FUNERALS SEEM to have taken centre stage in our lives these past few years and it’s extremely worrying to those who have the economic well-being of the nation at heart. Funerals generally take a toll on the economy but when they are held on Fridays and are state-sponsored the magnitude of the toll is incalculable.
Obsession with funerals
Both as individuals and as a nation, we seem to be obsessed with funerals so much so that we spend a lot of money and time organising them.
Perhaps, the time has come for us to take a hard look at how and why we spend so much money unnecessarily when our dear ones depart this earth and channel the funds spent on the dead to something more profitable and worthwhile to society. (Just as a matter of interest, I overheard a TV presenter saying that the donations given by the state and other private individuals to the family of the late Ebony Reigns during her funeral, when put together, could fix the bad road that was the cause of the accident leading to her death). Nothing could be farther from this, you know.
Let me go back a few years to the day the three neuro-surgeons lost their precious lives on their way back to Accra after an official engagement at the Sunyani Hospital in the Brong-Ahafo region.
These were special breed of doctors in the country, for neuro-surgeons can be counted on our finger tips; they are very, very few. Therefore, to lose all three in a motor accident because of a driver’s carelessness was a major blow to the country, their respective families and to the medical fraternity as well.
Their joint funerals were held on a Friday, a working day and if you did the calculations you would come to the conclusion that it would have been better if we had had their funerals on a Saturday, rather than on a Friday.
Every government activity on that Friday came to a stand-still and if you calculated the man-hours lost that day by the state and the total expenditure incurred by government departments, ministries and agencies you would agree with me that Friday funerals by the state are no good.
The whole government machinery was at the funeral, i.e. the President and his cabinet; all members of Parliament (MPs) had to suspend sitting on that day to attend the funeral of the three illustrious doctors of the land. Most medical practitioners at Korle-Bu, Ridge, La, Okomfo Anokye and several other hospitals converged at the funeral grounds to bid farewell to their departed colleagues. So were most officials at the ministry of Health and their top men and women.
Midwives and nurses at the Korlebu Teaching Hospital and other hospitals in Accra also went to the funeral grounds to say goodbye to the three specialists.
And I wondered at the time why we didn’t do the funeral for these great men on a Saturday rather than on a Friday.
But it still hasn’t occurred to state officials that we are better-off if state-sponsored funerals are pushed to Saturdays where ‘government time’ will not be spent at all and nobody will have any excuse to stay away from work because Saturdays are already work-free days.
We must change the way we do some of our mundane things to reflect the seriousness of the changing times. We want to see ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ and we cannot achieve that if we don’t change the lackadaisical ways we do things that bring no financial rewards to us. Friday funerals are one.
I’m therefore calling on government to take a hard look at state funerals organised on Fridays and change to Saturdays so that we don’t lose man-hours the way we are losing them currently.
I will also like to advise private families, particularly those in Accra to start thinking of organising funerals at weekends rather than weekdays.
On several occasions in Accra one comes across major roads blocked on weekdays for the purposes of funerals and that is extremely irritating to motorists especially when the funerals can take place on Saturdays or on football grounds.
Bereaved public officials in Accra hardly go to work for days when death strikes. They use that as an excuse to do their own thing; already, the work ethics is nothing to write home about. Public workers report for work after 9am and knock off a little after 3p.m. And that’s Ghana for you!
But if you are in an environment where you have to clock-in at the beginning of work and clock-out at the end of the day’s work and your wages depends on the number of hours you put in, you cannot play tricks on your employer the way we do here.
This is what I mean when I say we should change the ways we do things here to reflect the changing times including how we organize funerals in this country. We spend too much time on funerals and we also spend too much money on funerals. These call for radical paradigm shift in the way we do things.
When it comes to organisation of funerals, our cousins in the rural areas do a better job at it than we do in Accra. Residents in the rural areas hardly do funerals on Fridays and they do not use deaths as an excuse to stay away from the farm. What will they eat if they stay away from the farm?
They do the wake-keeping Friday evening alright but the funeral proper is held on Saturday and not Friday. This is the difference between us and them and in the real economic sense theirs is more cost-effective than ours.
So, we better learn from our cousins in the hinterland and do the right thing for our economic benefits.
I therefore wish to propose to the State Protocol people to do a memo for the Presidency extolling the benefits of Saturday state-sponsored funerals as against those organized on Fridays.
They should talk of the man-hours lost to the state if all top government officials were to leave their work and attend a funeral on Friday like they did when K.B. Asante was buried the other day; like they did when Baah Wiredu died and the whole country was at the funeral; like they did when the three neuro-surgeons died and the entire medical work in the country came to a halt; like they did to all patriots who were given state burial on Friday.
I know the Presidency will listen to this attentively because I believe it makes good sense to shift Friday state funerals to Saturdays.