What’s the Solution: Message from the Morning Man by Kojo Yankson

What’s the Solution: Message from the Morning Man
by Kojo Yankson
5th Jan 2016
Kwame was thirty years old, but he looked forty-five. All day, he sat in a wicker chair under the mango tree in the compound, drinking sobolo and reading the newspaper. His father’s funeral was now a year in the past, but he still wore black every day. The world was moving along without him, and that was exactly how he liked it. Kwame’s father had been rich – a farmer with huge cocoa farms in the Brong Ahafo region and several houses in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi. His death from cholera a year ago had come as a shock to everyone – especially since he had died intestate. Kwame’s cousins had descended upon the farmer’s estate like vultures and taken everything, leaving him penniless. He’d had to drop out of his final year at University, and the whole world had come to a standstill.
The truth was that Kwame hated his dead father for leaving him in such a state of helplessness. An educated man dying from cholera in the 21st century seemed, to him, the height of stupidity. An educated man dying from cholera without leaving a will was simply unforgivable.
Having to drop out of school had been tough. Kwame had been a “dadaba” – a pampered rich kid who drove around in a range rover, with a different girl riding shotgun every day of the week. When his father was found dead, dehydrated and decomposing in his bedroom, Kwame was forced to move out of his East Legon house and hand over the car keys to some unknown cousin. Finding a place to rent had been a nightmare, and in the end, he had moved into his late mother’s apartment in a compound house. Poverty came hastily and harshly, and the young man had adjusted poorly.
When I first met him, a deep bitterness had taken seed in the young man’s gut, and its fruit was evident every time he opened his mouth. He told me his story by way of explanation, after I asked why he had walked away from university in the final year of his law degree and not found any work since. With fury-flavoured tears in his eyes, he lambasted his late father, cursed his cousins and swore colourful oaths on the heads of his uncles. I learnt from a neighbour hat this was a chorus he sang to whomever would listen.
I sat him down for a chat and suggested he get a job – any job – and pay for his final semester in university, after which he could secure gainful employment and move out of his mother’s family home. He fidgeted while we spoke and kept interrupting me with “but Kojo, can’t you see the old man didn’t try?”, and then he would launch back into the troubling tale of his woes. I tried to get through to him, to make him understand that there was more than one way out of his predicament. The young man was simply not interested. He preferred to talk about what was wrong than to think about how to fix it.
Sitting there and watching him stewing in his misery, it occurred to me that many of us in Ghana are just like Kwame when it comes to our national issues. We are eloquent at describing the problems and apportioning the blame – it’s always someone else’s fault that things are not right – but we don’t employ the same energy in pursuing solutions.
It’s the government’s fault that our economy is in tatters. It’s the President’s fault that Dumsor has still not ended. It’s the opposition’s fault that the government is getting away with murder. It’s the clergy’s fault that nobody has the moral fortitude to resist corruption. It’s the teachers’ fault that our children are growing up semi-literate. Just switch on your radio, pick a frequency and you will see exactly what I mean. We have become so skilled at describing our problems and verbally abusing those who cause them that we refuse to be distracted by any conversation about how to solve the problems we’re complaining so bitterly about.
For many years the Empire State Building had an elevator attendant called Gus. He was almost seventy years old and legally blind. Gus kept sending people to the wrong floor all day long. When asked why she wouldn’t simply sack him and let people press the lift buttons themselves, the building manager replied, “If I fire him, who do we blame for not getting to work on time?”
Friends, we are in danger of becoming so used to lamenting that we resist solutions that will take away our precious problems. Dumsor is almost not fun anymore, now that Kwabena Donkor is gone. People are itching to find someone else to direct their Dumsor-fuelled venom at. We become so fixated on the problem that we stop seeking a solution.
Last year, I declared a DIY year. We resolved together to take matters into our own hands and improving our own lives. This year, I declare it a Year of Solutions. We are not going to have any conversation on this show that does not include a discussion of potential solutions. Every morning, you and I will take a problem that ails us and ask ourselves: What’s the solution?
You see, there comes a time when we must pick a side in this battle for our nation’s future. We must all, individually, choose to be one of two things – part of the problem or part of the solution. We must decide whether we are problem announcers or problem solvers. We must decide whether we want to be victims of incompetence or heroes of transformation.
My friends, this our nation. We can either apply our mouths or our brains to its problems. This year, let’s choose brain power over lip service. Let’s distract ourselves long enough from the pity party to actually seek answers to the questions that have plagued us for generations. Let’s stop being spectators of our own doom and start being players in our own salvation. We can do this. We MUST do this. Or nobody else will.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and this year, my question is simple: What’s the solution?