Mon, 14 Mar 2005 Feature Article

Amanfuo: Kume wahala preko

Amanfuo: Kume <i>wahala</i> preko

A farmer called Agyaboomgya once drove off his uncle's rival, Ahunmobrotaawaa from the farmland the later had farmed for a little over 2 years, took over his sheep and farm workers. Agyaooo as he was affectionately called looked after the animals and farm workers for about twenty odd years. During this time he borrowed money from friends, relatives and anyone who was happy to lend him, with the promise that the proceeds of the farm will be used to settle the loans. Of course nature and other forces conspired to rob Agyaooo of his ambitions and fortune (remember he had earlier “robbed” Ahunmoo under suspicious circumstances of his hard work). Bush fires, armed robbers, especially one called Ataasi Ayiyiyi and other neighbouring farm owners will normally steal his produce, animals etc. The animals grew increasingly leaner, the crop yield was poor, especially the cassava and dawadawa plants.

Agyaooo's farm labourers became disillusioned except those living in his very closed compound. The debts and interests mounted. Opani Naa Owura Manteasem, one of the most loyal surprised everyone and remarked one day that “ehuru a ebe dwu, ensuo kye tuaa mu ebon”. Agyaoo's influence and resources eventually waned and his farm workers finally rebelled against his authority, albeit in a non-voilent way. Agyaoo finally gave up crop and animal farming and went into bee and mosquito farming. The end game – to release these vicious and merciless creatures onto the population in order to teach them a lesson at a future date. The farmland in question was eventually handed over to a group of determined farmers led by Opanin Mempe mehuasem Obrumankuma, a former farm worker, who promised to manage the farm properly. The farm workers gave their blessings and promised to work with him to sort out the problems of the farm. Initially it looked promising until the old habits started creeping in again.

Obrumankuma started to drink the hard palm wine, tapped and purified by the hardworking farmers, alone. No sharing !. But worse of all, started to live off the best of the animal products and crop yield. The people sort wise counsel from an old fellow, Agya Anantuo, who advised the agitators to stage the mother of all alutas against Obrumankuma and his cronies to waken them from their slumber. The problem was that, these agitators had no one bold enough with deep knowledge of the farm to lead them. Agyaoo's name was immediately mentioned and a lost opportunity for Agyaoo finally became reality.

After days of protests in which Agyaoo alleged that Obrumankuma was a mis-manager, evidenced by the lean state of the animals and the usual blah blah blah. Obrunmakuma's initial reply was “se ohiani do nimbaa a yen hu” (it is hard to judge the extent and depth of a poor person's love for their children) quoting the famous words of the singer Dasebre. In order words - “can't you see that your former master use to beat you, kill you, starve you etc. Haven't you realised that I am gentle and caring and really love you all from the bottom of my heart?” With this he went into his closet and produced a report showing a recording of the weight of the animals and conditions on the farm workers, recorded a day after they were handed over the farm (which Agyaoo formerly “owned”).

Agyaao on seeing the report bowed his head in shame, but later realised that none of the population could read or interpret, let alone understand the charts and so recomposed himself and continued with the aluta. Obrumankuma and his bunch were later found asleep after a hard days drink of strong palm wine. They eventually woke up but it was too late. The farm was gone and in its place was a big swimming pool. And as Obrumankuma and his bunch could not swim, they drowned together with Agyaoo and they all lived happily thereafter.

Amanfuo, fate they say has many faces and can be a crucial determinant of ones destiny. About 15 years ago, if a pastor or soothsayer had told me that one day Master and his friends in the P(NDC) will once again be at the forefront of a political demonstration agitating for an improvement in the living standards of “ordinary” Ghanaians, I would have told the person to get lost into the deep Korle gono lagoon.

Demonstrations! What are they, their significance and influence in shaping our socio-economic and political destiny?

The American Heritage Dictionary (2004) defines demonstration as “the act of showing or making evident. Conclusive evidence; proof. An illustration or explanation, as of a theory or product, by exemplification or practical application. A manifestation, as of one's feelings. A public display of group opinion, as by a rally or march”. Amanfuo, demonstrations can be legitimate or illegal depending on the legal permissions, which regulates it. They can be peaceful or chaotic, violent of destructive. Again demonstrations can be limited or widespread in geographic terms. But more importantly, it can be openly or clandestinely organised depending on the over-arching political organisation in place. Interesting to say that, it knows no takers – revolutionaries use it, democrats use it, so do socialists, students, trade unions etc. And even these days some church members have fallen in love with this method of displaying their strongly held opinions. Organised properly, they can pack an emotional, powerful and damaging punch.

Did you know that rich people do not demonstrate? They manipulate, cajole, influence, lobby. The truth of the matter is that demonstrations in Ghana since independence has taken on an octopus - like shape, adopting a mix of any of the forms or contents already described. The sad thing is that only one such demos in the history of the nation effectively achieved anything positive – the one that secured us independence.

