the school”. Then he seized their rice cookers so that they couldn’t prepare their own food, subjecting them to greater out of pocket costs.
Are people actually shocked at the behavior of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau when those who claim to operate under the banner of lawfulness and civility treat women in this way? When it becomes a crime to demand wages you were promised? No wonder these militants feel so brazen in their attacks against women and girls when their so-called ‘betters’ behave no differently! A bully is a bully whether he’s armed with a gun or a microphone. At the end of the day, Mohammed Aboasu and Abubakar Shekau are slaves to their ego and soley concerned with exerting their will. The same applies to any man who would abuse power in this way.
So please Mr. President and all those who would compel me to be impressed with his fancy words on international media, let’s see to our own culture and assess our own form of terrorism before we go a-scolding others. Tell your cabinet, local leaders and the nation to treat all us women with respect. Show us by example that you value the lives of women, and not just with words. Or are we to continue to believe that the militants are right, and that a woman can be punished simply for seeking her education and all that goes in tandem with it?