CODE 233: Struggling with Ghana Man Time (GMT)


Every Ghanaian will tell you that, at some point in their lives, they have had to deal with the infamous, unpleasant concept of GMT: ‘Ghana Man Time’.

Trust me, it’s no fun, if you’ve ever had to pay the price. Ghanaians have such disregard for punctuality that is rare elsewhere in the world. When a Ghanaian event is advertised to start at a given time, do round it up to, say, the nearest two hours; and when a Ghanaian books an appointment for 8:00, they’ll likely set off from home at 8:05 the earliest.

These are rules, even if unwritten, in the GMT code of conduct that must be studied intently and adapted to if one is to survive this country and its citizens’ avatar-ish time-bending powers.

Now, that triggers memories of my own eye-opening experience in Ghanaian society vis-à-vis punctuality. Once, I had to spend the night with a tailor — literally, but not in the sense you’re probably thinking. See, he asked me to come for a shirt of mine he was working on — he’d already had the fabric for a little over a week, mind — that I needed for a programme the very next day.  

Upon arrival between 7 and 8 p.m. (“7-7:30-8,” he’d ‘specified’), however, I found out that he hadn’t finished even 30% of the shirt — heck, he’d barely cut out the pieces!

“Uh-oh, bro,” he commenced damage control, realizing just how pissed off I was. “Please come back around 9-9:30-10. In fact, if I don’t get your shirt all sewn today, I won’t go home.”

Ah, some guarantee that was!

Erring on the side of caution this time, though, I decided to wait as late as was reasonable for my pick-up visit, only returning to his shop around 10 p.m. To my dismay, he was still not done but, this time, he did offer a seat, pleading with me to wait while he completed work on my shirt soon. How soon?

“Oh, boss, just 15 minutes and you’ll be out of here.”

So I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Somehow, Ataa Adjei managed to spread those “15 minutes” over nearly three hours, not finishing until sometime after midnight. When he was done, though, Ataa’s tardiness had presented an altogether fresh headache to deal with.

The programme I needed the shirt for was scheduled to start at 5 a.m. and would last for two hours. Another hour’s breakfast would wrap it all up by 8 a.m., hence my time-conscious self (a very odd Ghanaian that makes me, eh?) decided it might be more prudent to just stay up for the rest of the night so I could make it on time; after all was over, I could then get some overdue sleep.


If you remember the guidelines I gave at the beginning of this piece, you will realize immediately the folly of my reasoning. By 5 a.m. I was at the venue, sure, only to be met with the sight of yet-to-be-hoisted canopies.

Compounding it all was the fact that, this being a family gathering, I would be required to help with arranging seats for the programme, right after the even more demanding canopy-hoisting task had been carried out — yes, I who hadn’t slept all night o!

Finally, at 7:15 — a quarter of an hour after it was actually supposed to have ended — the programme started. It spilled over some 150 minutes later, with breakfast stretching over an hour because the food was only delivered in two instalments (the second of which was — wait for it — late!).

And that’s how I left the programme just before noon with eyes sore from a sleepless 30-plus hours and a lesson for life: whatever you do, in all situations, always abide by GMT and its dictates!

Joshua Ansah — Daily Mail GH

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