Democracies like that in the USA have the first amendment, which protects political protests – the price of free speech they say. It is also enshrined in most western Europe constitutions. Yet no politician, manager or public leader ever likes the “D” word. Actually, they love it when it serves their purpose yet loathe it when the reverse prevails. Even the best-known democracies in the world cannot at times stomach it. In February 2003 close to 2 million people demonstrated against the Iraq war in London, yet Tony Blair still took UK into war. There were huge protests in Seattle in November 1999 against unfair world trade practices. The authorities made sure that none of the demonstrators can anywhere near the conference centre, by deploying more law enforcement officers and setting up barricades.

Amanfuo, life can sometimes be uneasy and uncomfortable for even the most ardent of demonstrators. Most law enforcement agencies these days will normally deploy secret agents to mingle with crowds, identify demonstrators using all kinds of gismos – sophisticated camcorders, voice recorders etc. In some advanced democratic countries, there have been stories of law officers visiting the offices and homes of potential demonstrators so that their bosses and families can see them in a negative light.

Demonstrations happen because temperamental governments force people to do the things that contradict their consciousness or downgrade their living standards. People demonstrate because they perceive their freedoms being taken away from them until there is none left as in the case of the South Africans.

This has caused demonstrators to change tact by learning how to fly without perching. They have gone for sophisticated means like the use of encrypted or coded messages on the Internet, which has a wider and less intrusive spread, mobile phones, word of mouth (used effectively by Saddam when he was holed up six feet under), use of pigeons etc.

Companies and various countries have gone to lengths to develop lethal tools like water canon, plastic bullets etc to subdue demonstrators.

Demonstrations within the African or Ghanaian context have been rather unique. I am not too sure whether to attribute it to the high illiteracy levels or the old “mempe me ho asem syndrome”, but demonstrations tend to be the preserve of the “book long people” – students, lecturers, opposition politicians etc. However lately other groups have become significant – the hammer boys and girls, and the unemployed koliko youths, some of whom recently terrorised the city of Kumasi.

Because political governance in the land has been largely controlled by the military in the past, demonstrations became very rare. People would normally stay mute under intolerable political slavery and ironically organise demos only after the perceived monster has been slaughtered through often-unconventional means – that is when sitting regimes have been removed. It happened in 1966, 1974, and 1979. In the past, demonstrators have been detained under harsh conditions without recourse to the rule of law. Some have been executed, tortured in secret castle chambers allegedly through the use of the most gruesome and unimaginable methods. The theory being, once you take out the life or breathe of a loud demonstrator out of their libilibi body, you kill off their nonsense, influence and the biakoye of their followers.

Demonstrations, like I intimated earlier is not new to the Ghanaian political landscape. Nkrumah and co. used it to a devastating effect, which will eventually force out the colonialist and thus gain Ghana its independence. The same thing ended apartheid, forced re-elections in the Ukraine, terminated the raw ambitions of the so-called “anti-democratic forces” in Moscow, bringing Boris Yeltsin to the fore. However, there is something spooky about demonstrators and their leaders. Most leaders who lead demonstrations often succeed in their adventures, but then immediately become notoriously averse or intolerant to the concept, especially during periods when they are submerged in the pool of power drunkenness'.

So it was with a mix of amazement, surprise and confusion when I heard of the wahala demonstration a few weeks ago led by - you know whom. I kept wondering whether we have not been here before. But more importantly, who benefited from it big time and whether there any lessons to be learnt. Many of the beneficiaries were in the past regime and the current one.

Amanfuo, the last demonstration, which I attended (that was when I was less endowed and ignorant), was during the revolution. It ended or started with soldiers burning to ashes, the famous and vibrant Tamale central market. There were many such demonstrations after that, with a lot of its former followers now walking the streets of Ghana “Charlie woteless”. Many did well out of it though and are living proof that during demonstrations, some people gain and others lose.

It was in May 1995 when the Alliance for Change (AFC) organised the famous “Kume preko” – kill me at once - marches across the land. The underlying reasons were the “intolerable” conditions under which Ghanaians were living. Sad to say that a number of “ohianiwaaba” demonstrators died, allegedly short by commandos. Allegations that operatives of the ACDR and BNI armed with money, cutlasses, guns, walkie talkies, ground pepper, stones etc were set loose on the demonstrators were made, including surveillance operations by choppers belonging to GNPC. The demands of the demonstrators became sampa highlife to the ears of the then administration. Meanwhile, officials continued to line their filthy pockets, that of their wives, girlfriends, friend's friends, grandparents etc with the nation's scarce goodies.

Amanfuo, there was everything to argue for then, as it is now – high petrol prices, exorbitant school fees, VAT, poor wages, political intolerance, alleged killings etc. So my questions is has any of the farm animals put on weight since the last time? Has the farm's management gotten worse or is it on the mend?

People demonstrate when they feel their legitimate voices are not being heard or the medium for airing or listening to divergent views have been blocked or stifled. After a period of political intolerance, corruption etc the NPP government assumed power through the ballot box. Ghanaians were then yearning for something resembling “true freedom” our nation's motto since independence. The NPP promised this and many more, and did well to repeal the notorious libel laws and also expanded on the existing press freedoms.

