The Failures of A.M.A and the EPA

In September of 2015, a massive scandal hit the automotive industry that sent shockwaves around the world, but somehow, a great(er) portion of Africa felt nothing. The diesel versions of Volkswagen (VW) cars cheated emission tests by spewing out clean(er) test results… thus, fooling authorities into allowing these cars roam the streets as though they were indeed environmentally-friendly. It’s no secret that diesel vehicles have always produced more pollutants than their petrol counterparts.

The increase in the car population, and the need for more fuel-efficient cars, which diesel cars have down to a science, has pushed manufacturers to explore creative ways to beat the system, amid growing reports of a steady increase in global pollution. Making money and fulfilling a perceived need is, by and large, the reason companies exist… so who are we to judge when VW breaks some rules, right? Especially when other companies practically made the rule book.

 

Image result for vw emissions scandal

 

It turns out what VW did was a big No-No, so aside lawsuits and sanctions, VW had to recall all affected cars. This cost them billions of dollars and invariably, hurt their brand image as well.

So, whiles the rest of the world was reeling from this shock, and rightly so, countries in Africa (save for South Africa) could do nothing about it.
Days turned to weeks, and weeks into months, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (A.M.A) and VW dealerships in my country – Ghana – stayed mute about this serious environmental issue, which didn’t just affect Europe and America, but Africa too. Every single day I would see “defective” VW vehicles roaming the streets of Ghana and wonder if the drivers cared even a little about the environment they were killing.

But alas, why blame them?
They are just unwitting consumers driving around in cars that should have complied with every regulation… but don’t. I cannot in good conscience blame “innocent” consumers, but I will throw a lot of blame on the A.M.A, EPA and VW.

When a scandal that big hits, a press release is rolled out to all media platforms; the first phase of damage control. The local and international authorities then follow suit in order to assure the concerned public the matter has been flagged under “very important”.
Well, let’s assume the organizations in Ghana at the time of the VW Emissions scandal had more pressing issues to deal with, because when the scandal hit, we got nothing from them.

I guess the health and welfare of Africans does not matter as much as those in Europe and America.

VW, the mastermind behind the disaster, funny enough, can rest a little easy knowing that a lot of their “defective” cars in Ghana were not sold through their licensed dealerships, but shipped from different countries by individuals or unauthorized road-side dealerships.
Press VW hard enough and trust that lawyers would crawl out of the woodwork to pull out an incomprehensible clause that would compel VW to only deal with customers who bought cars through the authorized dealerships.
That’s how international conglomerates operate.

For A.M.A and EPA though, we cannot give them such a long leash… but to even think they would crack down on the VW scandal when it happened was incredibly naive on my part.
Why?
If A.M.A and EPA, after all these years can’t put a handle on the chimney-smoke-spewing cars polluting the air, what the heck can they do about a bunch of VW’s killing us slowly with invisible air?

 

Image result for accra metropolitan assembly ghana

Ever-present… ready to tag your uncompleted building in red paint.

 

From green to black smoke, one can’t go a day in Ghana without seeing all manner of vehicles sputtering out toxic smoke. As if making us wheeze ain’t enough, vehicular fumes contain a boatload of hazardous pollutants that have been identified and listed by… wait for it… the EPA. No! That isn’t the EPA in Ghana, but does that matter? Shouldn’t they all be as active and vigilant irrespective of location?
They have slowly adopted the Ghanaian mentality; it ain’t my problem if someone else can solve it.

So, how do these smokey cars pass through the Roadworthy test and come out with a seal of approval? Beats my mind.
But, according to Regulation 33 in the Road Traffic Offences Regulations (1974 LI 952),
No person shall drive a motor vehicle which emits exhaust fumes in such quantities
as to be a hazard or annoyance to road users or pedestrians.
There you have it; it’s actually very illegal to drive around town in a smokey vehicle, yet the police pay no mind, ever ready on the other hand to take off their authority for a measly Gh¢5 or less.

