"If we can't put three square meals on the table and we can't protest, then our democracy could be in danger."
1995. I was on my way to school at KNUST in Kumasi. But when l got to the Nkrumah Circle to commence the short walk to the Neoplan Station, I was aroused by a sea of jubilant faces that had begun to congregate at the Obra Spot.
Young men in red armbands drummed and sang their hearts out as some drivers honked their car horns in support of the forming crowd. The weather was clear and anticipation was high. Ghana was about to be rocked by a political thunderbolt.
Instead of making my way to the Neoplan Station to catch a bus to Kumasi, l walked briskly towards the direction of the crowd. "Curiosity killed the cat." Ladies and gentlemen, the famous Kumepreko demonstration was underway!
I was in no hurry to get to school that morning, so l joined the happy throng of agitators as a participant spectator, unknown to anyone in my family. It was the first time l participated in a demonstration.
Before long, we hit the main Circle ---Accra road in a rather solemn march towards the heart of the city. It was a massive crowd, the largest ever in the history of political protests in this country. I presumed the destination was the royal Osu Castle. The singing continued as we connected the intercession near the Markola market toward the old STC Yard.
Everything was peaceful and even orderly until we got to the stretch of road in front of the STC yard. All of a sudden, l heard gunshots from the other side of the road. But who could be firing into the crowd of peaceful protesters?
From then on, nothing was clear to anyone. We all went helter-skelter, everyone on his heels, as fast as the legs could carry us. To this day, l still don't remember how l made it back to the Neoplan Station. But anyway, l arrived at the KNUST later that night and l was glad l could sleep peacefully on my student pillow again, safe and away from the commotion.
It was later confirmed that those who fired into the crowd were members of a group associated with the ruling government. But worse still, some demonstrators lost their lives, apart from the injured. The events of the march took center stage in local and international news. Lives were lost, but it was a historic attempt to resist the oppressor's rule.
So why do governments fear political protests and peaceful demonstrations so much? Politicians beg us for our votes. We feed them, clothe them, protect them, sacrifice our comfort for them so they can deliver public goods and lead us into freedom, justice and prosperity.
But every time, they enrich themselves, their families and their cronies, while the rest of the people wallow in poverty and misery.
Worst still, they don't want us to protest against their unlawful accumulation of wealth at our expense.They would unleash the police on protesters, like dogs on thieves, to terrorise the people by whose vote they now stand exalted.
The Rawlings Government had introduced VAT to worsen the plight of citizens who were already burdened by the government's severe economic policies.
Unemployment was rife, and the cost of living was on the rise. The demonstration was the masses only significant way to let off bottled-up political steam and to call for redress. How could anyone describe it as lawless and why should anyone lose his life as a result?
Incidentally, our current president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo was among the leaders of the demonstration. If you investigate some of the old photos, you would see his younger version spotting a T' shirt and matching beside Tarzan.
His greying hair, already on its way to armageddon, sat rather uncomfortably on a militant head, offering no protection to his forehead.
If anyone had prophesied 28 years ago that the tables would turn some day and comrade Akufo-Addo would unleash armed police on peaceful protesters in 2023, the prophet would have been labelled a major drunkard.
Almost every constitutionally elected president in Ghana has participated in a protest march prior to becoming president. Yet, once in office, they freeze at protesters and crash them, hiding behind the police and the Public Order Act!
If we can't put three square meals on the table and we can't protest, then our democracy could be in danger.