But at this stage in their journey to achieving a truly positive change for the ordinary people, I beginning to wander whether the administration is not already suffering from CFS (Chronic fatigue syndrome) or what they call “midterm political menopause”. The question is “is the NPP government a truly listening one?”.

Recent events are beginning to give cause for concern. I am currently exploring the issue of Ghanaian poverty, but there is no doubt that a good number of our people are suffering.

They say that the nation is too small and has limited resources to support big government and all the massive expenditure that comes with it. Three deputy ministers for trade alone. What sort of trade are they going be involved in and can't one person sell whatever we intend to sell if we any at all. My friends argue that every government with more than one deputy is a fake one. Sometimes small government size makes sense. The president has the whole of Ghana to worry about, the security to consider and the foreign relations to oversee. The last thing one would have thought was needed least right now was a very large, unwieldy and over populated cabinet. How can one even tell who is who at cabinet table during meetings. Ehhh Kwaku who is that gentlemen in demi moore styled glasses over there? Ooh he recently arrived from Cambodia after twenty good years of driving minicabs. He is the deputy minister for overseeing the Makola market. The lady next to him is minister responsible for the Kejetia market. We are looking to appointing 10 more deputies for the other regional markets. What a palaver?

In spite of all the loud 200,00 watts music blasting away on the political and economic airwaves, the government has stubbornly switched off its hearing aid. “Sorry we can't hear you. You have to speak louder!”

Serious corruption charges have been levelled against some ministers, the government uses the smoke screen of “the lack of evidence”. Where can one get the evidence, when the strong rooms holding such evidence is privy to just a selected few? Although less parallel to the $20m quality grain scandal, setting what I consider to be one of triple standards of public behaviour does not augur well for the good name of the government. After all what is the difference between a minister or public official who dips their magic hands illegally into the nations coffers and steals $1, the people who raided the Northern bank in Northern Ireland and stole about £26m and Ataa Ayi – they are all the same.

People are saying please do not increase the price of petroleum prices because a greater percentage of the people, especially the poor depend on it for their survival. Government ministers and their cronies do not pay for petrol. Ordinary people do! So it is hard to tell what it feels like, unless you are ordinary. The government seems to be saying, “go to heeeeelllllllllllll !

The workers are saying our wages and pensions are abysmal and undignifying, so please “kume wahala preko” or do something about it. The government appears to be saying, “The wages of being ordinary is ordinary wages and pensions”. This is little consolation for the suffering millions.

In the midst of all this, the NDC etc are smelling the blood of a “wounded elephant”. They see an opportunity, the taking of which is guaranteed by the constitution and are saying, first we had watata but now that is turned into wahala. The problem I have here is not one of the NDC being my worst nightmare as one reader emailed me last. I will support any government that can guarantee freedom of speech, protect civil liberties and improve the lives of ordinary folks. I see here “dadi sen” which has been on the coal pot for about twenty years calling the “silba” which has only been on the fireball for a little over 4 years black. Most of the sufferings we are experiencing now has its origins in the yester years. Remember the ERP and Pamscad. Remember 1983 – the hunger, the suffering, the murders etc. Then remember what triggered “kume preko” when no one listened. How does it feel now having the “size boom” on the other foot? Haaannnnnn!

To the NPP I SAY REMEMBER KUME PREKO, THE PEOPLE WHO LOST THEIR LIVES. Also remember the wahala that many people are currently going through and add them all up = kume wahala preko”. Ghanaians are very patient people but not indefinitely patient.

Be bold and stick your two fingers into the faces of those aliens who sit in their cold offices in the Antarctica prescribing all sorts of alien solutions through you to our nation's problems.

Ghanaians can develop their own country if the right conditions are put in place. Aggravations as experienced by the writer who claimed that a government minister demanded $5m bribe before giving him the railway contract is if true sad indeed. The ministry has since debunked the charges of unfairness, but has been silent on the $5m bribe question.

Good governments listen when genuine demonstrators talk. They might have a case. Last but not the least; let Ghanaians know that you are a listening and caring government.

Ooh, please give some of the NDC leadership some free petrol to shut them up.

Amanfuo, the NPP by being, let's say, the first to open the flood gates of demonstrations in recent memory may have in the process unleashed a monster that may be difficult to tame and which may eventually come to hunt them. The message carried by the wahala demonstrators is a valid and serious one, except that some bearers of the message lack the moral credit, blameless historical backgrounds, and character to make such a case. To me this smacks of cynicism, evidenced by the indifference that greeted the demonstration. And as for those who contemplated organising a counter demonstration, I say shame unto you now and forever.

Amanfuo, kume preko and wahala are insufficient motives for undertaking a demonstration of such significance. It fails to address the core issues of annihilating 2 evils simultaneously – the person suffering (kume) and their suffering (wahala). We need to put paid to both evils at the same time hence my proposal of another big demo –kume wahala preko.

God bless Ghana, the most peaceful place on earth.

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