There are so many cars in Accra, and so much traffic as a result… forcing us to sit still and inhale the unholy concoction of chemicals these cars happily cough out for our enjoyment.
We risk lung cancer, headaches, runny eyes and other serious diseases if this issue is not tackled and/or resolved.

The A.M.A and EPA are effectively powerless against this and yet claim to defend our environment. How could they, when they can’t even shutdown a single factory endangering the lives of people living in the La Dadekotopon Municipality of the Greater Accra Region. Edisaw Company Ltd, the factory in question, has been oppressing the unlucky people living in close proximity with thick clouds of smoke. The EPA shut them down in February of 2018 only to have Edisaw spring up again two weeks later. This remarkable display of ineptitude has unsurprisingly, forced the residents affected by the manufacturing processes of Edisaw to sue the EPA and Municipal Assembly for failing – rather disastrously – at their jobs.

 

Image result for epa ghana

It is easy to lay down the rules but hard to put into practice, isn’t it?

 

I hope they win the lawsuit; too long have Ghanaians been content with mediocrity.
We’d rather talk about troops invading our country than fix the broken infrastructure every government in power promises to rectify.

The inter-connectivity of government agencies ensures that, when one arm fails, the rest will all fall short.

But Wait! Ghanaians burn rubbish all the time, so what’s new right?
AH! God Bless Ghana.

If there isn’t a fundamental change in how we deal with these half-competent entities, they will always chop our monies, hide in expensive houses and fail us every single time.

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Priado Wealth Alliance: HelpGhana’s Legacy!

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/VvNIaXgpGG4/maxresdefault.jpg

Technology is now the criminals best friend; there’s now less effort in stealing a lot of money. When done right though, clueless people practically throw their hard-earned money at criminals.

How criminals utilize this power nestled within technology determines how smart or “unsmart” (I can’t say stupid) they are. Few criminals have shown themselves smart enough, but others are just plain dumb.
But then, the “inbetweeners” enjoy the spoils of decaying foundations and hope for the best.
The merry men at HelpGhana blazed the trail Priado Wealth Alliance carefully walk on now…however, no matter how professional a website looks or how sweet an offer appears, the truth will out.

The truth? Priado Wealth Alliance is the newest member on the Let-Us-Scam-Ghanaians campaign: stealing our monies GH¢30 at a time.

Following HelpGhana’s terrible example, Priado is built on a system that requires every new member pay out GH¢30, which ultimately goes to the referrer…with these new members referring new people to the platform so they can all get a piece of the action (a ponzi scheme).
Rinse and repeat until the whole world loses GH¢30

The fact remains, ponzi schemes don’t work unless somebody loses. Those at the bottom of the scheme are essentially defrauded by those on top. It’s a mathematical fact that no matter how many people join the scheme, 88 percent of the members will be on the bottom level and will lose their money.
The scheme revolves around the process of paying old investors with the money you get from new investors. The central method remains the same. All one has to do is hook a few investors who are willing to get in early on a once-in-a-lifetime business venture. The details of the investment don’t matter too much. What suckers people in is the promise of fantastic returns on investments. (Source: How Stuff Works)

After a lengthy conversation with a self-appointed “spokesperson” for Priado Wealth Alliance, it was obvious he didn’t know what he had gotten himself into. His description of the Priado’s business model is a textbook definition for a Ponzi scheme, but he just can’t understand why it’s illegal. That is a problem.

I have scoured the entirety of the Priado website in hopes of finding how the company generates wealth for it’s clients, wondering how they manage to stay afloat and be relevant when they have no clear-cut plan on making money. There is no such mention of that plan…but, they do encourage their members to bring in more “affiliates”. These affiliates come forward with their money, which is given to “older” members on the platform.

Priado is not a bank or a financial institution, but they promise members a whopping GH¢ 699, 940 for the initial deposit of GH¢30. Of course you’d have to jump through some hoops first but in the end, no legal company has what it takes to honor that promise.
What? Are they plucking out money from trees?

The “clueless” people in this venture consider this model as “networking”, but if the money is not generated by Priado but by the new recruits and then redistributed to the members, what happens when these members spend their “hard-earned” money but can’t convert new members?

