On Thursday 27 May 2021, Ghana’s foremost playwright Uncle Ebo Whyte, on his programme on Joy FM “Food for Thought,” told an amusing story. On Monday and Thursday mornings, Uncle Ebo regales Ghanaians with interesting stories.
Until Covid-19 made huge assemblies difficult, Uncle Ebo staged a play every quarter at the National Theatre, Accra. Though he talks generally about topical issues, most stories are laced with his real-life experiences, especially his early childhood at South-Suntreso, Kumasi.
Ebo’s story on Thursday was about a trip he took to the US early in his career in the 1980s. He recounts that, on arrival at the Company’s Headquarters, he was ushered in to see the Vice-President (VP). This meeting was to last thirty minutes after which he would be handed over to a staff member who would conduct him around for the rest of the day.
As the conversation got more interesting, the Vice-President made a change in plan. He decided Ebo accompany him for a hospital appointment he had. After the appointment, the VP asked they have lunch together. To Ebo’s surprise, they were joined by the Vice-President’s wife for lunch.
At the end of the day, the overwhelmed Uncle Ebo told the VP how kind and different he was from everyone else. Replying the compliment, the VP said, until four years earlier, he was a completely different human being, and would not have done what he did. Indeed, he confessed, humility was not his forte.
He explained that, until an incident changed his life, he was a selfish results-oriented go-getter who only saw employees as tools to help him achieve his vision. Employee welfare did not feature in his thought. He therefore worked very hard, and his employees equally hard. He had no life outside his work. Unsurprisingly, he rose very fast in his organization.
At a point, he had a routine medical examination. When the doctor entered the room, the VP sensed a worried demeanour and look on the face of the doctor. The message was simple and stark. The VP had terminal brain-cancer and had only four months to live.
The devastating news brought his world to an end as the heavy weight of his selfishness/self-centredness came crashing on him. He immediately resolved to make peace with everybody in the four months he had left.
That evening, as VP lay in bed despondent, he had a phone call. It was from his doctor. Apologising profusely, the doctor told him, the x-ray he had read to him earlier in the day was not his. The mix-up came about because VP had the same first name with an eighty-five-year-old man who had terminal brain-cancer, whose report he read to him. He the VP was in perfect health.
That was the turning-point of his life into a humane human being, and not the mechanical, arrogant and unfeeling person he had been.
The lessons Ebo learnt from this encounter were life’s transience, and the need for respect, humility and humaneness in dealing with fellow human beings.
Like Ebo’s Vice-President, for some public office-holders, subordinates do not matter and can be treated/maltreated anyhow. At the least opportunity, they threaten saying “I will show you where power lies!”
For executives with such attitude, their departure from the organisation makes them automatic persona-non-grata. If for any reason they have to go back to the organization, it is pay-back time for subordinates they maltreated!
Unfortunately, arrogance is not the preserve of top executives only. The negative attitude seems to be everywhere! I have been treated shoddily in banks and other service-providing institutions. Rudeness in traffic is routine!
The major lesson from Uncle Ebo’s story is that, arrogance does not pay. Humility does. One does not have to face the extreme prospect of having only four months to live like the VP to treat others humanely.
After inflicting humiliation on me, offending officials have apologetically said, “oh Sir, I am sorry. I didn’t know who you are!” I advise them saying, you don’t have to know people to treat them well. You are paid to provide a service! Do it courteously!
Where did the basic courtesies, respect/discipline and patriotism we were taught disappear to?
I remember that young woman who rammed into my car from the rear, insolently tell me “but I didn’t see you!”
“Charity begins at home” is what we were taught. So parents, teach your children the values of courtesy, humaneness and respect for authority/elderly! Teachers will then reinforce what parents teach at home.
Leaders, lead us!
Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!