Valuable life lessons often come from unlikely sources
It’s 9am on a Thursday at the African University College of Communication. I’m sitting at my desk on the third floor, in complete darkness and complete silence. Three hundred some odd students are away, presumably studying for exams, and we’re experiencing yet another power outage.
I’m thinking about a conversation I had earlier in the morning, with Kwame, the young, dread-locked cabbie who drove me to work. I usually try to save cedis (the local currency) by taking the tro-tro, which is the cheap minibus, frequently packed with commuters like sardines in a rusted tin. However, on this fateful morning, a lengthy flirtation with my snooze button led me to a taxi stand and the following words of wisdom from my driver: “My sista, all we need is love.”
Kwame’s words instantly broke my hypnotic trance. I’ve often found that some of the most interesting conversations, in any city, come courtesy of taxi drivers. After all, who knows a city more than the people who make their living chauffeuring characters from all walks of life around it? It was the unsolicited depth of Kwame’s comment, about 10 minutes into a rather silent ride that intrigued me and prompted my equally deep reply: “Ah.…What?”
Well, deep for 8 a.m.
“Sista,” says Kwame, as he shifted his glance from the side window to the windshield, “things are not working well. It’s a backwards country. You can even hear it on the radio.”
Proof came shortly thereafter, in the form of a fired-up caller on a radio show that I suddenly realized had been on the entire time. Funny, how you can tune things out when you don’t understand the language. The topic on Peace FM, a station known for sympathizing with the opposition, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), was the mismanagement of Ghana’s economy by the ruling New Democratic Congress (NDC).
Conversations like this take place on a daily basis in the press here in Ghana, whether it be on the radio, TV or in print. Political appetites are high and the Ghanaian media’s main bread and butter for their front page is politics, or “politricks,” as it’s referred to by my coworkers around the office.
Media houses often align themselves squarely on one side of the political fence–blatantly so, in fact. Libel-esque mudslinging is common and though Ghanaians may be somewhat divided politically, most can agree that their government should be held accountable for their nation’s progress, or lack thereof. Political apathy is not an option here. Everyone has an opinion.
Cabbie Kwame was no exception.
“I drive around all day,” says Kwame pointing out the windshield. “The streets are not even clean. The youth are frustrated in the city. There are no jobs for them so they turn to crime. The institutions are not working and the politicians,” adds Kwame, pausing to make a scoffing sound, “they lie.”
“So what’s the solution?” I ask, offering a curious ear, as the notebook I pulled out a moment earlier overflowed with all the cab confessions I could immortalize in ink.
“We must forget NPP and NDC,” says Kwame. “Even amongst ourselves, we are divided. This nation belongs to all of us. We must work together, my sista. One love.”
Around 9:10, as I thought about Kwame’s words on love and politricks one more time, the lights finally went on in my office.