There are no official social media pages for Priado, just a lot of obscure scam-looking pages with no obvious ties to the company…save for text-heavy low-res images with the Priado logo plastered all over. For a company that is allegedly legal, it does little to differentiate it’s business model from a Ponzi scheme.

What breaks my heart? My fellow Ghanaians still fall to this scam. When a new company crawls out of the woodwork with a get-rich-in-no-time offer, 9 times out of 10, that offer is most probably false and illegal.
But alas, the life of opulence blinds people to the red flags these preposterous offers raise.
Until people change from such childish fantasies, I fear we will always fall to such trickery.

Priado Wealth Alliance, you are on the radar now.

Demolish HelpGhana!

What if I told you that the smartest people in this world don’t know everything. Even the greatest minds belonging to fictional characters – Batman, Sherlock Holmes and Sheldon Cooper – falter when they are tested in areas beyond their knowledge. Artificial intelligence doesn’t fare any better, because, in the end it was put together by “insufficient” people – but God help us when a fully realized AI is built.

The simple truth to what I’m trying to say is, no single person on earth knows everything.
If the people who built spaceships and calculate the speed of black holes don’t know everything, that doesn’t speak well for the average Joe like myself.
So, in times of self-doubt, I reach out to friends who are more “enlightened”.

A couple of months ago a friend sent in a too-good-to-be-true kind of offer. This offer, made by faux-altruist group, HelpGhana, promised Ghanaians millions of Cedis if they embedded themselves into the group. I liked what they were selling but I knew something was wrong, so, in my I-need-a-smarter-friend moment, I contacted an investor.

Long story short, he confirmed my suspicions; the offer was fraudulent.
Most pyramids schemes are.

Due to my good nature, I reached out to a lot of my friends who were considering the devils deal – and sold them off it – but that wasn’t cutting it.
So, in order to save everybody from the gut-wrenching heartache of losing “just” Gh¢10 ($3) to HelpGhana’s unethical pyramid scheme, I reported the group to a lawyer friend who promised to throw a Kantanka-branded bomb into their “operational headquarters”.

My personality rarely welcomes optimism, so after a while I was compelled to go looking for the smoldering remains of a fallen pyramid. My faith in my lawyer friend wasn’t misplaced…I just don’t trust Kantanka products.

Though HelpGhana’s activities on all platforms had crawled to virtual halt, it wasn’t entirely indicative of a dead enterprise. The higher-ups of any pyramid scheme convert as many people as possible to their cause, then sit back and enjoy the spoils of their clueless followers who keep recruiting more people;
A demonic” equivalent of a domino effect.

Continuing with promotions at this point would be unnecessary. Thus, not seeing anything in the way of advertising does not connote the destruction of HelpGhana…but an existence that has forgone the need to remain public. If that is their current state of being, then people are still losing money.

I saved a few of my close friends when HelpGhana first came to light, but now Ghana calls for my attention.
The simple and ugly truth is, pyramid schemes by nature are unsustainable; as more people are recruited, finding the next person to sway to the cause becomes nigh impossible. At this point, recruits late to the party are unable to profit since all money is funneled to the top. Before anyone catches on though, the higher-ups of this illegal venture would have made their money and Houdini’d themselves out of existence.

Like all evil and self-serving companies out there, HelpGhana offered Ghanaians a promise of a better life by choosing a proven system that allegedly rakes in a lot of money. It seemed simple enough, so scores of Ghanaians bought into the idea hook, line and sinker.

Read this excerpt:

HELPGHANA.CLUB helps you get the money or capital you need. Whether it is a business idea or any financial need, with HELPGHANA.CLUB you get to have an online platform that gives you access to and connects you with the people who are ready to help you.

We at HELPGHANA.CLUB help you with direct funding for your financial needs. With our program you are just close to financial freedom.

