Ghanaians play too much!!! No really, we do! Literally! Find any situation that deserves utmost seriousness and someone somewhere would find a way to deflate the matter into a loosely discussed issue.
Remember the Melcom Disaster? When people got trapped under a woefully constructed building, with some dying and others caved in for days? That was quite a horrible incident. What did we do? We cracked jokes about it after a couple of days. The joke around town was “these days when you want to buy a TV at Melcom, you stand outside the building and shout for a TV. The manager drops the TV from the fifth floor and you hurl wads of cash at him”
Then there was the airplane crash at 37. It was a very horrific situation with humans torn into pieces and our country’s airport security highly questioned. Prior to this, there had been a lot of talk over how the booming township around the airport was a serious threat to the country. Imagine if the plane had crashed on the “other side” where Airport City is situated . We still found ways to make mockery of the situation. The joke in town was “when you are crossing the road these days, watching our left and right for oncoming cars is no longer enough. You need to look up for low flying planes”
The list is as long as Osama’s beard. It spans corruption scandals, public gaffes of politicians among others. It is not necessarily a bad thing to infuse humor into everything but eventually, it distracts us from what really needs to be discussed. Even when we do have the much needed discussions, it does not dominate as many space as the jokes do.
Ghanaian humor is of a special type. Sarcasm is a rare staple here but pure humor is not. It is as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. It does not come well packaged in the wrapping of standup comedy. We generally suck at it. The few names which have tried having a go at standup have failed woefully. Maybe one or two names standout but generally, standing behind a microphone for a solo performance is not our thing. More accurately, doing this in English is not our forte. The “nkomode” squad of old killed it in Twi though.
Ghanaian humor is more natural. It occurs unconsciously in our diurnal activities. In class, when students seem confused over a subject. On the Trotro bus, after driver and mate fight with a passenger over a cedi or fifty pesewas. The need for fluidity in Ghanaian humor is the reason why Lil Win remains the funniest actor in the country. Those Kumasi movies do not follow any script! Then there is the lame and dry humor we use on girls we try to woo. Not pickup lines, but jokes we learn from watching Basketmouth shows.
Our humor has evolved into different forms and reached newer heights. Whatsapp has seen us transcribing the jokes we told years gone. The Ananse jokes and funny parts of “By the fireside stories” are now available on our phone screens. And so are the numerous funny saying purported to be coming from Robert Mugabe.
Robert Mugabe is the no nonsense, straight talking Zimbabwean head of state the world has come to admire and hate simultaneously. To the west, he represents everything wrong with Africa. An ailing and aged leader who refuses to let go of power. They see him as the cause of Zimbabwe’s million problems, their trillion dollar notes and the empty shelves in Zimbabwean grocery shops. Not the strenuous sanctions they have imposed on this country largely due to his assertive repossession of lands occupied by White people. No, they do not think that is why the country suddenly stopped being the bread basket of Africa.
To his admirers, and there are a bunch of them, Mugabe is the epitome of what African leaders must be; resolute in their ways, never breaking and bending their backs to please the white man. His UN General Assembly speeches are Hall of Fame materials for the anti-imperialism movement. Not forgetting the quip filled interview he had with Christianne Amanpour. It might just be the most quotable interview on CNN ever!
Over the past few years, Mugabe has come to be identified with a number of witty quotes. Like the one where he talks about leaving office when the Queen of England abdicates the throne. Or the one where he is told the Americans have been exploring space and Mars and he replies by saying Zimbabweans will be doing the impossible by going to the Sun. Only that they will be doing it at night. Or even the widely shared one about racism not ending until we start mixing our black laundry with the white ones.
In as much as some seem and sound ludicrous coming from a man with multiple degrees, you find yourself believing them knowing the knack this man has for being funny without even trying. But over the past few days, I personally have had reason to doubt some of the aforementioned statement attributed to Mugabe. My whatsapp has been littered with the most mundane as well as lamest jokes being attributed to Mugabe. Not a single statement masquerading as a joke ends without being credited to Mugabe.
Apparently Mugabe has so much time on his hands these days, his biggest worry is dating and how ladies are someway somehow shortchanging men in relationships. Apparently early this year he said “”It’s better for a man to be stingy with the money he has hustled for, than for a woman to deny you a hole that she didn’t even drill it herself.” And then he added this in April “If your girlfriend/boyfriend has not taken a picture with you before just make that request and stop forcing Photo Grid to bring you together.” But just a few minutes after Liverpool lost the Europa Cup, he had this to say “Swimming pool is much more useful than the Liverpool football club”.
But Mugabe audience in Ghana do not only crack their ribs at his jokes. He has a number of opinions on Ghana’s economic development which interesting enough are tailored to suit either one of the nations. The savagery with which he talks about these issues is unparalleled.
Somewhere in Harare, Bulawayo or wherever the ZANU-PF needs him to be, Mugabe would be unaware of unmerited fame in Ghana. He would be oblivious of how his name has been associated with every wisecrack or attempt to come off as funny. Maybe once he becomes aware of how ubiquitous his name is and the people of Zimbabwe do too, vengeance would mean John D. Mahama would be the name signing off on Zimbabwean jokes.