The Rapper, The Priest And The Reporter

There is the real world, Jomo and then there is the other one the media and various interests keep painting for us: The phenomenon, if we might call it that, has crept surreptitiously into the life of the republic and is holding sway with intriguing abandon in the areas of governance, politics, religion and the creative arts. Traditional highlife is doing just fine and so is some of the hip life music on offer but the same cannot be said of other emerging genres which many radio stations and disc jockeys appear so enamored with these days: What is supposed to be rap music is usually an uninspiring concoction of vulgar pidgin, Akan and some English of sorts, delivered in a rather forced baritone and in the manner of the village soothsayer’s chant. The beat tends to be “one-way”, the lyrics rhythmically uninspiring and often rendered totally meaningless by the use of ill-fitting words at the end of lines to make them rhyme “by force” and all said and done, bereft of that indescribable ram-bam thing that makes the soul break into a dance even before the physical body makes its moves. The vigorous if also erratic kangaroo–like hopping and prancing about, the obscene thrusting of naked torsos, the gyrating hips and heaving, trembling bums , the wild thrashing about of the limbs like agitated octopuses and the side to side swinging of heads like praying mantises in their element-these don’t constitute my idea of dancing, old chap. When I talk about dance, I am referring to the effortless gliding on toes across the floor, punctuated by the sudden, sharp, elegant break and backward roll on the heel while appearing to be rolling forward on the toes at the same time. I am referring to dance as in the late Mr. M. Jackson’s Moonwalk and the late Mr. J. Brown’s mashed potato popcorn. The media and arts and entertainment critics in particular, should be challenging the present generation of Ghanaian stage artistes to raise the bar of excellence just the slightest bit higher, but here is the rub, Jomo: The media must keep the bar of excellence low if it is to make some money and so where the music industry is concerned, the media needs to create celebrities where none really exist. To be able to sell them to consumers of media products, the media must first help some of our young musicians to become imitations of Western celebrity models, complete with strange stage names, dark sunglasses, maybe some ear rings and imported hand gestures and accents, who, we gather from the same media, live glamorous and romantic if also often scandal-prone lives off stage. If a jobless tramp were caught in the act of rape, that would most likely not make a hollering front page headline for a newspaper with a reputation for mighty scoops but if it the tramp were called a bishop, now, that would be hot-selling news. The result, Jomo, is that pastors, prophets and bishops come a dozen for one Ghana pesewa these days. Not that I have seen much of the copper-minted pin head of a coin with the feel and look of fake metal , since the Governor of the Bank of Ghana put it in circulation a few years ago, but never mind... There is the occasional clergyman who true to human nature and moral frailty, goes and does something morally and spiritually scandalous, irreprehensible or downright crazy. That is the real world. In the other world the media has created for us, the county’s clergy has been lumped together with cranks, nuts, bare-faced criminals and outright perverts. In recent times, the media has listed so called men of God who had raped, swindled, assaulted or murdered for ritual purposes and managed to throw in a tiny handful of orthodox clergy to make the media swindle appear credible. In some of the orthodox churches, prospective pastors enter pastoral formation with first degree level qualifications and spend up to ten years in advanced academic and theological study up to the doctoral level, while being taken through their moral and spiritual paces to affirm their commitment to life-long uncontaminated pastoral work. The fact in itself may not make saints of orthodox clergy as I have already shown but it illustrates that the “clergy” the media keep presenting to us in the news is many light-years away from the real clergy. It is a madness that is inexplicable: Mr. Obinim by his own confession, has committed adultery with a pastors’ wife and employed metaphysical means to physically disfigure and cripple a little girl, yet the jeans-clad lad has been portrayed to the international community as one of Ghana’s famous bishops and given far more media publicity than all the country’s leading clergy put together will get in 2011. If times have changed and the average bishop is not necessarily the comely, wizened man in cassock or clerical robes and a big crucifix around his neck, then he is certainly not the youngster in sunglasses and tight jeans heading a church with a name right out of a yet to be written comedy either. The very strange thing is that even the Christian Council of Ghana appears to have been caught up in the world the media has created for profit, to the incredible extent that some of the country’s most respected clergymen were heard in the media casting Obinim in the mould of a consecrated man of God who had erred. May be it is the case that being the real men of God, they find it assumptions to refer to the swindling fraudsters and crooks by their real names but how could that help stop the madness going on? Public officials with performance ratings to protect and offices to keep have also become very much aware that the media can help them create another reality outside reality: In Ghana today public safety has become so frighteningly comprised, that anyone who thinks he is safe is probably ensconced in a moron’s paradise. Yet the state has a responsibility to protect its citizens at all times, right? Amid the prevailing atmosphere of insecurity, Ghana’s Chief Detective, Deputy Commissioner of Police Prosper Kwame Agblor addresses a news conference. He begins by sticking to reality but hey, only partially: he confirms with figures, that the numbers of armed robberies increased in the Greater Accra, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Regions during the first half of 2011. Then, bang, he jumps to the good news, which is that the increases in the three regions notwithstanding, the number of armed robbery cases nationwide reduced by 14 percent during the first half of the year. How do we know the Chief Detective’s nation-wide percentage is accurate when he has not indicated the figures for the other seven regions of the country? The reality he assures us, is that “the Police Service is on top of the crime situation, especially armed robbery” and that “there should be no cause for alarm”. I am afraid, that is only the Chief Detective’s reality. The police may be doing their best, with the limited logistics and equipment at their disposal but the truth is also that armed robbers have taken over the country, springing surprise after surprise on the police and leading the police on the wildest of goose chases from coast to Savanna. They have seized the nation’s highways, waylaying large convoys of buses and other motor vehicles every blessed day, attacking, robbing and killing travelers at will. In the towns and cities, they are attacking and robbing banks, businesses and communities with brazen ease and a singular ruthlessness. That is the reality within the reality if you ask me or even if you don’t.