OUR AIM IS TO CONQUER GREED AND RAISE ENTREPRENEURS FROM AFRICA. WHEN YOU RECEIVE HUGE SUM THROUGH OUR PLATFORM, INVEST IN YOUR DREAM COMPANY AND EMPLOY MORE YOUTHS AND CONQUER THEFT, UNEMPLOYMENT AND CORRUPTION. WE CAN ACHIEVE OUR GOALS AND DREAMS AS A TEAM!

 

Now then, let’s do some math:

Level                Number of New                Total Number of
.                            Participants                         Participants

1                                  1                                              1

2                                  2                                              3

3                                  4                                              7

4                                  8                                             15

5                                 16                                            31

6                                 32                                            63

7                                 64                                           127

8                                128                                          255

9                                256                                          511

10                              512                                         1,023

11                             1,024                                       2,047

12                             2,048                                       4,095

13                             4,096                                       8,191

14                             8,192                                      16,383

15                            16,384                                     32,767

16                            32,768                                     65,535

17                            65,536                                    131,071

18                          131,072                                    262,143

19                           262,144                                   524,287

20                           524,288                                  1,048,575

21                         1,048,576                                 2,097,151

22                         2,097,152                                 4,194,303

23                         4,194,304                                 8,388,607

24                         8,388,608                                16,777,215

25                        16,777,216                               33,554,431

 

From my borrowed math above, if this vile venture started with one individual recruiting two people with each one recruiting two people, and so on, we’d exceed the population of Ghana in just 25 levels.

What do we do then?
Well, I guess West African countries are pretty “tight”, so why not invite them to the lose-your-Gh¢10 party.

People of Ghana, let me be your “smart” friend; if you’ve been tempted and you’ve made it this far in my post, I’d love to believe you’d save your small money.

If you fell victim though, please be wary of offers that sound way too good to be true.
Be the cautious Roadrunner and not the ostrich.

And…to the masterminds behind HelpGhana, I hope you all go to jail.
No! I won’t mince words.
You planned to steal money. You knew it was illegal…but carried it out anyway.
God forgive you evil lot.

The Creative Struggle

A killer intro; a mandatory aspect of any great literary piece.

That’s what I aim for, but sometimes I can go through loads of intros before I settle on “the one”.
Other times I just give up and move on to other distractions…ever hoping for a bulb to light up amid the chaos.

Deciding on what to write isn’t the problem, but creating that perfect intro cripples my creative spunk. It is the “easiest” to put together but the hardest to craft and master.

I am not a perfectionist…but I do try my best.

It is indeed gut-wrenching to find readers skip past the intro that kept you up many a sleepless night. This is my umpteenth attempt at this intro, but who is counting, right?

I break my squishy brain for the “perfect intro” and no one reads it.

SIGH!

My creative foibles aside, this little predicament raises a concern that haunts creatives the world over: the infamous “Creative Block”.

If you find yourself in the creative sphere – writers, musicians, performers, artists –  then you know how far-reaching this “block” really is.

It is a deep pit of despair from which only the determined can escape…and mind you, the act (of escaping) may last for days, weeks, months or even years.

When you lose your muse, you better put on the best show of your life to win her back, or in the very least, break down every door known to man until she’s nestled safely in your arms once again.

Being creative isn’t the cakewalk some claim. Sure, it might come easy to some but the truth hits hard when you realize even the best of the best plunge headfirst into the “block”.

It comes with the territory and quite normal to wander its labyrinthine maze on occasion.
Heck! It took me quite a while to put this post together, so yeah…it is a global epidemic.

For some though, getting out of the “block” can be as easy as staring at a blank page for 3 straight days…or as daunting as seeking inspiration from someone else’s works.
Inspiration does works: I do it often, although my case requires I stare at random images till the lazy brain hamsters start showing their worth – they are quite the lazy lot.

But where does “getting inspiration” end and “stealing’ begin?

A creative mind is oft lauded and appreciated, even when most don’t know the hardships (and headaches) such a mind endures. We love the creative people who have made an enviable living out of selling the crazy and innovative ideas scurrying around in their heads…and some of us hope to someday walk beside them, or better yet, ahead of them.

But how can we push boundaries and break down restrictive molds if we forgo our ability to think and glaringly steal ideas?

