Why: Message from the Morning Man
By Kojo Yankson
14th November 2016
My son, Fiifi is a chatterbox of the first order. You just cannot shut him up. He has questions about everything. He starts in the morning and literally only shuts up when there is food in his mouth, or when he finally falls asleep. His favourite question is why. He asks that about everything. Why do I have two grandfathers? Why does water come out of the tap? Why is the ground hard? Why do I have to go to school? Why do you have to go to work? Why did that woman call you the Morning Man? Why am I not called the Morning Boy? On and on and on…
One day, I decided to turn the tables on him. Just before he could ask the next “why”, I chipped in with one of my own: “Fiifi, why do you ask so many questions?”
“Because I want to know things”, he replied, rolling his eyes as if the answer should be the most obvious thing in the world.
“But why do you want to know things”, I rejoined, determined to keep the pressure on him for a change.
“Because I want to be like you”, he said with his sweet, toothless smile. That little charmer always knows the right things to say…
But I wasn’t done. “Why do you want to be like me”, I asked with an innocent-albeit toothy – grin of my own.
The little conman looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said, “Because you always know what to do”.
I melted. The boy had finished me.
Now, you know me, I’m always looking out for lessons to learn from every encounter, and this was no exception. For me, the big takeaway from the little charm workshop my son took me through was this: Smart people ask questions. And the smartest question to ask is “why”.
Questions yield knowledge, and being smart is all about knowing how to apply knowledge. So how on Earth can you apply knowledge if you have none?
In our part of the world, we often don’t ask why. I don’t know what it is, but even from childhood, we are discouraged from questioning. I was exactly like Fiifi at his age, and many of my teachers called me rude and disrespectful. Thank God I had parents who ere not only smart enough to get me answers in the google-free era of the eighties and nineties, but also encouraged me to keep asking questions. Today, I’ve made a career out of it.
But our society still shies away from asking questions, and it’s the reason why we are where we are. Our religious leaders feed us false prophesies, step on our pregnant stomachs with their designer shoes, and flog our children in public. We never ask why. Our political leaders drive to our village in a convoy of V8s to tell us there is no money to provide us with common water to drink. We never ask why. Our lecturers tell us the only acceptable answers are the ones from their self-authored, overpriced hand-outs. We never ask why.
Our traditional leaders sell off the lands of our heritage by the acre, to galamsey operators who share the proceeds of their crime with them, while depleting our natural resources and poisoning our water for good measure. We never ask why. Journalists consistently bring us one side of the story – the side that pays the most – and insists that is the whole truth. We never ask why.
The truth, my friends, is that the only thing standing in the way of our development as a society, is a well-placed question or two. Smart people ask questions, and the smartest question to ask is “why”. Those who cheat us rely on our inability to ask questions. They think we are too stupid to ask why, so they feed us all manner of drivel and call it truth. Now, I’m not stupid. I know you’re not either. But I can’t ask all the questions myself. So you’re gonna have to chip in.
Ask some questions. Why are there no bins in our communities? Why is that Pastor being driven in a Range Rover when his church members can’t pay their kids’ school fees? Why am I being taught by a lecturer who hasn’t got a clue what is happening in the industry I’m training to operate in? Why am I being told that 95% of Ghanaians of voting age have registered to vote? 95%? Really? Why? Let’s ask some questions, na that’s what smart people do
Today is World Diabetes Day. One in every 9 Ghanaians has the condition. Eleven percent of us – and that’s those who know they have it! They call it a deadly disease, but it’s only deadly if you don’t know you have it. Once you know, it becomes an opportunity to be healthier than you’ve ever been. Today, I want to encourage you to do a simple test. Before you eat this morning, just pop into a pharmacy and ask for a blood sugar test. Ask the question. If you have diabetes, there is no reason for it to slow you down. I live with it, and somehow manage to perform in one of the most pressure-filled jobs in the country.
Now, if you DON’T have it, even better! You now have the chance to make the right decisions and make the adjustments to your life to ensure you never get it. Like my six-year-old son said, if you ask questions, you will always know what to do. So get tested today, and know what to do.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and I have a question or two.
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!