Eyes Wide Shut: Message from the Morning Man
by Kojo Yankson
5th October 2015
When I first moved to Accra I lived in a hotel for almost two months. The hotel shared a wall with a cement block manufacturer. On weekends I would sit on my balcony and look over the wall as the cement makers children played in his compound. The youngest child was a boy, not more than six or seven years old. He was always wearing an oversized shirt – probably something he inherited from his older brothers – and his favourite game was to climb up an abandoned pile of half formed cement blocks until he was high up enough to haul his scrawny frame unto the narrow but rather high boundary wall. He would then proceed to walk briskly along the narrow wall, as if he was walking a tight rope.
It was rather nerve-wracking to watch this little kid scamper along this dangerously high ledge, and I always worried that he would fall. I remember once thinking I should shout a friendly warning across to him whenever he started to climb the abandoned blocks, or at least tell his father to stop him climbing so dangerously high, just to play, but for some reason, I thought better of it and said nothing.
A few weeks ago, I went back to the hotel for a meeting and saw the boy’s father. I asked after his children and he said they were all fine, except for the youngest boy, who had fallen off the wall last year and injured his spine. He now couldn’t walk without crutches . I stood there frozen in horror, the same question replaying in my mind: could I have saved this little boy by saying something?
Since that day I often catch myself remembering the numerous occasions I saw him play his dangerous game, and the numerous opportunities I may have missed to save this poor boy. But I did nothing, and that simple yet sinister fact will haunt me for all my days.
Last week, our Kumasi correspondent, Erastus Asare Donkor brought us the shocking story of a two year old toddler who had been tortured and maimed for life, by the adults he was entrusted to for safe keeping while his father was away. The story shocked us all so much that I decided I couldn’t sit idly by and watch events unfold from a distance. I had to get involved, so I went to Kumasi with the team, and for the first time I almost wished we hadn’t.
At every stage of this miserable tale of molestation and torture, we realised that there were people who saw what was happening and did nothing.
The neighbours, saw this two year-old being beaten and tortured daily. They saw these two adults torture and molest somebody’s child. They saw this callous couple apply a red hot iron to this innocent child’s hand, and, they said nothing.
The nurses at the hospital saw this woman routinely slap this poor boy, even as he lay in the hospital awaiting treatment. They saw this and they said nothing.
The police, saw that they were dealing with a vulnerable child whose greatest danger came from those assigned to look after him. They saw all the suspicious signs of abuse and deduced that his guardians were the perpetrators . They saw this, and, for a dangerously long time, did nothing.
The child’s mother saw that her baby had been injured while in the care of this cruel couple. She saw that the injury was badly cared for, and the couple had no intention of seeking medical help for her son. She saw this, and she did nothing.
The crooked couple themselves, quietly observed day after day, as the poor boy’s wound festered and gangrened under the filthy rag they used to bind his horrific injury. They watched daily as the poor boy’s fingers blackened and died, one after the other, under the rot of their neglect. They observed unconcerned, as somebody else’s child, for whom they had assumed responsibility, slowly and permanently lost the use of his left hand. They saw this, and they did nothing.
My friends, a theme is developing here. This sad story of sadism is not the only example of how we, as a people, have formed this tragic habit of walking around with our eyes wide shut, standing idly by like hypnotised spectators, while evil is perpetrated all around us.
When Anas unveiled the rot of corruption in the judiciary, Lydia Forson wrote another of her famous social media communiqués; declaring that corrupt judges was not news. Well Lydia, if you knew all this while that our judges were corrupt why did you say nothing? Why did u keep mute, knowing that such evil existed?
It’s becoming increasingly clear, that as a people we know exactly what is wrong with us, but we also make a clear and conscious choice to do nothing about it.
Every time there’s a national tragedy, we have no shortage of prophets or priests proudly boasting about how they saw it all in a dream or a vision, yet, for some reason best known to them alone, they chose to sit around twiddling their thumbs, while disaster struck and lives were lost. They knew, but they did nothing.
This is who we are becoming now? A paralyzed people who know what to do but can’t do it? My friends, this cannot be our destiny.
Sir Thomas Moore once said,” the inept will be spared before the inert”, simply put, those who don’t know what to do will be forgiven, before those who know what to do, but can’t do it. We cannot allow ourselves to be known as the generation that knew what to do but didn’t do it. As Lydia Forson suggests, we all know what’s going on, so for the love of GOD, let’s do something about it.
My name is Kojo Yankson and I don’t know if I could has saved the cement makers son, but I do know that nobody else’s son will fall off the wall. Not while I’m watching.
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!