People are fierce at stealing ideas, but for today’s lesson we will focus on Ghana and her many green-eyed citizens. I know you’d all love to see me point just one finger at Kofas (a Ghanaian movie director) and watch him run into hiding again, but that won’t be fair to him.

The sad truth? This sin of intellectual thievery goes beyond Kofas’ blunder; it is a canker in Ghana’s creative sphere that just won’t die (T1000).
Ghana’s creative industry is actually not as competitive as those in western countries, but the breakneck speeds at which content – videos, music and pictures – is pushed to the public opens up a very big avenue to steal intellectual properties with us none-the-wiser.

Local production houses steal entire movies – foreign and local – and then repackage them as new.
In an industry where a single production house can shoot 4 full movies in a week with barely any script, we should not be surprised if new movies recycle plot from old movies.
Heck! Even Hollywood is doing that…so why not Ghana.

That much content in such short a span negates the need for brainwork for some creative individuals in Ghana. A few put up a valiant effort, but like moths to a flame, they embrace the system: recycle and steal…because no one cares.

Kratos in the North and Mortal Kombat in bushes.

Just so you know, Kratos speaking Dagbani is as weird as it sounds…

Image result for kofas

From the Shadows

When Kofas and his merry band of actors announced John & John, a movie that bears an uncanny resemblance to Skeem, I doubt they were ready for the backlash that was to follow.

All things considered though, Kofas’ “remake” of Skeem could have gone unnoticed if both movies had been obscure:
BUT NOPE! They were as high-profile as they come, with Skeem benefiting from the publicity and media coverage that comes from being critically acclaimed.

John & John, a blatant and unrepentant copy of Skeem could have been a remarkable hit in Ghana, if Kofas’ folly had not reared its head.

He has since gone into hiding, but this blight on his record invariably calls his prior endeavors into question…and that is a shadow I fear he might never pull away from.

I would like to think this issue would educate the creative public in Ghana about intellectual thievery…but I fear I might be asking for too much, considering the first presidential speech from President Nana Akufo-Addo lifted passages from the speeches of former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

What can I say? It’s in our blood.

 

NB: Go here for a surprise.

Who Belongs to The Toll Booth?

Toll+booth

Oh Ghana, how many times must I write of thee?
Apparently, not enough.

59 years free but the seeds planted by our good Dr. Kwame Nkrumah have long died in the soil.
This is no legacy worthy of our great but (very) dead visionary leader.

Outsiders marvel at how “kept together” Ghana is…but the entire picture is lost on them when they are standing on the outside looking in.

Sigh! It’s that time again; when people go crazy, create weird slogans, promise chickens and give us nothing but false hope of a better life.
You guessed right: it’s an Election Year.
Yay Us!

The four-year curse is back again…and it is biting so strong this year.

SIDE NOTE: The weird thing is, I am actually more interested to see if Americans will let Trump rule them as president.

Elections in Ghana have always leaned more toward “personal and group self-interests” than the collective progression of the country.
Companies and individuals who know this, hitch their rides to a prospective party’s wagon…hoping to secure a sizable piece of the pie when the country has been ‘won’. It is a very risky gamble…a gamble some pay dearly for, especially when they go all in and wind up with the losing hand.

Companies fall…enterprises crumble…lives are ruined…but yet, some profit from all of this.

Gosh I hate Politics.

People thrive on politics; they eat, live, breathe and bleed politics, and it is these individuals who will do anything to serve us up so they can enjoy the pickings of a good political position.
Ghana, for a very long time now, has not belonged to its citizens but to these political nutjobs.

It’s not known how they are sharing Ghana but I know one thing every government wants to exploit; Vehicular Tolls (aka the Toll booths).

I have no ill-thoughts towards the collection of tolls in the country. It is actually a necessity…especially when we think about how much it helps the country’s infrastructure.

Under a normal and functioning government, the toll or fee, which is a form of tax, helps recoup some of the cost of road construction and maintenance.

It is a great resource and immeasurable in its potential.
So, what is happening with Ghana’s toll money?

As always, I have a couple of theories but before we dig into that, let’s do some boring (and probably wrong) arithmetic:
With these non-scientific calculations, we aim to find out the average yearly revenue from the toll booths in Accra. For this test, we will only focus on the Tema and Kasoa toll booths. (I’m a hermit, remember?)

Ok, for the sake of keeping things fairly simple we shall assume that on a daily average, a total of 55,000 cars go through the Tema and Kasoa toll booths (combined).
In keeping with simple, let us also assume every car pays Ghc 1 as toll.

Thus, let the rudimentary calculations begin;
Daily Toll                              –                            Ghc 55,000
Weekly Toll                         –                             Ghc 385,000 (Ghc 55,000 x 7 days)
Monthly Toll                       –                             Ghc 1,540,000 (Ghc 385,000 x 4 weeks)
Yearly Toll                           –                             Ghc 18,480,000 (Ghc 1,540,000 x 12 months)

I’ll let that sink in.

-_-        -_-

                  -_-        -_-

                                    -_-        -_-

                                                      -_-        -_-

So, across only Tema and Kasoa toll booths, Accra churns out a respectable Ghc 18,480,000 ($4,643,000).
No matter how you slice it, that is a lot of money…from only two toll booths.

Online resources for public information in Ghana are sorely lacking…because no one cares to put public information online.
What you do find, if you find anything at all, is severely outdated information;
If Ghana had a little over 10 toll booths in 2010, then I guess we can safely assume our not-so-scientific figure above will shoot up dramatically when we calculate the revenue from all toll booths currently in operation.

SIDE NOTE: If anyone knows the exact number of toll booths in Ghana, please let me know. Not that it’s going to make much of a difference…but #TheMoreYouKnow.

So, Ghc 18,480,000! Let’s work with that piece of unproven information, shall we?

Now, the question plaguing a lot of minds is: What is the government doing with all that money?

Well they are not desilting the gutters, preventing floods or restructuring DVLA if you were wondering.

My Hypothesis:
The government sits on all that money for a while…lets it accumulate and when the time is right, they burst open the piggybank and use all that money for election campaigns.

Road Money” becomes “Election Money”.

I believe it has now become an unwritten law amongst ruling parties.
If not, how can we make Ghc 18,480,000 a year and not see great improvements on our roads?

“But hey! The government is currently constructing interchanges and expanding on roads…so maybe that’s where the money ends up.”

Wrong! Ghana almost never funds these projects herself. It’s always an outside force pulling the strings.
Thus, all that money is at the mercy of the government and since they never really give us specifics on money usage/spoilage, it’s basically a guessing game…and I have guessed mine.

6901753632713_1638327466944

But for all intents and purposes, this post isn’t about where the Ghc 18,480,000 ends up but the people who collect the money; the toll collectors.

During my normal commute to work, which sends me through the Kasoa toll booth, I have realized that some of the toll collectors are either not happy with working conditions or they just hate being there.

That is a normal occurrence in the realm of working…especially when the individual has monotonous work. It affects a lot of people.

Yeah even pornstars. Shocking right??

…but I have a question; who best fits the role as a toll collector?
One would assume it is a job for anybody…but far from it.

If, in some cases, the nature of a job determines the prospective worker, then is it not safe to say that a disabled person is the perfect fit as a toll collector?

But that isn’t so.

Think about it;
we are quick to assume disabled people are not smart enough or not well educated…but the truth is, a lot of them are all those things we think them not. We tend to overlook them and hastily think them “alms receivers”.
Handicapped people, particularly those who can use both hands, are more than able to replace able-bodied people at toll booths…as the use of their hands is the most important job requirement.

We scream “equal opportunity for all” only to realize we live in a very broken system.
For so long we have treated the homeless and the disabled like infected limbs that need amputation…but they are people too. They need to be heard and understood but most importantly, they need job opportunities they qualify for.

Let us give them that…and a “purpose” in this country.

At least I will smile wider knowing they helped the government save Ghc 18,480,000…and some coins.

GOD BLESS!

Review: Ebo Whyte’s “One Million Pounds”.

Pounds shterling

Not a lot of people like stage plays and that’s not surprising. In this world where so many of us have been desensitized by movies and TV shows, a stage play is one of the last true forms of pure expressionism…but almost forgotten.

Theatre might be fading away but until then, it has and will always captivate audiences with thrilling stories and deep real-time characterizations; something the other dramatic art forms can’t replicate or deliver.

The venerable Uncle Ebo Whyte is hailed in Ghana (and abroad) as the singular and greatest playwright this generation has seen. With all the plays and accolades to show, Uncle Ebo Whyte is a powerhouse indeed…but prior to my viewing of his latest play, One Million Pounds, I had not seen any of his previous plays.
My colleagues consider that unforgivable.
So guess what I did when I got a free ticket?
Yup! I got my butt off my office chair and into a comfy seat in National Theatre.

I’ve heard nothing but great things about Uncle Ebo Whyte’s plays…especially from my “workplays” and since I was new to the world of Uncle Ebo Whyte, I went in there expecting a lot but open enough as not to be too critical.
It was my first time after all and with no actual frame of reference, aside the emphatic praise from my colleagues, I indeed had to keep a very open mind.

I think I’ve nailed the intro, so let’s get to it:
Pièce de résistance.

 

The Review –

“One Million Pounds is an inspiring stage-play that tells a story of what happened when four talented Ghanaians embark on a journey of a lifetime to partake in the maiden edition of a contest that may be the key to their success.”
It is a story of determination, sticking it to the “man” who wants to put you down and never giving up…even in the face of severe adversities.

This story, whiles simple, highlights a lot of issues plaguing the African society.
I won’t spoil much in the way of the story but what I will say is, it blends a lot of themes and issues that have unfortunately become the best descriptors for Africa; Bribery, Corruption and Sabotage.

Money has led many astray and it always has a way of crippling the hearts of the most well-intentioned individuals. Businesses fall and relationships die…and in One Million Pounds, the four talented Ghanaians (Jama) experience firsthand what money can do to a man when their manager sells them out.

This all feels like something you might have read in the newspapers, and that is so because, it is commonplace in Ghana and Africa. So when one goes to watch something with such a troubling but true theme, one would expect to come away from the play with a renewed sense of patriotism and ‘un-corruptness’.
Nope! I got none of that.
It did nothing to engender me to do something about it and I left the same way I came; apathetic.

On the other hand, there were a lot of encouraging statements from the casts, but at this point it is something viewers have come to expect…so there are no real surprises there.

“Don’t give up on your dreams…and such.” – Normal Stuff.

The story is by no mean an intelligent one but I’ve got to cut Uncle Ebo Whyte some slack since he aims to write plays the general public can easily relate to.
No need to write an intellectual story that might fly over the heads of audiences.
That’s not to say Ghanaians are dumb but that’s the picture local movies and TV shows paint all the time;
All fluff and no substance.

There’s the straight-shooting hero, his love interest, the unreliable friend, the obnoxious villain and the issues that will miraculously get resolved in the end. Watching this play elicits a strong sense of Déjà vu; typical plot points and typical conflicts.

“This is where it gets ugly!”

The simplicity inherent in the story carries through to every part of the play.
If one is hailed as the best playwright this side of the continent and with competition virtually nonexistent, then it’s no surprise for such an individual to rest on his laurels and get complacent.

There’s nothing breathtaking about the play, and after watching it, the only thing that hurriedly comes to mind was the very obnoxious “Cliff” (or the person playing that character).
Cliff, an eccentric Caucasian Brit, shrieked through his lines…barely making anything he said understandable.
It was utterly unintelligible and grating to the ear and apparently, audiences didn’t like it either.
So it makes me wonder if the actors rehearse with microphones or not…because if they do, they should have heard  his banshee-like screeches but if they realized and still went ahead with his deafening squeals, then it is safe to say they wanted us deaf.

The play left little to the imagination and it was delivered bare-boned with nothing mind-stimulating about it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let the brain-hamsters rest a while because there’s no need for them here.
Those looking for something a little more on the clever-side should lower their expectations.

The story, although nice, offered nothing new to the primary issues it tackles. This isn’t a masterfully crafted tale but a story I believe will be a weak entry from Uncle Ebo Whyte.
Some scenes were too drawn out…and I ended up playing with my phone (doing nothing) far often than I liked.

The venerable Uncle Ebo Whyte looking very dapper.

The venerable Uncle Ebo Whyte looking very dapper.

I did love the acting though.
As far as acting, theatre is the way to go…and the cast in One Million Pounds did a stellar job…save for Cliff (or the guy playing the character). It did get hammy in some scenes but that is something that can be overlooked bearing in mind these are actors and actresses new to the Roverman roster.
It is always refreshing to see such talent in Ghana…considering the terrible actors we have on the big screen.

It was the singing that partially marred the otherwise perfect acting experience for me. Some were OK but others were abysmal…especially when trying to hit the higher notes.
The voices strained a lot and I cringed about as often…and sometimes I couldn’t hear what was being sung.

During the singing sessions, lyrics to the songs would be projected on the walls for the audience.
It is a novel idea that should have fixed the issue of not hearing what was being sung…but even that had some inconsistencies.
During the musical numbers, either the projected lyrics will trail behind the singer or run ahead like Oscar Pistorius escaping from prison…forcing me to think this is something Roverman hasn’t quite mastered. But after seven years of being in business (theatre), some mistakes are just awful to behold…even if they don’t ruin the experience for some.

Uncle Ebo Whyte has “perfected” his craft and to say he is just a great writer would be a great disservice to him but sometimes throwing nice words around to flatter comes at a cost of pure honesty…so I will suck it up and put it out there.
The humor in One Million Pounds is the kind I’ve come to expect; safe jokes.
“Nothing naughty here.”
Safe jokes, according to my definition, are the kind that appeal to the masses.
Jokes everyone will laugh to…and the bad thing about safe jokes is, they are rarely clever.
You don’t have to think hard (or at all) to get it…and that is the kind prominently featured in the play.
Not once did an esoteric joke ‘break out”.

I sat through the entire play without laughing.
Not even a little.

That’s not to say the jokes are bad. No…people laughed their heads off and I even smiled occasionally but I found nothing remotely clever about the jokes.

Uncle Ebo Whyte, I’m not saying you have to litter your plays with esoteric jokes…but do throw one in there once in a while, so the people who appreciate such jokes would know you are thinking about them too.
I know I would.

On the topic of humor, not all the jokes were funny though, and I particularly found one joke to be in very poor taste…especially coming from Uncle Ebo Whyte.
The character Cliff wears a shoulder-level wig and is quite eccentric…as previously stated.
In one scene he makes a risqué statement to a female cast member and as expected, she gets riled up and slaps the fool…but something happens; his nose falls off.

Obviously, Uncle Ebo Whyte is taking jabs at the late Michael Jackson, who was alleged to have had a fake nose. It was in bad taste…and as such, few people laughed (although I believe they didn’t get the joke.)

Trending issues in the country are also touched on in the play. Like the president’s new name and Obinim’s animal transformations…but even though it was fun to hear these things in the play, once again, they were not used as cleverly as one would expect.
The inclusion of these jokes felt forced…and added only to make the play seem current and ‘hip’.

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In Conclusion

Creativity can get stifled sometimes when you either keep doing the same thing or get stuck in a rut…or expecting a breakthrough when there’s nothing actively pushing that next level of creativity.
Uncle Ebo Whyte may not be hogtied to either one but if this is what I’m to expect from all plays written and executed by him, then I have to further reduce my expectations if I am to truly enjoy his work.

In the end, “One Million Pounds” is just another play easily forgotten not for lack of great actors and actresses…but because it tells an unremarkable story.
The acting was topnotch, the musical numbers hit or miss and the moral values uninspiring.

Diehard fans will appreciate it no matter what…but for new recruits like myself, One Million Pounds isn’t worth the price of admission.
★★☆☆☆ (2/5)